Fear & Intimidation in City Hall Are Killing Democracy

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry raised the concerns of many with the appointment of his Chief of Staff Brian Hughes, as the Interim Chief Executive Officer to Jacksonville’s Downtown Investment Authority. But it was Curry’s justification for his action that set off alarm bells about Fear and Intimidation (F&I) in City Hall when he said in Florida Politics on Sept. 20, “We need a strong interim in while we do a national search so we can keep kicking ass downtown.” Did we elect an ass-kicker or a chief executive to administer democracy in City Hall?

If this Hughes assignment isn’t questionable enough, read what David Bauerlein wrote in the Times-Union on Sept. 19: “Curry appointed Todd Froats, who co-founded ICX Group with Curry in the early 2000s, as a DIA board member. City Council approved the appointment.” Bauerlein said this about the mayor’s unscrupulous maneuver: “Hughes is the second person with a close connection to Curry to fill a role at DIA.”

Yes, Curry appointed his current chief of staff as interim CEO and his business partner as board member to Downtown Investment Authority. Councilmembers Anna Lopez Brosche and Garrett Dennis were the only two who had the political guts to vote against this mayor’s Fear & Intimidation move. Our City Council needs to stop playing “Mayor May I?” As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The City Council was elected to serve as our independent, separate governing body. We the People are supposed to have two branches in city government, Executive (Mayor) and Legislative (City Council). What we have here now is one executive branch, due to Curry’s F&I in City Hall, and it’s killing democracy.

How did we get to the Fear & Intimidation situation in City Hall which is killing democracy? Soon after Curry’s election, he demanded the resignations of all previously appointed members of the city’s boards, commissions, and independent agencies. Curry’s message was clear. Compromise and diplomacy were out and power and intimidation were in—as Curry’s approach for governance as our new mayor. Ron Littlepage provided some insight in a 2017 article with this quotation about the mayor: “Curry has a habit of attacking those who disagree with him.” If you have any doubts about that, just ask past councilmember Katrina Brown or current councilmembers Brosche and Dennis. Littlepage continued: “What he posted on Twitter last week is worth noting: “Gotta have a purpose. Gotta have vision. But gotta win to realize the purpose & vision. Winning matters.” The mayor’s approach to governance is Win-Lose. There’s another approach to group dynamics; it’s Win-Win.

A Win-Win approach to governance does not require having an ass-kicker. This approach might give us two distinct and independent branches of city government, rather than having our city council playing “Mayor May I?” Immediate legislative independence by the city council can and will improve our democratic form of government in Jacksonville.

Curry’s Fear & Intimidation approach to governance is doing absolutely nothing for the current situation to stop the violence and killings in Jacksonville. The plan to give 35 religion-based organizations $10,000 to address the violence and killing sociological problem in our city defies logic for three reasons. One: Most of these 35 grantees are merely storefronts and do not have the prerequisite sociological organizational skills to reach favorable results. Two: The $10,000 is not sustainable nor accountable. Three: This sociological problem is woefully underfunded by the mayor and city council. What Mayor Curry is selling the city is clearly a political smoke-and-mirrors scheme, with a financial infusion to faith-based organizations, which will yield no true benefit or return on investment.

Mayor Curry, our city does not need Fear & Intimidation to confront the cancerous sociological decay that has metastasized to create all the crime, murder and killings. Our city desperately needs sound leadership guided by a principle of Win-Win. Most of all, our city needs two separate and distinct branches of government that address the will of the citizens.


Dr. Gray is a very concerned citizen of Jacksonville.