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Latest from Rich Jones

    Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is outlining a series of steps he wants the JEA Board to take over the next several weeks, as the debate over JEA’s strategic review reaches a fever pitch.   In a letter to JEA Board members sent on Thursday, Curry said the process of vetting five different pathways and aligning them for simultaneous board consideration has been complicated, and decision-making of this magnitude is not easy.  Despite claims by many City Council Members that JEA’s process has not been transparent, Curry said he is ‘convinced that you have all conducted the process openly and in accordance with the law’.  Curry outlines multiple steps he wants the JEA Board to take as early as next week’s monthly board meeting.  He says the Board should prepare possible scenarios by the end of January for the 19-member Jacksonville City Council to vote on. Curry is also calling for JEA to schedule community meetings in each of the 14 districts represented by City Council, at a minimum.   And he even outlines a sixth possible scenario that would be collapsing and moving the independent authority into a municipal department whose operation and budget would be managed by City Council and the Mayor’s Administration.  “Although, on its face this is a scenario I would be inclined to reject, I believe providing City Council research and legislative changes they can consider is important”, Curry said.  Curry said the City Council can conclude the strategic planning process in conjunction with his staff and JEA personnel as needed, and then ultimately decide whether one option is sent to a ballot or if multiple options are sent to a ballot for voters to consider.  JEA spokesperson Gina Kyle tells WOKV JEA leadership will not comment until a thorough review of the letter has been completed.  WOKV attempted to interview the Mayor but a spokesperson said he is unavailable and wants the letter to speak for itself. 
  • It’s much warmer, more humid and wet to end your work week.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says on and off showers will continue through the morning.  “As this warmer more humid air continues to push north, the rain will shift with it. The majority of the more widespread, persistent and heavier rain will move to and then north of the Florida-Georgia border as we go through this morning. That will leave us with a midday and early afternoon that’ll be largely dry with just an isolated shower and quite warm”, said Buresh.  Expect another round of showers or storm this evening and overnight, some could be strong and even severe in isolated areas. The biggest threat would be a damaging wind gust and heavy rain, but an isolated tornado is not out of the question. Rain and clouds will linger into early Saturday, but we’ll see the sun eventually return.  Sunday afternoon is looking beautiful with temperatures in the low 70’s and mostly sunny skies.
  • As the disappointing season quickly draws to a close, the Jacksonville Jaguars are celebrating DT Calais Campbell by nominating him for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.  The award recognizes the NFL player that best demonstrates outstanding community service and excellence on the field. During Sunday’s game at Oakland, Campbell will wear a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year helmet decal. “Calais means so much more to the NFL than being a great player on the field each and every Sunday,” said Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone. “He embodies all the traits that make someone a consummate professional, and his passion and love for the game and everything it represents is why he’s a perfect candidate for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. As a tenured veteran, Calais has made an impact everywhere he’s been during his football career, both inside the organizations he’s played for with his teammates, coaches and the staff, as well as in the community with his neighbors. With every second of free time, it seems like he’s always out in the city looking for a way to give back and make a difference. I’m honored to have had the privilege to coach a player and a man like Calais Campbell.”  Campbell and his family formed the CRC Foundation in 2009, named for his late father, Charles. The foundation is committed to the enhancement of the community through the teaching of critical life skills to young people, transforming them into empowered and self-aware leaders of the future.  In NE Florida, Campbell has hosted two editions of Christmas with Calais, a holiday shopping spree for local kids who have completed extra lessons in financial literacy. He has also made semi-weekly visits to Northwestern Middle School as part of his CRC Book Club.  And he is a frequent speaker in schools across NE Florida. To date, Campbell has contributed $20,000 each to Feeding Northeast Florida, the Clara White Mission and the Wounded Warrior Project. The United Way of Northeast Florida will be the recipient of his December gift. 
