Mayor Lenny Curry has issued a statement that seems to deny he is the impetus for any sale of the JEA and to turn the matter over to the City Council.
He says, however, that he supports anything that would be covered by a responsibility to lower costs.
“Since 1999, there has been a mandate written into our city ordinance code, Sec. 21.302, for anyone serving as mayor of Jacksonville, and the executive branch administration, to consider if essential government functions traditionally served by government could be better served through privatization,” he said.
“It is not simply a suggestion but a responsibility to consider this and for the mayor to make such policy decisions. As this law states, if and only if, the mayor submits a privatization plan would it then proceed to City Council.”
Curry said he has not proposed the sale of the JEA and will not present a proposal to the City Council for the sale.
But he said he supports the JEA board’s recent actions, which include dumping its interim CEO and replacing her with a former board member who had resigned from the board after only two months.
Aaron Zahn, the new CEO, then reassigned his short-lived predecessor from finance director to chief operating officer.
Next, Zahn announced that he wanted to quiet talk of a sale and pursue the attempt to place a fair value on the utility, (which would be a prerequisite for a sale).
The JEA, the council and the private Jacksonville Civic Council are pouring over the numbers in attempts to evaluate the utility.
Curry said, “Technology and innovation are making renewable power more affordable, while efficiencies are reducing our water and electric needs. The result is data showing that JEA customers may increase in number, but revenues will decrease. We also learned that for a decade, a move toward nuclear power — although it was perhaps well-intended — has left Jacksonville saddled with at least $1.2 billion in obligations.
“Worse is that those dollars committed years ago, may never yield any real value to JEA customers and taxpayers whose backs this liability rests upon. When you combine falling revenue and billions in liability on the balance sheet, you have to take a hard look at the future.
“The challenge of such a look forward requires leaders to strategically prepare solutions to the problems we’ve uncovered. …
“This strategic planning and long-term commitment to JEA employees and customers is also why I am choosing to state unequivocally that I will not submit any JEA privatization plan to the City Council.”
By disassociating himself with the effort, Curry is leaving the City Council to decide whether it wants to pursue such a plan. But Councilman John Crescembini is pursuing an effort to leave it up to the voters, instead, after enough information is developed to enable them to make an informed choice, which probably is the best solution to the hotly debated issue.
Check out the Message from Aaron Zahn, Interim CEO of JEA. Link here if you can’t read the picture below: Message