Stephen Dare lays out his reasoning for voting for Alvin Brown's second term as Mayor of Jacksonville.
The 2011 Election
This election, unlike the last one, doesn't offer any of the clear cut, perfect fit kind of candidates that 2011 did.
That year, we actually had a brilliant roster of great and sometimes inspirational people running for the office, each of which would have led the city forward and brought real progress to an area still reeling from the Financial Collapse of 2009. Audrey Moran, Rick Mullaney, and Jim Bailey would have made great mayors. However through the process of democracy and some last minute chicanery, they managed to split the Republican vote in such a way that Mike Hogan emerged as eventual runoff candidate. The voters were confronted with a runoff between Mike Hogan and Alvin Brown.
This left a large portion of the voter base in an actual quandary. No one knew who Alvin Brown was, many dismissed him as the perennial African American Democratic Candidate (Think Betty Holzendorff, Nat Glover, Jackie Brown) that runs, takes 25 to 30 % of the vote, influences the campaign conversation but doesn't win. This had been the pattern since the turn of the century after all--stemming directly from the bizarre racial divide in the Duval Democratic Party that has been going on since the early 1980s and continues to this present day.
Most politically savvy people did however, know who Mike Hogan was, and after joking about blowing up an abortion clinic, surrounding himself with the Tea Party and its fellow travelers, there was a large group of moderate republicans and democrats who would have had a hard time choosing between Darth Vader and Mike Hogan. His mix of austerity, religious fundamentalism, extreme views on anti tax policies and just the arrogant tenor of his campaign caused a small revolution in local politics.
To be fair, considering the catastrophic nature of the economy, Mike Hogan's mix of political ideas would have probably enabled the Boston Strangler to run a credible campaign against him with more than a gambler's shot of winning.
Many here at MetroJacksonville either supported, voted for, or actually worked on Audrey or Rick Mullaney's campaign for Mayor.
In the runoff, after very spirited debate on our forums and overtures from both of the campaigns we laid out the case for Alvin Brown, a case that dovetailed with many of the civic minded people of both parties, and with the certainty that only comes with a choice in which one of the options seems disastrous, we went on to see the election and installment of Alvin Brown as Mayor of Jacksonville.
This is a choice that we have revisited at several points during his administration. Surely there have been very vexing moments. The undisciplined outrageous conduct of Code Enforcement Chief Kim Scott as she ran roughshod over historic preservationists and carved an untouchable and extremely powerful fiefdom for herself. After exposing thousands of residents to Asbestos through criminally negligent demolitions the Mayor not only refused to discipline her, but his office promoted her to a position in which she could be in charge of the investigation into her own wrongdoing. That was a real problem.
The firing of Bill Killingsworth, the brightest and most capable Planning Chief that the City of Jacksonville has had since the days of George Simons in the 1920s and 30s. In a bit of nepotism the decision to replace him with the indolent Calvin Burney-- his cousin-- was another misstep. This one will compete with subsequent mesothelioma settlements as the most costly to the long term health of the city. Killingsworth was working on a massive look at updating the zoning, and the only benefit of the destroyed economic scene was that he could implement real and cost saving changes through zoning without the process being overburdened by hordes of thieving real estate developers, large and small. That opportunity was completely squandered by his cousin, who had no interest in doing anything other than maintaining the department and doing his time.
Then there was the problem of some of the people he surrounded himself with, including the business partner of Governor Scott in the same business that got the company pasted for a billion dollar fine for looting Medicare payments from the elderly.
The list of quibbles could go on--- and they certainly have enlivened the past four years of our online forums. Anyone who reads this publication knows that both sides of everything are going to be debated and no detail is too small to overlook---especially when irritating.
Alvin Brown Elected To Not Be Mike Hogan
But at the end of the day, other than his close supporters, there was always a general feeling that Alvin Brown was voted into office with the sole job of not being Mike Hogan. Whether he became something more was entirely up to him.
Alvin was not Mike Hogan, and he became something more, all on his own, really a force to be reckoned with.
