In the past couple of weeks, Mayor John Peyton has come under a bit of fire from a group of Jacksonville residents. Peyton in trouble by his boss (the citizens) has become commonplace. No matter where he chooses to jump, he seems to hit a landmine.
The latest rumblings come from the residents of East Arlington. The folks out in East Arlington (for you people that never leave the urban core, this is the area around Atlantic Boulevard, east of Regency) are usually pretty easy going people. Traffic is terrible, but they are pretty used to it and seem to accept it. They have good schools with few major discipline problems (outside of the terribly overcrowded Sandalwood). Crime is generally low in most areas, so it's pretty rare to find an issue that has them up in a twist.
Enter Craig Airport.
The airport, built in 1943, has had a 4,000 foot runway since its opening. The Airport Authority and all of its predecessors have attempted to extend the runway since the 1960's. The claim is that a longer runway will be safer and will actually enable quieter takeoffs and landings. The nearby residents, most of which moved to the area after 1943, are generally opposed to the extension, citing noise concerns.
During Mayor Peyton's campaign for mayor, this issue appeared and he made a promise to residents that he would veto any legislation that reached his desk to extend the runway.
If the Jacksonville City Council passed any legislation with 13 votes he'd be off the hook, since the Council could override his veto, and he could save face. In addition, if less than 10 council members voted for it, then it would fail, and be a non issue. Unfortunately for Peyton, he hit the legislative jackpot, and 11 council members voted for the extension. One of those coucil members was Don Redman, who got confused by the different colored voting buttons and accidentally voted for the extension when he meant to vote against it.
This put the legislation on Peyton's desk, and in classic Peyton fashion, he declined to veto it, claiming that it was best for the city. What is actually best for the city remains to be seen. Score one for the Peyton Campaign for going out on a limb on something he could not back up. Remember, "No New Taxes" was followed by the implementation of service fees.
The message to the residents of East Arlington is this: Are you really shocked? Are you truly surprised that Peyton had no spine on the issue? If you are really that surprised by Peyton's move, then you probably haven't been paying too much attention to local news over the last four years.
The public relations disasters from this administration read longer than the fine print on your Visa card. Remember Cecil Field? I'm for the Navy coming back - wait, just kidding. How about the Tony Boselli youth program? Everyone remembers Denise Lee, but nobody remembers where it started - the Mayor's office. How about the "Big Ideas" plan? Remember the FSU medical school that the legislature signed into law to be located in Jacksonville, but our leaders were asleep at the wheel? Now it is located in Daytona. What is the plan for the county courthouse?
It even happed to Metro Jacksonville once - we met with Mayor Peyton and Adam Hollingsworth back in 2006 regarding the Main St pocket park. We told him that we thought it was a bad idea, and would be a detriment to Downtown Jacksonville. Peyton asks Adam Hollingsworth, "How far along with that are we?". Hollingsworth responds, "Not very." Peyton then confirmed that former Downtown Council Member Suzanne Jenkins felt the same way about the park, and then says to Hollingsworth, "Let's revist that issue."
A couple of weeks later there are bulldozers on the site.
Now, East Arlington residents are feeling the pain that this administration has inflicted on those in the Urban Core for the last four years, and they are talking about a recall. Whether it is likely to happen remains to be seen, but wouldn't it be ironic if the most content group of surburbanites recalls the mayor that has caused the Urban Core the most heartache of any in recent memory.