Your Voice Matters: Mayoral candidates Deegan, Ferraro, Gibson answer your questions about key issues

Fans watch the first half of an NFL football game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Washington Redskins, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla., at TIAA Bank Field. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton) (Stephen B. Morton, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three more candidates who are vying to become the next mayor of Jacksonville answered issue-focused questions asked by News4JAX viewers during recent interviews with This Week In Jacksonville host Kent Justice.

Over the last two weeks, as part of our ongoing 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, which this week included Democrats Donna Deegan and Audrey Gibson along with Republican Al Ferraro.

Last week we used your questions when we interviewed non-party affiliated candidate Omega Allen and Republicans LeAnna Cumber and Daniel Davis. You can read their answers here.

One of the questions asked of the candidates: If elected, what would you do about future stadium lease negotiations with the Jacksonville Jaguars? Another, how would you address violent crime?

Below, you will find their answers to that question and many more.

More Coming: Next week, News4JAX is interviewing the rest of the mayoral candidates in the 2023 race, including Republican Frank Keasler and write-in candidate Brian Griffin. Candidates sit down to answer your questions for a show that will air on Sunday on News4JAX.

(Answers have been slightly edited for clarity)

Democrat mayoral candidate Donna Deegan (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Donna Deegan, Democrat

Kent Justice: What are your plans to decrease crime when it comes to what’s happening in Jacksonville?

Donna Deegan: Well, I think that what we can’t do is the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. I am all for funding additional police officers if that is what we need. I am all for making sure that every citizen in this city has the opportunity to live in safety. We have to make sure that we are having the difficult conversations in our community that make those relationships between our police officers and our citizens more fruitful. There has to be a relationship there. And I know you remember this back in the day that we had the Jacksonville Journey. What reduced crime more than anything else was the fact that we brought a comprehensive approach to that effort. We had literacy involved. We had food insecurity involved. We brought so many elements together and crime violent crime was reduced dramatically. There was this community policing element to all of that. So if we want safe streets, as a mayor, a lot of the leverage that I can personally use are economic. But as far as the relationship we have with our police department, I think we have to try to have a more comprehensive approach and that’s how we reduce crime. We can’t do it by simply saying that while we’re doing everything right and watching our violent numbers just continue to really go in a bad direction.

KJ: So the deal with the Jaguars and the stadium. Melody Bronson, just one of our viewers asking this kind of question, she says, “How much will you give in to anything Shad Khan wants especially in light of the Jags doing better? He should not run this city!”

DD: I think I know how melody feels about this issue having read that question. Listen, you know, I used to go to the Jacksonville Bulls games back when we had the USFL here right? I remember Colts fever. I remember all those efforts to get NFL teams all those years and I certainly remember that absolutely impossible, improbable night that we were all sitting on the anchor desk, and Jacksonville did the impossible and got the Jaguars. I’ve been sitting in that stadium in the north endzone for years with people from every walk of life in this city who love the Jaguars and have positive feelings for each other. And I guess I’m saying all that because Jacksonville is a can-do city when we work together to do things. And I believe — I’ve spoken with Shad Khan — I believe he wants to be part of that Jacksonville Renaissance story. But here’s the bottom line: We have to have someone who is willing to negotiate on behalf of the city. It can’t just be okay, here’s my wallet, I’ll open it and take out what you like. I think that any businessman, or business woman, would respect someone who would negotiate with them in good faith on behalf of the city and that’s what we have to do. We’ve got a lot of needs in this city and we have to take a much larger view. There are many needs that we have and it can’t just be about the stadium, it has to be about more than that. And I would certainly hope that the Jaguars would sign a long-term lease on the stadium. I want to keep the stadium and city hands, there’s a lot of things we can do with it, but I think we need some commitments there.

KJ: A viewer question from Steve Patrick says, “What are your plans to make Jacksonville more resilient to a changing climate and to reduce our city’s carbon footprint?”

DD: Well, there are three pillars in my campaign which I’m sad we didn’t get to but the very first one is infrastructure. The second one is health care. I am the only candidate that came out last year with a robust healthcare policy platform to increase access in a city where our primary care numbers are awful. And then the third thing would be economic. But to go back to that infrastructure piece, resiliency has got to be a part of that, a big part. We cannot simply allow folks to build in a way that is not good for resiliency, we cannot put that on the back burner because we are facing some serious issues. You’ve seen the new reports coming out from our resiliency officer when it comes to heat stress when it comes to sea level rise. We have to do things, and we’re already starting to do some of this bulkhead work we need to do, but there’s so much we need to do to harden our city to make sure that we are prepared for what is coming and a lot is coming.

Republican candidate for mayor Al Ferraro (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Al Ferraro, Republican

Kent Justice: Some of our questions today are from viewers. We’ve been asking viewers to be part of our Your Voice Matters campaign. So this person has a specific question for you. They said, “Mr. Ferraro, if you work for the city population, the way you worked for the Northside nothing would get done. What will you do differently?”

Al Ferraro: So in my first term, we got more roads and infrastructure done and completed than council members who were in there for 12 years before term limits. So being accessible, that’s something as a mayor that I would continue doing that I’m doing in my district. And being out and about people want to be able to access their elected officials. And that’s something I’ve been proud about and I’ll continue doing that. And as a mayor, I will probably be more accessible than any other mayor people have seen in the past.

KJ: One of the viewers wants to know, “What is your plan to curb crime in Jacksonville and how will you know you unite a divided city?” You told me a few months ago, this is a really important topic.