We are glad to have supported the Mayor during 2011. If only because the alternative was so much scarier.
Imagine for example, Mayor Hogan during the Clay Yarborough attack on a photo of a pregnant woman at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Mayor Hogan is the only candidate likely to have actually campaigned against and/or vetoed a Human Rights Ordinance.
Does anyone believe that Hogan would have supported Wayne Wood's efforts to reform Hemming Park? Tony Alligretti as the Executive Director of the Cultural Council?
What would the relationship between Shad Khan have been like?
Would Hogan have had the foresight or connections to make national sports events and opportunities happen?
I think the answers to these questions are manifestly self evident.
We made the right choice for this community in the election of 2011, and while there might have been better options, the campaign precluded that from happening. This time around, Rick Mullaney is busy with another great contribution to this community: the Public Policy Institute (which is about to graduate one of the MetroJacksonville Board Members, Arash Kamiar, with a degree in Public Policy from its first class of graduates), Audrey Moran is busy pursuing profit and philanthropy with Baptist Medical, and Jim Bailey has invested time and money into taking his publications empire to the next level.
And now we must choose a mayor again. There are four candidates whose differences are not as stark and whose qualifications are not as inspiring as the initial bench that gave Alvin Brown the reigns of this city.
One of them is a marvelous person and an outsider with little chance of getting more than single digits in the polls. Omega Allen. She has done a terrible job enunciating any specific vision she might have as the Administrator of a billion dollar budget, or the direction that she might take the community into for the future. Great person, personable, years of useful experience in the world of economic resuscitation on the Northwest Quadrant. She would make an excellent chief of the Housing and probably a great candidate for Economic development. She was for many years the head of the Northwest Development Trust Fund, administering 25 million dollars in grant money to redevelop specifically the poorest area of town, but has little to show for it. Admittedly, whatever gains might have been made by that investment pool were undoubtedly wiped out by the general economy---most visibly 225,000 in grants to the Craig Van Horn project at 9th and Main. The City got the property, but hasn't sold it, so the money hasn't technically been recouped, but the economic activity with that seed money was supposed to have stimulated was definitely erased (along with all things Van Horn) with the crash of the real estate market. Not Omega's fault, but still leaves little in the way of a spotlight for the wisdom of her policies and activity.
She also was involved in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, and understands Federal Grant processes with three d vision. But again, one would be pressed to find proof of the effectiveness of the NSP grants. Readers of MetroJacksonville may recall that much of the NSP money was actually used to demolish the very neighborhoods that it was meant to stabilize. Which happened after Omega's tour of duty, but again leaves her without much of a resume builder.
So, not really a viable candidate at this time, considering how little name recognition that she has in the community at large. (a plight not helped by the inexplicable decision to exclude her from debates)
Lenny Curry is the easy one to take off the list of people to promote as mayor. Between a complete lack of connection to the local process, a campaign that so far consists of metaphorically yelling 'Alvin Brown Sucks!' with literally nothing to suggest as the cure, Curry is problematic in other ways.
Perhaps most notably is his lack of prior involvement in this community. After spending years working for the state Republican Party (during some of the most questionable periods of its otherwise solid existence) he came to distinction most notably for helping to get Medicare Fraudster Rick Scott elected as the governor of this state. He followed that up with a string of embarrassing losses in municipal elections to dark horse democratic candidates and was gently led to pasture.
The backing of the Party for the Mayoral race in Jacksonville seems to have been his reward for faithful service---a heavy handed backing that has come back to bite Curry in the ass with the rank and file republicans and led to a loss of credibility with younger republican swing voters.
