Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry called a lawsuit labeling the Republican National Convention a public health nuisance “communication via paper.”
During a virtual news conference July 10, Curry criticized plaintiffs in the case for not contacting him directly with their concerns about mass COVID-19 spread during the RNC before filing the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs include Downtown business owners, residents and clergy,
“That lawsuit and letters I’ve received over the last week, there are people associated with a number of these things that I know personally. Not a single one of them has picked up the phone to have a conversation. It’s communication via paper,” Curry said. “We take it seriously, though. We’re going to work with people.”
Seven people were listed as plaintiff is the lawsuit filed July 8 asking Florida’s 4th Judicial Circuit Court to declare the RNC a “nuisance.” It asks that planners be required to reduce the crowd size and implement strict COVID-19 safety protocols at the planned event venue, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
The lawsuit names the city of Jacksonville, the Republican National Committee, Donald Trump’s Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena operator ASM Global Parent Inc. as defendants.
The mayor said July 10 the city’s position has not changed. The city maintains it is premature to limit or cancel the Aug. 24-27 convention based on rising COVID-19 cases.
Curry pointed to the city of Houston, where Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, waited until one week before the state Republican Party’s July 16-18 Convention to cancel a contract to hold the event in the city.
However, according to a report by CNN.com, a county court judge denied the Texas GOP’s request to block the city from restricting the convention on the grounds of limiting coronavirus risk.
The Florida Department of Health reported July 10 that Florida recorded 11,385 new statewide cases in a 24-hour period, the highest one-day increase in the past two weeks.
The state’s daily percentage of positive tests decreased to 12.7% on July 9 from 18.2% on July 8.
In Duval County, 738 new positive cases were recorded July 9, also a two-week single-day high, according to state health data.
Curry acknowledged that a 50% capacity restriction on businesses and venues under Gov. Ron DeSantis phase 2 reopening executive order would prohibit the 12,000- to 15,000-person crowd expected in the arena.
“We are monitoring the situation, so these daily questions about what’s going to happen, the answer remains the same. We’re monitoring the situation. We’re going to act in the best interest of public health when we get to it,” Curry said.
“If we have widespread community spread, and ICUs are full and hospitals can’t handle it, obviously, we’d begin to head that way. In consultation with health care experts, we’d take action at that time,” he said.
Curry Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury confirmed July 10 that the Republican National Committee and convention planners are considering moving RNC activities from the arena to an outdoor facility to ease concerns of COVID-19 transmission.
Republican Party officials are looking at 121 Financial Ballpark and TIAA Bank Field as alternatives sites, first reported July 9 by The Washington Post.
DeSantis said in a July 9 news conference in Jacksonville that the Daily’s Place amphitheater also was under consideration.
Elsbury said all city-owned facilities in the Downtown Sports and Entertainment District have been under consideration since the Jacksonville 2020 Host Committee announced June 11 that most RNC events would move from Charlotte, North Carolina.
“All of those facilities … were flagged by the using agency from the beginning as possible sites where they would host events (for the convention),” Elsbury said. “So, that’s not new. The idea of moving it from the (arena) is, obviously, one that they’re considering. But I think they’ve been considering a number of outdoor events anyway.”
Republican National Committee and previous statements from Duval County GOP officials mentioned only the indoor arena as the convention “celebration” site in promotional material.
Elsbury said the city has not been part of the negotiations between the RNC and ASM Global, the city’s contracted venue management company.
DeSantis and RNC
Curry told reporters he didn’t “believe there’s any truth” to a July 9 article by The New York Times that cites unnamed sources who said DeSantis is trying to interfere with the Jacksonville host committee’s fundraising efforts.
According to the Times, DeSantis “directed his top fund-raiser, Heather Baker, to tell donors not to give to the convention because of a personal dispute between the governor and Susie Wiles, his former campaign manager who is serving as an informal adviser to the convention planners, according to multiple people familiar with his actions.”
Curry, who co-chairs the committee, responded to a question from Florida Politics reporter A.G. Gancarski about the source for the story possibly being from the mayor’s office.
“No. I can’t imagine the source would be around my office,” Curry said.
DeSantis and Curry have had private discussions about the convention, Curry said July 10, but the mayor said the Times article was the first he’d heard of the allegations that DeSantis was trying to undermine RNC fundraising.
Curry has helped the nonprofit 501(3)(c) committee with soliciting private donations, he said. The host committee has not released a fundraising target, but Charlotte organizers planned to raise $70 million for the convention before the “celebration” elements were moved to Jacksonville, reported The Charlotte Observer.
“I basically make a handful of phone calls and ask for private fundraising dollars. So it’s not a huge investment of time,” Curry said.