The Cawton Report: Doyle Carter calls it a career at City Council
Jacksonville City Council member Doyle Carter sat through his last meeting as a member of the city’s legislative body Wednesday morning as he prepares to re-enter private life.
Although his term ran through July 2019, Carter opted to step down in June to join the race to become Duval County’s next Tax Collector.
He said Tuesday he has no regrets about entering the race.
“God plans these things out and it’s out of my control,” said Carter who said he isn’t sure if he’s going to run for another elected position.
Carter said he has not decided if he will back either of the candidates — Jim Overton or Mia Jones — for tax collector in the Nov. 6 runoff election.
He first was elected to represent District 12 in West Jacksonville, including Cecil Commerce Center, in 1999 and served one term through 2003.
Carter’s next stint on council began in 2011 after Daniel Davis left for the state House of Representatives.
Carter said Tuesday a lot has changed in his district in the past 18 years.
“A big part of my agenda was public safety,” said Carter, who praised the mayor’s budget priority to hire more police officers.
“On the recreation side of it, we’ve done a lot for parks in the district,” he said.
Carter acknowledged problems exist in West Jacksonville with an opioid epidemic and violent crime rates.
He also said he is proud of the area’s economic development, including at Cecil Commerce Center, a former naval air station that closed during base realignment.
“We’ve had a great opportunity with Cecil,” he said. “When we closed in ’99, everyone thought it wasn’t going to work.”
The city established the 17,000-acre Cecil Commerce Center to become a commercial and industrial hub. The properties were conveyed to the city and Jacksonville Aviation Authority from 1999 to 2002.
“The other part is the airport side of Cecil,” said Carter. “As soon as we build a hangar, they lease it up.”
Carter said the district has benefited with companies like Amazon.com Inc. and FedEx Corp. opening distribution centers.
“It’s been neat to be part of, and I think there’s more to come,” he said.
Carter’s successor is Republican Randy White, a former high-ranking Jacksonville Fire Department official and union president.
White was sworn in Wednesday morning during a ceremony at City Hall.
He won the seat by default since he was the only person to qualify for the special election to replace Carter. White planned to pursue the office in 2019, filing in November to run.
He’ll serve the rest of Carter’s term through June 30.
White was an assistant fire chief, one of two appointed positions created after former Mayor John Peyton was elected in 2003. During that time, he was the second-in-command under former Fire Chief Rick Barrett and then Dan Kleman.
Like Carter, White said public safety is his top priority along with continued growth at Cecil Commerce Center.
“The economic development opportunities we’ve got at Cecil I think is the golden nugget for Jacksonville,” said White.
“I also want to help the small guys who need help,” he said. “It’s tough because you almost need to know someone just to get something done, even if it’s a ditch being cleaned out, and I want to be that guy.”
Budget talks end; More money for Kids Hope Alliance
The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee completed its annual review of Mayor Lenny Curry’s latest city budget, shifting 14 pieces of legislation to all 19 members of the legislative body in September.
The standing committee offered little change to Curry’s fourth budget, which includes a $161 million capital improvement program and a $1.3 billion general fund.
Altogether, the cost to operate the city during the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, is about $2.6 billion.
Curry’s general fund budget, which accounts for most city departments, employee costs, and debt management funds, increased by 3.3 percent, or about $39 million, year-over-year.
On Thursday, the Finance Committee agreed to allocate $877,000 of additional spending, called enhancements, including $300,000 in one-time funding for a violence prevention program for the Kids Hope Alliance.
The city agency, formed after Curry combined the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission, will use the funds to issue “micro grants” to small agencies working on youth crime prevention and intervention programs.
Alliance CEO Joe Peppers said Wednesday the initial funding is vital, but real change occurs when the programs can continue year after year.
“This is a good step, but we’re also looking at sustainability because if it’s just a flash in the pan, that’s going to be an issue,” Peppers said.
“I think it’s going to be super challenging but that’s why I’m here.”
The alliance does not have a dedicated funding source other than what council members allocate during annual budget talks. This year, it has roughly $41 million in funding and grants to operate over the next 12 months.
Peppers said the alliance needs to show city leaders that it’s a good steward of taxpayer money before pushing for more.
“We want to demonstrate that we have the talent and the wherewithal to get the job done,” said Peppers.
“So, when that conversation comes up for more funding, we’ll show that we’re a proven organization that can do what we’re here to do,” he said.
Peppers said his staff also is working to become more familiar with the city’s business leaders, who he hopes will become more involved in prevention efforts.
“We’re actually looking for corporate partners to invest in these initiatives,” said alliance Chief Strategy Officer Jennifer Blaylock.
“We know that companies want to invest in economic development in our communities, so we think they’ll also want to invest in our youth.”
Council members are expected to approve the budget legislation Sept. 25, giving Curry five days to sign, veto or allow the legislation to take effect without his signature.