Buzz: Pension Reform, TEDx, Dredging and More

City Council Turns Down Budget Deal

It’s back to square one for Mayor Alvin Brown and the city’s unions after the City Council voted July 23 to reject the mayor’s pension reform proposal. The bill died by a vote of 7 to 11. The vote means city lawyers will have to deal with a federal lawsuit filed by firefighters that was earlier settled by mediation. The suit sought direction from the court on whether its union should negotiate with the city or make the city hold talks with the Jacksonville Police & Fire Pension Fund. Prior to the vote, General Counsel Cindy Laquidara warned the council that if it rejected the reform plan, the case might be tied up in court for three years. Brown had trumpeted his pension deal as a way to save $1.2 billion over 30 years. Both the Jacksonville Chamber Board of Directors and the Civic Council urged the City Council to turn down the proposal.


Al Letson to Host TEDx Jacksonville

The lineup is being finalized for this year’s TEDx Jacksonville: Connecting Currents event. Al Letson, known for his radio show “State of the Re:Union,” will again host the program, entering its second year. Nancy Soderberg and Hank Coxe have been selected as speakers. Soderberg, a former UN ambassador, White House adviser and current UNF professor, will discuss driving change at the local, state and national level and promoting higher quality leadership. Coxe, considered one of the state’s top lawyers, will discuss how youth are imprisoned in America. TEDx Jacksonville is held Oct. 26 at WJCT. For details or to be considered for the audience, go to


St. Johns Paddling Trail

St. Johns County commissioners have designated the St. Johns River as a paddling trail, or blueway. The panel voted July 16 to unanimously support the request of the St. Johns River Alliance to designate the river as such to raise environmental awareness, create a sense of place, promote outdoor recreation and encourage young people to experience the outdoors. The designation doesn’t require additional funding at publicly owned boat ramps, launching facilities or parks.


Nassau County Attorney Named to RCC Post

Teresa J. “Teri” Sopp has accepted a position as senior lead counsel for the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel for Region 1. The state agency was created in 2006 to handle criminal cases when the public defender has an ethical conflict in representing certain defendants and to serve as counsel in dependency or child welfare cases. Region 1 encompasses 32 counties in North Florida from Pensacola to Fernandina Beach to Gainesville, with administrative offices in Tallahassee. Sopp, who’s practiced criminal defense law in Northeast Florida for more than 33 years, steps into an administrative role of Region 1 daily operations.


Senior Prom for Real Seniors

The city of Jacksonville is hosting a senior prom for real seniors on Aug. 2 at Prime Osborn Convention Center. The Hollywood Nights themed event, primarily for those 60 and older, features a formal dinner, live entertainment and the crowning of a prom king and queen. The city’s Senior Service Division is the sponsor. Tickets are $10 for ages 60 and older, $25 for those younger than 60, sold on a first-come, first-served basis and can be picked up at Mary J. Singleton Senior Center, 150 E. First St. and City Hall, 117 W. Duval St., Ste. 220. For details, call 630-7392.


St. Augustine Inlet Dredging

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a plan for dredging the St. Augustine Inlet. The project involves maintenance dredging of shoaled material from the inlet entrance channel. The material will be placed on the beach south of the inlet. The entrance channel will be dredged to a depth of 16 feet. The cost of the project is up to $5 million.


With a Little Help from His Friends

A man born with no legs was able to pull in an 8-foot, 250-pound lemon shark while fishing off Vilano Beach, according to The St. Augustine Record. With the help of two men holding his wheelchair in place, Matt Sechrist, 19, of Clay County, was able to land the shark on July 17 after an hour-long struggle. Being born with no legs has not slowed Sechrist down. He’s skydived, waterskied, wrestled in middle school and plans on playing wheelchair basketball in college at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania, where he’ll major in human performance.


Congresswoman Blasts Education Reauthorization Bill

Congresswoman Corrine Brown says she opposes the House Republican bill that reauthorizes the No Child Left Behind Act. The Fifth District Florida congresswoman said the bill would turn the clock back decades on equity and accountability in American public education. She says the bill shortchanges students, weakens accountability and fails to update current law to take the public education system into the 21st century.