Like many other urban core residents and Metro Jacksonville regulars, I took a chance on Alvin Brown for Mayor in 2011. After my preferred candidates – Audrey Moran and Rick Mullaney – were knocked out in the primary election, I reckoned Brown was our best shot to move the city forward. In his positive attitude and perseverance on the campaign trail, I saw potential.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to face the fact that that potential has gone almost entirely unrealized for the last four years. The city’s budget is a bedlam. The 2013 budget was so poorly put together and potentially destructive that the City Council had to take it away from the Mayor entirely. Mayor Brown’s budgets have cut dozens of police officers, and he’s made proposals that would have eliminated 300 more – even as violent crime increases. There has been no movement on the port, and pension talks have gone backward. Downtown is finally on fire again (in the good way, not the 1901 way), but this activity is largely driven by factors and people outside City Hall. Either way, it didn’t stop a chunk of Downtown from falling into the river, despite repeated warnings to Mayor Brown.
The most heartbreaking thing about all these missteps is that Brown has shown no ability to learn from them. Invariably, problems are someone else’s fault and someone else’s responsibility. Any new mayor will have a learning curve, but at some point that curve needs to straighten out or it leaves the city spiraling out of control.
This time around, I’m throwing in with Lenny Curry. Lenny has two qualities that will be essential in getting us back on the right path: he knows how to manage a budget, and he knows how to manage people. Folks that know and work with him attest to his skills as an accountant and a manager, both at a major firm and in his own business. These are two assets that Brown simply does not possess. Under Curry, we can at least expect a sunnier outlook for the city’s finances, and a more capable and accountable staff running the city’s departments.
Curry vows to build a more effective working relationship with our new Sheriff and with the City Council. This will be a major change from Brown, who has largely alienated both. We can also expect stronger ties with the local business community – including some of the strongest advocates for of the Human Rights Ordinance. Mayor Brown often talks about taking Jacksonville “to the next level,” but building these relationships is how it will get done.
That’s not to say I agree with all of Curry’s decisions. I find his failure to support a Human Rights Ordinance protecting LGBT citizens distressing. At the same time, he hasn’t opposed it either, despite advocacy from influential elements in his base. On this issue he’s no worse than Brown. During the 2012 debates on the Human Rights Ordinance, when many of Jacksonville’s best and brightest rallied to support the bill, Brown was publicly silent. In fact, it appears he secretly lobbied city council members to oppose it, in order to keep the ostensibly controversial item off his desk. To date, he has still never issued a clear stance of support for a Human Rights a Ordinance, despite LGBT rights being a crucial Democratic platform issue. What says more, a Republican candidate who won’t oppose LGBT protections, or a Democrat who refuses to support them - and actively works against them?
Lenny Curry has the tools to be mayor, and I hope he gets the chance to show us what he can do with them. I’m happy to take a chance on the guy who just may take us to the “next level,” rather than settle for someone who’s proven he can’t.