City's Offer of $1.25M to Big Bank Scrutinized; 'Occupy' Sympathizers Target Proposal to Attract 250 JPMorgan Chase Jobs

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

Occupy Wall Street was a distant sideshow when Jacksonville officials outlined a $1.25 million incentives offer last month for financial powerhouse JPMorgan Chase & Co. to add 250 jobs here.

But its message could be spotlighted at Jacksonville City Hall tonight, when the City Council will hold a public hearing on whether to approve the package.

"It's classic timing," said John Winkler, a veteran Democratic candidate who walked into an Occupy Jacksonville gathering Saturday with a pipe-mounted poster that ended: "Tell City Council vote no on 2011-662."

Chase received - and repaid - $25 billion from the federal government during the 2008 financial crisis, and critics of the local deal are seizing on lingering hard feelings about that.

Supporters of Occupy Jacksonville and the Duval County Libertarian Party have both asked people to speak against the deal when the council meets, labeling it another form of corporate welfare.

"It's a game that they play," Libertarian Chairman Curtis Wolf said as he handed out fliers at an Oct. 15 Occupy Jacksonville rally. "They go from one town to another and say, 'What will you give us?' "

Chase has received incentive offers from communities in Ohio and Texas, Jacksonville Economic Development Commission staffer Joe Whitaker told the council's Finance Committee last week. Two council committees have approved the deal.

JEDC is asking the council to approve an application to the state's Qualified Target Industry program, which offers refunds of some expansion costs for companies that pay relatively high wages.

The city would commit to spend up to $250,000 on the deal, and the state would cover up to $1 million. …