Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Local News

Jim Tullis, 1941-2017: Former City Councilman ‘grabbed life with a bear hug’ - Monday, October

James Folsom Tullis, an insurance agent who served 12 years on the City Council where he became known for his involvement in zoning issues, died in his sleep Saturday. He would have been 76 on Nov. 3.

He had a passion for politics, zoning and upholding the wishes of his constituents, said his wife, Kay Tullis.

Friends on Facebook described him as generous, kind and an amazing advocate for Jacksonville who made people he met feel like he was their friend.

“Jim grabbed life with a bear hug,” former councilman Matt Carlucci said in a Facebook posting.

Tullis fought for comprehensive rezoning and against extension of the runway at Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport, saying it would affect the quality of life for neighborhoods surrounding the airfield.

“I’m a passionate person about people’s quality of life,” Tullis said in a 2000 interview. “I’ll go for the jugular, so don’t take a park away from me and don’t expand an airport around my people.”

Tullis served on the council from 1985 until 1999, opening every campaign with an ice cream social.

“We ran on a shoe string and a short notice,” Kay Tullis said. “Long-time friends pitched in and we walked door to door.”

In 1999, Tullis walked into the Florida House of Representatives office unopposed when no other candidates stepped forward to fill then-Rep. Jim King’s seat when King ran for the state Senate. Tullis was narrowly defeated by Stan Jordan in 2000 and again in 2002.

Tullis worked to revitalize the Arlington area, served on the Renew Arlington Advisory Board and was chairman of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission. At one point, he served as council president.

Eric Smith, a former councilman, said Tullis was one of the finest legislators he served with on the council. Tullis also was Smith’s campaign treasurer when Smith ran for the Florida Senate.

“He was all about what was best for his constituents and the city of Jacksonville,” Smith said, adding he was very involved in coming up with a strategic plan for the future. “He was a very fair council president, fair with the public and worked very well with his colleagues.

“Jim always embraced the tough assignments and relished a hard task,” Smith said.

“… He spent months on working out the comprehensive plan, which included zoning and other issues.”

Wayne Doolittle, president of the Retired Firefighters Association, said he and Tullis grew up in the same neighborhood as “river rats” and often went boating together as teens on the Arlington River.

When Fire Station 19 was built on Rogero Road, he said Tullis took a paternal interest in the station. When its grass started dying and there was no money in the budget for fertilizer, he said Tullis told the firefighters to go to a hardware store where he had an account and buy whatever they needed. He paid the $400 bill himself.

On another occasion, he asked what the station needed for Christmas and got a tractor for them to mow the lawn and a yard next door firefighters kept up, Doolittle said.

Tullis was born in 1941 in Hackensack, N.J., and moved with his family to the Clifton area of Jacksonville when he was 3. Though not in the same house, he always lived in Clifton.

He graduated with a degree in business and economics from Jacksonville University in 1965.

In 1978, he joined the insurance agency started by his father and worked with his brother, the late Don Tullis.

He became president of what became known as James F. Tullis &Associates and was later joined by his son, James F. Tullis Jr.

Tullis was instrumental in forming a group called Past Presidents of the City Council, whose members would get together monthly at Mudville Grill to talk politics.

Last May, her husband had sleep apnea breathing problems, which he had difficulty overcoming, Kay Tullis said. He liked to sleep in on Saturday mornings and when she checked on him the second time, she discovered he had died.

“I feel like God blessed him with a sweet surrender,” she said.

In addition to his wife and son, survivors include a daughter, Kimberly Tullis, Jacksonville; three grandchildren; and a brother, Gary Tullis, Jacksonville.

A viewing is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home, 4115 Hendricks Ave. The service is 11 a.m. Thursday at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, 256 E. Church St. Burial at Oaklawn Cemetery, 4801 San Jose Blvd., will follow the service. A reception is at 1 p.m. Thursday at San Jose Country Club, 7529 San Jose Blvd. All services are open to the public.

Sandy Strickland: (904) 359-4128

Florida state of emergency declared for white nationalist event in Gainesville - Monday, October

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Citing past clashes and protests, Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Monday declared a state of emergency in advance of a speech white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida.

The state’s Republican governor warned in an executive order Monday that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County, in north Florida. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus on Thursday and his pending appearance has already sparked protests in the university town.

Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August.

Scott’s executive order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The university has already said it expects to spend $500,000 on security.

The governor is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security if it is needed. Scott said he declared the emergency after discussing Spencer’s speech with Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

“We live in a country where everyone has the right to voice their opinion, however, we have zero tolerance for violence and public safety is always our number one priority,” Scott said in a statement. “This executive order is an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe.”

