Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Ben Hill Griffin’s Grandkids at it again

Poor Ben Hill Griffin Jr.  He may have been one of the most powerful Floridians in modern time before he passed on, but his grandkids seem incapable of getting along.

Rumors of run-ins between his granddaughter, former US Representative Katherine Harris and his grandson, State Sen. J. D. Alexander, are legendary.  According to one account, Rep. Harris chased Sen. Alexander down the driveway of her home while wielding her high heels as a potential weapon.

Katherine Harris may have departed Florida’s political scene, but Ben Hill Griffin’s grandsons are still very much in the mix.  And, they can’t seem to manage to get along.  Today, Rep. Baxter Troutman (R-Winter Haven) was banned from the floor of the Senate after a dispute with Sen. Haridopolos.  The dispute with Haridopolos was only the icing on the cake; however.  The ban may very well be more of a result of frequent disputes between Troutman and his cousin, Sen. Alexander.  Of course, it doesn’t help that Troutman sued Alexander last year over the management of their grandfather’s company.

Interestingly enough, another major Senate battle being waged this session involves another relative, State Senator Paula Dockery (R-Lakeland), who has led the opposition to the $1.2 billion purchase of the CSX rail track for conversion to a commuter rail.  One of the Senators leading the charge against Dockery—Sen.  J. D. Alexander, who stood to financially benefit from the purchase because of land he owned along the proposed route.

Can’t Ben Hill’s grandkids just learn to get along—at least when they are in Tallahassee?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , ,

FL House Votes Down Stimulus Money

From the St. Pete Times:

The House just voted unanimously to extend the length of unemployment benefits up to 20 weeks, but after an emotionally partisan debate Republicans rejected $444 million in federal stimulus dollars to expand who is eligible for compensation.

Democrats assailed the move as heartless and misguided, saying the state can scale back on eligibility after the crisis has passed. Republicans suggested that would be “fraud” and said the expansion would cost businesses more and hurt the economic recovery. The Democratic amendment failed 45-70.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, ,

First Commercial against Crist U.S. Senate Run

With a hat tip to Postonpolitics.com:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has made a preemptive strike in the race for Mel Martinez’s U.S. Senate seat by releasing a commercial criticizing Charlie Crist for considering a Senate run.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

$44 Million in Free Insurance

Florida’s budget could gain $44 million if all of those State employees who are eligible for free insurance were to sign up and pay the usual rates – that includes our legislators.  Over 1,000 of those state employees eligible make at least $100,000 per year.  Interestingly enough, the subject has not even come up in the Legislature’s budget talks.

Read more here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , ,

Seminole County Wants More Than Our Water

Seminole County wants more than Jacksonville’s water.  They’ve now decided they desperately need our tourism dollars as well.  Fresh off their victory over Duval, Putnam and St. Johns County in their bid to draw up to 5 million gallons of water per day from the St. Johns River, Seminole County has begun advertising in North Florida’s largest media outlet—The Florida Times-Union—seeking visitors to “Florida’s Natural Choice.”  Of course, the ads don’t mention that they manage to bring “Nature Nearer” by sucking it straight out of North Florida’s most treasured natural resource—the St. Johns River.  I don’t know about you, but until Seminole County has embraced conservation and solved their water shortage issues without causing irreprable harm to Florida’s ecosystem, I think I’ll choose to spend my tourism dollars elsewhere.  The ads are below… Read the rest of this entry »

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Thanks to the Guys of Urban Jacksonville Weekly

I’m a little delayed in sending my thanks, but I wanted to broadcast a public Thank You to the guys of Urban Jacksonville Weekly—Jonathan Bennett, Joey Marchy and Tony Allegretti—for inviting me on the show.  The episode can be found by searching for “Jacksonville.com” in iTunes.  You can always catch their show live on Tuesdays at 5:30, or simply subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.  It’s a great 30 minutes to get caught up on the local scene.

