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Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Did Jacksonville promise battery maker $7 million in cash?

The Peyton Administration celebrated a major coup several weeks ago when news broke that Saft America, a division of Johnson Controls, was looking to build a $200 million high-tech battery manufacturing facility at Cecil Field using $100 million in DOE federal stimulus grant money.  According to the Mayor’s Office, the plant could add up to 800 jobs in Jacksonville.

The plant, however, is not a guarantee.  The decision to locate in Jacksonville would be contingent upon successful negotiations with the City of Jacksonville and the State of Florida regarding the utilization of available incentive programs related to capital investment and job creation.  It also depends on the state allowing the city to use the federal stimulus grant program—provided Saft is awarded the highly competed for DOE grant funding—for the construction of the facility.  This could explain the reasons behind the Mayor’s hosting of a fundraiser for Charlie Crist, even though he has had long standing differences with the Governor over Tallahassee’s continued erosion of local government authority.

Stimulus dollars, however, aren’t the only issue Saft is seeking to overcome.  On May 13th, the Mayor’s staff personally arranged a meeting between Saft America officials and Congresswoman Corrine Brown.  The topic at hand was Saft’s concerns that PHMSA (the US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration) was not representing their interests. The Air Line Pilot’s Association was pushing for the FAA to take over hazardous goods regulation  and Saft was concerned that it could lead to potential tightening of U.S. regulation of lithium batteries in transportation.

Regulation issues aside, The News Herald in Morgantown, North Carolina, has reported that Saft chose Jacksonville because of the city’s offer to pay $7 million in cash.  Saft already has a plant in Valdese, North Carolina and Valdese had been in talks with the company to build an additional plant.  The plant, according to Jeff Morse, the Valdese Town Manager, would have added 150 jobs to the local economy in the first three years, with the potential to add up to 700 jobs over the next 15 years.

Valdese competed rather aggressively for the new plant, even flying in North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue to meet with company officials.  In the end, however, the company chose Jacksonville.  According to Morse, it was for one reason—cash up front.  Morse told The News Herald that “the town, county or state doesn’t offer cash to companies. If the state plunked down cash to each company it tried to recruit,” Morse went on, “it could bankrupt the state.”

While the opportunity to develop manufacturing jobs is something Jacksonville should be focused on, it is important to make sure adequate protections are in place to ensure any taxpayer dollars that are spent are not wasted.  If Jacksonville did indeed pledge $7 million in cash to secure the relocation of the Saft plant, it’s important that Duval County taxpayers understand where those dollars are coming from and how their interest would be protected if the plant—and the promised jobs—failed to materialize as promised.

After all, last Thursday, Saft’s stock dropped as much as 16% after the company announced that 2nd Quarter sales were down 10%.   The warning came on the heel of the news that the company was refinancing debt at higher spreads than on its existing debt.  Additionally, there are always the concerns that a limited supply of lithium could end the manufacturing boom before it even gets moving.

Transparency is something that has been spoken of quite a bit lately, perhaps this would be a good opportunity for the city to deliver.  Growth is good, jobs are important, but let’s make sure the taxpayers are protected in the process.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Florida’s US Senators Now Have Earmarks on Web

Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson, Florida’s two US Senators, have now updated their websites to include any earmark requests they are seeking.  Nelson’s list can be found here and Martinez’s can be found here.  Nelson has also taken the additional step of listing his military requests separately.  They can be viewed here.  Opening up the earmark process is something just about everyone agreed was long overdue.  The US House went live last month.  Ander Crenshaw’s can be found here and Corrine Brown’s can be found here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , , ,

Carrie Meek “heartbroken” over Corrine Brown

Former US Rep. Carrie Meek is said to be “heartbroken” over the decision by Rep. Corrine Brown to challenge Meek’s son, Kendrick, for the Democratic nomination to the US Senate. Former Representative Meek and Congresswoman Brown were among the three African-Americans elected to the US House in 1992 following redistricting. According to a prominent Democratic fundraiser, the two women were as close as “sisters.”

The Miami Herald has more here.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , ,

The Great Florida Treasure Hunt

In these tough economic times, every little bit helps. Maybe the state is holding some money for you, and it’s just sitting in Tallahassee. Enter the Great Florida Treasure Hunt.

The Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property, holds unclaimed accounts valued at more than $1 billion, mostly from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. Unclaimed Property also includes tangible property such as jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles, from safe deposit boxes.

If you have ever lived in Florida, there’s a chance the State is holding unclaimed property for you. So, take a look yourself at www.fltreasurehunt.org. If you find a match and believe it is yours, you can print and complete a claim form and mail it to the department, or you can request a claim form be mailed to you. The claim form will list the documentation required to prove your claim. Or you can call the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-888-258-2253. There is no statute of limitations on making a claim. You have the right to claim your property any time at no cost.

Some of the more notable Jacksonville folks the State is holding money for: Corrine Brown, Joe Carlucci, Tommy Hazouri and Adam Hollingsworth. 

