Councilman Hazouri: JEA Should Not Be Sold; Eminent Domain Possible For The Landing

Apr 9, 2018

Monday on First Coast Connect, City Councilman Tommy Hazouri reflected on JEA CEO Paul McElroy's decision to step down from day-to-day operations on Friday.

“You know there is going to be a scapegoat in this thing,” said Hazouri. “I think he [McElroy] was frustrated.” He added, “To me, what was the final turning point on this was the project in Georgia.”  

Hazouri was referring to Plant Vogtle, a nuclear plant under construction that’s running way over budget and is years behind schedule.

Thursday McElroy presented a 2017 financial disclosure to Jacksonville City Council members that shows JEA’s liability for its stake in the nuclear project could total roughly $2.5 billion.

Related: Listen to Hazouri's full interview on First Coast Connect

McElroy’s departure adds another layer of complexity and intrigue as City Hall debates whether it should sell JEA to a private operator.

Hazouri said that selling JEA is not just about the money. It is about what is right for Jacksonville and what is right for our ratepayers. Hazouri has said that JEA should not be sold. The utility also isn’t prepared for a sale, according to Hazouri.  

During the interview, Hazouri also discussed The Landing and how iconic the property is to downtown Jacksonville.  Hazouri said he would put forth efforts to move The Landing forward and says “eminent domain is something that could take place.”

Currently the city is defending itself in a lawsuit brought against it by the owner of the Landing, Sleiman Enterprises.

Sleiman’s suit claims the city has made “multiple contractual breaches by the city that make it impossible” for the Landing to operate at its full potential.”

Hazouri says that young people will spend money but you have to get them some entertainment and retail to make it happen. “That [The Landing] is the focal point of downtown Jacksonville,” said Hazouri.

Last year Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also spoke out against the Landing, telling our Florida Times-Union news partner that he was sending notice to Sleiman Enterprises that if the retail real estate mogul couldn’t turn around the property in the next month, the city would be terminating its lease for a breach of contract.

That in turn resulted in Sleiman Enterprises filing a lawsuit against the city and launching a website to tell  its side of the story.