One Imeson approved as SOE site
City Council approved legislation Tuesday to move an elections center to One Imeson in North Jacksonville, denying a measure to keep the facility at the Gateway Shopping Center. The action potentially puts an end to an issue that has lasted well over a year.
The Council voted 13-6 to move the Supervisor of Elections center, shortly after denying the Gateway legislation 12-7.
Council members Bill Bishop, Lori Boyer, Doyle Carter, Richard Clark, Bill Gulliford, Ray Holt, Stephen Joost, Denise Lee, Jim Love, Robin Lumb, Don Redman, Matt Schellenberg and Clay Yarborough were in favor of One Imeson. Greg Anderson, Reggie Brown, John Crescimbeni, Kimberly Daniels, Johnny Gaffney, Ray Holt and Warren Jones were in favor of Gateway.
Holt voted in favor of both sites.
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was allowed to address the Council before the votes. She claimed a move from Gateway disenfranchises and oppresses African-American voters and said "partnership is what government is all about."
Corrine Brown was asked by Gaffney about the economic incentives she has brought to Jacksonville from the federal level. She brought up the "$700 million" in financial needs to address Jacksonville's port issues in terms of federal legislation.
"I just feel like I have no partners in this room," she told Council.
Asked after the vote about Council members who might later seek federal support for projects, Corrine Brown said they could "lose my number."
"This community is an example of government not working," she said.
She said the next step is legal action and criticized Mayor Alvin Brown on the way the issue was managed by saying the mayor "should have handled it" and negotiated the contract.
"It's not the Council, it's the mayor's job," she said.
Chris Hand, the mayor's chief of staff, after the vote said that a Request for Proposals was not an option after legislation had been introduced and Council members had noticed public meetings on the topic, calling the process "contaminated."
As for what the mayor will do, Hand said "all options are on the table" when it comes to executive action on the Council-approved legislation.
Brown's options are to sign the legislation, not sign it and allow it to become law without his signature after 10 days, or veto it.
A veto would send the issue back to Council, which could override the mayor's action with a supermajority vote. If all Council members were to vote, the 13-6 margin would yield an override.
Brown continues to stand behind the City Public Works Department recommendation of Gateway, Hand said.
Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland has been in support of One Imeson and answered Council questions before the vote.
He told Council the center is not an economic engine for the Gateway neighborhood – a position Corrine Brown and several Council members argued – and that the Gateway site could still be an early voting site should Council approve and Terranova Corp., Gateway's owner, is reasonable in negotiating short-term rent.
Holland after the vote said the early voting site would be needed for about 16 days, require about 400 square feet and a ballpark rate should be "no more than $1,500" total for the term.
He said he wanted to provide 30 days notice to Gateway and vacate by Sept. 30, store voting equipment at One Imeson during the expected four-month build-out and be operational by Feb. 1.
The center has been at Gateway since 2006 and has cost the City about $51,000 in monthly rent.
Yarborough introduced legislation in December to build a consolidated supervisor facility ultimately for $6 million, but later withdrew the measure when legislation for Gateway, One Imeson and a third proposal by the Demetree Brothers Inc. was introduced. Mayor Brown opposed the legislation to build a facility.
The competition for approval of the legislation has lowered rent costs by more than half of what the City currently is paying, which, regardless of the outcome, Yarborough and others said is good for taxpayers.
Each landlord offered a 10-year lease, with the numbers changing throughout the Council review in an attempt to better each property owner's position.
The process has been political and was punctuated by Council member Lee's final comments before the vote. She voted in one of three committees that heard the legislation and sat in on the other two, each time in favor of One Imeson.
"It is unfortunate that the economic facts and merits of this issue have been lost in the devious game of politics," she told her colleagues.
She said the behind-the-scenes discussions have led to political threats on her from groups that favored Gateway, saying she would "suffer the consequences" if she didn't choose the site.
"Shame on anyone to turn this into a racial issue when it is absolutely not," Lee said.