Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

New Council President Off To Rocky Start

Richard Clark, the Intracoastal-area councilman who assumed the reigns of City Council President on Wednesday, has seen his tenure begin under a cloud of controversy.  After facing a public outcry over the various conflicting answers he gave to local media about who was funding the recent trip he and his wife took to Paris to attend the Paris Air Show, Clark recently elicited further controversy by requesting emergency legislation to request the Council fund the installation of batting cages at the city park where his child plays Little League baseball.

Diane Melendez, a long-time city activist, first raised concerns last week that Clark was attempting to push through “emergency legislation” that would have expended over $168,000 of taxpayer dollars without the benefit of a request for proposal or public input.  One of the most controversial pieces of the news; however, was the revelation that Clark was using bond money for his district to benefit a park that was not his district.

The batting cage dilemma has merely been the tip of the iceberg that Clark has faced when balancing his new role as incoming council president with parent and little league supporter.  Clark has engaged in a back-and-forth with several other little league parents via his city e-mail account.  Some, including another league board member, have complained that the incoming council president has impugned their character and replied rather abrasively to their concerns—even going so far as to hang up on them.

After reviewing the batting cage matter, the City’s Ethics Commission concluded that there were no violations in Councilman Clark’s requesting of the emergency legislation.  The Commission also reminded the public that the council does have the right to waive the bidding process.  That being said; however, Mr. Clark’s introduction of the legislation—and his skirmishes with his district constituents and other little league parents—leave questions about his political skills in leading the council at a very crucial time in city history.

In the end, Clark withdrew the “emergency” aspect of the legislation after fellow council members raised concerns over the nature of the request, but the month leading up to his appointment as council president has been less than reassuring.  Clark’s closing comments at this weeks council meeting showed many, including Nick Callahan, a District 3 constituent, that he still “doesn’t get it.”  Addressing the batting cage controversy, Clark pointed out his 7A Tee Ball team made the state championship and stated that he could only “imagine what he could have done with a batting cage”.

A prominent political activist who asked not to be named, expressed concern that Clark “would be eaten alive” as council president.  At this juncture, its hard to wonder if that sentiment will not indeed bear out.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, , , , , ,

Paris, Anyone?

Ah, the perks of being the incoming Council President.  Before he is even sworn in to office, Richard Clark (along with his wife, Deatra) will be whisked off to Paris, France for the Paris Air Show courtesy of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA).  It also appears that other officials, including the Mayor,  JAA interim Executive Director  Ernestine Moody Robinson,  JAA employees Richard Rossi and Rosa Beckett, and JAA Board members Cyrus Jolivette and Ron Weaver, will also be traveling to Paris.

According to a recent news article, it’s costing the State of Washington, home to the largest concentration of aerospace workers in the world, $7,100 to send one person to Paris for the air show.  (And that’s the only person the state is sending.)  I guess John Clark’s exit hasn’t impacted JAA’s propensity for taking expensive, international trips.  I also guess that it’s just not as sexy to attend the US Air, Trade, and Technology Expo (USATT), the American equivalent of the Paris Air Show, that will be held in Dayton, Ohio in July.  Sure, the USATT doesn’t have the history that the Paris Air Show has; but, it also doesn’t have the high costs and would still provide good opportunities to network with the aviation industry.

Now that Councilman Clark has joined the computer age by making his E-mails public, perhaps we can persuade him to also twitter the air show for us.  I just hope they don’t decide to take $10,000 worth of limo rides while they’re attending the Paris Air Show like some other Jacksonville folks did awhile back.

Filed under: Jacksonville, Jacksonville City Council, Mayor of Jacksonville, , , , , , , , ,

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