Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Decision on City Port's Future Should Not Be Made in Haste

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Decision on City Port's Future Should Not Be Made in Haste

Article excerpt

A combative Mayor John Delaney took what already is an ugly situation and in a way made it uglier yesterday.

During a news conference Delaney called to announce his support for splitting up the Jacksonville Port Authority, the mayor chose not to take the high road and instead got into the gutter he accuses the split's opponents of living in.

He labeled the opponents as "petty, personal and mean-spirited." He called the opposition's tactics "unhealthy," "juvenile" and "very raw."

The bottom line from Delaney was that the opponents of the split -- with one authority running the city's airports and another the city's seaports -- were basically unneeded bureaucrats who are afraid for their jobs.

Delaney should realize that there are other opponents, people who have legitimate concerns about breaking up an authority that has been in existence for more than 30 years, especially when the best reason given has been it "feels" like the best thing to do.

If you move past the name-calling, which the mayor should have avoided in the first place, Delaney at least offered some concrete reasons yesterday for why he favors the split.

One, Delaney said, was the city's seaports have lost money four of the last six years, running at a deficit of $3.5 million this year and a projected deficit of $5.2 million in 2001.

Interestingly, that's the first public mention from the Mayor's Office or the Port Authority's board that the ports have been losing money and to reach that conclusion requires using different accounting methods than what the Port Authority has used previously.

Either people didn't know or they weren't telling us or the deficit figures are flawed.

But at least the charge is now on the table and people who understand such things can see if it's true.

Delaney also took some of the political sting out of the debate by saying how he would structure the two new authorities.

The task force that recommended the split had said both new boards should be appointed strictly by the mayor instead of the current arrangement of the board in which there are four appointments by the governor and three by the mayor. …

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