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Three Big Things
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JEA planning “bold” vision for the future

JEA planning “bold” vision for the future

After Jacksonville’s Mayor says he will not put forward any plan to privatize JEA, the utility is looking at moving forward with what they’re calling “bold” plans. “We need to be bold, we need to be innovative, and we need to become the utility of the future for Jacksonville,” says JEA’s Interim CEO Aaron Zahn.  WOKV first told you earlier Thursday that Mayor Lenny Curry took a position “unequivocally” against moving forward with privatization plan. He believes his office would have to initiate such a plan, and said he would not be doing that. While Curry says he has previously supported studying the idea, he believes he has the information needed to inform a decision, and the process has become too political.  This all comes just a short time after Zahn took over as interim CEO, and he immediately said that he would seek to halt the privatization talks. He says there have been a lot of questions that surfaced through the last few months on this topic.  “It’s demonstrated that JEA really needs to evaluate our path forward, and we need to step up,” he says.  Zahn went before the City’s Council Special Committee on the future of JEA Thursday to outline the vision. That committee was previously the Special Committee on the potential sale of JEA, but changed its name and charge following the Mayor’s declaration.  First, Zahn says JEA is refocusing on its core business. He’s then listening to stakeholders, while developing a “partnership framework” for JEA, the Board, leadership, employees, and more. From there, Zahn says they can update JEA’s strategic plan and move forward.  'We're gunna start coming up with bold ideas, and were gunna have bold safety, bold service, bold commitment to growth, and start bringing you these ideas in a way where we can generate economic development, new jobs, continue to drive a fiscally responsible asset, and ultimately have the integrity to demonstrate the corporate governance that we've spoken so much about. And to present- with clarity- the strategy and expectations that I think you, as shareholders, expect from us,” he says.  He says they have the resources, talent, and ideas, so now it’s about putting everything together.  While Zahn looks at the broader vision, JEA has created a new position that focuses on the short-term goals as well. Zahn floated the idea of creating something like a Chief Operating Officer, when he was being considered for the interim CEO position. The other candidate for the interim job- JEA’s Chief Financial Officer Melissa Dykes- has now stepped in as President/COO, and another person is serving as interim CFO.  Dykes says she has two short-term goals- preserving and improving JEA’s safety record, and ensuring the organization is prepared for storm season. She says they have already kicked off their storm preparedness exercise, and they will brief the JEA Board over their next two meetings to ensure everyone is aware of the lessons learned from the prior two storm seasons.  Council members urged JEA to consider septic tank replacement as a high priority in their strategic vision, with some also wanting serious consideration for undergrounding electric lines.  Zahn says JEA is in the process of searching for a permanent CEO. Zahn has previously said he would be interested in that position, if his skills and vision matched what the utility is looking for.  The Council’s Special Committee, meanwhile, shows no sign of stopping their probe, with members previously saying the process has started and they now want to get all of their questions answered.

