Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Run for At-Large Seat on Council; 2 Former Candidates and Political Newcomer in Race

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

3 Run for At-Large Seat on Council; 2 Former Candidates and Political Newcomer in Race

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Hong

Two former candidates are making strong pushes for the open Jacksonville City Council At-Large Group 5 seat, along with a first try by one of the founders of Duval County's black Republican movement.

Democrat Ju'Coby Pittman, the long-time leader of The Clara White Mission, and Republican Michelle Tappouni, a project manager for nonprofit Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, return to local politics with visible and well-funded campaigns.

Making his first run is Republican Samuel Newby, a route supervisor for the Pepsico, chairman of the Florida and National Assembly of Black Republicans and a former vice chairman of the local Republican party.

Pittman and Tappouni are campaigning on similar issues.

Both say the city must find a way to pay off its $1.62 billion pension debt and free the city's budget to improve residents' quality of life. They also say city government must work to attract economic development and improve public safety, not continue on a path of budget cuts.

Newby, who said improving public safety is his No. 1 priority, said he'll find a way to hire more than 100 new police officers, but ardently opposes raising property taxes to do so.

Pittman is well-known in civic circles for her leadership of the Clara White Mission, which works to prevent homelessness. After years of watching the city place nonprofit funding on the chopping block, she said she will be the "conscience of the council" and a representative for human service organizations.

"I feel like I bring that experience for advocating for those that are not at the table," Pittman said. "Because if you're not at the table, you're on the menu."

Tappouni said she's worked behind the scenes advocating for small businesses and the construction industry at the state government level. At the local level, she serves on the city's Environmental Protection Board, is chairwoman of the Jax2025 Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force and sits on the Springfield Preservation and Revitalization Council.

She said her experience in government, combined with her close observance of the council, makes her the strongest candidate.

"We're going to have a minimum of 10 new people sitting on City Council. …

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