Mayor Curry: RNC Cancellation ‘Doesn’t Say Anything’ About City’s Ability To Host Large Events

Jul 28, 2020

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry defended the city’s recent Republican National Convention cancellation, noting that the city can still host key large events. 

“In normal times, I'm confident that we would have been able to pull this off, although I don't know that in normal times we'd been able to potentially pull an event from another city in short order,” Curry said. 

Curry also noted that he spoke with President Donald Trump for about 15 minutes the day after the cancellation announcement. 

“He reiterated his commitment to the health of the American people, the people of Jacksonville, and he actually took a few minutes to say hello to and speak with my youngest daughter,” Curry said. 

While he agreed with President Trump’s decision to cancel the RNC, Curry said he would’ve waited a bit longer if he had the final say.

“I probably would have made some sort of a decision somewhere between seven to 10 to 12 days,” Curry said.

In total, Curry said donations to the Jacksonville RNC Host Committee were in the “$20 million range”, which he said would cover all of the costs put into planning the event.  

The mayor restated that no taxpayer dollars were spent during the process of courting and preparing the RNC. He said the council auditor is working on finding out how many hours of work were spent by city employees on it.

Curry also mentioned the tropical system in the Atlantic that could potentially hit Jacksonville this weekend, saying the city is monitoring it in case further action is needed. 

“There's been so much attention, rightly so, around COVID-19, that maybe people have not paid as much attention to hurricane prep,” Curry said. “So I would remind people this is a good time to get your kids ready, [and] be prepared for a storm.” 

According to a trajectory map on the system from the National Weather Service, the storm is set to hit the Carribean islands over the next few days, then take a curve upwards toward Florida. If the trajectory on the map comes true, Jacksonville would see some of its effects this weekend. 

The additional element of this storm season is sheltering during a pandemic. Chief Steve Woodard of the Jacksonville Emergency Preparedness Division said plans have been put in place to make sure screening and social distancing can be done in the case of an emergency. 

In late May, the City Council, Woodard, and other leaders in the city held a meeting to discuss those plans, which included opening up additional testing sites and potentially creating shelter sites specifically for COVID-19 positive individuals. 

As for the current COVID-19 situation in Duval County, Curry said he is remaining “cautiously optimistic” after conversations with local hospital leaders. He said in some facilities, hospitalizations have stabilized, and overall, the number of new cases has gone down.

Asked about the Duval County Public Schools pushing their start date back from August 10 to August 20, Curry said he understands the school board’s decision. 

“My family and I will be sending our kids back to school,” Curry said. 

And Curry mentioned City Council President Tommy Hazouri, who recently underwent a lung transplant and is recovering. 

“He's got a long road ahead of him,” Curry said. “He sounded good. He knows that the community cares about him and is with him, so let's continue to show our support.”

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.