Two former Jacksonville mayors joined current Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Friday to promote County Referendum 1: The half-cent sales tax on the ballot would pay down the city's $2.7 billion pension deficit.
Former mayors Jake Godbold and Tommy Hazouri appeared with Curry at the Mary Singleton Senior Citizen's Center to announce their support of the plan. Between the two, Godbold and Hazouri have four decades of experience in city government going back to the 1970s.
"Shame on us for letting it get like that," said Hazouri, who is now an at-large city council member. "No matter who is to blame, we need to do something about it."
Hazouri and Godbold are Democrats, but voiced support for Republican Curry’s plan.
"The only thing that is wrong with him is that he is a Republican. But that is OK. He needs our help. He needs your help," Godbold said.
The tax appearing on the Aug. 30 primary ballot would begin in 2030, when the existing half-cent tax that is paying off capital improvements of the Better Jacksonville, and run for 30 years. Curry's plan also calls to close the city's three existing pension plans to new employees and require current employee to contribute 10 percent of their pay to their own retirement plans.
Early voting is under way in the primary.
"The people watching this, when they pay their tax dollars, one third of their tax dollars are paying for pensions -- not paving the roads, not taking care of their parks, not investing in public safety," Curry said.
Not everyone backs Curry's plan, including the leadership of the Duval County Democratic Party. A group of taxpayers opposed to the tax has filed a lawsuit asking that the referendum be struck down because the wording on the ballot is wrong and confusing.
Most of the people at the senior center who heard the mayors speak Friday said they were supporting the tax.
"Something in what they said today that changed my mind," voter Harriette Hallback said.
'"Yes, they got my vote," Linda Robinson said.
"I'm going to vote (yes), but I don't believe it until I see it," voter Dorothy Mitchell said.