The Fall Guys: Parker and McElroy

‘Tis the season for falls from grace. Ordinarily, we have to wait for elections to heat up to see the kind of action that #jaxpol has been charting lately.

First, Duval Democrat Committeeman John Parker took a tumble for some ‘is it racist?’ comments he allegedly made during a strategizing dinner back in January. He apologized, denied that he meant it that way, but took too long to get out of the way, ’cause next thing you know, the likes of Rush Limbaugh were remarking on the sitch that included a late call from Parker’s wife, Duval Dem Chair Lisa King, for him to step down, which he ultimately did.

Parker’s fall from grace is less about him than the longtime simmering conflict between factions of liberals—black Democrats and bougie whites, with the newly minted social justice warriors switching sides as often as the tide turns, just so long as they’re to the left of everyone else.

Regarding the latter: As righteous as their motivations might be, the uncompromising, ‘if you’re not 100 percent with us, you’re against us,’ herd mentality of the SJW set is a lot more like the ethos of the alt-right than most libs would like to admit. Both make lots of noise, but are unlikely to accomplish much, if anything. And both are always looking for a target to vilify—befriend and form alliances with them at your peril; one wrong move and you’ll be labeled an enemy and summarily executed without trial. Plus, and perhaps worse, the serious people won’t take you seriously.

But I digress.

Dems the nation over, and especially in the South, have long struggled to unify the haves and have-nots within the party, categories that all too often correspond with race. It’s not as much a difference of ideologies as it is priorities. Poor, disenfranchised folks are likely to prioritize income inequality, workers’ rights, social services, etc.—things that impact them—over other action items. On the other hand, privileged folks might be more motivated by the environment, or LGBT equality, or gun control—things they find most important.

Neither is wrong, nor do they entirely disagree, they’re just willing to sacrifice different things to achieve certain policy goals, and will oppose compromise on other priorities. The power dynamics being what they’ve been, one side has too long been relegated to waiting in the wings while the other pursued its missions. Hence, the conflict.

Whatever John Parker did or didn’t say or mean, he’s been turned into a symbol of the unfairness of longstanding power dynamics in the Democratic Party, which in turn led him to the slaughter, while the Republicans watched and laughed.

They weren’t laughing long before one of their own fell on his sword for the good of the cause. After months of playing patsy to the board, the GOP donor class and the city officials they front, JEA CEO Paul McElroy abruptly resigned on April 6. (Disclosure: My spouse is a JEA employee.) There was no ‘let’s talk it over, number I can call,’ goodbye said it all.

On his way out, McElroy secured promise for a—standard, they say, though the city’s general counsel objected—indemnity clause on the off chance he gets hauled into court over the JEA sale drama or some other misdoings.

With nary an eyebrow-raise, the board then handed the interim CEO role to CFO Melissa Dykes, she of the big brain and the many, many private conversations with the mayor’s chief of staff, conversations that seemingly ignored the ‘independence’ of the independent agency. Perhaps the mayor likes to think he puts the ‘i’ in independent.

It’s long been obvious that at least one person would take the fall for the unbridled disregard of JEA board bylaws, chain-of-command violations, possible abuse of the public trust and odd coziness juxtaposed by internal backbiting that has characterized the relationship between City Hall and JEA of late. Actually, I put my money on McElroy being the fall guy weeks ago. I just didn’t think it would happen quite this soon.

With McElroy rapidly exiting stage right, this clears the way for a national search for his replacement, right? His was the highest salary in the city, so it should generate plenty of interest, right?


Afterward, JEA Board Chair G. Alan Howard told WJCT the sale conversation is likely to kneecap their ability to attract a replacement for what could be a short-term gig. Which means that their best bet will be to promote internally—likely Dykes, though maybe another contender, such as Mike Hightower, will enter the ring. Regardless, you can bet that whoever the board taps will be approved from the highest levels of city government—and beyond, where it really matters.

As Parker and McElroy tumble into news-cycle obscurity, the real culprits—racial inequality and the ruthless donor class—remain in play as ever.