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    A new report ranks Jacksonville as having one of the worst quality park systems. The city of Jacksonville claims it has the one of the largest and unique park systems in the nation with more than 400 park and recreational sites, but according to The Trust for Public Land report, the city actually has one of the lowest quality parks in large cities. 'I didn't think we'd be that bad,' Jacksonville resident Betty Dunn said. A new report ranks Jacksonville's park systems as one of the worsts. How they came to this conclusion tonight at 10 @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/tobYTSxTFw-- Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) May 26, 2017 Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to auction dozens of cars, trailers The city's park score came in at No. 90 out of 100. The score is based on factors such as median park size, population and parkland as percent of adjusted city area. 'I don't think we have a serious problem, but if we are truly that far down in the top 100, we need to step up,' Jacksonville resident Hugh Dunn said. The ranking is based off of data such as the money spent on the parks per resident and the percent of residents within a 10-minute walk of a park. 'And we do need to work on that, that's something that we can do,' city councilman Jim Love said. Love said he doesn't think the amount of money was looked at correctly. 'I believe the money spent per person is probably low because in the budget it looks low, but we spend more money from each city councilperson, so that changes the number,' Love said. An Action News Jax investigation earlier this month revealed that 10 public athletic fields are locked and closed off to neighborhood kids to prevent vandalism. But some people said that is where they need parks the most. 'Well it does seem like there aren't a lot of parks close by, even this one I had to drive to,' Sheila Litwhiler said. Photos: Huge turnout to place flags at veterans' graves Dunn said he thinks the city can increase its ranking. 'They need to go out and look at the other parks in the other cities,' Dunn said. And overall, Love doesn't think the city should have been ranked that low. 'I knew it couldn't be exactly right because we have a lot of parks and lot of area compared to any other city,' Love said. According to the report, most people in Jacksonville live more than a 10-minute walk from the park. To see The Trust For Public Land's ParkScore 2017, click here.
  • Jacksonville is already one of five finalists being considered as the home base for new fighter jets, but now, the Congressional delegation is banding together to try to boost the odds. All of Florida’s two Senators and twenty-seven Representatives have signed on to a letter to the Air Force Secretary, advocating to bring the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville.  The letter says Jacksonville is a “critical” strategic location, so ensuring the 125th Fighter Wing has the “most capable combat aircraft” is “in the interest of national security”. Lawmakers further say Jacksonville provides the lowest cost for taxpayer and is already set up with training infrastructure and airspace.  “Due to our nearby surrounding installations, Northeast Florida has unmatched quality of life opportunities for personnel and their families. Additionally, Jacksonville has uniquely taken great care in creating buffer zones and reducing encroachment issues,” the letter says.  The Air Force recently visited the 125th Fighter Wing as part of its review.  Five locations are being considered overall, with Jacksonville being the only one in Florida.  Florida’s Congressional delegation has banded together another time to advance military interests in Jacksonville. In March, all of the state’s lawmakers signed a letter to the Defense Secretary and Secretary of the Navy reviving the push to bring a nuclear carrier to Naval Station Mayport. Mayport was also selected in February to house the Navy’s new MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.  The F-35 program has faced criticism from President Trump, saying the costs were “out of control”.
  • The years-long push to deepen the Jacksonville harbor appears to be making progress.   The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is putting $17.5 million toward the project in its work plan, marking the first federal dollars committed to the project.   JAXPORT board chairman Jim Citrano explains why that's so significant.   'Since this is the first federal dollars going into the project, it pretty much ensures that the federal government believes in the project, has confidence in it, and will continue to fund it,' says Citrano.   The $17.5 million is designated for the initial phase of the project, which will ultimately deepen the shipping channel to 47 feet.   That additional depth is required to accommodate today's larger ships from Asia.   Citrano says, 'The whole Eastern coast of the United States, particularly in the Southeast, below Norfolk, is going to start to receive shipping traffic from the Pacific Rim that hasn't been able to come here before.'   According to a release from the Jacksonville Port Authority, JAXPORT has recorded an average of 21 percent year-over-year growth in Asian cargo volumes during each of the past five years. With this initial funding, Citrano says the project can begin later this year or early 2018.
  • A suspect wanted for attempted murder and robbery is in custody, following an hours-long SWAT standoff on the Westside.   The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says they were trying to serve a warrant at around 11:00 am, at the Quality Inn on Commonwealth Avenue, after getting information the suspect was at the hotel.   But when officers tried to make contact with the suspect, he barricaded himself in a room, prompting the SWAT team to respond.   'We did have information, we believe, there was a second individual in the room, so we took that into consideration with everything that was going on,' says Christian Hancock, Public Information Officer with JSO.   Eventually, SWAT was able to breach the door and both the suspect and a female in the room were taken into custody, without any further issues.   We're told the two will be questioned and interviewed.   At this point in the time, neither of their names have been released. JSO says it’s not clear if the woman will face any charges or if she was a bystander. 
