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BUDWEISER’S VERY GOOD FRIENDS, DIVERSITY AT DCPS AND PROFESSIONALISM AT THE ST. JOHNS COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE

The week that was in Northeast Florida

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Very Good Friends

There are few things nearer and dearer to our hearts than the hop water of the gods — especially the stuff brewed in small batches with tender loving care and attention to detail, not so much the heathen mass-market swill. And so when we find these forces and light and dark collide in mortal(ish) combat in Tallahassee, and given the bonanza of excellent breweries within a cab ride of Folio Weekly World Headquarters, we feel compelled to point it out.

There is an eminently reasonable effort in the Legislature to allow craft breweries to fill and sell growlers, those refillable half-gallon containers that craft brewers sell all over the country but can’t here for reasons that surpass understanding. And not just our understanding: Senate President Don Gaetz, for example, has admitted (publicly, to reporters who were taking notes!) that he doesn’t know why growlers are illegal — but before he agrees to make them legal, he’ll have to ask his “very good friend” at Anheuser-Busch what he thinks.

Seriously. Check out this what-the-holy-crap line from a March 16 Associated Press story: “Gaetz acknowledged he will support whatever Anheuser-Busch InBev distributor Lewis Bear tells him to support.”

At least he’s being honest.

Bear and his companies, you see, shower their largesse upon Florida politicians, and he’s not fond of this whole free-market competition thing. (The other mass-market beer company, MillerCoors, is fine with growlers. Bully for them, but you still couldn’t pay us to crack a Silver Bullet.) In exchange for legalizing half-gallon growlers, Bear is demanding that the Legislature ban (currently legal) full-gallon containers; prohibit brewers from selling bottles, cans and kegs in their own brewery; forbid breweries from also opening wineries (also now legal); and block them from collaborating with other brewers on new beers or having guest taps from which they sell other brewers’ products.

Here’s the good news: On Monday afternoon, HB 1329 — which is, as the good folks at Intuition Ale Works panic-blasted their email list last week, “AWFUL for the craft beer industry” — was rejected by the House Business and Professional Regulation Committee. Less-good news: Similar legislation is still alive and kicking in the Senate. We’ll keep you posted.

Access Granted

Last week, this esteemed publication told you about the Jacksonville Small and Emerging Business (JSEB) program and how some black and women contractors said it hadn’t helped them access city contracts — and how the city didn’t really care about that because the program was race- and gender-neutral and inclusion goals weren’t really a priority anyway [News, “The Usual Suspects,” Susan Cooper Eastman, March 19]. We also told you about the new disparity study by Mason Tillman Associates, which looked at not just city contracts but contracts from all of Duval County’s governmental agencies (which is why the city says you shouldn’t draw too many conclusions about the JSEB’s success from that report).

As it turns out, while the city seems cool with the status quo, Duval County Public Schools might not be. After our magazine went to press, we heard from School District spokeswoman Tia Ford, who told us that the Mason Tillman study reinforced what the District already knows — that minority- and women-owned businesses are underutilized. Moreover, DCPS is considering Mason Tillman’s recommendation to penalize prime contractors that fail to meet diversity participation goals. “There are a number of recommendations being considered as a result of the disparity study that could possibly enhance and improve the way contracts are awarded to minority business enterprises (MBE) and women business enterprises (WBE),” Ford told us in an email. “… We are always looking to strengthen our efforts in MBE participation.”

In addition, the School Board recently approved a contract for grounds maintenance that only minority-owned businesses could bid on, which alone nearly doubled minority-owned businesses’ participation in School District contracts, raising it from 17 to 30 percent.

Professional Standards

Finally, we’d like to draw your attention to St. Johns County, and particularly its sheriff’s office, which last November The New York Times flayed alive for its investigation into the death of Deputy Jeremy Banks’ girlfriend, in which the sheriff’s office quickly (and without so much as considering the possibility of domestic violence, because, you know, blue code) determined that the girlfriend committed suicide.

Later, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found two witnesses who heard a woman screaming for help, then gunshots, which prompted the medical examiner and the crime reconstruction expert to rule it a homicide. But after a special prosecutor decided there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge Banks — even though the FDLE sought a private inquest — Sheriff David B. Shoar called it a day. (Banks has since sued FDLE agent Rusty Ray Rodgers, alleging misconduct.)

The Times found “that the investigation was mishandled from the start … . Because detectives concluded so quickly that the shooting was a suicide, investigators failed to perform the police work that is standard in suspicious shootings.” We also learned from that story that the sheriff’s office has a history of looking the other way when its deputies are accused of domestic violence.

With that in mind, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, outstanding law enforcement body that it is, is now seeking accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, a sign that it adheres to the most rigorous professional standards. If, for whatever reason, you feel compelled to comment on the sheriff’s office’s professionalism, you may do so by calling 209-1520 between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on April 2, or by attending a public information session at 6 p.m. on April 3 at the Sheriff’s Office Communications Building, 445 Avenue A, St. Augustine.

Tags: beer, Budweiser, legislation, Intuition, DCPS, diversity, contracts, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, FDLE, Jeremy Banks, domestic violence, New York Times
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