Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Godbold Meets With Fire Union, Scolds Police Union Chief

According to News4Jax.com, former Mayor Jake Godbold met with members of the Duval County Fireman’s Union on Wednesday to express his disappointment in the Police Union Chief’s call for a Gate boycott.  Godbold also encouraged the fire union to refrain from resorting to the similar tactics as the Mayor prepares to address pension reform with the city’s unions.

Goldbold told News4Jax that he had never seen personal threats of this kind in all of his years in Jacksonville politics.

Nelson Cuba, the police union chief, has since backed down from his earlier calls for a union-wide boycott.

The full article can be read here.

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Police Union Threatens Gate Boycott

Picture 2The news broke just before lunch—Police Union President Nelson Cuba was announcing his intentions to call for a boycott of Gate Petroleum, the family business owned by Mayor John Peyton’s father, in retaliation of the Mayor’s plan to call for pension reforms and salary freezes.  Nelson accused the mayor of threatening to take away the “basic necessities” police officers have become accustomed to.

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30 is one of the most powerful unions in the city and home to over 2,500 officers.  The union has long wielded considerable influence in city elections, including endorsing John Peyton and many of the current members of the city council.  Nelson’s call to members of the union to “send [their] own message and hit the Mayor in his pocket” is therefore not only a monetary threat—it is something designed to discourage any council member from supporting reforms that the union does not agree to.

UNF Political Science Professor Matthew Corrigan told David Hunt of The Florida Times-Union that the move by Nelson could backfire.  Corrigan said that, while the union is well-respected in the city, they risk losing that respect by refusing to share in budget cuts.

The full Times-Union article can be found here.  For breaking news on the Jacksonville political scene, follow us on Twitter.

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Workers Comp Bill Favors Police and Fire

Remember when Nelson Cuba, FOP, was upset about the limits on attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases – calling the bills filed in the Legislature “preposterous” and “un-American”?  Well, it looks like Nelson will be happy with the Florida Senate.  They recently amended their version of the workers’ compensation attorney’s fees bill to provide different criteria that could result in the recovery of more attorney’s fees and costs.  The bill is currently ready to be heard on the Senate floor.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? How would you feel if I were to tell you that police and fire were singled out for special treatment in the bill?  Maybe not so great, huh?

Well, that’s exactly what the Senate bill was amended to do on Wednesday.  Only police and fire are entitled to use different criteria in calculating attorneys fees and costs in their worker’s compensation cases which will likely result in them being able to recoup more attorney’s fees and costs than provided to anyone else in the bill.  Interesting.  Especially since their attorney’s won’t have to jump high hurdles to prove their cases like everyone else will.

In addition, there is also legislation that could result in higher police and fire pension costs for the City when terminating a plan.  One of the bills would have provided a 2-year relief period to cities, allowing them to use non-committed insurance premium tax revenues to pay for the current level of police and fire pension benefits rather than providing new, extra pension benefits.  However, that language was stripped from the bill.

These are the kind of shenanigans that make me truly dislike the Florida Legislature and the political process.  But I guess it’s no different than in 2007 when the Legislature passed more special favors for “first responders.”  

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

Cuba, FOP Grandstanding Again?

This morning’s TU article on the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office internal investigations was certainly interesting.  Nelson Cuba’s “attitude” once again comes out with the statement “if they don’t like it, we’ll stop giving them a statement, and they can get over it.”   Cuba calls the Sheriff’s statements “grandstanding”, but it appears that the only person grandstanding on a consistent basis lately is Nelson Cuba himself.

Even though I have not supported citizen review boards in the past, if the FOP is successful in their quest to close proceedings, I will be more than happy to join in the chorus to call for a citizens review board.  It is bad enough that the Legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow for police officers to corroborate their stories, i.e., get their stories straight, prior to investigation of incidents where two or more officers are involved.

