With events cascading in the JEA sale controversy, new JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn’s plea to stop talking about it is understandable, although unlikely to have any effect.
The City Council is moving ahead with deliberation to pin a value on the city-owned utility.
Likewise, the private Jacksonville Civic Council shows no signs of dropping its parallel effort to estimate a value.
The latest in a string of recent developments is a report from a local TV station that a group of citizens were involved two months ago in a focus-group setting that involved the question of selling the JEA.
What caused the buzz was that this same group also was involved in the election campaign of Mayor Lenny Curry, who has denied that he is the impetus behind the sudden push to sell JEA.
Data Targeting Inc. conducted the study but co-founder Tim Baker told WJCT that it was not done for Curry or any Curry-related group. Curry, moreover, while saying he is not necessarily in favor of the sale, is interested in determing the value of the utility. So, a focus group would fit within the scope of his claimed interest.
Another source says various groups are doing what amounts to opposition research on the various players in the issue, including Zahn, who seemingly came from nowhere and pole-vaulted over the logical successor of Paul McElroy to become interim CEO.
All of which makes Councilman John Crescimbeni’s reported proposal to hold a referendum in the fall seem eminently reasonable.
He has proposed a straw ballot question as to whether a binding referendum on the issue should be held.
Regardless of the results, that would slow the train and give the public a chance to get some information.
Any binding referendum subsequently called by the council presumably would be held only after the city announced its interest in a sale and a company made a proposal to buy.
If the sale price and terms were subject to a future vote it would force a thorough public debate and those in favor of selling would have to not only come out in the open but also do some salesmanship themselves, since public opinion at the moment seems solidly against the idea.
As both current owners and customers of any future owner, Jacksonville residents are entitled to have a vote on a move this momentous.
See more about this focus group here: Mayor Curry’s Campaign Team Holds Focus Group about JEA