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Latest from Tim Tompkins

     It was expected to open Wednesday, but that was pushed back until Thursday morning. Last week Governor Rick Scott announced the soon-to-open I-95 Southbound flyover ramp to Butler Blvd. The 1,400-foot ramp was first announced by Governor Scott in November 2013. This is easing congestion on I-95 Southbound exiting off at Butler because drivers heading Eastbound will no longer have to stop at the cycling light at JTB. Instead, they’ll use the direct access two lane road.   Bianca Speights, FDOT PIO, says “We expect for this to alleviate a lot of congestion and improve the safety through the area as well.” The delay comes for unexpected problems as crews removed the striping. Bianca Speights tells us contractors laid new striping and opened it on Thursday morning.  The opening of the flyover ramp from I-95 Southbound is the first phase of the project. Next construction crews will open the second phase by placing Butler Blvd Westbound lanes into their final configuration.  As construction continues through the area, Speights adds, “This is still an active construction zone and be aware that there are workers there still.” Express Lanes of the I-295 Beltway between the Buckman Bridge and Butler You’ve driven through the construction zone on the I-295 W Beltway between the Buckman Bridge and I-95 for the better part of a year and a half. Drivers have felt the pain of a disabled vehicle blocking a lane due to a lack of shoulders while roadwork continues. Orange Park and Mandarin drivers should soon sigh a bit of relief on their daily commutes.  The 5.7 mile stretch on the I-295 W Beltway from the Buckman Bridge to I-95 is on schedule and expected for completion early 2018. Two twelve-foot toll lanes on either side will open giving drivers choice in their commute.   Currently, average speeds during peak times average less than 10 mph. Once the Express Lanes open, FDOT is expected speeds to average 20mph during peak times on the current roads and no less than 45 mph on the express lanes.  Drivers will need to purchase a prepaid Sunpass card that the cost of use will automatically be deducted from their account as they pass through in order to use the express lanes, The prices for lanes are dynamic, meaning they fluctuate. The slower the normal lanes are, the more expensive the express lanes and vice versa.   An important factor for drivers to consider before using the lanes; they are straight through, meaning once you enter them at the start of the Buckman Bridge you will need to stay on them through I-95. No exiting available onto San Jose or Old St Augustine Rd. This also means if there is a crash blocking a lane ahead, drivers will not be able to hop on to the express lanes after the entrance for them later when it is convenient to do so.   If an incident occurs in the express lanes, the toll rate during the incident will adjust to encourage drivers to use the general use lanes. Additionally, there is a shoulder in the express lanes to safely allow drivers to move out of the flow of traffic. If drivers have questions about the toll rate in effect at the time they drove through the express lanes, drivers should call the SunPass customer service center or visit SunPass.com for more information. Ray further commented on the impact these lanes will have to drivers, “We think these will be a great addition to the roadway and give drivers more of a choice with their commute.” Express Lanes on the I-295 E Beltway between 9B and Butler Blvd This project is designed to ease congestion for drivers along the I-295 E Beltway in the same manner the express lanes along the I-295 W Beltway will. These lanes are scheduled for completion in Spring of 2018.  As with the I-295 W Beltway Express Lanes, they are through lanes meaning that drivers will need to stay on them between 9B and Butler Blvd. Northbound drivers will have an option of using a direct flyover at Butler Blvd where they can exit Eastbound or Westbound or stay along the I-295 E Beltway Northbound. On the I-295 E Beltway Southbound, drivers will get onto the express lanes before Butler Blvd, closer to Town Center Pkwy. As with the I-295 West Beltway, Hampton Ray says that once the lanes open up so will the shoulders along the I-295 E Beltway. This will allow for stalled vehicles and crashes to clear lanes of travel much faster.   Ray noted that through the construction time, FDOT patrols the area with Road Rangers to assist any stalled vehicles with gas or flat tires. This is a free service offered to all drivers traveling through the impacted roads.  Future express lane projects, including I-95 at Atlantic and I-95 at International Golf Pkwy, are in the study phases and construction is not expected to begin on those until 2020.  95 Overland Bridge Project In 2013 the Florida Department of Transportation began the Overland Bridge Project to improve the flow of traffic on I-95 Northbound and Southbound through the Downtown area of Jacksonville Florida. The project encompasses a 2.3 mile stretch.   