City Council gambles no one will research the loss of 2,700 jobs & a possible tie to campaign contributions.

Candidly, I had not paid much attention to the adult arcade debate in our city. But a phone call to Eye on Jacksonville from someone who has worked in the arcades for more than 15 years, brought it to my attention and to the people who just lost their jobs. 2,700 of our neighbors are now out of work, just before the holidays. Sad.

After listening to the caller and speaking with a few city council members, something wasn’t smelling right. Something stunk.

We decided to look into the background of this story. Here goes:

The former members of the city council took up the shutdown of the adult arcades in August of this year. They voted to shut them down. While many may not agree with the shutdown, the members of the previous City Council did understand this would affect many people. It would have a severe impact on 2,700 employees and others such as vendors and owners of the property. Understanding that impact, they gave the arcade owners until February 1, 2020 to close so everyone could prepare for this life changing event.

Then enter in the new city council — with some of the former city council members still representing their constituents. A newbie to the council, LeAnna Cumber, District 5, for some reason decided these arcades needed to be closed NOW. She wanted them fast-tracked to closure and last week she made it happen. Pretty good work for a newbie on the council.

The new city council voted 10-9 to fast track the shutdown and without warning, 2,700 of our neighbors are now without jobs. Some on the city council were shocked by this fast tracking and stood their ground to give the arcade owners time to shut down vs. fast tracking it. Unfortunately there were not enough votes to stop it.

The employees in the arcades are now out of work and have no time to plan how to pay their bills, buy presents for the holidays and put food on their table. And…as the caller reminded me, these 2,700 employees do not have a luxurious lifestyle like LeAnna Cumber does.

In fact, one of the arcade employees took a picture of LeAnna’s luxurious car outside City Hall the night she fast tracked this decision. The employee stated, “Why should she care about us? She doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck like we do.”

The picture was sent to Eye and we chose not to show it to ensure Ms. Cumber’s privacy and safety.

However, we wanted to understand why Ms. Cumber and others would fast track the closing and forget about the people affected. It seemed cruel and totally unnecessary.

Eye understands that most politicians are fed by money and votes and by their own personal egos. There are a few who are doing it for the right purpose which is — to serve those who live in their district.

We decided to dig into the campaign contributions of the city council members and the Mayor.

And there it was. The answer to “Why fast track the shut down of these arcades?”

Findings: There are many on the city council and the Mayor who received money – campaign contributions – from entities in the gaming industry such as Jacksonville Kennel Club, Best Bet and other various parimutuels. In other words, the big money gambling competitors to the Adult Arcades.

You can go see for yourself and while away the hours checking out your city council member, mayor and others who receive donations. There is an easy way for you to find out who gave how much to whom. And it will help you understand decisions made by some based on the influence these contributions make regarding voting decisions. Here’s the site:

We took a look at one gaming facility – the Jacksonville Kennel Club and the amount they have put into the coffers of council members and the Mayor’s PAC. It is staggering. Almost $120,000 in just the last two years. Here’s the information:

And BestBet was generous too. Check out their contributions here:

My take on the situation is this…

The biggest mistake the owners of these Adult Arcades made was not contributing to local races. That’s politics. If they followed the lesson of their competition, they might still be in business today.

The other research Eye did on this situation included the following reasons why the shutdown needed to happen now:

Safety: The city council said these arcades are not safe. — Okay Taco Bell had a shooting this week. Question: Are you going to shut down ALL Taco Bell’s because of this one being dangerous? There are 100 arcades in the city. If one or two are bad, why did you shut them all down?

Nearby establishments: The arcades are near schools and churches. Question: That’s a silly excuse. Why not use Zoning to do this? Why shut down 100 arcades because some are near churches and schools? Where is the power of zoning that was put in place to handle this type of situation?

Public nuisance: Okay we get it. There are always bad players in every industry. And if you are on a holier than thou campaign … when will you shut down the “gentlemens clubs?” Just wondering because they are really an eye sore and draw in many “seedy” people. There are few “gentlemen” who participate in these establishments.

There is so much to this story and we know that it is now in the hands of the courts.

Let me say this…although I am not a big fan of these types of establishments, I know they are also a legal business and with proper enforcement and zoning they can compete with the big guys such as Best Bet and the kennel clubs. The city and the council need to treat every establishment with the same rules and regulations. All we want is a government that treats everyone with fairness.

I’ll end with this. In trying to understand why Ms. Cumber would want to fast-track the closing, we took a look at her bio on the City of Jacksonville’s website. You can check it out here:

Two things tood out:

  • “In 2002, LeAnna moved to Washington D.C. where she began a career in transportation and homeland security.”
    • Question for Ms. Cumber: Did you have anything to do with calling in homeland security this week to intimidate the fast track shutdown of the arcades? Just wondering because it sure showed a heavy hand in the shutdown and shocked the owners. They are not criminals.
  • “As a consultant, LeAnna is a small business owner who understands the challenges facing entrepreneurs.”
    • Question for Ms. Cumber: Where was your empathy bone this week? Did you forget the owners of these arcades who are entrepreneurs with 2,700 employees? Did you consider the extra burdens you put on them by fast tracking this shut down? If you didn’t, it would be nice for you to reflect upon that statement and remind yourself of the words you speak. Because today the words are hollow and feel empty to the entrepreneurs in this industry and in the lives of 2,700 of our neighbors.

We send our prayers to our fellow neighbors who have lost their jobs. We pray you will find work soon and bounce back. The best revenge for you is to do well and come back strong. Never let sudden circumstances take you down!

And.. keep an eye on the next campaign season. Get involved in politics because as you can see — politics got involved in your life. You have the power of your vote. Use it.

Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives

Billie Tucker Volpe

Billie Tucker Volpe Founder of Eye on Jacksonville and Leadership Consultant to CEOs/Executives.


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