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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

POWER DOWN: Rep. Ron Desantis’ name recognition

Though Ron Desantis – Ponte Vedra resident, congressman and former Navy Jag with two Ivy League degrees and a 2012 Donald Trump endorsement – was deemed the favorite to take Marco Rubio’s Senate seat by Tampa Bay Times political columnist Adam C. Smith, the Tea Partier is struggling to be recognized statewide among a crowded field that includes Lieutenant Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and liberal bad boy Alan Grayson. A Mason-Dixon poll of potential voters has Desantis in 3rd place behind Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores (16 percent) and Lopez-Cantera (10 percent) and edging out Rep. Jeff Miller (8 percent) by a just single point.

NEXT: 4:21 IS TOO LATE >>>   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

FOLIO ART + EVENTS

C.A.S.K. Grand Opening & Art Show

Saturday, Aug. 1 • 7PM-11PM

1049 Park St., Riverside

Wine and art are a natural pair of companions, and this week, they're sharing the stage in a new kind of way. Sniff, swill, and spit some of Jacksonville's most incredible new wine offerings in the heart of historic 5 Points while you take in new, fun, and fierce fine art screen print work of local artist Margete "Kit'nface" Griffin. If you don't run into someone you know here, you just don't know enough people.

NEXT: OFF THE WALL >>>   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

THE FLOG

Breaking: Citing First Amendment concerns, the mayor’s office has rejected City Council President Clay Yarborough’s demand that the city pull funding for the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville over an image he deemed pornographic. 

Read the entire PDF here. The tl;dr version: Piss off, Clay.

Here is the text of Mayor Brown’s letter: 

Dear President Yarborough: 

I am in receipt of the enclosed email that you sent to my Chief of Staff on Tuesday, November 25, 2014. 

As you know, we asked the Office of General Counsel (OGC) if the action you requested could result in legal risk for the City of Jacksonville. OGC has opined that the action you sought would likely violate First Amendment rights and could subject the City to injunctive action and financial sanctions. I believe you have received that opinion via electronic mail, but I have attached another copy here. 

After thoughtful consideration of your request and the First Amendment issues involved, I will not seek to pull any of the funding that City Council appropriated to the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville in the current budget. This includes the Cultural Council’s subsequent award of a $233,029.00 grant to MOCA. 

I am hopeful that we can put this issue behind us so that the City can continue working with the arts and cultural community to revitalize Downtown, enhance our quality of life, and make Jacksonville a vibrant destination. 

Thank you again for sharing your concerns. 

Sincerely, 

Alvin Brown. 

And here is that referenced letter from Jason Gabriel of the city’s Office of General Counsel: 

Gentlemen —

Per the below request, our office has looked into this issue. 

Based on relevant federal case law, the City cannot remove artwork from the Museum based on what it may deem offensive. While the City can choose to fund agencies or activities however it wishes …   More

THE FLOG

The craft beer industry is asking the Legislature to approve the sale of a new size of growlers, which are reusable containers for taking home draft beer.

According to the bill’s summary, it is currently legal for craft beer makers to sell 32-ounce and 128-ounce bottles of beer. Beer makers want to make 64 ounces a legal size as well. They say it is a better size for most consumers, holding about four pints.

The 64-ounce growler is the industry standard and is readily available and much cheaper to acquire than 128-ounce and 32-ounce bottles, beer company officials said.

The name “growler” is believed to have originated in the early 20th century due to the rumbling noise made by the carbon dioxide that rattled the lid of beer pails.

The legislation was up before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on March 14 and has also been referred to three other committees.

  More

THE FLOG

Mayor Alvin Brown has unveiled a proposed 2014 city budget that contains $60 million in cuts and layoffs.

The $952.9 million budget includes $181.3 million in pension and retirement obligations and the mayor urged the City Council to approve the pension reform plan he negotiated with city police and fire unions.

The City Council has until Oct. 1, but it wants to see what a committee appointed by the mayor to explain the pension situation recommends.

The mayor also said he would veto any budget that contains a tax increase.

The 400-page budget is available online at www.myjaxbudget.com under the resources link. You can also read or watch the mayor’s budget address at the same website.   More