Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

The Real Reason Brad Thoburn is leaving the City?

He was unable to speak his mind.

From: Michael Saylor [mailto:michaeljsaylor@comcast.net]
Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2009 11:02 AM
To: Holt, Ray
Subject: heads up

Hi Ray,

After persistent calls to issue a public comment on the Mayport Cruise terminal, I wrote the attached guest editorial and have discussed it with Mike Clark. He’s going to run it. It contains opinions that are contradictory to your article of ten or so days ago. I just want you to know that its coming.

I am not taking issue with your personal views. Like everyone in District 11, I appreciate the hard work you put in and know you lead with both your head and your heart.  I am just reading the Comp Plan language and Zoning Code as I would if I were still Director. Frankly, I’m disappointed that Brad Thoburn has been handcuffed so frequently this past year. It has been a disservice to the community to have a Director of Planning who cannot give his real opinion, and I am certain his position would mirror mine.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Mayor of Jacksonville, , ,

Cruise ship opponents challenge validity of JPA study

Buried in the Shorelines community news on jacksonville.com is this story:

MAYPORT – Opponents of a proposed cruise ship terminal not only put a hold on the plans this week with Florida Sunshine Law challenges, they’re also challenging Jacksonville Port Authority figures that say the terminal would have a positive economic impact.

“There’s been a huge economic impact since Jacksonville has owned the property along the waterfront,” said Michelle Baldwin, president of the Mayport Village Civic Association, which has sued to stop the terminal. It’s a negative impact, she said.

The JPA purchased about 8 acres on the waterfront in June. Baldwin, who represents about 70 Mayport property owners, said the negative impact since then includes moving about 20 shrimp boats from their docks, moving a net-rigging shop to Yulee and closing the Mayport Tavern.

“There’s been an impact to the morale of the village and the way we have lived life down here for approximately the past 200 years as a fishing village,” Baldwin said.

The negatives contrast a University of North Florida study paid for and released by the JPA last month that said a terminal in Mayport could have a $500-million impact on the area’s economy in the first six years of operation.

The study also concluded that a terminal at Mayport instead of its current location west of the Dames Point Bridge would have an economic impact on five Northeast Florida counties. In addition, the study says the terminal would create about 5,000 jobs on cruise ships and in service industry businesses.

But Baldwin said the study overlooks the negatives, and Warren Anderson, an attorney with the Florida Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute, which is helping represent the association, said the JPA is refusing to release details on how the UNF study was conducted.

“We’re frustrated because we haven’t had a chance to look at the report and evaluate it with their own economist,” Anderson said.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

City and Jaxport sued for Sunshine Law violations

Many people may not be aware that the City and Jaxport have been sued for alleged Sunshine Law violations that occurred when the City turned the operation of the ferry over to Jaxport. At the heart of the matter is whether the City and Jaxport actively tried to hide, and therefore didn’t public notice, the fact that some of the parcels of land turned over to Jaxport in the ferry deal were not necessary for ferry operations, but instead were needed by Jaxport in order to be able to construct a Cruise Terminal in Mayport Village.

A copy of the complaint in the lawsuit filed by Warren Anderson, a well-known local environmental activist lawyer,  on behalf of Mayport Village Civic Association and two Mayport families, recently appeared in Council President Ronnie Fussell’s E-mail Inbox in an E-mail from Cindy Laquidara and it is quite an eye opener. 

Here it is.  It’s 47 pages so give it a few moments to download.

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

Mayport: So much for proceeding slowly

After holding an all day workshop on the Mayport Cruise Terminal, the Jaxport Board of Directors voted to proceed slowly in pursuing building a cruise terminal at Mayport.  

Evidently City Council didn’t get the word. 

In a surprise to the folks involved in fighting against the cruise terminal, the rezoning legislation that would allow a cruise terminal at Mayport was scheduled for Council’s Land Use and Zoning Committee on February 3rd – where it was approved unanimously.

February 4, 2009

Dear Councilman Fussell:

I am an attorney and represent the Mayport Civic Association and other individuals in Mayport.  I am President of the Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute.

Despite your repeated assurances that the City Council would not vote on the Mayport cruise terminal PRIOR to the JPA’s own board approving plans to develop a cruise terminal in Mayport, we now learn that you have changed your position and are pushing the land use and zoning matters very quickly — to be held next Tuesday.  I attended the day long JPA workshop last week.  JPA director Ferrin told everyone that pursuing the cruise terminal in Mayport would be a “slow, deliberate process.”  The credibility of your assurances and Mr. Ferrin’s promises now are certainly in question in the minds of many citizens. 

