JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three candidates who are vying to become the next mayor of Jacksonville answered key questions asked by News4JAX viewers during recent interviews with This Week In Jacksonville host Kent Justice.
Last week, as part of our Your Voice Matters campaign, we solicited questions from News4JAX viewers about the issues that are most important to them and took them to each of the candidates interviewed, including non-party affiliated candidate Omega Allen and Republicans LeAnna Cumber and Daniel Davis.
One of the questions asked of all three: If elected, what would you do about future stadium lease negotiations with the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Below, you will find their answers to that question and many more, including on attack ads and affordable housing.
(More Coming: Over the next two weeks, News4JAX is interviewing the rest of the mayoral candidates in the 2023 race. Next up, Democrats Donna Deegan and Audrey Gibson join Republican Al Ferraro and sit down to answer your questions for a show that will air on Sunday on News4JAX.)
Omega Allen, no party affiliation
Kent Justice: Viewer Harold Whinery asks, “Omega Allen, you are an underdog. I admire your efforts. What makes you better than the high-dollar candidates? What will you do differently?”
Omega Allen: Well, thank you. High dollar doesn’t really make or break a candidate, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I’m qualified. I have a PhD in public administration with a focus on municipal government. I am an expert in participatory government and participatory budgeting. That’s what I have to offer that the others don’t have. And being the underdog I’m comfortable there.
KJ: Several viewers sent in a question regarding the Jaguars and the stadium-specific costs involved. So this viewer says, “I’d like to ask each candidate’s position on the stadium improvements and maintaining Jacksonville as an NFL city.” We know, we’re hearing that there are plans already underway. How would you approach as mayor the need or the priority of having the Jaguars stay and maybe spending a lot of money on stadium improvements?
OA: Well, you know, it’s hard to say on this side how you can do that but I do know that the very first thing I would have to do is get all of the details. Looking at the details, then I have to determine what’s the ROI, what’s the return on investment for the people of Jacksonville. How is it going to benefit our economy in that part of our economy that’s actually going to trickle down to the households in Jacksonville. Keeping the NFL, of course I would want to keep the NFL, but do you keep the NFL at all costs when we have so many issues? We have homelessness, how can we take some of the dollars making sure that Jacksonville is going to get its fair share of the funds that need to come back to us for our investment so that we can take those dollars and invest them in areas that benefit the citizens of Jacksonville?
KJ: Do you see the value? Is there an economic value that you see from having an NFL team in town that can go to some of those other issues?
OA: There can be. I’d have to see the numbers, I’d have to see the data and let that tell me if the dollars that are coming in are actually benefiting the city as a whole.
LeAnna Cumber, Republican
Kent Justice: Several viewers want to know how candidates are going to deal with the Jaguars and the stadium. Alright, here’s Melody Brunson who asks, “How much will you give into anything Shad Khan wants especially in light of the Jags doing better? He should not run this city!” What do you say to Melody or other folks who say how are we going to handle this and keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville?
LeAnna Cumber: I think that anything we do with the Jaguars organization really needs to have a tie to them staying here and then committing to stay here. To date, there isn’t a real commitment in any of the contracts for them to stay. And I think we’re requiring a long-term 20, 30-year commitment, which is pretty standard throughout with NFL cities. I think that’s the first thing, and then just to make sure that anything that we do is really what’s best for the taxpayers and what’s best for the city going forward.
KJ: I’ve heard you talk about that the years that you’ve been on City Council, is about trying to handle tax revenue because it’s taxpayers’ money, does that make you want to push back at all if it’s a billion-dollar project to improve the stadium, and the team wants half of that from the city?
LC: Look, what the city needs to do, what we need to do, and what I will fully commit to do and make sure, as in part of protecting the taxpayers, we need to have the very best negotiators, the very best lawyers, ones who are used to negotiating with NFL teams, are used to putting together these deals that other cities have put together and that’s something that we haven’t done in the past but we really need to do is make sure that we have the absolute best at the table who know how to do it and who have a history and a track record of working with NFL teams to make sure, again, that it works for everybody. And at the end of the day, the city and the taxpayers are really watched out for.
KJ: Another viewer question here, one of our viewers wants to know, “How do you feel about outside PACs supporting or negatively impacting your campaign with ads and how do voters know proven facts from fiction?” And I think this is pretty clear. There are some ads going back and forth right now. Voters are saying, how do I know it’s true?
