Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry just returned from Washington D.C., with the highlight of his trip being a Thursday afternoon meeting with Pres. Donald Trump and other elected officials on infrastructure.
Jacksonville has myriad infrastructural needs. And Curry (who attended the meeting along with Gov. Rick Scott) has been arguably the most high-profile supporter of President Trump in any big-city mayor’s office.
Trump, Cabinet officials, and staffers were “soliciting ideas from states and cities on how to get things moving,” Curry said.
Of especial interest — feedback on regulatory and permitting experiences, both positive and negative.
Among the Cabinet members on hand: Transportation Sec. Elaine Chao.
After small-group breakout sessions, the members debriefed with Pres. Trump.
A big priority Curry pushed: the need for JaxPort funding.
Ultimately, though, Mayor Curry saw the meeting as more than just a one and done opportunity, as his political philosophy is predicated on relationship building — and this was an opportunity to talk about specifics with actual people in person, rather than through a proposal on paper.
Curry had been on conference calls with White House officials before, but this level of access to the White House is something Jacksonville lacked with the previous mayor … but is in position to capitalize on currently.
“Relationships are evolving,” Curry said, and federal officials want to understand local needs, to help local officials navigate the system, and to help the system change to facilitate easier processes.
One issue is very familiar to Curry: that of there being “so many agencies that don’t talk to each other,” creating siloes.
Curry says the White House is “working to make sure the regulatory environment is smooth, quick, and smart,” when it comes to getting projects moving forward.
Audiences with the President, for even mayors of major cities, are real. Curry called this one a “special time.”
Surprisingly absent from the afternoon: discussion of James Comey‘s testimony earlier that day.
The meeting was about infrastructure. And relationship building.
The city has already seen some benefit from the new team in the White House; JaxPort is already slated to get $17.5M of long-awaited federal funding for its delayed dredging project.
With myriad needs and a President who wants to reform national infrastructure, Curry’s relationship with President Trump is worth watching. Despite the criticism he takes for supporting Trump, there is no reason for him to do anything but back a Republican President who is in position to help Jacksonville do things with federal dollars that might not fit into the city’s general fund.