The REC Debacle
(note: There is a counter viewpoint of the events of this episode that merits a thorough read through. You can find it here: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php/topic,23945.msg407011.html#msg407011)
The outrageous debacle at the local Republican Executive Committee probably lost him the election, and should lead to the dismissal of the current slate of REC poobahs. In one evening, Robin Lumb managed to accuse Jesse WIlson--a young republican party candidate for city council of being a 'spy' for Folio Weekly and frog march him out of the meeting, embarrassing him in front of the crowd. This had the effect of outraging thousands of Jesse's devoted (and largely young republican) followers and fans. The fallout on social media went on for weeks and seriously undermined the legitimacy of the REC itself, leading more than a handful of formerly republican 20 somethings to leave the party for independent status or the democratic party.
During the same meeting, the party voted in favor of endorsing Bill Bishop for Mayor, but Lumb (at the behest of the party's top dogs) reversed his own position earlier in the meeting to exclude votes, added a few Curry supporters to the pool, invalidated the first vote, voted again and endorsed Curry as the party's candidate instead. Given the anti bigwig mentality of the large tea party and libertarian Republican rank and file, this was tantamount to confirming their worst fears and criticisms about 'establishment republicans'.
Which no one on the REC apparently gives two figs about as long as Curry got the nod.
His politics are right wing, heavily favoring Big Business and corporate interests and donors. He is stuck in the trope of the 1992 republican conservative mindset that is curiously at odds with the social outlooks of the traditionally moderate North Florida republican party. Furthermore his debate performances have not shown any deviation from that failed branding. Perhaps that is because not even his campaign has been sourced locally, but rather outsourced to a cookie cutter national campaign model provided by national Republican Political Consultants. It is the same basic campaign model being deployed in Louisiana, Alabama and North Carolina, among other races, which is what makes Curry's public presence seem so weird and out of step with anything happening in either the city or often the room he is speaking.
His one selling point derives from the backing of Pete Rummel, one of the backers of One SPARK, and a major backer of Alvin Brown during the last election. Given his dismal debate performances, that support has cost Rummel credibility with moderates on both sides of the republican/democrat divide, but not enough to keep him from being the most serious challenger to the Mayor. Most people predict that Lenny is going to be the big vote getter that challenges Brown. Which, obviously. because: metric boatloads of campaign money.
So another easy name to cross off the list. Lightweight career politician supported by statewide bigwigs, being given a plum for faithful service to his Party. Little or no insight into Jacksonville's issues. Completely out of step with the social milieu of the community and willing to resort to chicanery rather than good old fashioned fair play to win---even in his own club.
Pretty much a worse choice for the city than Hogan ever was. At least Mike has a notable career as a completely honest man with unswerving integrity and a deep and abiding interest in this community. You could disagree with his vision of the Best Jacksonville, but you could never disagree with the man's basic ethical decency or his love of Jacksonville.
Curry? Not so much. The negative campaigning, the lack of factuality in his more absurd criticisms of Alvin, the lack of any stated vision….. next please.
Which brings us to the final challenger:
Bill has the interest and enthusiasm of many of the hip urbanites and the gentility of the Historic Neighborhoods, and he is a deeply intelligent, wryly comic intellect with a perfect understanding of the various issues of urban planning, historic preservation, the future of infrastructure, and many other things that would make him the ideal candidate. He is someone whose conversation, I can say from experience is worthwhile, informed, witty and sometimes profoundly insightful. He counts among his supporters such luminaries as Wayne Wood, and Meredith Johnson, and the support of a wide swath of urban young people who are energized by his straight talk and smart viewpoints.
He also has a tremendous major asset in the woman to whom he is married, the delightful and strikingly intelligent Melody Bishop. Melody Bishop is so infectiously inspirational and bright in fact that more than one person has remarked that its a shame she's not the Bishop running. She is an architect, with a vivid interest in urban planning and futurist elements of infrastructure, she is a member of the Downtown Investment Agency, and a charismatic presence in any room which she inhabits. I suspect that some of his best talking points are rehearsed with the amazing woman with whom he shares his life, as one can often hear her inherently appealing turn of phrase reflected in his speeches.
And he has his own list of offices and achievements of his own. He has been a City Council member for eight years, and served as both it's president and vice president.