LC: Yeah, I mean, look, there’s a difference between contrast ads, which is what you will see from me and my supporters, contrasting my record with Daniel Davis’s record. There’s a difference between that and attack ads. And what you’re seeing on his side against me and now against my husband and my family are personal attack ads. And so what I would encourage people to do is one, do your homework, but also understand that if someone is so desperate to lob personal attacks, especially personal attacks on families, which I don’t think has ever happened in the history of these mayors races in Jacksonville, to understand that when someone gets to that point, it’s really out of desperation. What we will do and what you will see and what you have seen is a real comparison so that voters can make a real decision on whether it’s me opposing the gas tax and Daniel supporting the gas tax, whether it’s on law enforcement, and who really supports law enforcement and his record of defunding the police. Those are the sorts of things that we are going to really focus on and those are all verifiable.
Daniel Davis, Republican
Kent Justice: Two other Republicans are running in this race. Jacksonville has had a Republican mayor all but one term since 1993. Has Republican leadership held the city back from progress especially when it comes to some of the issues we see like removing Confederate monuments where a mayor said I want this but it hasn’t happened?
Daniel Davis: No, really the conservative thought process that I have is going to help propel Jacksonville forward and I believe we should have a smaller government, I believe we should create opportunities for entrepreneurs, remove red tape, remove regulations, where people have the freedom to be able to be successful, to help keep people safe. I mean, that’s absolutely the most conservative thing we can do in our community, and that’s me. I can’t wait to bring those thoughts to City Hall to make sure that we propel Jacksonville forward to where it should be.
KJ: One of our viewers wants to know, and here’s the question, “Why do you feel it’s necessary to attack opposition instead of focusing on your own strengths and experience during your campaign for my vote?”
DD: I’m super proud of my record and we’re getting the message out there about all the things that we’ve accomplished and why we’re the right choice for mayor. But going into this my family and I knew that it was going to be a rough and tumble situation. I mean, people are going to attack us and we have to protect ourselves and make sure we get the truth out there about all the opponents and that’s what we’re doing. And I think it’s worth the meat grinder to be able to serve my city. It’s worth the hardship of a campaign that everybody knows it’s going to be able to make Jacksonville a better place. So, I am ready to continue moving forward for the city.
KJ: Here’s another viewer question, appropriate for someone with expertise in construction and development, this viewer wants to know what can be done about the lack of affordable housing and level of homelessness in Jacksonville?
DD: Yeah, well, it’s kind of two separate issues. I mean, we definitely want to make sure we treat folks that are homeless, and Jacksonvillians don’t let people go hungry. That doesn’t mean we have to do all of that treatment in our core central business district. We’re going to continue to do that moving forward. But we do have an issue with workforce housing, we got to make sure police officers and nurses and teachers can afford to live in Jacksonville. The big jobs that we’re bringing here, we got to make sure people have the ability to pay their rent and to pay their mortgage. And I have great ideas on doing that.
KJ: Give me a couple of those great ideas.
DD: Well, I think the city has tons of property. And we should be looking and talking to all of the ownership that we have surveying what private and public properties we have, and helping it make sense for developers. Developers have to have a financial stack that makes sense to be able to develop a piece of property and I think the city should be involved with that. I believe workforce housing should be part of our capital improvement program, just like a bridge, just like a road, we need to make sure people have a quality of life, and that’s a solid roof over their head.
KJ: Go to another viewer question here and I’ve heard this for all of the candidates so far. Viewer Mark Musselwhite says, “I don’t want the taxpayers of Jacksonville to spend one penny on an estimated $1 billion on Shad Khan’s new stadium.” What are your thoughts?
DD: Well listen, we all love the Jags. We just got through this fantastic season. And I think we have the right mix of coach and quarterback and I will tell you this, I love the Jags. I always have I want them to be in Jacksonville. But whenever we do negotiate on that new stadium or whatever that’s going to look like, I’m standing up to the table to be the negotiator for the citizens of Jacksonville. Nobody else. So the citizens of Jacksonville need to understand that when I step up to negotiate it’s going to be on their behalf and it’s going to be a fair deal. And everybody’s gonna have skin in the game and it’s going to be a very transparent deal.
KJ: If it’s a billion-dollar stadium improvement, and Shad Khan or the team wants $500 million from the city, is there a point that you’re gonna say yeah, that’s too much, or is that just part of normal negotiating?
DD: There’s always a point where you do that and that’s normal negotiations and I have the experience to be able to do that. So I look forward to that process.
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