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THE FLOG

 

The Jacksonville Suns and the contractors on the repair and repainting of the Mathews Bridge have reached an agreement to make it easier for fans to get to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville for Suns games.

The bridge will remain open both ways until 10:30 p.m. on the first six Friday night games: April 5, April 26,  May 10, May 24, June 14 and June 21.

The Mathews will also remain open for opening night on April 4 and on Memorial Day weekend and the Southern Leaguer All-Star Game on July 17.

The $22.7 million repair and repainting program on the Mathews Bridge, which began in September 2011, is scheduled for completion later this summer or early fall, said Mike Goldman, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation.

The Jacksonville Suns are the Double-A Affiliate of the Miami Marlins and are members of the Southern League of Professional Baseball Clubs.

 

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THE FLOG

If you see a gaggle of law enforcement officers along Wells Road in Orange Park on Wednesday afternoon it is not an actual emergency, it’s only a drill. Some 65 people from the Clay County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team, the Orange Park Police and Fire Departments, Clay County Fire Rescue and Everest University staff and students are working together on a training exercise. The college students will be acting out scenarios such as an active shooter on campus to a hostage situation, and the officers and first responders will be honing their skills for an actual emergency. Remember, it is only a drill.

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FLOG

A new poll by the University of North Florida showed that about 70 percent of those questioned still approve or strongly approve of Mayor Alvin Brown’s performance. In a similar poll taken last year, 75 percent of those polled approved of the mayor’s performance. In the same poll, 48 percent of those polled approve of the job the Jacksonville City Council is doing.

Those polled showed 40 percent were taking a wait-and-see attitude on newly hired Duval County Superintendent of Schools Nikolai Vitti. About 40 percent had no opinion of the new superintendent. A majority of residents, 58 percent, supported the city adding sexual orientation to its human rights ordinance.

The poll was taken between Feb. 4 and Feb. 12 and included 917 Duval County residents. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.23 percent.   More

Jacksonville is receiving $450,000 from the 2012-2013 Florida Defense Support Task Force Grants, Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday.

The grants are part of $2.6 million awarded to 10 project across the state “to protect military installations and grow jobs and opportunities across the state,” the governor said

In Jacksonville, the funds will go for the construction of an explosive ordinance disposal bunker at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base and establishing a maritime research center at Mayport Naval Station.

A grant of $100,000 will to the Florida 8 (a) Alliance in Jacksonville to assist veteran-owned and defense industry small business across Florida.

“These investments are critical to supporting military jobs and further establishing Jacksonville as a major hub for aircraft basing,” the governor said.

Mayor Alvin Brown thanked the governor, saying, “This is a remarkable opportunity not only to strengthen our part of national security, but promote jobs and economic development at the local and state levels.”

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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

FLOG

JaxPort’s Board of Directors have voted unanimously to inform the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it wants to dredge the harbor to no less than 47 feet deep to keep the port competitive.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had recommended Monday that the St. Johns River shipping channel be dredged from its current 40-foot depth to 45 feet deep. Port members, however, said recommended depth is not deep enough for the port to service larger cargo ships from Asia.

The JaxPort board members said they think the 47-feet depth is needed to keep Jacksonville competitive to other East Cost ports.

The federal government will pay 75 percent of the cost to dredge up to 45 feet. Anything deeper than that depth could be paid for with state, federal, local or private funds.

There were no cost figures discussed at Monday’s meeting. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will release the draft results of its harbor deepening study in May.

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THE FLOG

Grab your guns, crank up the truck and blast the Skynyrd, Duval, cause the South is gon’ rise again! Well, sort of … and, OK, this time, we’re technically going to be the North … oh, and it’s not a secession, really … and it’s not really our idea, but … but … Free Bird!

The real issue at hand is that a group of politicians in South Miami are essentially sick and tired of the northern part of Florida leaving them out to dry (or actually the opposite of that) when it comes to climate change issues in the southern part of the state. In response, they’ve proposed a bold but completely Florida-esque solution: Split the state in half and create their own state of “South Florida,” which would thus become the 51st state … if you count both Dakotas, but really, what’s the point of that? 

To answer your first question: no, this isn’t a story from The Onion. (This is, though.) This call for the legal separation of Florida into two separate states was actually cooked up — with delicious Cuban spices, I presume — by the mayor and city commission of South Miami. The threat of rising sea levels as a result of global warming, and the rest of the state’s blase attitude toward said crisis, was cited as the reason behind the proposal, which would slice Florida in half like a ripe grapefruit from approximately Orlando down.

Wait, Orlando? Oh no, you didn’t! You can take our beautiful Everglades National State Park away from us, but DO NOT FUCK with Mickey Mouse or our chintzy discount brand outlet stores!

