The extended drama over Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and his decision to remake the city’s Planning Commission to accord with his “vision” is over, and former Chair Lisa King is the most high-profile casualty.
In a written statement on Wednesday, King looked back at her tenure, her battle, and looked forward as well.
Describing the 13 to 5 vote to force her ouster as “disappointing,” King reiterated her reasons for staying with the fight until the end.
“I declined to resign only due to my concern for the work of the Planning Commission and how it impacts development and job creation in our City. I do not regard this as a personal loss, rather as a concerning trend that could impact our City negatively,” King wrote.
Though King concedes that “it is clear that our Code of Ordinances grant the Mayor the authority to remove members of the Planning Commission with the approval of Council,” she adds that “this is the first time that a Mayor has exercised this option for our commissioner volunteers mid-term,” echoing contentions made by supporters that the move was “unprecedented.”
King then seconds an assertion John Crescimbeni, one of the 5 in 13 to 5, made at Council Tuesday night.
“Now precedent has been set, conceivably every Mayor from now on could make these changes every four or eight years. If that is a move that people feel serves our City well I suggest, as did Councilman Crescimbeni last night, that we debate changing our Charter and Code of Ordinances to make all terms on boards and commissions concurrent with the term of the Mayor,” King asserts.
Implicit in that line of argument: such change would spawn institutional chaos throughout the boards and commissions.
From there, King pivots into the theological realm:
As many of you know, I am a person of faith with a strong sense of calling in the work I do in our community. I have always believed that life is really a series of lessons that we are to repeat until they’re learned. I am at peace believing that I have learned all I was intended to learn, and the service I was intended to provide, on the Planning Commission. I am praying and listening intently for whatever I am called to do to serve our community next.
Consistent with the precepts of the previous administration, which seemed to pride itself on a diversity of viewpoint on boards and commissions that some have said obstruct consensus (such as the disbanded Port Task Force), King makes an argument for intellectual diversity.
“Diversity of experience and beliefs strengthen decision-making. While everyone I served with on the Planning Commission was very different; different professions, different parties, different beliefs about the role of government – the compromises we made served our City and our citizens well,” King wrote, adding that “mutual respect is the only thing that will carry you through difficult decisions.”
King then pivots to addressing the mechanics of the vote itself, notable in no small part because many Democrats on Council, such as Garrett Dennis, Katrina Brown, and Reggie Gaffney, stood by the Republican mayor rather than a prominent member of their own party.
King asserts that “nothing teaches you who your friends are quicker than who is on your side when they have something to lose. That being said, I also have great compassion for those who for whatever reason, felt they could not stand with us.”
It will be interesting to see if this decision comes back to haunt those Council members in any significant way when they need party help in reelection bids.
King effusively thanked her supporters: the ones who stood against Mayor Curry on this issue; the ones who offered quiet support behind the scenes; the dozens who came out on a Tuesday a couple of weeks ago to speak passionately against her removal; and even those “who resigned from other boards and commissions mid-term for their own reasons, when they would have preferred to take the same stand that Joey and I did. Thank you for reaching out and know that I stood for you too.”
She also acknowledged fellow fallen compatriot Joey McKinnon, who lost his own battle, which would seem to repudiate the narrative that King might have fared better had she gone it alone without being “yoked” to McKinnon’s fate.
King closes by asserting that “I remain committed to serve my City and I am committed to work with everyone. That includes Mayor Curry and his staff and the members of Council who did not vote for me yesterday. My hand is extended and I am ready to work with everyone on behalf of this City that we all love.”
The question going forward: what will Lisa King’s role be? Republican partisans have their own narratives about King’s battle; indeed, a popular accessory at last night’s Duval GOP Watch Party was the “I Stand With Mayor Curry” button.
Republican partisans lambasted her for “going on Kent Justice’s show and talking up Hillary Clinton,” and made other assertions of the sort, painting King as a partisan figure.
Meanwhile, the corollary to that argument, made in the Rules Committee by Chair Matt Schellenberg, boiled down to “we don’t want to be where we were the last four years,” which Schellenberg said about the Brown appointees being shown the door.
Those removed from boards and commissions have attributed such moves, in various ways, to a purge mentality. Allies of the mayor, meanwhile, say there are substantive reasons for the moves.
Meanwhile, the most substantive reaction might have been that of Land Use and Zoning chair Scott Wilson, whose support of King could be framed as an endorsement of her work on Planning, given how closely the two bodies work together.
It will be interesting to observe the interface between his committee and the Planning Commission in the months to come.