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‘Big wins’ for Jacksonville in state budget

“Many big wins here, most related to public safety which is the Mayor’s top priority.”

With House and Senate budget chairs from the region, the city of Jacksonville had a wishlist, and scored what a mayoral spokesperson called “big wins” this year.

“Many big wins here, most related to public safety which is the Mayor’s top priority,” noted spokesperson Nikki Kimbleton Friday.

Kimbleton spotlighted “Jacksonville Fire Gear Extractors and Dryers as well as the Real Time Crime Center Expansion address the direct technological needs of first responders.”

The city got $278,621 for fire gear extractors and dryers, and $500,000 for the Real Time Crime Center.

The latter, carried by Reps. Cord Byrd and Kim Daniels, is especially key to the city’s continuing struggles with curbing the spiking murder rate, already over 50 in the first four months of the year.

Kimbleton also spotlighted $750,000, garnered by Rep. Clay Yarborough, for pedestrian crossing installations at some of Jacksonville’s most dangerous intersections.

“The money for pedestrian crossing installations will provide equipment to continue an increase in pedestrian safety,” Kimbleton said.

“The COJ Northwest Jax STEM Center for teens will provide a center to engage youth in a challenged neighborhood,” Kimbleton added, describing another Rep. Daniels project that made the budget at $1 million.

Per the approps request, this will “fund a variety of hardware equipment including iPads, Audio/Visual Equipment Stations, and desktop computers. This project will serve as a mobile maker space, STEM center….”

“In addition,” Kimbleton spotlighted, “there’s $8 million for the Jacksonville Urban Core Workforce Housing Project, part of a long-range plan for downtown.”

That housing is expected to go to the Cathedral District, and that request was carried by Rep. Jason Fischer.

“The administration will work with DIA to select a specific location and developer. But having more workforce housing in our urban core is part of a vibrant downtown, and a vibrant downtown will yield economic benefits to the entire city,” Kimbleton noted.

“Finally,” Kimbleton added, “Freedom Park, which will add new components to an already outstanding park system.”

Yet another Fischer project.

Per the appropriations request: “The park will recognize Veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the Gullah Geechee. Additionally, Freedom Park will create an entry feature into the National Heritage Corridor and Fort Caroline National Memorial. These locations are national assets and important to the history and culture of the area.”

Kimbleton stressed that this indeed was a team effort.

“Obviously,” Kimbleton noted, “the appropriations chairs are from Northeast Florida and played a crucial role.”

“While the entire delegation was part of this process,” Kimbleton added, “we want to thank Senator Bean along with Representatives Byrd, Daniels, Fischer and Yarborough.”

One ask that did not move forward this Session: septic tank remediation, an interesting omission given the new Governor’s focus on environmental projects compared to his predecessor.

“Since Mayor Curry has been in office,” Kimbleton noted, “45 million dollars have been allocated to the septic tank remediation effort in Jacksonville.”

“We continue to work with JEA and other stake holders and implement these dollars toward a long-range solution for water quality. Public safety and affordable housing were where we directed our priorities as it related to this session,” Kimbleton added.

The Mayor’s Office thinks the story is a linear one, illustrating what the chief executive often calls “relationship building.”

Over $11 million in city projects were funded, and that was despite a rocky relationship between Curry and Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson.

Curry’s team spent considerable time in Tallahassee before and during the legislative session, with Curry and a senior staffer meeting with House and Senate leadership just before the conferencing meeting.

Curry, a former state Republican Party chair who faced a challenge from two Republicans in the 2019 mayoral election, found strong support from the state party on the trail.

Safely re-elected, he found similar support in the process this year.

Curry’s team had scored a number of high-profile wins. 2018 saw state money for the Hart Bridge project, which will remove the current offramps and route traffic onto Bay Street, activating the corridor running by the sports complex.

Previously, they’d accomplished the “heavy lift” of getting approval for a discretionary sales surtax referendum.

Curry, who has noted that Jacksonville could get more out of Tallahassee, has backed that up in his first term’s budget process.

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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