Presiding over a new City Council of fresh faces, bullish on job growth and downtown development, and pushing infrastructure improvements in rapidly fraying corners of the city, Jacksonville City Council President Greg Anderson says it’s a new era at City Hall, as his goals align with new mayor Lenny Curry.
“I think the communication level has been improved dramatically,” said Anderson during an appearance on WJCT’s First Coast Connect.
“I meet with the mayor twice a month, and we talk about all the issues. I think this mayor has brought in an experienced team of managers, an excellent group, and what you’re seeing is a high level of confidence in that management team.”
For the always affable and diplomatic Anderson, this was a polite way of saying that his side of the St. James Building is now more simpatico with the wing formerly occupied by Alvin Brown, whose administration was often at odds with Council leadership.
What are Anderson’s top priorities for his leadership term? Here are three:
Public Safety and Violent Crime
“When I got took office, I laid out an agenda. And at the very top of that list is public safety. The really great news is the mayor’s budget priorities really line up very well with that. We’ve had a spike in violent crime and it’s time to turn the tide on that.”
“All you need to do is drive around and see our sidewalks and roads to see the problem. Most acutely, if you go downtown and look at Coastline Drive and Liberty Street. Obviously, we’ve got to address that. Look for an initial plan after the budget committee finishes up this week reviewing the capital improvements program.”
St. Johns River Dredging?
“I don’t believe any amount of economic activity can overcome a polluted river,” said Anderson, in a somewhat surprising departure from the business community’s line on the sustained push to dredge the river to a depth of 47 feet to accommodate bigger cargo ships expected from a widened Panama Canal.
“I believe that has to be the top priority. We can’t damage our river. The argument for increased economic activity through the port is a solid argument. But there are a number of projects ongoing, including Mile Point, a rail project where you’ll be able to bring cargo directly into the railheads, and infrastructure improvements as well. You can see the results. Year over year, container volume is up, so the port seems to be moving in the right direction.
The dredging initiative is a project that makes economic sense – if we can protect the river. But how we pay for it, what percentage the federal government pays for, the state, and local portion- those are all still up in the air.”
Earlier this month, the St. Johns Riverkeeper announced it will sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over an alleged failure to plan for mitigation to any environmental damage caused by the dredging project. Earlier this month, Curry disbanded a task force created to investigate dredging impacts and ways to offset environmental damage.
Anderson, a banker and a registered Republican, has struck a moderate tone on this and other contentious issues during his time in public office, voting in favor of an expanded HRO for LGBT citizens in 2012 as one example.
But he won’t budge one inch on a matter of utmost civic importance to the region’s football fans: the Florida-Georgia game.
Just read this post from former Brown administration Chief of Staff Chris Hand that came in during the show:
Anderson, a Bulldog, immediately tweeted back that he’s a Georgia fan. Hey, at least you know where the man stands.