From the Sun-Sentinel:

Orange County is particularly important because that's where the South Florida Water Management District begins, [Vice Mayor Walter] Harris said. It was even suggested that a Central Florida city could possibly be the state of South Florida's capitol.

Given the large number of Baptist churches here in North Florida, …   More

SPORTSTALK: THE JAG-OFF

Another home game for the Jacksonville Jaguars, another chance for Blake Bortles to make the leap. This game was the biggest start in his young career.

Why? Because the Dolphins are arguably the Jaguars’ biggest rivals, if for no other reason than proximity. And Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill, in many ways, is an analog for Bortles: a young, up-and-down quarterback who can run if he needs to (both were top-five QB rushers coming in). Tannehill has looked increasingly sharp this year, but the jury was out on both of them coming into Sunday’s clash.

And it still is afterward. Tannehill was yet another quarterback who floundered in the face of an initially opportunistic Jags D (just 56 yards allowed in the first half). And Bortles? A dumpster fire. Yes, he threw two long touchdown passes. Both, however, went to Dolphins defenders.

Some missed opportunities for Jags’ offense were not on Bortles, such as the bomb Allen Robinson dropped on the first drive that should have been caught. For every one of those, though, there were things like the two pick-sixes — Bortles’ 11th and 12th of the year, even though he didn’t start until Week 4 — and the fumble in the second quarter. At times, especially on third down, he looked Gabbertesque. Except Gabbert never had a running back like Denard (apologies to MJD apologists).

The Jags opened up the route tree in the third quarter, going deep, which only exposed Bortles as the Dolphins stopped respecting the run and blitzed.

As the game progressed, Gus Bradley looked less and less like an NFL coach. More Tom Arnold than Tom Landry, Gus’ team once again looked outmatched in the second half. What was a winnable game at intermission was over long before the third quarter ended. Tannehill sharpened up as the fourth quarter commenced, one-liners and fart wafts filled the press box, and a “Let’s Go Dolphins” chant pervaded the cleaner air outside it.

On a day …   More

THE FLOG

A mixture of local talent and world-renowned experts are scheduled to give talks at the TEDx Jacksonville Connecting Currents event, to be held Oct. 26 on WJCT's sound stage.

Participants include Barbara Colaciello, Jacksonville Beach actor, playwright and storyteller; Hank Coxe, a Jacksonville attorney; Nancy Soderberg, UNF professor and former UN ambassador and White House advisor; Bruce Ganger, executive director of Second Harvest North Florida; Ben Warner, president and CEO of Jacksonville Community Council.

Also, Matt Rutherford, the first person to complete nonstop single-handed voyages around North and South America; former U.S. Rep. Robert Inglis, with the distinction of being uninvited to the Tea Party; TEDGlobal Fellow Aman Mojadidi, an American Southerner born to Afghan parents; Chevara Orrin, a black Jewish mother, activist and survivor who will discuss simple human interaction; Lawanda Ravoira, an expert on challenges girls in the juvenile justice system face; and Patricia Siemen, a Dominican sister and attorney who will discuss the long-term ecological health of the Earth.

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THE FLOG

As a reader, you might only think about Folio Weekly’s Best of Jax twice a year: once when you vote and again when you pick up the issue or go to the website to find out who won.

But here at Folio Weekly’s international headquarters, we’ve been working on Best of Jax for months.

It begins in May when we start compiling the list of categories for the ballot and decide which ones to keep, which ones to cut and which ones to add.

In June, we brainstorm several ideas for themes. This year, our passion for “Game of Thrones” pushed us to pick royalty. At that time, we create a logo for that year’s awards.

In July, we create the online ballot and launch it by the end of the month. While all of you are busy voting in August, we’re searching for models and props to bring our theme to life.

When voting ends, we start tabulating the votes. Because the ballot is open-ended and people can type in anything they want, it takes time to comb through each answer and add it to the appropriate place. It’s a laborious but somewhat humorous task sifting through the creative spellings of Northeast Florida’s favorites. But every vote counts!

Meanwhile, we shoot photos for the cover and topic headers that run inside. We shoot everything in at least two ways so we have different poses for the two Best of Jax issues — this year on Oct. 9 and Oct. 16.

Once we have a list of winners in early September, we assign writers to research and summarize their laurels in individual blurbs. Our staff photographer shoots more than 50 winners in four counties in about three weeks’ time.

Then, we compile and edit all the text and photos into the first and second Best of Jax issues. Once those are designed, proofed and printed, we still have to upload it all online.

We also produce laminated posters and door stickers for winners to hang with pride.

It all seems worth it when we get to celebrate with the winners at the Best of Jax party.

After a few …   More