Tommy Hazouri: Lenny Curry board moves “emasculate” consolidated government
Tommy Hazouri gives the thumbs up to Joe Biden.


Whispers prior to Tuesday’s Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee meeting predicted a council member or two might say something about the wave of board and commission replacement appointments that dominated the agenda.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Lisa King, whose replacement by Donald Adkison was on the agenda for the second reading, was in the house. So was Jordan Elsbury,  the Curry administration member who has given so many board members the heave-ho in the past month or so that some in City Hall call him “The Turk.”

Rules Chairman Matt Schellenberg began the agenda with appointments.

The first quasi-controversial one: Jay Demetree to the Aviation Authority, which was re-referred to Rules by John Crescimbeni.

Crescimbeni had questions for Demetree earlier in the confirmation process, but Demetree told him flat out that he wasn’t going to answer the questions, related to lengthening the runway at Craig Field and whether or not he has business interests at Cecil Commerce Center.

“I see appointees … much like candidates,” Crescimbeni said, “and I am very disappointed that a candidate refused to answer [these questions].”

Crescimbeni, not a Rules member, vowed to not support his appointment at the full Council meeting.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri, meanwhile, added that it’s “incumbent on these candidates” to respond to these questions.

“That’s a little bit disappointing, disconcerting,” Hazouri said.

Despite that, Rules approved the appointment 7-0.

Another JAA appointee, Russ Thomas, did have a conversation with Crescimbeni and followed up with an email. However, Crescimbeni was not satisfied with some of Thomas’ answers.

Hazouri spoke next, about a number of appointments coming forth.

“As a former mayor,” Hazouri objects to the removal of people who he described as doing a good job.

“It’s become more and more blatant what’s going on,” Hazouri said, voicing skepticism about the mayor removing people from independent authorities.

“We’re distancing ourselves further and further from the whole origin of consolidation … I don’t like it; I think it’s a bad precedent … I can’t support people being replaced for the sake of being replaced … unless I’m shown they’re not doing a good job.”

Ali Korman Shelton contended that “some of these individuals don’t share the mayor’s vision,” and that “the mayor has been very clear what his mission and vision is.”

Thomas was approved 6 to 1. Hazouri was the nay vote.

For Hazouri and Crescimbeni, the two at-large Democrats on council, there is little risk in terms of standing athwart the mayor’s office. Crescimbeni has said on a couple of occasions that more attention needs to be paid by City Council when it comes to vetting these appointments, and a rational actor would take the councilman at his word.

For the District Dems, it may be a different story. They have Capital Improvement Projects to worry about, and relationships to maintain.

However, both men epitomize independence, and neither fears being on the short end of a 17-2 vote.

After the meeting, Councilman Hazouri reiterated the claims he made in committee, while emphasizing larger points.

Hazouri specifically objected to removing people midterm.

“If they haven’t done anything that constitutes malfeasance or corruption, removing people from volunteer bodies [without just cause] is unfathomable,” Hazouri said.

Asked about the Lisa Strange Weatherby resignation from the JEA Board, Hazouri was no less candid.

“I agree with Lisa,” Hazouri said. “It’s politics. And it’s pretty transparent.”

“We’re continuing to emasculate the whole idea of what consolidated government is about,” Hazouri said, adding that “I disagree with that approach.”

“You can understand why some people don’t want to be involved in public service,” Hazouri continued, as these nonpolitical volunteers are put into political positions without having asked for it.

While it is more than likely that the Curry administration has the votes to get these moves made in full council, what is also clear is that there is an undercurrent of rebellion. It may not be significant now. It may, though, be significant in the years to come.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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