Mayor Brown, the Judge and the SAO
Jacksonville City Hall Examiner
Another round of discussion is set for later this week between Duval Chief Judge Donald Moran, State Attorney Angela Corey and Jacksonville Chief Financial Officer Ronnie Belton and other administration officials.
Of major concern by members of the court house community is whether millions of dollars in audiovisual equipment will be paid for by the city and if the State Attorney’s office can get a bridge built between the courthouse and the State Attorney’s new office which will be located directly behind the new courthouse.
In one of the first acts taken by the Finance Chief Belton, the much touted “bridge” was line-itemed out of the construction budget. Corey’s office contends that the bridge is a necessary safety item for her attorneys who must travel to and from the courthouse on a daily basis.
The bridge, however, was never in the original courthouse plans and adds an additional $1 million dollars to construction costs which already exceed the original voter approved cap times three to the tune of $350 million.
Quoted in an article from the Florida Times Union, "If you're not familiar with the court system, as some in the administration are not, it's easy to say you don't need this or that," said Judge Moran. Also indicating that the new Mayoral administration may not be clear on its responsibilities, State Attorney Angel Corey indicated in the article that "I hope they understand their statutory duties to us…"
Exactly what those responsibilities are could be a matter of contention. The Alvin Brown administration is the second administration in more than 20 years not to have a cozy relationship with the legal side of Jacksonville’s government. Since 1969, Duval County voters have elected one former Judge for an eight year term (Hans Tanzler), one former State Attorney(Ed Austin) for a 4 year term, followed by another former assistant State Attorney (John Delaney) for an eight year term.
It was under Delaney’s administration that the courthouse construction was first proposed, in the 1990s under the Better Jacksonville Plan for a mere $119 million. Neither the bridge and nor extra audio visual equipment were on the price tag.
Inflation in construction costs, material, and manpower over the last decade sent the project well beyond voter expectations.
The outcome of this meeting could be one of the first major tests of the Brown administration’s ability to stand up for its cost cutting and cost control efforts in the face of two powerful arms of government.