He was an advocate for Context sensitive planning. He was one of the few voices of reason when Alvin sent draconian budgets to the City Council and refused to ask them to raise taxes to make the city function, forcing them to bear the responsibility of raising them, and making Bill Gulliford nearly choke in the process.
Our board has had fairly long discussions over the past 8 years with Bill Bishop. He is an open guy and we invited him to board meetings to discuss transportation concepts (obviously) and waste management. His acuity and grasp of detail was impressive and real.
But like Jake Godbold, I do not think he is going to win this election. Not that I wouldn't be happy to see him take the office. But I do not believe that he has done the work necessary to win, considering the predicted turnout in this election across the various council and other races. He has not reached out to the African American community (which is expected to vote heavily in this election) other than to drive around a bit and talk to people connected with the Northwest Quadrant. But no correspondence with the Florida Star Newspaper, no real outreach to the Northside culturati or political base….just not enough.
Is there a winning strategy for Bill Bishop?
In order to take the mayor's office you need to have widespread support across the community and a lot of name recognition. Bill's constituency is made up mostly of the urban core. There is a path forward to victory for Bishop, and that is based on the idea that he can pull enough votes away from Brown to force a run off between himself and Curry. In that scenario Bishop would be the more reasonable candidate with a wider appeal than Curry. Basically the same route to victory that put Alvin in the Mayor's seat. But it would require the same cooperation between the democratic base and the moderate middle to make that happen--which isn't an inevitable outcome.
In Alvin's case there was an energized democratic base. They didn't do much reaching out to the moderate middle, and didn't have to. The moderate middle (and I was one of them) actively embraced and enabled the little known candidate. It was just enough to squeak a win out. 1600 votes decided the last election. Hardly a landslide.
Alvin was able to count on the rock solid backing of the democratic stronghold Black Churches and the political base when it came to election time. They were there enthusiastically for the candidate. If Bill Bishop (who has done little outreach) defeats Brown in the first round, does anyone seriously believe that he can count on the same support in a runoff between he and Curry?
He will need every vote out there to win against the establishment backed candidate of his own party, including liberals and democrats. Which is where it becomes problematic. He has presented himself as a modernist Republican (which is true enough) who will enable the LGBT community, saying famously that he would 'yes', support a Human Rights Ordinance, if Council should pass one and it comes across his desk. However, he voted against the original HRO, giving him shaky credibility on this matter, and recently went on public radio to say that he didn't believe in same sex marriage. This is problematic for Bishop because it puts him in the position of disagreeing with a fundamental personal right that has been upheld by the US Supreme Court and is the law of the land in the State of Florida. This has soured his appeal to LGBT people the week before he needs them to show up in droves and vote for him.
Similarly, when questioned by the Times Union during the first debate about his record of appointing an all white Committee Chair list while he was President of the Council, he answered that he appointed the qualified people to Committee Chairs. But then he went on to grouse that if he had known it was going to be viewed through the prism of race, he probably would have appointed one or more blacks to chair a committee. The glaring problem with the implied judgement that none of the black Councilmembers were 'qualified' lies in the fact that Warren Jones and Denise Lee have decades of experience chairing committees during various terms. Warren Jones was in fact the first African American City Council President in the city. He has chaired every important committee from finance to public safety. Similarly Councilwoman Lee. More than one public figure has admitted to privately wincing during this incredibly petty, tone deaf display. It made it clear that he doesn't have the polity and diplomacy to reach gracefully across the various camps, and called into question his ability to govern.
Imagine, for example, how that would have sounded coming from Mayor Brown. "I appointed the people I thought were best qualified, but if I would have known you people would be all sensitive about it, I probably would have appointed a few whites.".
Kind of condescending.
The crowd in City Council Chambers following the defeat of the Human Rights Ordinance.
Bishop's Performance on City Council
My own reservation against Bill Bishop is his underlying radical ideology about government. It has been my experience that no matter how well Bill Bishop understands and issue, and no matter how important a program or policy might be, he will still vote against it according to an imaginary internal line which divides 'public' from his belief that society's issues should be settled by private individuals and not the governments that they elect to solve them.
