Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

With Election Finished, Time to Rev Up Elsewhere

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

With Election Finished, Time to Rev Up Elsewhere

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

Jacksonville has been in a holding pattern for a year while Mayor Lenny Curry focused almost entirely on selling his sales tax/pension debt plan.

Because of that, we've lost momentum in key areas.

The most obvious one was the building enthusiasm for a revitalized downtown.

Even though the Downtown Investment Authority had several million dollars available for projects, that money has sat idle for months under orders from Curry.

Part of Curry's sales tax strategy was to shout that Jacksonville is teetering on a fiscal cliff and that there would be no money for anything if his sales tax didn't pass.

Thus for a year basically nothing has been done on projects like the Laura Street Trio, the Barnett Bank building, The Jacksonville Landing and the Shipyards.

Obviously, Curry was successful in selling his pension debt relief plan as he received overwhelming support from voters in the Aug. 30 election.

But even with that done, "other balls have to fall," as one of Curry's top administrators put it.

Before any money from the sales tax revenues will be available to pay down pension debt, the city's public employee unions will have to agree to close their current plans and put new employees in a new plan.

That will have to be done through collective bargaining, and it could take a year or even longer to reach agreements.

In fact, since the sales tax won't be collected until 2031, the current defined benefit plans could in theory remain in effect that long and then close to gain access to the sales tax revenue.

Clearly, Curry will push for a quick resolution. He has promised to put new plans in place that are fair to both employees and taxpayers.

That's critical, and hopefully Curry will have timely success in negotiating with the unions. …

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