JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council moved forward Tuesday night with the process of adopting a resolution that directs JEA to stop negotiating a potential sale.
Earlier in the day, activists led by the Northside Coalition held another demonstration at City Hall, calling for JEA to stay in the hands of the city of Jacksonville.
Many people wore bright red shirts that read: “JEA is ours.” The utility is in the negotiating process, exploring privatization.
“We’re hoping to have support for the Brenda Priestly-Jackson legislation calling for JEA to stop dead in its tracks as it relates to privatization of JEA,” said Ben Frazier with the Northside Coalition. "We are here to announce the people’s support.”
The process has come under fire, including from members of the Jacksonville City Council. It led to the resolution signed by Priestly-Jackson, demanding JEA end talks of a sale.
JEA leaders have said voters will have a final say, but that they need to explore the options to make the most of the utility’s value. JEA’s campaign over the past six months has pointed to a changing marketplace and restrictions to competition because it’s public-owned.
Those arguments have been rejected by the Civic Council of Jacksonville. Only one City Council member voted against the measure after a unanimous vote to make the bill a one-week cycle, in which each committee gets to meet before a final full vote of council.
“By giving this a one-week cycle, we give ourselves the opportunity for all three committees to get answers to the question as to why the ITN was formulated in the fashion that it was,” said City Council Member Michael Boylan.
This comes the same day News4Jax learned a JEA board member Andy Allen resigned and one day after the chairwoman of the JEA board said it might be time to step back and rethink some of the issues surrounding the possible sale of the utility. April Green told News4Jax on Monday that information will come out next week after the JEA board meeting.
This is all happening as nine companies that have filed intentions to negotiate to buy all or part of JEA are meeting with the utility’s representatives in Atlanta.
The liaison between City Council and JEA, Councilman Danny Becton, said it might be time to take a different look at the entire privatization process.
“It’s kind of hard to unwind some of the things that have been done," Beckton said. “There is a perception that people have about this process, which is in the negative.”
In his resignation letter, Allen told Mayor Lenny Curry he was too busy with family and work to serve on the board. It came after JEA’s board chairwoman April Green told a fact-finding meeting it was time for a “reset,” but saying she would not elaborate on what that meant.
City Councilman Aaron Bowman doesn’t think the process will start over again but he does foresee some changes in the process.
“I just can’t turn a blind eye,” Bowman said. “If you look at those companies, they spent an incredible amount of resources, of time and money trying to come to the table. I don’t think it’s fair to them to say we’re pulling the football away from you.”