JPA Chairman Mason was quoted last week as saying it made sense for the City Council to hold off on the Mayport matter until the Port Authority made its own decision. There is no way that anyone could lawfully tell you that the JPA Board is going to approve a cruise terminal in Mayport — I honestly believe the JPA Board will ultimately decide against a terminal there. 

We are presently organizing a large number of citizens to attend the council meeting Tuesday night to express their opinions about your change of position, and about the Mayport cruise terminal in general.

I would like to talk to you about this matter as soon as possible.  Could you or your assistant call me on my cell phone — […]?

Warren K. Anderson, Jr.

And here’s another one sent to Council President Fussell on February 5th questioning the legislation and wondering how the legislation got on the agenda in the first place:

RE: Rezoning 2008-893 and FLUM 08-892- Port proposed cruise ship terminal related bills
To Whom It May Concern:
As to FLUM amendment 08-892 up for a Council vote next Tuesday to accommodate a Cruise Ship terminal for Mayport Village, I have been concerned that the FLUM amendment acreage for a proposed cruise terminal is a much smaller land area than the acreage the Port itself previously indicated would be needed for such a use. 
I have had concerns that the small amendment process may be preferred by the applicant just to avoid the scrutiny of reviewing agencies but that it will be followed by additional amendment application(s) rather than full disclosure up front now of the full impacts to the land use map. 
To take it a step further, it appears to me that the proposal may best be studied as a DRI and companion amendment and rezoning to address the regional impacts.  I wonder if that has been addressed? Who made the decision the cruise ship terminal proposal is not a DRI?
I was at the LUZ Committee meeting Tuesday, without an agenda in hand, having reviewed it before my arrival, and something confused me:
Did the LUZ Committee informally add to the agenda Tuesday an item on the port related Mayport cruise terminal proposal?  At what point was that decided in advance to take it up for a vote Tuesday and how was the port group (advocates) advised to know to be present when the public and opponents did not know it was to be up for a vote?
All of the recent news coverage had suggested a hold pattern as to the Port Authority Board’s position on whether or not to even move forward with a cruise terminal…. If the board asked to wait, who decided to move it forward?
Are the port staff and port attorneys still moving forward without the support of their board?
As far as I knew, there was no port cruise ship related bill scheduled to be heard at LUZ by continuation of hearing or hearing set to a date certain of Tuesday, February 3 as to Mayport Village? What action was taken when by whom to get that item before the LUZ committee on Tuesday?
There were no members of the Mayport community or the past vocal opposition present or members of the CPAC 2 in which Mayport is located present or members of the Mayport community present at the LUZ meeting on Tuesday. 
Also, has CPAC of PD 2/CD 11 taken a position? The agenda did not reflect any PD 2 CPAC position which CPAC district is the one that serves the actual location of the port-proposed cruise ship terminal for Mayport Village.
However, much to my surprise, there appeared to be a bill heard on the Mayport cruise zoning issue with a large contingency of Port officials and Port attorneys and advocates for the port’s cruise ship effort present at the meeting —suggesting they were informed in advance that an item related to the port cruise ship matter would be heard, even though the public apparently was not so notified and it was not set on the agenda as an item to be heard on Feb. 3?
Since the advanced agenda gave no suggestion the port item would be up and since no opposition was present in the audience and yet a large contingency of paid port folks were there, I am just wondering how notification went out to the port staff and attorneys but not to the general public or opponents that it would be added to items on the agenda Tuesday for a vote?
Even though there was well known opposition to the cruise terminal, were only the paid advocates FOR the cruise terminal notified the LUZ committee would be taking action on the item Tuesday, without any general public notice or notice to the opposition of record?
Also, the agenda appears to show on the rezoning that the land use amendment is a small scale amendment.  Was a decision made that it did not need to be a semi annual amendment?  Again, I was wondering why a proposal to newly locate a cruise terminal at the Mayport village where one was not previously contemplated in long range planning would not be required to go through the DRI process? It looks like a potential DRI to me–especially with the naval base affected as well as regional transportation and environmental facilities!
Please file this comment for Council review.
 The bills are up for hearing this Tuesday night. 

Thank you, Valerie Britt 

Well here’s how it happened (at least a brief summary of it) taken from the minutes of the Land Use and Zoning Committee’s agenda meeting:

08-893 Discussion was held concerning various options, including deferral; it was stated that JPA was ready to move forward, but did not object to a deferral, and that a new amendment is to be proposed to incorporate additional conditions; the Chair indicated the intent to entertain action to amend and move the item, with previous speakers to be contacted concerning the public hearing before the full City Council

Note the agenda meeting is held at 3:30pm the same day as the Land Use and Zoning Committee meeting – which is held later that same day at 5:00pm.

