Year in Review; Brown's Election Part of a New Era

The Florida Times Union, December 29, 2011 | Go to article overview

Year in Review; Brown's Election Part of a New Era


The biggest story of 2011 in Jacksonville was the historic win by Alvin Brown as the mayor of Jacksonville.

Only the members of Brown's campaign and a rare pollster could see this coming.

Republican candidates Audrey Moran and Rick Mullaney knocked each other off in the primary, then Mike Hogan did just about everything wrong in the general election.

Still, Brown had to sell Republicans on the notion that he was a real conservative Democrat, something like the brand that once dominated Jacksonville politics a generation ago.

His promise to take a 20 percent pay cut in office provided a handy talking point, a promise that he carried out.

It took a massive turnout by Brown's campaign to win the election by the narrowest of margins.

Once in office, Brown used his clout as mayor to convince a number of city leaders to join the administration at $1 a year, their services donated by their employers. How did he do it? Brown said he just asked, though there certainly was more to it than that. But it showed the power in a strong mayor form of government.

As the year ended, Brown's reorganization plan passed largely intact through City Council, another unlikely victory when all the council committees appeared interested in taking more time.

JOBS THE NO. 1 ISSUE

The major story of 2011 continued to be the economy and the factor that affects just about every family in some way: jobs.

Many families have had to deal with jobs lost, pay and benefits being cut, working several jobs to make ends meet or simply the fear of it all.

The official jobless rate, slightly under 9 percent nationally, hides much larger issues, such as people who have given up.

Overlaying the jobless rate is the housing plunge, meaning many people are restricted from moving to a new job because they can't sell their houses.

By year's end, there were a number of promising economic indicators.

This is likely to be a long, slow slog as Americans return to a historical housing market characterized by low, steady appreciation, not the outrageous boom that produced risky behavior.

GRIDLOCK IN WASHINGTON

In Washington, the gridlock became more than an embarrassment, it began to threaten the nation's economic future.

Blame is easily assigned all around. When was the last candidate elected as president who promised to make the nation sacrifice?

But shared sacrifice is our fate.

Health care costs continue to increase faster than the economy as a whole. Major changes are needed and - at some point - the national appetite for health care must be put on a budget.

The nation's debt is nearing the danger zone. Too much of the budget is taken up with interest on the debt and funding the past in favor of the future.

THE GOP REALITY SHOW

The Republican campaign for president has been dominated by a series of televised debates that have turned into a prime-time reality show. …

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