Roller coaster Thursday for President Trump on Russia, Cohen, Cabinet

Roller coaster Thursday for President Trump on Russia, Cohen, Cabinet

In a turbulent Thursday, President Donald Trump raised new questions about how he might deal with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, admitted that Michael Cohen was his lawyer in legal dealings with porn star Stormy Daniels, watched as his Cabinet saw a day of success, verbal scrapes, and setbacks, and then saw a Senate panel approve a bill designed to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A day after his personal lawyer notified a federal court that he would exercise his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in a lawsuit brought by Daniels, the President did an interview by telephone on his favorite morning television program, “Fox and Friends” – but that only created more news. Instead of just being a Fox News bullhorn for his views on a number of different subjects – Mr. Trump in the interview instead stirred new interest in how he will treat the Russia probe, and the legal questions surrounding a $130,000 pre-election payment in 2016 to an adult film star. Even for reporters – it was a busy day. Let’s run down some of the headlines. 1. Trump raises personal intervention in Russia probe. In an interview on his favorite morning television program, “Fox and Friends,” the President vented more of his frustration about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and seemed to raise the possibility that he might take some action in the future. “You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it’s a disgrace,” the President said. “And our Justice Department – which I try and stay away from – but at some point, I won’t,” Mr. Trump said, making a statement which was interpreted by some as a threat to intervene in the case. In a heated rant on 'Fox & Friends,' Trump complained about the Justice Department's Russia investigation, calling it a 'disgrace' and suggested that he may do something about it at some point https://t.co/5003tNuOcj pic.twitter.com/xb79p9hMF1 — BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) April 26, 2018 2. From Fox News to court documents in two hours. Not only were fans of the President watching as he joined “Fox and Friends” by telephone from the White House, but federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York were listening, too. And two hours later, comments by the President were already in a footnote of a new submission to a federal judge who is dealing with evidence seized in an FBI raid on the President’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen. While Cohen had said that many of the documents and computer records seized by the feds were involved in legal work that he did for the President, radio host Sean Hannity, and one other person, Mr. Trump had a different view, saying Cohen does a “tiny, tiny little fraction” of his legal work. 3. Trump interview opens new questions on Cohen, Stormy Daniels. As the story has slowly played out over a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels – what she said was hush money from President Trump before the 2016 elections – Mr. Trump has said little about it, telling reporters aboard Air Force One in recent weeks that he knew nothing about the payment made to Daniels by Michael Cohen. But on “Fox and Friends,” the answer was different, as Mr. Trump clearly acknowledged that he was a party to the legal settlement. “He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” the President said. “From what I see, he did nothing wrong.” That prompted a Fox News host to ask, “Then why is he taking the Fifth?” Trump on Michael Cohen: “He represents me with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me.” Trump has previously said he was unaware of Cohen’s efforts in Oct. 2016 to pay Stormy Daniels to remain silent about their alleged sexual encounter. — Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) April 26, 2018 4. White House doctor, Trump’s VA nominee, withdraws. Even before getting on the phone with “Fox and Friends,” there was already big news for the White House, as the day began with what many on Capitol Hill had been expecting, with White House physician Ronny Jackson announcing that he would drop his bid to be Veterans Secretary, amid growing reports of embarrassing personal stories. “He’s a great man, and he got treated very, very unfairly,” President Donald Trump told reporters, as he met with children of White House reporters just outside the Oval Office. For the President, the episode seemed to be an unforced political error, as he’s made veterans issues one of his main causes since entering office. President Trump on Dr. Ronny Jackson: 'He's a great man and he got treated very, very unfairly. He got treated really unfairly and he's a hell of a man.' #TakeYourChildToWorkDay pic.twitter.com/A93nWUpoDV — CSPAN (@cspan) April 26, 2018 5. Senators demand better vetting on next VA nominee. As the VA search resumed, members of both parties made clear they want the White House to look for someone with more experience, worried that the President’s first pick was done on a whim. “The best possible person that we can get,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, when asked who the President should select. “I want to find the best person available that we can get,” Isakson told reporters. “The President put a guy out there who was not qualified,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “This was so bungled.” “I feel like they put the President in a bit of a difficult situation,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).  “Maybe the vetting could have been done better.”  For now, the VA will keep its acting director, as the President must find a new nominee.  