Category Archives: Local Issues

St Johns River Ferry Task Force

Update On The St. Johns River Ferry Service Task Force

Latest on the efforts of the task force working to preserve the St. Johns River Ferry. The Port Authority is meeting February 27th, and we hope to be able to convince them that we need more time to work on this issue.

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Filed under A1A, Beach Living, Jacksonville Beach, Local Issues, Neptune Beach, St. Johns River

Mayport Ferry Update

Ferry DockingWe heard from Councilman Bill Gulliford Monday night at our First Coast Republican Club meeting on the status of the Mayport ferry. While nothing’s been resolved just yet, Councilman Gulliford said there is a great deal of activity going on in an effort to keep the A1A connection … connected.

The bad news is that the ferry needs some $4 to $4.5 million in repairs. That doesn’t go at all to operating costs. Councilman Gulliford seems to think that there may be some untapped grant money out there that can go towards getting the boat back up to par.

We heard about the responsibility of the state to maintain a contiguous A1A. The short ferry ride connects a state highway, which would have to be re-routed around to the Dames Point bridge. And it’s pretty well understood that any Mayport revival will be nearly impossible without the traffic the ferry brings.

A1A SignBut the ferry is also considered historic by some. It was mentioned that it might be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only auto ferry between Miami and Ocracoke Island in north Carolina. It is a unique resource which everyone loves, but no one apparently wants to pay for.

A question was asked how high the fare would have to be to make the ferry self-sustaining. Mr. Gulliford said it would have to double to $10 each way and maintain its current ridership … which if the fare were doubled is pretty unlikely. How much would ridership increase if the fare were rolled back to $2.50? Maybe not enough, but some.

From his position on the council, Gulliford is advocating an umbrella organization that would take responsibility for running the ferry. The citizens of the beach, he said, poke their heads up to save it every time it’s threatened, and once a “band-aid” is applied, go back to napping on the issue. That, he says, is part of the problem. There seems to be a feeling that the band-aid will somehow not need to be changed at some point, and we’re surprised when it does.

There is a lot of activity. Former Council President Elaine Brown is chairing a task force to save the ferry, which will have an organizational meeting Monday night at the Mayport community center at the launching ramp in the village. Mr. Gulliford said he was going to bend the Mayor’s ear at a breakfast Tuesday morning.

Floirda SealIn Tallahassee, representative Janet Adkins, who lives in Fernandina Beach, held a meeting to discuss the issue. The Florida Times-Union reports that Adkins advocates a public-private partnership to operate the ferry, but it should be paid for by stakeholders. Those would include several city and county governments, as well as the state.

“As you are getting your budgets together, as if you would be willing to fund a little piece,” she said, according to the paper. The president of the Friends of the St. Johns River took a different, and somewhat more pessimistic tack. The loss of the ferry would “(leave) the businesses along these routes to a slow economic death,” he said.

But  everyone is crying poverty. From FDOT, which arguably should maintain the boat because it connects a state highway, to the city of Jacksonville to the port, no one says they have any money for the ferry. The state, through JTA, seems to have no trouble subsidizing the Skyway, which has never realized anything close to its ridership potential. But to move 100,000 cars across the river every year, not a dime.

The good news is, the community is not going to let the ferry go down with out fight. It’s worth saving. But councilman Gulliford is correct. We should do a better job this time so that we don’t wind up a few years down the road having to go through the entire exercise again.

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Filed under A1A, Beach Living, Local Government, Local Issues, Mayport, Mayport Ferry, State Budget

Media Blitz

JORS Logo And I’m not talking about Michael Jackson.  Although the taxpayers of Los Angeles should not be forced to pay for that circus of a memorial service. Whether or not he deserved it is another matter entirely. Only heads of state should get that kind of treatment at taxpayer expense. If you want to throw a big hoo-rah, for what ever reason, throw it yourself.

Of course, I don’t pay taxes in California. Maybe they’ll cool with it, but I digress. And that’s the last an only Michael comment I’m likely to make.

My media blitz was yesterday getting through the first JORS, which will become the Blog’s official shorthand for The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show. A couple of statistics that have come my way.

My furthest away listener (that I know of) was in St. Paul, Minnesota. My friend Beth Talisman, who was actually my boss at C-SPAN a long time ago, tuned in on the interwebs to listen. She’s a staunch liberal, and a very close friend. You may see us banter back and forth on Facebook from time to time. But when we worked together on The Weekly Radio Journal, we really made a damn fine radio program. She’s out of the business entirely now, loving her now-not-so-new nursing career. I’m still hanging on, kind of by my fingernails, but hanging on.

Second was probably my daughter Jenni, who’s in Springfield, Virginia right now. I’m sure she’s never head me on the radio in that kind of format, but I’m thrilled she was listening. Sometimes I think maybe this new-fangled internet thing might come to something after all.

Austin pulled some of the stats after he posted the show online today. 38 plays so far, from either the WBOB site or from The Jacksonville Observer. One more, now, since I went and listened to the first few minutes a while ago, but I promise, only one of those clicks is mine.

I credit a lot of that to some good old fashioned promotion. We did station promos, of course, but didn’t know we were getting the Mayor until after we’d cut the promo. Austin did some guerilla marketing at the Tea Party at the landing, having a couple of people hand out flyers promoting both The Observer and the show. I blasted my Facebook, Outlook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Andie blasted her contact list, and I know Austin promoted it heavily on The Observer site.

All in all, not bad. And thanks to everyone who has sent e-mails either before or since the show. It means a lot to me. You can find a link to the show here if you’d like to listen.

