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    Mali's opposition leader on Friday rejected the announcement that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was the winner of a presidential runoff in this West African nation, saying he would be filing a fraud complaint to the Constitutional Court. Soumaila Cisse held a news conference to declare that, according to results from his party, Cisse instead won the runoff with 51.75 percent of the vote to Keita's 48.25 percent. 'I reject the results proclaimed by the Ministry of Territorial Administration that do not reflect the vote of Malians,' Cisse said. The Constitutional Court has until Aug. 22 to approve the election results. The Ministry of Territorial Administration said Thursday that Keita won a second five-year term in the turbulent nation, capturing more than 67 percent of the vote to Cisse's 32 percent. More than 2.7 million Malians voted in Sunday's runoff, a 34 percent turnout despite threats by extremist groups. European Union observers said there were irregularities during Sunday's vote but did not say there was fraud. After the declaration of the results, Keita received congratulations from French President Emmanuel Macron, whose military has been engaged in Mali in the fight against extremism. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called 73-year-old incumbent to congratulate him. The U.N. has had more than 12,000 peacekeepers in the turbulent country since 2013. As Keita supporters celebrated Thursday night, the capital city of Bamako experienced a restless night. Cisse supporters marched with anti-Keita signs, denouncing the results. 'We are launching a vibrant call for citizen mobilization to exert popular, peaceful and democratic pressure to enforce the Malian vote,' said Cisse campaign director Tiebile Drame. Mahamadou Camara, spokesman for Keita, had called the victory well-earned. Keita leads a nation that has grown more insecure since he beat Cisse in a second-round election in 2013, the same year that French-backed forces pushed extremists in the north from their strongholds. Keita took power the year after a military coup ushered in an era of chaos that allowed the extremists to flourish. The extremists linked to both al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have been staging more brazen attacks that have spread into central Mali. Deadly communal clashes between ethnic groups and accusations of heavy-handed counterterror operations have caused even deeper tensions and mistrust of the government. In northern and central Mali, more than 50 polling stations had closed before noon on Sunday because of threats by extremists, according to the Citizen Observation Pool of Mali, which had more than 2,000 observers. The observers also reported several incidents of violence on voting day, including the killing of a village chairman and the harassment of at least four election workers. A number of polling stations were burned. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
  • Romania's prime minister on Friday defended the use of force by riot police during a violent anti-government protest that left more than 450 people injured earlier this month. Prime Minister Viorica Dancila sent a letter to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in which she alleged that other politicians, including Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, had tried to 'violently remove a legitimate government.' She said demonstrators tried to break through police lines protecting the government offices and officers legally responded to the violence. Romania's riot police have been accused of being heavy-handed with the mainly peaceful protesters in the Aug 10 anti-corruption protest. More than 200 criminal complaints have been filed against police. Dancila said authorities were investigating the claims. Her letter — her first comment on the protest — came after EU spokesman Christian Spahr said Thursday that 'peaceful protests ended in violence and violence can never be a solution in politics. ' Critics say Romania has backtracked in fighting corruption since the ruling Social Democratic Party assumed power in 2016. Spahr said the EU attached 'great importance to the independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption.' Protesters are holding a vigil Friday to mark a week since police fired tear gas and water cannons.
