Downtown development, stadium deal among mayoral debate flashpoints

The two candidates for mayor squared off on a number of business issues.

Downtown development, stadium deal among mayoral debate flashpoints

The Thursday mayoral debate was dominated by discussions about crime and promises made by both candidates that they cared about downtown redevelopment... as well as some differences between the approaches taken on business issues by the two candidates.

John Bachman, Tenikka Hughes and Action News Jax's John Bachman moderated a debate between Republican Daniel Davis and Democrat Donna Deegan at the University of North Florida on Thursday.

The first 13 minutes were devoted to crime. This was followed by a discussion on the possibility of a citizen board that would investigate alleged police misconduct. Deegan stated that the state doesn't allow for a board to have "any authority" on the police. However, she called for "difficult discussions" about public security.

Davis was more blunt. He said: "I think we already have a Citizens Review Board." "It is called an election."

Waters, a sheriff whom he praised. Waters was one of eight times that he mentioned the sheriff in the debate.

The remainder of the discussion was devoted to a mix of pedestrian safety, veracity of attacks ads, affordable housing for veterans, health care for veterans, selling JEAs, the recently implemented anti-panhandling law, and what should happen with Confederate Monuments.

There are also some issues of business.

Davis urged more housing to be built in the downtown core while Deegan called for greater investment in downtown infrastructure.

Neither candidate would specify how much their administration was willing to contribute to a billion dollar renovation of TIAA Bank Field. However, they both laid out different strategies for negotiations.

Deegan has promised to bring experienced negotiators into the negotiations. She said: "We need to ensure that we are creating a contract that does not open our wallets like we do right now, with everything that the Jaguars want. But that we actually create a contract that works for taxpayers, citizens of Jacksonville and the Jaguars as well as the NFL."

Davis said he would personally negotiate the deal. He said: "I will make sure that I negotiate for you, the citizens of Jacksonville. We're going have a fair and long-term relationship with the Jaguars and everybody has skin in this game. But I won't give the store away."

This conversation was one of only a few flashpoints in the debate. Deegan criticized Davis for supporting the Lot J project, which would've seen the city invest $245 million into turning the stadiumside parking area into a mixed-use development.

I think this administration will be run by the people who are running his administration. They have had an open-checkbook policy for the Jaguars.

Davis pushed him back. He said, "We ensure that you live in a city where it is more affordable." "Part of that involves negotiating strong deals with large companies such as the Jacksonville Jaguars."

Both candidates agree on the need to attract more jobs to the city.

Deegan said that economic investment is concentrated in the "richer areas" of the city, and promised "a very deliberate focus on our minorities business owners that are missing out on the same type facade grants and business instruments that other people have in this town."

Davis, Jax Chamber CEO, said that he has created thousands of jobs in all parts of Jacksonville. He said, "We have served everyone from all of Jacksonville to the Westside and the Northside." "We believe this is the right way to ensure that we bring jobs to all communities," he said.

The moderators sparked a new disagreement when they brought up the proposed University of Florida Satellite campus in Jacksonville, but not the campus itself.

Davis, who called the meeting he held with UF officials about the project "one of my most important meetings ever", is in support of the project. He said that he believes everyone should be involved in the project, including the city of Jacksonville, the UF business school, and the business community.

Deegan supports the project but is concerned by the lack of information. She said, "I don’t think anyone had much detail about this when we invested those public dollars." "I'm not against the public money," she said. "I just want more details if I am going to convert tax dollars from the city of Jacksonville into something like this."

The candidates made the most pronounced distinctions between themselves as the debate ended.

Deegan presented herself as an unifier.

She said: "I think we can bring unity to this city, but not with unrestrained power as we've had for the last eight years." "The same people who divide us with toxic politics and toxic ads. The same folks that won't let you have a different opinion unless it means losing your job. I want to bring the city together."

Davis reiterated that he would "make Jacksonville safer and more affordable," and said people moved to Jacksonville for its quality of living.