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Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”
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Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”

Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry presents his proposed 2018/2019 City budget to the Jacksonville City Council.

Mayor pitching $1.2 billion budget: “Jacksonville is a city on the rise”

It’s another public safety-first budget proposal from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, but there’s no shortage of spending on projects across the City pitched in the $1.2 billion plan. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is looking at a roughly $30 million boost, and Curry says that includes funding for a “real time crime center”. While there are not many details available about the center at this point, he says it would continue to build on some investments the City has already made, like ShotSpotter, which detects gunfire and alerts police. 



“Tools that prevent crime, and solve crimes that occur faster,” he says. 

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue is up $17 million under the budget proposal, including more fire stations and rescue units. 

“When we have call volumes in areas not served by rescues, they pull resources from other parts of the City, and it’s like a domino effect. As calls start firing off in this part that’s not serviced by rescues, it pulls from other areas. This fixes that problem,” says JFRD Chief Kurt Wilson. 

Wilson tells WOKV this budget would make some resources more flexible by also bringing back Arson Investigators. Currently, he says fire crews have to wait on scene while the State responds to investigate an arson. While the State would still have to be called in certain circumstances, Wilson says JFRD Arson Investigators could handle the initial assessment and determination of cause, while also providing the on-scene presence that then allows fire crews to leave and potentially respond if there is another incident somewhere. Wilson says this budget proposes hiring and outfitting three people for this, and they would join in two others JFRD currently has who provide support to the State investigation. 

Curry says investing in public safety also means investing in youth. 

“We must continue our work with young people, we must help them see there are possibilities that are larger than what they currently see or believe. We must break the cycle of violence and hopelessness,” he says. 

In addition to giving the Kid’s Hope Alliance a more than $41 million budget, Curry’s proposal would fund the City’s share of a partnership to bring more therapists to Duval County schools. 

He is planning for the City to put up $1.7 million toward adding 60 therapists, in a partnership with DCPS and the United Way of Northeast Florida. DCPS says this allotment would let them expand mental health resources to reach all students, with only about half currently served. This falls under the “Full Service Schools” initiative, according to DCPS, which also brings in other mental health and social service providers. DCPS says they have budgeted $2.6 million toward this, as a passthrough of state funds for mental health. 

“These additional therapists will dramatically increase the capacity for one-on-one and campus-wide opportunities for personal growth and positive mental health conversations,” Curry says. 


Curry’s budget proposal would also expand library hours, increase staff, allocate $850,000 for new materials, and designate $2.5 million to buy the land to get a new Oceanway library underway. Parks and Recreation would get more maintenance personnel and a budget to upgrade docks, boat launches, and many other public facilities, including Friendship Fountain. 

On the Capital projects side, Curry has laid out $161.4 million in spending. 

He’s earmarking millions for road resurfacing, sidewalk repairs and new sidewalks, improved pedestrian crossings, and drainage rehabilitation. Curry is also pitching a five year-$25 million match for the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, meaning $50 million over five years between the two entities for technology and other improvements. Another City facility getting an infusion would be UF Health- $120 million over six years. 

This budget launches new support for the Clara White Mission, allocating $1.5 million for that group’s Harvest Farms Project, which would include a farmer’s market, greenhouse, and educational facility. It also designates $10.8 million in funding for restoring African American cemeteries, which Curry says have been neglected to the point where they are in “shameful” condition. $60.3 million would be set aside for McCoy’s Creek and Emerald Necklace development. 

Downtown Jacksonville development is never forgotten in funding conversations, and Curry’s budget proposal aims for replenishing the Downtown Economic Development Fund with $2.5 million and adding some staff to the Downtown Investment Authority. He is also asking the City to commit to matching the State’s $12.5 million to take down the Hart Bridge ramps- a move he says would “unleash billions of dollars in economic development”. The aggregate $25 million would not fully fund the project, but Curry says they would start regardless, and he believes he would get the additional funding when it’s needed. 

“A vibrant urban core serves as a hub, pushing economic development outward to every neighborhood,” he says. 

Removing the ramps has become a priority in recent years, with Jaguars owner Shad Khans- who is currently in negotiations with the City on the redevelopment of the Jacksonville Shipyards- saying that the ramps are an obstacle to developing that area. Khan recently pitched a massive redevelopment plan of the greater Sports Complex area, and that also envisioned the ramps being down. 