  • Rescuers used helicopters and boats on Friday to evacuate thousands of people stranded on their rooftops following unprecedented flooding in the southern Indian state of Kerala that killed more than 320 people, officials said. 'Kerala state is facing its worst flood in 100 years,' the top state elected official, Pinarayi Vijayan's office tweeted. With heavy rains stopping after a week, rescuers moved quickly to take those marooned by floods to 1,500 state-run camps. They used more than a dozen helicopters and about 400 boats across the state, relief officials said. Vijayan told reporters that at least 324 people had died and more than 220,000 had taken refuge in the camps. Heavy rains over the past eight days triggered flooding, landslides and home and bridge collapses, severely disrupting air and train services in Kerala state, a popular tourist destination with scenic landscapes, waterfalls and beautiful beaches.  The New Delhi Television news channel reported that the state was facing a new crisis with some hospitals facing shortages of oxygen and gas stations running short of fuel. Monsoon rains kill hundreds of people every year in India. The season runs from June to September. The monsoon flooding has severely hit 12 of Kerala's 14 districts, with thousands of homes damaged since June. Crops on 32,500 hectares (80,300 acres) of land have also been damaged, the Home Ministry said. The international airport at Kochi, a major port city, suspended flight operations until Saturday after the runway was flooded. Authorities also asked tourists to stay away from the popular hill station of Munnar in Idukki district because of flooding. More than 1,000 people have lost their lives in seven states since the start of the monsoon season in June. A total of 407 people have died in Kerala, 190 in Uttar Pradesh, 183 people in West Bengal, 139 in Maharashtra, 52 in Gujarat, 45 in Assam and 11 in Nagaland state, officials and the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
  • Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress and nemesis of U.S. President Donald Trump, has pulled out of a British reality-TV show at the last minute after a dispute with producers. Daniels was due to take part in 'Celebrity Big Brother,' which locks contestants in a house under constant surveillance. But she failed to join housemates including actress Kirstie Alley and psychic Sally Morgan for Thursday's first episode. Lawyer Michael Avenatti said Friday that Daniels argued with producers who attempted to 'control her and produce a certain result.' Broadcaster Channel 5 said Daniels told producers hours before airtime that she no longer wanted to participate. Daniels alleges she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, and was later paid $130,000 to stay silent about it. The president denies the encounter.
  • While jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has long insisted he can run for Brazil's presidency again despite his conviction, legal experts say the path to doing that is extremely narrow and unlikely to happen. And his Workers' Party risks missing the deadline to register an alternative candidate if it pushes his case for too long. The party defiantly registered da Silva's candidacy in October's election to much fanfare Wednesday, despite his conviction for corruption and money laundering last year — a decision that was upheld in January by an appeals court. Under a provision that da Silva himself signed into law while president, candidates who have had a conviction upheld are ineligible to hold office for eight years. But such candidates are not automatically barred from campaigning for office. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal must officially accept or reject da Silva's candidacy. In the meantime, he is free to campaign and receive the benefits of being officially registered, including access to the free television time allotted for political ads. Some of these benefits may be restricted by da Silva's imprisonment, but he still holds a wide lead in pre-election polls. 'The fact of not being able to be a candidate doesn't prevent you from trying to be a candidate,' said Daniel Falcao, a professor of electoral law at the Institute of Public Law of Brasilia. 'The electoral law says that when a person presents his registration, he is a candidate, normally until the day that electoral authorities say he cannot be a candidate.' The question of whether da Silva should be allowed to run has attracted attention even outside Brazil. On Friday, a group of U.N.-appointed human rights experts called for Brazilian authorities to ensure that da Silva 'can enjoy and exercise his political rights while in prison,' including not barring his candidacy until all of his appeals have finished. Experts say the electoral tribunal is all but certain to reject da Silva's candidacy as it stands, but his supporters hope for a favorable decision in the criminal courts while election officials are considering his case. This would be a decision to overturn or suspend his conviction from either the Superior Court of Justice or the Supreme Federal Tribunal — the second-highest and the highest courts in the land, respectively. Da Silva and his supporters contend such relief is a real possibility. They have always argued the allegation that he traded favors with a construction company in exchange for the promise of a beachfront apartment was trumped up precisely to prevent him from assuming the presidency again. He and his party contend that behind his prosecution is a conspiracy to undermine the gains made during his 2003-2010 presidency, when da Silva oversaw an economic boom and shared its fruits with the country's poor and working classes. 'Right now, we are concerned with guaranteeing the popular sovereignty,' said former Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad, who was registered Wednesday as da Silva's vice presidential candidate. 'And the people want to see Lula on the ballot.' But the Workers' Party also has to keep its eye on the clock. It only has until Sept. 17 to replace da Silva if he is barred. Haddad would likely then take the top spot. The first round of the election is Oct. 7. Even though all eyes are currently on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, it actually has very little margin to maneuver, experts said. 'If he doesn't manage this (relief from a higher court), the electoral court has to decide he is ineligible,' said Carolina Cleve, a professor of constitutional and electoral law at the Autonomous University Center of Brazil. 'It's an objective criteria.' The Workers' Party argues that even if the electoral court rejects his candidacy, da Silva should still be allowed to continue to campaign because he would still have one last appeal: to the Supreme Federal Tribunal. The party has identified dozens of mayoral candidates who were allowed to continue campaigning in the past even after their candidacies were rejected. But the cases of candidates for mayor begin in lower courts, while those of candidates for president go directly to the highest electoral court. It's true candidates are allowed to continue campaigning after a rejection by a lower court, said Marilda Silveira, an expert in electoral and administrative law at the Institute of Public Law of Sao Paulo. But, she said, the prevailing understanding is a decision by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal takes immediate effect since it is the highest electoral court. 'They are arguing to be able to continue the campaign until the Supreme Court decides because for them there exists a real possibility that there will be a preliminary decision that will suspend the conviction,' Silveira said of the Workers' Party's position. ___ Associated Press writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.
