Four Candidates Seeking To Replace Hazouri On City Council

Four Candidates Seeking To Replace Hazouri On City Council

The first Election to replace the late Tommy Hazouri on the Jacksonville City Council is set for Tuesday, December 7. It’s the At-Large Group 3 seat but all registered voters in Jacksonville are eligible to cast ballots.

Democrats Trayce Polson and James “Coach” Jacobs are running along with Republicans Nick Howland and Howland Russell. All four appear on the same ballot.

James “Coach” Jacobs
James “Coach” Jacobs

Jacobs did not respond for an interview.

Polson is a licensed clinical social worker and was a candidate for the State House in 2018.

She said her years helping others in need gives her a unique perspective as a potential council member.

“I’m a professional listener,” she said. “I have been trained to listen very carefully and thoughtfully. The questions that I ask typically provide a deeper way of thinking about something…that will be useful working with people all across the city.”

Polson said one of the key issues facing Jacksonville is the effects of climate change and sea-level rise.

Trayce Polson
Trayce Polson

“We are surrounded by water in terms of the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean,” she said. “We also have a Navy Station that’s predicted to be underwater in the future.”   

Polson said that makes it both a national security threat and will impact the people of Jacksonville in food, clean water, pollution, and housing.

She proposes more conversations with communities much like other cities in Florida have done to address the problem on a long-term basis.

Howland is a longtime Jacksonville businessman and Navy veteran who was also a member of the city’s Charter Revision Commission and the Environmental Protection Board. He is currently the executive director of Fire Watch and has the endorsement of JaxBiz. He previously ran for School Board in 2018.

 He said his dozen years of civic involvement provide him with the leadership skills needed on Council.

Nick Howland
Nick Howland

“I believe that’s what the City Council needs,” Howland said. “(The Council) is at a pivotal point in its history and what we do over the next ten years will now and in the next ten years will determine where we’ll be as a city.”

Howland said Jacksonville’s population is increasing at a rapid pace and is now probably over one million. (The 2020 U.S. census placed the population at over 995,000.)

“Growth is our biggest priority. How we handle it. How we manage it,” he said.

“We need to focus on safer streets. Right now, we are about 300 (police) officers short of where we need to be and that’s only going to worsen if we don’t focus on public safety over the next decade.”

“Howdy” Russell is a local restaurateur, best known as the owner of Jumpin’ Jax House of Food. This is his first run for public office.

Russell said he can bring a new perspective to the City Council.

Howland “Howdy” Russell
Howland “Howdy” Russell

“I’ve been consistently successful in the Jacksonville business scene,” he said. “I don’t pretend you can run a government like a business but the same kind of decision-making that you have to utilize in business I can bring to the table.”

Russell said the biggest issue Jacksonville is currently facing is trust in government.

“A lot of people are doing the best they can, but I see a lot of people who are making decisions because they are trying to move up (politically) and in some cases, they are making decisions based on their own economic advancement,” he said.

All the candidates support additional economic growth in the city, particularly in the downtown area, and promise to maintain the character of Jacksonville’s neighborhoods.

The candidates’ opinions differ regarding the future of Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments. The City Council withdrew Mayor Lenny Curry’s proposal to allocate $1.3 million to remove the Women of the Southern Confederacy monument from Springfield Park, but the controversy over Confederate monuments remains with no signs of abating anytime soon.

Russell said the job of the City Council is not to establish a “city statement.”

“I firmly believe the Jacksonville community can determine how closely we label our historic monuments,” he said. “I think the Mayor was moving too fast to spend $1.3 million before examining if Jacksonville wants that money to be reserved for that purpose. Truly, we need conversation across the city. We need to unify and work toward the best answer.”

Polson said she would have voted against the withdrawal.

“I firmly believe the confederate monument in Springfield Park should be removed,” she said. “It should have been removed already as the mayor promised the removal of these monuments and markers more than a year ago.”

Polson said the cost of the removal should have been included in the mayor’s budget. She said any additional cost can hopefully be avoided by finding a museum or association to pay for its relocation.

Howland said he wants to explore other opportunities regarding Confederate monuments. “I think the quickest way to repeat an ugly past is to erase an ugly past,” he said.

Howland said there hasn’t been enough of a discussion regarding contextualizing the monuments as opposed to moving them or leaving them as they are.

“Contextualization can come in many forms,” Howland said. “(We can) explain how this monument was put up during a time that is different from today and this is how people were thinking when they put it up or put up a monument to efforts by Springfield’s African American community through the nineteen century.”

If none of the four candidates earn over 50-percent of the vote, the top two candidates will meet in the General Election, February 22.

By Kevin Meerchaert
Resident Community News

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