Citing the violence in Charlottesville, the university rejected a request from Spencer and his National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank, to allow him to speak in September. After they threatened to sue, school officials said they would try to accommodate Spencer if he renewed his request for a different date.

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs earlier this month asked students to stay away from the campus event. He wrote in an email that Spencer and his group seek only “to provoke a reaction.”

Darnell said Scott’s executive order was not intended to “alarm anyone,” but to make sure that her office has the “resources and equipment to help us prepare for violence or widespread property damage.” Darnell said currently they are expecting both protesters and counterprotesters to show up in connection to Spencer’s appearance.

“We are hoping this is a nonevent,” Darnell said. “We are hoping this will go very smoothly and peacefully. But in the reality of this world we have to be well prepared.”

More overnight shutdowns set for Main Street bridge - Monday, October

Jacksonville’s Main Street Bridge will be shut down Monday night, the first of another series of overnight weeknight shutdowns expected to continue through Oct. 26, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The bridge shuts down from 6:30 p.m. this and next Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesdays, as crews continue work to improve the span’s mechanical, electrical and structural systems. The scheduled closures this week and next: 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays through 6 a.m. Wednesdays; 9 p.m. Wednesdays to 6 a.m. Thursdays; and 6:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays through 6 a.m. the following days.

During closures, both vehicular and pedestrian traffic will be detoured to the Acosta Bridge. Signs will direct traffic through the detour. Boaters will not be impacted by the closures.

The $10.7 million project is expected to be completed later this fall.

Passenger says Delta crew stopped her from singing anthem on Georgia flight - Monday, October

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A Georgia physician said her plan to honor a fallen soldier by singing the U.S. national anthem aboard a Delta Air Lines plane carrying the soldier’s casket was stopped by a flight attendant who told her it would violate company policy.

Dr. Pamela Gaudry of Savannah said she and fellow passengers were told “to stay quietly in our seats” as an honor guard escorted the casket from the plane Saturday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. A flight attendant told her that singing “The Star Spangled Banner” would make passengers from other countries uncomfortable, she said.

“I couldn’t put up with that,” Gaudry told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. “I wouldn’t be offended if I was in their country.”

Gaudry said she kept quiet until she was off the plane. Then she found an unoccupied stretch of the airport terminal where she took out her cellphone and self-recorded a 6 minute, 30 second video that she posted on Facebook. By Monday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 778,000 times.

Gaudry said she was flying Saturday from Philadelphia to Atlanta when the pilot told passengers the plane was carrying the remains of a fallen American soldier. She said she began asking other passengers if they would join her in singing the anthem as the casket was taken off the plane. Many agreed enthusiastically, she said.

“The chief flight attendant came back to my seat and she kneeled down and she said, ‘It is against company policy to do what you’re doing,’” Gaudry said in the video. “And I said, ‘The national anthem? And there’s a soldier onboard?’ And she said, ‘Yes, you cannot sing the national anthem. It is against company policy.’”

Gaudry said she stayed in her seat with her head down — a decision she soon regretted. In her video, she reserved the harshest criticism for herself: “I just did the most uncourageous thing in my life today.”

Anthony Black, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Delta, declined to comment Monday on the specifics on Gaudry’s account.

“There is not a policy about singing the national anthem, period,” Black said.

The body of Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, a special forces soldier who was among four U.S. troops killed in an ambush attack Oct. 4 in Niger, was returned Saturday to Wright’s family in rural southeast Georgia.

Black said Delta policy prohibited him from identifying the deceased soldier transported on Gaudry’s flight.

Gaudry’s account comes amid the politically divisive backdrop of professional football players kneeling as the U.S. anthem is sung during pregame ceremonies — a form of protest some Americans, including President Donald Trump, have lambasted as disrespectful to U.S. service members.

“If it instigates a spiritual and patriotic feeling in this country, I’m thrilled,” Gaudry said of her video. “I’m not real thrilled with the attention to myself.”

‘Easy Rider’ generation has a higher risk of fatalities on motorcycles, AAA says - Monday, October

The baby boomers who made motorcycles cool are also dying on them at a higher rate than other motorcycle riders, according to a new report from AAA.

The organization, analyzing federal crash data, says the mortality rate for riders who are 60 or older is more than four times the overall increase in motorcycle deaths for 2016.

For one thing, older drivers were more likely to sustain life-threatening or fatal injuries in a crash than younger riders, AAA says, citing data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Overall, motorcycle deaths rose to the highest level in eight years in 2016, although some of the increase was also in line with an increase in motorcycle registrations. The number of motorcycles on the road increased to 8.6 million motorcycles in 2015 compared with 8.4 million in 2014, according to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data cited by the organization.