Funny how it appears that all the Jaxport people knew to be at the Commitee meeting, but none of the opponents did.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , ,

Jaxport to move forward with Cruise Terminal

After an all day workshop, Jaxport board members agreed with their Executive Director, Rick Ferrin, and approved going forward with advertising for a firm to design and build the Cruise Terminal at Mayport.  According to Ferrin, the Board would still have opportunities along the way to halt the process if the design shows construction would be too costly.

Dozens of people from the public spoke at Monday’s meeting. Citizens of Mayport as well as people living in Mandarin, Jacksonville Beach and Ponte Vedra opposed a cruise terminal in Mayport. Carnival Cruise Line employees and the president of the Shrimpers’ Co-op spoke in favor of the terminal.

The people living in Mayport say the terminal will ruin their historic fishing village. Their civic association filed a lawsuit against Jaxport. The groups are currently in mediation.  [CBS47]


City Council is set to vote on the rezoning of the Mayport property at its meeting on Tuesday evening.

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

Jaxport Board to discuss Mayport Cruise Terminal

This is just a reminder that Jaxport’s board is scheduled to meet on Monday, January 26th, beginning at 9am at the Jaxport Cruise Terminal to discuss building a new cruise terminal at Mayport.

The board workshop will examine various scenarios for the costs and benefit of the cruise terminal. The worst case would be if the port builds the terminal and cruise ships subsequently stop using Jacksonville, leaving the port with no leasing revenue to pay off the construction debt.

Although Jaxport has already purchased the land for the terminal at Mayport, the board has yet to approve funding for the project.  Given these tight economic times, I guess there may be a possibility that the Board could balk at building the terminal.

Filed under: Jacksonville, ,

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.

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

A great start for Jaxpolitics thanks to our readers

With 2008 on its way out, everyone is doing a story on their top stories and/or their online numbers.  So we thought we would jump in as well.

Jaxpolitics  began on November 1st, as a site to capture our observations and musings on state and local politics.  In the short time since we began, site views have increased from just over 1,000 views for the month of November to over 4,000 views so far this December (those numbers do not include views by the authors of the site).  That’s quite a feat considering we’re not linked to the Times Union, nor are we linked to Sayfie Review  (although, in all honesty, we would like to be….lol).

Definitely, the top story on Jaxpolitics since the inception of our site has been the election of Matt Shirk as Public Defender – with all of our Shirk posts added together getting nearly 900 views in the month of December alone.  Our November 27th post on considering changing Florida’s system of electing the public defender and state attorney, received over 250 views and is the most viewed post for Jaxpolitics.    Our next highest views went to our Mayport Cruise Terminal and Waste Management no bid contract posts.

On behalf of Jaxpolitics, we want to thank you for visiting our site and for providing comments and insight.  It’s been a great ride so far, and we hope it continues.  All of us here at Jaxpolitics wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

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

Folio Weekly on Mayport

Folio Weekly has posted their editorial on JaxPort’s proposal to move the cruise terminal to Mayport.  (For what it’s worth, we wish Folio would post more of their material online—it’s much easier than trying to re-type it and properly credit it on our own.)  


We don’t often look to public relations flacks for  straight answers. But occasionally, despite their training and obligations, they let fly with a nugget of truth.

Such is the case with a December 2004 statement by then-JaxPort Authority spokesperson Robert Peek. When asked by The Florida Times-Union about the viability of a cruise ship terminal at Mayport, he responded, “Our analysis shows there is no room at Mayport.” Peek added, “We would need 40 acres of property along the river. There is not 40 acres of undeveloped land at Mayport. We would have to buy homes and businesses.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Bulldozing History

SaveMayportVillage.net has provided us with a press release that sheds a historical light on what they believe will be lost if impending cruise terminal legislation is passed.

Is one of our national treasures soon to be trashed, and for no good reason? Can we stop our country’s historic Village of Mayport from being paved over?

The City Council of Jacksonville, Florida, may be about to destroy our nation’s FIRST settlement seeking religious freedom, and the site of the First Thanksgiving, between these French Huguenot settlers and the local Timucuan Indians? The Jacksonville (Florida) Port Authority wants to do exactly this in order to create a terminal for Carnival cruiseships, and Jacksonville’s City Fathers just may approve their request to alter our publicly-app roved Comprehensive Plan in order to do it. The situation looks grim for both American history and democracy.

Mayport Village, a part of Jacksonville, Florida, is the nation’s oldest settlement founded in search of religious freedom (1562) – older than St. Augustine, and half a century older than Plymouth or Jamestown. The Village is under immediate threat of being bulldozed into oblivion by Florida’s notorious growth machine. Read the rest of this entry »

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

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