  • A woman and man were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries after being shot early this morning in the lobby of an apartment complex on Philips Highway near Emerson.  One of the victims was taken to a local hospital for treatment, and a second person was treated at the scene and released.  According to JSO, the victims and suspect are acquaintances and got into an argument. The suspect, who was not named, fled the scene prior to police arriving.  
  • An early morning mobile home fire in Middleburg is contained.  Multiple Clay County Fire and Rescue engines were on scene at Orchid Avenue off County Road 218.  The initial report was that the mobile home was fully engulfed in flames.  The home was believed to be abandoned and electricity was not on, according to Fire and Rescue spokesperson Annaleasa Winter.  The Fire Marshal will investigate the cause of the fire.  “Crews are pulling back the siding to make access and conduct a search. Fire is out by heavy smoke”, said Winter.   
  • It’s windy and cool today and you’ll want to keep a jacket or umbrella handy, too. Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says we have a local nor'easter.  “Temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, while it’s a perfect setup for light rain and some showers and drizzle at times. It’s possible even to hear a rumble of thunder with this storm system. We’ll look for the showers overnight tonight as well and while the rainfall overall is widespread, the amounts don’t look to be extreme”, said Buresh.  Our temps rebound back to the low 70's on Friday. Saturday will start off a bit dreary but we should see sunshine return by Saturday afternoon and throughout Sunday.
  • JEA's strategic planning, which could include privatization, has brought spirited debate throughout Jacksonville since the summer. “There are so many instances where we are caught off guard”, said Jacksonville City Council Member Matt Carlucci during debate Tuesday night.  City Council failed to pass an emergency resolution that would have urged the JEA Board to stop the invitation to negotiate process. However, Council did support an amended plan to have the non-binding resolution go through debate in committees, and then come back to Council for a vote on January 17th.  “I don’t mind the process, but I don’t want to get screwed in this process either”, said Council Member Tommy Hazouri.  The action came as JEA officials met in Atlanta with potential buyers of the city-owned utility. Also Tuesday, JEA provided a resignation letter from board member Andy Allen. It was dated December 2nd, and Allen cited increasing demands on his time from his family and business that must take precedence over his continues service on the board. 
  • Tuesday set a new record as afternoon highs reached 85 degrees at Jacksonville International Airport.  By this afternoon temperatures could be as much as 30 degrees cooler.  A cold front moving through will bring cloudy, damp conditions and falling temperatures.  Action News Jax Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh says onshore breezy winds will develop later this afternoon behind the front. Thursday will be mostly cloudy with a few showers closer to the coast as high temperatures will only be in the mid-60’s.  More scattered showers return on Friday as highs climb back to the lower 70’s. A few morning showers are likely on Saturday before we dry out through the afternoon. Sunday will be dry with highs in the lower 70’s. 
  • U.S. Representative Ted Yoho had made a campaign pledge when he first ran to unseat Cliff Stearns, that he would only serve four terms in Congress.  Today he announced that he will not seek re-election in 2020.  Yoho’s retirement means 32 House members are now not running for their seats again in 2020.  Washington Insider Jamie Dupree reports 23 are Republicans and 9 are Democrats.  “Carolyn, my children and I want to thank all of our supports and constituents for this incredible journey”, Yoho wrote on Facebook.   Yoho’s district seat has already attracted attention from several Republicans including Joseph Millado, Matthew Raines, Judson Sapp and Amy Wells.  Democrats Philip Dodds and Tom Wells are running to win their party’s primary. 
  • St. Johns County Fire Rescue is working on a master plan for future growth in the department. They say the growing population is straining their resources. They're planning out future fire station locations, staffing allocations, funding and equipment needs.  They want to hear from families. Fire Rescue is hosting two public meetings to garner feedback about families' priorities and expectations related to public safety services.  The first meeting is at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Nocatee Community Clubhouse, 245 Nocatee Center Way.  The second meeting is at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11 at SJC Fire Rescue Station 5, 3360 U.S. 1 South. The meetings should last no more than two hours and light refreshments will be provided.  Families will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire, and the facilitator will encourage open discussion to better understand the community’s views on Fire Rescue planning, services, staffing, response times, and cost.   For additional information, please call 904-209-1714 or email rfrey@sjcfl.us.
