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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 FLOG

WCTV in Tallahassee has a story up tonight that basically regurgitates what Derek Kinner posted last night: Longtime Florida State instructor Deborah O’Connor resigned over the weekend after Folio Weekly began asking questions about a string of racist, homophobic Facebook comments she left on a friend-of-a-friend’s post about police shootings. (No link to us or mention of our intrinsic role in this thing, as journalistic convention would dictate is proper, but whatever.) The TV station did get one thing out of the university that they didn’t give us yesterday when we were putting our story together: O’Connor’s resignation letter, and a note she sent the dean before that. The interesting part: 

In her resignation letter to the dean of the business school, O'Connor notes she has a Masters and Ph.D. from FSU and had taught there for 18 years.

She wrote her resignation was "...the path of least resistance", but "I do NOT believe the punishment fits the "crime"."

In her original note to the dean before her official resignation letter was submitted,O'Connor wrote in part, "Is there any chance the story can be suppressed to minimize further injury to my repuation? Thanks and Go Noles".

Nope.    More

THE FLOG

Clay Yarborough, Guardian of Our Civic Virtue, really wants to put this whole MOCA thing behind him. Last week — after Yarborough had lost his bid to defund the museum, and in the process cemented his rep as a local laughingstock — he met with MOCA director Marcelle Polednik and all parties “declared the matter closed.” And then today, he released a statement to the good folks at Metro Jacksonville about that meeting. It reads as follows: 

I apologized to Director Polednik for not contacting her initially. I also learned the director and board are responsible for content and have the ability to safeguard children from mature material without stifling expression, so I asked whether anything would be done to protect children exposed to a large photograph of a naked woman without having to pay admission when they enter the taxpayer-owned, public building. 

Ironically, after volunteering that her child has never seen a television and when they go into private homes where a television is on, she requests it be turned off, Director Polednik’s exact response was, “Regrettably, no.” 

She and Board Chair Gellatly expressed it would reflect poorly on them if they were willing to compromise.

Though I unwaveringly believe this weakens Jacksonville’s moral climate and hope the board will, at-minimum, consider a disclaimer similar to what is used in other public forums, there are other important issues that we must move on to address.

Did you catch that passive-aggressive bit I highlighted there? Because David Kammerman, Polednik’s husband, sure did. In a comment on Metro Jax co-publisher Stephen Dare’s Facebook post about the statement (which Dare reposted on his website), Kammerman lit into the City Council president, as follows: 

Beyond his inability to get the facts right, Clay Yarborough is a public official who has dragged private individuals — my family, …   More

NEWS

If you spend any amount of time on Facebook — especially if your posts veer into the world of the political — this sort of thing isn’t unusual. There’s a post, and some comments, and they get heated. And then a friend of a friend jumps in, and things go off the rails.

This episode was no different.

Colin Lively, hair stylist to the rich and famous in New York City and Cleveland, had posted a thread last Thursday night on the police killings in Ferguson, Staten Island and Cleveland. A woman named Deborah O’Connor, a Facebook friend of a friend, interjected.

“YOU elected POTUS, Holder et al. And they are supposed to represent all Americans, not just blacks … why don’t these ass clowns insert themselves into their stories?”

She was just getting started. As the thread went on, and as Lively and others engaged her, O’Connor’s comments took on an increasingly racist, homophobic and just-plain-mean bent:

“Take your Northern fagoot [sic] elitism and shove it up your ass.”

“I teach at a University, you asshole. What do you do?”

“You are an intellectual fraud, just like your Messiah. Obama has single-handedly turned our once great society into a Ghetto Culture, rivaling that of Europe. France is almost at war because of his filthy rodent Muslims who are attacking Native Frenchmen and women.”

“I just looked at your picture and what you do for a living. I’m signing off now. I don’t talk to you people.”

Nobody was safe — not the black president and his black attorney general, who she said want to hand over the country to their fellow blacks and Muslims, not Lively, the “fagoot” hair stylist who started the thread, not anyone else who posted on the thread — all of whom she deemed her intellectual inferiors.

As it turns out, she apparently wasn’t lying about working at a university, or about …   More

THE FLOG

Last week, I told you how Councilman Robin Lumb — whom we’ve since learned will likely abandon his bid for supervisor of elections in favor of becoming the next Duval GOP chairman, and may seek reelection to his City Council seat — had sent a stern letter to the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville’s board members chiding the organization for an email the group had sent out rallying support for MOCA and its Project Atrium exhibit and against Clay Yarborough, who deemed said exhibit pornographic. In short, Lumb found it distasteful that the Cultural Council was singling out and criticizing one council member. He was also upset that the Cultural Council’s email contained a link to a story I had written that, in his words, contained “disparaging remarks” about Yarborough. (True.) 

The email “is a rather ham-handed effort to exploit the controversy,” he wrote, “an effort that crossed several lines that should not have been crossed and that calls into question whether the Cultural Council understands its proper role and the limits inherent thereto.”

Per his request, I emailed Lumb Friday morning with a couple questions. He sent me his answers last night. As he expressed some concern about being quoted out of context, I told him I’d print our entire email exchange — my full question and his full answers — online, for all the world to see and assess. And here it is, passed along without comment. My questions are in bold. (My fuller thoughts will appear in print Wednesday.)

