Early voting in Jacksonville’s runoff elections is now underway ahead of Election Day, May 14.
One of the five City Council races on the ballot is for District 14, which covers parts of the Westside, Avondale and Riverside. The two candidates are Republican Randy DeFoor and Democrat Sunny Gettinger.
DeFoor is the Senior Vice President and National Agency Council for Fidelity National Financial. She served as a commissioner of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission from 2006 to 2012 and currently serves on the Jacksonville International Airport Community Redevelopment Area Board.
In 2012, Gov. Rick Scott appointed DeFoor to the District Board of Trustees for Florida State College at Jacksonville, where she served a term as Chairman.
- May 14 Runoff Election Voters’ Guide
- District 14 Jacksonville City Council Candidates Face Off in Five Points
- Q&A With District 14 City Council Candidate Sunny Gettinger
What do you consider the most pressing issue facing District 14?
I would say it's public safety. District 14 is part of Zone 4 and Zone 4 had the highest call rate 911 rate in the entire city. It’s not necessarily violent crime, its property crime, but in any event it’s crime. And so even in walking in knocking on doors, every other house has a camera on it. So clearly, people are not feeling safe.
This district is rapidly growing with new restaurants and businesses popping up every month. As a City Council member how do you balance rising rent and home prices, gentrification essentially, with encouraging business growth?
I'm an Executive at Fidelity National Financial. So, I think Brooklyn is a great neighborhood where we can look at is how Brooklyn has progressed, since Fidelity has gotten there. Fidelity came here from California, a fortune 500, and spun off FIS, which is another fortune 500. That spun off Black Knight and Black Knight has now purchased Dun & Bradstreet.
When fidelity first came to Jacksonville, they came with the promise of creating 790 jobs. And today they've created over 4,000 jobs. And as a direct result of that, you see in Brooklyn all the apartments, you see grocery, you see retail, and you see restaurants. You see growth.
We also see affordable housing. Vestcore has come in and done affordable housing in Brooklyn. We should always be mindful of affordable housing. And I believe that in the Riverside area in particular, you're going to see more affordable housing being built.
Should the City be doing more to address sea level rise? And if so, what?
We saw during Hurricane Irma, some massive flooding, flooding that I had never personally experienced in my lifetime having grown up here. So we need to take an assessment of our drainage system and those areas. What my understanding is, is that the drainage actually goes back into the river. So if the river is rising, or is overflowing, then the drainage system obviously is not going to work. So we have to do an assessment of our drainage system and then determine how best to fix it.
The city [of Jacksonville] already has a committee that is working on this very issue. I believe Lori Boyer is part of that committee and they’re addressing these issues. I went to their meeting last week.
Quite honestly, they're doing it from a perspective right now of construction, new construction. So they haven't gotten to the issue of existing build out. And so I'm looking forward to seeing what they're going to do with that issue. Because that's where Riverside comes in and Ortega. We’re built out, so we need to determine how best our drainage system should work.
If elected, what would you do to curb crime?
This is a multi-generational issue. This didn't happen overnight, so there's not gonna be a simple solution. But I do like some of the things that are happening today, one of which is we've increased the number of police officers that we had under the [Mayor Alvin] Brown administration. Lenny Curry has increased those police numbers by, I believe, by 260-270 police officers.
What we know for sure is there is a direct correlation between more officers and less crime. We know that. So I think we need to continue that. I would like to see more officers.
We also need more preschool and post school programs for the juveniles. And we need camps for the children. We need to help these children who are coming from areas that are, quite honestly, economically depressed and from homes that are fractured. We need to provide programs for them, so they choose not to join a gang and not to commit a crime.
Would you support imposing impact fees on developments or raising a sales tax to generate revenue to help with the Duval School District’s repair and replace costs?
I'm sure you're aware that the school board has a $1.7 billion budget annually. That is significantly more than the current budget for the city of Jacksonville by hundreds of millions of dollars. So what I'd like to know is exactly where that money is going, before I even get to the point where I can address to have a cent sales tax or impact fees.
What do you think about the current administration? And how will you work with or against them?
We have really moved forward significantly, just the last four years, under Lenny Curry's administration. We have cranes up in the air that we didn't have, there was a period of time where nothing changed. We're talking about addressing, you know, purchasing the Landing. We felt he addressed the pension plan. So in my mind, I think he's done a lot of positive. If you take the chatter away, and you just look at the actions and what has been accomplished, there's a lot of positives that have been accomplished.
As you know, we have a strong Mayor form of government, so the city council role is to approve the financial budget for the city of Jacksonville as well as support the mayor and the programs that he presents before the city council. I believe that we need to work together.
I'm coming from corporate America and the key is you’ve got to work with the people. You work well with the people that you work with. So that's the bottom line. We all have to work together to be effective.
What issue or type of legislation do you see yourself leading?
I'm very interested in the mental health issue in Jacksonville. If you look at South Florida, they have done an excellent job dealing with their mental health programs. There's one in particular that I think we need to look at it and it's a mental health court with wraparound services.
What they have done is that they have used SSI [Supplemental Security Income] benefits to help these individuals not only get the health care that they need, but also housing that they need. The impact of that has been reduced to jail beds, the number of jail beds by 25%. That's a lot of savings. So if we could take those savings and then put those back into youth programs, I think it would be a huge benefit. It'd be a win win for everybody involved.