  • Rich Jones

    Host of Jacksonville's Morning News

    Rich Jones has been News Director of WOKV AM/FM since October 2006. Since joining the team, WOKV News has been recognized by the Associated Press as the most awarded radio news team in the state of Florida including awards for Best Newscast, Best Reporting, Best Public Affairs Coverage, and Best News Series, among others.

    Rich has been involved in many organizations and causes on the First Coast. He has twice been captain of WOKV's team at the Heart Walk, and has raised funds for the American Heart Association. 

    Rich is “the face” of WOKV in the community and is the Master of Ceremonies for many philanthropic causes such as the Annual WOKV Careathon, a day-long benefit for the Child Cancer Fund of NE Florida, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

    Rich enjoys spending his time away from the studio with his wife, daughters and son as well as watching sports and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

    Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • Police in Jacksonville Beach are investigating after more than a dozen cars were broken into over the course of a few days. It started last weekend along 5th Street South where several of those burglaries took place.  Police reports said there were 14 burglaries that happened Saturday through Monday.  Joseph Rennie said he’s hoping this weekend they don’t see a repeat.  “All in all, this is a pretty safe neighborhood. But occasionally, you have things like this happen and come up, but it’s definitely a little bit unnerving,” Rennie said.  Police said someone was going around smashing out windows of vehicles and looking for valuables inside. Wallets, credit and debit cards were taken.  Some people had nothing taken, but were left with a broken window. It happened to 6 cars on 5th Street, 4 cars on 12th, and several others on the surrounding blocks.  Rennie, like many others who live in the area, said he’s thankful he wasn’t a victim, but was surprised it happened to so many people in the area.  “There is a sense of just making sure you’re being smart about it, not leaving stuff of value in your car, kind of anywhere. But yeah, its really unfortunate to see that that’s happened, especially around the holiday season,” Rennie said.  As always, police are urging people not to leave valuables in their cars.
  • Florida, along with 29 other states, has been accepted for membership into the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), according to Governor Ron DeSantis' office. ERIC is a multi-state partnership that uses a data-matching tool to help enhance election security and make voter rolls more accurate.  The governor's office says through ERIC, member states can share information from voter registration systems, motor vehicle databases, social security death records, and US Post Office records, to help identify voters who have moved, passed away, or changed their name.  Additionally, the governor's office says ERIC will help boost voter registration as it will provide member states better information on how to contact potentially eligible, but unregistered voters.  Governor DeSantis says he has set aside an estimated $1.3 million in his 2020-2021 recommend budget to conduct outreach to these unregistered voters with a direct mailer prior to the 2020 general election.  But the governor's office says Florida's full participation in ERIC will be contingent on the state legislature signing off on his budget. Being a member of ERIC requires annual dues of around $75,000.
  • In response to a smash-and-grab burglary at a Fernandina Beach gun store where thieves stole 57 guns in 60 seconds, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the National Shooting Sports Foundation announced a reward of up to $5,000 for tips leading to the arrest of suspects or recovery of stolen guns. The burglary happened Sunday, Dec. 8 at TNT Firearms and Accessories off State Road 200 in Nassau County.  Security footage shows 3 suspects smash through a glass door before breaking glass display cases and ransacking the store of 57 rifles and handguns.  The ATF is offering a reward of up to $2,500, which will be matched by the NSSF for a total of up to $5,000.  The ATF and NSSF are working together in a national campaign to fund rewards in cases involving guns being stolen from federally licensed dealers.
