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Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford

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Hans Tanzler, John Rutherford ops trade barbs about government jobs

A radio ad in the Jacksonville market from 4th Congressional District candidate Hans Tanzler led to an interesting exchange of views between operatives for Tanzler and the other serious candidate in the CD 4 race, John Rutherford, this week.

One line in Tanzler’s ad was of particular interest:

“Politicians love to talk about creating jobs, but I’m not sure they know what they’re talking about. Government jobs are not sustainable.”

Tanzler, who made over $160,000 a year as general counsel, then executive director, for the St. Johns River Water Management District, definitely had a lucrative government job.

Brett Doster from the Tanzler campaign put his candidate’s quote into context Thursday.

“Obama and many liberals have referred to job creation as though government creates jobs. Government does not create any jobs beyond the resources provided to them by the private sector. Hans gets it. As opposed to John Rutherford, who ran bloated budgets with nothing to show for it but more bureaucracy and a broken pension system, Hans used his private sector experience to reform make the water management agency to make it smaller and more efficient. That’s why Hans is the right man to go to Congress,” Doster contended.

FloridaPolitics.com contacted Tim Baker from the Rutherford campaign and Brian Hughes from “Conservatives United,” a PAC that supports Rutherford, for comment.

Hughes took issue with Doster’s characterization of Rutherford.

“It’s hypocritical for the son of a career politician, who made a six-figure salary as an appointed bureaucrat, to have advertising against taxpayer-funded jobs. I’d assume a bank account full of taxpayer money is how he could afford the million-dollar horse ranch he likes to show off on TV. I guess it’s also how he can try to buy this election with the hundreds of thousands of dollars he’s spending on his campaign,” Hughes commented.

Baker, likewise, contended that the Tanzler spot was disingenuous.

“For 41 years, John Rutherford put on his uniform and defended the community against all harm, taking on violent criminals, jihadists recruiting in Jacksonville and enforcing immigration laws leading to thousands of cases referred for deportation. For Hans Tanzler to confuse his experience in a $165,000 per year secret no-bid government job, and apparently forget his participation in the Florida Retirement System, with John Rutherford’s decades of service in uniform is desperate and disingenuous. This type of rank hypocrisy and lack of accountability from insiders like Hans Tanzler is what voters have become disgusted with,” Baker commented.

The unique structure of Jacksonville’s public safety pensions, negotiated under the John Delaney administration between city officials and the Police and Fire Pension Fund, has been a political football since the crash of 2008, when escalating pension costs began to occupy more and more of Jacksonville’s operating budget.

Rutherford frequently observed during budget discussions that legacy costs were consuming large parts of his operating budget.

In July 2009, Rutherford attributed pension costs to “decisions made during the bull market to channel money slated for the pensions to other city expenses … a common move under Mayor John Delaney’s administration.”

In 2015, Rutherford noted that out of his budget, a third of it was eaten up by costs out of his control, such as workers’ comp and pension issues.

Budget increases, Rutherford said in 2015, were almost all attributable to pension costs.

“Ninety-five percent of the budget increase was related to the unfunded liability” of the pension situation, Rutherford said.

In 2016 budget discussions, it was noted that pension costs are up roughly $9.3 million year-over-year, with the unfunded liability portion of the sheriff’s office up $70.6 million year-over-year.

In those same discussions, it was revealed that because of escalating pension costs, issues abounded with equipment: dysfunctional laptops, unusable helicopters that dated back to the Vietnam War era, a fingerprinting system from 1999, and an end-of-life computer-aided dispatch system.

Meanwhile, the JSO is still attempting to get its force back to levels it was at years ago, before cuts in staffing.

And because of being short-staffed, policy makers have noted that officers are compelled to rush from call to call, rather than participating in community policing and other preventive measures, as they would if sufficiently staffed.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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