Buzz: Bad News Budget, Zimmerman Backlash, Minks and More
Bad News Budget
As expected, Mayor Alvin Brown’s city budget is full of cuts and layoffs of city employees. The $952.9 million budget includes $181.3 million in pension and retirement obligations, and it eliminates more than $60 million in spending to keep Jacksonville running within its means. The City Council has until Oct. 1 to approve a new city budget for the 2013-’14 fiscal year. Brown once again urged the council to approve his pension reform plans, so that some of the cuts to the police and fire departments could be eased. The mayor rejected calls from some officials to raise taxes. The 400-page budget is available online at myjaxbudget.com under Resources. You can also read or watch the mayor’s budget address at the same website.
Protesters around the country, angered over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, have been on social networks, vowing to boycott everything from Florida vacations to orange juice, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Twitter users have been campaigning under #Boycott-Florida and #NotFlorida. A petition “Boycott Florida Tourism” has been launched at Moveon.org. The groups want the state to repeal the “stand your ground” laws.
The Link to Minks
Florida wildlife biologists are trying to learn more about the state’s mink population and are seeking help from the public. Chris Winchester, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission wildlife biologist, said there are three known subspecies of minks here: Atlantic saltmarsh minks, Gulf saltmarsh minks and Everglades minks. Officials said understanding the abundance and distribution of minks is difficult because they’re small and fast and adept at staying out of sight. Report mink sightings or post photos of minks and roadkill specimens at bit.ly/MinkID.
Another Winston YMCA?
The new $21 million Riverside YMCA will be named for civic leaders James and Mary Winston, after two anonymous donors gave a combined $3 million for naming rights. The facility, officially called the James & Mary Winston Family YMCA, replaces the aging Claude Yates branch on Riverside Avenue. The 70,000-square-foot structure is to be built by the river behind the Yates YMCA, which will be torn down to build a parking lot. First Coast YMCA has been raising funds for the Riverside project since October 2012; it lacks $5 million. Ponte Vedra Beach YMCA, named after the Winstons since 1999, is getting a new name.
Farewell to Fernandina Beach Post Office?
After serving customers for 101 years, it appears the downtown Post Office in Fernandina Beach will be closing soon. On July 9, the U.S. Postal Service advised that the Centre Street facility, built in 1912, would be closing in 60 days. That could increase to 120 days if an appeal is filed. The notice said revenues and volume had steadily declined, from $319,435 in 2008 to $261,747 in 2012. The USPS plans to shift services to the Sadler Road facility or contract a small spot in a downtown bookstore.
Wolfson the Dog
A golden retriever being raised by Duval County Judge Emmet Ferguson for New Horizons Service Dogs has been named Wolfson, in recognition of Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville. This is the judge’s second service dog (his first, Lear Jet, died in 2010). Ferguson’s 6-year-old daughter, Emma Ruth, has been a patient at Wolfson Children’s Hospital several times since her birth. Puppies in a litter born in late 2012 are named for Jacksonville area healthcare facilities, said New Horizons founder, Executive Director Janet Severt. Other pups in the litter are Mayo, Brooks, Shands and Nemours.
Ten works of fiction and artwork by two artists are featured in the 14th issue of Fiction Fix, University of North Florida’s online literary journal (fictionfix.net). UNF English instructor, author, musician and artist Mark Ari and UNF students started Fiction Fix in 2002. Its current editor-in-chief is UNF alumna April Gray Wilder. The journal promotes contemporary literature from across the United States and around the world.
Help for Seniors
The city of Jacksonville’s 2013-’14 Senior Services Directory is available free at all local library branches, 19 Jacksonville senior centers, City Hall’s information desk and at bit.ly/SeniorServices. It has information on housing, pharmacies, community services and health care. Published yearly since 1997, it contains listings on subjects ranging from assisted living to volunteer opportunities. City departments, parks, libraries, special events, senior-friendly websites, maps and telephone numbers are included. For more information, call Senior Services Division at 630-7392 or go to
Former Gator, Jaguar Leaves Child Alone in Car
Monty Grow, a former University of Florida and Jacksonville Jaguars football player, has been charged with child abuse for leaving a 3-year-old girl in a car while he went into a strip club, news4jax.com reported. Grow was released on $5,000 bail July 14. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said Grow went into Diamond Dolls and left the girl in the car in a parking lot of a nearby used-car dealership. Grow, 41, played linebacker for the Gators from 1989-’93 and then played a season each for the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. Authorities didn’t say how Grow knew the child.