  • A Virginia mother is wanted on abduction charges after authorities say she took her four children on vacation six months ago and never brought them home. The woman alleges she is saving the children from sex trafficking by their father and grandfather. Along with four misdemeanor abduction charges, Melody Bannister, 34, of Stafford, is charged with felony violation of a court order and filing a false police report, a news release from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office said. A warrant was issued for her arrest Aug. 23, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Her children are identified as Genevieve Bannister, 13; Janelle Bannister, 12; Vivienne Bannister, 11; and Peter Bannister, 7. Genevieve is described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall and 110 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, according to the NCMEC. Janelle is described as 5 feet, 1 inch tall and 115 pounds. Like her older sister, she has brown hair and hazel eyes. Vivienne is listed as 4 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 95 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. Peter is described as 4 feet, 1 inch tall and 90 pounds. He also brown hair and blue eyes. Bannister is described as 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 110 pounds. Like her two youngest children, she has brown hair and blue eyes. The children and their mother were last known to be traveling in a blue-green 2002 Honda Odyssey with Virginia license plate number VBH7123, Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Detective James Wright said during a segment about the case on “Live PD” on A&E. Finding Bannister and the children has become more urgent after “recent developments in the investigation have led investigators to believe the children may now be in danger,” the Sheriff’s Office’s statement said. Wright, who is lead investigator on the case, said on “Live PD” that authorities believe the missing family might be in danger due to the “clandestine nature” of the religious organization they belong to. “We’re concerned about the welfare because they are unable to take care of themselves. They don’t have any means to take care of them. Melody doesn’t have means to take care of them,” Wright told host Tom Morris Jr. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Amanda Vicinanzo said investigators believe Bannister has had help along the way from members of a religious group of which she is purportedly a member, according to the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg. The newspaper reported that the family’s pets, a white Great Pyrenees dog and white ragdoll cat, were left at one of the stops Bannister has made since leaving Virginia. “After months on the road, we had to say goodbye to our beloved pets: Our giant, bounding bundle of puppy-faced joy and our fluffy cat, whose soothing whirr often assuaged our soreness of heart,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “It is a comfort to know they are in good, loving hands, since they can no longer be in ours.” “Live PD” pointed out that Bannister has written about her religion previously, describing it as a “cult.” According to a blog she began in 2016 called Lady Adelaide’s Realm, Bannister grew up in a Quiverfull household. Followers of the Quiverfull movement believe that the men with the most children will earn the most favor from God. They shun all forms of contraception, believing that it is only God who “opens and closes the womb,” follower Kelly Swanson told NPR in 2009. The movement advocates stringent gender roles, and women are not allowed to question their husbands’ authority. They cannot work outside the home, wear pants or cut their hair. According to some of Bannister’s friends -- and a second blog the missing woman appears to have written since going on the run with her children -- the danger toward the children lies not with their mother, but in their father’s home. Bannister’s blog devoted to the allegations is subtitled “American Outlaws: The Plight of Child Sex Trafficking Victims Living Underground.” Her most recent blog post on Lady Adelaide’s Realm, dated June 28, names six men, including her father-in-law, as her children’s alleged abusers. The men are not being named because they have not been charged with a crime. ‘Will justice triumph over lawlessness this Christmas?’ A Change.org petition begging for help from Virginia and Alabama officials claims that the children’s father “conspired with (Bannister’s) father-in-law to perpetuate some of the most horrifying sexual and physical abuse imaginable upon her children.” “When local law enforcement failed to protect these children, ordering them back to live with their abuser, Melody chose to live on the wrong side of the law. What else could a truly desperate mother do?” the petition reads. Bannister has accused her husband of “deliver(ing) the children up for torture to the barn of his father.” She has accused her father-in-law of not only sexually abusing the children, but of offering them up for abuse by his friends. “The children have spoken of being given strange substances in the barn that made the world swim before their eyes and caused the taunting faces of their abusers to converge together in a dizzying blur,” Bannister wrote. She wrote on the blog that her only crimes were “believing (her) children when they disclosed a lifetime of ongoing abuse” and “reporting (it) to the Stafford, Virginia, police.” Stafford County officials said that an investigation into the allegations brought to them by Bannister in June found no evidence of abuse against the children. “A joint investigation with Stafford County law enforcement and Child Protective Services determined the allegations were unfounded,” according to the statement from the Sheriff’s Office. “Shortly after the conclusion of the investigation, Bannister left Virginia with the children on a planned vacation and never returned.” Bannister wrote on her blog that she and the children left town for a vacation June 14, the day after she reported the abuse, in part out of fear of reprisal from the accused. She said she called the Sheriff’s Office detective, Wright, a few days later to check up on the investigation. “We spoke briefly once, when he told me that he had interviewed my husband and would soon interview my father-in-law,” Bannister wrote. “After that, he stopped answering my phone calls.” She wrote that Wright and a CPS caseworker chalked the sex abuse claims up to children’s “vivid imaginations.” She described fleeing Virginia with the “rancid hot breath of child predators” on her back. “We left home with barely a week’s worth of summer clothes and are practically penniless, living off the kindness of friends who, one by one, have taken us under their wings,” Bannister wrote. She said her husband drained their joint bank account and cancelled her credit cards when she did not bring the children back to Virginia. Read Bannister’s entire, five-part blog here. Warning: It includes graphic details of alleged child sex abuse. Stafford County’s Juvenile, Domestic and Relations Court granted sole custody of the children to their father the following month, Stafford County authorities said. Their father, identified in court records as William Joseph Bannister, filed for divorce last month. “(Melody) Bannister refused to return the children and subsequently petitioned the courts in Alabama requesting custody be issued to her there,” a Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said. “The courts in Alabama heard the case and also ordered Bannister to return her children to their father back in Virginia. “Bannister absconded from the state of Alabama with her four children and has not been seen since.” Bannister and the children were last seen Aug. 20 in Moulton, a small city in northwest Alabama. “We set up residence in Alabama and made it our new home, where we obtained a protective order against the man formerly known as Daddy,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “This was swiftly snatched away when the judge deferred to the Virginia ruling, which ordered me to return the children to him.” Bannister wrote that a family court hearing was held in Virginia without her presence Aug. 19, with a judge ruling in her husband’s favor. She claimed she was never served with a summons for the hearing. She and the children vanished from Alabama the next day. US marshals issue alert Aside from Alabama, potential sightings of the family have been reported in Wisconsin, Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas. The U.S. Marshals Service and the NCMEC have been involved in the case over the past few months, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Marshals Service issued an alert this week seeking help from the public in finding Bannister and the missing children. A friend of Bannister, Julie Lampkins, shared a story on Facebook about the missing family, saying it was “with a heavy heart” that she shared the link about the mother’s alleged abduction of her children. “We all have questions, but no answers,” Lampkins wrote. “Help the authorities find her and her (four) kids.” Meanwhile, Bannister is appealing for help on the state and federal levels, according to the Change.org petition. It quoted additional portions of Bannister’s blog. “The mental health and credibility of my children and me have been assessed and verified by two of the most prestigious forensic psychiatrists in the country: Dr. Michael Stone and Dr. Carole Lieberman,” Bannister wrote on her blog. “Naturally, the abusers did not take kindly to such a development and are seeking to have the reports stricken from the record. ‘Eliminate all threats’ seems to be their motto. Hence our position of living underground.” Followers on her blog wrote this week that they believed her and her children. “Many people believe you and are praying and sharing the news and asking God to vindicate and protect. Praying that true justice will be served,” Carrie Brownell wrote. A friend, identified as Lana, told Bannister she was praying for her, as well as sharing her story and contacting a list of law enforcement officers listed on the blog on Bannister’s behalf. Another friend named Rachael offered similar