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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

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.

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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.

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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

THE FLOG

Every radio station’s greatest challenge is reaching listeners.

Since its inception more than two decades ago, that challenge has been more pronounced at the University of North Florida. Limited to online streaming radio and simulcasts on cable channels for most of its existence, the college radio station succeeded in training communications students but not in reaching the majority of UNF students.

After more than two decades, UNF is closer than ever to reaching those students as well as broadcasting over the air and potentially reaching thousands of Jacksonville residents who live near the Southside campus.

The Federal Communications Commission issued the university a permit to construct a low-power FM transmitter Feb. 6, and Spinnaker Radio will be able to broadcast on 95.5 FM via a 100-watt signal, extending the station’s reach to off-campus listeners at a distance of about 3.5 miles in every direction on a clear day.

“Before, people had to be logged in on their computers to listen,” Spinnaker Radio station manager Scott Young said. “Now, all people will have to do is turn on the radio and enjoy the show.”

UNF has 30 days, from Feb. 6, to pick call letters with Spinnaker Radio staff making recommendations that will ultimately go to UNF President John Delaney's desk. The station’s call letters that once had been used unofficially on campus — WOSP — belong to the Ohio State University.

The 3.5-mile radius that the station may now serve on a clear day would reach north to about Atlantic Boulevard, south to Baymeadows Road, east to San Pablo Boulevard and west to the edge of Tinseltown on Southside Boulevard.

Originally known as the University of North Florida Broadcasting Association — a UNF club — when station manager Todd Hardie started it in 1993, the station endured, despite a lack of over-the-air broadcast. Known as Osprey Radio for most of its existence, the …   More

THE FLOG

Last night, the roughly 7 percent of undecided Florida voters were “treated” to the second of three gubernatorial debates between former Gov. Charlie “The Tanned One” Crist and current Gov. Rick Scott, best known for his previous work as Harry Potter villain Voldemort. In typical Florida fashion, this debate featured what could have possibly been the most awkward start to a debate in the history of debates, which is pretty hard to do considering that debates are to awkwardness what baseball is to spitting. As many of you are by now aware, Rick Scott held up the start of the debate for several minutes by refusing to take the stage in protest of Charlie Crist having a fan under his podium in what is now being termed #fangate (because everyone’s so clever; FWIW, #fantrum is much better). 

Scott’s campaign contended that Crist broke the rule that there were to be “no electronic devices” at the debate. While technically correct, as pointed out by the moderator, this was a bold move for someone who would have a hard time convincing a court that he is not a Disney animatron (LOL, j/k — we all know Scott isn’t an animatron; he’s obviously a reptilian). Perhaps Scott thought that the fan would unjustly help Crist appear cool and collected, or maybe the current gov wanted to throw Crist off his game by taking away his ever-present binky. Truth be told, Scott was probably just bitter because he wasn’t allowed to take onto the stage his own electric device of choice — a laser death ray.

As Scott continued to hold out, for about six minutes, a confused panel of moderators (including Times-Union editor Frank Denton) and a befuddled Crist were left on the Broward College stage wondering what the hell to do. The moderators were about to bust into their vaudeville routines, while Crist was considering running back and forth between the two podiums debating himself, which probably …   More

FLOG

University of North Florida President John Delaney announced April 12 that “The Power of Transformation” fundraising campaign exceeded its goal of $110 million and raised more than $130 million.

Funds raised during the campaign that started in 2009 will be used for student scholarships, graduate fellowships, faculty support, academic enhancements, capital project and Transformational Learning Opportunities.

More than 16,000 students attend the University of North Florida.

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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

 
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