Last week, the Interfaith Center of Northeast Florida, (yes that is a thing,) held a town hall meeting for mayoral candidates. And like most political events in this town, no one knew about it, not very many people attended and our local media could not have cared less.
So, I spent a few hours of my day watching the recording on YouTube and jotting down my thoughts.
The town hall was called, ironically, by the Interfaith Center, “Beyond the Buzzword. Diversity. Equity. Inclusion.” If you have not heard the new favorite acronym of the left this month, it is the all-important sacrament of DEI: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. AKA American Marxism.
The town hall was advertised, as an event to “engage with our mayoral candidates, to discuss issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, (whatever that means). It was moderated by Melissa Ross. Apparently, only the women were brave enough to show up: Republican Leanna Gutierrez Cumber and Democrats Donna Deegan and Audrey Gibson. Republican Daniel Davis never responded to the invitation to the event. Republican Al Ferraro responded by saying he was unable to attend.
The first completely pointless and unanswerable question asked:
“What is your vision to make Jacksonville an inclusive and equitable community, where all residents can feel welcomed and safe?”
Before I bring up the candidate’s answers, I would like to point out, Jacksonville is one of the the largest cities land wise in the entire country. We also have more than 1.3 million people in the metro area. We are a massive city.
I absolutely reject/hate the notion Jacksonville is not diverse. My American mother and my Bahamian father brought me into this world at Baptist Hospital Downtown. I attended Ft. Caroline Elementary, Middle and Terry Parker High School. My parents still live in the same house I was raised in, smack dab in the middle of Arlington. I love this city. I loved my public schools. I loved and still love my diverse group of friends. The same group of friends I have had since elementary school. We are proud of our town. We are proud of our friendships, and we are proud of our parents for allowing us to thrive and grow up together as equals. Never in my entire childhood, were we exposed to the absolute cancer of DEI. We didn’t need it. We never looked at each other as black kids, white kids, immigrants, poor, rich, gay or straight… we were just kids. This crazy new obsession with skin color is a racist political scam and a travesty. It is backward thinking, hurtful and anti-American.
Back to the town hall, circling back to the question: “What is your vision to make Jacksonville an inclusive and equitable community, where all residents can feel welcomed and safe?”
None of the candidates really answered the question. Everyone just talked about the different labels in their family. Where they came from and languages spoken. Who cares, honestly? That has nothing to do with me.
The next — not really a question — question was about the laser symbols displayed on downtown buildings, confederate monuments and what the candidate would do as mayor about hate speech.
Under our system of government there is no such thing as, “hate speech.” So, a mayor would not be able to do anything about something that technically doesn’t exist. Every candidate should have refused the question because it lacks intellectual integrity.
Cumber answered by explaining we need to learn from history, not erase it. She said she is not in favor of, “trying to wipe it out.” Cumber explained, “[monuments] give us an opportunity to contextualize and discuss our history. Which I think is really critical, otherwise you are doomed to repeat it. Those who are from countries that have dealt with things over centuries and all over the world where history is destroyed and gets repeated. Then I think we need to learn from those lessons and not repeat it.”
Deegan referred to confederate monuments as “symbols of hate.” She would support them being removed and placed in a museum where we can study them. She believes the monuments are bad for our community and “bad for business.” “There is no business that wants to move to a city that is still fighting the civil war.” (I think she has been practicing that line.) Deegan says our city cannot move forward until we remove the monuments and have a city that doesn’t just work, “for the handful that it works for now”.
Gibson seemed to agree she would like the monuments removed, but did not come out and say it. She did say she would like Douglas Anderson students to be commissioned to design and build works of art representative of our city and how we live today.
I do not agree with removing monuments. I firmly believe activist groups are pushing for statues to be removed, because that is exactly what the communists did during the Chinese Cultural Revolution with students and young adults. Removing monuments and erasing history is Communist/Marxist ideology 101. I think our politicians need to be smart enough to understand this is an anti-American political movement, denounce it and refuse to give into their demands. If our city leaders are going to cave to mob rule and remove monuments, then Gibson’s idea isn’t half bad. It isn’t good, but it isn’t the worst.
The next question was generated by the Interfaith Center.
“How has your faith informed your positions as a candidate? What will you do to ensure your policy positions as mayor are respectful of all faith traditions particularly who are those who are numerical minorities in this city?
