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Katrina Brown and Lenny Curry address media, February 2016

Jax

Katrina Brown: “HRO was not my campaign”

Of late, Jacksonville media has been trying to reconcile what seemed to be a pro-HRO expansion position during the 2015 campaign with more muted support by candidates this time around.

Councilwoman Katrina Brown was one candidate identified as pro-HRO expansion, according to comments she made to The Florida Times-Union last year, that were given a new life this week by columnist Ron Littlepage.

“Yes. I believe no person or group should be excluded or discriminated, and all citizens shall be protected class,” Councilwoman Brown said in response to the HRO question posed to all candidates by the Times-Union.

Brown, on Facebook Thursday morning, seemed to put distance between herself and what was interpreted as an endorsement of a fully inclusive HRO.

“I stated I didn’t believe in discrimination against anyone.. I also stated that I would wait until I got elected to see what the bill stated before I voted. I wanted to hear from the community … HRO was not my campaign,” Brown said.

She then reminded people on the Facebook thread that two weeks prior, she “voted to continue the conversation.”

“If the bill sponsor decide to pull the bill,” Brown added, “that has nothing to do with me.”

Then, in case anyone missed her point: “Stop blaming other council people because the bill sponsor decide to withdrawn the bill.. I didn’t sponsor the bill. I voted the last council meeting to continue conversation.”

Brown, along with Councilmembers Reggie BrownAnna Brosche, and Garrett Dennis, were taken to task this week in Folio Weekly for being influenced “possibly” through a mayoral “proxy” to “agree to vote to withdraw” the bill, in exchange for capital commitments to projects in their districts.

Folio Weekly reported that “Katrina Brown further said via email that she hadn’t taken a position supporting HRO; when FWM asked in a follow-up if the T-U incorrectly quoted her as saying ‘yes’ when asked whether she supported HRO expansion in its Meet the Candidates feature last year, she gave the sort of sputtering, non-answer typical of politicians.”

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Those with long memories will recall that in 2012, a narrative festered regarding District 7 Councilman Johnny Gaffney voting against HRO expansion, saying that he got “confused,” which certainly can happen when choosing between a red button and a green button.

Gaffney was the deciding vote; rumors swirled that he flipped because of pressure from the Alvin Brown administration

Gaffney, in endorsing Lenny Curry for Mayor in May, addressed the HRO question.

“There was pressure to not vote for it,” Gaffney said, echoing allegations made by Denise Lee to this reporter that rumors were that Mayor Alvin Brown pushed Gaffney not to vote for it, that rumors were that “Johnny Gaffney was pressured to change his mind”, and that rumors said that he would veto it if it passed (an echo of persistent rumors since 2012).

“Whether you’re for it or not for it, be transparent,” Gaffney said. “Was the administration transparent?”

What is clear on the HRO issue: Many politicians seem more malleable than outside observers expect. And the reasons for such malleability often take years to come out.

Of note: Johnny Gaffney and Denise Lee now work in the mayor’s office.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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