“The obvious thing is we’re putting more motorcycles out on the road. It’s not that anything really changed,” said Kip Bickford, who is program manager with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Florida Rider Training Program.

But the report also showed the higher risks for older drivers. Between 1998 and 2007, the number of injuries for motorcycle riders older than 60 increased from 2,000 to 8,000, AAA says. In the same period, the number of injuries rose 150 percent for riders who are 50 to 59 years old.

Bickford - who is 64 and traded in his last Harley for a trike - said a lot of cultural factors play a part, too. His generation grew up when motorcycles made the shift from the playthings of outlaws and gearheads to countercultural cool, as glorified in books and movies such as “The Wild Ones” and “Easy Rider.” Then the baby boomers grew up, had families, built careers and put the bikes aside. And then, as they became empty-nesters or felt midlife crisis seeping in, they took the bike back out of the garage.

“This the point when people say, ‘I rode a motorcycle for 20 years.’ They mean: ‘Twenty years ago, I rode for a year. And now I’m just getting back on the bike,’ ” said Bickford, whose first motorcycle was a Honda S90. Since then, he’s owned a series of Hondas, Yamahas and Harleys. “We started out with motorcycles because it was really cool.”

From 2015 to 2016, motorcycle fatalities rose 5.1 percent, while deaths among older baby boomers increased more than 20 percent, AAA says. There were 156 more fatalities among motorcycle riders 60 or older in 2016 compared with 2015, an increase of nearly 22 percent, AAA says. It says the average age of people killed in motorcycle crashes also rose to 36.5 years in 1999 compared with 29.3 years in 1990.

Bickford said older drivers in particular need to drive more defensively than others to adjust for slower reactions and the likelihood that a crash will take a bigger toll. He said it’s also important to stress the importance of continuing training - and perhaps recognize, as he has, that the time has come to move from two wheels to three. Or, of course, four.

Waiting to upgrade to the iPhone 8? You’re not alone. - Monday, October

We all know the drill: Every year, Apple introduces a new iPhone, and eager buyers rush to pick it up.

At least, that’s how it normally goes. But this year, the older model iPhone 7 is enjoying a new sales bump while the new iPhone 8 line isn’t flying off shelves at the pace of its predecessors, according to an analyst report Monday.

The iPhone 7’s sales are stronger than they were for the iPhone 6 when the iPhone 7 came out, according to the report by KeyBank Capitol Markets analyst John Vinh. The report was based on surveys from carrier stores.

Apple declined to comment on the report.

At first blush, it seems odd that an older phone would get a sales boost when there’s a new phone out there. But it makes sense for a few reasons. The survey results indicate that more people are interested in buying older iPhones at a cheaper price than in the past. The iPhone 7 just got a price cut, which works for people opting to pass on paying more for the new iPhone 8 features such as wireless charging or the upgraded camera.

The trend around the iPhone 7 appears to reflect a broader notion that consumers aren’t upgrading to the latest smartphone as frequently as they have in the past, perhaps because fewer must-have features are being added to each generation. Analysts have been signaling this upgrade shift for years, as growth in the smartphone market has slowed. AT&T reported last week that it saw “nearly 900,000 fewer handset equipment upgrades” in its third quarter this year, compared with last year.

The iPhone 8 also has the added challenge of sitting in the shadow of the upcoming iPhone X, Vinh said. “Feedback from stores indicates customers are waiting to purchase the iPhone X or to compare the iPhone X before buying the iPhone 8,” he wrote.

Apple used to release sales numbers for the first weekend that new phones went on the market, but the company stopped the practice with the iPhone 7 in 2016. The firm told the Wall Street Journal that those numbers weren’t as relevant anymore, as its phones often sell out - in other words, sales were largely driven by how many phones it could make rather than how many people wanted to buy. The company is expected to give investors clearer numbers on how the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are selling on Nov. 2, when it reports its latest earnings.

What is already clear, though, is that Apple’s decision to launch a premium phone above the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus is shaking up how consumers are looking at new iPhones this fall.

Still, we won’t get a full picture of whether Apple fans want to upgrade this time until the iPhone X comes out Nov. 3 and the full slate of smartphones are on sale. For now, the slowing iPhone 8 sales are just a trend to flag, rather than cause for full-scale panic, analysts said. “We view this trend as modestly worrisome,” Vinh wrote.

Irma ripped into Jekyll Island’s revenues, but makeup of canceled Sept. festival planned - Monday, October

Tropical Storm Irma tore at Jekyll Island’s beaches, felled trees and washed out beach access points. It also hit the island’s bank account very hard.