It was to our great dismay that we sat down for a few hours with Bill Bishop to talk with him about the importance of transit. He understood each and every argument about infill development, decreasing infrastructure costs, densifying higher property values, radically cutting maintenance costs for transportation and the like. He voted for the Mobility Plan, which rewards sensible development and which allowed the same stupid development patterns that we presently enjoy but at a much higher cost to the developer.
But then, to curry favor with the real estate development guys, he voted to put a Moratorium on the Mobility Plan, even though the plan was less expensive on developers than the previous impact fee had been, basically letting any development happen on the free dime of the taxpayers having to pay for long term maintenance on sprawling infrastructure. In other words after demonstrating that he understood the issue, he then voted to remove all funding from it in order to get a little more political currency from the builders.
Similarly with light rail. He understood how implementing a light rail system would save hundreds of millions of dollars on road building in our giant city/county. Road building money that comes from taxes. Yet he ideologically believes that rail systems should be privately owned, not run by 'government'. So he would not support a rail system that he believed should be built and which he expressed would be a tremendous benefit to the citizens of the city.
And this is tendentious with Bill. He understands and agrees with a lot of things that modern people passionately believe in. But his political ideology has led him to vote against many of the laws or projects that he claims to support.
Last time we checked, 'support' translates to 'votes' in politics.
That said, should he eventually become Mayor, I think Bishop would be surrounded by people who would take the edge off of his ideological inflexibility, including his amazing wife, Melody Bishop. But it would take a real learning curve for him to get a handle on the reality of a sprawling, bustling southern city, rather than the romantic Historic Neighborhood notion of it.
Similarities to John Peyton?
And this is one of the things that he shares with the former Mayor, John Peyton. When John was elected, he was expected to be a custodial Mayor, basically busy with implementing the Better Jacksonville Plan and hosting the Superbowl. He was a young, fairly idealistic, Ayn Rand school rugged individualist. He absolutely did not believe that government should intervene in the natural workings of the invisible hand of the market. He surrounded himself with other Ayn Rand enthusiasts. When the economy collapsed in an explosion of bad debt, lies, and shoddy financial constructions, there was no private money to keep the ongoing privatization crusade of the anti government crowd going. And the philanthropic private contributions to the charities that undergird the daily life of the city---everything from battered women's shelters, homeless missions, and halfway houses to the Symphony, community theaters and museums dried completely up, leaving the burden of keeping so much going on just a few private shoulders.
Only then did Peyton realize that there was a real role for government in the administration of a city. But it was too little, too late. We missed a lot of the stimulus money, the seed capital, the reinvestment. We have the only downtown of any major city in America that did not benefit directly from the Boom that preceded the bust of 2008, and we had one of the worst economies and job markets in the country.
It put us at a disadvantage in competing with our peer cities. So much so that we are no longer really 'peer cities' with a few of them. Take Charlotte for example.
When people look back at the Peyton years, there is little to show of his mayorship other than the Courthouse debacle. The city managed to derive literally no benefit at all from his other missed opportunity: the Superbowl. Lack of followup, lack of belief in our city Administration, lack of belief in the role of government whatsoever, and for the first time since Consolidation, the Peyton Administration that produced nothing noteworthy of value to this city.
Having been so engaged in that administration's foibles, and liking John Peyton tremendously, I think that most people would agree that he didn't get really activated until the last two years of his term. Perhaps if he had believed in the basic role of his office ideologically before the great crash, there would be more of his era to celebrate.
It is my private fear that we would have the same situation with a Bishop Administration. Hard to convince a guy that believes in the Private Sector to actually utilize his power as mayor to transcend the short vision of daily commerce. Would we have to wait until a second administration before he believed in the beneficial powers of government? Such men rarely do any great harm, but they also seldom do great public works of good.
Would we really like to see another 8 years like the Peyton Era? But with more planning?