As it stands now, drivers can exit off I-95 Nothbound onto the Downtown exits at the Main Street or Acosta Bridge. Upon completion, that will change. Drivers will need to make a decision at Emerson to continue or I-95 NB lanes through Downtown or take the lanes heading into Downtown Jacksonville. FDOT Spokesperson Ron Tittle says FDOT will post signs leading up to it informing drivers, but for those who do take the 95 side, if they need to get into Downtown they will have to turn around after Downtown and come back through.   Ron Tittle says, “We are still looking at late fall type of timeframe to have the project completed.” In regards to the Northbound lanes of I-95.  FDOT will also ease congestion for those leaving the Downtown area on the Southbound side by adding an additional lane of travel.  First Coast Expressway The First Coast Expressway is designed to ease congestion along the I-295 W Beltway and Orange Park and I-10. The first segment of the $77-million-dollar project is on time and scheduled for completion in spring 2018.  The lanes, when opened, will become toll roads. There are similarities between the First Coast Expressway and the express lanes opening on the I-295 Beltway. Drivers will be able to use their SunPass for both roads, but First Coast Expressway drivers will have an option to use ‘Toll by Plate’. However, those who use it will be charged an additional $2.50 administration fee. Hampton Ray, Public Information Officer at FDOT, urges drivers to save money by using a SunPass Instead.   Commuters taking State Road 23 but not wishing to use the express lanes will have the option of exiting at New Wold Avenue to avoid the toll. Challenger and Discovery Rd will also be a viable option to those wishing to avoid the toll fees.  The larger project will eventually connect SR-23 to the Shands Bridge, replacing the Shands Bridge, and then over to I-95. This will allow St Johns commuters to use the First Coast Expressway rather than I-95 Northbound up to I-10.    The third phase is not funded, which includes a replacement of the Shands Bridge. Construction on the second phase of the First Coast Expressway is expected to begin in 2019.  Upon completion, the First Coast Expressway will give drivers a 46 mile stretch of road of non-stop 70 mph travel. 
  • There are no bridge closures in effect at this time in advance of Hurricane Irma, for any of the major bridges in Jacksonville. Sustained winds of 40 mph- not wind gusts, but sustained winds- are the threshold for any closures. Ron Tittle, FDOT spokesperson, tells me, “Law Enforcement determines the need to close bridges along our roadways. During high wind conditions they rely on tropical storm wind conditions with sustained speeds above 40 MPH. FDOT’s Regional Transportation Management Center monitor sensors on bridges and cameras on major corridors. They keep law enforcement and the Duval County EOC apprised for their decision making.” During Hurricane Mathew, the Dames Point Bridge was the only major bridge in Jacksonville to close because of wind.  In 1999 during Hurricane Floyd,The Mathews, Hart, Dames Point, Buckman and Intracoastal Bridges closed while the Fuller Warren, Main Street and Acosta remained open.  Other counties saw bridge closures, especially along the coast, during Matthew. It’s possible law enforcement closes bridges ahead of the peak of the storm for public safety reasons or as part of their evacuation plans, but no planned closures have been announced at this time. BRIDGE WATCH:  Nassau County is monitoring the Shave Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway and the Heckscher Drive Bridge. 
  • Mandarin Drivers- a scheduled repair by Florida East Coast Railway has all lanes of Greenland Rd just west of Philips Hwy closed. Traffic on Greenland Road is being diverted on to Old St Augustine Rd. where drivers head North to the I-295 W Beltway.   FEC is expected completion of the repairs on Greenland Rd and for lanes to reopen by 11:30pm on Tuesday August 28th. 
  • Progress continues for commuters in St. Johns for the final segment that will connect SR-9B to St. Johns Parkway with overpasses at Race Track Road, Durbin Creek and Russell Sampson Road. This will allow access directly onto SR-9B, giving a direct route on the I-295 Beltway. Starting Friday, August 11th drivers traveling south on St. Johns Parkway between Russell Sampson Road and North Arabella way will shift to the recently completed lanes on the northbound east side of the road. Bicycle lanes will also shift onto the northbound lanes. Both southbound and northbound lanes will be cut down to one lane of travel during the half mile stretch of St. Johns Parkway. While progress is being made, completion of this third and final stage isn’t scheduled for completion until next summer.
  • Severe weather during the early morning commute caused damage to an on-ramp connected to the First Coast Expressway’s North project. Emergency construction began immediately and is expected to last a week, with the ramp reopening on Monday April 10.  A detour has been issued during the ramp closure. Westbound traffic on Normandy will not be able to exit onto SR-23, instead drivers will need to exit off Normandy onto New World Avenue south and continue that to 103rd St.  The $45 million First Coast Expressway project from I-10 to Beaver St will connect access to I-10 from the distribution centers of Publix and Winn-Dixie. 
