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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 21, 202001:30 PM EST

Curry ‘not surprised’ by sheriff’s Republican National Convention safety comments

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The mayor said Williams is working with event planners to alleviate concerns.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Mayor Lenny Curry said he agrees with Sheriff Mike Williams that the JSO is not prepared for the Republican National Convention, but that everyone involved is “working to resolve” the concerns. 

“Nothing Sheriff Williams said yesterday was a surprise to me or anyone on my team,” Curry said in a July 21 virtual news briefing. “It’s something we’ve been working through together.”

Williams said July 20 that there is not enough time or resources available to keep people safe at the RNC, scheduled Aug. 24-27 in multiple Downtown venues.

“I don’t have the ability to call off the convention but I don’t have what I need to keep us safe,” Williams told News4Jax. “We are past the point of no return.”

Williams told the Politico news site that a $50 million grant to help with security now is $33 million. With the addition of multiple venues for the event, security would need to “change considerably” from what was planned for an event at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, News4Jax reported. 

Williams was not at the July 21 news briefing. 

Undersheriff Pat Ivey said the main challenge with keeping the event safe is the short timeline. JSO was given a fraction of the 18 months cities normally have to plan for a convention.

Ivey said JSO has a 25% commitment of “what we would believe we would need to pull this off safely.”

“We are not doing anything out of the ordinary,” he said. “The only thing we are doing out of the ordinary is a timeline in which no one has ever had to deal with.”

Ivey said securing a Jacksonville Jaguars game with 70,000 attendees cannot be compared to securing the RNC, even though the convention is expected to attract far fewer attendees.

“This is a distinctly different animal,” Ivey said. 

With the plan to move to an outdoor venue, security plans needed to change. Jaguars game security is more of a “plug and play” situation, he said. 

Curry said Williams continues to talk with event planners to “configure this in a way that is safe, and get the resources that he needs.”

“Everbody involved in this is aware of the sheriff’s concerns and have been and are actively working to resolve them,” Curry said. 

RNC economic impact

With the July 16 announcement that the RNC would downsize and significantly limit attendance of the week’s events, Curry said he expects the economic impact on Jacksonville to be less than what initially was expected.

The economic impact, which the RNC Host Committee said would be around $100 million, was derived from prior conventions, Curry said.

“It’s clear there wouldn’t be that kind of economic activity with a scaleback,” he said. “It’s also clear businesses would experience success because of this, hotel rooms would fill up, so there would be positive economic impact on the local economy and on local businesses.”

COVID-19 update

After speaking with area hospital leaders, Curry said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the state of the coronavirus in Duval County. There were 229 new cases July 21, and an overall positivity rate of 10.4%. 

There are 531 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the county and 118 in intensive care units. 

“The recent surge seems to be stabilizing, it’s even trending downward in some facilities,” he said. “While this is a positive sign, we should remain vigilant, cautious and take the responsible actions to slow the spread of this disease.”

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