Three-day weekends tend to bring out the stretchers, the crime tape, the body bags, the histrionic tweets and the hashtags. President’s Day weekend was no different. There were shootings and murders galore in Jacksonville.
On the holiday itself, Mayor Lenny Curry’s leading critics held a press conference. Florida Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson took the lead, announcing, “We are in a state of urgency emergency today.” Gibson called for Florida Highway Patrol to deploy on Jacksonville streets, as well as the National Guard (though she didn’t want “armed guards on every corner”). And President Donald Trump’s Justice Department? She wanted them in the mix, too. Additionally, curfews ... and not just for minors.
These proposed measures are interestingly timed, not too many days after Sheriff Mike Williams got plastered like a piñata for his department’s unlimited overtime policy. For me, they evoked memories of Alvin Brown at the Legends Center four years ago, weeks before an election with street crime as the backdrop. Brown called for the Department of Justice to come and help. Not much came of that. Lenny Curry’s team framed it as “too little, too late.”
And here we are again.
By the time you read this, Sen. Gibson and Rep. Tracie Davis will have collaborated on a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis, asking for material help. It’s worth mentioning that Davis spoke out in favor of more surveillance cameras at the event, as well as more “trust” between the community and the police. Perhaps there are people who trust authority figures who are watching 24/7. I’m not one of them.
Gibson has not had useful dialogue with this mayor, and that trend apparently continues; she claims, as she has before, that Curry has yet to meet with the delegation to clarify city priorities ahead of the new legislative session. One can surmise, given the involvement of Anna Brosche in this press event, that Curry won’t be meeting with Gibson anytime soon.
Brosche, of course, is getting more specific with policy proposals, which seem to be rewinding back a few years to the Alvin Brown era.
She wants to get back into 100 Resilient Cities, the Rockefeller Foundation program designed to help municipalities deal with sea level rise and the like. And she wants more spending on social services for youth in poverty.
“It’s going to take a lot of money,” Brosche said to a room full of Democrats earlier this month.
The linkage among Gibson’s, Davis’ and Brosche’s contentions, ultimately, is that government can fix or at least mitigate the issues that lead to the killings in the street.
Do voters agree? Or do voters see what is happening in the crime hotspots as someone else’s problem?
Lenny Curry has polled well for most of his term, both in private polls and the published surveys. However, he is facing some of the roughest press of his term right now, and it’s a different kind of press from what he got during last year’s JEA theater. For starters, the JEA issue was flash paper. It was white-hot, and damned if there weren’t great quotes and dramatic vignettes on all sides. But, as is so often the case, the heat didn’t linger long outside the bubble.
Murders, on the other hand, can carry as an ongoing narrative concern—especially if this election somehow gets past March.
Remember four years ago, when Curry and Brown debated just hours after a shooting on a public school bus? Here’s what I wrote then: “The debate kept coming back to crime and public safety. The current crime wave ... did not help the mayor make his case for ‘four more years’ either ... Curry controlled the debate, and in an election as tight as this one, that may make the difference with Election Day voters.”
The Brosche campaign is still finding its footing, of course. It’s an atypical operation, one that does not run quite as efficiently as the mayor’s. And given its components, it couldn’t be expected to do so. But here’s the reality. Curry is going to have to end this in March, because two more months can introduce any number of variables.