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THE FLOG

Heading into the mayoral election in May, the big hullabaloo currently shaking up Jacksonville’s political blogosphere is the recent TV attack ad by Republican Lenny Curry’s PAC peeps that aims to directly link the budget cuts and subsequent elimination of 147 police positions under incumbent Democrat Alvin Brown to an increase in the city’s crime rate, namely murder and rape. You’ve no doubt seen these omnipresent ads. They’re the ones that come on in between your Family Guy reruns, featuring spooky music and darkened imagery — basically likening 2015 J-ville to the alternate reality timeline in Back to the Future II wherein Marty McFly’s bully, Biff Tannen, is at the head of a morally corrupt, criminal-laden Hill Valley. The ad was blatant fear-mongering and, according to an investigation by First Coast News, riddled with factual inaccuracies and false interpretations (that’s media speak for “lies”). Murders and rapes did increase during Mayor Brown’s first term (though not at quite the astonishing rates indicated in the ad), but the overall crime rate went down. Mayor Brown did have something to do with the budget cuts (as did the cratering economy, but details), but he did not cut 147 officers; the final determination of the allocation of police force resources belonging to Dudley Do-Right (aka Sheriff John Rutherford), who also attributes the budget cuts to the rise in crime rates and is, conveniently, a supporter of Curry.

Of course, revealing the true figures and political motivations behind the manipulated statistics presented to us in the ad is all well and good but, from what I gather, every organization analyzing this ad seems to focus so much on the correlation that they are entirely ignoring the causation. Like conditions created by the hopelessness of unemployment and poverty. Like inadequately funded and staffed community youth outreach programs in high-risk neighborhoods. …   More

THE FLOG

Earlier today, and only 13 days after his deadline (he could be a Folio Weekly writer!), Dr. Dr. Herbert M. Barber Jr. — the Jacksonville Port Task Force consultant whose rather … shall we say … colorful views on poor people, environmentalists, integration and Barack Obama being a terrorist are contained in a 2012 book he wrote that nobody in the city bothered to Google before signing on the dotted line — finally turned the draft report that was due Feb. 13. (In keeping with his anachronistic sensibilities, it seems, he only filed a hard copy and not a digital one; the city has promised to email me a copy of the report as soon as it’s digitized, probably tomorrow see below.) 

The city responded with a very polite “thanks and by the way your services are no longer needed”: 

“In accordance with Section 8 of the Contract and Section 3.23 of RFP, the City has elected to terminate the Contract for convenience. Accordingly, this letter shall serve as the City’s written notice of termination to Xicon. The Contract shall be deemed terminated effective immediately upon receipt of this notice.” 

Don’t be worrying about Dr. Dr. Barber, you guys. Dude’s still gonna get paid. Per the notice: “The City is hereby relieved of all further obligations other than payment for the amount of services actually performed to the date of termination. … Please provide the City with an invoice within 30 days of this notice for services completely up to the date of this notice of termination. The City greatly appreciates your cooperation on this matter.” 

Because Dr. Dr. Barber’s work was mostly completely by the time the city found out about his book (from me, natch) — his final report was due March 2, and he was to present to the task force March 11 — he can (and probably will, since he only hates government money when less deserving people get it) …   More

THE FLOG

Last Friday, a federal court judge dismissed the complaint that Jeremy Banks, the St. Johns County Sheriffs deputy best known as the boyfriend of Michelle O’Connell — who may or may not have committed suicide back in September 2010 — filed last year against Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Rusty Rodgers, Folio Weekly has learned. That complaint alleged that Rodgers lied to and manipulated O’Connell’s family members into believing that Banks had killed her, and made false and derragotory statements about Sheriff David Shoar, including that he was helping cover up a homicide by one of his deputies. 

"Over a year ago,” Shoar said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed, “I personally made a complaint to FDLE regarding the egregious behavior of Rusty Rodgers and [fellow FDLE Agent] Dominic Pape during the investigation of the death of Michelle O'Connell. While Rodgers is currently the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation for 'official misconduct,' I am grateful the civil cases are moving forward to ultimately bring justice and closure to all involved."

On Feb. 13, U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis dismissed Banks’ complaint without prejudice, which means Banks will have the opportunity to refile by March 5. In essence, Davis ruled in his seven-page order that Banks did not come close to establishing the probable cause the court needed to move the case forward. 

“The Court is mindful that proof is not required at this juncture of the case,” Davis wrote. “Nevertheless, Rule 8 requires a short plain statement sufficient to put Defendant on notice of facts or inferences from them which makes the absence of probable cause plausible. The allegations of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint simply fail to accomplish that requirement.” 

We will update as we learn more. 

*This post and headline were updated to reflect the fact that the …   More

Having just returned from the first Ballots and Brews event held by the Young Voters Coalition, I have a few insights.

