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THE FLOG

Around the time that a suburb half a country away was exploding last Monday night, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer named J.C. Garcia tried to pull over a car driven by a man named Brian Dennison, whose 6-year-old daughter was in his car, after he cut through a parking lot trying to avoid a traffic light.

The police say that Dennison didn’t stop when Garcia pulled up behind him, and continued driving all the way to his apartment complex. According to Dennison’s family, the 31-year-old was in a rush to get home because his daughter was having an asthma attack. Dennison got out of his car; one family member told News4Jax that he stuck his hands out of the car window and said, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot. I got my daughter in the car.”

Garcia claimed he saw a gun. He pulled his service weapon and fired a shot. 

Dennison — who, fortunately, was not harmed — did not have a weapon. He was, however, arrested on misdemeanor charges. The family is demanding answers.

If history is any indicator, they won’t get them.

Between 1999 and 2013, Florida cops in 110 different law enforcement agencies were involved in 574 homicides that were deemed justified, according to an investigation by NBC 6 South Florida. Of those, 42 cases involved the JSO, the second-highest total of any police agency in the state, behind only the Miami-Dade Police Department. That number is spiking, too — up from just 14 incidents in ’99 to 67 in 2012 and 58 last year — along with a pronounced, concomitant spike in civilian justified homicides that began around 2006 (thank you, Stand Your Ground), even as violent crime rates here and nationwide have plummeted since 1993.

If you’ve reported on cops for any amount of time, as I have, you know how rare it is for police agencies to decide that one of their own did anything wrong, ever, no matter the evidence — like Sasquatch-spotting rare. A few …   More

THE FLOG

When Mayor Alvin Brown called me after the City Council approved the long-debated pension deal 16-3, he was in an expansive mood. And why wouldn’t he be? He’d just scored the biggest victory of his administration.

He did the requisites: He lauded his team for doing the hard work of “solving the retirement reform [problem].” He wanted to “thank City Council for all their hard work.” But at the end of the day, he took credit for getting the deal done. “My administration presented a sustainable plan,” he said. 

Though he didn’t want to talk politics on the call, that statement could be seen as a direct riposte to Lenny Curry, his deepest-pocketed opponent in the upcoming mayoral race, who has repeatedly teed off on Brown for presenting what he calls an unsustainable plan.

The three nays — Republicans Robin Lumb and Kim Daniels, and Democrat/Force of Nature Denise Lee — opposed the agreement because they didn’t trust the financing. In the mayor’s eyes, their qualms were misguided.

“Matt Carlucci, former City Council president, and [business executive and former JEA board member] Charlie Appleby presented the plan to JEA,” Brown told me — referring to the complex funding proposal the duo proffered last month that called for the city and JEA to jointly borrow $240 million in the short term to help the city pay down its $1.7 pension liability — and “the board unanimously approved the working framework,” which he sees as a testament to the partnership between the utility and the city that the mayor’s office has been touting to the local media for a while now, a meme that heretofore has not gotten much traction.

Another notable partnership that facilitated the 16-3 mandate might be with the Jax Chamber, which opposed previous pension plan iterations. Brown framed the Chamber’s support in the language of consensus, saying it …   More

The deputy director of the Port of Miami is the unanimous choice by the Jacksonville Port Authority’s board to become the next CEO of JaxPort.

At a meeting April 22, the board approved starting negotiations with Juan Kuryla to replace Paul Anderson, who left at the end of the year to take the position as the director of Tampa Port Authority, said Nancy Rubin, the port’s spokesperson.

The board conducted much of its search behind closed doors with one-on-one interviews with the eight candidates. It cut down the number of finalists to three before selecting Kuryla. Interim JaxPort CEO Roy Schleicher and Michael E. Moore, the former CEO of Global Container Terminals were the other finalists.

When he left the post he had held for only 23 months, Anderson complained about the instability at JaxPort, where competing appointments by the governor and mayor kept changing the port’s leadership.

Anderson was the state’s highest paid port executive in Jacksonville with an annual salary of $320,0000. He is paid $350,000 in Tampa.

The board will have to negotiate a salary and benefits with Kuryla.   More

WE'RE HERE, WE'RE QUEER, GET USED TO IT

They wore denim and white. Emblazoned proudly on their lapels, the word “Bride” sparkled in the morning sun, glittering rhinestones for all to see. Onlookers gathered behind them, bearing witness to a historic moment for Jacksonville, and a momentous occasion 13 years in the making for this happy couple.

This was the scene outside the Duval County Courthouse this morning, where life partners and now wives Vicki Karst and Susan Smith proclaimed their love in the first legally binding same-sex marriage to take place in Duval County.

