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Candidates for mayor make final pitch for votes

4 candidates for mayor of Jacksonville meet in final television debate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An hourlong showdown between the four candidates for mayor of Jacksonville was dominated by different views on what the city should spend money on and how to pay the tab for moving the city forward.

The final debate before voters cast a ballot for who will be the mayor for the next four years was hosted by News4Jax's Kent Justice, who pushed the candidates to answer questions on specific issues facing the city.

The candidates were each asked about the looming deficit in the Police and Fire Pension Fund and about the budget and taxes. Mayor Alvin Brown and Republican Lenny Curry both committed to not raise taxes. Councilman Bill Bishop said he did not want to see taxes go up, but more revenue is needed to run the city. Independent candidate Omega Allen said she would have to study the issue before saying.

Alvin Brown speaks during the JU/News4Jax debate prior to the first March 24 election.

"When I ran four years ago, I made a commitment to be more effective and efficient, and we're doing that," Brown said. "I led by example. I cut my own pay by 20 percent. I paid for my own parking at City Hall."

"Because Mayor Alvin Brown's budget didn't balance, taxes went up 14 percent because of your budget, Mr. Mayor. That's just a fact," Curry said. "The other thing that you opened with is our debt has been downgraded, budgets don't balance. We are absolutely in financial disarray."

"Our problem right now is our pension fund, which is causing us to spend over $200 million each year on pensions," Bishop said. "We have cut this city down to the bone, for the most part, and with respect to going forward, we're going to have to have more money in the system or we're going to have to decide what we're going to do without."

"The first thing we to do, with all due respect, is we need to make sure the taxpayers get a return on their investment, and that's not happening," Allen said. "When you talk to taxpayers around Jacksonville, it's not happening; Nobody sees anything happening around their area."

UNCUT: Watch entire mayoral debate
CLIPS FROM THE DEBATE BY TOPIC:
 Crime | Downtown development | Pension reform | Dredging the port
THE MORNING AFTER: Post-debate analysis on The Morning Show

There were a few testy exchanges between Brown and Curry, which some voters in the audience said was a turn-off. But others said they came away with enough information from the candidates to decide who they will vote for.

"There were a lot of different topics, that's given me a lot of insight on my decision," said Joshua Lambert, an undecided voter.

Wednesday night's live debate took place at Jacksonville University's Terry Concert Hall. It was hosted by JU's Public Policy Institute and moderated by News4Jax anchor Kent Justice.

With the last UNF poll showing 25 percent of voters undecided, it seems unlikely that voters will elect a mayor with next week's vote. The top two candidates will likely advance to a runoff in May.

News4Jax's election coverage continues Thursday evening with a debate among the seven candidates for sheriff at 8 p.m.


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