One of which is that, if you wanted to hear first-rate political gossip, you should have been there. It was a three hour game of inside baseball. Just keep your pen sheathed and your notepad in your back pocket.

Those who weren't there might wonder who was there. Those who were there know the answer.

Everyone.

If you were there around 6:00, you could have talked to Lenny Curry. Around 8:00, and you would have seen Alvin Brown, who worked the room like Bill Clinton himself (who apparently is going to be in town tomorrow for a big ticket fundraiser and a meeting with 250 "influencers", if the gossip tonight was on point). And staying the entire evening, Bill Bishop, who was in his element, talking to some of the most engaged voters in the entire city of Jacksonville.

If you wanted to talk to staff members, you would have seen them in force. From Curry campaign ops to key City Hall personnel, they were there -- and they were telling hilarious stories.

Sorry if you missed it. I can understand. You were busy. It was cold out. Riverside might have been far away.

But it was an epic party. 

Sheriff and Council candidates were there in abundance. Michelle Tappouni, Tommy Hazouri, Anna Brosche, Mincy Pollock, Tony Cummings, Jay Farhat, and a few more were working the crowd, pressing flesh and influencing voters.

Not just any voters either. But the ones who really give a damn. The most independent thinkers in the city were are Intuition Ale.

You weren't there? You missed Jesse Wilson and Wayne Wood. Kerry Speckman and Meredith O'Malley Johnson. And one of my favorite people in the city, James Richardson, who was dressed impeccably as always. 

You were drinking somewhere else? Hmm. Hard to beat Intuition Ale. I hope you liked your PBR.

If you needed proof that Jacksonville is really a small town, you would have …   More

THE FLOG

Editor’s note: David Carr was something of a hero of mine, dating back to the late ’90s when he was editor of the Washington City Paper, before he became nationally known as The New York Times’ media critic. Carr died last week. I never got to meet him, but Carr was a mentor and friend to my predecessor here at Folio Weekly, Anne Schindler, who worked with him at a now-defunct Minnesota alt-weekly called the Twin Cities Reader. She was kind enough to pen this wonderful remembrance of a legend in our field. — Jeffrey C. Billman

David Carr loved a good story, and it was part of his natural generosity that he left everyone he came into contact with at least one good story to remember him by.

In the 25 years I’ve known Carr, I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths with him in a slew of odd places, and whether getting lost on the streets of Tijuana, waging noodle wars in the lakes of the Adirondacks, or watching Sonic Youth aurally annihilate the 9:30 Club, each left an indelible memory.

Carr’s whole life was a caper, and he was ruthlessly candid about not wanting not to miss out. He had to taste everything on the menu, jump into every darkened swimming pool, and yes, “grind himself to the center of the universe” journalistically.

Carr gave me my first job in journalism, at the now-defunct alt-weekly the Twin Cities Reader. He was just shed of his crack addiction and cancer, and new to the job of editor. And he very nearly didn’t take me. After receiving the package of poorly written, sloppily edited college papers that served as my “writing sample,” he asked if I could at least type.

I could not. “It’s going to be difficult to explain to anyone in this newsroom why I would hire you,” he confided, “if you can’t even type.”

I spent that summer learning to type using a textbook, practicing on a series of postcards that I would send Carr as proof …   More

THE FLOG

A couple of weeks ago, the Jacksonville Port Task Force agreed to pay a Savannah-based consultant named Herbert M. Barber, the founder of Xicon Economics, $60,000 in money from the city’s Office of Economic Development to study the economic impact dredging will have. 

Perhaps you were wondering, who is this Barber fellow, whose LinkedIn page describes him as “Dr. Dr. Herbert M. Barber, Jr.”? (He has two PhDs, in engineering economics and industrial technology.) As it turns out, in addition to his economics business, he’s also an author. In 2012, he self-published a book called Fall of a Nation: A Biblical Perspective of a Modern Problem on a small Christian imprint. And according to Fall of a Nation, this nation of ours is going to hell in a handbasket. 

From an excerpt published on Amazon: 

America is quickly eroding as a nation. Our political, economic, and social structures have collapsed, and life as we know it is quickly disappearing. To correct our decline, Republicans argue that we need less government, and Democrats argue that we need more government. Both parties claim understanding, but apparently neither has wisdom. Unfortunately, we have failed to consult God in our attempt to recover.

God's word provides a clear illustration regarding where America is politically, economically, and socially in Genesis and Exodus. The demise of America parallels almost perfectly with the demise of the Israelites in Egypt. The similarities are eerily disturbing.

Big whoop, you say. The man has religious convictions. So does most everyone else. And so what if he thinks the country is on the wrong track? So do most Americans. Well, if that were all the deep thoughts Dr. Dr. Barber’s book contained, it would indeed not merit comment. 