The September storm forced the cancellation of the island’s biggest event, the annual Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival, and as a result revenue for the month was down $1.5 million, Executive Director Jones Hooks told the state-owned island’s governing board Monday.

With the cancellation, expenses were down $302,000 for the month, mostly attributable to the savings on labor, the Jekyll Island Authority said after Monday’s board meeting.

Hitting as it did near the middle of the month, Irma didn’t wipe out all the hotel revenue as the island shut down during a mandatory evacuation. Hooks reported to the board that hotel occupancy was off about 20 percent to 41.3 percent for the month. As a result revenue for September declined from about $3 million to less than $2.3 million.

Island gate traffic also affected revenue with entries dropping from 93,064 in September 2016 to 64,387. Passenger vehicles that come onto the island must pay a $6 parking fee except for those with annual passes.

There is a plan to make up some of the losses by combining the Shrimp & Grits festival with the Christmas tree lighting ceremony during the Thanksgiving weekend.

“We were all heartbroken,’’ said Meggan Hood, senior marketing director of the Jekyll Island Authority. “The Shrimp & Grits Festival is the island’s biggest event and it takes more than a year to plan, so simply throwing it to another date was not an option.”

The two events will be combined the two days after Thanksgiving, from 2 until 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday.

Some of the region’s restaurants will sell their shrimp and grits dishes on the main lawn in the historic district. There will also be live music, a curated artists market for Christmas shoppers, Santa Clause, fireworks and snow.

The festival will conclude Saturday night with the lighting of the island Christmas tree.

They’re calling it Merry Shrimpmas. For more information visit the website jekyllisland.com/shrimpmas.

Terry Dickson (912) 264-0405

She claimed tall, blond aliens kidnapped her as a child. Now she’s running for Congress. - Monday, October

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera said the encounters began when she was young and happened several times throughout her life.

She saw three beings - two women and a man, she said.

They were tall, full-figured and blond.

They wore robes, spoke telepathically - and were in a round spaceship.

Rodriguez Aguilera described her experiences with extraterrestrials in old interviews unearthed by the Miami Herald as the onetime council member from Doral, Florida, vies for a seat in Congress.

Several years before the 59-year-old announced her candidacy to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, she appeared on Spanish television programs and talked in great detail about her experiences with aliens.

In one video that was uploaded to YouTube long before it was highlighted by the Herald, Rodriguez Aguilera said she saw the round spaceship for the first time when she was 7, after her parents asked her to go outside their home.

She boarded the spaceship, she said, and saw round seats.

After the vessel took off, she said, aliens explained to her what they planned to do.

“God is a universal energy, not a person,” the aliens told her, according to Rodriguez Aguilera. “It’s in everything. God talks to people and they understand it in different ways, but there’s only one religion.”

In another interview, she said the beings, with their arms wide open, reminded her of Jesus Christ, and that she saw them again during her teenage years.

She also claimed that the center of energy is in Africa; that 30,000 skulls different from human skulls are in a subterranean cave in the island of Malta in the Mediterranean; and that Coral Castle, a limestone structure in South Florida, is an ancient pyramid.

The aliens talked about Isis, Rodriguez Aguilera said, though she did not elaborate. Isis is the name of an Egyptian goddess. (It’s also an acronym for the Islamic State militant group that had not existed at the time of Rodriguez Aguilera’s interview.)

Ros-Lehtinen, whom Rodriguez Aguilera hopes to replace, represents much of Miami and Miami Beach.

Ros-Lehtinen, a moderate Republican and the first Hispanic woman and Cuban American elected to Congress, announced in April that she is retiring, giving Democrats a chance to flip a seat in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in November.

Rodriguez Aguilera was not immediately available for an interview Monday.

But according to the Miami Herald, she skirted questions about her experiences with extraterrestrials and responded with this statement:

“For years people, including Presidents like Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter and astronauts have publicly claimed to have seen unidentified flying objects and scientists like Stephen Hawking and institutions like the Vatican have stated that there are billions of galaxies in the universe and we are probably not alone. I personally am a Christian and have a strong belief in God, I join the majority of Americans who believe that there must be intelligent life in the billions of planets and galaxies in the universe.

The former Doral City Council member announced her intention to run in August.

“I had several people from the community call me and ask me to consider running,” she told the Herald. “I have been involved in community activism, human rights, economic development and international affairs all my life. I feel that this is a good fit for me.”

Rick Yabor, a Miami lawyer and political commentator, told The Washington Post that Rodriguez Aguilera isn’t likely to win - especially in light of revelations about her previous claims.