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Florida: Land of the “Preposterous and Un-American” according to the Local FOP

An E-mail from local FOP representative Nelson Cuba to his “brothers and sisters” called a recent legislative proposal “preposterous and un-american”.  It appears our local FOP representative is not happy about proposed legislative changes to Florida’s workers compensation law. The proposed bills would restrict injured workers’ attorneys to payment of services based on a rate structure – a really low one at that.  Essentially the Legislature is attempting to correct what it thinks is a court’s wrong decision about the Legislature’s intentions when it rewrote workers compensation laws back in 2003.   That 2003 rewrite resulted in Florida’s worker’s compensation rates dropping approximately 60% – no paltry accomplishment.  I am sure that during these difficult economic times, rate reductions of 60% were greatly appreciated by any business with 4 people or more (which are required by state law to carry workers compensation insurance).  In addition, I am sure that state and local governments were happy, especially since they are self-insured – meaning you and I are paying for workers compensation claims with our hard earned tax dollars.  However, in light of that recent court decision, the Office of Insurance Regulation was already proposing to raise workers compensation rates by 6.4% this year, so some members of the Legislature felt it necessary to clarify exactly what they meant in 2003. 

While, I would give FOP the point that the rewrite seems unfair to the injured employee, Mr. Cuba seems to me to be overreacting a tad bit given that the House is still considering the bill in committee hearings and the Senate version of the bill hasn’t even been heard in any Senate committees yet.  In addition, another bill has been filed in the Senate that would not overturn the court decision, but Mr. Cuba makes no mention of that bill in his E-mail.

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

Yarborough, Hyde: An unlikely, but good combination


That was the City Council vote passing the 20 and out, guaranteed 3% COLA, corrections officers pension bill in City Council Tuesday night – despite the fact that the correctional officers pension fund is facing a $55 million unfunded liability at last count.

The only two City Councilpersons unwilling to potentially bankrupt the City with additional unfunded pension liabilities:  Clay Yarborough and Kevin Hyde. 

While there was much talk of City Council’s “moral” obligation to pass the pension bill, most Council members, except for Yarborough and Hyde, appeared to have ignored a legal opinion issued by the City’s Office of General Counsel to Councilman John Crescimbeni.  According to the legal opinion

The City intended to implement a three-year agreement, but, with the parties, recognizing the difficulties in that, agreed instead to obligate the Administration to introduce each component of the MOU in the agreed-upon time frame, to the Council for passage. The earlier passage of the funding obligations demonstrates further the City’s need to fund before it finally obligates itself. Accordingly, the City has the greater weight of this disputed issued, and it is more likely than not that the Council would be held not to have legally obligated itself to make these final changes.

Thank you, Councilman Yarborough and Councilman Hyde – for taking a stand to protect Jacksonville’s future budgets.  Thank you for being more concerned with your fiscal responsibilities as City leaders than with threats from a “man who would be king”.

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Council positioning Corrections Officers’ pension bill for a vote

On 1/26, Council President Ronnie Fussell made good on his word to the FOP and added the Corrections Officers pension bill (2008-983) to this week’s Council Committee meetings.  At today’s (2/2) Council Rules Committee meeting, the committee voted to amend the bill.  The amendment excepts the corrections officers pension bill from the requirement that pension plan enhancement must be 90% actuarially funded in order to be introduced and approved.  The amendment was approved by voice vote.  The Rules Committee then took up the bill as amended.  The bill passed out of committee 5-1 with Clay Yarborough casting the lone vote against the measure.  

Later in the day, the Council’s Finance Committee took up the measure.  This time the bill passed 6-1 – again with Clay Yarborough passing the sole vote against the measure.  But this doesn’t necessarily indicate that the bill will sail smoothly through City Council.  Any exceptions to the actuarial funding requirements can only be approved by Council after a public hearing and a 2/3 majority vote.

In addition, there was alot of tightrope walking by numerous council members during both committee meetings with some of them clarifying that a vote to move the bill out of committee did not necessarily signify their support of the measure.  Webb in particular seem a little more interested in ensuring that this monkey got off of his back and on to the back of the full Council during the Rules Committee meeting as he repeatedly asked for reassurance that amending the bill to allow an exception to the 90% actuarial funding requirements still meant it had to have a 2/3 vote of Council for approval. Corrigan was unashamedly enthusiastic in his support for the measure during Finance Committee meeting, though.  However, it appeared as if many of the Council members were merely looking for safety in numbers.

In between the two committee meetings, the Office of General Counsel determined the public hearing on the bill could be held at the next City Council meeting (February 9th), and Council would be able to vote on the measure then. 

