The Republican National Convention in Jacksonville has both security and COVID-19 concerns.
Mayor Lenny Curry said his administration has continued to and will continue to meet with the Sheriff to address potential issues.
“Nothing that the Sheriff said was a surprise to me or to my team,” Curry said, regarding criticism.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, a Republican, wants to put the brakes on the convention next month.
“With less than forty (40) days until the expected Republican National Convention is slated to arrive in Jacksonville, I am compelled to express my significant concerns with the viability of this event. At this point, we are simply past the point of no return to execute the event with safety and security that is our obligation,” Williams said Monday, in a statement on Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office letterhead.
The Mayor said it was a “top priority to work with the Sheriff and his team and law enforcement partners,” adding that he “said he was getting close to a point that if he didn’t have what he needed he’d have to communicate that.”
The goal going forward is to work to allay those concerns, Curry added.
“Everybody involved in this understands the Sheriff’s concerns and is working to address them.”
Undersheriff Pat Ivey said the JSO has roughly 25% of what is needed, including help from other sheriff’s offices and police agencies throughout the state.
“The challenge is timeline,” Ivey said, with the planning for previous conventions taking years. He called the current planning a “timeline which no one has ever had to deal with.”
Ivey noted particular concerns, including venue uncertainty, social distancing challenges, and other personnel challenges requiring “thousands” of outside law enforcement coming in.
We asked Curry about whether federal agents, as seen in other protest hotspots, might appear and take protesters away in unmarked vehicles.
“We have had no conversations about the need for that type of presence in our city,” Curry said, adding that Jacksonville “as a city are not facing some of the things other cities are facing where violence has run rampant.”
Curry, who also serves as the co-chair of the host committee, told media he was “cautiously optimistic” that “the recent surge seems to be stabilizing.”
Curry, in his second and final term as Mayor, made a big political bet, recruiting the convention after Charlotte, North Carolina, balked at a full-occupancy event Jacksonville said could be done.
Since Jacksonville landed the event, however, COVID-19 infection rates have spiked, with one in every nine tests processed by labs Monday popping positive.
The Mayor has had to scale back convention planning, he noted, and the previous estimate of a $100 million impact isn’t happening, Curry said.
“It’s clear there wouldn’t be that kind of economic activity with a scale back.”