He fired the last VA Secretary, David Shulkin, in late March. MORE: Sen. Tester: 'My sleeves are rolled up and ready to work with Chairman Isakson to vet and confirm a Secretary who is fit to run the VA.” Tester also urges Congress 'to continue its investigation into the White House Medical Unit.' https://t.co/PY9QkvdZkG pic.twitter.com/iTg8SnXLtP — Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) April 26, 2018 6. Pompeo wins Senate approval as Secretary of State. As the White House tried to pick up the pieces surrounding the President’s failed VA pick, officials were able to celebrate a 57-42 vote in the Senate to confirm CIA chief Mike Pompeo as the next Secretary of State, giving the President a top diplomat who clearly seems more in line with Mr. Trump’s world view. Six Democrats – Donnelly (Indiana), Heitkamp (North Dakota), Jones (Alabama), Manchin (West Virginia), McCaskill (Missouri), and Nelson (Florida), joined with all Republicans, and one independent (King of Maine) in voting for Pompeo as the 70th Secretary of State. “He has the qualifications and experience necessary to successfully fulfill his role,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).   In the midst of all of the other controversy involving the President and the White House on this Thursday, the Pompeo vote was a big win, as was later Senate approval of the President’s choice for Ambassador to Germany,  Richard Grenell. Pompeo starts with a bang: moments after he's sworn in, State Department announces he's going to Belgium (for NATO summit), Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan. Belgium was known, Middle East stops are new. — Nicholas Wadhams (@nwadhams) April 26, 2018 7. Pruitt dukes it out with lawmakers in contentious hearing. After weeks of stories about ethics issues involving his stewardship at the EPA, Administrator Scott Pruitt spent much of Thursday in the proverbial ‘hot seat’ in Congress, defending his work at the EPA, and warding off the verbal barbs of Democrats. “You are unfit to hold public office,” one said. “You seem unable to take responsibility for your actions,” added another. “In any other administration, Republican or Democrat, you would be long gone by now,” said one more Democrat.  While Pruitt sternly defended his decisions, he seemed to change his story on the exact reasons that he needed a $43,000 secure phone booth for his office, and altered his explanation of raises which were engineered for some of his top aides, as he left Democrats looking for deeper explanations on a variety of fronts. While Pruitt seemed to survive the theater of Thursday’s hearings, it wasn’t clear if he had inadvertently opened other lines of questions about some of his actions. “I was not aware of the amount,” EPA chief Scott Pruitt says when asked whether he knew about the pay raises for agency aides https://t.co/T3o3gVZHwM https://t.co/ABUclh2o2X — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 26, 2018 8. The first real push back on Russia from Congress. There has been talk for months from Republicans about how they could dissuade President Trump from threats to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller – but on Thursday – there was finally legislative action, as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan bill which would allow the Judicial Branch to review the firing of someone like Mueller. The plan was supported by four Republicans, all the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “While I do not believe President Trump intends to remove Special Counsel Mueller, I believe this legislation has enduring value for future special counsel investigations,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not schedule this bill for a vote – but it still represented the first real warning shot by the GOP Congress to the President on the Russia probe – and Mueller.   Look for Democrats to start making a lot of public calls for a vote on this bill, as they try to convince the President to leave Mueller alone. Four Republicans who voted for the special counsel bill: Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona. — Manu Raju (@mkraju) April 26, 2018 9. Diamond and Silk make their case to Congress. Almost any other day, the appearance on Capitol Hill of Diamond and Silk, a pair of black women who have become darlings of conservative politicians, would have made for big news – but instead it was merely a footnote in a day of fast-paced political events. At a House hearing that looked at political bias on the internet, the two social media personalities made the case that Facebook and YouTube had – on purpose – reduced their ability to make money by ‘monetizing’ videos on those social media platforms, simply because of their political views and support for President Trump. Any other day, this would have been playing live on the cable channels, and would have dominated social media. But on this Thursday, there was too much to digest. So, to paraphrase John Stewart’s line from the Daily Show, here’s your five minutes of Zen. Watching this video is also a good test, as one might expect that people on both sides will find reasons to like what they see and hear, no matter your personal political bias. 10. My kids don’t know how big their Thursday was. All of my kids have come to work with me over the years at the Capitol; this time I brought my two younger boys. They were tuckered out by mid-afternoon as I dragged them up and down the stairs, chasing lawmakers, doing interviews, checking the traps, and seeing old friends all around Capitol Hill. In the midst of all of the news, all the partisan bickering, all of the political drama, it’s important to remind people that those who work on Capitol Hill are good souls. My parents started work in the halls of Congress in the late 1950’s, and I’m still here almost 60 years later. We had just walked into the Capitol on Thursday when we ran into Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). It was just steps from where I remember – as a 12 year old – meeting Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC). Maybe they’ll stick around Capitol Hill, maybe not. But it’s great to have them here. I just wish there had been a little less news. Take Your Kids to Work day starts fast for the Dupree boys with Sen Roy Blunt R-MO pic.twitter.com/MXak70XSpT — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) April 26, 2018  

