Before we begin, I’d like to ask your forgiveness for the length of this opinion piece. The issues have been piling up and it’s time to get this published. I hope you’ll take the time to read it and share it. There is much is at stake for you and our neighbors.
Daniel Davis and the Chamber
The Mayor’s race is heating up and I am too. I have watched our taxpayer dollars used irresponsibly over and over again and now some of those dollars are being used to potentially fund one of the candidates for Mayor – Daniel Davis.
Mr. Davis is the President of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and recently threw his hat in the ring for Mayor. I’ve met Daniel. He’s a nice guy. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and had hopes he might be the answer to Jacksonville’s leadership problem. But the latest behaviors by him and the Chamber have shattered that and now… I’m done. Like many of you are done.
D.C. and Jacksonville – Same behaviors, different city
We’re done because there is a hunger across America for politicians to stop playing games with our lives, our freedoms and our hard-earned money.
After a recent pow-wow in Congress between Republicans and Conservatives, we saw the desire for the people to be heard. There were a few days of back and forth debate where some thought those debating for more accountability of the anointed “successor” aka Kevin McCarthy were “terrorists.” Even our own Congressman John Rutherford called those opposing McCarthy — “political terrorists” – to our utter dismay. Eye on Jacksonville asked him via text if it was true he called them that and he sent back a reply – “Yes!” We were stunned.
Kevin McCarthy thought he was going to walk into the Speaker’s Office without addressing the concerns of so many who want to stop doing the people’s business the same old way. People wanted change and because of 20 holdouts, change took place and the Republicans are on fire – together with the Conservatives — exposing corruption, cronyism and demanding accountability.
The Pow-Wow ended up being a good thing for America. Those who called Conservative Congressmen/women “terrorists” owe their colleagues an apology. We do not understand how debating an issue became a bad thing in DC. Debate was the foundation of America’s founding documents and our heritage. Debate is good and name-calling is childish.
Jacksonville residents also no longer want the “next in line successor” to walk into the Mayor’s office and do business the same old way…because the same old way has not worked.
Other information about Daniel Davis’ role at the Chamber
We have written about Daniel Davis (check out EyeOnMyCity.com and search “Daniel Davis” for the articles we have published). We wrote numerous articles and mostly because we felt the Chamber was “out of their lane” and needed to get back into supporting local businesses and creating economic opportunities. We thought writing about their waywardness would help and unfortunately, it has gotten worse.
A little history regarding the birth of the Chambers of Commerce
The history of the Chambers of Commerce is something we encourage you to read about. You can find out more here: Chamber History.
Please take particular note of these statements within the historical description and my thoughts below in italics:
“Chambers of Commerce are not governmental organizations and receive no direct government funding.”
(Jax Chamber DOES receive government funding aka taxpayer dollars and to a tune of $750,000 this year alone. See information below taken from City of Jacksonville archived document.)
“Each Chamber is a separate and independent entity and these individual entities are not connected by government or funding.”
(Jax Chamber is connected to our local government through funding of our tax dollars within the city budget or special legislation.)
“You have a “watchdog” protecting your interests politically and economically.”
(Seriously, how can the Jax Chamber be a watchdog protecting us when receiving funds from the very city they are supposed to watch?)
“The Chamber identifies public issues, but avoids purely partisan political issues.”
(The Chamber and its sister entities have been involved in political issues such as changing school names, tearing down monuments, supporting the use of taxpayer dollars for Lot J, and supporting and endorsing candidates – to name a few.)
My Experience with the Chamber
In the 90’s I was the COO for a roundtable of CEOs known as Vistage. We worked with the Jax Chamber to create a program for small business owners. That program was implemented and the chamber back then looked more like the chamber noted above. It was here to serve small business owners and be that watchdog. But no more!
I had no desire to be a member of the Chamber over the years because of their lane change into highly political topics. We get that enough elsewhere so why pay good money to join a progressive group that does not share my values or represent the local business community?
I recently did rejoin the Chamber for the specific reason of encouraging it to return it to its original purpose and help rebuild trust with the local business community.
In my opinion, the Chamber and Daniel Davis have stepped over the line
The Chamber and Daniel Davis have decided to go one step further and we believe that step has gone too far.
Under the leadership of Daniel Davis, I believe the Chamber has engaged in impermissible acts for the benefit of Davis and his political aspirations, while at the same time taking ever-increasing funding from the City through use of our tax dollars.
The charters of the Chamber and its Foundation prohibit using their assets or income for the personal benefit of any officer. The only exception is the payment of reasonable compensation for services.
This same rule is applied by the IRS to all non-profits. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Foundation also is prohibited from participating in any political campaigns.
And here’s the step that went too far. It was recently reported that the Chamber agreed to pay Davis his full salary during his run for Mayor!
Ask yourself this,
“How can the President of the Jax Chamber run for Mayor while still being paid as Chamber President if that is a conflict to the charter and IRS regulations?” “Why would the board approve this infraction?” “Doesn’t the board have a fiduciary responsibility to the members of the Chamber?”
The latest example of these unseemly acts is the use of the offices and employees of the Chamber and the Foundation to film a political ad for Davis’ campaign.