  • Bob Mackie-designed outfits worn by Cher, Carol Burnett, Diana Ross and other celebrities are going up for auction. Nine-time Emmy Award winner Mackie designed the wardrobe for 'The Carol Burnett Show' and has been creating outrageous outfits for Cher for decades. The sale includes a marigold jumpsuit worn by Cher on 'The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour' and a scarlet satin gown from the 'Cher' show. There are also dresses won by Lauren Bacall, Raquel Welch and other celebrities. Mackie says, when designing for stars, 'I always try to enhance the image that they already have.' 'You don't try to change anybody, you just try to make them look better than ever,' he told The Associated Press on Thursday. Mackie still works with Cher, 51 years after they first met. He says that 'even at her most naked, she never looked vulgar.' The 79-year-old American designer says he doesn't mind getting rid of some of his creations. 'They can't throw them in the casket when I go down,' he said. 'What am I going to do with all this stuff? So why not let people enjoy them?' Mackie and the collection are sailing from Britain to New York aboard the Queen Mary 2 starting Sunday. Julien's Auctions will hold the sale Nov. 17 in Los Angeles and online.
  • Hundreds of people, among them scores of chefs and students of the culinary arts from around the world, gathered Friday to pay their respects to one of the masters of French cuisine, the late French chef Joel Robuchon. The chefs, many wearing white uniforms but some clad in black, paid homage to Robuchon at a ceremony in Poitiers, the western French town where he was born just before the end of World War II. He died of cancer on Aug. 6 at 73. A large photo portrait of Robuchon, who in 2016 held a record 32 Michelin stars for his restaurants, was suspended outside Poitiers' Saint Pierre's Cathedral where a religious ceremony was held. Friends, family and dozens of chefs said a final farewell later at the town hall. Prominent Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse and a delegation from Japan were among those who attended. Celebrity chef Thierry Marx told BFM-TV that Robuchon 'was an example of what can be achieved through hard work. He showed that you can grow a lot in society through the fruits of your labor.' Robuchon, who was buried at a private funeral last week, was named among the best craftsmen in France in 1976, crowned cook of the century in 1990 and chosen to be one of the cooks at the 'dinner of the century.' He was a master chef who shook up the stuffy world of French haute cuisine by showing diners the delights of the simple mashed potato and a peek at a restaurant kitchen. Robuchon was known for constant innovation and playfulness in the kitchen, qualities that made him a revelation to the hidebound world of French cuisine. He built a gourmet empire that included restaurants in Paris, Tokyo, Las Vegas and New York City.
  • They're still tiny, but the white lion cubs at the Magdeburg zoo in eastern Germany are putting on weight fast. The cubs — three males and one female — took turns on the scales Friday. The news agency dpa reported that the male cubs weighed in at an average of 6.5 kilograms (14.3 pounds) each, while their sister was a kilogram lighter. The cubs weighed only 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) each when they were born on July 5. Zoo visitors were able to watch through a window as the feisty felines were weighed one by one, showing their teeth and claws. Zoo curator Konstantin Ruske says 'we are very satisfied with the animals' development.
