Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

A Reality Check Comes to the First Coast

IMG_0297Reality Check First Coast, a project that was months in the making, came to St. Johns County Convention Center at the World Golf Village on Thursday.  Reality Check First Coast is a visioning exercise that seeks to analyze and develop alternative growth scenarios for the seven county area—Nassau, Duval, Clay, Baker, St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam—through the year 2060.  According to research performed by the GeoPlan Center at the University of Florida and the Northeast Florida Regional Council, the First Coast area is expected to projected to add 1.6 million people and 650,000 new jobs by 2060.

The visioning exercise conducted at the May 21 event was designed raise awareness as to the projected levels of region-wide growth, and to lay the foundation fort the development of a concrete list of next steps to meet the region’s future job, housing, transportation, infrastructure and recreational needs.

To that end, over 275 of North Florida’s political, business and non-profit leaders gathered to share their vision of what the First Coast can become.  There were 30 tables of 10 people people who used red (jobs)  and yellow (residential) Lego’s to represent future development.  Among the participants were UNF President (and former Mayor) John Delaney, Mayor John Peyton, Councilman Kevin Hyde, Councilman Art Graham and Councilman Bill Bishop.  Governor Charlie Crist also spoke at the event.

My table had a diverse group, including a former Jacksonville City Councilwoman, the City Manager of a neighboring town, a School Board member from a neighboring county and business leaders from Jacksonville and surrounding areas.  Interestingly enough, perhaps a testament to what we would all like North Florida to become, we began by marking off greenspace areas that we wanted to preserve and enhance.  We then moved on to identifying where we would like alternative forms of transportation, such as high-speed rail, and moved on from there.  Perhaps the most difficult challenge was deciding where to place the scores of red (jobs) and yellow (residential) Lego’s.  We had said that we wanted to avoid the urban sprawl that plagues so much of North Florida, and that proved rather challenging to change.  In the end, our consensus was that North Florida must develop better forms of Transportation, mixed-use developments with high-quality schools and accessible greenspace that accentuates our River, Beaches and the natural beauty of our region.  

The project is by no means complete.  Visit Reality Check’s website for information on how you can become involved. 

Oh…and for the political junkies…interestingly enough, the prospect of hearing the incumbent Governor and current Senatorial candidate didn’t seem to inspire more of Jacksonville’s City Council members to attend, other than Hyde, Graham and Bishop who were already mentioned…  More pictures below… Read the rest of this entry »

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

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, , , , ,

1st Quarter Fundraising At A Glance

On 3 Public Relations is out with a synopsis of the funds raised to date for Florida races.  A few quick highlights:

  • CFO Alex Sink (D) has raised over $1.1 million for her re-election race, which could be quickly switched to the Gubernatorial race if she should so desire.
  • Charlie Crist (R) has raised not a single dollar for his re-election bid.  (Don’t let that fool you, Charlie is a rather prolific fundraiser once he kicks it into gear—and makes up his mind in regards to which race he’s in.)
  • Rep. Adam Putnam (R) leads in the fundraising for Secretary of Agriculture by a significant margin.
  • There has been a stunning $388,520 raised already for the Senate seat that Jim King (R) will vacate.  Aaron Bean still leads the pack with $220,441 raised, but Art Graham ($91,050) and Dan Quiggle ($77,029) aren’t far behind.  Of course, John Thrasher has yet to raise any funds, leaving an observer to wonder just how expensive this North Florida Senate seat can get.  (Funny that the economy doesn’t seem to be affecting political fundraising—at least in North Florida.)

View the full report here.

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

Art Graham Responds to Spam E-mail

Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham has a long history of responding to constituent e-mail, something not all Council members regularly do.  His responses tend to be short, crisp and to the point.  This can elicit a positive or negative review from the recipient, typically depending on whether or not they have truly done their homework on the issue for which they spoke up.  Recently, Waste Management undertook a stealth campaign using a group called “Honorthecontract.com.”  What is perhaps most amusing about this group is its name.  The City has expressed no interest in canceling its current contract with Waste Management—it is simply making a decision in regards to what will happen at the conclusion of that contract.  Waste Management, of course, holds to the belief that the contract will not end in 7 years, but legal experts and the City’s Office of General Counsel have stated that their argument is futile.

