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Jacksonville Mayor & City Council District 1 Candidate Forum Recap

Monday, February 21, 2011

As promised here is my report on the District 1 Candidate Forum this past Thurday, February 17th put on by my neighborhood organization: The Alderman Park Civic Association. I've decided not to use any photos I took during the evening because of the poor quality of the photos and the lack of competency on the part of the operator. It was held off Lone Star Rd. in Alderman Park’s St. Andrews Episcopal Church. It was a fairly well attended event with a full slate of candidates shaking hands and kissing babies. The TU was even present. The first thing I noticed was the demographics of the crowd: mostly white, gray-haired, fairly balanced gender mix, probably retired and very, very conservative. The President of the Association is a Teaparty Republican who was a Rick Scott backer sporting one of those “Have You Prayed For A Liberal” bumper stickers on his car. It always strikes me that conservative’s bumpers always conveys a message to marginalize someone’s philosophy or belief system as it is never something to persuade. In any event, there is no doubt political ambitions are bubbling in that head as he is probably a good bet for a future District 1 City Council candidate once Clay Yarborough decides to take his homophobia and religious bigotry to the state house in some capacity.

I walked around and saw a couple of neighborhood folks I knew and exchanged pleasantries and took a few photos, which had the effect of everyone giving me a wary eye. There was no doubt that in all probability, with the exception of DINO’s Warren Lee and Ken Jefferson, I and poor old out manned Darryl Fleming, a candidate for Clay Yarborough’s City Council seat, were the only Democrats in the room. One of the Group 5 at large candidates for City Council, Robin Lumb, ambled over and introduced himself and left a card and then the forum was gaveled to order by the intrepid association President.

During the course of the evening three main themes emerged from the Republican cavalcade of tax cuttin’ cowboys as they burnished their conservative credentials for three minutes of allotted time to address the audience: (1) [Wait for it…] tax cuts!; (2) reducing the size of government [a shocker, I know]; and finally (3) union basing. That last one caught me off guard but looking at the slate of candidates I really should have expected it. Everyone seemed to be against the Craig Airfield extension and for some reason round-a-bouts.

The candidates for Mayor that did show up were Dino Warren Lee, and GOP’ers Mike Hogan, and Rick Mullaney. I guess Audrey Moran was reaching out to Democrats somewhere else in the city that evening along with Democrat Alvin Brown since we were at a minimum in the room. I was hoping Ms. Moran would be there so I could ask her about her UNF forum statement regarding taxes and fees but considering the crowd in attendance and their hostility to anything approaching the statement she made at UNF it might have been a wise decision to have a convenient schedule conflict as an alibi. Mike Hogan and Rick Mullaney looked like two of Pavlov’s dogs barking in unison on taxcuts [More! More!] and cutting government and making it smaller. I should follow them around with a little bell and ring it and watch them bark out Taxcuts! like one ofo Pavolov's subjects. But my liberal sensibilities tell me that’s cruel. Rick Mullaney touted his “34 point plan to […wait for it] shrink government and cut taxes. Mike Hogan was the one candidate who said no more round-a-bouts and got a smattering of applause. He followed that up with a pledge against excessive salaries as well (sorry city government workers – that means no raises for you). Warren Lee was against the Craig Airfield extension proposal but other than that who knows. He gave a bio and took a question about unions to which he replied “we need serious budget cuts.” DINO’s don’t do very well when they act Republican because why vote for one when you can vote for a real one.

The candidates for Jacksonville Sheriff were first with the staid and serious Sheriff Rutherford giving credit to Cowford’s homicide rate decline the past year to an aggresive district attorney’s office and JSO’s community outreach programs, which dropped us out of our number one ranking in the state for murder. When you can beat out Miami in that category you know there is some serious ammunition being expended into some bodies demonstrating one’s right to bear arms. He did fail to mention our fair city still leading the way in other felonies but no one was counting once the decline in violent deaths was noted. Once a discussion of guns was brought up all the following candidates no matter the office usually demonstrated their conservative credentials by extolling the virtues of the 2nd Amendment. Seems like the constitution is always sacred to them unless of course its the parts they don’t like (i.e. 14th Amendment). I wanted to ask DINO Sheriff candidate Ken Jefferson about his response to a question at an earlier forum for the Sheriff candidates reported by TU PolitiJax writer Abel Harding about his policy regarding armed suspects – “Kill’em, shoot’em, and bury’em. But I figured all that would do is gin up the concealed and carry crowd and I thought better of it.

