Jacksonville City Council Moves Relief Funds, Slams Media In Dead Of Night – Florida Politics

American Rescue Plan funds go to small businesses picked by Council members.

The Jacksonville City Council on Tuesday night voted to slot American Rescue Plan funds to various businesses handpicked by Council members, and offered some sharp critique of local media for tough coverage as the clock ran well into the 11 PM hour.

$4,600,000 in funding was doled out by the 18 Council members on a one-cycle basis as local newscasts wound down, over the objections of some who wanted to slow the process down.

“Pump the brakes a bit,” advised Council member Matt Carlucci. “I’d like to see the Council have a little more time. Let’s put a little more sunshine on it. In fact, let’s put a lot of sunshine on it.”

Carlucci noted the “unusual” situation of a $4.6 million slush fund of federal money with little apparent oversight as something that may require more public airing.

“The optics would be bad if we passed this as an emergency tonight,” cautioned Carlucci, who ultimately was one of just two no votes (the other was Republican Rory Diamond).

But it wasn’t a night for optical concerns, but expediency, as the vote passed just shy of the midnight hour, with live quotes throughout the debate.

CM LeAnna Cumber, also running for Mayor in 2023, backed the emergency. She defended funds going to the Women’s Center of Jacksonville and Lutheran Social Services, and said the budget offered precedent for this so-called “direct contracting” with non-profits.

“We direct contract all the time,” Cumber said.

Cumber noted that there was much less “outcry” in other appropriations of federal windfalls of recent vintage, such as when the City Council appropriated $40 million in relief checks.

“There is a double standard,” Cumber said. “Why is there this outcry now?”

“The news media’s out there trying to make things look very nefarious,” added Danny Becton, grousing about coverage of money going to organizations associated with a donor.

Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman lamented that “it’s damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

“It’s always one-sided,” groused Pittman, who is in charge of the non-profit Clara White Mission. “A one sided story.”

Councilman Michael Boylan, who slotted money to go to the Havana Publishing Company, defended the allocation

“They provide a free paper to everyone in the district,” Boylan said.

Council President Sam Newby spoke in favor of the emergency and against “double standards.”

“I looked at that list. I am proud,” Newby said.

Republican Council member Randy DeFoor was also emphatic in support of moving the bill: “Who knows our constituents better than we do?”

DeFoor routed funds to the Downtown Jacksonville Ecumenical Society and, like Carlucci, the Jacksonville Historical Society.

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