This again, is another non-answerable question. The only true answer would be, “Well Melissa, we live in the United States of America and we have a first amendment to the Constitution and we also have an Establishment Clause protecting every believer and non-believer from the government and over zealous politicians trying to play God. So, our Founding Father’s already answered this question for us in 1791.”
Cumber explained she grew up Catholic and her husband is an Ismaili Muslim.
“I have been endorsed by the National Committee on Religious Freedom. Because I think it is critical that we live in a country that allows everyone to practice their faith in
any way they see fit, where they see fit and how they see fit, without any retribution. I think it is important we embrace all faiths out there and make sure we again, protect,” she said.
Deegan explained how being a three-time cancer survivor helped shape her Catholic faith. She said, “I believe my faith calls me to be present for my brothers and sisters. I believe that I am my brother’s keeper.” “That whole notion of love over fear is where my faith has brought me and what I will bring to the mayor’s office.”
Gibson said, “I walk in my faith every single day.” She got a laugh when she said, “without my faith, I probably would have said some things I shouldn’t have. I raise my family in faith too.” She told the audience a story about a car crash at 15 years old. She was thrown from the car. She said her faith is what got her through and what keeps her moving on a daily basis.
Next, Ross said she wanted to ask the candidates how they felt about DEI.
Cumber wanted to bring the focus back to city issues. She said,” If we do not focus on education in this city and making sure our kids are successful in reading, math and science, then we are never going to be able to reduce our crime rate. And we are never going to be able to improve our quality of life. And we are doing a disservice to all the parents out there and the kids out there. That is what I am laser focused on. And that is what everyone in this city should be focused on. They should have been focusing on it for years and it’s been left behind. And that is why I am running.”
Deegan answered by saying claiming there is an attack on public education.
“We are seeing an attack on a couple of things: An attack on education. Public education. Let’s be honest. A lot of these moves are made simply to degrade public education, so that we can make sure we pump a lot more money into privatizing our schools.”
She also touched on alleged book banning. She told a story of a mother who says her daughter was forced to close a novel she was reading in the middle of class because it is now banned. She said the child was scared and the mother is, “mad as hell.”
Deegan asked, ““Do we want to become a city a state or county that bans books?” She says banning books is taking away freedoms and is a distraction. Deegan says she trusts our teachers and would like to see public schools get more money.
Side note: Deegan attended Bishop Kenny High School. Her children also had the privilege of attending Bishop Kenny, one of the most expensive private schools in Jacksonville. Deegan’s parents apparently did not trust public school teachers. When Donna had her own children, she also did not trust their education to our public school system or our teachers she claims to trust now that her children are adults.
Also, DCPS has a $2.2 billion dollar budget and spends a whopping $9,000 per student. How much more money could our school system possibly take from you and me to make them happy? The school superintendent makes more than $300,000 a year offthe taxpayer. Even with all that cash, she still cannot figure out how to manage our schools.
Gibson answered… well I am not sure what she said, so I will quote her:
“The idea of soothing someone who is unknown to any of us, by removing historical publications and books, um and not talking about diversity and inclusion, after we finally, gotten to the point where we defiantly want to be inclusive. We have, yall’s governor, who has decided that, um, who has decided that history of people is no longer important. Who has decided, and probably, for some reason doesn’t get, what going to Disney World looks like. Ya know what I am saying? It is not all one color people. There are millions and millions of people from different regions of the world that come to Disney and why would they not want to have diversity and inclusion training so they understand the cultural ways… of the people who are visiting?”
“…this is why we have to stay laser focused on Jacksonville, and that is what I have been saying, that’s why I vowed to run, when it is time for state politics… well the time is now, we need to raise up on the books that are being taken off the shelves in our library, in our city. And I am a member of the library advisory board by the way, how do you don’t talk about what happened, but you talk about, oh look what they overcame. Well we don’t know, because we don’t get to talk about what they overcame. That’s silly.”
Ross moved on to public safety. She said Jacksonville has been the murder capital of Florida on and off for 30 years. As mayor how would you address these issues?
Cumber said we need to get a hold of our crime issue. “We are never going to be able to resolve crime if we are only addressing it in a reactive way. We need to look at thing proactively. We need to make sure whether its JSO or firefighters. We need to make sure they have the resources they need.” Cumber also listed things she has done the City Council to help curb crime. She explained her efforts in shutting down internet cafes, passing a human trafficking bill and passing a Nuisance Abatement Board. The Sheriff’s Office has been given some relief allowing them to focus on more pressing issues. Cumber also made the point, “it is statically true that Republican-led cities have lower rates of crime.”
