Blood Money

November 14, 2018
by
2 mins read

Mayor Lenny Curry has submitted four budgets since taking office in 2015, collectively totaling $4.35 billion. Recently, he negotiated a $2.8 million contribution from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to make up for his anemic investment in the black community. But where was Curry’s priority to address the sociological decay plaguing the black community among his previous $4.35 billion budgets?

Many questions and opinions have surfaced about this gift.

“Some say it’s necessary ‘no strings attached’ money for areas that have desperate needs,” wrote AG Gancarski on the Florida Politics blog. “Others say it’s blood money designed to buy loyalty.”

Local advocate Brenda Priestly Jackson offered her thoughts in a tweet: “For the black community, there’s little moral difference between building homes and schools on toxic sites and rebuilding and infrastructure improvements be paid with ‘blood money’ from those with questionable ties to human rights abuses and terrorism.”

These are but a few of the reactions when the City Council approved the ordinance accepting this UAE gift on Sept. 11, 2018.

Council President Aaron Bowman introduced the ordinance at the mayor’s request, according to the Legislative Summary. The $2.8 million “will be used for various expenditures, including computer lab for Raines and Ribault High Schools, restoration of a local park, purchase of mobile medical units, with approximately $1.45 million going to projects in Ken Knight Road area.”

Local commentator Billie Tucker wrote in her “Eye on Jacksonville” newsletter: “$3 Million from United Arab Emirates to Jax for Irma repairs … very nice but … something stinks.” Tucker continued, “It appears to us if the money was spent for fixing damages caused by Hurricane Irma, then that money should be spent for those issues. This gift smells funky. … The gift was great but those dividing up the spoils … forgot what the money was to be used for.”

Speaking of those dividing up the spoils, the administration refused to even take responsibility for negotiating and accepting the gift. The mayor’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes made that clear in a Florida Politics article dated Oct. 26, 2018. “Acceptance of these funds required City Council support,” he said, “which was received unanimously at both committee and full City Council levels.”

Councilmember Anna Lopez Brosche called a noticed meeting with Councilmember Garrett Dennis for Oct. 26, 2018. The stated purpose was “to discuss Grant from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates.” The meeting opened with Brosche saying she “voted yes on the bill, passed by the Council September 11.” Dennis indicated he was not present when the final Council vote was taken.

Brosche said she met with two members of Curry’s administration and learned that “[n]o advance work with the community had been done at the request of the UAE, the negotiation for this deal started in March 2018, and the Council was voting on legislation about which the community was not aware.”

Councilmember Dennis made this comment about the UAE gift to our city: “All across the county, people are questioning it. Different walks of life in our city. Different political parties. I feel like we should ask more questions and put a pause on these dollars.”

Brosche provided the galvanizing reason for the firestorm of questions from our community about the gift with these words: “When questions were asked at the mayor’s press conference, they were not addressed, and the way the media was handled raised more questions.”

Mayor Curry has a responsibility to answer the questions about this blood money from the UAE. Brosche asked the General Counsel for guidance on how to terminate this agreement. Dennis asked the Assistant Council Auditor to find $2.8 million to fulfill the much-needed community projects. Our city has questions about this blood money.

_________________________________________

Dr. Gray is a very concerned citizen.

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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