All of the candidates in the mayoral debate at Jacksonville University this week acquitted themselves well, but underdog Jimmy Hill may have surprised a few with his grasp of the issues.
Incumbent Mayor Lenny Curry spoke of his “bold, decisive leadership” and cited some examples, but he seemed more interested in battering Anna Lopez Brosche, a City Council member who is thought to be his most serious challenger, accusing her of “dirty politics.”
Because Curry has claimed to be a crime fighter, Brosche has been attacking him over the city’s crime rate. His response was that he replaced police officers that had been cut under his predecessor and noted that Brosche had not sponsored any crime fighting measures in the council. Brosche said Curry had promised more money for prevention and intervention but had not fulfilled on the promise.
Fighting crime is, of course, the sheriff’s job, not the mayor. But that fact got lost in the debate.
Hill put it even more succinctly, in the best line on the crime issue. He said “Government’s not going to fix it. The people have to.”
Curry, Brosche and Hill are Republicans.
Omega Allen, a contractor who is not affiliated with a political party, also is running, again. She didn’t offer any solutions for crime except to suggest the city needs “better quality” police officers who earn the respect of the community.
The candidates also debated the city’s infrastructure needs and the issue of the Jacksonville Landing. Curry’s administration recently made a deal to settle a legal dispute with the current owner and Curry talked about tearing down the building so that citizens can go to the vacant lot and “enjoy the jewel.”
Hill and Brosche both agreed that tearing down the building would be a mistake.
Hill contended that the city needs downtown parking, which was a bone of contention between politicians and the Landing’s owner.
Regarding the possible sale of the JEA, which was a hot topic last year, Brosche and Allen said they opposed the sale, and accused Curry of stacking the authority’s board with people who want to sell it, while promising not to propose the sale himself. Allen said she might favor it if the voters supported any proposal.
All three accused Curry of “stacking” the boards of the independent authorities. Curry rebutted by saying the council approved his appointees.
Hill, a businessman who had a beef with city officials before deciding to run, had the best zinger of the night playing off Curry’s boast that he “gets things done.”
“John Gotti got things done,” Hill said, referring to a famous Mafia boss, now deceased.
Like most political debates this was more show than substance but it gave voters a chance to see all four of those who aspire to be Jacksonville’s next mayor.