well wishes. “Oh Melody…my heart is so broken for you and your sweet kids,” the woman wrote. “I will be keeping you in my prayers and doing what I can. Locally.” A third friend named Petra Carden wrote that Bannister and her children have a place in her home “any time, day or night, no questions asked” if Bannister has to return to Virginia. Others who read her story offered her help in other locations throughout the country, including Alabama, where she and the children were last seen. Many people who believe Bannister’s allegations of abuse urged caution in reporting the family’s whereabouts. “If the news articles released regarding Melody Bannister’s children being in danger is all people know, they will report them when they see them and put them back in danger,” one woman wrote on Twitter. A cult? Bannister’s Facebook profile lists her as manager of a website called Recovering Daughters. The description of the site on its corresponding Facebook page states it is about “healing from Vision Forum, authoritarianism and the Quiverfull Movement.” The Recovering Daughters website is no longer available because the domain has recently expired. Vision Forum was a Texas-based ministry that promoted a patriarchal lifestyle, in which the husband rules the family, and home-schooling its children. The ministry was shut down by its board in 2013 after leader Doug Phillips admitted to an extramarital affair, the Huffington Post reported. Phillips has been a friend of and influence on Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, whose TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” focused on their beliefs against birth control and that large families are a gift from God, the news site said. The Duggars, who lost their show after their eldest son, Josh Duggar, was publicly accused of sexually molesting multiple young girls, including some of his sisters, have also been associated with the Quiverfull movement, though the Huffington Post reported in 2015 that the couple does not formally consider themselves members of the movement. The Quiverfull movement gets its name from a Bible passage: “Children are a heritage from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” Hännah Ettinger, a young woman raised in the movement who had left that world behind, told Cosmopolitan in 2015 that her first big break from the religion came when her father told her she “didn’t have the spiritual discernment” to choose her own boyfriend, a man she met at her Christian college. “Later, I got utterly fed up with the churches I’d grown up in because I kept finding out that they’d protected child abusers, rapists, and men who’d beaten their wives, all in the name of redemption stories, ‘biblical’ male headship and complementarian theology,” Ettinger told the magazine. Vyckie Garrison, another former Quiverfull member, told Vice in 2016 that, with no central leader, the movement isn’t a cult, per se. It’s more of a mindset “in which each family becomes a cult unto itself with Daddy enshrined as the supreme patriarch,” Vice reported. Garrison founded a website called No Longer Quivering, which is designed to help other women in her situation escape the movement. In April 2015, the American Atheists Convention named her its 2014 Atheist of the Year. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Bannister and her children is asked to call the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office at 540-658-4400, the U.S. Marshals Service at 877-WANTED2 or the NCMEC at 800-THE-LOST.
  • Money is helping put local veterans in Northeast Florida back to work. Hundreds of people filled the inside of a warehouse at a former Navy base to celebrate a milestone.  It was 20 years ago when the U.S. Navy handed over ownership of Cecil Field Naval Air Station to the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.  The air station is now being operated by Boeing Global Services.  Friday, Boeing made a $55,000 check presentation to Veterans Florida to help put local veterans back to work.  Samuel Leeca is a Navy veteran and was one of the first people hired by Boeing back in 1999.  “We first only had one aircraft. Then they started filtering in. It was rough at first, but then we started to get it rolling,” said Samuel Leeca.  “When I see the Blue Angels, I don’t even bother anymore because I was sharing with someone that all 6 of them, I’ve physically touched them. I’ve physically put the cell in and taken it out,” Leeca explained.  Boeing Cecil Field site leader Warren Helm says the site is one of the most successful closed bases in the country.  “We have a great mix about 70% veterans on this site. It’s a great mix between people who have been here since day one,” Helm said.  Leeca says after working here for over 20 years, he heads a team of mostly young people who disassemble and repair aircraft.  “I just look at it as, not so much someone has to do it, but someone always did it. We live in a world now where it is so dangerous, I said, ‘I can’t leave them, I have to keep going to help the newer guys keep the jets flying,’” said Leeca.

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