‘You were spot on’: Mayor Curry agrees with Fox News host that Jacksonville has ‘unfulfilled potential’

Democrats accused Curry of throwing his city under the bus

Democrats accused Curry of throwing his city under the bus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Saturday night appeared on One Nation with Brian Kilmeade days after the host slammed Jacksonville on national television.

Kilmeade, who owns a multi-million dollar house in Ponte Vedra Beach, has said Jacksonville is a mess and needs to be revitalized.

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His comments were swiftly criticized by Jacksonville residents on social media.

“Mr. Mayor, why was everyone so angry I said that?” Kilmeade asked Curry, a Republican.

“Well, I think it’s just city pride,” Curry responded. “First of all, I wasn’t angry. I just wanted to give some context. A lot of people do get upset, very proud people of our city are proud of what we have. You were spot on. There’s a lot of unfulfilled potential downtown.”

Curry went on to blame some of the perceived issues downtown on city council members and past administrations. He referenced the billion-dollar Lot J project that was turned down last year and how it could have helped.

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“My administration, we spent well over a year negotiating a billion-dollar project, public-private partnership that would’ve been retail, residential with it. Took it to City Council. 19 members of City Council, it needed 13 votes, it got 12. City Council voted it down. Very disappointing, missed potential,” Curry said.

News4JAX spoke with councilmembers who were both for and against that project about their take on Curry’s interview.

“I think he was right on with some of his comments he made,” Councilman Reggie Gaffney, a Democrat, said.

Gaffney said he was for the Lot J project.

“I believed in that project, I believed if somehow that would have passed that would have jumped downtown and we’d probably two to three years further today but because of that one opportunity that we failed to get one more vote,” Gaffney said.

Councilman Matt Carlucci wrote Kilmeade a letter last week expressing his irritation with his comments about the city. Carlucci on Sunday sent News4JAX a statement about Curry’s interview saying:

“I credit the mayor for taking on the interview and think he did a very good job. He very well explained the pride we all take in the great city of Jacksonville. We all know of our untapped potential. Much of that potential is being done and will begin to unfold soon! Every city that cares about their people has untapped potential as well. All said, I consider his interview a win for Jacksonville.”

Councilman Carlucci voted against the Lot J project saying it wasn’t well done and was a learning lesson.

Both Carlucci and Gaffney are confident other projects will pass to revitalize downtown.

“I think we need to come together and we need to take leadership how we want to grow, how fast we want to grow downtown. These discussions don’t happen that much,” Gaffney said.

Curry mentioned plans in the works for downtown like the city’s partnership with the Jaguars and Shad Khan on a sports performance complex, a Four Seasons hotel and development on the riverfront across from the stadium.

Duval County Democratic Party Chair Daniel Henry released a statement Sunday criticizing what he called a “Fox News apology tour.”

The statement reads in full:

“As Mayor Curry approaches his last 447 days in office, he began an apology tour for Jacksonville’s supposed shortcomings to a nationally televised audience. On several occasions in the interview, Mayor Curry sought to blame his predecessor for his own inability to invest in Jacksonville’s future and apologized for the lack of progress for our community under his leadership. Curry has essentially admitted that his five years in office have been filled with unfulfilled potential downtown and has nothing to show for it aside but imploded buildings left as empty lots. Plans to sell off JEA failed, and giveaways to the billionaire class fell flat due to a lack of benefit to the community. Jacksonville deserves better than a lifelong member of the good ol’ boy political class that will throw his city under the bus before accepting responsibility for his shortcomings.”

You can watch part of the Curry interview here.