Curry says when you consider the potential of those types of developments, along with the projects already underway like Berkman Plaza II, The District, and the Laura Street Trio, now is the time to act. 

“We see a growing, vibrant Downtown for Jacksonville is possible, and it is now within our reach,” he says. 

Despite all of this spending, Curry says there’s no need to raise your property tax rate. 

He proposed holding the rate flat, which is something the City Council gave early support to as well. You should still expect to see a step up in your property tax bill, though, because of the overall rise in property values and new construction. The Duval County Property Appraiser tells WOKV that they expect the government to get a $46.4 million increase in revenue for the fiscal year, because of the rising value. For the average homeowner, that equates to just under $150 more on your bill, according to Property Appraiser Jerry Holland. 

Curry says another important component is pension reform. 

“Without pension reform, and without the effort to provide a long-term solution, we would not have the ability to make any of these vital investments in our City. Public safety personnel, infrastructure improvements, programs for our kids- millions and millions of dollars would have been diverted away from making our city better,” Curry says. 

His office projects a $191 million savings in this proposed budget between what they’re paying since the reform plan passed and what they would have had to pay toward pension if change had not been achieved. 

Curry’s budget rollout is far from the last step in the process. The City Council Finance Committee and the Council Auditor will now comb through the proposal to check the numbers and decide if the priorities laid out by the Mayor are what the City should be funding. Curry says he’s had a good partnership with the Council in the past, and he’s expecting that to continue. 

“Jacksonville is a city on the rise, and if we keep doing the work, then the best is yet to come, always,” he says. 


The City Council must pass the final budget ahead of the start of the next fiscal year, October 1st. 

WOKV is working through the budget and gathering reactions from City Council members and other stakeholders. Stay with us as we gather more in the coming weeks.