The crowd cheered as attorney Belkis Plata spoke the words heard thousands of times every day at courthouses and in churches all over the country, declaring that by the power vested in her by the state of Florida, Karst and Smith were united in matrimony. On this bright, sunny morning in Downtown Jacksonville, those words held particular significance for those who have fought so long and so hard for marriage equality.

Today they have it.

It was with an excited air of disbelief mixed with a sense of finally, finally, finally that Karst took her bride in her arms. After the nuptials, she told Folio Weekly, “I really didn’t know it would happen in this amount of time. I really thought it would be our children, not us, that would see this kind of thing happen in Florida.”

There was just one thing left to do.

At 10:14 a.m., Karst and Smith’s marriage was legally recorded by the clerk of court at Window 4. Theirs was the first same-sex marriage recorded on this day, which will certainly see many more, as will the days and weeks to come. Three clerks hovered against the wall behind the clerk who was entering their completed marriage license, snickering and gossiping. No one paid them much mind.

“You’re stuck with me now,” Smith joked.

Strangers stopped to congratulate them on their way out of the courthouse. Outside one well-wisher said, “If it’s your cup …   More

THE FLOG

Hans Tanzler served as mayor of Jacksonville for 12 years and is known for his efforts to clean up the St. Johns River, revitalize downtown and complete major skyscrapers. Tanzler is also known for his government consolidation efforts.

Tanzler died July 25 after suffering a heart attack at his family farm near Gainesville.

Former mayors and other political leaders remembered the 86-year-old Tanzler as the champion of consolidating the City of Jacksonville and Duval County governments in 1967. He served as mayor from 1967 to Jan 2, 1979, when he resigned to run for governor, which he lost to Bob Graham in a seven-man Democratic primary.

As news of his death spread, city leaders shared some recollections about Tanzler and most of them mentioned consolidation:

“Mayor Tanzler led a life dedicated to public service and his legacy will be forever remembered by our citizens and all who had the opportunity to know him. He guided our city through consolidation, paving the way for much of the success we enjoy today,” said Mayor Alvin Brown.

Former Mayor John Delaney agreed, saying,] “It would be hard for any Mayor to have a greater legacy.”

Former Mayor Tommy Hazouri said Tanzler set the standard for the mayors who followed him.

“I am honored to have known him, and grateful for his leadership and friendship,” Hazouri said.

Former Mayor John Peyton also cited the consolidation issue.

“He was the right man at the right time. He was critical to our consolidation in the 1960s.”

  More

THE FLOG

Well, this is depressing: Last year, in the midst of the city’s financial difficulties and with Mayor Brown proposing 14 percent across-the-board cuts (which the City Council eventually replaced with a 14 percent property tax hike), the City Council zero-funded Jacksonvile Area Legal Aid, an organization that provides civil legal services for individuals who can’t afford their own attorneys — like the public defender’s office, only for foreclosures and family law disputes and the like, not criminal cases. This compounded an existing problem: JALA and other legal aid groups across the state have fallen victim to recent waves of austerity. The Florida Bar has halved its funding to legal aid organizations over the last six years. Gov. Scott has vetoed any and all state funding for legal aid, making Florida one of only three states that doesn’t believe the poor should have legal representation when going up against big banks and the like. 

JALA has seen its funding from the Florida Bar Foundation wither from $1.2 million in in 2009-’10 to an expected $250,000 or so next year, which of course means fewer lawyers taking on fewer cases, and fewer poor people having someone to help them navigate the murky waters of civil and family law. And that’s why Council’s decision last year was such a devastating blow — especially considering that the three other counties JALA serves (Nassau, Clay and St. Johns) all pay more-per-poor-person than Jacksonville does, and other major Florida counties pay more than twice what Duval does for legal aid services. 

So it was encouraging, then, that Brown’s budget proposal, released last month, contained $443,000 for JALA, a relative pittance (1 percent of what we dropped on those scoreboards; yeah, I know, those things came from tourist taxes that we can’t use to help poor people, but still) that could help JALA rebuild from the the recent devastating cuts. …   More

THE FLOG

Although no one has been held accountable or disciplined in any way for the death of 19-year-old Daniel Linsinbigler in the Clay County Jail on March 12, 2013, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit the Linsinbigler family filed for a seven-figure sum, according to Valerie Linsinbigler, Daniel’s mother. 