Tax Collector and Property Appraiser candidates were all GOP candidates talking efficiency and making your visits to their offices like a retail operation. They wanted to make your visit(s) the quickest and most accessible to the services you need which of course sounds reasonable. But that’s like the roadside inn touting clean rooms instead of something more than basic services. Someone in the audience wanted to know why Mike Hogan’s name was on every Tax Collector sign and thought it was a frivolous expense and is the next office holder going to do the same. They stumbled over each other saying no.

Now we come to the Candidates for Dist. 1: Yarborough, Brock and Fleming. As the lone Democrat Mr. Fleming didn’t have much to offer other than his experience about being in the military and working in Pentagon procurement offices and heavily involved in the Boy Scouts. Clay Yarborough talked about his fiancé and said basically he’s going to keep doing the same old same old and voting no on everything that moves. I’ve seen more vision at the St. Augustine school for the blind than these stuffed shirts offered all night. This brings us to the one candidate who stood out for me because he offered an actual idea for the community: Republican candidate Lindsey Brock. He was very personable and cordial and spoke to the members of the audience and it was what he didn’t do that caught my attention more than anything else. He didn’t lead off with the standard Duval County GOP line about tax cuts and shrinking government. He talked about coming up with a program to link JU students with small businesses and show them how attractive a community Arlington can be with their vibrant ideas and talent. I almost stood up and shouted Here! Here!. I watched to see if anyone other than myself found that interesting – then nothing. He actually said he wanted to do something about bringing small businesses back to Arlington. I nearly fainted.

It was at this point I’d decided I couldn’t take anymore of this charade. District 2 and at large candidates were getting ready to speak and I just could not bear to hear more of the same. I saw Mr. Lindsey headed for the back of the room when he finished and before I knew it we were outside having a discussion about his ideas and I was able to give my views on what community means to me and my ideas about the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. He actually listened to what I had to say and engaged me about some of those ideas. Once I left I came home and immediately sent an email telling him he was the only candidate present that seemed reasonably grounded and open to what others had to say. I’ll have more to say about him later. Even though I’m diametrically opposed to almost every position he holds he does come across as someone you could actually work with.

I wanted to end the recap with some of the questions that were asked during the course of the evening. Someone stood up with a question for Rick Mullaney about unions. After giving a preamble that was straight off one of off Fox News’ Sean Hannity/Glenn Beck anti-union tirades about how they are responsible for choking off government revenue he wanted to know how he felt about unions. After nodding in agreement while that guy went on before his question and even mouthing “That’s right” when he remarked about unions being a revenue problem for the city he basically answered he was for sitting down and setting union leadership straight about where they stood with him and telling them his guidelines for dealing with them. Once they understood he would not budge an inch on any demand then he would be glad to tell them at a sit down to live with it. What a guy. I wanted to shout to him the next time his house caught on fire or he needed a cop, his call would be answered by an actual taxpaying union member(s). But the thick fog of ideology would have prevented any understanding of that concept.

Next someone asked about shutting down Terry Parker and making it a magnet school. One of the candidates, whom at present I can’t remember, said Terry Parker was a tradition in the community, then he went on to say was expressly not for closing it down. He asked the questioner to delay taking his family out of Arlington and work together with the community to improve the school.

And finally there was one question I wanted to cover. A lady, I think, stood up and asked why we had a storm runoff fee/tax and when we had an actual problem with storm runoff water she couldn’t get any service. I was stunned, though I shouldn’t have been, at the response she got. Several candidates took the microphone and said they had nothing to do with that current tax/fee. They explained to her what it actually was but went no further than that. Earlier in the evening when Kurt Kravitz, the candidate for Tax Collector spoke he mentioned his background was a successful business man with the Jacksonville Suns who made his employees do at least three different jobs and how he wanted to wanted the employees at the Tax Collector’s office do the same. Once they finished denying to the lady they had nothing to do with that tax I wanted to stand up and tell her this is an example of what we are in for. I wanted to tell her the reason she and others, who could be heard grumbling in agreement with her as she spoke, were not getting a response for that problem even though they were paying a fee was an example of shrinking government/city services what were already cut to the bone. On top of that here we are listening to some guy tell us he’s going to make his employees work more than one job as well. I wanted to say Kravitz was the perfect example of this mindset and this is not only what we have been going through for the past 12 years of dominant GOP rule but that we can expect more of the same in the future with these characters.

Though this sums of my recap I’ll have more to say later. I want to post the speech Democrat Daryl Fleming should have given and I will be commenting further about the race as it nears its conclusion for Mayor and District 1.

1 Comment:

Lawrence said...

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