  •   More headaches for Southside drivers planned this evening for continued work on the I-95 / JTB Interchange Improvement project. Lane closures on I-95 NB at Butler will last from 8pm through 11pm, and then at 11, motorists will be detoured off of I-95 onto Butler Blvd. Drivers can turn around at Belfort to get back on I-95 NB. Overnight construction planned on I-95 NB at Butler, this evening from 8pm through 5am tomorrow #WokvTraffic pic.twitter.com/zdWeNclkZW — Tim Tompkins (@RadioTimNBA) January 10, 2017 Construction is expected to end by 5am just in time for morning drive. The $67 Million Dollar construction project is scheduled to wrap up in late May, schedule permitting of course.
  • The Florida Department of Transportation hopes 2017 will become known as the 'Year of the Express Lanes' to Jacksonville residents. Started in 2014, an $89 million dollar project began adding express lanes to the I-295 West Beltway between the Buckman Bridge and I-95. Originally, the project was slated for completion in late 2016. However, FDOT Public Information Officer Ray Hampton says this portion of the project will not wrap up until fall of 2017. Express lanes give drivers the option of either using the tolled lanes or the free ones they are already using. When we asked the reason for the delay, Ray cited unexpected weather and scheduling conditions for the contractor. FDOT is informing drivers of the new timetable via blue signage through the Mandarin area. The express lanes of the I-295 W Beltway between I-95 and the @BuckmanBridge are scheduled for completion in 2017. #WokvTraffic @WOKVNews pic.twitter.com/OJAQqhUHuS — Tim Tompkins (@RadioTimNBA) December 12, 2016 “FDOT is rolling out a campaign to educate the public on how to use the express lanes and why they will benefit the community,” Ray says. A poll of drivers in Miami released by the FDOT gave a 71% satisfaction rating on the recently installed express lanes in their area. Ray cites that many drivers enjoy express lanes because they give a predictable commute while simultaneously easing the congestion on the normal lanes. FDOT is hopeful the express lanes will ease congestion for Orange Park and Mandarin drivers on the I-295 West Beltway. FDOT Express Lanes Drivers will need to purchase a Sun Pass in order to use the express lanes and the price of the tolls will automatically be deducted from their accounts. The second phase of the express lanes - on the I-295 East Beltway between SR-9B and Butler Boulevard - remain on schedule for completion in 2019. That is a $139.9 million dollar contract.
  • Improvements for the Main Street Bridge Downtown are scheduled tonight. This will close the Main Street Bridge to all vehicles and pedestrians, as well as boaters who will be unable to pass through the channel underneath. The work is part of a larger improvement project scheduled to wrap up next spring.  Improvements to the Main Street Bridge include new heating and air conditioning units, sanitary sewer lines, closed-circuit television cameras for live traffic viewing, and replacement of the entire electrical system, among others. The Main Street Bridge closes tonight at 6:30pm and will reopen Thursday morning at 6am. Commuters can use the Acosta Bridge, into and out of Downtown, as their alternate.
  • Tim Tompkins

    Lead Traffic Anchor

    Tim Tompkins has been with WOKV since 2014. He is the lead Traffic Anchor on Jacksonville’s Morning News and weekend expert show host on Saturdays between 12pm-3pm for the Consumer Law Hour, Q&A With JEA and Ask the Doctor. Outside of the WOKV studio, you can find Tim collecting vinyl, watching basketball or playing with his dog Sophie.

