The four Jacksonville mayoral candidates whose names are on the ballot faced off in a televised debate Wednesday at Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute ahead of the March 19 elections.
The debate, which was hosted by JU and WJCT News partner News4Jax, was the only chance the three challengers had to go head-to-head with the incumbent mayor.
In alphabetical order, the mayoral candidates that are on the ballot are Omega Allen, Anna Lopez Brosche, Lenny Curry, and Jimmy Hill.
- Omega Allen is an independent. She ran for mayor as an unaffiliated candidate in 2015.
- Anna Lopez Brosche is a Republican Jacksonville City Council member and previous City Council President.
- Lenny Curry is the incumbent Republican mayor of Jacksonville. He was elected in 2015, defeating incumbent Democrat Alvin Brown. Previously, Curry served as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
- Jimmy Hill is a former Atlantic Beach City Councilman.
The following are selected summaries of candidates’ answers to questions during the debate:
What is your answer to solving violent crime?
Allen: Her approach is to build relationships in the communities police serve. "Community policing is when the officers are assigned to a particular area and they get to know and build relationships with the people they have sworn to serve and to protect,” she said.
Brosche: Investing in preventative strategies. "We need investments in our children. We need investments in our neighborhoods, and that is about expanding beyond the 36.8 percent of the children that we're serving, who live at or below poverty. Clearly, there is much more need and we need to act fast with a sense of urgency, the kind of urgency that we're experiencing during election season,” she said.
Curry: Said he wants to stay the stay the course. "I've added 180 police officers. I reorganized on the prevention-intervention piece, the way we serve kids, I created the Kids Hope Alliance, which is to create educational opportunities for young people. By the way, I've spent time with these young people in neighborhoods which many call ‘at risk.’ I call them ‘at hope’ youth.”
Hill: Believes many groups, churches and people in the community aren't adequately being involved. "We need to engage the community, find the people that will do the work on the ground and make sure they have the resources, and that's the only way it's going to get solved. Government's not going to fix it. The people have to."
Would you increase funding for police?
Allen: No. "I don't believe that more money nor more police officers are what's necessary. The job has not gotten done with the revenue that's been given. I believe, as I said, in community policing. I believe a better quality of policing policy is necessary to do the job."
Brosche: No, invest in prevention and intervention. "The sheriff shared that he actually didn't need any more resources, that these budgets had given him what he needed to address crime, and so when I had the opportunity to speak with the sheriff further when I was running for City Council, he shared that there are three legs to the stool: That's enforcement, but it's also prevention and intervention."
Curry: Yes. "I'm going to remain supportive and ask the sheriff or the state attorney and I sit and collaborate and they share with me what they need to get results. As we've seen those [crime] spikes stop, I'm going to continue to make those investments.”
Hill: Yes. "Increase the budget. But look at the payroll system. I've heard nothing but bad things about what happens when a person is cut loose, and they get no support virtually, and in Duval County the system has failed really dramatically there, and I hear about it everywhere I go."
Do you favor the proposed settlement that would have the city take over the Jacksonville Landing at a total cost of roughly $18 million? And if so, what's your vision for that property?
Allen: Doesn't favor the deal and would have the legal team go through every to make sure it is what's best for the people of Jacksonville. "If we are bound by it then of course we will have to go forward with it. I don't believe that the original contract or — I don't believe that the Landing needs to be destroyed. I believe that it can be repurposed and when we repurpose the Landing now we can put it before the people of Jacksonville."
Brosche: The space should be repurposed to include a food scene and market scene. "I do not favor the Landing settlement. It is absolutely an election year payout. We are paying more than three times the value of the property. And that doesn't really seem like a very good deal for the taxpayers."
Curry: Said it’s a great deal for Jacksonville. “I get things done. For four years now I make things happen. I make a commitment. I say, “We're going to make a bit of Jacksonville a better place,’ and it happens downtown.”
Hill: He said the Jacksonville Landing is rotting because parking was never provided. Provide more parking. “I am furious that we ended up having to buy our way out of that. I would absolutely do something as a blocking move to get it stop it from being turned over to the next developer.”
Would you consider selling JEA, the city’s utility company?
Allen: Is open to selling JEA if the deal will benefit the residents. "I would make sure that the citizens of Jacksonville know exactly what the deal is, and then let you make the decision as to what you want to do with JEA.”
Brosche: Strongly opposed to it. “I do not favor a sale, and indeed should any action be taken that even hinted at a sale, the voters should actually absolutely have a say.”
Curry: Wouldn't sell it himself, but would be open to consider suggestions from board. “I will not be introducing legislation to sell the JEA.”
Hill: No. “We have to stop it. And the reason we have to stop it is the numbers don't make sense at the current conversation level.”
Early voting is underway and continues through Sunday, March 17.
Election day is March 19. The election is unitary, meaning it is open to all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation.
Any candidate who receives 50 percent of the votes, plus one, on March 19 wins the race. If that doesn’t happen, the top two will go to a May 14 runoff election.
Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @abukaradan17.