  • A bus headed from Stockholm to Berlin came off a highway in northeastern Germany on Friday and overturned, injuring 22 people, authorities said. The accident happened about 6.30 a.m. at Linstow, near Rostock, on the A19 highway. The bus veered into a ditch next to the highway and ended up lying on its side. FlixBus, the main operator of long-distance buses in Germany, said the bus was heading from Stockholm to Berlin via Copenhagen. Ferries from Scandinavia arrive in Rostock. Police said there were 61 passengers and two drivers on board from 22 countries. They said 16 people sustained medium to serious injuries and were taken to nearby hospitals, while the remaining passengers were looked over at an aid station in the nearby city of Guestrow and six of them were taken to hospital with light injuries. It wasn't immediately clear why the bus left the highway. No other vehicles were involved. Police said the driver was questioned and a breathalyzer test showed an alcohol level of zero. Investigators were analyzing an on-board data recorder to try to understand the accident.
  • Air France-KLM has named Benjamin Smith, formerly a top executive at Air Canada, as its new CEO, sparking union fears Friday that he would cut back on wages and work conditions. The company announced Thursday that Smith, 46, who was previously Air Canada's chief operating officer, will fill the role by Sept. 30. Vincent Salles, an official at the CGT-Air France union, told France Info radio on Friday that unions fear Smith's mission is to implement plans that would 'deteriorate working conditions and wages.' Unions also have expressed concerns that he would tend to expand the company's low cost subsidiaries instead of developing Air France's main brand. Smith is the first foreign CEO in the company's history, which has also sparked criticism from unions. Nine unions objected to the appointment of a foreigner in the name of 'the defense of our national airline's interests,' in a joint statement. Union representatives are gathering on Aug. 27 to discuss potential strike actions. The Dutch pilots' union said Friday that its KLM members are preparing to take industrial action after talks with the carrier about a new collective labor agreement broke down. The union said its members 'will take action ... to change the mind of the KLM.' Pilots and KLM have been discussing ways of reducing work pressure as part of negotiations leading to a new labor agreement but the pilots say the airline is not doing enough. KLM said in a statement it made an improved proposal in talks on Thursday and expressed 'disbelief and disappointment' at the union's rejection of its offer. The union said it did not fully address pilots' concerns. The previous Air France-KLM CEO, Jean-Marc Janaillac, resigned in May after Air France employees held 13 days of strikes over pay and rejected the company's wage proposal. Unions are seeking a 6 percent pay rise. Crews and ground staff wages have been frozen since 2011. The company estimates the strike cost it 335 million euros ($381 million) in the first half of the year. Smith said he is 'well aware of the competitive challenges' the group is facing. 'I am convinced that the airlines' teams have all the strengths to succeed in the global airline market,' he said in an Air France-KLM statement. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Smith's arrival was an 'opportunity' for Air France-KLM and expressed his confidence in the new CEO's ability to 're-establish social dialogue.' The French state holds a 14.3 percent stake in the company. ____ Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed.

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  • A Colorado man who for days pleaded publicly for the return of his pregnant wife and two young daughters has been arrested and charged with killing them, police said.  Christopher Lee Watts, 33, of Frederick, was arrested just after 11 p.m. Wednesday night in connection with the slayings of his wife, Shanann Watts, and their two daughters, Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3. Shanann Watts, 34, was about 15 weeks pregnant. Bella Watts was days away from starting kindergarten.  John Camper, director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, said during a media briefing Thursday afternoon that investigators were “quite certain” the body of Shanann Watts has been recovered. “We have strong reason to believe we know where the bodies of the children are, and recovery efforts are in process on that,” Camper said.  “This is absolutely the worst possible outcome that any of us could imagine. I think our hearts are broken for the town of Fredrick as much as anybody’s.” Chris Watts is being held in the Weld County Jail pending formal charges, Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke said during the briefing. 