Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Port Authority Runs Amuck

One has to wonder just how long the Board members of the Jacksonville Port Authority can continue to express confidence in the ability of Rick Ferrin to lead the independent agency.   The Port continues to be beleaugered with bad news. 

First, it was the removal of Tony Nelson and the FBI investigation (which apparently is continuing).  Then, there was the signing of Hanjin and Mitsui to bring in post-Panamax ships even though the river is not deep enough to accomodate the ships and the port currently does not have approval to deepen the channel.  Then there were the no-bid contracts for dredging.  After that, the Mayport Cruise Terminal fiasco, where the port is now the subject of a Sunshine law lawsuit for the manner in which it acquired the land for the cruise terminal.  

Now, two of the Port’s head engineers recently left – with the Port quietly claiming no comment.  As it turns out, those engineers disregarded a consulting firm’s recommendations on one project and essentially falsified documents in another situation.  (Read more about the Port Authority’s engineering department problems in today’s TU here.) 

Perhaps it’s time to seek a new leader for Jaxport – one who exercises more control over his subordinates and has a better handle on its day-to-day operations.  Perhaps it’s also time for the  Charter Review Commission to consider shortening the leash on this independent agency during its upcoming deliberations.

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Come View A Film About Mayport

From Public Trust Law:

Up for fresh Mayport shrimp and a compelling short film about the Mayport controversy?

Thursday, February 12, at 7 pm at the Atlantic Theatre in Atlantic Beach (just east of Publix on Atlantic Blvd.) will premier a documentary film about Jacksonville’s Mayport Village and the controversy surrounding the possible cruise ship terminal that could be built in the village. The Jacksonville City Council is expected to approve the terminal on February 9. Sponsored by the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute, two local filmmakers, Josh Hansbrough and Justin Anderson, have created a powerful 15-minute film addressing the controversy.


The event includes a party celebrating the value of Mayport Village. Fresh Mayport shrimp will be served as part of the $7 admission donation to the Mayport cause and legal case. Wine may be purchased at the Theatre. Live music will be provided by Jacksonville songwriter Katie Grace Helow. Following the film will be a short question-and-answer period, then socializing until the shrimp is gone — the event concludes at 9 pm.

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Will Cruise Ships Pollute the St. Johns?

As the Jacksonville Port Authority Board ponders whether or not to spend upwards of $50 million in an effort to lure cruise ships to Jacksonville, a video from Seattle surfaces that brings into question the potential environmental risk to the St. Johns River (and its tributaries). Seattle, homeport to scores of Alaskan-bound cruise ships, is dealing with its own weighty issues as they struggle with balancing the positive economic impact of cruise line traveler’s with the downside of environmental harm to the infamous Puget Sound. The video is somewhat lengthy, but the story is worth watching as we consider bringing cruise ships into historical Mayport.

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Is Mayport Home to an Ancient Spanish Burial Site

As the Jacksonville Port Authority weighs the decision of whether or not to spend $60 million to build a cruise terminal in Mayport, Mayport residents have raised the spectre of disturbing a cemetery that holds the remains of Spanish soldiers.

by Joseph Picket, Station Librarian

In a recent article ( The Mirror, 27 October 1989 ), I presented evidence for the existence of a Spanish cemetery in Mayport; the origin of which dates back to April 1568. At that time, a garrison of Spanish soldiers lost their lives defending a small fort (in the area of what is now Broad Street) against an overwhelming force of French soldiers and Timucuan Indians. The remains of the defenders were buried near the fort by a relief party sent from St. Augustine by the acting Governor, General Esteban de las Alas. Read the rest of this entry »

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LOL! Russia visits Jax to learn about “transparency”

A priceless headline, with a bit of irony to it. Yes, according to the Daily Record, a delegation from Russia is visiting Jacksonville to learn how to operate a transparent government.

Perhaps we can share with a country under the control of a dictator how a “transparent” government allows the executive of our little airport to pull in a higher salary than his peers in Tampa, Miami, Orlando or Atlanta. Perhaps we can explain how to reward unilateral contracts to your closest friends. Perhaps we could explain how a Vice Chairman (and former Chairman) of the Port Authority can personally benefit from Port business he voted on. We can cap it all off by simply pointing to today’s headline in The Florida Times-Union—how to spend over $60 million on a courthouse with absolutely nothing to show for it.

How about a leader that complains about media questions, referring to the Jacksonville media as “the worst?”

Yup, even Putin’s Russia could probably pick up a few tips from Jacksonville, don’t you think?

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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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Ronnie Fussell Coddles Lobbyists

This has previously been discussed here, and today Ron Littlepage takes on the decision by City Council President Ronnie Fussell to put a door back on the City Council’s Green Room:

Entrance to the sacred grounds of the Green Room is limited to council members, city staff and “invited guests.”

It’s understandable that council members may need a place to take a break during council meetings or take a cell phone call, but it’s the “invited guests” that are the problem.

A recent example: Port officials were yukking it up in the Green Room with council members who will decide whether to allow the port to build a cruise ship terminal at Mayport.

Those opposed are left on the outside looking in.

Fussell can fix the problem by limiting the Green Room to council members and staff.

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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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New twist for the Mayport Cruise Terminal

The City Council’s Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee was set to consider and vote on the legislation that must be approved in order for a cruise terminal to be located in Mayport.  In a strange twist, LUZ heard from the public at its meeting earlier this evening, but did not take a vote on any of the bills.  According to FCN, Jaxport’s board will hold a workshop on January 26 to discuss plans for Mayport.  So mark your calendars and show up, if you’re interested in this issue.

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Mayport cruise terminal deal falls through

Citing Jaxport’s failure to address shoreside power and the village’s shrimping and fishing industry concerns, the Mayport Civic Association rejected Jaxport’s latest proposed offer that sought to allay Mayport resident’s concerns about locating a cruise terminal in the village.  The City Council’s Land Use and Zoning Committee meets tomorrow and is currently scheduled to hear the legislation (3 separate bills) that would pave the way for the cruise terminal.  Read more about it here.

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