The two that should have gotten headlines are Councilmen John Crescimbeni and Ronnie Fussell. These were the only two men on the council who had the backbone to vote AGAINST the deal, and to be vocal about it. Kudos as well to Clay Yarborough, the only other councilmen to vote against the deal. I don't think we'll see these three on the City Council's Ruth's Chris Shuttle, thank God.
No doubt their vote wasn't popular, and I'm sure this season they won't be getting any invites to the Jaguars select skyboxes - but they took the RIGHT position on this. As Tia Mitchell reported, Fussell did not think it right to give the Jags $4.1 million when our city is facing a budget deficit and property tax increases.
Also, Fussell rejected the notion that this $4.1 million dollars was necessary to keep the Jags here in our city. Fussell was quoted as saying:
"It has nothing to do with me being against the Jaguars,” Fussell said. “If 25 percent would make them leave town, I’m sorry — I don’t believe that will happen. and that is what the debate seems to be about."
Amen Mr. Fussell. If the Jaguars lobbyists and Tony Bosselli are spreading the word that we needed to fork over $4.1 million to ensure the Jags will stay, then we should have called their hand. Please don't threaten your taxpaying fans that we must cave in and give you what you agreed would be ours. If the Jaguars are suffering from lack of fan support, why should WE the taxpayers bail them out? Are we here to bail out inept NFL teams that put subpar teams on the field and can't sell tickets? For crying out loud, these guys don't even know their market well enough to realize that in this rabid Gator/Christian town if they signed Tim Tebow they would have sold out the stadium for the next 3 years!
Crescimbeni even tried to add an amendment that would require Jags owner Wayne Weaver to give back the $4.1 million if he moved the Jags to another city before the end of the 5-year Everbank deal. Even THIS was voted down by our city council. Not good enough. Need to give them the $4.1 million free and clear.
Why? What did the Jags lobbyist tell our city officials for them to act so irresponsibly?
Look, I know the arguments as to why we "had" to do this: the $4.1 million wasn't going to our general budget anyways, we wouldn't have been able to use it for teacher's salaries or our libraries, etc. Ron Littlepage summarized the arguments well.
But you know what? It is our councilmen who should have lobbied the Jaguars to tell THEM we need the $4.1 million, and that we WANT TO PUT IT INTO OUR GENERAL FUND. Yes, the Jaguars should recognize that our city is in trouble financially, and their fan base is facing rising taxes and diminishing city services. They came after the $4.1 million because they knew the COULD, and our city officials obliged.
Finally, the votes cast by our councilmen, the comments made by them about having to do this to keep the Jags, and then the sickening sight of Clark and Joost heading to Ruth's Chris to have a celebratory dinner with Boselli and the Jags lobbyist: this SHOULD have the attorney general's office looking into this deal very closely to see just how far the Jag's lobbyist twisted our city officials' arms to get his hands on our $4.1 million, and what conflicts of interest any of the city officials might have had.
And this comment from Councilman Reggie Brown just takes the cake:
“Without this team, let’s face this, folks,” said Councilman Reggie Brown, “people don’t really have a reason to stop here.”
Wow. Well, Reggie, with Councilmen like you and Clark and Joost who don't look out for our financial interests, you're giving our citizens less of a reason to STAY and LIVE in Jacksonville, when options in neighboring counties are looking more attractive day by day.
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