Mayor Alvin Brown continues to push ahead. The Mayor is seemingly impervious to the mounting criticism surrounding three important budgetary actions. First, his annual budget is meeting with severe push back because it would cut library hours, cause road paving to nearly cease, close fire stations, cut police jobs, and generally lower city services to taxpayers.
This is a perplexing move considering that the taxpayers of Duval County, Jacksonville would be paying for services they will get less of.
Mayor Brown, a fiscally conservative Democrat, ran on the promise that he would not raise taxes. His predecessor, businessman John Peyton, made the same promise. The problem? Over the last 6 years, property tax revenue, from which the county receives most of its money, has been in a 23% steady decline. Both administrations kept the conservative faith by cutting city-sponsored programs with the exception of Mayoral pet programs, and cut city employees whose positions were deemed non-essential.
Mayor Brown, has continually evoked the “public-private” partnership mantra in order to gain financial support for programs that were not in the city budget, but were deemed important Mayoral pet projects. Most recently, his Learn2Earn program fell over $70,000 short of its goal. His $2 million dollar fundraising goal for education initiatives has produced just $43,000. The group that the Mayor would call upon to raise money for such programs: the Jacksonville Civic Council, whose membership supported Brown’s election is now decidedly not on the team with his calls to raise revenue for pet projects, but not for municipal purposes, such as pot holes and public safety.
Brown, who started his team with volunteer administrators, such as “Education Commissioner” Donnie Horner of Jacksonville University, is now moving quietly back to the traditional well paid staff that every Mayor needs to run the government. This is an important event because in the first year of his administration, several business and civic leaders were tapped to head departments with the goal of saving taxpayers money and reorganizing government. The result has been a confusing mishmash that to this day has still not met with City Council understanding or approval.
But back to the budget: Mayor Brown is boxed in politically. If he goes against his campaign promise to not raise taxes, he will surely be called a “flip flopper” and a tax and spend democrat. If he continues with the budget as submitted and is approved by the City Council, he risks overseeing the decline of city services and open revolt among neighborhood and community leaders which equates to reelection worries. After all, Brown has raised only one-third of what his predecessor raised toward his reelection at this same point 7 years ago. Lets not forget, Brown is a democrat in a republican town.
And then there is his unbridled support of new jumbotrons and swimming pools on a billionaire’s behalf at a municipally owned stadium.