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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.

  More

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.

  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

THE FLOG

Johnnie Mae Chappell was shot and killed in March 1964 on the side of a Jacksonville road. The 35-year-old African-American mother of 10 was looking for her wallet as four white men drove past. One of them aimed a gun out the window and fired. Her family still seeks justice fifty years later. In a radio feature that debuted on the podcast Criminal yesterday, Lauren Spohrer told the story of the Civil Rights-era murder, and it’s worth a listen. Spohrer is a native of Jacksonville. She learned about Chappell's killing growing up here, as her eyes were opened to as some of the city's dark and painful history. Her father, Robert Spohrer, represents the Chappell family pro bono, and he spoke often about the case and the legal hurdles that make prosecution difficult.

In the story on Criminal, "Can't Rock This Boat," Spohrer interviewed her father, Chappell's youngest son Shelton, and the former JSO detective Lee Cody, 84, who cracked the case with his partner Donald Coleman. Cody and Chappell have tried for 20 years to convince the state of Florida to reopen the case. Robert Spohrer explained that the law limits the state's ability to do that.

"It doens't make a whole lot of sense. We know that 50 years ago there are men out there who 50 years ago were involved in a brutal murder. They confessed to their participation in that murder. and yet the state of Florida, for a number of reasons, cannot and will not bring them back to a courtroom. And that's the most frustrating thing for me, is to try and sit and talk to Shelton and his brothers and sisters and explain how that can be," Robert Spohrer said. 

Spohrer also interviewed me, as I wrote a cover story about this case in 2006. (It appeared in both Folio Weekly and Orlando Weekly.) Spohrer remembered the story, and so do I. I interviewed the man who fired the gun that killed Mrs. Chappell, and the only one of the four men in the car that night who was tried. Like all the men, J.W. Rich was …   More

THE FLOG

Most of us saw a tragedy unfolding: The grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the fires that burned in storefronts, the police and National Guardsmen subjugating rioters with tear gas. It was a day that brought ignominy on the city of Ferguson, the state of Missouri, and the United States of America itself.

But the person manning a social media account associated with the Duval County Republican Party seemed downright exuberant: At 10:34 p.m., as tear gas flooded the streets of Ferguson, @JaxGOP excitedly tweeted: “No true bill! May God bless and protect Officer Darren Wilson and his family. Facts are facts.”

Facts are indeed facts, and I wanted some. I wanted to know who tweeted this and why. I wanted to know if that person spoke for the party — @JaxGOP is no longer the Duval GOP’s official feed (that’s @DuvalGOP), though it apparently still carried the logo until the hullabaloo that followed this particular post (see the image above), at which point someone saw fit to post multiple messages stating that @JaxGOP is no longer the official account  — and if not, if the tweeter had been asked to resign for posting such an irresponsible, tone-deaf message. And I wanted to know what “facts are facts” meant in this context.

Despite my best efforts, and two conversations with party principals, answers weren’t forthcoming.

The first was with events chairwoman Karyn Morton, who repeatedly wondered if she should even be talking to me. “Quite frankly,” she said, the tweet came forth “from an individual who didn’t even realize she was posting on the Duval GOP site.” The tweet, she explained, was quickly replaced with the Kumbaya hashtag #PrayForFerguson — which I suppose is more acceptable, because with cops like that, God knows they need all the prayer they can get.

The Twitter …   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