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.
Billy Cosby, one of America's favorite father-figures, embodied the theme of Jacksonville's two-day education summit, "Increasing Parental Involvement."
The 75-year-old comedian and education activist spoke to a full house at The Florida Theatre Feb. 28 on behalf of Mayor Alvin Brown. Action News co-anchor Mark Spain hosted the event, which began with a drum line competition between four Duval County Public Schools — an idea from Cosby.
“Nothing bothers me more than hearing, ‘We don't have good schools in Jacksonville,’” Spain said before introducing Cosby.
Sporting sweatpants and a "Learn 2 Earn" T-shirt, Cosby began his lecture by teasing the mayor and poking fun at the Jacksonville Jaguars' past season, comparing them both to well-known cities that are "on the Weather Channel."
“Now they know your pro football team,” Cosby said. “Other cities love your pro football team.”
Then Cosby took the audience back to his childhood with stories of growing up poor and the old-fashioned days of parenting, when some parents took a more physical approach. The golden three-word rule he used to survive childhood? “Don't talk back.”
“In the South you don’t get beatings, you get whoopings,” Cosby joked.
Cosby said he strongly believes improving the quality of the nation’s education begins with parents. He ended with one last call-to-action to the people to fix Jacksonville’s education system.
“Nobody is coming,” Cosby said. “Only you.”
One Spark needs help — and lots of it. About 800 volunteers are needed to support on-the-ground operations during the April 17-21 event, which is billed as the world’s first crowd-funded festival.
“We are looking for volunteers with a shared passion for Jacksonville, especially downtown, and the desire to make One Spark a great experience for attendees,” said One Spark Volunteer Services Manager Meredith O’Malley Johnson.
A volunteer open house is scheduled 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Main Library, 303 Laura Street in downtown Jacksonville. One Spark team members will pass out volunteer information and answer questions.
Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and take a one-hour training session before the festival. Volunteers must agree to work at least one four-hour shift during the festival week. Visit BeOneSpark.com for more information.
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.
A survivor named Miley will lead Mutt March, Jacksonville Humane Society’s fundraiser walk at the Jacksonville Landing from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. March 2.
Miley collapsed and nearly died of respiratory distress from a walk at the JHS. JHS set a goal of raising $100,000 to care for shelter pets at the Mutt March.
“Miley is the perfect dog to represent JHS at Mutt March. She and so many others like her have overcome medical obstacles to bring great joy to their adoptive families. That wouldn’t be possible without the funds raised at Mutt March,” said Denise Deisler, JHS executive director, according to a press release from the JHS. “We are depending on Mutt March to raise enough money to care for the thousands of pets who rely on JHS for medical care and shelter each year.”
The 2-mile Mutt March fun walk and festival will have entertainment, activities for kids and pets, a silent auction and vendors with walking along St. Johns River.
Last year’s top fundraiser, JHS board member Lis’e Everly will walk Miley and lead hundreds of other dogs and their families in Mutt March.
“I am walking with Miley in the Mutt March to ensure JHS has the funds needed to care for all of the pets waiting for families with which to share their love,” Everly said. “Dogs like Miley stand by us offering us unconditional love, greeting us with enthusiasm and making us smile through the saddest of tears.”
To register for Mutt March, visit jaxhumane.org/muttmarch.
Mayor Alvin Brown is making an urgent plea asking for Jacksonville residents to help ease the crowding problem at Animal Care and Protective Services by adopting one of the 90 dogs crowding the facility.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work for this city to reach a no-kill status and we want to make sure we keep it that way,” the mayor said in a press release Feb. 19.
Division Chief Scott Trebatoski said with 50 to 100 dogs entering the facility each day, the shelter is becoming too crowded. The current adoption fee through the end of the month is $14 for any dog or cat, which includes spaying or neutering, rabies vaccinations and microchips. It does not include the $20 city licensing fee.
ACPS is located at 2020 Forest St. Regular adoption hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The shelter can be contacted on Facebook or Twitter.
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.”
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.
Authorities announced the arrest of four men in connection with the theft and transfer of a .38-caliber revolver used in the February 2012 slaying of Clay County Sheriff’s Detective David White.
During the investigation of White’s murder, investigators tracked the firearm used and found it had been stolen in Jacksonville in May 2011. Investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms allege Robert Apple II, 22, of Orange Park stole the weapon.
Authorities allege it was passed through the hands of Christopher Henderson, 22, and Curtis Dingler, 22, both of Middleburg, and Jack Lemond, 36, of Orange Park. Investigators allege that all the men knew the weapon was stolen.
They charge that Lemond provided the weapon to Ted Tilley, a convicted felon, who used the weapon on White and Detective Matthew Hanlin. White was fatally shot and Hanlin was wounded. Tilley also was shot and killed.
The four men are being held in the Clay County Jail on a charge of dealing in stolen property.
UPDATE FEB. 14
The Downtown Investment Authority will continue studying the idea of having a nonprofit foundation to run events at Hemming Plaza. On Feb. 13, Jim Bailey, publisher of the Financial News & Daily Record and chairman of the Hemming Plaza Committee of the Downtown Investment Authority, proposed the creation of a private foundation to take over administration and programming of the downtown park. The organization would be called H.A.R.T - an acronym for the Hemming Arts Recreation Team, after Isaiah Hart, the founder of Jacksonville, who deeded the land for the park to the city. Other DIA board members said more research is needed before such a committee could be formed. Board Chairman Donald Harris said the DIA was still in the fact-finding stage. Bailey’s proposal was to have 10 board members contribute $5,000 each to establish and form a non-profit to run the park.
The Hemming Plaza Committee of the Downtown Investment Authority is proposing the creation of a private foundation to take over administration and programming of the downtown park. Jim Bailey, chairman of the committee and publisher of the Financial News & Daily Record, outlined the proposal Tuesday. The organization would be called H.A.R.T - an acronym for the Hemming Arts Recreation Team, after Isaiah Hart, the founder of Jacksonville, who deeded the land for the park to the city. If approved by the Downtown Investment Authority, the non-profit foundation would be supported entirely by private contributions and its mission would be “to enhance Hemming Plaza through events, collaboration with local businesses and volunteerism.”