At Jacksonville City Hall on Tuesday, Mayor Lenny Curry lunched with members of the Duval Legislative Delegation. Here’s a blog of Curry’s lunch with the two state senators and six representatives that comprise the delegation.
12:06 p.m.: Councilmembers Al Ferraro and Anna Brosche are already in the room, along with Ron Littlepage, Mario Rubio, Charles McBurney, Lake Ray, Patrick Juliano, Janet Adkins, Audrey Gibson, Kerri Stewart and others. Insert Honorable tags, et al, where appropriate.
12:07 p.m.: Lunch will be from the Zodiac Grill today.
12:09 p.m.: Curry is in the house.
12:12 p.m.: “Ding ding ding.” Curry is calling the room to order. No agenda; soft meeting. A discussion of how “we work together” for Jacksonville, instead of in silos.
12:19 p.m.: Adkins delivers the blessing, setting up a mad rush to the buffet.
12:22 p.m.: Curry: “We are committed to making our case for our priorities.” Discusses money for lobbying, saying, “It’s really about all of us working together.” Working strategically, making the best case for Jacksonville as it addresses issues: public safety and infrastructure among them.
12:24 p.m.: “In the years [after this current budget], there are going to be some real challenges,” Curry says.
12:25 p.m.: Curry describes his focus on education and collaboration with Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
12:27 p.m.: UF Health is mentioned also as a priority.
12:27 p.m.: Adkins speaks. Says this is an “important first step” toward collaborating to have an “impact” in Tallahassee. She agrees that UF Health is a looming challenge. She mentions “items in the budget that were vetoed by the governor,” as a couple of people in the room chuckle ruefully.
12:29 p.m.: McBurney: “The clock is ticking.” He mentions that leadership is needed from the mayor’s office to help out. “When it comes to issues involving our area … we work together very well,” regarding LIP funding and other issues.
12:31 p.m.: Gibson: “For Jacksonville, we’ve always been on the same page.” Asks for “clarity” from Curry, to take into account “individual projects” in the districts. “When it comes down to choices … and how they line up … I think that’s very critical.”
12:33 p.m.: Curry: “The bodies work well together … the city needs to be more engaged” with the legislative process “recently.”
12:34 p.m.: Gibson talks about water projects, saying the lack of communication is “absurd.” The critical issues, regarding infrastructure, require communication now. “In the budget process, it’s pointless to bring me a list” too late. “I’m looking forward to this administration grabbing the bull by the horns” and not showing up in January “with a list.”
12:35 p.m.: Aaron Bean in the house now, only a bit late.
12:36 p.m.: Curry has heard that it’s clear what “most big cities in Florida” are trying to do, but Jacksonville has been less clear in the past. When you want something, you go after it. “It really is one city with some serious needs right now,” such as the unfunded liability, infrastructure and roads. “Some of these we’ll have to play a long game on to get it right.” Curry is in “dialogues” with FDOT, to get ahead of the impending session. Most of the big cities “proactively get with their delegation,” he says, reiterating the previous theme.
12:37 p.m.: Bean: “What an extremely disappointing budget for Jacksonville … disappointing for Mario … disappointing for all the work we did selling Northeast Florida. Don’t buy it when they said it wasn’t vetted right.”
12:41 p.m.: Bean observes that the last legislative lunch in City Hall was during the John Peyton administration. “The other cities are successful because they come together as a region.” The outer beltway and the ferry (until this year) were examples of such successes. A regional focus, he says increases clout. Bean brings up Curry lobbying for the COPS program, describing him “walking the halls” and lobbying the governor. Bean wants to “play the Lenny Curry card” to get leverage with the governor, as Curry “speaks the governor’s language.” Essential, since the “players are the same” next year.
12:43 p.m.: Gibson: When communication collapses, “things fall through the cracks.”
12:44 p.m.: Curry vows to “spend more time on the front end” to get Jacksonville projects through.
12:45 p.m.: McBurney: “Politics is about relationships.” He urges Curry to “get us all engaged” in “contact or communication.”
12:46 p.m.: Adkins: In the budget crunch, “communication is fragmented.”
12:47 p.m.: Lake Ray: “There are a few things that are very important.” Re: economic development, “workforce development” is essential to “open up the doors of opportunity” to Qualified Targeted Industries. Ray wants Curry to “engage” with the Legislature in this process. Cost of power is too high, also; costs need to be lowered “at least for high end users,” as it is 50 percent higher than it is in Georgia. Freight logistics zones is another issue that Ray believes needs to be addressed. He’d like to see a Northeast Florida effort unified, in connection with JAXPort. Greenhouse gas initiatives are yet another issue that Ray would like to see addressed, along with electromagnetic pulses, which he describes as “enormously frightening,” with the potential to “wipe out our electronic equipment.”
12:56 p.m.: Gibson on the “slush fund.” Incentive programs without solid ROI. A discussion of “enterprise zones” also, and how they can be used to “entice businesses” to go to the north side and the Talleyrand Corridor.
1:00 p.m.: Ali Korman Shelton mentions that City Council is involved in those discussions.
1:01 p.m.: Ray offers to “liaison that” with the Council.
1:02 p.m.: Mia Jones: “My biggest priority for Jacksonville is to make sure the health care system is on firm footing.” Little “movement in the House” regarding “funding for the uninsured.”
1:03 p.m.: Curry reiterates his commitment to UF Health. This year’s “flat” funding should not be mistaken for a lack of commitment to UF Health. “Every year, we need another this or another that.” Curry wants to convene stakeholders and change the payer mix to bring in revenue. “Everybody’s got to have skin and figure this out.” Curry says the COJ wants to figure out the needs of the hospital. “That hospital matters.”
1:06 p.m.: Curry: “This is not a task force for the sake of having a task force … This is a serious effort.”
1:08 p.m.: Adkins has had “many conversations” in Tallahassee about the lack of investment in the Shands building. Says the infrastructure detracts from the payer mix being more favorable.
1:09 p.m.: Gibson is skeptical that “paying clients” will want to go to UF Health “to increase their bottom line.” She is “concerned” by the lack of additional funds for UF Health given the budget constraints on the state and federal level. “I’m just saying.”
1:10 p.m.: Jones says that if UF Health closes, “This will be a crisis situation for our community.”
1:11 p.m.: Curry is doing a lot of nodding here. “We’re committed. There may be speed bumps on how we get from A to B, but we are committed.”