“Why Bettina jumped in that race, I don’t know … her views are not very mainstream,” Yabor said, referring to Rodriguez Aguilera’s stories about aliens. “There’s going to be people that believe her, and there’s going to be people that think she’s wacky.”

And anyway, Yabor said, the district leaned Democratic in last year’s election.

There are at least a dozen candidates vying to replace Ros-Lehtinen, the majority of them Democrats.

Two of Rodriguez Aguilera’s Republican primary opponents, Bruno Barreiro and Raquel Regalado, are better known in Miami-Dade County than she is, Yabor said.

Barreiro has been a county commissioner for nearly 20 years. Regalado is the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Pedro Regalado and is a former school board member in the county.

And they have raised significantly more money than Rodriguez Aguilera.

Barreiro has raised about $218,100, according to federal campaign records. Regalado is a distant second, with $15,050. Rodriguez Aguilera has raised less than $5,000.

Rodriguez Aguilera was a member of the Doral City Council from 2012 to 2014. The city’s mayor nominated her to replace the vice mayor in 2013. Before that, she was the city’s economic development coordinator for two years.

Her campaign website describes her as an “entrepreneur, educator and community leader” with “over 30 years of experience in the private and public sectors.”

In 2015, Miami Dade College launched its Women’s Institute, which offered a women’s studies program developed in partnership with Rodriguez Aguilera, the South Florida Times reported.

Rodriguez Aguilera’s daughter, Bettina Inclán Agen, is a former director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee. Agen is married to Jarrod Agen, Vice President Mike Pence’s deputy chief of staff and communications director.

Mayport overlay district marks success for area business owners - Monday, October

A months-long effort by Mayport area business owners and residents is now part of Atlantic Beach’s code of ordinances.

Atlantic Beach city commission approved, with Commissioner Blythe Waters voting against, the Mayport Business Overlay District for the second and final time Monday. The ordinance takes away the former business designation map along Mayport Road from Dutton Island Road West to Atlantic Boulevard West, giving each business zone type a separate space along the corridor.

Under the Mayport Business Overlay District, the entire corridor is open to businesses zoned under Commercial Limited (CL), Commercial General (CG) and Light Industrial and Warehouse (LIW). This includes businesses from mom-and-pop restaurants and retail stores, to electricians and lawn care companies.

Talks between the city and the Mayport Corridor Association about this overlay district began in June. The aim in taking away the designated zoning areas is to make the zoning more universal and make the corridor more mixed-use in terms of where businesses are located. City commissioners and corridor business owners hope the change will address and improve the dilapidation sprinkled between businesses on the Mayport Road corridor, as well as boost business development overall.

The ordinance’s approval was met with a majority of support from city commissioners and business owners. However, there was disagreement on the commission’s changes to allow rear and side outside storage areas, and outside fencing for all three classifications. Some Mayport area residents that spoke during Monday night’s meeting said the outside storage and fencing with dissolving the zoning areas will encourage more businesses to encroach closer to residential areas.

Commissioner Waters said that expanding the use of outside storage and fencing goes against the proposal business owners and residents worked with city staff to write out and present to the city commission.

Commissioner Mitch Harding disagreed and said that the ordinance as is has been dragged out in the city process for long enough. He said the effort behind this ordinance strived to include both residents near the overlay district as well as business owners.

Commissioner Jimmy Hill agreed and said many businesses in the corridor are dilapidated now because of the current zoning rules and regulations. Hill, Commissioner John Stinson and Mayor Mitch Reeves said the ordinance is only the first step in a long process of revitalizing the Mayport corridor.

“It’s not something we can, in one fell swoop, address and correct everything. I think it’s a process that will be ongoing. I think there’s a lot of energy behind it,” said Stinson.

Victims in attack outside Jacksonville Beach homeless center were shot from behind for little reason - Monday, October

The suspect in Friday’s shooting of two men outside a Jacksonville Beach homeless center told investigators he thought the pair were talking about him and his family, according to the arrest report.

James Michael Moore, 29, had gone inside the Shetter Avenue Mission House to get something to eat and a change of clothes that morning, the report said. When he came out to smoke, both visitors to the facility were shot once from behind while sitting on a bench.

Antonio Dante Grant, 36, sustained a wound to his spleen and liver, while 75-year-old Robert Lee Williams suffered a gunshot to a lung, the report said.

Several people were present, and Moore was taken into custody after leaving a nearby surf shop. Police also recovered a gun that had been reported stolen. Moore remains in jail on no bail charged with two counts of attempted murder and carrying a concealed firearm.