By Calvin Palmer
The contest for the Mayor of Jacksonville between Democratic Alvin Brown and Republican Mike Hogan is tight. The closeness of the race and the possibility of defeat for Hogan are causes of concern for the GOP.
And when the GOP gets worried it resorts to what it knows best – demonization of an opponent and negative campaigning.
The latest flyer from the GOP to land in my e-mail box attacks Brown over his plan to create a $29 million Downtown Development Authority, a plan that includes more spending; higher taxes; authority to raise taxes and spending without voter approval; shifts money we need in our neighborhoods to projects downtown.
To further its argument, the GOP uses the escalating costs of the new Duval courthouse. The original budget was $190 million; the budget now stands at $395 million.
But who was it who gave the go ahead to the courthouse project in the first place? Mayor John Delaney. Delaney launched the $2.25 billion Better Jacksonville Plan. Who presided over the escalating budget? Mayor John Peyton, although he did cap the courthouse budget at $316 million in 2007 but that did not last long.
And which party do these two former mayors represent? Why the Republican Party of course. It is strange no mention of that is made in the election flyer but it is fashionable these days to call Republicans who do not embrace the folly of ultra conservatism as RINOs – Republican In Name Only.
For British readers, believe it or not President George W Bush is now regarded as a RINO because he did not want to see the US economy destroyed and so sanctioned the bail-out of the banks.
For Republican readers I will repeat that – President George W Bush did not want to see the US economy destroyed and so sanctioned the bail-out of the banks. The order was signed on October 3, 2008, five weeks before voters elected Barack Obama as president. A fact also conveniently forgotten by Republicans.
The GOP and its supporters need to realize that Jacksonville is dying on its feet. The downtown area is a disgrace to a nation that prides itself on being the world’s richest. I posted some photographs to friends in England and they thought downtown Jacksonville resembled East Berlin before the Berlin Wall came down.
Perhaps Jacksonville should consider twinning itself with Berlin. The new courthouse looks like something Albert Speer would have designed and the downtown area resembles East Berlin under Communist rule. I guess that proves the theory that the extreme right and extreme left in politics are essentially one and the same.
Another friend visited Jacksonville earlier this year. In a recent e-mail I told her about my visit to Charlotte, North Carolina, and how it was the city that Jacksonville should be.
She wrote back: “I must say it is a bit of a pooper that you find yourself in Jacksonville, it really doesn’t have a lot going for it. I always thought you were exaggerating, just a little bit, until I found myself wandering around the downtown area.”
Something needs to be done about downtown Jacksonville. I will not pretend that Alvin Brown has all the right answers but at least he recognizes the problem and is willing to do something about it.
Electing another Republican will see the downtown descend further into a state of decay. Pretty soon City Hall will be an oasis in a desert of dereliction.
Investment of public funds into the downtown area could provide the motivation for private investment to follow suit. I am being perhaps a touch naïve there because Alvin Brown is black and we all know how racially diverse the business community of Jacksonville is. I would surmise they would do all in their power to see that Brown fails not because of his policies but because he is black.
I know that sounds dreadful but with many Jacksonville Republicans racism is not too far beneath the veneer of respectability. They may attend church every Sunday but their actions do not embrace the teachings of Christianity. Love Thy Neighbor only extends as far as white and well-off neighbors. Republicans do care — but only about themselves.
The biggest problem with Republicans and the tea party members who hide in the skirts of the GOP is that they cannot see further than their checkbook. Sometimes you have to speculate in order to accumulate. A vibrant downtown area could attract the kind of investment that will bring jobs to the city. A few more corporate headquarters and entertainment facilities downtown could swell the city’s coffers so that it can spend money on those neighborhood projects that are so “dear to the hearts” of Republicans. [I know most Americans don’t do irony, but I am being ironic there, and for good reason.]
Mike Hogan is campaigning for money for the city’s schools and yet Florida has just elected a Republican Governor who has slashed the state’s spending on education. So is Hogan really going to spend more on education for the children of parents who are more likely to vote for Brown? I think not.
Voters in Jacksonville have a simple choice in a week’s time. If they want to see the city further decline in terms of its infrastructure and services, then they need to vote for Republican Mike Hogan. It won’t cost them a cent.
On the other hand, if voters want the city of Jacksonville to have a vibrant and prosperous future, to become a city that acts and functions like a city, a city they can take a pride in, they need to choose the Democratic candidate Alvin Brown.
It is that simple.