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.
And here is that referenced letter from Jason Gabriel of the city’s Office of General Counsel:
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 …
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
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 …
Bill Bishop, former Council President and a candidate for Mayor, broke ranks with local Party leadership and called for the resignation of Crenier. In a press release, Bishop said her comments were “deplorable and must not be tolerated”, and that “the chairman must do what is required to restore credibility and respectability to our party”.
Folio talked to Bishop Friday afternoon about his decision to call for Crenier’s removal from her position.
“I felt it was important to make a statement,” Bishop said. Describing her comments as a “grenade in the room”, one that “does not reflect official Republican thinking”, it was clear to me that Bishop couldn’t understand why Crenier would make such statements, that he was horrified by the callous inhumanity of her series of Tweets.
Bishop has known Crenier for a few years in a casual capacity, and he was surprised by her intemperance. “I never would have thought she would have said anything like that,” he said, describing her comments as “out of character”, “shocking” and a “Christmas present” to the Brown campaign.
Crenier responded to a message from Folio Friday evening clarifying her remarks.
"I have apologized for the insensitivity of the fire hose comment numerous times now. The civil rights implication never even entered my head when I posted the tweet in response to tweets advocating mace and tear gas and rubber bullets. I just thought those people should disperse and go home and water seemed to be less severe than mace," she said regarding the martial law tactics used against African American protestors in Ferguson.
Crenier had a message for her critics.
"Unfortunately, there are those who will paint me as a racist and a hateful person regardless of what I have to say because they want it to be so. The tweets were on my personal twitter page and I am not speaking on …
We told you yesterday how Clay Yarborough, Jacksonville City Council President/Self-appointed Guardian of Civic Virtue and Decider of All That Is Wholesome and Righteous, had wandered into MOCA, saw an incredibly benign image of a naked pregnant lady lying on a couch — this thing ain’t Mapplethorpe, y’all — and freaked the fuck out. Here’s the T-U’s version of that story, which tries very hard not to make Yarborough look like a hayseed dipshit.
In that online version of this crazypants debacle, the T-U published on its website a quickly Photoshopped-censored version of this fine arts image that Yarborough has his knickers so in a twist about. And, seeing as how this image is very much art and not at all pornography or obscene — sorry, Clay — that’s a problem for our town’s paper of record. Are we saying that little Jimmy should glance across the morning breakfast table at Dad's tablet as he reads the morning paper and be horribly scarred for life by the image of a couple of well-lit breasts on a pregnant lady? (Little Jimmy, one presumes, was not breastfed, and does not have access to the Internet.) Of course not. But there are better, more responsibly ways to treat the subject matter at hand.
One of the very first rules of photojournalism is that a photo should NEVER be doctored. Repeat: A PHOTO SHOULD NEVER BE ALTERED. Especially if it’s a work of art. Doing so negates trust and makes you look dishonest. Yes, it was labeled as edited, but it's difficult to tell what was blacked out and what wasn't, which always raises questions. If anything, the censorship should have been much clearer. Furthermore, and more troubling, blacking out the naughty bits makes it look like the paper agrees with Yarborough that there’s something shameful here — and holy hell, seriously? Would they censor a painting …
Around the time that a suburb half a country away was exploding last Monday night, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer named J.C. Garcia tried to pull over a car driven by a man named Brian Dennison, whose 6-year-old daughter was in his car, after he cut through a parking lot trying to avoid a traffic light.
The police say that Dennison didn’t stop when Garcia pulled up behind him, and continued driving all the way to his apartment complex. According to Dennison’s family, the 31-year-old was in a rush to get home because his daughter was having an asthma attack. Dennison got out of his car; one family member told News4Jax that he stuck his hands out of the car window and said, “Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot. I got my daughter in the car.”
Garcia claimed he saw a gun. He pulled his service weapon and fired a shot.
Dennison — who, fortunately, was not harmed — did not have a weapon. He was, however, arrested on misdemeanor charges. The family is demanding answers.
If history is any indicator, they won’t get them.
Between 1999 and 2013, Florida cops in 110 different law enforcement agencies were involved in 574 homicides that were deemed justified, according to an investigation by NBC 6 South Florida. Of those, 42 cases involved the JSO, the second-highest total of any police agency in the state, behind only the Miami-Dade Police Department. That number is spiking, too — up from just 14 incidents in ’99 to 67 in 2012 and 58 last year — along with a pronounced, concomitant spike in civilian justified homicides that began around 2006 (thank you, Stand Your Ground), even as violent crime rates here and nationwide have plummeted since 1993.
If you’ve reported on cops for any amount of time, as I have, you know how rare it is for police agencies to decide that one of their own did anything wrong, ever, no matter the evidence — like Sasquatch-spotting rare. A few …
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 …
Last Wednesday, Nov. 19, the Miami Marlins reached an agreement with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on a $325 million contract, the largest contract for an athlete in the history of American professional sports. As absurd as it may seem, I find myself in the odd position of defending this admittedly mind-boggling deal. I understand that there are many people who find baseball as enjoyable as listening to your drunk uncle eat mashed potatoes while talking politics at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I know that this contract works out to about $69,000 a day, which is a slap in the face to schoolteachers, fire fighters, and basically every other working slob in America. Those discussions are for another time. I speak to you here strictly as a fan of baseball — more specifically as a rare fan of the Miami Marlins, and nothing else. If you don't care about baseball, you can probably stop reading now. Before you do, consider that there’s a local angle here, too.
