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Jacksonville Mayor’s Latest Salvo In Pension Fight A Bipartisan Show Of Force

Ryan Benk
Mayor Lenny Curry makes another pitch to voters to support County referendum 1 surrounded by more than 50 supporters.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says he’s confident voters this month will approve his plan to deal with the city’s $2.7 billion pension debt.

The Republican mayor is pushing back against a contingent of Democratic opposition against the extension of a 1/2-cent sales tax.

Curry appeared at City Hall Monday surrounded by a large group of supporters, including City Council members, Jacksonville sheriffs past and present, and community activists like the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality’s Jimmy Midyette.

Curry is reacting to apress conference last week urging a “No” vote on County Referendum 1. He called it a political ploy by a small group of people.

“They don’t have a plan. They don’t have an answer and we’ve been debating this for a decade now. So, my response is ‘I have led on this issue. I have put myself forward and said we are going to solve this once and for all,’ ” he said.

Curry pointed out both State Democratic Representative Mia Jones and Senator Audrey Gibson voted for his plan this year before showing up to decry it last week. They defend their votes as an agreement to bring the question to voters, not an endorsement of extending the Better Jacksonville sales tax past 2030.

They also say the tax disproportionately affects the poor and shifts the burden of pension debt on future generations. A July University of North Florida poll shows 1/3 of Duval County residents have similar doubts.

The poll also shows 41 percent of voters approve, but 26 percent still haven't decided.

Still, Curry said internal polling makes him optimistic, but he wouldn’t divulge the specifics of any internal survey.

“It’s not about me. It’s really about that cross section of folks from all walks of life that are in support of this,” he said.

Curry said his Yes 4 Jax campaign, which has close to$2 million in cash on hand, will ramp up advertising heading into the Aug. 30 primary.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.