With a proposal for a half-cent sales tax increase advocated by Mayoral Candidate Bill Bishop and made by City Councilman Bill Gulliford during the Council Meeting this week, Mayoral Candidate Lenny Curry drew a line of demarcation between himself and Republicans who support tax hikes today, via an unambiguously worded press release in which he proposed an emergency 90-day audit of City of Jacksonville finances.
“In his last budget,” observes Curry, “Alvin Brown embraced higher taxes by spending the dollars that came from property tax increases. At the same time, our city has received downgrades from financial rating agencies putting the long-term fiscal health of Jacksonville at serious risk and costing taxpayers more money,” Curry added, reiterating a consistent theme of his campaign that Jacksonville’s finances are not carefully managed.
“We’ve seen City Council committees spend months asking questions and searching for answers as to what spending has taken place, where those dollars were spent, and why there are accounts with tens of millions of taxpayer’s dollars sitting there not getting used for their intended purposes – parks, streets, and other quality of life issues facing Jacksonville,” Curry added, in apparent reference to the recently “found” money in public accounts.
Curry then issued a pointed criticism of his two principal opponents for profligate spending.
“People have no faith or trust in how this government, led by Alvin Brown, is managing its finances – and neither do I. We need to get our fiscal house in order and regain the trust of Jacksonville families, not ask them to sacrifice more. It is outrageous to think that Bill Bishop pushes a tax increase and Alvin Brown embraces increased tax rates while also proposing more debt at the same time. Neither is a sustainable financial model until we get back to basics, and I will not accept either outcome because Jacksonville families deserve better,” Curry stated.
“What I will do as Mayor, just as I did as an accountant in times of crisis, is bring together an emergency audit committee and conduct a comprehensive 90-day audit of the city finances. This would determine exactly what money is in what accounts, what has been spent and not spent, how it is spent, and where every penny of taxpayer money goes,” Curry added.
From the start of his campaign, Curry has argued that his accounting expertise is an advantage that the other candidates in the race lacks — and an advantage fundamentally necessary as Jacksonville resolves its financial predicament.
Curry called for a transparent process for this 90-day audit.
“Once the 90-day audit is complete – which will be held in an open meeting forum so the people have complete and open access to the process – we then once and for all will know how much money we have and then can have a real conversation about what priorities we believe are important. Until I have a clear, verified audit conducted, I will fight against anyone who wants to raise taxes or increase our debt. It’s time for more accountability in City Hall.”
Those who have lambasted the Curry campaign for not offering enough specifics early on in the race are now compelled to respond to Curry’s insistence that one of Jacksonville’s most pressing problems is an inability to balance its books.
UPDATE: Fabien Levy, Alvin Brown’s Deputy Campaign Manager, has issued a response to today’s Curry communique.
It’s pretty hypocritical that most of the members of the City Council who Lenny Curry is criticizing were elected with his active support as Chairman of the county and state parties. What’s worse is just last week, party boss Curry accepted the endorsement of an organization that is run mostly by those who want to raise taxes on Jacksonville voters. Now he’s switching teams and flip flopping. But today wouldn’t be a day that ended in ‘day’ if Lenny Curry wasn’t playing politics. In his four years in office, Mayor Brown has never supported a tax increase, and he will not support one once re-elected. Instead, he will put Jacksonville first and work with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to form bipartisan solutions and solve the city’s fiscal issues.