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Fair warning — this post is a little sarcastic. We try to be positive and we are stunned by the big news about Lot J.

I am convinced one day the City of Jacksonville will be the subject of a made for TV movie and the characters will be similar to those from the old gangster movies. There will be Slick Willy, Scarface, Outlaw, Shark, Bonnie & Clyde, Boss Man, Mob Wife and a host of others. The stories will change from week to week because Jacksonville has so many to choose from. Maybe the name of the series would be Jacksonville: The Chronicles of the Tear Down Town

The big announcement by Mayor Curry and Jags owner, Shad Khan about Lot J could have been the beginning scene of the first episode, “How to become a billionaire: Negotiating with a Star-Struck Mayor.”

Imagine the back story leading up to that scene of the beautiful Lot J development. Could it go something like this:

Mr. Billionaire: Now here’s the deal, Mayor. I need $52.4 Million but I’m asking for $65.5 million, interest free. Now here’s what I’m going to do to make it all fair and square. I will put $13.1 million of that money in a trust that you can have back 50 years from now or sooner if the money in the trust gives an investment return of the $65.5 million. (Mr. Billionaire turns and winks to his trusty right armed guy, “Trigger.”)

Star Struck Mayor: Yeah, I guess. That sounds like a really good deal Mr. Billionaire. We are going to give you $65.5 million and you are going to take $13.1 million and put it in a trust and we can’t touch it for 50 years. Now that’s the city’s $13.1 million but it’s yours because we gave it to you so you can do that, right?

Mr. Billionaire: Well once you give it to me — it’s mine but I’m going to tuck some of it away for 50 years and you are going to give it all to me interest free. Got it?

Star Struck Mayor: That seems fair, I think. I had a couple of council members tell me it sounds like a Ponzi Scheme but I know we can trust you, Mr. Billionaire. My gosh, sir, you do own my favorite NFL team and golly gee — I love DUUUUUVAL. Plus, my favorite color is teal too. Go Jags!

Mr. Billionaire: Great Mayor. Now let’s see how this all goes and maybe after you aren’t Mayor anymore you can wear a teal shirt every day and hang out with the guys in the locker room and in the corporate office. Just think, you can be known as the Jags Mayor! Get my drift, Mayor? (Mr. Billionaire again turns and winks at “Trigger.”)

Star Struck Mayor: Got it Mr. Billionaire. And can some of my friends and council members sit in your suite for the rest of the season? I have a couple of promises to keep and I thought maybe we could do some deal making in your suite. Plus I really like those little sandwiches with the crust removed.

Camera scans to Trigger and he gives a thumbs up to Star Struck Mayor.

Mr. Billionaire: You’re the best, Mayor. I love negotiating with you. You are one tough negotiator. I read Sun Tzu (holds up book and shows it to Mayor Star Struck.)

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Mr. Billionaire: This taught me everything I needed to know to negotiate with my adversaries. My favorite quote is: “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” This was a great opportunity and I am glad we could “seize” it together.

Star Struck Mayor: Thanks Mr. Billionaire. Good to know we both read. What’s an adversary? I just started reading “Negotiating for Dummies” and it’s really good. Puts it all into simple terms and you know me, “I’m a simple man.”

Mayor Star Struck holds up his book and smiles at Mr. Billionaire.

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Star Struck Mayor: So far it tells me to “map out the opposition.” So I got you a map of downtown and wanted to let you know there are more opportunities to seize. Here you go! Let’s get this deal done and we can look at all those other opportunities for you and your team. I like negotiating deals with you. Now we just have to convince the community this is a good deal. I’m sure we can ’cause they aren’t sophisticated like we are.

The scene shifts to game day. The Billionaire and the Mayor are standing in the suite while the Mayor throws little sandwiches with no crust into his mouth. The box is filled with city council members and friends. The stadium is 75% empty and the announcer states, “Ladies and Gentlemen, please kneel for the National Anthem.”

Mr. Billionaire grins as the scene fades into dark.

To be continued next week appears on the screen.

And we all wonder what will happen next. Will a Nigerian email scam send Mayor Star Struck into a tail spin as he pre-spends millions promised to be deposited into city coffers? Will Mr. Billionaire sell his yacht for nearly $200 Million and deposit it on the same day he receives our $65 million? Will the City Council vote in this new deal based on promises made in closed door meetings with each of them and Mr. Billionaire? Will the Feds expand their investigation and set up permanent residence in Jacksonville?

Stay tuned. Jacksonville: Chronicles of a Tear Down Town could be the biggest hit ever on Amazon Prime. You might want to pop some corn!


Dear Followers of Eye: We would love to see projects developed downtown. We have written that message over and over again. We know that it is important to develop our downtown and create critical mass to encourage people to “come on down to downtown.” We are awed at the concepts such as Lot J, the Jacobs Conference Center project, The District and the newest one to re-imagine the land where River City Brewing sits. What we are concerned with is how deals are made with our money. The deal making in our town has been tough to watch, unfairly handed out and this one with Lot J takes the cake. Handing an interest-free loan of $65 Million to a billionaire who has no buy-in into this community, hands out a check here and there for “relationship-building” and stood against American values on foreign soil is a slap in the face to all of us. What is even more sad is our Mayor seems to love the Jags more than those who have been treated with disdain by the NFL. This Lot J deal should be fair for all and a big lesson learned here would be this: “Don’t let an unsophisticated Mayor with stars in his eyes negotiate a seasoned businessman who made billions making deals. it’s an unfair advantage and the billionaire knew it.”

Well played Mr. Billionaire. I gotta give you credit where credit is due.

Now for the rest of the story. Let’s see how this deal plays out. There are many characters left to finish this season opener of Jacksonville: The Chronicles of the Tear Down Town and Eye will be watching. We hope someone with common sense will help make this deal better for all the characters including the community watching from the sidelines.

We need a happy ending and imagine that Mr. Billionaire finds true love for our city and wants to invest in it with himself not just his money. And that the next Mayor of Jacksonville will rebuild trust with the people and will wisely and fairly build buildings and create a vision for the people to rally behind and support.

Just like a Hallmark movie — let’s give the residents of Jacksonville a sweet ending.

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

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