And perhaps Im worrying needlessly over intangibles. Nothing would please me more than to see Bishop become mayor, set the gays free, hire all the blacks and pre criminals, and reduce the cost of taxes by leading the charge of a teeming mass of private investors into setting aside their own profit motives and building an advanced civilization with superior planning here on the St. John's River.
I've certainly always hoped in my heart of hearts that such a thing could be done.
John Delaney certainly gave it a college try. And to our credit, many people rose to the challenge during his years, so anything is possible.
In the end though, I don't think that Bishop will win the office, simply for the voting profile of this particular election.
And I am not alone in that with Jake Godbold. There are many others who share my assumption that Bill Bishop is going to make a hell of a 2019 candidate. That will give the Duval Republicans time to get its house in order, sidestep the racial divisions of the democrats, and grab the early money and endorsements.
I suspect that the election is going to boil down to Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry.
Which brings us to Alvin Brown
Alvin has had four years to create some other legacy than not being Mike Hogan.
He was elected to not be him, ---and to his credit-- four years later Alvin Brown is still not Mike Hogan. So…success!
There is an underlying suspicion that Alvin didn't really plan on being elected Mayor. That his run was really part of a plan to set him up for office in DC. It was only an accident that the front runners knocked themselves out in a bit of election hijinks worthy of the three stooges.
In this scenario, the hopeful congressman was blindsided by running against a true boogeyman in a time of universal nervousness, and voila! He landed in the mayor's office without really having thought through the consequences of winning.
As a consequence there have been mistakes. Protocol failures. Missed opportunities. Alvin barricaded himself from discussion with his backers. He ignored phone calls, refused appointments. He hurt feelings. He alienated Delores Weaver in the process---one of his biggest backers. He hired an ubiquitous personal photographer and rebranded landmarks of jacksonvilles civic life as 'Alvin Brown's'.
He appointed political newbies to the administration who often didn't have the foggiest clue what they were supposed to be doing.
It took him a while to overcome some of the resultant nincompoopery.
There have been very few critics of the Alvin Brown administration as vocal as the posters of this website. Our editorial board included.
We are still uneasy over the widespread exposure to asbestos caused by the incompetence of a power mad Code Enforcement Chief, Kim Scott under his watch.
But then Alvin has also been amazing at a few things
For example, under Alvin, the long complaint that the city has been paralyzed by a thirty year daisy chain of studies and consultants has pretty much come to an end.
So many generations of civic minded people have been burned out by the reticence to take actual action and instead divert every possible thing to a planning process or a blue ribbon commission. This has not been the case with Alvin Brown's office. There is one pretty incandescent example of his apparent ability to take meaningful action that has measurable impact on the community at large, and that has been his hyperactive promotion and courting of Sports recreation specifically into the downtown.
Under the Brown Administration there has been a quiet revolution in how the city has handled sports,-----suddenly everything from the Armada to NCAA tournament games and all kinds of sports activity is a weekly event. And they are largely downtown, drawing all kinds of sports enthusiasts to minor sports that were previously unheard of in the urban core.
By contrast, during the Peyton Administration, there would have been a blue ribbon panel to discuss what "Sports" entails. The blue ribbon panels would have consisted of attorneys, former elected officials, persons of leisure and other 'stakeholders', none of whom would have every played, planned, or ever been involved with a major sporting event. There would have been a lot of talk about a public/private partnership.
Sea Change from Consultants and Blue Ribbon Panels to Taking Action
There would have been months of quibbling over which sport to 'maximize' for 'synergy'.
A budget, based on imaginary numbers, compiled by people whose only experience with the industry would have been buying jags tickets, would have taken another 9 months to project. An office would have had to be renovated. Staffing a new agency would have gone through a rigorous process, producing four marketing interns, one former official from a small town outside McGillicuddy, Oklahoma and a megalomaniac intent on teaching micro economics to anyone who cares to listen (which no one would)
Following a few months of talking to an underwater hockey team forming in the barbados about relocating to Jacksonville, the former official from McGillicuddy would resign and get a better job in Daytona.