You see, Giancarlos Stanton (then known as Mike Stanton) used to hit a majority of his majestic home runs right off of (if not onto) A. Philip Randolph Boulevard. It was there that he called The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (still our best playing field in this city — I'm looking right at you, Khan) home as a member of the minor league Jacksonville Suns. For those not familiar, the Jacksonville Suns serve as the AA farm team of the Miami Marlins. For those not familiar with farm teams, well, they are where major league baseball clubs pay players to hone their skills in order for them to become professionals before joining the parent clubs. The NFL has something similar called college football, except there they don't do silly things like compensate players.
Even while still in the minors, it didn't take an MLB scout to realize that Stanton was going to be special, and his home runs were already the stuff of legend. Anyone who got a chance …
The family of a 19-year-old Jacksonville teenager who suffocated to death in the Clay County Jail while a corrections officer looked on from a few feet away has agreed to a $2.2 million settlement of a federal lawsuit charging that Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler and eight correction officers who worked in the jail violated Linsinbigler’s constitutional rights.
The settlement is a victory for Linsinbigler’s mother Valerie, who has said she wants to advocate for prison reform and prisoner rights to honor her son. Before entering a mediation hearing on Oct. 24, Linsinbigler told Folio Weekly it would be a difficult decision to settle if it prohibited her from speaking about what happened to her son. Valerie Linsinbigler could not be reached for comment after news of the settlement broke late last week.
As Folio Weekly reported in July, Linsingbigler died after he’d been pepper sprayed, tied into a restraint chair and had his head covered with a spit hood to contain the tears, snot and saliva pouring from his eyes, nose and mouth because of the pepper spray. Within an hour, was dead.
Linsinbigler was in solitary confinement for a total of 10 days after a misdemeanor arrest for trespassing and indecent exposure. He was found running naked along the breezeway of an Orange Park motel shouting that he was God. He told officers in booking that he’d taken two hits of acid, so he was placed in solitary confinement in the medical wing overnight. The next day, officers found him naked again, telling other inmates he was Jesus. When a nurse spoke to him, he said he knew he had to die. That landed him back in solitary confinement on suicide watch.
The night before his death, Linsinbigler became agitated. He pounded on his cell door and threw his body against it repeatedly. He wanted to see his attorney. He wanted to know his next court date. He wanted to fill out an request form. Officers gave him the form. The blank form was found in …
Despite “winning” 58-42, Amendment 2 did not reach the 60 percent vote threshold it needed in order to become enshrined in the state constitution. To this I say thank God (and by “God,” I mean the Christian God, not any of these lesser heathen deities, thank you very much). Just think for a moment what it would be like if this horrifying amendment had passed. Could you imagine the reefer madness that would ensue as a bunch of Seth Rogens slow-drive around our fair state in Mystery Machines with free rein to hit their bongs? Luckily, Florida voters, in their infinite wisdom, were sharp enough to have not been dragged down the same path as the American Obama-nations like Oregon, Colorado and Washington. No, we would not be led into temptation by cherub-looking John Morgan and his “army of angels” and their slick-talking lawyer-speak. Check out the weaselish wording of Amendment 2 on the official Election Day ballot below.
Amendment 2 - Marijuana Medical
• Allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician. Allows caregivers to assist patients’medical use of marijuana. The Department of Health shall register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes and shall issue identification cards to patients and caregivers. Applies only to Florida law. Does not authorize violations of federal law or any non-medical use, possession or production of marijuana.
As you can detect, they were trying to slip by us the preposterous notion that individuals in intense pain should get to decide their own vehicle of relief. That’s an awfully slippery slope. And I don’t want to hear anymore whining about “pain relief.” If you want relief from agonizing, life-threatening pain, then you get it the way our Founding Fathers intended: man the fuck up and down some …
They're heeeeere. No, not frightening poltergeists making their presence known through the static on your TV screen — I’m talking about something much more frightening: the annual Gator and Bulldog super-fan takeover of Jacksonville for the Florida-Georgia weekend. No event is more definitive of our small-town-meets-heavily-populated-metropolis than this, the "World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." If you’ve never been here for this shindig, for about a good half week, the area surrounding our Downtown football stadium looks like the inside of the NASCAR track at Daytona International Speedway on race day. It is here that close to 100 Winnebagos line the parking lots and street sides in what is called “RV city,” populated by UF and UGA faithful here to watch their respective university’s indentured-servant football players take the field in one of the most heralded rivalries in minor league college athletics.
Obviously, this event has a profound impact on our local economy, with fans projected to spend $18 million in our fair city this weekend. It fills Jacksonville hotels — usually teeming with superfluous business travelers looking to cheat on their spouses, vacationers on their way to or from South Florida, and unhygienic Craigslist transactions — to the brim with reservations for drunken SEC fans from out of town. It gives Duval cab drivers something more to do than just sit in grocery store parking lots and look creepy. It provides towering-chicken-wing-platter-carrying waiters at local sports bars an opportunity to be undertipped by tourists instead of the usual local barflies. And it isn’t just the obvious businesses and products that are affected by FL/GA, as the impact seems to reach all the way into every nook and cranny of area commerce, sometimes in mystifying ways. When I was a teenager, my dad …