On Friday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said on The Morning Show that he’s investing nearly $200 million in this year’s city budget. He made that statement when asked how he plans to convince taxpayers to invest in the Lot J development outside TIAA Bank Field.
After News4Jax’s original story on the matter was published, Curry’s office requested an opportunity to respond, which was provided Monday. About 20 minutes before the scheduled interview, Curry canceled, saying he was unable to meet citing a significant conflict with his schedule.
Instead, his office offered Jordan Elsbury, the mayor’s chief of staff, to speak about what the city considers neighborhood infrastructure investments.
After analyzing Curry’s most recent budget, specifically looking for neighborhood infrastructure investments, News4Jax determined that Jacksonville’s neighborhood infrastructure investment is $145 million, and not the $200 million the mayor stated.
News4Jax did not include upgrades to the Jacksonville Zoo, Florida Theater and local fire stations.
But Elsbury said – the mayor’s office does categorize those as neighborhood infrastructure investments.
“If you go out into the community and you have discussions that the mayor has had, many of them view putting new fire stations and rehabbing old ones as investments,” he said. “Reason one: The property values go up. Reason two: There are neighborhoods like you mentioned, the Southside, where the mayor was able to increase their home insurance premiums by 20%.”
Watch: Tarik Minor’s full interview with Jordan Elsbury
News4Jax went out into the community asking Northside residents what neighborhood investment looks like to them off of Reed Road.
Willie Lyons and Yah Ya Kariem said it means phasing out their aging septic tanks and putting their houses on city sewers -- a promise made by Jacksonville 1968 that still has yet to be fulfilled.
“Not yet,” Lyons said. “It hasn’t gotten here yet. We’ve been promised for a long time.”
“Show us some substance,” Kariem said. “Show us some infrastructure, some real infrastructure improvements that you’ve done in this community. Then we’ll back off not from what we need over here on the Northside.”
Those veterans say septic tank runoff creates an awful stench in their neighborhood when it rains and they worry the runoff poses a threat to their water and their health. Elsbury said the Curry administration is trying to find a solution to the multimillion dollar issue.
“Budgets reflect the priorities of this administration,” Elsbury said. “I suspect in the next year or so we’ll be looking at an element or a long-term solution on how to deal with that.”
“I understand that,” Elsbury responded. “The mayor immediately upon taking office, immediately invested in that set up and actually prioritized those neighborhoods that dealt with social economic issues and environmental.”
In the previous story, News4Jax also did not include investments that came as the result of lawsuits against the city, like millions of dollars in ash remediation. We did not include $14 million for the expansion of a landfill or any money for public safety, while the City of Jacksonville did include that in its count.