There would be a joint meeting with JCCI to discuss the feasibility of a professional underwater hockey team in Jacksonville.
Another battalion of marketing people would strain over a possible mascot. Social media people would be hired to start a Facebook page and a twitter account. #HockeyCrabs!
In the meantime, the founder of the underwater Hockey team would have been arrested in Barbados for embezzling from the government and a sad news reel of the displaced hockey team would have played on 60 minutes before the feasibility report came back from JCCI showing a lack of enthusiasm for the sport in the local market.
The entire operation would have then been absorbed by the Children's Commission and become an effort to raise awareness of the benefits of sports to athletic programs at schools.
Alvin's Spectacular Development of Sports
Here is what happened under the Brown Administration: For the first time in decades the downtown has been the center of new Sporting events and announcements, much of which has been a surprise and delight to many niche enthusiasts. The mayor's administration has worked so well with players like the Frisch family (soccer team) and national franchises that it has appeared deceptively easy and effortless. He simply has not gotten enough credit for the work that he's done bringing athletes and athletic supporters back downtown.
There hasn't been this much sports enthusiasm since the middle of the Godbold years when we were hosting the Jacksonville Bulls for the USFL and fielding the Lipton sponsored Jacksonville Teamen soccer franchise.
In fact, during some leisure time, check out the following links to see just how much Sports activity has been brought downtown under this mayor. If Peyton had had this kind of success, there would have been a parade for the boy king right down Bay Street.
Not bad, really, for a first term Mayor. It took Jake both terms to get almost as far as Alvin has gotten in his first three years.
Alvin Appointed Ennis Davis for the Regional Transportation Commission
Also, Alvin appointed Ennis Davis, one of the founders of MetroJacksonville to serve on the Regional Transportation Committee. Not to toot Ennis' horn, but he is one of the finest people for planning in this city and has done enough research and analysis over the past ten years that there probably isn't a person with more insight on long range transportation planning than him. Putting him on the commission responsible for the next thirty years of development was one of the better long term decisions that the mayor has made. And I don't think that there is anyone who reads this publication that would feel that I am overstating this case.
He did it quietly and with little fanfare (Bill Bishop, at his strength, is also a Commission member) but the solid work that Ennis is doing and contributing there will benefit this city for decades.
Again, the Mayor has not received enough credit for something that seemed effortless, and yet has eluded previous mayors. I suspect this is a function of Alvin's years at Housing for the feds. Its a planning situation that he knows from having seen it work from the federal level and he found the best talent and brain available and simply executed without having to make a 25 step process out of it.
Then there is the undeniable progress that downtown has made during his Administration. It is true that he often takes credit for things that he didnt actually have anything to do with, but considering his investments into sports, his work bringing corporations back downtown. the free hand he has given institutions like the Cultural Council and DVI and working pretty relentlessly behind the scenes to enable a khan led redevelopment of the shipyards, the urban core has recovered faster than many would have predicted, given its history.
Yes Alvin established the new DIA, but the larger impact he has had on downtown simply hasn't been talked about. And that is his handing of downtown back to the citizens.
Take for example a couple of projects that moved effortlessly forward:
ONE SPARK festival and the Friends of Hemming Park effort.
Under previous administrations, both of these projects would still be in the early stages of planning. The ONE SPARK effort in particular would have been hectored to a standstill by a turf war with the old Downtown Development Authority. It would have been inconceivable that so much of downtown would have been cordoned off and utilized for the festival in under a year. There would have been too much temptation to 'improve' the project by trying to take it over an turn it into another homogenized 'event'. Unlike the past four mayors, Brown was able to leave the kids alone, let them figure things out for themselves, not allow a junior department head to try and take it over and actually let a public/private event happen.
And it did, leading to one of the most successful branding events of the past thirty years of downtown.
And by letting the ONE SPARK people come in and do their thing unmolested, the city watched a successful festival grow during one of the worst financial environments of all time.