Video shows 2014 police shooting that killed ‘Cops’ crew member

Video shows 2014 police shooting that killed ‘Cops’ crew member

The judge in a wrongful death lawsuit against Omaha police officers who fatally shot two men in 2014 -- including a member of a “Cops” camera crew shadowing them -- has released footage that shows what happened inside a Wendy’s restaurant being robbed that night.  Officers fired more than 30 rounds in the fast food restaurant that they responded to on Aug. 26, 2014, on a robbery call. When the gunfire ended less than 20 seconds later, Bryce Dion, 38, sat slumped over and dying against the window in the Wendy’s vestibule, surrounded by his equipment.  Also killed in the gunfire was 32-year-old Cortez Washington, who police officials said was robbing the restaurant while armed with a pellet gun. The officers fired at Washington as he fired his gun, which they believed to be real.  NBC News reported that Washington’s Airsoft pistol fired plastic pellets.  >> Read more trending news The video footage was obtained Tuesday by the Omaha World-Herald following a hearing in the wrongful death suit, which was filed by Dion’s brother, Travis Dion.  “It’s probably the best piece of evidence to show the conduct of everyone involved,” said attorney Christian Williams, who is representing Travis Dion. “It’s very chilling, and it shows a very unnecessary situation that led to the death of a filmmaker.” Bryce Dion was a sound mixer for “Cops,” which was filming officers working in Omaha. The World-Herald reported that he and cameraman Michael Lee were riding along with two officers, Brooks Riley and Jason Wilhelm, when the officers responded to the robbery call at Wendy’s. The footage released Tuesday, which was filmed by Lee, begins with the crew in the back of the officers’ patrol car. They follow Riley and Wilhelm into the parking lot and both enter the Wendy’s behind Riley and a detective, Darren Cunningham, who had requested backup for the robbery in progress, NBC News reported. Wilhelm is seen running around to the other side of the restaurant, where he entered from a separate door.  The recording shows Washington behind the counter as Riley and Cunningham approach the doorway leading to the work area. One of the officers appears to yell, “Gun!” before the shooting begins.   See the entire recording obtained by the World-Herald, and shared by KMTV 3 in Omaha, below. Warning: The video contains images that may be too graphic for some viewers.  Riley and Cunningham can be seen moving out of the doorway and falling back against the wall as they fire their weapons. Washington, who has been struck by the gunfire, runs out from behind the counter and past the officers. The officers continue firing as Washington flees the restaurant through the door where police officials said Dion became trapped in the vestibule by the gunfire.  Lee’s camera footage shows that he ducked behind a table in the lobby during the shooting. When the gunfire ends, he runs to where Dion had slumped down, his right arm moving weakly.  “Bryce, are you all right? Bryce, are you all right?” a panicked-sounding Lee asks.  Lee steps outside through a bullet-damaged door to the parking lot, where additional officers who responded to the robbery call are heard screaming for Washington to show them his hands.  Lee returns to the vestibule.  “Bryce! Stay with me, man. Stay with me,” he cries.  Dion, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was struck by one round from an officer’s gun. The bullet pierced his body under his left armpit, where there was a gap in the vest.  He died a short time later at University of Nebraska Medical Center, NBC News reported.  Washington, a parolee who had an extensive criminal history that included a previous robbery in Missouri, also died at the hospital of multiple gunshot wounds, the World-Herald reported. Toxicology reports later showed that Washington had a high level of PCP in his system when he died.  Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, who the World-Herald said had invited “Cops” to Omaha to help build public trust in the department, cleared the officers of any wrongdoing after a review of the shooting.  “Three individuals inside of Wendy’s witnessed Mr. Washington holding a handgun, and discharge the handgun directly at Detective Cunningham and Officer Riley,” Schmaderer said in 2014, according to NBC News. “The witnesses described hearing the suspect’s handgun being fired and seeing the slide recoil with the shots.” A grand jury also found that the officers’ actions were justified.  Trevor Dion’s lawsuit argues that the department was negligent in allowing the TV crew to ride along with officers, stating that they were “not ready, willing or able to provide adequate instruction, oversight, supervision or protection,” the newspaper reported in 2016, when the lawsuit was filed.  The suit also argues that the amount of deadly force used by the officers was excessive and that they misdirected their gunfire toward Dion, who was an unarmed bystander and therefore not a threat.  The video was played in open court Tuesday as evidence in a motion filed by the city of Omaha, which sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, the World-Herald reported. The city has sought to bar the release of the footage.  Dion had been with “Cops” for seven years at the time of his death, according to the Paramount Network. He had recently been promoted to sound supervisor.  “Bryce had a passion for life and his work, and was always the first one to help anyone in need. He will best be remembered for a smile that never faded,” Morgan and John Langley, the father and son executive producers of “Cops,” said in 2014. “All of us who knew him or worked with him on ‘Cops,’ as well as the many friends he made working on documentaries and other shows, mourn his passing.”  Dion was the first crew member killed in “Cops” long history.  The show honored his memory in September 2014 with an hour-long episode featuring some of his work. 

Roller coaster Thursday for President Trump on Russia, Cohen, Cabinet

In a turbulent Thursday, President Donald Trump raised new questions about how he might deal with the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, admitted that Michael Cohen was his lawyer in legal dealings with porn star Stormy Daniels, watched as his Cabinet saw a day of success, verbal scrapes, and setbacks, and then saw a Senate panel approve a bill designed to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

A day after his personal lawyer notified a federal court that he would exercise his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in a lawsuit brought by Daniels, the President did an interview by [More]