9News in Denver reported earlier Thursday that Chris Watts faces three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of tampering with physical evidence. >> Related story: Report: Man with NC ties confesses to killing wife, 2 daughters in Colorado Fredrick police officials said they received a call just before 2 p.m. Monday reporting Shanann, Bella and Celeste Watts missing. The report was made by a friend who went to the family’s home in the Wyndham Hill subdivision and found no sign of Shanann or the girls.  Chris Watts said in an interview Tuesday with 9News that he saw the woman at the front door, via the home’s doorbell camera, and realized his family was missing.  “I said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ And she said, ‘I can’t get ahold of Shanann,’” Watts said. “That’s when I was just, like, ‘OK, something’s not right.’” He said he, too, had been unable to reach his wife via phone or text message. See Chris Watts’ entire interview with 9News below. Shanann Watts’ vehicle, as well as her purse and medication for the children, were all still at the house, authorities said. Police on Tuesday upgraded the missing persons report to an “Endangered Missing Alert” because of the potential medical concerns with the children.   Investigators conducted multiple interviews and officers canvassed the family’s neighborhood for witnesses and clues. News of the missing mother and daughters soon went national, and Watts did his interview with 9News on Tuesday, in which he described his family’s disappearance as “earth-shattering.”  “I don’t feel like this is even real right now. It’s like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from,” Watts told a reporter. Watts spoke in loving terms of his daughters.  “Celeste, she’s just a bottle of energy,” he said. “I call her ‘Rampage’ because she's got two speeds: go, or she’s sleeping. She’s always the troublemaker, she’s always the one, like, jumping off things. Bella, she’s the more calm, cautious, mothering type, and she’s more like me -- she’s more calm. Celeste has definitely got her mom’s personality, where she’s all gung-ho, ready to go.” The young father also addressed those who might think he had a hand in his family’s disappearance. “Everybody’s going to have their own opinion on anything like this,” Watts said. “I just want people to know that I want my family back. I want them safe and I want them here. This house is not the same.” Less than 24 hours later, Watts was in custody. A law enforcement source told 9News that Watts confessed to killing his wife and children.  No motive has been established, though The Denver Post reported the couple had serious financial problems over the years. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in July 2015, citing liabilities of more than $400,000.  The Wyndham Hill Master Association filed a civil claim against the couple last month, but details of that claim were not immediately available, according to the Post.  >> Read more trending news Shanann Watts wrote on social media about the trips and vacations she had earned for her family through Le-Vel, a health and wellness company that sells nutritional products. The Post reported that Watts’ position with the company appeared to have rejuvenated the family’s finances.  “We have qualified for so many amazing trips in two years that we never otherwise would have been able to visit,” she wrote about trips to New Orleans, Las Vegas, San Diego, Toronto, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.  Chris Watts worked for Anadarko Petroleum Co., according to bankruptcy records.  Le-Vel officials wrote on Facebook Thursday morning that their hearts were broken for Shanann Watts and her daughters.  “Shanann was an amazing woman, mother, friend, and overall person,” the statement read. “She lit up every room and was a joy to be around. Our love, prayers, and support go out during this devastating time to her family, friends, and to all Thrivers who had the great fortune of knowing Shanann and her two beautiful daughters.” Shanann Watts’ brother, Frankie Rzucek, wrote that he just wants to know why his sister and nieces died.  “My precious family, my one and only sibling, my sister Shanann, two adorable nieces, Bella and Celeste, and her soon-to-be-found-out unborn son, Niko,” Rzucek wrote. “I just want 30 seconds alone with that heartless psychopath. May Satan have mercy on his soul.” Some of the more poignant social media posts come from the Facebook page of Shanann Watts herself. In a post that included a photo of one of her girls playing at the beach, the young mother wrote of her fears of letting her daughter out into the world.  “The world is a scary place,” Shanann Watts wrote on Aug. 4, just over a week before their disappearances. “I will do everything in my power to teach her right and to protect her, advocate, stand up for her and defend her. I pray every day that she never feels any less than the rest of the world. I pray that she’s protected when I’m not around to protect her.  “Nothing or no one will stop me.”