At a mediation hearing at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, attorneys for the Linsinbiglers and Clay County will try to negotiate the terms of a settlement. Valerie Linsinbigler says that she knows such settlement agreements sometimes include gag orders that prohibit everyone from talking about the details of the case. That will be difficult for her, she says.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword for me,” she tells Folio Weekly. “The last 20 months have literally taken the life out of me. Going to trial and all that stuff — every day it’s taken a little more.” But while going to trial offered the prospect of even more heartache, it also offered the potential for answers. Valerie wanted to hear from the Clay County deputies who were with Daniel when he suffocated to death while they were just a few feet away. She wanted them to explain why they didn’t intervene as he gasped for air. 

Daniel, who was quite clearly mentally ill and in obvious need of more robust psychiatric care than his jailers bothered to offer — he’d been arrested during a psychotic break, while he was walking around an Orange Park motel naked and telling anyone who would listen that he was God — was pepper sprayed and removed from his cell in solitary confinement on March 12. He’d been placed in solitary on suicide watch after his arrest on March 2. After pepper-spraying him, deputies tied to a restraint chair and placed a spit hood over his head to contain the tears running down his face, the mucus pouring from his nostrils and the saliva running from his mouth in …   More

Days after Jacksonville resident Curtis Lee submitted a public records request to the office of State Attorney Angela Corey, SAO investigators showed up at his home. They told Curtis he should stop contacting Angela Corey and her public records designees.

Circuit Court Judge Karen R. Cole ruled on August 1 that Angela Corey and two assistant state attorneys violated the state's public record laws in response to Lee's requests for information about the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund. Judge Cole awarded Lee attorneys fees and costs. She also ordered the SAO to change its policy of requiring a money order or cashier's check from the public for records, saying the SAO should accept cash and other forms of payment. And she slammed Corey's office for sending investigators to Lee's home. 

"Plainly, a visit by two SAO investigators to a citizen only days after that citizen had made a public records request directed to the SAO, couple with the advice that the citizen should ‘stop clling the SAO,’ would have a chilling effect on the willingness of the citizen (or most citizens) to pursue production of the public records to which he or she is entitled under Florida law," Judge Cole wrote. 

Lee said he objected to the SAO requirement that he pay for records by money order. He lives 18 miles away from the SAO, and he said, picking up records required him to take money out of a bank and buy a money order, which he argued added to the cost of the records he sought. Judge Cole agreed.

"It was really aggravating to me for several reasons," Lee told me. “It was really inconvenient. I'm 57 years old now. What if I was 78? Why don't they take personal checks? What if I didn't have a car. What if I was in a wheelchair. What is the justification for not taking personal checks?" 

Judge Cole awarded Lee attorneys fees and cost. The ruling will also make it somewhat easier for a regular person to obtain records. Judge …   More

THE FLOG

Pedestrians, bicyclists and traffic fatalities in Jacksonville are increasing dramatically, prompting the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Transportation to start a new safety campaign, “Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow. Safety Doesn’t Happen by Accident.”

The campaign is asking motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists to be more aware of each other and be more alert.

“We’ve got a serious problem in Jacksonville,” said Duval County Sheriff John Rutherford, who spoke at a news conference March 1 with Transportation Secretary Greg Evans and Maj. Anthony Allen of the FHP.

Traffic fatalities in Jacksonville have increased 34 percent, up from 103 in 2011 to 138 in 2012. Motor vehicle versus pedestrian fatalities increased to 32 in 2012, up from 23 in 2011, and motor vehicle versus bicyclist deaths increased to nine, compared with 5 the previous year.

The $100,000 campaign, funded by the Florida Department of Transportation, will include radio and television advertising, billboards and brochures.

  More

The Flog

“This court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority. Whether it’s the NRA protecting our right to bear arms when the City of Chicago attempted to ban handguns within its city limits; or when Nazi supremacists won the right to march in Skokie, Illinois a predominantly Jewish neighborhood; or when a black woman wanted to marry a white man in Virginia; or when black children wanted to go to an all-white school, the Constitution guarantees and protects ALL of its citizens from government interference in those rights. All laws passed whether by the legislature or by popular support must pass the scrutiny of the United States Constitution, to do otherwise diminishes the Constitution to just a historical piece of paper.” 

And so marks the beginning of the end of Florida’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying. Right now, Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia’s (a Jeb Bush appointee, by the way) ruling applies only to Monroe County — that is, the Keys, and marriages there will begin July 22, barring a stay — but there are two other quite-similar lawsuits currently making their way through state and federal court, and were I a betting man I’d wager this question is dead and settled by year’s end.  

The only real question, in fact, is whether Attorney General Pam Bondi — last seen telling the world that allowing two individuals who love each other to marry will cause “significant public harm” — will bother to appeal.

Pam Bondi will appeal. (Of course she did. It’s an election year.)

I’ll have more to say on this later, but for now, you can peep the decision here. 

In the meantime, if you’re still wondering why this stuff …   More