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Pension Reform and Downtown Development are the issues that could define the first term of Mayor Alvin Brown.
Coming into office with the mantel of a fiscal and religiously conservative democrat, Alvin Brown has not engendered the enthusiasm one would expect from also being Jacksonville’s first African American Mayor. After taking office Brown fired, not only high level administrative employees, but low level employees earning less that $40,000 a year. This did not endear him to the masses.
Mayor Brown, through his negotiator Derrel Chatmon, continues to insist on direct talks with the Police and Fire Unions. This hard nosed tactic could end up in the hands of the Jacksonville City Council. A place that this observer would think is not a good place for the Mayor’s team.
The Mayor and his city are facing a “fiscal cliff” of their own. Like so many cities around the country Jacksonville leaders negotiated contracts with their municipal unions when the times were good. Jacksonville complicated its own agreement, by spending the pension money on other things, rather than investing it back into the pension plan.
Who sits on this Pension Fund?
Walter Bussells, former JEA CEO
Nathaniel Glover, President of Edward Waters College and former Jacksonville Sheriff
Adam Herbert, former President of the University of North Florida.
Plus a firefighter and a police officer.
The Mayor, through his negotiator, insists on negotiating directly with the unions. This is a straw man tactic in that members of the Police and Firemen’s Union would be in the room during any “negotiations” with the Mayor’s office and would be in direct consultation with their own pension fund regardless of who was negotiating.
But here is the thing, if these “non-discussions” continue as they are and can’t be settled in an adult fashion, even by a mediator, the matter goes to the Jacksonville City Council for discussion and determination on who gets what in the pension battle. Both unions strongly support many of the Council members who now hold office. Are they willing to lose this support going forward?
Most are republicans, strong on defense(police and fire), who recognize that it was not the unions that put Jacksonville in the position it finds itself, but past administrations who did not keep the faith.
So what dog does the taxpayer have in this fiscal fight? Either the share of retirement money going to police and firemen gets cut going forward, or the share of other city services gets cut. The problem? These Police and Firemen are also citizens and taxpayers. They get a say in what happens to them.
The Mayor has proven himself to be a proud fiscal conservative who will stop at nothing to trim government and reshape it into his own image. He has also shown that he will move at his own pace in decision making unless pressured otherwise. The decision to pick SMG over Global Spectrum to manage city public facilities was the choice of Jaguars owner Shad Khan, not Mayor Alvin Brown.
Score this round with the Unions holding a one point lead.