  • With Florida's Primary Election Day quickly approaching, WOKV is breaking down everything you need to know ahead of August 28th. VOTER REGISTRATION DEADLINE:  In order to vote in the primaries, the Florida Division of Election says you needed to register to vote ahead of the July 30, 2018, deadline. If you missed that, you can register to vote between now and October 9, 2018, in order to vote in the General Election on November 6th.  SAMPLE BALLOTS:  Florida is a closed primary election state-- meaning only voters who are registered members of a political party can vote for that party's candidates or nominees. That means your sample ballot will vary, depending on which political party you're registered in. Ballots will also vary by county.  You can access sample ballots, by visiting the Supervisor of Elections website for your specific county. Links are posted below: Baker County Clay County Duval County Nassau County St. Johns County Sample ballots have also been mailed out. WHAT TO BRING: In order to cast your ballot, you’ll need to bring a photo and signature ID. This can include a Florida Driver’s License, Florida ID, a US passport, a military ID, a student ID, among other options. You can read more about ID requirements HERE. If you fail to bring proper identification, you will be issued a provisional ballot. HOW TO FIND YOUR PRECINCT Baker County voters, click HERE Clay County voters, click HERE Duval County, click HERE Nassau County, click HERE St. Johns County, click HERE EARLY VOTING DATES: Baker County  August 16, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Clay County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Duval County August 13, 2018- August 26, 2018 Nassau County  August 17, 2018 - August 25, 2018  St. Johns County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018
  • If you want to avoid the crowd on Florida's Primary Election Day, early voting kicks off on Monday in Duval County.  According to the Duval County Supervisor of Elections website, early voting for Duval County residents will begin Monday, August 13th, and run through Sunday, August 26th.  The county will be opening 18 early voting sites 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM each of the days:  The Supervisor of Elections Main Office will also be open, but the hours run 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sundays are from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.  For early voting you will need to present a photo and signature ID. If you don't have an acceptable ID, you will be issued a provisional ballot.  To find a sample ballot, click HERE. Florida's Primary Election Day is August 28th.  Early voting dates for other Northeast Florida counties:  Baker County  August 16, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Clay County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018  Nassau County  August 17, 2018 - August 25, 2018  St. Johns County  August 18, 2018 - August 25, 2018
  • Jacksonville Public Library needs your help to secure $25,000 worth of children’s books for our city.  JetBlue is giving out that prize, and a reading room makeover, to one of its destination cities. Right now, Jacksonville is in the lead, but Cleveland is a strong second, and voting continues through the end of the month.  Voting is unlimited, through the JetBlue Soar with Reading/Book With Us contest website. 16 cities are in the running, as finalists. Share this post on Facebook to help spread the word! 
  • As Jacksonville’s public library system sees the possibility of expanded hours and real movement on adding a new location, they’re keeping focus on how to make the most of the City’s money, and how to make sure you are safe. The $1.2 billion City budget proposal from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry includes expanded hours for Jacksonville Public Library. The decision was immediately cheered by supporters and some on the City Council- including one literally cheering the announcement as the Mayor unveiled the plan. The proposal must still be approved by the City Council.  WOKV has learned the expansion would add a day at nine of the systems 21 locations, which means all of the City’s Branch libraries would be open six days a week, excluding Sundays. In addition to the five days a week they’re already open, Argyle Branch, Beaches Branch, Murray Hill Branch, San Marco Branch, South Mandarin Branch, West Branch, and Willowbranch Branch would all now be open Mondays; and Mandarin Branch and Maxville Branch would be open Fridays.  “We do see this as a huge step up for services for all of Jacksonville, but certainly for the nine communities that will be affected by the change,” says Jacksonville Public Library Director Tim Rogers.  JPL’s other branch libraries- Bradham and Brooks Branch, Brentwood Branch, Brown Eastside Branch, Dallas Graham Branch, Regency Square Branch, University Park Branch, and Westbrook Branch- are already open six days a week. The Regional libraries- the Main Library in Downtown, Highlands Regional, Pablo Creek Regional, Southeast Regional, and Charles Webb Wesconnett Regional- are open seven days a week  The expanded hours would also mean JPL would hire 13 additional employees, bringing their cap up to 310 people, according to the budget proposal.  Rogers says the expanded hours are important not only for people who rely on library computers, internet, and meeting space, but to JPL’s ability to compete for certain grant funding. He says they host literacy and afterschool programs, but when they seek money for those programs, they are a lower priority than systems that offer programming every week day.  “Public library service- the vast majority of that- should always come from the public dollar. But I think, to enhance the services that we can offer and certainly to try out new services, we want to use whatever means and mechanisms we can to fund those things in a future facing way,” he says.  Whatever you use the library for, Rogers wants you to fee safe. They recently hired a Safety and Security Manager, as they strive to create “Community Safe Learning Zones”, where you don’t have to question your personal safety, your data integrity, your property security, and other factors.  “The library is a really clean, safe, and secure environment within the community that we want folks to feel comfortable visiting,” he says.  To that end, they recently started piloting a program where, instead of relying only on contracted security, they staff a uniformed Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officer at two libraries many afternoons. The officer interacts with people in the library, checks around it outside, and parks his or her car near the front to show there is a presence at the location. This pilot started at Bradham and Brooks on May 21st and at Brown Eastside on July 16th.  “We want to show that this is a safe place,” Rogers says.  While the program is early on, Rogers says they’ve already seen success not only in deterring incidents at the libraries, but in boosting relations between officers and library patrons. He says this setting provides the officers a way to directly interact with children and community members in a non-threatening environment, which they believe will have a positive impact in the community.  They’re hoping to expand this pilot in to two or three other locations- potentially including Dallas Graham and Charles Webb Wesconnett- in the upcoming fiscal year, based on the number of incidents taking place at and around the libraries. Rogers says they’ve already identified funds within their budget that could be shifted to accomplish this expansion, so they did not request any additional funding for it.  Another area where they are not getting additional funding, but Rogers is nonetheless cheering, is in materials. The budget proposal shows the funding for that flat, at almost $3.8 million. But, Rogers says $850,000 of their materials funding has been non-recurring until now, meaning they’ve had to ask to secure it each year. He says Curry’s budget proposal moves that to a recurring line, which will keep the funding going in future years.  Instead of asking for more, Rogers says they’re looking at how to get the most return for each dollar.  To do that, Rogers say they’re forming a “Data Analytics Unit” on how resources can best be spent to meet community needs, and how people are using the libraries. Rogers says eBook usage continues to climb, as an example, so they are considering how to meet the needs of patrons who want to go beyond traditional books. By doing that, he expects they will not only have satisfied customers, but be able to stretch funding even further.  Another study-driven component the library is pursuing is an examination of four urban core libraries, to see how they can be moved in to the 21st century. The Mayor’s Capital Improvement Program- which is put forward in conjunction with the budget- asks for $330,000 to determine how to bring the same level of service that newer libraries have, to some of the City’s older branches. The focus of the study is Brentwood, Brown Eastside, Dallas Graham, and Westbook.  “The report will define changes needed to enable the libraries in these neighborhoods to deepen their reach as community anchor institutions, jumpstarting redevelopment, acting as economic catalysts, and enhancing the quality of life for residents of all ages. The study will provide a path to design technologically advanced libraries that will help bridge the digital divide and ensure that all students, workers and business owners- regardless of ZIP code- have an equal opportunity for educational and economic success,” the CIP says.  This budget proposal also sets the stage for a brand new location in Oceanway. The CIP proposes borrowing $2.5 million in the upcoming fiscal year, to be used to conduct design and acquire land for the branch, although the exact location is not clear.  “That’s a community that has long wanted a library. We definitely are seeing a lot of growth up there, so that’s certainly a great add for the library,” Rogers says.  The CIP says it’s believed about 300,000 visits would take place at that library each year. The proposal says the funding is being requested this year “while good locations for a library remain available”. The total proposal for the project is listed in the CIP as around $11.85 million, and the anticipated operating costs would be around $1.3 million annually, including to staff 21 employees. Those costs are not being clearly committed at this time, however, only the funding for the land acquisition and design.  Neither the urban core study nor the Oceanway branch will be quick, but Rogers says they’re incredibly important.  “That’s our investment in the future for Jacksonville Public Library,” he says.  The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee will spend the next few weeks vetting and debating the Mayor’s budget proposal and CIP, before passing a final version of both ahead of the start of the fiscal year October 1st. WOKV continues to work through the budget proposal and will bring you updates as we learn more about how your tax dollars are being spent.

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