Trouble in River City

Jacksonville city government, under a power-hungry Republican mayor, is out of control. The man has no previous experience running anything other than political campaigns. His prior experience is not in government, but in doing Republican attack campaigns.

Now this man has wrecked Jacksonville’s 50-year tradition of staggered terms for members of appointed boards. For 50 years, this tradition has protected Jax from the cronyism, corruption and tomfoolery of the years just prior to consolidation … well, that is, until now. The mayor did this with JEA and has done the same with the Children’s Commission, which is now the Children’s Alliance, as a scheme to obliterate the protections of staggered terms.

Now we have a crisis.

We have a crisis because this mayor plans to dismantle all limits on the office of mayor, such as staggered terms for appointees.

We have a crisis because this mayor shows no interest in the merits of issues, just plowing ahead and bullying people.

We have a crisis because this mayor has packed his offices with sons and daughters and relatives and best friends of his best friends, with no pretense of hiring people right for the job. The cronyism and favoritism and nepotism is worse than it was 50 years ago.

We have a crisis because this mayor runs this city for the benefit of the poker rooms and dog tracks and topless bars and all the seediest aspects of this city, with these business owners holding key places in his government.

We have a crisis because this mayor seriously plans to sell the JEA (though he claims he has nothing to do with the push to sell!) when the JEA is the one asset least appropriate for us to sell. A sale will be bad for water quality, for air quality, for the future of peak load pricing, for electric rates generally, for city finances generally, for the future development and use of renewable energy locally, and for the pattern of corruption involved.

We have a crisis because this mayor allows top staff people to make fun of the City Council members and to treat the council with disrespect.

We have a crisis because this mayor follows the recent pattern of the two other Republican mayors of promising anything at all that works politically, with no interest in making good on the promise; for example, the promise to build a new courthouse for $160 million. It was not merely cost-overrides that gave us a $500 million courthouse. It was an illegal conspiracy all along to spend $500 million despite a referendum that had set the budget at $160 million.

We have a crisis because this mayor snookered Jax into the first-ever bond issue that borrowed money now from a revenue stream not here yet.

We have a crisis because this mayor chooses to cannibalize our assets rather than implement a sensible pay-as-you-go plan.

We have a crisis because this mayor, whose policies resemble Donald Trump’s policies, is a loud booster and supporter of Trump, a president who needs to be impeached.

We have a crisis because this mayor demands we spend one billion dollars on super-deep dredging, deep dredging which is not cost-effective and is dangerous environmentally and is not supported by the port interests who have backed prior logical dredging. Why? Why? Because it has no particular identifiable benefit to anyone at all, other than the family of the most recent Republican mayor.

We have a crisis because this mayor is in cahoots with the general Republican plan to wreck our Duval County public school system, partly through starving the schools by under-assessing the properties of fatcats and Republicans. Anyone can look at recent sales. You will find that sales under $400K match up closely with the “just value” in the Jan. 1 assessments. You will find that sales over $600K do not match up, that they show the prior assessment to have been illegally and unconstitutionally (under the Florida Constitution) below the fair value, aka market value, aka just value.

We have a crisis because this mayor is the only big city mayor in the entire world who denies climate change and who denigrates efforts to prepare for climate change.

We have a crisis because this mayor has chosen to break with the current sheriff and with the prior sheriff and prior mayor in the treatment of foreigners/aliens/minorities in our city.

We have trouble right here in River City.


Johnson is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives.