Pamela A. Zeiser By: Pamela A. Zeiser
Associate Professor of Political Science
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22 Jul 2020 : Jacksonville, FL: Mayor Insists City Will Be Ready

One day after Jacksonville’s Sheriff warned he could not guarantee security for the Republican National Convention, Mayor Lenny Curry held a press conference at which he said he accepted the Sheriff’s statement – and even agreed Jacksonville was not yet ready -- but emphasized that the Sheriff had said the city could be ready with adequate financing, communication, and personnel. An under-sheriff, not the Sheriff himself, joined the virtual press conference.

The grant funds from the US Department of Justice are scheduled to be released to the city in a few days, the mayor said, and that will aid the Sheriff’s office. There was no commitment to better communication – and final decisions – from the host committee or the Trump Campaign, although the Trump Campaign insisted it would not move the convention from Jacksonville despite the problems. The events still appear to be planned for a mix of indoor and outdoor venues. The Trump Campaign also expressed confidence in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, based on their experience with Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football games and other large events held in the city. The under-sheriff’s responded that the Trump Campaign’s statement was “comparing apples to oranges” and reiterated that the Sheriff’s Office only has a commitment of 25% of the necessary personnel from elsewhere in the state.

Mayor Lenny Curry also directly addressed community concerns about the use of federal forces for security in Jacksonville, following controversies with unidentified federal forces in military camouflage using unlawful tactics in Portland, Oregon. He stated there have been “no conversations” about the need for federal forces, though he directly tied that to the lack of ongoing violent protests in Jacksonville – NOT to the upcoming convention. The under-sheriff said basically the same thing, but in his next breath commented on the need for thousands of additional law enforcement personnel not yet offered by neighboring jurisdictions.

Mayor Lenny Curry then further noted that, as the convention plans are scaled back due to COVID-19, the economic impact of bringing the convention to Jacksonville will not be as high as hoped. That created another dust-up in local traditional and social media, as the mayor has never justified his expected “$100 million” impact nor has he provided a breakdown of the expense to the city. Finances are high on the agenda for a special meeting of the Jacksonville City Council on Friday.

A new motion has been filed in the lawsuit against holding the convention in Jacksonville, which calls it a public nuisance injurious to the health and welfare of the city (see 9 July entry). The motion cites the failure to enforce COVID-19 safety precautions at the President’s Tulsa, Oklahoma campaign rally and also the failure to adhere to the city’s mask-wearing requirement at a fundraising event with Pence earlier this month here in Jacksonville (see 14 July entry). It further requests a judge mandate the Convention meets a specific list of health and safety precautions.

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