  • Warm ocean waters could fuel an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, while storm-suppressing El Nino conditions are expected to be scarce, U.S. government forecasters said Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast calls for 11 to 17 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. Two to four hurricanes are expected to be 'major' with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. Forecasters expect warmer-than-average waters across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker-than-average wind shear and a weak or nonexistent El Nino, said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. El Nino is the natural warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean that changes weather worldwide and tends to reduce hurricane activity in the Atlantic. Warm waters feed a hurricane's strength, while strong wind shear can starve it and pull a storm apart. While climate models show considerable uncertainty, 'there's a potential for a lot of Atlantic storm activity this year,' Friedman said. The long-term season averages are 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three major ones. Tropical storms have sustained winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph), and hurricanes have winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph). A new weather satellite will help forecasters see developing storms in greater detail, especially when it moves later this year into a permanent position over the East Coast with a view over the continental U.S. and tropical waters where hurricanes form, Freidman said. 'Its 'lightning mapper' allows us to see lightning in the clouds like we've never seen before,' he said. High-resolution hurricane model upgrades also are expected to provide 'much improved' forecast guidance this year, said Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service. Officials urged coastal residents to make evacuation plans and stock up on emergency supplies long before any tropical weather advisory is posted. The National Hurricane Center in Miami is adding advisories highlighting specific storm hazards: Storm surge watches and warnings will be issued when U.S. communities are at risk for life-threatening flooding. The 'uncertainty cone' showing a storm's projected path will be updated to show how far damaging winds can reach. An experimental 'time of arrival' graphic will show people when tropical storm-force winds are expected to start hitting their areas. 'Key data will be available earlier than ever to make informed decisions,' said Robert Fenton, acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The six-month Atlantic storm season officially starts June 1. A rare April tropical storm formed this year over the open ocean: Arlene, which was no threat to land. The next tropical storm will be named Bret. The 2016 hurricane season also started early with a January hurricane. It was the first above-normal season since 2012, with 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Five storms made landfall in the U.S. last year, including hurricanes Hermine and Matthew.
  • Firefighters are picking up where they left off before storms rolled into the area this week.  The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge says Wednesday was a slow day operationally on the fire because thunderstorms restricted firefighting efforts.  In the latest update from fire officials, the West Mims Fire is still 65% contained and has burned over 152,000 acres.  The storms from Tuesday and Wednesday, provided only a lull in fire activity. The entire fire received at least one inch and a half of rain on Wednesday.  According to the incident fire behavior analyst, the fire is still burning deep underground.  Peat and large trees can retain heat from the existing fire or new lightning strikes, and a few inches of rain will bit put the fire out.  The fire activity could increase with the return of dry air and temperatures in the 90’s expected this upcoming weekend.  But for now, fire officials say the West Mims Fire is quiet. 
  • We’ve turned clear, breezy, and much less humid following a true soaker on Wednesday.  NE Florida saw 100% rain coverage with 2-6’’ of rain.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says three-day totals were as much as 8-10’’ of rain in isolated spots. “The entire month of May averages about 2.6 inches so there are a number of spots that had at least their average May rainfall yesterday and in some cases far more than that, especially when you combine those three-day totals”, said Buresh.  Temps will become the story today and Friday. With lower humidity it’s going to feel quite comfortable with afternoon temps in the mid-80’s today, and upper 80’s on Friday.  Overnight temps are expected to fall below 60.  Listen for a big warm-up for Memorial Day Weekend in the Mike Buresh weather podcast. 