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  • Neighbors in St. Johns County are outraged after hearing about plans to possibly build a massive gas station right across the street from where they live. The Texas based chain Buc-ee’s filed a pre-application to open the convenience store near World Golf Village. A massive gas station called Buc-ee's that houses 120 fuel stations could be coming to St. Johns Co @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/ctx1x71VuD — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 'I don't want it, it's getting too congested now,' neighbor Nancy Kohlbeck said.  And hundreds of people living in World Golf Village feel the same way about the Texas convenience store chain. 'Trying to be upscale and this will just kill the whole flavor of the neighborhood,' neighbor Michele Thomas said.  I spoke to neighbors about the site plans & they tell me they don't want it to be built in their area @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/Lqxr2HPw0Y — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 In less than 48 hours, close to 1,000 people signed a Change.org petition to stop it from being built near their neighborhood.  'I know that development is inevitable here, but I think it's our chance to control what kind of development we have,' neighbor Aaron Enos said.  The Texas based chain Buc-ee’s filed a pre application to open the convenience store near WGV https://t.co/wPVhW1YKmx @ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/yvL1El3auV — Danielle Avitable (@DanielleANjax) October 19, 2017 Buc-ee’s filed a pre-application for the 120 gas pump station and at about 53,000 square feet, it’s about the size of a football field.  'It will drive down our property values. There's no way people will want to live near something that huge,' Thomas said.  The property off Interstate 95 near World Golf Village is where the gas station would be built.  'I'm not against business, but put it in the right area,' Kohlbeck said.  Some neighbors call this a sign of the unstoppable growth in St. Johns County.  'It's just progress, it’s going to happen,' neighbor, Van Fuller said.  Others just wish the growth would come at a little smaller pace. 'Maybe we can have something like local businesses,' Enos said.  The petition will go before county commissioners in hopes of halting the construction. Michael Ryan, Communications Manager for the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners, released the following statement on the proposed Buc-ee's station: “We are aware of community interest in the proposed service station project, but at this point in time we are only in possession of a pre-application and have not been provided with specific details related to the project. Once an application is filed, the project will undergo development review and will be subject to land use and zoning requirements. Should the developer request variances, those items will be considered by the Board of County Commissioners, where the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback. Residents are encouraged to email or call County staff or their Commissioner with any comment they may have about this project.”
  • A man accused of murdering a New Orleans police officer in 2015 halted jury selection in his trial Wednesday by smearing feces on his face, head and mouth, horrifying potential jurors and courtroom spectators.  Travis Boys, 35, apparently put the feces, wrapped in tissue, in his pocket during a bathroom break earlier in the day, NOLA.com reported. He was seated at the defense table with his attorneys when he pulled the tissue out and silently rubbed the waste on himself.  >> Read more trending news Boys is charged with first-degree murder in the June 20, 2015, shooting death of Officer Daryle Holloway. The officer was transporting Boys to jail when Boys allegedly shot him inside his police SUV.  Boys escaped custody and was at large for about 24 hours before being recaptured. If convicted, he faces life in prison.  The Advocate reported that criminal defense lawyer David Belfield, who is Holloway’s uncle, witnessed the incident. Belfield said he believed Boys was trying to sway potential jurors.  “It’s calculated, and it shows that he’s not insane, not crazy,” Belfield told the newspaper.  Boys has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the Advocate reported. District Court Judge Karen Herman ruled last month that Boys was competent to stand trial in Holloway’s slaying.  After halting the proceedings Wednesday, however, Herman ordered that another competency hearing be held on Thursday. His attorneys have argued that Boys suffers from low IQ and mental health problems.  Though Herman ruled him competent to stand trial, she is allowing the defense to present evidence of schizophrenia in Boys’ family, the Advocate said.  The judge dismissed the panel of potential jurors who witnessed Boys’ actions on Wednesday.  The Advocate reported that the odor of bleach clung to the air an hour after the incident. 
