This is a response to the Saturday editorial by the Florida Times-Union editorial board, which offered a one-sided view and appeared to take the position of referee between Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche.
On Feb. 12, Brosche sent a letter responding to JEA CEO Paul McElroy's Feb. 9 request for a meeting to hear a consultant's presentation on the possibility of selling JEA, in which she stated, "With all due respect, I am declining the opportunity to hold a Special City Council Meeting on February 14." There are three ways by which a council meeting can be called: (1) By the president; (2) by seven council members; or (3) by the mayor. I believe that the mayor could not find seven council members, so he forced the meeting that took place on Feb. 14.
We taxpayers who watched or attended the mayor's special council meeting were left with five questions. What was the impetus and haste for this meeting? Why was the information presented so poorly, generating many questions from council members, some which could not be addressed? Why wasn't there a quorum from the JEA Board present for this joint meeting? Why did the board of JEA hire someone with no certification to present the information, as the consultant verified during this meeting when questioned by the council president? Why did the JEA pay roughly $100,000 information that raised more questions than answers?
And then there's the sixth, and perhaps most pressing, question: What is the real reason for selling JEA?
This was the mayor's special city council meeting to hear a consultant's report on the possibility of selling JEA. However, this meeting, based upon what I and other taxpayers witnessed, did not meet the mayor's objective. Members of the public who attended were not moved to sell JEA. At the conclusion, the council president asked those present if they'd heard anything that convinced them to sell the JEA. Their response was a resounding 'no.'
Politics is the art of compromise. Very little compromise can be found in this city government involving our mayor. Curry dislikes anyone on council who does not wholeheartedly embrace his worldview and politics. But Jacksonville still has a democratic form of government-not a dictatorship.
Council President Brosche is not the only councilperson subjected to Curry's political wrath. The most recent example of Curry's disrespect for councilmembers occurred on Feb. 1, when he called a lunch meeting at Potter's House Soul Food Bistro. This restaurant is clearly within District 9. City Councilman Garrett Dennis represents District 9. Yet our mayor did not invite Dennis to attend his meeting, though he did invite three other councilmembers from Northwest Jacksonville. The T-U reported that Dennis said that "Curry retaliates against those who raise questions about the mayor's programs and policies," and that he "accused Mayor Lenny Curry of retaliating, intimidating and downright dividing our city." This behavior will not and cannot lead us to become "One City-One Jacksonville."
Although it has since been dismissed by the Office of General Counsel, Brosche's assistant's recent complaint against the mayor's chief of staff is also disturbing. Political respect must flow in two directions. We the citizens of Jacksonville have an expectation that our mayor conduct the business of this city in an atmosphere of civility. As the Chief Executive Officer of Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry has a responsibility to set the example of mutual respect, for, as the proverb says, "A fish rots from the head down."
In closing, Council President Anna Lopez Brosche was not out of line for refusing to let Mayor Curry speak at the special meeting. She did not force this meeting. This was the mayor's meeting and by all accounts it was a disaster. The presentation clearly did not accomplish the mission of convincing anyone that JEA should be sold. What the mayor's meeting highlighted was the inadequate leadership we have in the mayor's office and JEA. Lest we forget, the mayor appointed six of the seven current JEA board members.
We elected a mayor and 19 city councilmembers to operate our local government, both with specific and separate functions, rather than strong-arm politics and one point of view. The public has a mandate to embrace U. S. Representative John Lewis' suggestion, to "find away to get in the way" in order to preserve democracy, weigh the pros and cons for selling JEA and insist upon public input in this process. Our city has a long history of unfulfilled political promises going back to consolidation.
Gray is a very concerned citizen of Jacksonville.