  • The CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project is speaking to Action News Jax about the results of a government investigation into the organization. Sen. Chuck Grassley started looking into the charity after investigations revealed lavish spending. The new Wounded Warrior Project's CEO Michael Linnington wanted to discuss the changes they've made and talk about a few findings in Grassley's report that he disagrees with. But beyond that, he said he's ready for the organization to put this behind them and move forward with helping veterans. Jacksonville National Cemetery needs help laying flags on graves 'It was what I needed,' said Army veteran William Tatakamotonga. 'It was something I'd never be able to do on my own.' It's veterans like Tatakamotonga that Linnington is focused on following a year-long investigation by Grassley. 'Opening our books to the Senator's investigative team and really explaining to them what we do and how we can improve,' Linnington said. Grassley's nearly 500-page report was released Wednesday. In the report, Grassley credits Wounded Warrior Project for working with him and changes the organization made following reports of lavish spending and questions about how money was spent on veterans. 'We made it a point to be more transparent and accountable this year,' Linnington said. But Grassley said more needs to be done, including better informing the public of its goals. Grassley pointed out an ad that said the organization spent $65.4 million dollars on long-term support programs. Grassley said that money was just transferred to a trust and not spent on veterans. Middleburg woman arrested for 'making out' with 14-year-old boy 'The senator's report does not agree with the fact that that is a program expense. We think it is,' Grassley said. But regardless, Linnington said they're focused on improving and moving past the investigation and getting back to the veterans they serve. 'Our logo speaks to what our mission is. It's about honoring and empowering our nation's wounded warriors,' Linnington said. Grassley released the following statement: 'It's good news that the Wounded Warrior Project used negative findings to try to turn itself around. Some high profile charities do the opposite when confronted with problems. They hunker down instead of embracing their responsibilities to the people who are meant to benefit from their charitable mission, the donating public and the taxpayers. It's the taxpayers who forgo revenue to the federal Treasury to make tax-exempt organizations possible. The Wounded Warrior Project is right to recognize why it exists and what it needs to do to restore the public's trust.' Click here to read Grassley's report. Wounded Warrior Project released the following statement addressing the report's findings: 'We appreciate Senator Grassley and his team working together with us on this comprehensive memo, and we share in his optimism about Wounded Warrior Project's future in service to those who have given so much for our country.'Throughout the process, our team has had multiple conversations with Senator Grassley's staff, including in-person meetings, and provided detailed written information. As noted in the memo, we've been forthcoming and transparent in providing information about Wounded Warrior Project, how donor dollars are invested, and how we deliver programs to those we serve. 'Over the last year, as the report outlines, we've made significant changes to ensure that we are focused on running the most efficient, effective organization possible. We've brought in new leadership at the CEO level, consolidated positions on the executive team, made alterations and new appointments to the Board of Directors, updated our travel and expense policies, and adjusted our programs and services to focus on mental health care, long-term support, and areas that allow warriors to connect with their communities. 'We respectfully disagree with the memo's assessment of the Long Term Support Trust. Currently no government program exists that allows severely wounded warriors to continue to live in familiar settings and receive care should they lose their caregiver. The Trust dedicates funds for the future to ensure care will continue so they can maintain their independence, instead of being placed in a nursing home or other institution. We remain firmly committed to serving the long term needs of those most critically injured, and we follow all IRS and accounting rules in reporting on this program. 'We also respectfully disagree with the memo's conclusion on the percent of donor funds spent on program services for warriors. As the memo itself makes clear, we calculate this percentage based on accounting rules and IRS requirements. We are confident that we are putting donor dollars to good use serving warriors, family members, and caregivers. 'We look forward to another impactful year of helping our wounded warriors and families. We're humbled to be recognized as a top charity operating with transparency by the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and GuideStar.
  • The man accused of exposing himself to a child on the Westside has been arrested after going to police to “clear his name”.  WOKV first told you Wednesday morning that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was searching for a man who had performed a lewd act in front of a child. The suspect has now been identified as 41-year-old Noel Mills. JSO says Mills’ boyfriend confronted him after seeing the bulletin with his name and vehicle description. Mills’ boyfriend said the sketch looked like him and Mills owns a similar vehicle.  JSO says Mills went to a police substation and asked to “clear his name”. He was interviewed and subsequently arrested.  Mills reportedly drove up to an 8-year-old child who was walking to school around Blanding and Cedar Hills last week, asking the victim about his missing cat and showing the victim a photo of a cat. The  child told police Mills had his pants down and was masturbating. The next day, the parent of the child was walking home from school with him, when the child saw the suspect and vehicle. The parent took pictures of the vehicle and gave them to police. Mills has been arrested for lewd exhibition on a child. Mills’ arrest report says he “made several admissions of guilt and confessed to aspects of the crime” while speaking with police.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and the world today. What to know now: 1. Kushner investigation: Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, will cooperate with the FBI as it investigates possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Kushner's lawyer says. According to a person familiar with the investigation, the FBI is looking into a meeting that Kushner had with Russian officials in December.  2. Trump shove: President Trump had tongues on social media sites wagging on Thursday when he appeared to shove the prime minister of Montenegro out of the way so he could stand in front of a group of leaders at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting when a photo was being taken. A video of the moment shows Trump coming up from behind Dusko Markovic and pushing him as he moves in front. Markovic looks surprised, then smiles when he sees it is Trump. