Mayoral debate cleared the air

Jacksonville residents select a new mayor next month.

The choice is clear and was made evident in a debate recently.

Liberals will vote for Donna Deegan. Conservatives will vote for Daniel Davis.

As always, it will depend on which side is more motivated to vote.

Some will vote on the issues. Some will vote based on the political party. Some will vote on name recognition and, sadly, some will vote without knowing much about either candidate or the issues.

Davis clearly is the more experienced candidate and the more conservative. He is very knowledgeable about the issues, having been a city councilman and a state representative. He is more knowledgeable about business, having been head of the homebuilders association and the Chamber of Commerce.

His main problem is that he is aligned with consultants and strategists who believe in trashing other Republicans during primary races. That angered some conservatives. He also is expected to keep members of the Lenny Curry administration who are not popular with conservative voters. It could be costly to him if those conservatives stay home on Election Day. The only message they would be sending is that they would prefer to have a liberal mayor.

Liberals will vote for Democrat Deegan. She was a TV reporter/commentator for many years and has had a high profile as a vocal supporter of breast cancer victims. While admirable, that has little to do with being the chief executive of a government, however.

Those credentials have not enabled her to win other political positions she has sought in the past.

Her one appeal to conservatives will be her promise to open the administrative branch to the public. It has been closed for eight years while Curry was mayor. The public was told through a single information gatekeeper what Curry wanted them to know.

However, we would expect Davis to do the same. He also is diametrically opposed to putting a civilian review board in place to hamper law enforcement, which Deegan has advocated.

Davis opposes that radical measure and has promised to add more officers to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Both are opposed to selling the city’s electric, water and sewer utility.

During the televised debate, Deegan made the ludicrous claim that local government has done nothing about improving the city’s infrastructure for 55 years and promised that she would.

That was not even close to being accurate. Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on infrastructure improvements since consolidation of the city and county governments, and billions more already are budgeted for the future.

Deegan claimed that the city was crime-ridden, which she said was due in part to poverty, and said her solution was to spend more money on “intervention and prevention.” Davis said he would seek to add 200 new police officers over the next four years, at a cost of $20 million, to hold accountable the people responsible for actually committing crimes.

In the debate both candidates were asked the hoary question about “downtown redevelopment.” Downtown Jacksonville has been in a constant state of redevelopment since the fire of 1901 and all the local government can do is facilitate it or hamper it. Both candidates said they would do what they could to help.

In one curious question, the two candidates were asked to commit to never selling the JEA, as if that were inconceivable. Both candidates pledged to commit but showed a lack of understanding of city finances. Deegan, for example, said the city would lose revenue. She apparently doesn’t understand that a private utility would pay taxes and franchise fees. Davis said JEA customers should have the lowest bills in the state, as they did a few years ago.

Another question was based on a false premise, saying the city’s Better Jacksonville Plan of the 1990s was intended to eliminate septic tanks and provide access to city water for everyone. Those goals were not included in the $2.25 billion plan. Both gave crowd-pleasing rhetorical answers that were meaningless.

Davis said he would not support using taxpayer money to move public monuments. Deegan said she would and said the city’s current residents should be “ashamed” of what the city’s residents a century ago did, although she did not say why.

The voters’ verdict will not be about polls or who spends the most money.

In the end the outcome will boil down to who votes. Jacksonville, Democrats make up 39 percent of the electorate, Republicans 35 percent and others the remainder. Yet Republicans predominate among local elected officials, which indicates the swing voters tend to be conservative.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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