It will take 13 Council members voting “yes” next Tuesday night to pass the bill to allow corrections officers to retire with 20 years of service at any age with a guaranteed annual 3% cost of living adjustment.   Let’s see if Council members are willing to break the pension fund and the City’s budget in order to approve a deal agreed to by the Mayor’s staff in better days…..a deal City Council was not a part of, nor one they are required to approve. 

BTW, kudos to Clay Yarborough for publicly taking a stand during Committee meetings and not hiding behind the safety of full Council proceedings.

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

Nelson Cuba:“I want a yea or a nay…If not, then I’ll sue.”

Last night, Jacksonville’s City Council did not hear 2008-0983, the correction’s officers pension bill that would allow them to retire at any age after 20 years of service and provides a guaranteed annual 3% cost of living increase.  Either someone talked Nelson Cuba off of the ledge, or we’ll be seeing a lawsuit filed soon.

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Will Pensions Break Jacksonville?

With Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba threatening to sue the City over a pension dispute, it’s probably time the City of Jacksonville got truly serious and faced up to the rather serious spectre of unsustainable pension contributions.  In today’s Florida Times-Union, Ron Littlepage pegs the unfunded liability at over $1 billion.

This isn’t exactly a good time to be talking about sweetening pension plans that could end up bankrupting the city.

Here are the latest figures from the Mayor’s Office on how much the unfunded liability in the city’s three pension plans has increased since the economy tanked.

– The unfunded liability for the Police and Fire Pension Fund jumped from $534 million in September 2007 to $789 million in September 2008.

– For the general employees plan, it increased from $192.5 million to $331 million.

– And for correctional officers, it went from $38.5 million to $55 million.

Add those together and it’s a total unfunded liability of $1.175 billion.

This January 2, 2009 Memo from Alan Mosley, the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, is an effort to make members of the City Council aware of the precarious path the City is currently on in relation to the three pension plans.  According to Mosley, current contributions to the Police & Fire Pension Plan—$56.5 million—will have a staggering increase of nearly 180% over the next 20 years.  One doesn’t need to know the minutia of pension plans to understand exactly how that would cripple the budget of the City.   Read the rest of this entry »

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

Community forum: police involved shootings

Tonight Sheriff Rutherford participated in WJCT’s community forum with other community leaders discussing the subject of police-involved shootings.  The sheriff cited the statistics behind police involved shootings and proffered a solution:  restrict criminals access to guns.  Prior to the forum, the sheriff had interviewed with CBS 47 and had these suggestions:

“Some of the points include making it tougher for crooks to get their hands on guns.
He says people should not leave guns in their cars and should properly store them at home. 
He also wants people to report stolen guns right away to cut down on traffickers
He also suggests doing background checks at gun shows and making sure gun buyers have purchasing permits.

Here’s a link to the report issued by Rutherford on JSO’s response to resistance and the rise in gun violence in Jacksonville.

Harry Shorstein, who also participated on the panel, was busy pointing out that the sheriff often ignored his criticisms and suggestion on handling officers involved in shootings.  And the sheriff responded by telling Harry he didn’t know what he was talking about.  Now that’s a productive conversation, isn’t it?

In the meantime panelist Nelson Cuba was busy winning friends and influencing Jacksonville’s citizens by sharply criticizing fellow panelist Isaiah Rumlin, the leader of the local NAACP.  Geez….hadn’t Nelson already offended enough of Jacksonville’s citizenry yesterday with his threats to sue the City, i.e., us taxpayers,  if we don’t fork over early retirement benefits and guaranteed cost of living raises to corrections officers and then calling City Council members dishonest today? 

Before the kettle goes to calling the pot black, Nelson might want to recall the Ethics Office and IG Office investigation  last spring (2008-4) into the Mayor’s Hispanic American Advisory Board during his term of leadership which found improper procedures pertaining to purchases (17 of them in total – of which 6 had memos from the Mayor’s Office warning them to follow the correct procedures, with an E-mail informing the Board of the correct procedures issued prior to the last 3) and a lack of board meeting minutes – sunshine law/open government violations.

If you missed the debate tonight, the broadcast will re-air 6:30 p.m. Sunday on TV-7. It will also be shown 8 p.m. Feb. 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4.

Filed under: Jacksonville, , , , , , , , , , ,

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