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News Bites: Life's a Beach for Rick Scott; Bad, Extra Bad and Jax Beach Bad; Making $$ All the Livelong Day

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LIFE’S A BEACH FOR DJ GOVVY GOV

After eight years as our governor, Rick Scott finds himself making the hard-sell all over again as he tours the state in dogged pursuit of Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat, while continuing with his day job, which adds the occasional headache along the way. To wit: Julia Roberts of the Fernandina Beach News-Leader reported on July 19 about the governor’s difficulties dealing with the fallout from House Bill 631, which took effect on July 1. The controversial legislation seeks to regulate residents’ use of our delightful beaches; it removed the “customary use” designation that typically allowed limited public access to portions of the beach that are privately-owned. Gov. Scott signed the law in March, and immediately faced pushback from residents in Nassau County.

“The executive order uses the word ‘beach’ 13 times without further definition,” said Lowell Hall of Citizens for Public Beaches and Shores, who had his own suggested definition: “The entirety of the wet and dry sand area shall be defined as ‘beach.’ It is the area from the mean low water line landward to the dune system or, if there is no dune system to any sea wall, rock revetment toe or any permanent vegetation.” Roberts writes that Scott signaled some affinity for their cause while in Fernandina a couple weeks ago, then signed an executive order that mitigates some aspects of the new law. But it’s not enough, apparently, and the matter might cost him a few votes in November.

 

BAD, EXTRA BAD AND JAX BEACH BAD

Jacksonville Beach can be a lovely place, with lovely people, most of the time. But when things go beach-bad, they go really bad, and some of the unfortunate results have played out on the local news over the past few weeks. Fights, shootings, drunk driving and other sketchy behavior are perhaps all too common in areas designated for nightlife activity. Jax Beach has seen its public brand take a serious hit after two recent altercations ended up going viral, and community leaders are grasping for solutions.

Kathleen Bailey, editor and publisher of the Beaches Leader, wrote on July 20 about some extreme measures being proposed to reduce crime in the area. “One measure being considered,” she writes, “could require restaurants that sell alcohol in the city to close at midnight. There was talk of such a change five years ago, but the city opted not to proceed at the time.” Now it seems that idea might gain a bit more traction, with Mayor Charlie Latham noting that, one way or another, some “’hard choices’ need to be made.”

“The measure being considered by the city,” writes Bailey, “could require all SRX [beer, wine and specialty restaurant] licensees to close at midnight, though some councilors suggested that the new closing time might only apply to restaurants in the downtown’s Central Business District.” This would presumably reduce the number of people out and about at last call, which is when trouble usually starts. Another measure being considered is to revoke the encroachment easements that allow some venues to use their balconies, because “city officials said patrons are pouring booze on cops from the upstairs balconies and that will not be permitted.” It should go without saying that such behavior is a no good, very bad, terrible idea—not to mention a crime.

 

MAKING $$ ALL THE LIVELONG DAY

The past couple of years have been tumultuous for CSX, which has seen calamities on their tracks and chaos in their boardroom, leading to the rise of new President and CEO Jim Foote, who took the helm in December 2017. He’s been out-front ever since, keen to point out that, controversies aside, business is booming. He stuck to that theme in a July 19 interview with Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal. The piece gets deep into the details, but the exegesis is that CSX has run longer trains, allowing them to move more freight, faster, leading to some of the most impressive numbers the industry has ever seen.

“This quarter, even though no one else has reported their earnings yet, we’re pretty confident that nobody is going to come anywhere close to us in this quarter,” says Foote. “In fact, the efficiency metric in this quarter was the lowest in the history of the U.S. railroad industry, so from where CSX was 12, 18 months ago to now–I think most of the analysts’ headlines were ‘spectacular,’ ‘unbelievable,’ ‘exciting,’ you name it.” This is great news for shareholders, as well as for a city that counts CSX among its most powerful companies and largest employers.

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