Imported Folio

The Fire This Time

Written by Susan Cooper Eastman Since Jacksonville Beach firefighters Lance Sparrow and Shawn O’Shell were elected the president and vice-president of their local union last January, the pair say they’ve been harassed by the fire chief, yelled at by superiors, unfairly disciplined, given poor ratings on annual performance reviews and been denied raises. Though Florida labor law and the state’s Constitution protect the rights of public employees to unionize, the 40-year-old Sparrow and 36-year-old O’Shell say their work representing IAFF Local 2622 has provoked a visceral and unfair response. The workplace has become so hostile, Sparrow has begun to question …

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Road Scholars

Written by Dan Brown George Dawes Green has spent most of his life spinning some kind of yarn. And judging by his track record, the novelist and storyteller knows how to please an audience. Two of Green’s books have been adapted into major motion pictures (“The Cavemen’s Valentine” and “The Juror”), and another was a critically acclaimed bestseller (“Ravens”), but his biggest success to date has been seeding the nation’s fertile storytelling soil. In 1997, Green founded “The Moth,” a storytelling night staged at venues throughout Manhattan that invited ordinary folks to take the microphone. The events quickly became sellout …

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Blind Spot

Written by: Anne Schindler The original three buildings of the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind were indistinguishable from single-family homes — handsome, Victorian structures set behind a low picket fence on San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine. A photograph from the era shows students seated on the wide front porches and leaning over the gate, as horse drawn carriages and pedestrians stroll by (right). In the intervening years, the school has evolved — to put it mildly. It has grown from five to almost 80 acres and from a few dozen to roughly 700 students. In that …

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The Doctor is Out

Written by: Susan Cooper Eastman For the poor, unemployed and mentally ill in St. Johns County, getting the drugs to control chronic depression or bipolar disorder — or even just getting an appointment with a doctor — have been complicated and difficult undertakings. At a time when the number of people in crisis has mushroomed, obtaining community mental healthcare services has grown more difficult. In July 2011, the St. Johns County Commission shut down its longstanding community mental health clinic amid complaints that it was poorly run and too costly to taxpayers. However, the private company that took over the …

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Home Remedy

By day, Rachel Obal is in America, but when she sleeps, death darkens her dreams. Nightmares carry her back to her native South Sudan, to the decades of war that tore her country apart and forever imprinted scenes of unimaginable brutality. “It’s horrible,” she says of the recurrent memories. “Even though I try to forget them, they will never go.” There is no way to erase the brutality she witnessed, but the trauma of an endless war did not destroy Rachel Obal — or, incredibly, her faith in humanity. Now a Jacksonville resident, she is known simply as “Mama Rachel,” …

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Big Top Brawl

Hey, kids: The circus is coming to town! I bet you can’t wait, right? Sure — we’ve have all had some type of fascination with circuses at some time in our lives. The visual spectacle of exotic animals and aerial artistry makes a profound impact on kids’ minds, often the first truly huge, overwhelmingly awesome event of their lives. For some of us, the allure is a childhood relic soon displaced in our minds by visions of comely contortionists, chicken geekery and other Jim Rose-style freaky. Still, some are instantly hooked, and remain so forever. Either way, the circus facilitates …

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Over the Rainbow

Written by: Anne Schindler As Folio Weekly reported last week, there is a move afoot to extend the city’s anti-discrimination laws to include gays and lesbians (http://bit.ly/wj9XOY). Such a move is long overdue. Jacksonville is the only major metro area in Florida that doesn’t protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered residents from blatant, targeted discrimination. It remains legal to fire, evict or refuse to serve someone simply because of their sexual orientation. In that regard, the Bold New City of the South trails the U.S. military, 21 states and even conservative icons like Bill O’Reilly and Dick Cheney — all …

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Watershed Moment

Susan Cooper Eastman After years of butting heads with St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon, a JEA executive couldn’t resist the chance to take one last dig. Acknowledging the longtime Riverkeeper’s imminent departure at the group’s annual Christmas party, the official joked, “Maybe now JEA and the Riverkeeper can work together.” The comment, recalled last week by the nonprofit group’s Executive Director Jimmy Orth, was an insult, but one that speaks to a fundamental truth. Armingeon’s attitude toward both polluters (like JEA) and regulators (like the state Department of Environmental P rotection) was uncompromising. Not that he was confrontational; the Alabama …

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Right of Passage

There are certain milestone events like graduation, marriage and the birth of a child that mark our transition through the stages of adulthood. For a conservative Republican like me who’s also a newly minted member of Jacksonville’s City Council, one particularly discomfiting — but probably inevitable — milestone event was to receive the scornful rebuke of Editor Anne Schindler in the Dec. 20 issue of Folio Weekly (“Rhymes with Lumb,” http://bit.ly/vySyUr). My offense? I offered a substitute to Councilman Jim Love’s original resolution that addressed regulatory issues involving Georgia-Pacific’s Palatka paper mill; a substitute that Schindler characterized as “an amazingly …

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Sins of Commission

Anne Schindler It was no virgin birth. The Jacksonville Economic Development Commission was spawned during an orgy of corporate welfare the likes of which would put Ron Jeremy to shame. The creation of the agency, by then-Mayor John Delaney, was designed to apply both control and focus to the practice of handing out cash to businesses, either to lure them to town or persuade them to stay. The creation of the JEDC was not intended to stop the giveaways — god no. In fact, the agency was conveniently created right before one of the largest and most controversial incentives packages, …

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