That hasn’t stopped Waste Management; however, from an ongoing campaign that cherry picks what information they would like to dispense.  In their latest mass mailing, Honorthecontract.com asked citizens to contact their Council members to tell them to “honor the contract.”  The e-mails are short and cryptic, telling of someone who hasn’t even bothered to educate themselves on an issue, but feels a need to e-mail.  In their advertisements, Waste Management has included the section where the Council’s Auditor discusses the savings the new contract would present over the current one.  Waste Management, of course, fails to tell citizens that this would actually be a new contract and also fails to mention that the Auditor recommends that the contract be bid.  

Art Graham, in a two-sentence response to one of these e-mails, asked a very simply question:

I just have one question – you quoted the numbers from our auditor Kirk Sherman, but you failed to mention that Kirk recommends we bid the contact. Why is that?

Perhaps we can put that question to Waste Management.  Why have you engaged in an ongoing campaign of partial facts, hidden behind friendly-sounding “citizen groups?”  The City Council’s Auditor recommends that the contract be bid.  If you are going to quote from his report, why don’t you go ahead and share his actual findings and recommendations with the citizens of Jacksonville?

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

John Thrasher Will Run For Senate

You may recall that we first discussed this here well over a month ago, but today John Thrasher seemed to have cast any doubt aside—he will run for the State Senate seat being vacated by Jim King.

Former House Speaker-turned lobbyist John Thrasher will run for term-limited Sen. Jim King’s seat, Thrasher confirmed.

The Jacksonville Republican has not officially entered the race but said he will almost certainly jump in after the legislative session ends in May.

Thrasher, who served as speaker from 1998-2000, is a high-powered lobbyist for the Southern Strategy Group, whose clients include Disney World, Associated Industries and the Florida Hospital Association.

Thrasher will join previously announced candidates former Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach), Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham (R-Jacksonville Beach) and local Republican Businessman Dan Quiggle.

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

Thrasher entering Senate Race?

The Republican primary for Jim King’s State Senate seat is starting to get crowded.  We’ve already written about City Councilman Art Graham and former State Representative Aaron Bean and their fundraising efforts, but they’ve got company.  No sooner did Dan Quiggle jump into the race, than the man who can out-fundraise them all said he’s interested.

“If I had to say if I was going to do it today, I’d probably do it,” [John] Thrasher said Friday. A final decision won’t come until after the session, but he said: “I think it’s something I’m ready to do again. His wife Jean has “given me the green light,” he said. “I would love to get back in the process.

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

Daniel Davis must want to be Mayor

It is becoming apparent that Daniel Davis must really want to get his name out there for his race for Mayor.  He’s evidently using the Nelson Cuba “style”, though – forcing legislation down people’s throats – to do so.   Davis has proposed legislation that would put  “local companies first” in the City’s competitive bidding process.  Numerous companies have raised objections to his proposed legislation, and even the regional Chamber of Commerce has questioned the wisdom of Davis’ bill. 

The Times Union is reporting that in response to Davis’ proposed legislation,

a group of engineers representing companies based in Jacksonville and those with headquarters elsewhere have worked on a compromise to a controversial bill intended to funnel city contracts to locally based firms. The compromise, if accepted by the City Council, would avoid a rewrite of the city’s procurement code as outlined in the original bill, filed by Councilman Daniel Davis. Instead, the current formula for scoring proposals would not change. If there are tie scores, the contracts would be awarded to companies with offices in Duval County.

However, Daniel Davis isn’t too happy wih the proposed compromise and apparently may force “local companies first” legislation down everyone’s throats.

