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Latest Alvin Brown TV ad draws scrutiny

The second Alvin Brown re-election TV spot, titled “Jobs,” bears resemblance to the first.

For one thing, it has the same sunny imagery as the first spot.

For another thing, “Jobs” was paid for by the Florida Democratic Party — as part of another 3 Pack bundled with Janet Cruz and Jeff Clemens, two South Florida politicians more liberal than the Jacksonville mayor. They, for instance, supported Amendment 2 and the Charlie Crist campaign. Brown had no opinion on Amendment 2 and still hasn’t said whether he voted for Crist or Rick Scott, the increasingly embattled governor who remains important — disproportionately, say many Democrats — to the Brown’s bipartisan messaging.

“Jobs” also boasts a follow-up cameo by Toney Sleiman, the developer behind  Jacksonville Landing and Alvin Brown’s highest-profile Republican supporter. This, despite the Lenny Curry camp’s reaction to his first appearance:

Concerning what the release called “straight lines between Alvin Brown, taxpayer dollars, and campaign advertising,” Lenny Curry spokesman Brian Hughes claimed that Sleiman’s appearance in the ad was due to Landing largesse.

“First we get a dishonest commercial that lies about tax hikes and touts cuts to public safety, now we see that Alvin Brown is happy to use taxpayer dollars to fund his political machine. Throwing money, nearly $12 million, at special interests while kids are being gunned down in the street because of fewer cops is not simply outrageous it’s disgusting.”

The Curry press release cited a local media report that summarized the specific Brown/Sleiman redevelopment plan.

“Topping his list is $11.8 million for redevelopment of the Landing, the two-story mall built on city-owned land in 1987. Brown and Toney Sleiman, a co-owner of the Landing, want to tear down the mall and build anew on the site.”

Despite those similarities, there are differences. The second “Jobs” spot focuses on job creation and Jacksonville’s attractiveness to business — a motif that Brown messaging has hit hard this campaign.

The ad cites WalletHub.com as its source for an assertion that, in 2014, Jacksonville was “the best city to start a business.” It supports that claim with a mention that GE’s Jacksonville plant will have at least 500 new employees, and that Jacksonville has 36,000 new jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, before concluding with mentions of Fed Ex and Adecco bringing jobs to Jacksonville.

Questions have been raised by some Curry supporters about the reliability of WalletHub, which is billed as ” the first-ever social network built from the ground up around personal finance,” as a source for economic data. There is a general belief that WalletHub is a click-bait site whose main purpose is to direct viewers to other sites. WalletHub is owned by Evolution Finance, a company that claims to have been “designed to combat a broken personal finance marketplace and empower consumers through helpful tools and information.”

Questions extend to the author of the study, John Kiernan, as well, considered by some Curry supporters to be unqualified to write such studies. Kiernan is a 2010 graduate of the University of Maryland with a B.A. in Journalism. Immediately before becoming a writer for the website, he worked as a professional youth baseball coach.

Additionally, Curry supporters dispute the “36,000 new jobs” assertion. Citing the University of Wisconsin-affiliated Your Economy website, Curry supporters contend that between 2011 and 2013 Jacksonville lost 122,844 jobs, 32,367 businesses, 7,730 self-employed businesses (for a net loss of 14.7 percent), and  5,628 businesses with two to nine employees, for a net loss of 4.4 percent.

Brown Deputy Campaign Manager Fabien Levy responded this morning when informed of these critiques of WalletHub’s methodology:

“No one can argue over the huge economic strides Jacksonville has made over the last four years. Forbes, Businessweek, WalletHub, the Kaufman Foundation, and even the Jacksonville Business Journal have all reported on the economic success the city has seen under Mayor Brown’s leadership. He’s worked with Republicans, Democrats and Independents to boost our economy and Jacksonville today has 36,000 more jobs than it did when he became mayor. Even yesterday, Republican Gov. Rick Scott praised Mayor Brown for his local leadership when the two of them together announced 100 new jobs that would be coming to Jacksonville.

“While Lenny Curry continues to push a negative, partisan agenda as a political attack dog and only aims to divide voters, Mayor Brown will continue to put Jacksonville first and work with anyone who is willing to help create jobs for this city,” he said.

Curry spokesman Hughes, meanwhile, had this to say:

“Jacksonville is an amazing place with huge potential, but Brown’s failure to lead squanders that potential. Citing irrelevant websites and having donors wag their index fingers on TV is not leadership. Jacksonville deserves better.”

Written By

A.G. 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 AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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