JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City leaders are busy preparing for President Trump to visit the River City in August, when he’ll accept the nomination of the Republican Party for a second term as president.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spoke about the city hosting the convention while on Fox News Saturday.
“We’re grateful its going to be here,” Curry said. “We were responsible during the pandemic. We came out of it. We flattened the curve pretty quickly over time. Our hospitalizations are low. We demonstrated a month ago we can put on events.”
On Friday, Curry called it a “tremendous opportunity for economic development.” But some people, like Willa Durham with Second Coming Second Chance Ministry, are not looking forward to the event. The church is just north of the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, where the president will give his speech.
“I am not for it coming,” Durham said. “We are just within a couple of blocks. When you bring in all of the people into our community -- we are already at a disadvantage, now you are bringing in a million other people and you are expecting us to have to take that chance -- no. Talk with the community to see how we feel before you make a decision.”
Durham continued, “Throughout the year, we can’t get anything done in our community, but when they have a convention or something important to the higher-ups, other powers-to-be, they make sure our community looks like it’s upscale. We don’t have to call to have the trash picked up.”
Next door to the church, Pearlie Graham, Durham’s mother, owns Spot Right Cleaners, which she said she’s owned for 54 years. She said things only change temporarily when a big event comes to town.
“After Florida-Georgia, we have to get up at 4 o’clock to come clean the streets up for us to have church,” Graham said. “Come by and see what’s happening on the Eastside because the Eastside is known as the bad side of town, but it is not.”
Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who represents the neighborhood, issued a statement that reads:
“I care for each and every constituent in my district. Our office has received extensive feedback from the community regarding this issue. With cases of Covid-19 on the rise, I feel uneasy and have concern with hosting this event here. I believe an influx of people from around the country would inevitably lead to a spike in local coronavirus cases - particularly on the north side. Logistically, it’s possible this could present a challenge to local medical providers also. With that said, I know Jacksonville’s economy has struggled from the shutdown and understand the position of some of my colleagues and the administration.However, at this time I believe that we need to err on the side of caution to ensure public safety.”