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  • Here is a look at the stores planning to be open and those planning to close on Easter Sunday. >> Read more trending news Be sure to check with local retailers for Easter hours because some national chains set their own hours. Stores open and closed on Easter Academy Sports: Open Easter Sunday. Banana Republic: Closed Easter Sunday. Bass Pro Shop: Open Easter Sunday. Bed Bath & Beyond: Open Easter Sunday. >> Click here to see which grocery stores will be open on Sunday.  Belk: Closed Easter Sunday. Best Buy: Closed Easter Sunday. Cabela’s: Open Easter Sunday.  Costco: Closed Easter Sunday. >> Easter 2019: How to make perfect hard-boiled eggs for Easter egg dyeing Crate & Barrel: Closed Easter Sunday. CVS: Open Easter Sunday. Dillard’s: Closed Easter Sunday. Dollar General: Open Easter Sunday. Family Dollar: Open Easter Sunday. Fred Meyer: Open Easter Sunday. Gap: Closed Easter Sunday. Home Depot: Open Easter Sunday. >> How did crucifixion kill Jesus? J.C. Penney: Closed Easter Sunday. Kirkland's: Closed Easter Sunday. Kmart: Open Easter Sunday. Kohl's: Closed Easter Sunday. Lowes: Open Easter Sunday. Macy’s: Closed on Easter Sunday. Michael's: Closed Easter Sunday. Neiman Marcus: Closed Easter Sunday. Office Depot: Closed Easter Sunday. Office Max: Closed Easter Sunday. Old Navy: Open on Easter Sunday. Pier 1 Imports: Closed Easter Sunday. Pottery Barn: Closed Easter Sunday. Rite Aid: Open Easter Sunday. Ross: Closed Easter Sunday. Sam's Club: Closed Easter Sunday. Sears: Open Easter Sunday. >> Easter quotes 2019: Inspiring sayings of hope and renewal T.J. Maxx: Closed Easter Sunday. Target: Closed Easter Sunday. Walgreens: Open Easter Sunday. Walmart: Open Easter Sunday. Williams-Sonoma: Closed Easter Sunday.
  • Following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report on the Russia probe, your local lawmakers are weighing.  WOKV spoke with Northeast Florida Republican Congressman John Rutherford hours after the report's release on Thursday.  He tells us the important elements to him, were the findings that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and no corrupt intent determined in the obstruction of justice allegations.  But Rutherford says he was surprised that the Special Counsel didn't make a final prosecutorial decision on the obstruction of justice issue.  'He [Mueller] relies on the Office of Legal Counsel that says you can't indict a sitting President, and in this regard, he went along with that. But to say that's his basis for not coming to a conclusion on obstruction, when he came to a conclusion on the Russian collusion, it doesn't make sense to me,' explains Rutherford.  He says it's almost like Mueller didn't want to make a decision.  'The lack of a conclusion that there was a crime IS an exoneration... if you say you find no corrupt intent, we find no crime, how do you then say, but we can't exonerate him [Trump]. In that part, I struggle with the finding,' Rutherford adds.  In terms of the reaction on Capitol Hill, Rutherford says it's likely that those who support the President will highlight no collusion and no obstruction, but those who dislike him will latch on to the elements that the Special Counsel refused to come to a conclusion on.  When it comes to recent calls to 'investigate the investigators' in the Russia probe, Rutherford says he feels it's absolutely necessary as he wants to know the 'predicate act' that started this investigation in the first place.  'We don't just investigate people, we investigate crimes. And there has to be a predicate act, that indicates there is a reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred. And if that predicate act turns out to be the Steele Dossier and it's completely false, then this whole thing falls like a house of cards,' says Rutherford.  WOKV also spoke with Northeast Florida Democrat Congressman Al Lawson about his thoughts on the report.  He says his biggest takeaway is that the American people will find out what really happened during the course of this investigation with the President.  'Because, as you know, about 25 people that worked with him [Trump] during the course of the campaign got indicted,' explains Lawson.  He says the other thing that stands out to him is that he feels Attorney General William Barr is more trying to protect the President, than do his job for the American people. Lawson says he also doesn't feel the AG's summary to Congress was accurate.  Lawson says when people and lawmakers read this report, he hopes they move away from putting a party label on it.  'I wish what they would put on it, is what is best for American people and, especially, when you have some possible collusion with Russia. It's unacceptable to have that regardless of who is in office and see the way the President has been operating- not like any other President in American history,' says Lawson.  When it comes to efforts to 'investigate the investigators', he says all of us need to be accountable and that investigators need to be unbiased and not swayed one way or another.  'This has taken up an awful lot of time, and we, as taxpayers, have spent an awful amount of money to be where we are today. It shouldn't be a situation where everything is being questioned, simply due to the fact that over the last almost two years, the investment we have made in order to get down to see whether a foreign government had significant input in our electoral process,' says Lawson.  He says his hope that once all the dust settles on this report, that the public has a clear vision of what occurred. READ: REDACTED SPECIAL COUNSEL REPORT ON THE RUSSIA PROBE
  • U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Thursday released a redacted copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s highly anticipated report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. >> Read more trending news The report was released around 11 a.m., weeks after Mueller completed his investigation. President Donald Trump hailed the report as a victory over his critics. >> Mueller Report: Read the report Barr just released Update 6:45 p.m. EDT April 18: The Justice Department said it will provide Congress with a second version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that has fewer redactions in the coming two weeks. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in a letter to lawmakers Thursday that the Justice Department will make the report available to House and Senate leaders, as well as the top Republicans and Democrats on the judiciary and intelligence committees. Each lawmaker can also have a staff member present. Boyd said the report will be provided in a secure reading room at the Justice Department next week and in a secure room in the Capitol the week of April 29. The unredacted material will include classified information and material involving private citizens who were not charged. It won’t include secret grand jury information. Update 3:45 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report shows the Russian-based Internet Research Agency worked not only in Trump’s favor but also in favor of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who ran for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination before losing to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The company’s attempt to boost Sanders’ candidacy first surfaced last year, after authorities charged more than a dozen people and three companies with interfering in the election, The Washington Post reported. According to the newspaper, IRA operators were instructed not to harm Sanders’ reputation. “Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),” Mueller quoted IRA operators as saying. Update 2:55 p.m. EDT April 18: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler said Thursday that he will issue a subpoena to get the full Mueller report and the underlying materials from Barr after the attorney general released a redacted version of the report. “Contrary to public reports, I have not heard from the Department (of Justice) about receiving a less-redacted version of the report,” he said Thursday in a statement. “Because Congress requires this material in order to perform our constitutionally-mandated responsibilities, I will issue a subpoena for the full report and the underlying materials.” Barr is scheduled to testify before the committee May 2. Update 2:25 p.m. EDT April 18: Kellyanne Conway, who serves as counselor to the president, told reporters Thursday that Mueller’s report was inaccurate in its description of Trump’s reaction to the special counsel’s appointment. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupre: Mueller: Trump obstruction failed because aides refused orders to undermine Russia probe According to Mueller, the president 'slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (expletive).’' However, Conway said she was in the room when Trump learned about the appointment and that she “was very surprised to see” Mueller’s report on it, CNN reported. “That was not the reaction of the president that day,” she said. Update 2 p.m. EDT April 18: Vice President Mike Pence said in a statement Thursday that the special counsel’s report showed “no collusion, no obstruction.” “While many Democrats will cling to discredited allegations, the American people can be confident President Trump and I will continue to focus where we always have, on advancing an agenda that’s making our nation stronger, safer and more secure.” Despite the vice president’s claims, Mueller declined to answer the question of whether Trump obstructed justice in his actions related to the Russia probe. “Now that the Special Counsel investigation is completed, the American people have a right to know whether the initial investigation was in keeping with long-standing Justice Department standards -- or even lawful at all,” Pence said. “We must never allow our justice system to be exploited in pursuit of a political agenda.” Update 1:45 p.m. EDT April 18: In a joint statement released Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Barr and Mueller reached conflicting conclusions on the question of whether the president obstructed justice. “The differences are stark between  what Attorney General Barr said on obstruction and what Special Counsel Mueller said on obstruction,” the statement said. “As we continue to review the report, one thing is clear: Attorney General Barr presented a conclusion that the president did not obstruct justice while Mueller’s report appears to undercut that finding.” In his report, Mueller declined to answer questions surrounding whether Trump obstructed justice in his efforts to tamp down on the Russia probe, which authorities said he saw as a direct challenge to his presidency. Update 1:40 p.m. EDT April 18: In the report released Thursday, Mueller said his team’s investigation was sometimes hampered by the use of applications that “feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records” and the deletion of communications relevant to the probe. “In such cases, the Office (of the Special Counsel) was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts,” the report said. “Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given  these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast a new light)the events described in the report.” Update 1:20 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted in an interview that her comments to the news media after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey were “not founded on anything.” In response to a reporter’s question about FBI support for Comey after his May 2017 dismissal, Huckabee Sanders said at news briefing that, “We’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.” 'The evidence does not support those claims,' according to the Mueller report. Update 1:15 p.m. EDT April 18: The House Intelligence Committee invited Mueller to testify next month after Barr released a redacted version of his 448-page report Thursday. “To discharge its distinct constitutional and statutory responsibility, the Committee must be kept ‘fully and currently informed’ of the intelligence and counterintelligence findings, evidence, and implications of your investigation,” committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff said in a letter to Mueller dated Thursday. “This requires that the Committee receive comprehensive testimony from you about the investigation’s full scope and areas of inquiry, its findings and underlying evidence, all of the intelligence and counterintelligence information gathered in the course of the investigation.” The House Judiciary Committee has also asked Mueller to testify. In a letter sent Thursday, committee Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller to appear before the panel by May 23. Update 12:45 p.m. EDT April 18: Brad Parscale, manager of the 2020 Trump presidential campaign, hailed the release of Mueller’s report Thursday and repeated the president’s calls for an investigation into the investigators. “President Trump has been fully and completely exonerated yet again,” Parscale said in a statement. “Now the tables have turned, and it’s time to investigate the liars who instigated this sham investigation into President Trump, motivated by political retribution and based on no evidence whatsoever.” In the report released Thursday, Mueller said the FBI launched an investigation into whether Trump campaign officials were coordinating with the Russian government in July 2016. The investigation came after authorities said then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that “the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.” Update 12:35 p.m. EDT April 18: Mueller said Trump attempted to influence the investigation into Russian election meddling. Mueller said his efforts “were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede his request.” Mueller’s report details instances by several officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, former White House counsel Don McGahn and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, ignoring or refusing Trump’s requests to interfere in the investigation. Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 18: When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Trump in May 2017 that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate Russian election meddling, the president 'slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm (expletive).'  Trump blamed Sessions for the appointment, according to Mueller. 'Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,' Trump said, according to the report released Thursday. 'It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.' Speaking Thursday at an event at the White House, Trump said, “this should never happen to another president again.” Update 11:45 a.m. EDT April 18: In the report released Thursday, Mueller said his team considered Trump’s written responses to questions in the Russia probe to be inadequate, but they decided against subpoenaing the president because of the delay such a move would cause to the investigation. Other revelations from the report include: Mueller said Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn in June 2017 to call the acting attorney general and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest. Trump previously denounced reports of the call as “fake news.”  Members of Trump’s staff might have saved him from more dire legal consequences by refusing to carry out orders they thought were legally risky, according to The Washington Post.  Mueller made clear in the report that “Russia wanted to help the Trump campaign, and the Trump campaign was willing to take” the help, the Post reported. However, investigators were unable to establish that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government. Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In his report, Mueller shared the reasoning behind his decision not to answer the question of whether the might have president obstructed justice. Mueller’s team scrutinized 10 episodes in which Trump sought to seize control of the Russia probe, including his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired and efforts to encourage witnesses not to cooperate.  The president’s lawyers have said Trump’s conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller’s team deemed the episodes were deserving of scrutiny to determine whether crimes were committed. Update 11:25 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump said Thursday that he was “having a good day” following the release of the Mueller report. “This should’ve never happened,” Trump told a crowd gathered at a Wounded Warriors event at the White House, according to CNN. “I say this in front of my friends — this should never happen to another president again. This hoax — it should never happen again.' Trump’s attorneys hailed the report as “a total victory for the president” in a statement released to CNN. “The report underscores what we have argued from the very beginning - there was no collusion - there was no obstruction,” the statement said. “This vindication of the President is an important step forward for the country and a strong reminder that this type of abuse must never be permitted to occur again.” >> The Mueller report: What is in it, when will it be released, what will happen next? Update 11 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr has released a redacted version of the Mueller report, which is 448 pages long. >> Mueller report: Read the transcript of William Barr's remarks Update 10:55 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump was expected to deliver remarks Thursday morning at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride as lawmakers and the public await the release of Mueller’s report. However, by 10:55 a.m., Trump had yet to appear for the event. Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 18: In a letter sent Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler asked Mueller to testify before the panel no later than May 23. Nadler released his letter to Mueller minutes after Barr spoke with reporters about the report, which is expected to be released Thursday. Barr told reporters he had “no objection to Bob Mueller testifying.” “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” Nadler said. Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 18: Barr said he plans to release a less-redacted version of Mueller’s report to several congressional committees on Thursday “in an effort to accommodate congressional requests” for Mueller’s full report. “These members of Congress will be able to see all of the redacted materials for themselves -- with the limited exception of that which, by law, cannot be shared,” Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference. “I believe that this accommodation, together with my upcoming testimony before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, will satisfy any need Congress has for information regarding the special counsel’s investigation.”    Update 10:05 a.m. EDT April 18: At a news conference Thursday morning, Barr said it will be important to view President Donald Trump’s actions in context. “President Trump faced an unprecedented situation,” Barr said. “As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as president, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the president’s personal culpability. Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion.” Barr said the Office of the White House Counsel has reviewed the redacted version of Mueller’s report but that Trump declined to assert privilege over it. Trump took to Twitter after Barr spoke to highlight that there was 'No collusion. No obstruction.' Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 18: Mueller’s report details two main efforts sponsored by Russian government officials to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, Barr said Thursday morning at a news conference ahead of the report’s release. The report details efforts by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company with ties to the Russian government, to “sow social discord among American votes through disinformation and social media operations,” Barr said. It also details efforts by Russian military officials connected to the GRU, “to hack into computers and steal documents and emails from individuals affiliated with the Democratic Party.” “The special counsel found no evidence that any Americans -- including anyone associated with the Trump campaign -- conspired or coordinated with the Russian government or the IRA in carrying out this illegal scheme,” Barr said. Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 18: President Donald Trump called the Mueller investigation 'The Greatest Political Hoax of all time!' in a series of tweets posted Thursday ahead of the release of the report. >> Mueller report: Trump tweets 'presidential harassment' ahead of redacted report's release “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” he wrote in a subsequent tweet. Trump has frequently criticized the Mueller investigation, framing the probe as a political “witch hunt” aimed at harming his presidency. Original report: Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Mueller’s report to Congress between 11 a.m. and noon Thursday before sharing the report on the special counsel’s website, Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree reported. >> From Cox Media Group’s Jamie Dupree: Battle lines clear as D.C. awaits redacted Mueller report Mueller completed his investigation late last month, 22 months after he launched his probe at the direction of the Justice Department. The investigation was frequently lambasted by President Donald Trump as a “witch hunt” aimed at undermining his presidency. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • It's some big news for St. Johns County parents, students, and teachers. The St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Tim Forson has announced he's canceling the district final exams, with the exception of iReady testing.  Forson says during this first week of testing, there have been 'significant issues' with the administration of the tests, which are computer-based.  He says while the district's staff has worked late hours to try to resolve the issues, he ultimately decided to cancel the district final exams to 'remove the frustration of inconsistent test administration and protect instructional time.'  Forson says students need to continue to learn to prepare for other required upcoming assessments, including the Florida Standards Assessment, among many others.  Forson says he does not expect the same issues for these other tests, as they are not done on the same testing platform.  He's assuring parents that the second semester grading scale will be adjusted, following this decision, so that the absence of a final exam will not penalize a student. Forson says the student performance element of teacher evaluations will also be adjusted.  Forson says parents can expect an update on the alternative grading plan, as soon as it's finalized.
  • In recent years, the stadium now known as TIAA Bank Field has seen new massive video boards, upgraded Club Levels, and the addition of pools and a dog park, among other things, through funding from both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville. But the team says they’re not done. Jaguars President Mark Lamping says, since the team joined the NFL, there is only one other team that hasn’t seen a major or full stadium renovation or had a new stadium built- the Buffalo Bills. He is not advocating for a new stadium, but along with Jags owner Shad Khan, they say- from a business perspective- there will need to be upgrades. “We want to co-invest with the City to make the stadium better,” Khan says. Lamping says, in order to continue to grow revenue, they need to continue to add season ticket holders and retain existing ones each year. Renewing a new season ticket holder in to their second season is crucial, according to Lamping, because he says that is a huge influence on whether they’re likely to hold the tickets for many more years  to come. Non-rookie season ticket holders consider their tenure and the team’s performance as the top two factors in deciding whether to renew again, but for rookies, Lamping says it’s about team performance and seat location. “We have to make our worst seats a lot better,” he says. One of the biggest challenges is along the east side of the stadium, especially on the upper level- the sun can be brutal in the midday hours that surround a 1PM kickoff. WOKV asked Khan whether he was considering a dome or cover of some sort to address that. “We want to look for creative solutions that are very cost effective,” he says. Khan brought forward the example of the use of drones to provide cover during the World Cup in Qatar, as something that is innovative and could be used on an as-needed basis, although he says they haven’t actually looked in to the feasibility of something like that. In fact, Lamping says they haven’t really focused much on what exactly they would want to be done at this point, but he believes that will have to be included in the lease re-negotiations the team will face with the City in the coming years. He does know that they are looking at keeping the current location and venue. “Major community gathering places belong in what’s the heart of the community. We think Downtown is that,” Lamping says. But with TIAA Bank Field being a city-owned venue, Lamping says they would seek a City partnership in the funding. “It’s naive to believe that just through the benevolence of some person, that all the City’s problems are going to be taken care of. If that’s the case, we wouldn’t have any problems Downtown, would we? So you want investment in Downtown, and the way to get investment is to make sure the person who’s making that investment- that is taking that risk- receives a reasonable return on their investment. And that’s what I said. It needs to be a private/public partnership only to the extent that the risk isn’t so high that the investment won’t come, and if it is successful, that the returns to the investor aren’t exorbitant,” he says. While the exact price tag or design of any renovations is to be determined, Lamping says they would only ask the City to contribute enough to make the project work. And the upgrades would benefit more than just the Jags, according to Khan. He pointed to the Rolling Stones concert that will take place at the stadium as the kind of event they want to bring more of to the City, and they hope the stadium will reflect the type of venue that those shows demand. This is all further partnered with the Jags’s continued push to redevelop in and around the Sports Complex. During the “State of the Franchise” Thursday, they re-affirmed their commitment to a $500 million development of Lot J, as well as the long term redevelopment of the Jacksonville Shipyards.

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