Voters are growing weary of Mayor Lenny Curry’s “One City, One Jacksonville” shtick. Though Curry has been running around town spewing mendacity about Jacksonville becoming another Detroit, begging for bipartisan support for his proposed pension sales tax, he can’t hide his old, party-boss stripes. The former chairman of the Florida GOP has the gall to ask us to rise above our differences for Jacksonville, even as he stumps for the most divisive political figure since George Wallace.
Curry has not only endorsed Donald Trump for president, he served as master of ceremonies of Trump’s Jacksonville rally on Aug. 3. In light of Trump’s recent insults to the military in general and a slain soldier’s family in particular, the venue couldn’t have been more tragically ironic: Veterans Memorial Arena.
That Trump would insult the family of war hero Captain Humayun Khan should come as no surprise. He’s already insulted women, black people, disabled people, and prominent members of his own party. (Am I leaving anyone out?) What’s surprising — and terrifying — is that his supporters only rally more loudly around him in the wake of each nasty, narcissistic rant.
Reasons for supporting Trump are about as rational as reasons for supporting a football team. That’s why he and his supporters resort to trash talk instead of policy talk, and name-calling instead of dialogue.
It’s a loyalty born of a brand, decades in the making. Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which used race to motivate white, working-class men to go to the polls, is alive and well and showing up at Trump rallies. The Republican brand relies on a sense of nostalgia for the good ol’ days — whenever that was. Before black people had voting rights? Before women had a say over their reproductive lives?
Those days don’t sound so good to me.
But it’s that very same “us versus them” mentality, that same attempt to lay claim to the “real (white) America,” that’s worked so well for Republicans for so long. It’s the same not-so-thinly veiled racism that helped elect both George the Greater and George the Lesser to the White House, and Little Brother to the Florida governor’s mansion. It’s the same lockstep party line that delivered the extra 5,285 votes necessary for Curry to become mayor of Jacksonville.
Oh, Curry has tried, at times, to hide his ideological side. After all, as Tommy Hazouri would say, potholes aren’t Democratic or Republican.
People from the city’s largely African-American Northwest neighborhoods might beg to differ. Activist Richard Cuff has written that, while his community voted to support the Better Jacksonville Plan’s sales tax during the Delaney Administration, Northwest Jacksonville is no better off now than it was then.
Curry’s sales tax team now has a point person dedicated to changing the hearts and minds of Northside residents. The “Yes for Jacksonville” referendum team has hired Curry staffer Denise Lee to broker some more promises to people in neighborhoods that have been largely ignored since consolidation.
Curry has been talking to every group in town who will listen to his pitch about his proposed pension sales tax. He’s even got Hazouri trying to persuade Democrats.
Never mind that critics — and at least two task forces — have said we’re going to need a millage increase to pay off our police and fire pension liability.
Never mind that the proposed sales tax kicks the can farther down the road, because it begins only after the Better Jacksonville half-penny expires in 2030.
Never mind that sales taxes are considered regressive because poor people spend a bigger proportion of their incomes on consumer goods.
Never mind that the cost of borrowing against that future revenue in Curry’s “refinance plan” adds more to the city’s costs.
Setting all arguments against the pension sales tax aside, there are other reasons progressives should unite against the Aug. 30 referendum: because politics demands it. If you want to play hardball, Curry should have to catch as well as he throws. Curry doesn’t deserve bipartisan support when he’s acting like a party boss instead of a mayor.
Curry has failed to deliver on Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance. And he’s not telling us what solving the pension crisis will permit us to do for our city, let alone the long-neglected Northside. He’s also scrubbed Jacksonville’s citizen committees of public servants who are registered as Democrats.
Jacksonville has enough progressive voters to show Mayor Curry that we won’t settle for the crumbs he deigns to brush off his tyrannical table. With the Young Democrats, the Equality Coalition, and the perennially overlooked Northside voters, we could do it. But do we have the guts to wage a war?
Or are we too busy relying on the better angels in the consciences of Republicans? Are we too afraid to risk short-term retaliation, when we should be planning the real retaliation for 2019? Are we too busy betting that our Republican mayor’s sense of justice will eventually prevail?
I can’t write — much less say — with a straight face: Mayor Lenny Curry’s sense of justice. Like Oprah always said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” He’s standing up with Trump, y’all.
Want a more progressive city? Then take a lesson on party loyalty from Mayor Curry, and take a stand for the Democrats. Vote no on County Referendum 1.