Of course, any mention of these guys would be remiss if I didn’t include their ground-breaking Jacksonville blogs—Urban Jacksonville , The Urban Core and of course, Jonathan’s home at Jacksonville.com.  Check out their blogs—they are the originals on the Jacksonville scene.

Update:  The link to the show is now up and running.

Filed under: Jacksonville, , ,

JaxPort Wins Federal Stimulus Dollars

From The Florida Times-Union:

A project to deepen Jacksonville’s ship channel scooped up $14.8 million from the federal government’s stimulus package, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today.

The money will help pay for deepening a 5.3 mile stretch of the river up to the Talleyrand terminal. Jacksonville Port Authority Executive Director Rick Ferrin said the deeper water will make it possible for ships calling on Talleyrand to arrive and depart with more cargo on board. The depth after deepening will be 40 feet, according to the Army Corps, which will match the depth for 14.7 miles of channel from Atlantic Ocean.

Filed under: Jacksonville, ,

Trail Ridge Goes Down Without A Peep (For Now)

After months of high-stakes public fighting, the Mayor’s proposal to extend the Trail Ridge contract with Waste Management went down without a fight on an 18-0 vote on Tuesday.  The only abstention was from Councilman Warren Jones.  The Council will now have to decide what their next course of action is, something that could eventually lead to a situation where the new contract is put out to bid.

The Times-Union’s story can be found here.

The outcome represents an interesting twist in Jacksonville politics.  It’s certainly the first major defeat for the Peyton Administration, something that could have long-term implications during the remaining two years of Peyton’s term in office.  It is also seen as a major defeat for Paul Harden, the lobbyist who has been the most visible face of the Waste Management team.  (Harden also lost out on a rezoning issue on Tuesday night.)  What is obvious is that, since the 2008 special elections, the composition of the Council has truly changed.  There are now voices of dissent on the Council who seemingly grow more confident as time goes on.  With compressed budgets for the foreseeable future, there will be more vigorous debates to come over the next two years.  Whether or not the Mayor’s clout has been permanently damaged is something that remains to be seen.  Only time will tell.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, ,

Jesus: Not Coming to a License Plate Near You?

The Florida Legislature, while unable to pass a budget as of yet, has spent considerable time debating specialty license plate, specifically ones featuring the images of Jesus Christ, Sen. Al Lawson and promoting The Holy Trinity.  Lawson has now dropped his proposal and it appears that the image of Christ will not appear on Florida license plates either after the Senate adopted an amendment stating that “”the plate shall not include any religious image.”  The Senate paused after individuals Senators expressed concern over the possibility of future proposals, including Sen. Larcenia Bullard’s concern that she would have to vote on a “devil” license plate with “horns on it.”

With over 100 specialty plates currently in production, perhaps its time for Florida to take a breather on creating new ones for a few years.  Sound reasonable enough?

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , , ,

Titanic Battle for North Florida Senate Seat

The race to succeed Jim King (R-Jacksonville) will take a dramatic turn when John Thrasher jumps into the race in the coming weeks.  Thrasher, who has announced that Friday will be his last day as a lobbyist, transformed himself into one of the most powerful lobbyists in the state after leaving the Speaker’s Chair in the Florida House of Representatives.  He has already demonstrated his intent to join the race by putting his upscale Orange Park home on the market in order to move into the district.  Yesterday, he told the St. Pete Times that he was even okay with leaving the money behind.

Thrasher’s Republican opponents aren’t exactly backing down.  City Councilman Art Graham, former State Rep. Aaron Bean and businessman Dan Quiggle have all been hard at work raising money for the race.  In fact, Bean has been successful at securing the support of lobbyists throughout the state.  Whether or not Thrasher’s entry into the race will change that remains to be seen.

It will be a barnburner of a race, that’s for sure.  Most likely the most expensive State Senate race in the state.

Stay tuned…

Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, , , , ,

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