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump wasn’t jockeying for position because leaders are assigned spots when such a photo is taken. 3. Gianforte wins: Greg Gianforte won a special election to fill Montana’s U.S. House seat Thursday, a day after he was charged with assaulting a reporter at his campaign office. Gianforte, a Republican, will fill the seat of Ryan Zinke, who resigned to take a place in Trump’s administration. Nearly 70 percent of votes in Montana were cast before the alleged assault took place on Wednesday. 4. Travel ban heads to Supreme Court: The Trump administration says it will fight a federal appeals court ruling that shuts down the executive order banning travel to the United States from predominantly Muslim nations. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the Justice Department will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case.  5. Active season: NOAA's Climate Prediction Center has forecasts an above-normal hurricane season for 2017, with a 70 percent chance of 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, and two to four major hurricanes. “The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or nonexistent El Nino, near- or above-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.  And one more ESPN has announced its Week 1 televised college football schedule. The September 2 prime-time game will be between Alabama and Florida State. Earlier in the day, Florida will take on Michigan, Georgia will play Appalachian State and Penn State goes up against Akron. The college football broadcast season begins on Thursday, Aug. 31, when Ohio State plays Indiana. In case you missed it
  • Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives in defense of the country.  Here are a few quotes about patriotism and freedom. 'A hero is someone who has given his of her life to something bigger than oneself.' -- Joesph Campbell  'A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers and woods, it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.' -- George William Curtis  'All you have to do is hold your first soldier who is dying in your arms, and have that terribly futile feeling that I can't do anything about it... Then you understand the horror of war.' -- Norman Schwarzkopf  'Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think hard before starting a war.' -- Otto von Bismarck  'I have long believed that sacrifice is the pinnacle of patriotism. ' -- Bob Riley  'Only the dead have seen the end of war.' -- Plato  'Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.' -- Mark Twain  'The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain.' -- George McGovern  'The patriot volunteer, fighting for country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier on earth.' -- Stonewall Jackson  'The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's Tree.' -- Thomas Campbell  'These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor - and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror.' -- Michael N. Castle  'They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this nation.' -- Henry Ward Beecher
  • Police in Great Britain investigating the Manchester Arena bombing have arrested a ninth man while continuing to search addresses associated with the bomber who killed 22 people on Monday, The Associated Press reported Friday. >> Read more trending news The name of the man arrested Friday and those of the eight previous detainees have not been released. No one has yet been charged in the bombing, the AP reported. Britain’s security level has been upgraded to “critical,” which means officials believe another attack may be imminent. Authorities are seeking possible links between the bomber, Salman Abedi, and militants in Manchester and elsewhere, the AP reported.  
  • Tommy Arthur, who escaped seven previous execution dates, was put to death by lethal injection for his conviction in a 1982 murder-for-hire, AL.com reported. >> Read more trending news Alabama correctional officials said the 75-year-old inmate was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m. Friday. The execution began about 11:50 p.m., 10 minutes before the death warrant was to expire, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said.  Arthur was convicted in the fatal shooting of Troy Wicker as Wicker slept in his Muscle Shoals home, according to court documents. Wicker’s wife initially blamed an intruder, but later testified she promised Arthur $10,000 to kill her husband, The Associated Press reported. Arthur was nicknamed the “Houdini” of death row because he had eluded execution seven times. He was executed at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. The inmate gave a thumbs up gesture with his left hand to his daughter, Sherrie. who was in the witness room, AL.com reported. In a statement before the execution, Arthur read out the names of his children. 'I'm sorry I failed you as a father. I love you more than anything on earth,' he said, his voice cracking. The execution was to have begun at 6 p.m. but was delayed by appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the execution had not begun by midnight, the state would have had to seek another execution date, AL.com reported. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said he hoped Wicker’s family can begin to recover. 'Thirty-four years after he was first sentenced to death for the murder of a Colbert County man, Thomas Arthur's protracted attempt to escape justice is finally at an end,” Marshall said. “Most importantly, tonight, the family of Troy Wicker can begin the long-delayed process of recovery from a painful loss.' 
  • Republican Greg Gianforte won the special election for Montana's open U.S. House seat Thursday night and apologized to the reporter who accused the Republican of “body-slamming” him, CNN reported. >> Read more trending news With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Gianforte had earned 50.8 percent of the vote to lead Democrat Rob Quist, who polled 43.8 percent, CNN reported, citing Edison Research. In his acceptance speech, Gianforte apologized by name to Ben Jacobs, the Guardian reporter who made the accusation after an altercation on Wednesday. The Gallatin County Sheriff's office later charged Gianforte with misdemeanor assault, CNN reported. 'When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,' Gianforte told his supporters at his election night rally in Bozeman. 'That's the Montana way.' Saying he was 'not proud' of his behavior, he added, 'I should not have responded the way I did. For that I'm sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.' Members of the supportive crowd shouted, 'You're forgiven.' Gianforte, a technology entrepreneur, was considered the favorite heading into Thursday’s election to fill the seat once held by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, but his scuffle with Jacobs raised questions about the outcome. Democrats had hoped Quist, a Montana folk singer and first-time candidate, could have capitalized on a wave of activism following President Donald Trump's election.

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