Approaching Storm

Approaching S

Heated dispute between the Mayor’s Office and the Jags could be the start of a long, hot

One of the things that separates the current era from previous ones in Jacksonville is how aggressively many elements of the hipster community promote the city and what there is to do in Tweets and the like. The weekend of Tropical Storm Beryl presented one example of such viral marketing. Given the promise of a stacked Jazz Festival lineup and the excitement of the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team hosting the Scottish contingent, many partisans of “America’s Logistics Center” (as highway signs claim) would Tweet about one awesome thing or another over the weekend, and affix that sentiment with the hashtag #BestWeekendEver.

To be sure, Friday and Saturday were quite good for most of us. The Jazz Festival was humming along with one of its bigger crowds of record, and Landon Donovan’s hat trick led the U.S. Team to a 5-1 rout of the visitors. All along Bay Street the weekend of the game, the atmosphere was electrically cosmopolitan, leading many observers to muse, both on Twitter and off, about why this kind of convergence of promotional energies shouldn’t happen in Jacksonville every weekend.

Of course, not every weekend can be #BestWeekendEver. By Sunday, the weekend in Jacksonville had taken a turn for the worse, with Tropical Storm Beryl barreling down on Northeast Florida. Though Mayor Brown’s decision to cancel Sunday’s Jazz Fest events initially seemed premature — especially during the mostly mild day — by the time nightfall approached, most everyone had opted to take the storm seriously, as gusty winds and rainbands tore through the area just in time for “Mad Men” to begin.

Though TS Beryl was a big weather event, it may not go down as the biggest storm of the weekend. What may seem like some to be an esoteric conflict between Mayor Alvin Brown and Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is, in reality, one of those beefs that could prove to be a tripwire in the relationship between the new owner and the neophyte mayor.

The “bidding war” — insofar as there can be such a thing between two parties — between SMG and Global Crossings to manage the city’s entertainment facilities is one of those things that has me wondering if it’s 2012 or 1972. The utter lack of transparency of the whole process is reminiscent of the sham conflicts between Putin and Medvedev to control Russia. Our two choices to manage these facilities involve SMG and the status quo, a bouillabaisse of Good Ol’ Boy politics as usual, marinated in a lobbyist stock of Paul Harden and the usual opaque accountability that accompanies that name. On the other side? It doesn’t look much cleaner.

Global Spectrum, a Philadelphia-based subsidiary of Comcast, looks to bring the same approach it’s brought to full-spectrum dominance of the area’s cable and Internet services to local stadium management. Finally, an alternative to SMG, right? Sure, but this one is no less connected to city politics. As first explored in Folio Weekly in April (http://bit.ly/Hei1Cq) and again last month (http://bit.ly/J2X2CE), the “public-private partnership” that could be forged between Mayor Brown and Global Spectrum is more incestuous than prom night in Appalachia. Brown is so close to Global Spectrum lobbyist William Gray that he claimed, erroneously, to be working for his law firm not too long ago. And even though Brown was riding high in the polls until recently, there are some who’d argue that he’s so close to Gray, he should recuse himself from the decision-making process.

This is a huge deal now, in part because Khan has leverage, with the Minneapolis City Council having OKed the financing for the Vikings’ new stadium, eliminating Minnesota’s franchise from consideration to move to Los Angeles. Khan is locked into the deal here, but we know his walking-around money is enough to pay whatever fine the city might impose upon him for breaking the lease. Khan is happy enough to maintain the current arrangement, and the city? The city is in disarray.

The City Council — of late, making a habit of repudiating the callow Mayor by 18-1 and 17-2 votes — wants to have a say-so over the bidding process. It’s damn hard to feel like the Council is the sympathetic party in this case, except that they happen to be right in wanting to assert their prerogatives, given the shadiness of other principles in the conflict. And except for the fact that Brown’s whole accountability shtick seems to have been a construct with no real relation to his governance style. And the fact that Shahid Khan is every bit as self-interested and deal-cutting as any other self-made billionaire. Not many heroes in this scenario, no matter how it plays out.

AG Gancarsk

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Twitter @AGGancarsk

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