“Hurry” Curry is pouting over the defeat of the Lot J deal but if he wants to find someone to blame all he has to do is look in the mirror.
At no time did Mayor Lenny Curry try to present the people of Jacksonville with reasons to support the largest public investment in city history.
“Investment,” of course, is a term politicians use when they are talking about spending your money.
Instead, Curry relied on the skills of super-lobbyist Paul Harden to persuade members of the City Council that it was a good deal.
As of Monday, it seemed he had succeeded. In a preliminary vote, only four voted against the proposal to finance roughly half of a $450 million development being done by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan.
As it turned out, Harden persuaded 12 of them. He needed 13.
The vote Tuesday night was against the proposal, and Khan’s people pronounced the effort over.
Council members Joyce Morgan, Matt Carlucci, Garrett Dennis, Danny Becton, Al Ferraro, Randy DeFoor and President Tommy Hazouri voted against the deal.
Hazouri put his finger on the problem, telling the Daily Record, “I don’t understand why the mayor wasn’t transparent,” Hazouri said. “But it was the same way with the JEA (sale attempt), the same way with other issues. You learn by your past and, apparently, he doesn’t care. They cut the deal and we had to nickel-and-dime it to improve it. But that’s not how you do the biggest development project you’ve had in the city.”
The problem with the proposal was that as an investment, it sucked. The council auditor said “investors” would get back only 44 cents for every $1 they put into the deal.
Who thinks that is good for the taxpayers?
Maybe it is, but Curry never bothered to explain why.
However, the demise of this plan doesn’t mean Khan’s quest for public money is over.
He has hopes to develop the old shipyards downtown.
That is problematic because the property is believed to be loaded with pollution and no one knows what a cleanup would cost. Taxpayers already are paying more than $100 million for the cleanup of old ash disposal sites.
The fear is that Khan will want the taxpayers to clean up the property and help pay for his development, too.
Then, he is expected to demand that the taxpayers rebuild the football stadium for around a half-billion dollars – a stadium they already have spent many millions on.
If all this expense is producing a healthy return on investment for Jacksonville taxpayers, Jacksonville’s mayor should be going around town with a Powerpoint presentation, explaining why it is so alluring.
His secretive ways and hurry-up attitude did nothing to sell the deal.