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Check your mailbox this week for City Council election ballots

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Claire Heddles
/
WJCT News
Jacksonville's City Council runoff election is Feb. 22.

Mail ballots are on their way in the race to fill the at-large Jacksonville City Council seat of the late Tommy Hazouri.

The runoff election between Republican Nick Howland and Democrat Tracye Polson is on Feb. 22. Duval Election Supervisor Mike Hogan mailed out more than 85,000 ballots last week.

Voters have until 10 days before the election to request a mail ballot.

In the first race for the seat last month, Polson got 37% of the vote and Howland 36%, with about a third of voters casting a ballot by mail.

Fewer than 81,000 voters 12.5% of eligible voters — cast a ballot in the special election. The last countywide primary election in 2019 saw 24.5% of voters turn out, but it included a mayoral race.

The deadline to register to vote in the latest election is next Monday.

But Duval County's weeks-ahead voter registration requirement could soon be outlawed. The Senate is taking up federal legislation Tuesday that could force states to allow same-day voter registration, among other sweeping voting rights provisions.

Here's where each candidate stands on key issues:

Tracye Polson (D)

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Claire Heddles
/
WJCT News
Democratic candidate Tracye Polson sits in her home office, where she works as a clinical social worker and therapist.

The following answers are a mix of excerpts of an in-person interview and emailed responses in November 2021.

Her top priorities

  1. "Bringing transparency and accountability to City Council with more communication with the public and clear process for things like zoning and allocating taxpayer dollars."
  2. "Reinstating the Safer Together Committee and improving the relationship between our community and our police. This will include expanding the Co-Responder Program."
  3. "Fighting for environmental justice in all of our neighborhoods by expanding tree canopy and our tree planting service, fighting for infrastructure that is resilient to climate change, and more."

Bills she plans to file

"We'll talk more about that as we as we get further into the campaign."

Jacksonville's trash problems

"Jacksonville is a strong mayor form of government. Ultimately, if our mayor [Lenny Curry] wanted to solve the recycling and waste problems with the contractors his administration chose, he would. It’s the City Council’s job to apply pressure to that process and represent the voices of their constituents who want the basic and reliable city services other cities enjoy, like recycling and waste collection."

Downtown development
"I’m not against downtown development — but I will fight for more transparency and accountability in the process of choosing to use public money for that development. We should be using taxpayer dollars to build a downtown our taxpayers want and will utilize like small business incentives and greenspace."

Public safety and police

"I support reinstating the Safer Together Committee — we can’t solve this problem in a vacuum. We need multiple stakeholders involved in conversations (especially the tough ones), to improve the relationship between our community and police. Within the Safer Together report I am specifically in support of the proposal to expand the Co-Responder Program currently operating within JSO and add one mental health professional per zone per shift."

Confederate monuments

"Every single one of the confederate monuments should be taken down. Mayor Curry promised to remove them during a Black Lives Matter march with the Jaguars, and he should make good on his promise."

Tommy Hazouri

"Tommy worked across the aisle to get things done and make our city a better place. And while I may not agree with many folks across the aisle, I will do what it takes to work together in the best interest of Jacksonville’s families."

What she brings to the council

"I know some people think of this as like a part-time job being on City Council, but for me, it will be full time. I intend to get very immersed in the workings of City Council, City Hall, as well as this community."

Nick Howland (R)

Republican candidate Nick Howland pictured in his office for The Fire Watch, a veteran suicide prevention organization.
Claire Heddles
/
WJCT News
Republican candidate Nick Howland pictured in his office for The Fire Watch, a veteran suicide prevention organization.

The following responses are excerpted from an in-person interview with Nick Howland in November 2021.

His top priorities

"We're going to need to back our public safety and make sure that (the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office) has the resources we need to keep our neighborhoods safe."

"Priority No. 2 is jobs, and that's because with all these residents, we need jobs for them so we're not sitting here 10 years from now, with a bunch of folks looking for work in a high city unemployment rate. I think the city's done a pretty good job of bringing financial services here ... but I'd like to see us expand our targeted industries to more logistics and manufacturing companies."

Bills he plans to file

"A strategic planning commission ... it's not just strategic priorities of the city, but it's a comprehensive communitywide plan, taking into account community perspectives for where we want to be 10 years from now. It's been done in other cities successfully."

Jacksonville's trash problems

"There's a long-term issue associated with recycling and garbage, and that's our limitations on landfills. Oftentimes, the haulers have to drive so far that it limits how they can pick how much they can pick up. When you combine that with certain things we have like noise restrictions, we have a pretty progressive noise restriction ordinance in the city. So you have haulers who have to wait until a certain time before they can start emptying dumpsters ... and they can't make all their rounds and get to the landfill the same time. So we have to look at a longer-term strategy of of improving it."

Downtown development

"I'm a big fan of the Shipyards project that the Jaguars are working on. I'm excited about kind of the blue ocean opportunity we have to really look and develop a world-class riverfront and downtown. We need to keep developing multiunit condos with first floor retail, which attract young professionals."

"If builders and developers need the incentives to to do infill development on that, then for sure, we should consider it and as long as it makes a business case, we should approve it."

Public safety and police

"It's manpower and it's support of our police. This defunding movement has really wreaked havoc on our police forces, because it's made it difficult to recruit. It's made it difficult to retain, and we need to show our police that we support them."

"As long as we're transparent, as long as City Council, when questions arise in the community, brings the sheriff or the deputy sheriff to testify about some of those issues, I think it's not necessary to have a Safer Together committee."

Confederate monuments

"I see they're talking about putting together a one-year plan on a comprehensive look, which is what many other cities have done, and I applaud that. I look forward to seeing what comes out of it."

Tommy Hazouri

"One of the great things that Tommy did, in my opinion, was pass a real advanced and kind of innovative anti-odor ordinance. ... People would say it was anti-business at the time, and it was certainly anti a couple industries, but that has helped attract businesses over time because the smell kept businesses away. So sometimes some of those initiatives can end up being a real positive for the business and economic environment."

What he brings to the council

"We are a military- and veteran-friendly community, and The Fire Watch just reinforces that. I would like to make it the most military- and veteran-friendly community in the nation."