RPDC Logo And speaking of media blitzes, Lenny Curry, chair of the Duval County Republican Party, has been in the middle of one following the Tea Party. A few looney toons showed up carrying signs depicting President Obama as Hitler. Somebody got a notion in their head that the GOP had paid for the event and sanctioned the signs. Neither is true, of course, but some people never seem to let the facts get in the way of a good story. It was picked up by totally unbiased The Huffington Post and from there, MSNBC “talent” Keith Olberman got a hold of it … long story short Olberman wound up naming Curry as “The Worst Person In The World” the other day.

Of course, Olberman didn’t bother to check out who had actually paid for the rally, that there were Republican, Democrats, and Independents in the crowd, or even how to pronounce “Duval”.  “du VAHL”, Olberman intoned. Not “DU vahl” as we say in these parts. Of course, he doesn’t live here, has probably never even slowed down here on his way to Boca, or where ever he might go in Florida.

But more to the point, all those people who are so adamant about condemning Curry and the GOP for what they didn’t do seem to have conveniently forgotten the invectives hurled at President Bush and Vice President Cheney for so many years. Bush was often depicted as a Nazi by the extreme left, and Cheney drew comparisons of Josef Stalin and Darth Vader. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to. Do a quick Google image search on “Bush Hitler”. I couldn’t bring myself to post an example. President Bush was called every name in the book, particularly as people became more enthralled by Barack Obama.

Pot … Kettle … Black.

Nah, that’s too easy to forget. Or they think it’s OK.

Now, neither President Obama nor former President Bush deserve to be compared to Adolph Hitler. I had my disagreements with President Bush, and I certainly have some with President Obama, but Hitler? As the now-seemingly articulate guys on ESPN said last season “C’MON, MAN!”

I really hope they bring back that segment.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, there are going to be people you think are just beyond the pale. But do you condemn an entire political party for the views of a few outliers who may or may not even be welcome? I don’t know any mainstream Republicans who would welcome those who carried the signs with open arms, and Democrats shouldn’t either.

Olberman has the constitutional right to say what ever he wants, to be as outrageous as he thinks he needs to be to draw ratings to make money for the investors at MSNBC. But for everyone who defends Olberman, remember Rush Limbaugh has exactly the same constitutional right. In the end they’re both doing the same thing … using their opinion to draw the largest possible audience so the advertisers on their shows will spend money and they can make big piles of money.

On that score, at least, I think, Limbaugh is winning.

But Lenny Curry the “Worst Person In The World”?

That’s a stretch even for Keith. And if he’d have done the least little bit of legwork, he’d know it too.

 Sig

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Filed under Live Radio, Local Issues, Local Radio, Politics, Republican Party, Thoughts

Randomness

Michigan State seems to be way overmatched by North Carolina in the National Championship Game.  14 minutes and change to go and UNC leads 61-43.  MSU might as well be playing at home, as the game is in Detroit … but Carolina just seems to be too much for the Spartans to handle.  Still a lot of time to go, but it’s a big, long hill to climb.

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Over in Tallahassee … the legislature is past the halfway point, and a body controlled by conservative Republicans, many of whom have taken a “no new taxes” pledge, are facing a deficit of $6.1 billion.  So, to provide political cover, they’ll turn to “user fees”.  From “Florida Capital News“:

If approved, they would hit everyone who drives a car, files a lawsuit, goes fishing or takes out the garbage. College tuition could zoom 15 percent.

The legislature has also “zeroed out” “Florida Forever” … the state’s signature preservation and conservation program.  It’s $300 million budget gone.  Still to come is a potential complete re-write of the business tax code.  It would be difficult to imagine a Republican legislature increasing taxes on businesses during a recession, but I suppose not impossible.  About 1200 state jobs are likely to be cut, 800 currently vacant but that still leaves a lot of state employees in a bind, and the rest likely facing salary cuts.  The session ends in 26 days.

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The committee studying the City Budget begins crafting it’s recommendations tomorrow.  I joined this study late, but I’ve learned an incredible amount about how the city crafts it’s budget.  There are so many challenges in our consolidated government, and Jacksonville has been, by almost any measure, fairly fiscally responsible, but still finds it’s self with some serious challenges.  I think when the report is released that people will be surprised at how involved the process is, and yet how basic some of the issues are.  I know I have been.

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I’ll likely spend some time Thursday at City Hall at the committee meeting discussing the city’s landfill dilemma.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days talking to people about the issue, from longtime political observers to current city councilmen and one who voted on the original contract.   There will be public comment on Thursday, along with another iteration of the Mayor’s presentation.  No matter what, it’s going to be close.

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Wreck 295 cropDriving to improv rehearsal tonight, traffic was at a crawl on I-295 from I-95 to Old St. Augustine Road.   Why?  Someone had managed to flip an SUV in the eastbound lanes.  That’ll make for a really bad evening.  The only camera I had was the iPhone, and since we were staring to get moving again, it was difficult to get any composition on the shot.  I had to make sure I didn’t have a wreck myself while trying to get a shot of this carnage.  I hope everybody was OK.

And speaking of improv … yes we rehearse and I’m getting a little disappointed with people making the “you rehearse improv?” joke.  We rehearse to build trust among the players, to learn the structure of the games, to develop characters, to learn new games, and to laugh and have fun.  All to make sure the audience has the best possible experience.  And if you don’t believe it, just give it a shot sometime with no rehearsal.  Stand up in front of 50 to 100 people with someone you’ve never been on stage with before.  Get a relationship and location suggestion.  Build a scene.  Make it funny.

Go!

Nah, I wouldn’t want to do that either.

And now, with 10 minutes until midnight, and North Carolina running out the clock on their 5th national championship (tying Indiana), it’s time to get this up to the server and call it a night.

Sig

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Filed under Florida Budget, Florida Legislature, Improv, Improv Comedy, Local Government, Local Issues, Thoughts