Jax RNC In Further Jeopardy As Council President Speaks Out Against Current Plan

Jul 23, 2020

UPDATE: President Trump has cancelled Jacksonville's portion of the Republican National Convention.

Jacksonville City Council President Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat, is raising a lot of concerns about the Republican National Convention bill that’s been sent to City Council.

Appearing on WJCT News' First Coast with Melissa Ross Thursday, Hazouri said the security concerns raised by Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, a Republican, are among the deal breakers.

“What the sheriff said the other day – not having the resources – that’s not just a no brainer, that’s a stop gap as far as I’m concerned,” Hazouri said.

Hazouri is also concerned the bill doesn’t address the pandemic in enough detail.

“Nobody addresses what happens to all the people who come on airplanes, to visitors, delegates, drive here, trains, cars, or whatever. And, and what are you going to do? Give them a temperature check and ask them to cough like you normally do in a doctor's office or at a hospital?” he said.

Hazouri said because the bill is being introduced as emergency legislation, it requires a higher threshold, two-thirds, to pass.

Hazouri said the current bill is 37 pages with another 40 pages of exhibits and contracts.

WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union reports, if passed, the bill would give Republican Mayor Lenny Curry the power to spend $33 million in federal security funds.

Sheriff Williams is scheduled to give City Council an update on where things stand from a security perspective on Friday, Hazouri said, indicating he will be following the sheriff’s lead.

“He [Williams] puts public safety ahead of politics. And I think that’s what our council has to do,” he said.

On Monday the sheriff called a news conference to say security plans for Jacksonville’s part of the RNC had reached “a point of no return” and he could not guarantee a safe event with the limited resources he'd been able to assemble with such short notice of Jacksonville's selection as the host city.

Curry followed up with his own news conference, saying the sheriff’s comments were not a surprise and he agreed with the sheriff’s assessment. But he added he believes the city can still host the convention in a safe manner.

Jacksonville attorney W.C. Gentry, who filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing a scaled back convention, also appeared on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross Thursday, saying of the conventioneers expected to attend: “Coming here, congregating together, and then moving throughout our community, and infecting hundreds, if not thousands of people in our community, it is a tremendous risk, and it can at least be minimized.”

You can listen to the full interviews with Hazouri and Gentry, along with listener calls on the topic here.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.