Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City: Cecil Referendum Misleads; Measure's Language Is Also Defective, Jacksonville General Counsel Tells Court

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City: Cecil Referendum Misleads; Measure's Language Is Also Defective, Jacksonville General Counsel Tells Court

Article excerpt

Byline: GREGORY PIATT

Vote Jacksonville's language for the referendum that could reactivate Cecil Field as a Navy jet base misleads Duval County voters and should not be allowed on the Nov. 7 ballot, Jacksonville's general counsel argued Friday in the opening day of a trial challenging the measure.

General Counsel Rick Mullaney said the ballot language does not notify voters of the cost of turning the former base back to the Navy, and that the city doesn't hold title to all the property, which has seven owners.

The language is legally defective and, if allowed on as a referendum to amend the city charter, it doesn't have the authority to repeal City Council legislation, which committed Cecil to commercial development, and force the body to spend money, Mullaney said. It could also force the owners and others surrounding the base to sue the city for millions, he said.

Additionally, it would be difficult to reform the coalition of private and government entities that was formed last year to try and reopen Cecil Field, which was closed as a Navy master jet base in 1999, Mullaney said. The parties have focused on continuing to redevelop the commercial and industrial center, he added.

"The world has changed," Mullaney said.

Vote Jacksonville sought the binding referendum because Mayor John Peyton and the council halted the city's attempt last year to get the base as the result of recommendations made by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

The referendum seeks to amend the city charter to require Jacksonville to turn over more than 17,000 acres of Cecil Field land to the Navy and assist Florida in relocating tenants who have located there since the base closed. The city filed a court challenge.

The hearing continues at 9:30 a.m. today when Vote Jacksonville's lawyers will present their witnesses.

Circuit Judge Bernard Nachman has until noon Friday to make a ruling because a state deadline requires the ballot go to the printer then.

Tom Bishop, one of Vote Jacksonville's attorneys, argued nothing has changed since the city made its bid to return the base last year, except the political will. …

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