But it’s not. If you read it — and I did, at least the first two-and-a-half chapters available on Google Books — Barber’s book …   More

THE FLOG

So at last night’s meeting of the Duval County Republican Executive Committee — a group that has not been immune to scandal lately — the party did what everyone expected and rallied around establishment candidate Lenny Curry … except, not exactly, maybe. According to Jesse Wilson — who was until last month a Republican candidate for City Council and is now the social media consultant for the mayoral campaign of Bill Bishop, also a Republican — on the first round of balloting, Bishop got just enough support to deny Curry the party’s endorsement, which meant the party wouldn’t endorse at all, which … wouldn’t look so great. 

So newly installed REC chairman Robin Lumb decided to have something of a do-over, this time allowing three new members, who previously were disallowed from voting, to vote. And they all voted for Lenny Curry. Imagine that. (Skip ahead to the bottom of this post for Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland’s play-by-play, as well as comments from Duval GOP secretary Bill Spann.)

(In a statement, Curry called this support “grassroots”: “We appreciate the grassroots supporters for asking Chairman Lumb to hold a vote, and for inviting Lenny to present his vision for Jacksonville's future. Duval Republicans voted to send a message to Alvin Brown; our candidate is Lenny Curry and he is bringing a brighter future to our city.” We do not think that word means what he thinks it means.)

Of course, Wilson — voted Best Local Righteous Crusader in our Best of Jax 2014 readers poll — wasn’t there to see it. A bit before the vote, while Curry and Bishop were on stage, the emcee announced that there was a writer from Folio Weekly in the house, and since the meeting was closed to the press, that person had to leave. 

Wilson, who writes for Void on occasion, and who has never written for this magazine so far we can tell, looked …   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

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this blog post has been updated to include new information. 

The Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters, a powerful and historic black professional association, has so far declined to endorse Jacksonville’s first black mayor, Alvin Brown, for reelection, as it did in 2011. And after Brown was a no-show at a meeting last Monday that he had requested with the Brotherhood’s membership — a meeting where more than 100 black firefighters and police turned out to talk — the Brotherhood invited Brown’s white Republican rival, Lenny Curry, to come court their endorsement instead.

While it seems absurd to think the Brotherhood would endorse such a hyper-conservative, the group says its members are looking for a candidate whose agenda aligns with theirs — and many question if that candidate is really Alvin Brown.

“It was the first time [Brown’s] tried to talk to us since he was elected mayor,” says Brotherhood president James Edwards. His members were already wavering because of that silence, he says. They thought that last Monday’s meeting was a chance to talk about their concerns. Instead, however, Brown sent two top administrators, deputy chief of staff Cleveland Ferguson and Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Department Chief Ivan Mote, in his place.

“He stood us up,” Edwards says of Brown. “And it went sideways quick.”

The firefighters told Ferguson they wouldn’t vote for his boss. Some said they were going to campaign against him. Others asked Edwards to schedule a meeting with Curry. (The mayor’s office later pointed out that this meeting was not a campaign event, and referred election-related questions to Brown’s campaign team.)

“There was a lot of anger in the room. It was the first time Mayor Brown reached out to us since he’s been in office, and then he didn’t show up,” Edwards …   More

THE FLOG

Data Targeting is a name best known in Florida for its involvement in the recent redistricting scandal, in which it essentially served as an adjunct of the Republican Party’s gerrymandering scheme that a court ruled unconstitutional. But that’s not all they do. An arm of the company is involved in politics even closer to home.

On Sept. 24, Sam Courtney of Data Targeting Research Inc. sent a records request to Cheryl Brown, the Jacksonville City Council Secretary. The subject: “former Councilman Michael Hogan” — defeated mayoral candidate (2011), former Duval County tax collector (2003-2011), and former city councilman (1991-1999) who, coincidentally, if he announced, would be far and away the most significant obstacle to Lenny Curry making the runoff. 

Courtney sought the following for the eight-year period of Hogan’s City Council service:

“State compensation records” for Hogan, including salary and benefits, and documentation of any increases thereof.

“State compensation records” for his staff members.

Hogan’s official office budget.

Any records related to Hogan’s use of “state-issued equipment,” including use of a cell phone, billing information, and any text messages or pictures stored on cell phones.

Any “expenses reimbursed personally” to Hogan during his tenure.

Hogan’s “official calendar/daily schedule” for his time in office.

“State Travel Records for Councilman Hogan to include: all records of travel (transportation/lodging/meals) funded by state dollars and receipts for the same; all records of use of state owned transportation to include use of all state aircraft or state vehicles and costs to taxpayers, including receipts, and any other documents in your possession that pertain to taxpayer funded travel by Hogan.”

Courtney’s request was exhaustive; it was also extraordinarily sloppy. In …   More