That last comment got a few snickers from the audience. Cumber responded by pausing, shrugging her shoulders and saying, “You can look up the statistics.”
She went on to say, “There are two cities in the country that buck that trend, Tulsa, Oklahoma and Jacksonville, Florida. And we need to reverse that trend and start being a city that is proactive on crime.”
Deegan says she believes city programs like Jacksonville Journey were effective at bringing down crime. She says we need to look at the underlying issues of crime like literacy, food insecurity and infrastructure. She says the three pillars of her campaign will bring down crime: infrastructure, health access plan and economics. Deegan said “we have an economy that only works for a handful of folks.”
Deegan said we are not lacking money in Jacksonville; she claims we are lacking political will. “There is nothing we are suffering from in this city that political will will not fix.”
Gibson touted her criminology degree from Florida State University. She is currently working on her master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Florida. Gibson says she “understands the theories of crime.” She said, “crime is cyclical.” (Which is a fancy way of saying, ‘the cycle of crime.’) She brought up guns, and says guns keep getting passed from one person to the next. And we have a rash of crime because we have such a young population. She put the blame back on innocent people, claiming guns in unlocked cars are the problem. “People need to report stolen guns.” She says some parents even live in fear in their own homes because of guns in their house. Aubrey also says she believes in community policing. She also wants to make sure people are not threatened by a police officer sitting on their block. She wants people to understand that officers are there to protect them.
The last two questions came from the audience: “How will you support LGBTQ youth as the mayor of Jacksonville?”
As I have already pointed out. This is another non-answerable question. It is designed to be that way. Honestly, how can you answer a question that involves placating to children’s sexual fetishes? The question shouldn’t even be asked.
Cumber answered by explaining government have a very limited role.
“I am going to be focused on as mayor is improving literary, so all of our kids will have opportunity. Make sure we reduce crime, so all of our children have opportunity and making sure that the infrastructure around the city is good so that we bring in businesses, so that all of our kids can have opportunity to be successful. And if we focus on that, then all of our children will have the opportunity to be successful and that is government’s role.”
Deegan said, “I want to make sure our LGBTQ young people feel safe.” She said she wants them to feel wanted. She said it is important to have an environment for learning. Deegan claimed she has spoken to teachers “who have been scared to death to even have a rainbow flag, or actually have been told to take them down from their classrooms.”
I will point out that Deegan says she wants to make a learning environment for everyone while claiming that removing a flag representing an adult’s sexual preference inside a classroom for children is somehow a major problem. Again, removing sex flags for children is bad, according to Deegan.
“As mayor I will support every individual in this city…. We are all human beings.” “I do not categorize people based on their sex or any of that. That is not what I do as a legislator and that is not what I would do as mayor,” Gibson said.
The last audience question was, “How can we trust any of the candidates to be positive leaders, when all we see is negative ads on T.V.?”
Cumber responded by saying she has a few positive ads out there and there is a lot of positivity in this city.
Deegan said people can trust her by looking at how she has behaved in the public arena for the past 40 years. She says she as even written a book on it. She says she is going to run a positive and forward-thinking campaign.
Gibson said she has always been positive in her career. She says she doesn’t have time to talk about others. She only has time to talk about herself and what she has done in this community. “Audrey Gibson only talks about Audrey Gibson.”
My final thoughts:
The town hall was designed around Democratic talking points. All are completely pointless in a city of more than a million people. When it comes down to it, the only thing people really care about is their financial freedom. Can Jacksonville offer an opportunity to create financial freedom for me and my family?
The only candidate to really answer the questions asked was Cumber. She wasn’t emotional. She kept her cool and spoke with confidence while laying out a vision. Deegan just seemed angry. Gibson seemed like she just wanted to have a good time and speak her mind. She was lighthearted and got a few laughs from the audience.
We need change. Jacksonville needs strong leaders who make decisions that move our city forward. Group think, political correctness and DEI are cancers plaguing every American institution right now, including ours. We need a mayor who has the courage to ignore the noise and who is strong enough to lead with confidence.
I also find it fascinating that only women showed up. If Ferraro and Davis do not have the courage to face an audience of less than 100 people, how in the world would they have the confidence to stand up and lead a city of more than a million people?