  • Former President George W. Bush warned Americans to be wary of growing trends toward nativism and isolationism on Thursday during a speech at the Bush Institute’s national forum. >> Read more trending news “Bigotry seems emboldened,” Bush said. “We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.” The speech was widely interpreted as a veiled message aimed at the politics of President Donald Trump, who has often touted an “America first” view of world politics. However, Trump was not named in the speech. Read Bush’s full remarks from the forum, “Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World”: Thank you all. Thank you. Ok, Padilla gracias. So, I painted Ramon. I wish you were still standing here. It’s a face only a mother could love – no, it’s a fabulous face. (Laughter.) I love you Ramon, thank you very much for being here. And, Grace Jo thank you for your testimony. And, big Tim. I got to know Tim as a result of Presidential Leadership Scholars at the Bush Center along with the Clinton Foundation, with help from 41 and LBJ’s libraries. I am thrilled that friends of ours from Afghanistan, China, North Korea, and Venezuela are here as well. These are people who have experienced the absence of freedom and they know what it’s like and they know there is a better alternative to tyranny. Laura and I are thrilled that the Bush Center supporters are here. Bernie (Tom Bernstein), I want to thank you and your committee. I call him Bernie. (Laughter.) It’s amazing to have Secretary Albright share the stage with Condi and Ambassador Haley. For those of you that kind of take things for granted, that’s a big deal. (Laughter and applause) Thank you. We are gathered in the cause of liberty this is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats – yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence. Economic, political and national security challenges proliferate, and they are made worse by the tendency to turn inward. The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue. And the renewal of that spirit is the urgent task at hand. Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of free markets, from the strength of democratic alliances, and from the advance of free societies. At one level, this has been a raw calculation of interest. The 20th century featured some of the worst horrors of history because dictators committed them. Free nations are less likely to threaten and fight each other. And free trade helped make America into a global economic power. For more than 70 years, the presidents of both parties believed that American security and prosperity were directly tied to the success of freedom in the world. And they knew that the success depended, in large part, on U.S. leadership. This mission came naturally, because it expressed the DNA of American idealism. We know, deep down, that repression is not the wave of the future. We know that the desire for freedom is not confined to, or owned by, any culture; it is the inborn hope of our humanity. We know that free governments are the only way to ensure that the strong are just and the weak are valued. And we know that when we lose sight of our ideals, it is not democracy that has failed. It is the failure of those charged with preserving and protecting democracy. This is not to underestimate the historical obstacles to the development of democratic institutions and a democratic culture. Such problems nearly destroyed our country – and that should encourage a spirit of humility and a patience with others. Freedom is not merely a political menu option, or a foreign policy fad; it should be the defining commitment of our country, and the hope of the world. That appeal is proved not just by the content of people’s hopes, but a noteworthy hypocrisy: No democracy pretends to be a tyranny. Most tyrannies pretend they are democracies. Democracy remains the definition of political legitimacy. That has not changed, and that will not change. Yet for years, challenges have been gathering to the principles we hold dear. And, we must take them seriously. Some of these problems are external and obvious. Here in New York City, you know the threat of terrorism all too well. It is being fought even now on distant frontiers and in the hidden world of intelligence and surveillance. There is the frightening, evolving threat of nuclear proliferation and outlaw regimes. And there is an aggressive challenge by Russia and China to the norms and rules of the global order – proposed revisions that always seem to involve less respect for the rights of free nations and less freedom for the individual. These matters would be difficult under any circumstances. They are further complicated by a trend in western countries away from global engagement and democratic confidence. Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis. We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism, and deep questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union. America is not immune from these trends. In recent decades, public confidence in our institutions has declined. Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind in a changing economy. Discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young, who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War, or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning. Some have called this “democratic deconsolidation.” Really, it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness. We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other. We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge. In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity. Americans have a great advantage: To renew our country, we only need to remember our values. This is part of the reason we meet here today. How do we begin to encourage a new, 21st century American consensus on behalf of democratic freedom and free markets? That’s the question I posed to scholars at the Bush Institute. That is what Pete Wehner and Tom Melia, who are with us today, have answered with “The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In The World,” a Call to Action paper. The recommendations come in broad categories. Here they are: First, America must harden its own defenses. Our country must show resolve and resilience in the face of external attacks on our democracy. And that begins with confronting a new era of cyber threats. America is experiencing the sustained attempt by a hostile power to feed and exploit our country’s divisions. According to our intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other. This effort is broad, systematic and stealthy, it’s conducted across a range of social media platforms. Ultimately, this assault won’t succeed. But foreign aggressions – including cyber-attacks, disinformation and financial influence – should not be downplayed or tolerated. This is a clear case where the strength of our democracy begins at home. We must secure our electoral infrastructure and protect our electoral system from subversion. The second category of recommendations concerns the projection of American leadership – maintaining America’s role in sustaining and defending an international order rooted in freedom and free markets.  