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Buzz: Big Baby, Prosecutors' Pensions, JEA's Image and More

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Big Baby
Duke and Luna, Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens residents, have a new son, who was 6 feet, 2 inches and 150 pounds when he was born Feb. 21. The baby is the fifth giraffe born at zoo in the past two-and-a-half years. The zoo has 11 giraffes, which typically live about 25 years. Zoo officials said he stood within an hour of birth and has begun nursing. He's at home in the giraffe barn with mom Luna. Zoo officials said the little (!) fella won't be named until mid-April.

Prosecutors’ Pensions
Pension upgrades for prosecutors working for State Attorney Angela Corey are in “a state of flux,” said a spokesperson for Corey’s office. The state agency responsible for state pensions says it has no record of Corey upgrading the pensions of her 17 prosecutors, something she said she'd done last week, according to The Florida Times-Union. Corey approved using taxpayer dollars to purchase pension upgrades for herself and her senior prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda. In total, the State Attorney’s Office paid $159,089 for Corey and $182,829 for de la Rionda. The upgrades add $8,300 per year for each of their pensions. It’s not clear how much Corey’s office will have to spend to upgrade pensions for others there, since the state has yet to calculate that amount. Corey said the process started in-house, by notifying eligible employees.

Forward Fernandina Goes Backward
The Fernandina Beach City Commission has voted 3-2 to quash the Forward Fernandina plan and return $1 million of the $1.88 million loan received in 2011 to improve downtown infrastructure. However, the commission decided to keep the $460,000 it received for renovations to the Nassau County Library local branch, according to the News Leader. The Forward Fernandina loan was controversial from the start — it was never put to a public vote.

Schools Rewarded
Duval County Schools, along with those in Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns and Union counties, will share in $12.1 million from the School Recognition Program this year. The $134.6 million program, run by the Florida Department of Education, acknowledges the quality of public schools by giving financial rewards based on significant improved student achievement in reading, math, science and writing. Schools eligible for recognition include those receiving an “A” grade, improving at least one letter grade from the year before, and sustaining that through the next school year.

Ahmed Reappointed
By a 13-6 vote, the Jacksonville City Council has reappointed Parvez Ahmed to a second three-year term to the city’s Human Rights Commission. Ahmed, a University of North Florida finance professor, was first appointed in 2010. He didn't attend the Council meeting where those supporting and opposing his reappointment spoke. His Muslim religion had been an issue with some groups, and he survived an effort by Councilmember Clay Yarborough to cut panel membership from 20 to 11. Opposing his reappointment were Doyle Carter, Ray Holt, Robin Lumb, Don Redman, Matt Schellenberg and Clay Yarborough.

JEA’S Image
Paul McElroy, JEA’s managing director and CEO, said at a local business club meeting that the electric water utility has a greater focus on customer service and has no plans to increase rates or build new generating or water treatment plants. McElroy made his remarks Feb. 25, at the Rotary Club of Jacksonville's gathering. “We lost the relationship with our customers. We are moving forward on customers and community. We’ll become more competitive, while preserving our operating excellence,” said McElroy, quoted in Financial News & Daily Record.

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