1) The CCGJ is in a sense repositioning itself less as a sort of pass-through agency — i.e., take money from Council, give money to the symphony and the Cummer and MOCA — than as a group of “advocates/activists” for the arts in Jacksonville. In your email, if I’m reading it right, you argue that the CCGJ should not be in the advocacy business, at least not with public …   More

THE FLOG

For the last two weeks, I’ve filed columns and blog posts exploring the controversial tweets Duval County Republican Party Secretary Kim Crenier posted in the wake of the Darren Wilson “No True Bill” decision in Ferguson, Missouri, last Monday night. At 10:34 p.m., as tear gas flooded the streets of Ferguson, Crenier, on her own account as well as that of @JaxGOP, excitedly tweeted: “No true bill! May God bless and protect Officer Darren Wilson and his family. Facts are facts.”

I’ve called for the party to explain her comments and to take a position on them and her; I’ve also called for Crenier to resign. In the wake of my original blog post, the story went national, taking off with outfits as disparate as the Washington Times and Daily Kos.

And with good reason. Her comments on the Jax GOP feed were questionable; the ones on her private feed were unconscionable. Her call for law enforcement to “turn the fire hoses” on Ferguson protesters who “probly need a shower” was a throwback to the Bull Connor era. When I asked her about it, she replied that “the civil rights implication never even entered my head” and that “water seemed to be less severe than mace,” which apparently was the chosen crowd dispersal agent of some of her fellow tea partiers in her Twitterverse. (She also had some choice statements about “President Racebaiter” Barack Obama, “our race-baiting, America hating President.”)

Time passed, and the Ferguson riots ran their course. Hands Up Don’t Shoot, replaced by I Can’t Breathe. Another week; another black man executed with extreme prejudice by a white cop. And she was still in her spot.

That ends soon. Crenier recently went on a local right-wing radio show, according to the Times-Union, and said that critics had “been calling for my head and calling for me to step down,” she said. “[Local …   More

THE FLOG

Update: I tweaked the headline, after Councilman Lumb objected that it was misleading: “I think it was pretty clear that I wasn't objecting that the Cultural Council defended MOCA, I objected to how they went about it.” 

Just when you thought #MOCAgate (or were we calling it #boobygate?) was over, here’s this:

Robin Lumb is not a happy camper. This afternoon, he fired off an email to Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville board members, chiding the Cultural Council for not knowing its place. Their crime, it seems, was #standingwithmoca — or specifically, for criticizing Clay Yarborough, our Great Moral Compass, who declared that a picture of a naked pregnant lady reclining on a couch was pornography that would corrupt THE CHILDREN and demanded that the mayor defund the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. (The mayor refused, citing First Amendment issues.)

Yarborough, of course, has been the subject of much derision, both here and nationwide. In The New York Times, the photographer/pornographer(?) in question, Angela Strassheim, quipped that maybe he hadn’t seen enough porn to know what porn really was. At Art Walk last night, a good-sized crowd mocked him with signs like “Ban Boobs from City Hall” (see image above). And in this mag’s pages this week, we wondered what artistic masterpieces would look like if they had to abide by Yarborough’s standards of decency.

We all had a good laugh. 

Councilman Lumb was not laughing. 

When he learned that the Cultural Council had email-blasted a plea for support for MOCA, saying Yarborough’s campaign was “unfortunate and could be viewed as an effort to stifle artistic expression” and linking to a number of anti-Yarborough pieces that had appeared in the local media, ours included, he wrote to “express my profound disappointment with the conduct of the Cultural Council in this matter as evinced by the …   More

THE FLOG

This just in from the Human Rights Campaign’s Twitter feed: 

BREAKING: 11th Circuit declines to extend stay of Florida marriage ruling. Barring SCOTUS action, marriages can begin in Florida Jan 5th!

Will update as we hear more.    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

As you may have heard, City Council President Clay Yarborough has been in the news lately. But what you may not remember is that this isn’t the first time Yarborough has determined that he and he alone should be the decider of what is good and wholesome in our fair city. 

Back in 2008 — long before I was associated with this esteemed publication — Folio Weeky published a cover story by John E. Citrone, then the paper’s managing editor, on Northeast Florida’s BDSM scene. The cover showed a dog collar and had the words “Whip It Good.” 

Clay Yarborough was not amused. Then, as now, he demanded the city get in on the censorship business, for the children. Here is the letter he wrote to then-Mayor John Peyton, demanding that the city remove our publication and distribution racks from all city-owned property because he found an article offensive. (He also objected to “scantily clad women” in a couple ads.) 

Peyton, to the best of my knowledge, did not play along. I suspect Yarborough’s latest anti-MOCA campaign will similarly fizzle. 

From: Yarborough, Clay 

Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 5:07 PM

To: Peyton, John

Cc: Davis, Daniel; Fussell, Ronnie; Gubbin, Barbara

Subject: March 11 Folio

Mayor,

I walked through the door of a Jacksonville Public Library today and my attention was immediately caught by the cover of the March 11, 2008 issue of Folio Weekly with the words "Whip It Good" thereon. Pages 17-23 contain a long, explicit article (with photos), entitled "House of Pain," about a sadomasochism residence on the Westside. The article also explains, in-depth, the details of a stage show performed at a local nightclub in which sexual acts and abuse are graphically simulated, and speaks of the audience members "groping each other"

Here is more (edited for content), taken directly from the article:

Page 17 “A man’s [genitalia] is pierced …   More