That’s one example, but there are more. Davis has used Chamber staff and Chamber assets (at least stationery) in support of his campaign and political activities.
The Chamber also maintains a political committee named JaxBiz. This is how they get away with NOT being involved in politics…they set up another entity to do this work for them. Note their mission:
JAXBIZ is the nonpartisan political committee affiliated with JAX Chamber that works to elect business-friendly candidates to local and state offices. JAXBIZ interviews and endorses candidates, then works to get them elected with assistance that includes fundraising, direct mail, digital advertising and connecting candidates with the 3,000 Chamber member businesses.
This committee has made contributions to Davis’ political committee thereby building Davis’ political capital.
Then there is the issue of compensation. The Chamber paid Daniel Davis $561,000 in 2020, representing 7.5% of the Chamber’s revenues. By comparison, the Chamber paid Davis $366,473 in 2016, or 3.2% of revenues. What was the reasoning to justify an almost $200,000 increase in Daniel Davis’ salary?
The Miami, Tampa and Orlando chambers pay their Presidents a lot less than Daniel Davis salary of $561,000. Is that amount considered reasonable compensation?
Daniel’s salary has increased while the Chamber’s income and assets have seen a steady decline. As the supposedly premier organization representing businesses, ask yourself …”What business would increase a CEOs salary at such a high level with a decline in revenue??? “ Is that good business?
And maybe the Chamber should ponder this question…
“Has this steady decline happened because the Chamber got out of their lane and instead supported extreme political activities?”
That 53% increase in compensation from 2016 to 2020 raises serious questions about the reasonableness of the compensation, and a review of tax filings for similar chambers validates those concerns.
Even assuming $561,000 is reasonable compensation, it surely is not reasonable for someone now doing a part-time job while he campaigns for the role of Mayor. Rather, it appears the Chamber is using its income and assets to partly subsidize Davis’ political ambitions.
Moreover, it is a misuse of public funds that the City and neighboring counties pay the Chamber to promote economic development.
What needs to be done?
As we celebrate Martin Luther King this week we are reminded of the bold and sacrificial work he did to expose corruption.
“Injustice and Corruption will never be transformed by keeping them hidden but only by bringing them out into the light and confronting them with the power of love.” – Martin Luther King
We as citizens of the great City of Jacksonville must carry on his work to ensure our hometown is led by statesmen and stateswomen who will eliminate back room deals, cronyism, and corruption and will restore integrity and accountability to the halls of our city government.
Our next Mayor must focus on what the people care about:
· Reducing Crime that has spread throughout the city and not just in pockets (Note: We are hopeful our new Sheriff will do a great job of getting our high crime under control but he needs a Mayor focused on this issue too. He can’t do it alone.)
· The best educational system for ALL of our precious children. Every school must have the highest quality programs, the best teachers and a return to safety and love in the classrooms.
· Economic opportunities meaning job creations, development of the whole of Jacksonville and finally … after being known as the City of Renderings – building a downtown that we can be proud of and that also incorporates our natural resources such as the river and the good people who live here. This will mean addressing the issue of homelessness that has created a fear of going downtown.
· Using our tax dollars wisely and keeping taxes low. Wasting our tax dollars is widely seen and known. We want it to stop and use our money for city infrastructure, basic services and safety concerns.
Daniel Davis hasn’t told us what he plans to do. He’s very wishy washy about issues that are important to us. His behaviors are equally disturbing such as:
· When Daniel and the Chamber supported raising the gas tax. That gas tax increase hurt the poorest among us and was not popular with the taxpayers. But get this…when Governor DeSantis came to town, there stood Daniel Davis behind him as the Governor gave relief at the gas pump by reducing the gas tax where he could. Ask yourself this, “Do you want a Mayor who wants to be popular with other leaders for his own political gain or a Mayor who wants what is best for you?”
· When the first debate was held for all candidates for Mayor, he failed to show up. The worst part … the downtown Rotary hosted it and he’s a member there. Did he assume he already had the votes from this group?
· His TV commercials touting what a good guy he is are words from others because Daniel doesn’t speak in either of them. Does anyone know the sound of Daniel Davis’ voice? The people want to hear from his mouth – his words – his voice – and share with us what he’s going to do to make Jacksonville better.
· His TV commercials against his opponents are the same old political tactic. His campaign is already using their template to call their opponent names, post the ugliest picture they can find, and manipulate facts to confuse voters. Daniel must agree with this tactic but we find it a slimy and a disgusting way to try to win an election. (Note: Political consultants will tell you this campaign tactic works so we don’t see this stopping anytime soon. Just be aware when you see these tactics and make sure you do your own research on candidates.)
Bottom line is this. The Chamber needs to get back in their lane. Daniel Davis needs to resign from his position or take a leave of absence with no compensation while running for Mayor. And as a community, we need to demand that our tax dollars are not funding organizations and other non-profits that should be able to stand on their own and do not get involved in political campaigns. That’s good business practices and good old-fashioned common sense.
It’s time to get back to doing business like business should be done because we are officially “done” with the shenanigans.
That’s my opinion and I would welcome hearing yours.