Around the State- Northeast- March 2002
GOP veteran Tom Slade will referee a hot intra-party contest to see who replaces Mayor John Delaney.
By Chuck Day
With still more than a year left in John Delaney's final term as Jacksonville's mayor, the field of potential successors has swollen into a crowd that has local GOP leaders a little nervous. Super Bowl chief Mike Weinstein and City Councilwomen Ginger Soud and Alberta Hipps have formally declared, along with John Peyton, a Gate Petroleum executive and son of founder Herb Peyton.
The city's GOP leadership, wanting to ensure that infighting won't lead Republicans to lose control of city hall, called in longtime party leader Tom Slade to become Duval GOP chairman and manage the conflict. Slade's challenge, in his words, "is to keep all the GOP talent from getting into a knife fight" that might fatally wound whoever survives the April 15, 2003, unitary primary when it comes time for the runoff. The two top vote-getters -- regardless of party -- meet again the following May 13.
For starters, Slade, who owns a residence in Jacksonville, posed a fund-raising challenge to the mayoral candidates: "Write down the names of 2,000 friends whom you can absolutely count on to write you a $500 check. That's what a Jacksonville mayoral campaign will cost," he says, "2,000 times 500 ... or $1 million."
So far, none of the announced candidates is nearing Slade's threshold. The latest available campaign reports show Weinstein with $146,030, Soud with $102,128, and Hipps with $24,702. Peyton deposited about $160,000 into the account he opened after the reporting period ended. But it's early yet.
The challenge mirrors one Slade faced in 1994, when a gaggle of Republicans vied to be Florida governor. As state GOP chairman, Slade built a strategy around an unprecedented and comprehensive code of conduct that forced candidates to focus on issues. The code was enforced "with hand-spanking as necessary," says Slade, whose efforts helped Republicans reclaim the governor's office in 1998, win Cabinet posts and take control of the Legislature. A skilled relationship-builder, he says he'll let natural attrition trim the mayoral field rather than raw political arm-twisting.
Slade says his eagerness to build on momentum generated by Delaney, who can't run again because of term limits, is one reason he answered pleas from GOP politicos to run the local party. Recruiting quality candidates for school board elections is another.
Slade expects one or two more to enter the mayoral race -- and one or two to drop out. Delaney, miffed over campaigns that began before 2001 came to an end, has no favorite. He's more inclined to remind folks he's still mayor for another year.
In the News
Flagler County -- Palm Coast Holdings, a unit of Allete Properties of Duluth, Minn., has completed its two-stage acquisition of 6,785 acres zoned for residential and commercial development. Deed stamps indicate the total transaction was in the $16-million range.
Jacksonville -- Airline engine-parts maker Unison Industries won a $2.5-million contract from an alliance of airlines to provide parts for Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier aircraft. Unison, a privately held manufacturer with about 645 employees, was sold in January to GE Aircraft Engines' Engine Services division.
The University of North Florida expects to begin a $16-million, 115,000-sq.-ft. library expansion in September, provided funding arrives from Tallahassee. The addition will nearly double the library's size.
A $100,000 study commissioned by the Port Authority and Tourist Development Council in conjunction with Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines concludes that Jacksonville is a viable port of call for cruise ships. Of 600 people from 19 areas in five states surveyed last June, 72% said Jacksonville would make a logical port of call because it would save them travel time and dollars, while 68% said Jacksonville was simply a more convenient port.
The 40,000-sq.-ft. Galleria is the latest retail development project on the Southside. The Edmonds Co. is building two 17,500-sq.-ft. buildings plus three out-parcels on eight acres along Philips Highway near the J. Turner Butler Boulevard intersection with I-95.
Northeast Florida Builders Association data shows Duval County issued a record 4,935 single-family building permits in 2001. The previous record of 3,847 was set in 1998. Meanwhile, the Florida Association of Realtors reports the median sales price for existing single-family homes in Jacksonville was $118,900 at year-end.
Al Battle Jr. has succeeded Paul Krutko as Jacksonville's managing director of the Downtown Development Authority. Appointed by Mayor John Delaney, Battle will manage the implementation of the downtown master plan that City Council approved in May 2000, oversee development in the LaVilla and Brooklyn neighborhoods and be the chief contact for large-scale downtown projects.
Municipal utility JEA has acquired United Water's regulated properties in Florida for $219 million and has formed a 20-year partnership with United to operate some of the facilities obtained. The acquisition gives JEA new customers in St. Johns and Nassau counties.
Ponte Vedra Beach -- The last parcel of residential land east of A1A in Ponte Vedra Beach is now under development by Ponte Vedra East, a local development partnership. The nine-acre tract has 19 lots -- three of which have been sold -- ranging from $212,000 to $465,000.
St. Augustine -- The upscale Casa Monica hotel expects to open its $250,000-rooftop pavilion in May. Built to accommodate about 100 people, the 958-sq.-ft. facility is designed to look like a Turkish sultan's tent, featuring couches and pillows and surrounded by a garden oasis. Events already have been booked, says hotel manager Troy Bennett.
AgFoods Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Opus South, has purchased about 32.5 acres in St. Augustine Industrial Park for $1.98 million to build a 400,000-sq.-ft. distribution center for ConAgra Foods.
Yulee -- TE Consolidated, an Orange Park subsidiary of Iluka Resources Ltd. of Australia, is studying the feasibility of a titanium mining project in Yulee. TE's process uses only water to extract titanium and zircon from timberlands that have been harvested. The minerals are extracted, and the land is replanted for timber. The existence of the deposits has been known since the early 1950s, but until now there's not been an acceptable way to extract the titanium. If the project moves forward, it would create about 100 jobs averaging $15 an hour.
JACKSONVILLE -- Wachovia Corp. plans to close 37 of its more than 700 branches in Florida as a result of its merger with First Union. The bank says job losses related to the merger will be minimal; front-line employees in good standing at Florida branches will be offered positions in nearby branches in the new Wachovia organization.
Florida Trend reported late last year that the bank did not plan to close any Florida branches; First Union says that report was in error.