Similarly, Wayne Wood, Diane Brunet Garcia and the other friends of Hemming Park would not have been able to just go out and start managing the central city public space under other mayors. The funds, once allocated by the council, would have been handed over to the Parks and Recreation department, which would have implemented some major facelifting work and then forgotten what the money was for within four years. The Friends of Hemming Park would have become a volunteer advisory committee without the power to make any decisions, raise needed funds, and would have been largely ignored by the Parks department. That has literally been the history for the past thirty years during various renovations and rebrandings of Hemming.
And yet, Alvin and his people moved gracefully out of the way, let an actual citizen driven process take place, and now there are hundreds of new people engaged in that single park. Something that would have literally been impossible six years ago, and happened with such effortless transition that no one seems to remember that this simply is not how Jacksonville has done business since Consolidation.
In this case, these important successes and intangibles have happened not because of what Alvins Administration actively did, but rather what they had the wisdom to actively not do.
And the intangible importance of this cannot be overstated. Citizen led projects like ONE SPARK and the Friends of Hemming Park are changing the way downtown works, and for the first time in a long line of generations people feel like they can become an independent part of it. There is a feeling of opportunity downtown that has been gone for thirty years or more.
In fact, the weekend before the election we witnessed a new festival, the GastroFest get launched by another group of citizens working with the city, but not for the city. In a way that is hard to convey, this is simply astounding. And it has led to a new vocabulary when it comes to covering the downtown. A list of empowering words that were even absent during the boom. Have a look at the list of links at the bottom of this page to see what has happened in our downtown. Take a little space and think about how quickly this reversal has been. Then imagine all the special blue ribbon committees that simply didn't convene for months with no visible effect. Its actually pretty amazing.
These are accomplishments that fall outside of the narrow job of not being Mike Hogan.
Brown had four years to come up with a reason to keep him, and the facts are pretty clear that he has.
It has been a mixed bag, to be sure. Although Brown did take 11th hour steps to cure several of them. Calvin Burney, the mayor's cousin in law has resigned from the post of Planning Director. There isn't much chance of bringing Bill Killingsworth back, although it would be worth a try. The governors business partner quit the mayor's office a few months back. We'd like to see something done administratively to defang the suddenly all powerful code enforcement department that will cure the demolitions of historic properties.
There have been good trends that it would be in the city's best interest to continue from Alvin Brown's administration. Trends that the other candidates, frankly, probably won't be able to maintain.
So lets look at the situation realistically.
There is an uninspirational choice between three candidates, one of whom is a long shot to win, and one of whom is a hollow candidate with no real vision for the future.
If you don't like Alvin, and you don't like Curry, then think of it this way.
Which route leads to the least amount of time in mediocrity?
Lenny Curry would most likely be able to weather the full 8 years, meaning that the next time we could meaningfully choose a really great candidate would be 2023.
Alvin will be term limited in 2019, and is doing a fairly good job doing reasonably good things for the city.
Voting for Alvin means that the deck gets reshuffled in half the time, leaving us with the possibility of a greater set of options than we presently have. To any reasonable observer, the rational vote is for Alvin.
If you like his work, as I do, then you should vote to continue it.
If you don't like his work, but don't want to see a questionable candidate like Curry win, then it still makes sense to clear the boards of the bitterness of a dispirited democratic base if Alvin loses, depriving Bishop of enough votes to beat Curry in a runoff
Then its time to work like hell to see that we have really amazing candidates to choose from in the next election without jinxing the possibility of someone great because of the difficulty of overcoming an incumbent.
Considering the events of the past four years, Alvin was the best choice for this community considering the choices. In the process of governing, he has done useful and sometimes great things for this city. Giving him another four years is once again the best option, for all the reasons described above (both complimentary and cynical)
Im voting for Alvin with a clear conscience this year. Also a good bit of genuine enthusiasm
Articles on Downtown.
(1) Miami Herald on Downtown Jacksonville:
(2) MAB Efforts on Downtown: