Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Paris, Anyone?

Ah, the perks of being the incoming Council President.  Before he is even sworn in to office, Richard Clark (along with his wife, Deatra) will be whisked off to Paris, France for the Paris Air Show courtesy of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA).  It also appears that other officials, including the Mayor,  JAA interim Executive Director  Ernestine Moody Robinson,  JAA employees Richard Rossi and Rosa Beckett, and JAA Board members Cyrus Jolivette and Ron Weaver, will also be traveling to Paris.

According to a recent news article, it’s costing the State of Washington, home to the largest concentration of aerospace workers in the world, $7,100 to send one person to Paris for the air show.  (And that’s the only person the state is sending.)  I guess John Clark’s exit hasn’t impacted JAA’s propensity for taking expensive, international trips.  I also guess that it’s just not as sexy to attend the US Air, Trade, and Technology Expo (USATT), the American equivalent of the Paris Air Show, that will be held in Dayton, Ohio in July.  Sure, the USATT doesn’t have the history that the Paris Air Show has; but, it also doesn’t have the high costs and would still provide good opportunities to network with the aviation industry.

Now that Councilman Clark has joined the computer age by making his E-mails public, perhaps we can persuade him to also twitter the air show for us.  I just hope they don’t decide to take $10,000 worth of limo rides while they’re attending the Paris Air Show like some other Jacksonville folks did awhile back.

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JAA Appoints Interim CEO, Gets Federal Money

Jim McCollum, a former BellSouth Regional Director and current member of the JAA Board, has been appointed by the JAA Board to serve as Interim CEO until a permanent replacement has been hired.  JAA also announced that they have “approved the establishment of a Cecil Field Development Policy that allows the JAA to offer special considerations, such as lease concessions and incentives, to help stimulate development at Cecil Field during this difficult economic environment. The policy will be in place for five years or until such time the U.S. economy and financial markets have demonstrated a trend of recovery – whichever comes first.”

In addition, the Board announced that they will appropriate $1.5 million dollars in order to receive matching federal stimulus grants of $4.6 million for airport improvement projects at Jacksonville International Airport.  The specific projects have yet to be identified, but JAA management will report to the Board before awarding any contracts.

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Adios, John Clark

We’ve discussed his high salary and benefits here and here, and we’ve finally found another city that wants him. John Clark is headed to Indianapolis. Apparently, being the highest paid airport executive in Florida and Georgia wasn’t quite enough. Let’s hope JAA’s Board can negotiate a more reasonable salary and benefits package for the next Executive Director.

He can now travel to Hong Kong on someone else’s dime.

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JAA Board retreat at posh Amelia Island – again

This week’s Folio examines the JAA Board retreat held this week at posh Amelia Island.  Folio Weekly’s article  expresses concerns over public accessibility to a meeting subject to the Sunshine Law that was being held out of the county and at a gated resort.  JAA’s Michael Stewart response?  “I’m sorry you think we would do business like that.”

But this isn’t the first time that the JAA Board has held a retreat there.   Let’s flash back to 2002.

According to a March 29, 2002 Times Union article,

The Jacksonville Airport Authority spent nearly $13,000 on a two-day retreat for staff and board members on Amelia Island in January. But the head of the authority said he plans to conduct such retreats every six months, and board members said the expense was justified.  Costs for the Jan. 18-19 retreat at the Amelia Island Plantation included $35.95 for 14 soft drinks and a $1,444.50 dinner bill for 25 people.

The largest portion of the 2002 retreat cost was a $5,400 bill from professional meeting facilitator Bruce Barcelo of Barcelo & Co. Barcelo moderated the retreat, but the invoice listed no itemized hours.  

(As an aside, you might recognize Bruce Barcelo’s name from another Jacksonville Politics post.  Just who is paying Bruce to attend the Mayor’s Trail Ridge Landfill meetings anyway?)

So getting back to Amelia Island, I’m guessing that Amelia Island prices probably haven’t gone down over the past 6 years. The 2002 news article makes me wonder exactly how much the two day retreat at Amelia Island this week cost taxpayers.  According to Michael Stewart’s way of thinking, I should be sorry for thinking that JAA would do business like that, too. But I’m not.

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Ethics Commission Adds Scott Shine, Looks for Independence

The City’s Ethics Commission added long-time political activist Scott Shine as their newest member and pledged to work towards more independence. The Commission currently has no subpoena power and its authority is somewhat vague. It also apparently has no authority over the City’s independent agencies, something quite concerning considering the ongoing controversies at the Jacksonville Port Authority and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.

The City’s Ethics Officer, which often investigates allegations of wrong-doing by the Mayor and members of his staff, reports to the Mayor—a conflict of interest that the Mayor seems to be quite comfortable with.

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More “local companies first”

Councilman Daniel Davis’ “local companies first” preference legislation is riding a rocky road, with the Chamber of Commerce objecting to it and requesting that a task force be appointed.  Interestingly enough, Councilman Art Graham thinks it’s such a great idea that he is sponsoring a resolution to encourage Jacksonville’s independent agencies to also adopt a “local companies first” policy. Councilman Graham’s bill, 2009-39, will be introduced at City Council this Tuesday night.

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City finances “challenged”

Although a recent Council Auditor report reveals an $11 million dollar surplus,  the Council Auditor’s closer look at City finances reveals the surplus is because many city departments are actually losing money by $11.7 million.  Most notably, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium has been operating at a $1 million deficit; the city’s building inspection program lost about $1.3 million overall; and, the city’s IT department is losing about $6.3 million.  (Rhetorical question to Kevin Holzendorf:  How do you lose $6.3 million in the computer department?)

Peyton’s response?

The mayor’s office said it is watching closely but actually believe the city is doing well considering the economic climate.

Mayor John Petyon told Channel 4 that city leaders know rough times are ahead. He did not talk about layoff, but the possibility looms. Also, there will be scheduled increases in new fee that could help the situation.

 “I think 2009 is going to be a challenging year, economically. I am not so sure we have hit the bottom yet. Certainly businesses are challenged, families are challenged, government is challenged and this government is challenged quite frankly. All of us are going to have to make decisions on priorities,” Peyton said.

Let’s take a closer look at what was revealed in the Council Auditor’s report about the City and its independent agencies.  Read the rest of this entry »

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JAA: they’re partyin’ folks

WOW!  JAA folks invite City Council members to two parties in one week. 

The first one was their annual holiday fish fry this past Tuesday.













And then there’s the rockem sockem tailgate party at the Jags/Colts game co-hosted by Michael Stewart tonight that we reported on earlier.

Big salaries and bonuses to go along with lots of parties.  Where do we sign up?!?

As long as we don’t have to be a JAA police officer, that is.

From: Donald Green
To: ron weaver; mary burnett; jim mccollum; jack demetree; deborah pass; cyrus jollivette; chester aikens
Cc: timothy.gibbons@jacksonville.com; tia.mitchell@jacksonville.com; sceastman@folioweekly.com; evansfoprep@aol.com; senator wise <srwise@comcast.net>; cmcburney@bellsouth.net; charles.mcburney@myfloridahouse.gov; eric@govinc.net; gloriousj@coj.net; ron.littlepage@jacksonville.com; wise.stephen.web@flsenate.gov; Susan Stewart; Carla Miller; amosley@coj.net; redman@coj.net; gaffney@coj.net; hclarence@yahoo.com; jhopely@jaa.aero
Sent: Thursday, December 18, 2008 11:21:09 AM
Subject: Retaliation
Are each of you aware that john clark has intentions to retaliate against jaa police officers by cutting police positions even though his own chief of police has told each officer that he believes it could cause safety issues not only within the flying public and other officers but to national safety each of you have said safety first and just thought i should make you aware of what is going on.

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Jacksonville’s Ethics Hotline Cases

The City’s Ethics Officer has released an update on complaints made via the Ethics Hotline. (630-1015, just in case anyone has something they would like to report.) Once again, although the employees of the City (and citizens) are to be commended for reporting behavior that they deemed unethical, it does appear that the majority of these cases seem to be swept under the rug. Among the most recent cases:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Jax Chamber to City Council: Don’t Watch Taxpayer Dollars Too Closely!

According to the Daily Record, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is opposed to efforts to rein in the City’s independent agencies, which are run by un-elected Boards of Directors. The Chamber is calling on the Council—the City’s elected body charged by the taxpayers with administering tax revenue—to stay out of the agencies operations.

The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce opposes two bills that would allow City Council to partially regulate what the city’s independent agencies can and can’t do. In a letter to Council President Ronnie Fussell, Chamber Chair Ron Autrey says the consolidated nature of Jacksonville’s government was established to assure the independence of those agencies. “The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce urges you to vote no” on the two bills, wrote Autrey.


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