Our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement: In the cultivation of new markets for American goods. In the confrontation of security challenges before they fully materialize and arrive on our shores. In the fostering of global health and development as alternatives to suffering and resentment. In the attraction of talent, energy and enterprise from all over the world. In serving as a shining hope for refugees and a voice for dissidents, human rights defenders, and the oppressed. We should not be blind to the economic and social dislocations caused by globalization. People are hurting. They are angry. And, they are frustrated. We must hear them and help them. But we can’t wish globalization away, any more than we could wish away the agricultural revolution or the industrial revolution. One strength of free societies is their ability to adapt to economic and social disruptions. And that should be our goal: to prepare American workers for new opportunities, to care in practical, empowering ways for those who may feel left behind. The first step should be to enact policies that encourage robust economic growth by unlocking the potential of the private sector, and for unleashing the creativity and compassion of this country. A third focus of this document is strengthening democratic citizenship. And here we must put particular emphasis on the values and views of the young. Our identity as a nation – unlike many other nations – is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility. We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence. We become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. Constitution. We become the heirs of Martin Luther King, Jr., by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally American. It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. (Applause.) And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation. We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them. Finally, the Call to Action calls on the major institutions of our democracy, public and private, to consciously and urgently attend to the problem of declining trust. For example, our democracy needs a media that is transparent, accurate and fair. Our democracy needs religious institutions that demonstrate integrity and champion civil discourse. Our democracy needs institutions of higher learning that are examples of truth and free expression. In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation. Ten years ago, I attended a Conference on Democracy and Security in Prague. The goal was to put human rights and human freedom at the center of our relationships with repressive governments. The Prague Charter, signed by champions of liberty Vaclav Havel, Natan Sharansky, Jose Maria Aznar, called for the isolation and ostracism of regimes that suppress peaceful opponents by threats or violence. Little did we know that, a decade later, a crisis of confidence would be developing within the core democracies, making the message of freedom more inhibited and wavering. Little did we know that repressive governments would be undertaking a major effort to encourage division in western societies and to undermine the legitimacy of elections. Repressive rivals, along with skeptics here at home, misunderstand something important. It is the great advantage of free societies that we creatively adapt to challenges, without the direction of some central authority. Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom. We are a nation with a history of resilience and a genius for renewal. Right now, one of our worst national problems is a deficit of confidence. But the cause of freedom justifies all our faith and effort. It still inspires men and women in the darkest corners of the world, and it will inspire a rising generation. The American spirit does not say, “We shall manage,” or “We shall make the best of it.” It says, “We shall overcome.” And that is exactly what we will do, with the help of God and one another. Thank you.
  • There’s an active investigation underway in Fleming Island, where we’re told a person was stabbed. The condition of that victim isn’t clear at this time. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office says they’re speaking with several people, but there have not been any arrests at this time. This appears to be an incident between acquaintances, so there is no ongoing threat to the community. CCSO doesn’t yet know the motive. Initially, CCSO reported this incident as two people who were stabbed. They’ve since revised that to show one of the victims had been cut in a prior, unrelated incident that didn’t take place in Clay County.
  • An Alabama man gunned down outside a gas station in broad daylight Tuesday afternoon had previously been shot 10 times in a six-month period.  Antoine “Twin” Collier, 29, of Birmingham, was killed when two unidentified gunmen fired more than 40 bullets in the parking lot of an Exxon service station in the city, AL.com reported. He died on the sidewalk in front of the store.  A Birmingham police spokesman said the shooting took place just before 1:30 p.m., as Collier and his girlfriend were entering the convenience store. AL.com reported that Collier’s girlfriend was not injured, but a female bystander who had just gotten food at a pizza place adjoining the Exxon was struck multiple times. The unidentified woman was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition.  >> Read more trending news Police officials were familiar with Collier, who investigators believe was the target in the shooting that ultimately took his life. “These guys were looking for him,” Lt. Sean Edwards, a police spokesman, told AL.com. “It’s obvious they were looking for him. They definitely targeted him.” In at least two of the previous shootings in which Collier was injured, he was accused of stealing illegal drugs from another person, police officials said. Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper said the circumstances that may have led to his killing do not matter. “It’s a tragedy for his family, but regardless of the circumstances that led to his murder, we need to bring the killers to justice,” Roper told AL.com.  In April, Collier’s mother, Kimberly Flowers, spoke out about her son’s past.  “I’m the mother who hates to answer the phone,” Flowers said at the time. “You worry about your child.” Her son, whose name was not made public at that time because he was a target for harm, had been released from prison a year before, but kept finding himself in trouble. The most recent shooting prior to Tuesday’s fatal one had been the most serious, with Collier suffering a gunshot wound to the face.  At the time of Flowers’ April media interview, Collier was still recovering from that shooting in a protective rehabilitation facility, AL.com reported. In a text message, Collier expressed hope that participation in the city’s Violence Reduction Initiative could help him turn his life around. “I’ve cried till I can’t cry anymore, ‘cause I’m blessed,” Collier wrote, according to AL.com. “I think when my health gets better, I wanna speak to young black males about violence.”  Collier was released from the rehab facility this summer. 

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