AF: It is. So, when you go into certain parts of the city, you will notice that you can go into a neighborhood where you have shell casings on sidewalks next to playgrounds and bicycles. This is not okay, along with trash and garbage that’s not being picked up. So as a mayor as the number one person who is in elected office, I would be going into some of these crime-ridden areas, like I have in the past to where you have people who will come out and break the code of silence because they feel like who they’ve got in office they can trust. And that’s one of the problems that we’re having on all levels where trust is not something that people feel like they’re they can do. So going out there meeting with people trying to help them. Because with the crimes that are happening, we know that people see these crimes, they’re just afraid to speak up and talk about it. So having the number one elected official going into an area that has drugs, has murders, has anything that are happening, that they can come out and actually talk to that person to be accessible. I think that’s going to help out.

KJ: That would create more unity? Bridge the divide?

AF: Absolutely. If you have a mayor who’s coming out in a place that you have murder or drugs, we haven’t had that, we haven’t. And to show that we’re going to do everything possible in our city to make it better for all the communities. A lot of people come and they talk about being underserved. I’m going to be the person who’s out there serving them and showing them how.

KJ: Wiewer Mark Musselwhite says, “I don’t want the taxpayers of Jacksonville to spend one penny on the estimated $1 billion of Shad Khan’s new stadium.” What are your thoughts?

AF: That’s a good question. So as the mayor, I’m the only one who has said no to the Jaguars with the Lot J when that came through. I couldn’t go in front of the community and say, look, this is great for the community, we’re spending taxpayer dollars and this is what we’re getting on a rate of return. I felt uncomfortable with it. I didn’t support it. So as a mayor, as new things come up, I’m going to be looking out for the taxpayer. I want to look out for the businesses that come here. But you can’t have it to where you’re just giving away taxpayer dollars without explaining what it is and having a return on investment. So I want to make sure that the taxpayers are looked at. We have lobbyists that are always looking out for different businesses and organizations that come in, but nobody is really looking out for the taxpayer. And that’s what I’ll be doing.

KJ: Again, a viewer question here, and this kind of goes to construction, development or whatever. But here’s the question, “What can be done about the lack of affordable housing and the level of homelessness in Jacksonville?”

AF: And also, we have a problem on a federal level because a lot of people who are having problems with rent, we have a lot of people in the city who are undocumented that are in here that will be maybe 12 people or 10 people in a two-bedroom apartment, that is pushing out our citizens. So it’s on a much larger level of what the cure is, is not having so many illegals coming into our country. But also what we can do here is look at some of the housing that we have some of the buildings that we have that are not being used that are owned by the city, and we’ve been doing some of this with affordable housing, working out developments to where we can have people who who have work and they need a place to live and have some type of ability to to pay for something that is not going to be over the top on the price of the rent.

Audrey Gibson, Democrat candidate for Jacksonville mayor. (Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

Audrey Gibson, Democrat

Kent Justice: A question for every candidate, “I want to know, what’s something you’ve actually done in your past that best demonstrates your suitability to be mayor?”

Audrey Gibson: I’ll give you an example of the maternal health outcomes legislation that I passed for Duval and Orange County, specifically. It’s a pilot program that focuses on what are the causes of maternal mortality and how do we ensure that mommies lives so they can take care of their babies. And so that $5 million appropriation, more than half of it came to Jacksonville for that project. And that’s just one example. There’s infrastructure projects that I brought my home for. And let me talk about the policy part a little bit. So I can certainly talk to our city council about policy issues and how that’s impactful to various communities. And I can also as mayor signal or make sure my voice is heard on policy that I think is detrimental to communities. I want to make sure there’s a social impact review in legislation that is filed so that we know the full impact on the people who live in the neighborhood, not just for the folks who want to set up the business.

KJ: There are a couple of questions here and they are really kind of on the same topic. Max Smith submits this when, “What’s your stand on backing the police?” Then Faith Crump is asking, “Where is crime on your list of priorities?” A lot of folks who reached out to us and had questions surrounding crime and I think specifically violent crime, how would you deal with that as mayor?

AG: First, I have my degree in criminology from the Florida State University. Shameless plug. And so the theories of crime don’t really change why people commit crimes. One of the things that I believe is going on in our city is the age factor. So we have a pretty young median age in our city like 37, or 38. So that means there are young people behind some older maybe above, but so it’s something that we’re going to have to think through as a process. Not a total process, not just an answer today. It’s answers for the future. And so I believe backing the police means that I support the police. I’m not sure what that means. I’ve always said that. I don’t have an issue, with increasing our level of officers if that’s necessary, but one of the things that I believe is the old-school way that I remember growing up, I had law enforcement in my family too, and that is most of the officers work in the communities where they lived, right? So that means there’s a whole different relationship. There’s a whole different response. And so the last thing I would say, is this and I think people are more concerned about the gun violence piece. So I met with our state attorney maybe a couple of years ago like what you know what is going on because it keeps happening. So she told me that when gun turns over in this community multiple times, we have people that don’t report stolen goods. We have people that leave guns in their cars. And so the answer is really in the community. It’s also in the homes of some of those who are perpetrating gun violence. So we need to make sure that we’re doing a public awareness and also make it safe for parents. You know, some parents have fear in their home, right? So look in that car look under that bad look in that closet, look in that backpack. Check out the friends who are coming. That’s important. It’s very important, and we need to understand that issue.”

KJ: One of those questions from a viewer says, for all candidates, “Can you serve without being told what to do?” How would you answer that?

AG: Honestly, nobody tells me what to do. And I’m a very, very deliberate, very analytical person. And so I do my homework, and always have. I do a lot of research. And so it’s a process for me to determine what steps I will take on any matter and particularly the budget, which is the mayor’s largest role. And that means prioritizing it looking at it. Also, there’s something called a comprehensive annual financial report that needs to be viewed to help build that budget so we can see where we were, and how we’re going to get to where we need to be.

To watch the entire This Week in Jacksonville show, click here.

About the Author:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.