The site is also a nice little campaign ad for gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, as well. When you click on the site, there is her smiling face. Now who wouldn’t want to vote for someone who is associated with something as pleasant as finding unexpected money in your pocket?

Hat tip to Scott Maxwell’s Orlando Sentinel column.

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

Corrine Brown Body Slams Charlie Crist

Admit it.  A Corrine Brown v. Charlie Crist race would be one for the ages.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, confirms that she is launching an exploratory campaign for U.S. Senate, and said an internal statewide poll shows her comfortably ahead of any Democratic contender including Kendrick Meek.

“Experience,” she said, when asked why the 17-year U.S. House member would be a stronger candidate than Meek. “I like Kendrick and I love his mother but this is about making sure we have someone at the table when we’re talking about energy, we’re talking about education, we’re talking about jobs, we’re talking about health care.”

And likely Republican nominee Charlie Crist? “I just think the state needs more than someone who’s there to talk a great game, smile and take pictures. The key is to deliver for the people of Florida.”

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, , ,

US Senator Corrine Brown?

Several weeks ago, Jacksonville Representative Corrine Brown said that she was considering forming an exploratory committee to explore a run for higher office and it lit up the local Twitter discussion. Tonight, St. Pete Times reporter Adam Smith has Twittered that Corrine Brown is definitely exploring a run for US Senate.  State Senator Tony Hill is said to be considering a run for her seat.  He, of course, would be only one of many possible candidates to fill a seat that is considered a “safe” Democratic seat.

Filed under: Florida, Florida Politics, ,

Corrine Might Deliver

Well, we all know Corrine Brown’s slogan: Corrine Delivers.  In a proposed $3.5 trillion federal budget that is now being discussed in conference committee, Corrine has $432 million in earmarks for nearly 100 projects.   As pointed out in an Orlando Sentinel article, to put Brown’s earmarks in perspective, consider that fellow Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite has only requested 9 earmarks totaling $16 million.  Corrine requested about $40 million for Lockheed Martin alone – more than double the entire portfolio of earmarks sought by Brown-WaiteOr another way to look at it: each of us here in Jacksonville could receive a payout of approximately $536 apiece if Corrine’s requested earmarks were distributed evenly.

Click here for Corrine Brown’s complete earmark list.

Filed under: Florida Politics, Jacksonville, ,

Mayor Peyton Spams Again

It’s happened again with a slightly different angle this time.  The last time we wrote about the Mayor spamming Jacksonville’s citizens it was in regards to trying to sell the public on his plan to award a $750 million no-bid contract to a company represented by a political supporter.  He’s at it again.  It’s not about trash this time, but the Mayor seems to really have wanted to promote his upcoming news conference with Rep. Corrine Brown (she of the “Go Gator” and “Corch Meyer” fame).  According to First Coast News, the Mayor’s latest e-mail forced a local company to shut down their servers.

“We had to shut our servers off just so we could get the email thing solved and then we could get back on line again.”

The city says a communication glitch caused the problem. And that meant a few people received a couple of extra reminders. Thompson got several hundred.

In all, Bill Thompson says he received over 700 e-mails from the Mayor.

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

How To Rig An Election

Every 10 years, Florida’s political power brokers drool over their next opportunity to rig a decade’s worth of elections.  This is all quite legal, of course, and is done through the prospect of redistricting.  Florida, like many other states, allows the Legislature and the Governor complete control over the process.  Before Republicans begin to cheer; however, they would do well to remember the decades when Florida’s Democrats dominated the process.  Regardless of who is in charge now; however, it’s not just about what party is in control—it’s also about ensuring that voters within the state have true choices when they go to the polls on Election Day.  

Redistricting drives everything, from the Florida House and Senate to the US House of Representatives.  For years, conservatives in Jacksonville have bemoaned the one district that they felt best exemplified the practice of gerrymandering—US House District 3, represented by Democrat Corrine Brown.  What conservatives fail to acknowledge is that Ms. Brown’s district was left in place by the Florida Legislature during the last redistricting process, and for good reason.  By piecing together a high concentration of Democrat and minority voters in one district, Republicans effectively ensured that Ander Crenshaw (R-Jacksonville), John Mica (R-Winter Park) and Cliff Stearns (R-Ocala) would face no real Democratic opposition in their races.  The three Republicans won re-election in 2008 with 65%, 62% and 61% of the vote, respectively.   Read the rest of this entry »

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

Miss Otis Regrets

Folio Weekly has printed their annual “Regrets and Resolutions” issue and we have to admit some are rather amusing. For example:

1. Daniel “Walshie” Walsh, candidate for state representative, regrets appearing shirtless and slam-dunking a basketball on his campaign website.
2. Adam Hollingsworth regrets allowing his soft spot for lady politicians in need to get the better of him during Tropical Storm Fay. Mme. Corrine Brown and Mme. Denise Lee regret the public finding out.

Their resolutions are assumed, of course, but equally as amusing… Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

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