The Bolles Bugle

The Bolles Bugle

The Bolles Bugle

Q & A with Mayor Deegan


How were you able to bridge the partisan gap in your election? And what allowed you to garner that support from Duval County?

The biggest thing for me is that I spoke out against fear and division. I think that’s what we’ve seen over and over again, used weaponized against our own population in politics. So, what I brought to the race was saying “look, I’m not going to run any negative ads. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about negative stuff, I’m going to tell you what I want to do.” And I want to unify this community because there’s so many needs we have. There’s really no reason for us to be pigeonholing ourselves into Democrats, Republicans and Independents, especially in local government, because all of us should be gearing our focus toward what we can do to get things done for this community. We have affordable housing issues, we have issues with homelessness, we have issues with people not being able to afford their rent, we have myriad issues in this community that we all should want to solve. So I tried very hard to steer away from party politics and all that, because I think that’s where people can pigeonhole themselves into a place where they feel like they have to say certain things or do certain things. And to me, the job of a mayor is to get things done for your community. And so my goal has been to build relationships and to try to do the next right thing, whatever that may be. And so that’s not always popular. But regardless, I’ll always do what I think is best to move the community forward. 


What challenges do you face as a liberal mayor in a swing/purple state? 

I would really call myself more of a pragmatic mayor. I think socially, certainly, I lean more toward liberal but but I think fiscally, I just lean toward reasonable. I want to do what’s best for the community. So it’s really not a hard place for me. I spent most of my life or most of my voting life with a non-partisan mindset, because I was a journalist. So I was always trying to look through the eyes of everybody. To me, it’s really all about seeing the person that’s sitting across the table from you. 

Now, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have to deal with politics. I think I’m having to deal with that right now on this issue with the monuments. Some members of the city council are trying to continue to perpetuate this narrative against the General Counsel. They didn’t have any sort of problem with the process when the mayor previous to me did the same thing that I did. But now they do. And I think that’s because politics gets in the way. So, my biggest challenge is trying to continue to build relationships with the knowledge that people are going to say things just for political reasons. Even if they don’t really feel those things, they’re going to say them, because they feel like it’s important for their political future. 


What led to your decision to remove the Confederate statue a few weeks ago?

There was a lot that went into my decision. When I brought in the new General Counsel, I simply asked him, “Listen, I’m thinking about doing this. I’m raising private funds. I need to know can I do this with private funds? Do I have the executive authority to take down these monuments by myself?” Because I had gone to the city council, I’d asked them repeatedly if they wanted to vote on this issue. They did not. And so I made it very clear that I was looking at every option that I had that way. So I don’t think it was any surprise to anybody what I did, but I think it has become very political since then. I think it’s been long enough that those Jim Crow era statues that were put up simply to intimidate black people continue to be in the face of people in a largely black community. I think that’s wrong. And I think it flies in the face of efforts to unify this city. There is nothing about slavery that’s ever going to be unifying. I’m not trying to vilify anyone’s ancestors. That’s not what this is about. As I said during the MLK service, when we know better, we should do better by and for each other. If we don’t, then I don’t know what to tell people. We have to recognize each other’s humanity if we’re going to move forward in this community and in this country, and anyone that’s not willing to do that, to me, is not putting community first.


What are your thoughts on the bill that proposes punishing lawmakers and possibly removing them from office if they vote to remove Confederate statues?

There’s a portion of that bill that calls for it to be retroactive and every constitutional lawyer that I’ve spoken to has said that that’s unconstitutional. You can’t go back and retroactively say, “no, you can’t do that.” So it’s not something that overly concerns me beyond the current political climate. But, I think it’s very unfortunate that we are still in a time in this state where we are trying to litigate the Civil War. We have so many issues in the state, so many people are drowning in insurance costs and in rent costs. There are so many issues that we need to be dealing with as a community and a state. To be focused in on this ridiculous notion that we need to somehow have a statue or venerate white supremacy because it was our history is, I’m sure, very insulting to our black community, but really just not a way toward unity. And I hope that they realize it’s a fool’s errand and they back off of it. But, it’s one of those culture war issues that seems to get people fired up. 


What are your thoughts on the proposal to lower the minimum age from 21 to 18 to buy rifles – a proposal that would undo the measures taken after the Parkland shooting?

Obviously, I think it’s a terrible idea. I think we should be creating more hurdles for people to go through at least to make sure that they’re qualified, that they know how to use a gun, that they know how to store a gun, all those things that are important for gun ownership. I think we should be creating scenarios where we know people aren’t going to be dangerous with a gun or at least have a better chance of it. And not moving backwards. I don’t know why we would go back and undo a law after something like Parkland. But we seem to have very short memories. And I think it only makes it easier for another Parkland to happen. So, I don’t agree with that. I suspect with the current iteration of lawmakers that we have in Tallahassee, it will probably pass, but I think it’s a bad idea.


Do you have any plans for expanding public transportation?

The Skyway, as it stands now, is basically being revamped to an autonomous vehicle program. So, it’s basically going to come to the ground is what’s going to happen, and we’re going to have autonomous vehicles that will be used around certain portions of Jacksonville, and that we can expand that program. I think in our future, I’d love to see us bring the Bright Line here, which is a train line that would come from South Florida, all the way through Jacksonville and perhaps beyond. We have some development we have to do. In the meantime, I think the Emerald Trail is going to be a wonderful conductor for different types of transportation. I think that’s going to be an incredibly important driver of economic development in our community, and also provide people with a way to move which I think is really important. …I just got back from Washington DC, where I met with Secretary Buttigieg, about our transportation issues here, and told him we would be applying for a raise grant, which would help us with various transportation projects around Jacksonville and transportation-adjacent projects, realigning Arlington expressway making sure that we’re daylighting the Huggins Creek, which would help us with flooding. It’s going to be important for us to do everything we can, with all the federal money that is out there right now, which is our tax dollars. We want to go and bring as many of those back to Jacksonville as we can.


Are there any updates on the Jaguars stadium negotiations?

I really don’t have any update, but I can tell you that they [the Jaguars]  are going just fine. It’s just a process. We’re in the process of trying to evaluate where all the costs are. And then trying to divide up who should pay for what, there’s a lot that goes into that. But I can tell you that both of us are very focused on getting to yes in this negotiation. I think for the city, it is very important to have a long term lease deal so that we know the Jaguars are going to be here for a long time. For the Jaguars it is very important to have certain amenities in that stadium. My main focus is trying to determine how much we can do in terms of our community benefit package that goes along with that. That’s become sort of a standard part of the stadium deals. And so I want our surrounding underserved communities like out east to really benefit from this deal on a regular yearly basis. And so I think that’s where I’m most excited to do my part in this agreement. But we have some wonderful negotiators. And I think we’re hoping to get to some sort of framework of an agreement by early spring. 


About the Contributor
Amber Bansal
Amber Bansal, Co-Editor-In-Chief
Amber Bansal is a senior and this year's Co-Editor-In-Chief. Amber loves all things Bollywood and is drawn to study politics in the future and wishes to travel the world. She hopes to create a productive environment and use her four years of Bugle experience to help others especially if you bribe her with chocolate.