Davis said Monday he was still reviewing the engineers’ compromise and was open to their suggestions. However, he said his intent remains to steer city dollars to companies headquartered in Jacksonville.  “If there is a more simple way to do it, I’m willing to look at it,” he said. “I think this is a good idea, but definitely there is going to be some changes that have to be made to it.”

The legislation and the compromise will be considered at Seaport and Airport Special Committee meeting at 4pm today.  With the two of the three members of that committee sponsoring “local companies first” legislation (and running for higher office), it will be no secret how that vote will turn out, will it?

But one not-so-strange twist – Davis has cancelled the public hearing on his bill.  I guess the only folks to be heard that matter to Daniel Davis are the folks who worked on the compromise (who are also the ones most likely to line his campaign coffers) – and he didn’t really listen to them either. So much for the rest of the public, too – he doesn’t even want to hear from them. 

And so it’s business as usual for Jacksonville’s City Council.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , , , , ,

Dialing for Dollars

Things are already heating up in the race to fill Jim King’s State Senate seat when he retires in 2010.  It may be two years away, but the two declared candidates, Jacksonville City Councilman Art Graham (R) and former Florida State Representative Aaron Bean (R), have already been busy raising funds for what will probably be the hottest race in town.

Art Graham has already raised over $50,000 from such reliable sources as Auld & White Contractors Inc, John D Baker II, John D Clark III, Fidelity National, J B Coxwell and Howard Korman.  (Real Estate may be a depressed industry at the present time, but the current economic state notwhithstanding, Mr. Graham seems to be having no problem convincing the industry to pony up cash.)

Mr. Graham’s haul; however, pales in comparison to Aaron Bean’s staggering $164,000+.  That’s right, two years before an election to a post that pays less than $50,000, Mr. Bean has already collected six figures.  Aaron Bean’s donor list reads like a “Who’s Who” of Florida lobbyist and powerful PAC’s.  He has the unquestioned support of Florida’s medical and dental community with thousands of dollars raised in contribution from their respective political action committees.  The question Mr. Graham might want to ask of Mr. Bean is “Who raised more contributions from the actual residents/voters of the district?”  In that respect, Mr. Graham might have a shot.  Aaron Bean, despite his long-time Fernandina Beach residency, seems more focused on raising Tallahassee, South Florida, Georgia and New York dollars than those of his former constituents in the Florida House.

Filed under: Florida Legislature, Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , , ,

Just Say No

The Times Union reported on the Waste Management no-bid contract this morning.

Where to begin?

Should I start with Art Shad who is the ONLY Council person to come out of the gate expressing his wholehearted support of the no-bid agreement – “a shining example of what’s good”?

Or should I start with Paul Harden who thinks the no-bid contract “sells itself”?

Or should I start with Waste Management representatives who will be meeting with each of the Council members individually to “ensure the council has all the information…”?

Or should I start with the positives – the Council members who appear to have spines?

IMO, this is a no-brainer decision – JUST SAY NO.  This contract should be put out to bid and I am calling my council representatives to encourage them to do just that.

Here’s a run-down of the various Council members’ current position on the no-bid contract according to the Times Union::



Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Musical Chairs

The dust has barely settled on the 2008 Election and politicians are already positioning themselves for the next step on the ladder.

Word on the street is that newly-elected Duval County School Board Member Stan Jordan has no intent on filling out his term on the School Board.  By all accounts, he has his eyes set on the State Senate seat that Jim King will be vacating in two yearas.  Mr. Jordan apparently simply needed a job until the Senate seat opens and figured a return to the School Board would be an easy win.  (Rumor has it that Mr. Jordan tried to convince Ken Manuel, his opponent in the School Board race, to set aside his interest in the seat for the time being, and in return, Jordan would push him for an appointment to the seat when Jordan vacated it.)  Talk about premature speculation…

Of course, Jordan won’t be the only one contending for Jim King’s seat.  State Rep. Aaron Bean has already announced his candidacy, and Jacksonville City Council Members Art Graham and Richard Clark are also said to be interested…

Filed under: Florida Legislature, Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , , , , , , ,

Blog Stats

  • 181,298 Visitors This Year