Tag Archives: Local Issues

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

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