Other than party insiders, most who follow politics met Mayor Brown’s big HRO announcement with an appropriate proverbial shrug. The mayor’s move to solicit a study — to be conducted by his General Counsel, no less — of city’s anti-discrimination policies was transparently political, to anyone paying attention. Texts, within the association of Folio Weekly contributors (not a real association), were demonstrative of such apathy. Writer at-large Susan Cooper Eastman — who’s known to track down a lead or two — estimated that, if faced with the task the General Counsel has at hand, it would take her 10 minutes to prove the city’s policies need updating. Folio Weekly columnist AG Gancarski replied to my text about Brown’s pragmatic evolution, saying the General Counsel’s study should have been done in 2011, adding that it could help push a new HRO forward in the next City Council, but the move was designed for this election.
Regardless of the political motivations, in all likelihood, the General Counsel will advise the city to move on anti-discrimination action regarding LGBT and transgender individuals. Though the mayor handed the ball off on the issue, he must know it’ll be carried over the goal line at some point.
Which is what makes Lenny Curry’s short, yet pointless, April 28 Times-Union letter to the editor — which criticized Brown’s solicitation of a general counsel inquiry — so plaintive. Feigning de rigueur right-wing righteous indignation, he chided the mayor for inviting D.C. into our little Northeast Florida hamlet, while proposing an alternative plan — a conversation with the city’s residents — which illustrated more inaction than anything he’s criticized the mayor for in this election cycle. Curry, like many of his generation, still sees Jacksonville as a Big City with a Small Town mentality, politically. Nothing illustrates the naïveté of such thinking more than the public’s support of a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance.
Curry has carelessly moved to the right in the past few weeks. The visits to the Beaches. Partying with the Mitt Romney in Ponte Vedra. Then the letter to the T-U. And it may have cost him the most sought-after moderate in the city.
I CAN TELL THAT WE ARE GONNA BE FRIENDS
Last Thursday afternoon, as the sun peeked through the diverse canopy of the flora that inhabits Hemming Park, an indifferent breeze rustled leaves and wafts pleasantly over the few in the late lunch crowd delaying their return to the workplace.
Weather-wise, it was as good as it gets in this little coastal enclave. It was easy to imagine many a downtown employee coaxed from their offices, whether for a Vagabond coffee, a post-power lunch stroll, or an endorsement press conference.
Even so, for the majority of the small crowd of media and campaign people gathered just 15 feet from the steps of City Hall — under the auspicious and prophetic Hemming Park campaign slogan “Let’s Be Friends” — after all that’s gone down over the course of the last few months, the sight of Mayor Alvin Brown and Councilperson Bill Bishop casually promenading up Duval Street still generated some cognitive dissonance.
After all, the last time Bishop stood in front of a podium to make an announcement concerning the next mayor of Jacksonville, he all but invited his supporters to remove their footwear and join him in stomping his sour grapes. At that time, Bishop said he’d been offered up each candidate, and decided to pass. He said the race illustrated “the need for strong leadership and clear direction so that the city can prosper.” He decided, “to that point, I’m not endorsing either candidate.”
But Bishop also did some foreshadowing. He said he’d be studying up on what the candidates plan “to do and how they’re going to do it.” He instructed voters to do the same.
One month later, Bishop emerged from his cram session to endorse the current mayor, from a small podium in the park that’s become the heartbeat of urban renewal efforts instituted in Brown’s tenure. Bishop said part of his research was meeting with both candidates. Though Bishop (reading from a prepared statement) said he didn’t agree with the mayor on everything — and admitted he probably never will — he said he thinks Brown’s efforts on pension reform and the “teamwork” the mayor’s office displayed in decisions regarding the port were enough to convince him the incumbent should stay.
Not to be outdone, in his prepared statement, the mayor enthusiastically agreed to not agree with Bishop. As he has in the past, Mayor Brown recognized Bishop for his work as a “dedicated public servant” and, to no one’s surprise, predicted the newfound alliance between them would help take the city to “the next level.”
For Bishop, the move makes sense on many levels. He’s been open about his desire to run in 2019. He and the mayor are often on the same page when it comes to Downtown development. Is there a position for him inside the mayor’s office when his term expires?
That remains to be seen as Bishop dodged the question Folio Weekly columnist AG Gancarski lodged regarding that specific topic.
When asked about his campaign season criticisms of Mayor Brown — disparagements ranging from failure to lead to outright ineptitude — Bishop’s response was enlightening. While both the Curry and Brown campaigns have used hyperbolic language alluding to the fragile future of the city in an effort to inspire voter turnout, Bishop — in the sober, real talk that made him so popular with the city’s moderates to begin with — said the differences between him and Brown were not insurmountable because “the seminal philosophical issues of our day” were not at stake in this local election.
Bishop wasn’t understating the challenges and decisions facing the May 19 victor — pension reform, port expansion, human rights, and untenable violence related to neglect and abject poverty on the city’s Northside. On the contrary, he was pointing out that for whatever differences they have in their approach, the mayor has proved he has the ability to recognize the problems and move on a solution.
Because of his lack of governing experience, a giant question mark hovers over the head of Lenny Curry in that regard, and the letter to the editor in the T-U did nothing if not dot that mark.