Jessica Palombo at Jax Today put together a candidate survey for those running for Jacksonville City Council seats in the local election on March 21. You can find your own sample ballot on the Duval Elections site to see who is running in your district, or find your City Council District on the city’s website.
One of the questions on the survey was:
What, if anything, should Council do to help Duval County adapt to rising seas, increased heat and flooding caused by climate change?
We are sharing the candidates’ responses to that question here for you. Included are all candidates who responded to Jax Today’s survey as of 2/28/23.
At-large Group 1
Eric Parker, LPF
Investing in the infrastructure and drainage all around Jacksonville will help. These are all unmet needs from consolidation. We need to stop incentivising overdevelopment in lowlying and flood-prone areas of Jacksonville and we need to hold developers accountable when they build in these areas causing the areas around them to flood. We also need to end special exemptions and waivers for hand selected developers and apply the same tax breaks and grants to everyone instead of a select few.
At-large Group 2
Joshua Hicks, DEM
I believe climate change is real and represents a real threat to our community. First and foremost, we must support and encourage our Chief Resilience Officer and allow her to do her job – by providing the resources she needs in her department. I’ll sign on to a renewable energy pledge because we must get serious about doing our part to reduce the impacts of climate change. That said, rising sea levels and more extreme weather is coming. Neighborhoods across the city flood regularly, even from everyday rainstorms, because the city is decades behind in upgrading our stormwater runoff and drainage systems and bulkhead replacement along the river. We need to fast track these projects. We also need to offer more support in the neglected neighborhoods impacted by flooding, for example residents on Ken Knight Drive. While the city has done a good job of preparing for heat emergencies, there is much more we must do to address the fact that some parts of the city can be as much as 10-15 degrees warmer than other areas on hot summer days. Planting more tree cover, turning unused parking lots into parks, and encouraging more sustainable building practices (for both resiliency and energy efficiency) are all solutions we can bring to the table. Inaction is simply not an option anymore in a Southern city that is surrounded by water. I’ll roll my sleeves up and get results for our community. And I will always be committed to protecting the quality of our air, water, and native ecosystems.
At-large Group 5
Reginald Blount, REP
Overbuilding is a problem. Developers should be subject to explaining how they plan create proper drainage and road expansion to develop communities, shopping areas, and other projects in areas of the city. Most believe it’s the city’s responsibility solely to improve road conditions. (I do agree), however, builders should be required to improve on roads and drainage depending on the size of development.
Charles Garrison, DEM
As a member of the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board, I have seen firsthand the effects of climate change on our city and I understand the urgency of the issue. Council should focus on a long term and holistic approach. This includes investing in green and gray infrastructure to help mitigate the effects of severe weather, supporting initiatives that promote sustainability, and working with state and federal partners to secure funding for resiliency projects. I’m committed to working with my future fellow Council members, city staff, and the community to find effective solutions to this pressing issue and ensure that Jacksonville remains a safe and resilient place for generations to come.
Jack Meeks, NPA
We need to do the following:
- Actively support our Chief Resiliency Officer.
- Further educate our citizens regarding these issues.
- Aggressively pursue grants for environmental remediation and protection.
- Maintain and perhaps enhance funding for restoration of Hogan’s Creek and McCoys Creek.
- Implement recommendations in the “An Assessment of Urban Tree Canopy in the City of Jacksonville, Florida” (report dated October 2017).
- Protect and enhance our wetlands.
- Restore our dunes to pre-Hurricane Ian levels.
Chris Miller, REP
I applaud Jacksonville in that it has smartly moved forward by adopting an Adaptation Action Area designation based on a projected two-foot rise in sea level by 2060. They also have a working group that is reviewing current city programs and policies to recommend needed adjustments. And last year, the city hired a full-time Chief Resilience Officer. The City Council should press forward with their Special Committee On Resiliency efforts to ensure they secure the necessary State and Federal funding for comprehensive studies and proactive measures to build resiliency throughout Jacksonville, starting with those areas that experience repetitive flooding and are the most vulnerable.
Jerry “Tub” Rorabaugh, LPF
Government should be cautious about entering into policies and stands concerning climate change, as there is a tendency to remove personal freedoms over this issue.
Council District 1
Ken Amaro, REP
The city is moving in the right direction. It has created a resiliency office to address the concerns and prepare for the future. My knowledge is limited on the subject matter, but it is my intent to learn more in order to address it more efficiently.
Alton McGriff Jr., DEM
I would consult an expert to determine what’s needed for preparation.
Council District 2
Jennifer Casey, REP
Storm resiliency is a top priority! We have thousands of miles of shorelines along the ocean, the river, and wetlands. We must implement the recommendations of the 2020-2021 Special Committee on Resiliency, which detailed the impacts of coastal and river flooding, sea level rise, and high-intensity storm events. We have relevant policy recommendations that are awaiting action from the City Council. My experience serving as Chair of the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District and on other boards that addressed land management and natural resources prepared me to lead efforts to improve our city’s resiliency and reduce our vulnerabilities.
Mike Gay, REP
Not let development take place in our natural preserves, like Black Hammock Island and Pumpkin Hill, which act as a natural buffer to the inland.
Council District 3
Natalie Alden, REP
Work with the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) on their five-year plans and long-range transportation plan to ensure roadway and intermodal projects are being completed and reevaluate for priority infrastructure needs (that include resilient infrastructure that can withstand inland stormwater, river flooding, and storm surge).
Council District 5
Joe Carlucci, REP
City Council and the Mayor’s office hired a Chief Resilience Officer and she is doing a great job at not only taking inventory of our greatest needs but also looking to the future of the growth we are having in the city and making sure we build and develop our parcels accordingly.
Morgan Roberts, REP
Resilience is a critical issue in both new development and maintaining existing neighborhoods. Since I am not an expert in this field, I was excited to meet with Jacksonville’s Resilience officer, Anne Coglianese and was impressed with her knowledge, analytical approach, and professionalism. Her own words are really the best description of what’s needed, so I encourage readers to check out the Jax Today coverage. It is important that future policy recommendations are data driven with measurable benchmarks to ensure success. This office will be a great resource for city councils of the future.
Council District 6
Tom Harris, REP
Anne Coliagnese leads the development and implementation of resilience initiatives to ensure Jacksonville can adapt and thrive in the face of acute shocks and chronic stresses brought on by climate change. I look forward to actionable recommendations from that office that the council can consider.
Council District 7
Parrish King, NPA
Jacksonville basically sits at sea level, completely immersed in waterways. Upgrading the infrastructure, more advanced flood drain engineering, is an ongoing necessity for the council and I will see that we are continually addressing that. The free market will show us how to build in the future. I’m personally engineering my structures to withstand first-level flooding, and most responsible builders are doing the same. I’m open to updating building codes to adapt. I believe we are further out from major sea level rises then anticipated. And there are some large scale solutions for that. We have the ability to dredge ocean floors with massive machines to keep sea level current, then doing a number of things with the dredged materials. Humans are adaptable.
Jimmy Peluso, DEM
Luckily the City has hired a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) and has appropriated $10M in this FY. As she begins meeting with members of the public this year to see what a long term plan might look like to address our needs, I plan to be a strong supporter of funding. As for heat, we have over $20M in our tree mitigation fund that could be used to plant trees across the City to reduce rising temperatures on our streets. We have the means to reduce the effects of climate change in Jacksonville, we just need leaders who care to do so.
John Phillips, DEM
These are quite the possibly the biggest challenges to our future. Our new resiliency officer is underutilized and not given the resources she needs. We have to empower her and need to focus on all of the issues related to it. We have to long range plan and budget these issues. When we can’t even get monuments down or be on the same page about hate speech, something like this is going to take a vigilant voice.
Kim Pryor, DEM
Jacksonville has recently hired a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) who is currently working to develop a comprehensive strategy to assist us in preparing for and adapting to climate change issues and flooding. At this point, I would recommend that we continue to support this initiative.
Council District 8
Charles “Scooter” Barr, REP
I don’t believe there is anything the City Council can do with this issue. They should gather facts on the issues and discuss once accomplished.
Tameka Gaines Holly, DEM
Our city is very broad and complex and our resiliency challenges continue to expand, including rising seas, increased heat, and flooding. When you add these issues to our infrastructure problems such as poor drainage, water management, septic tanks, aging bridges and roadways, and much more, we then greatly compound the issue. I would continue to support the work of the city’s Resiliency Officer and work with groups like the Riverkeeper, UNF, JU, and other task forces to assess the issue and address it. Although the original Better Jacksonville Plan (BJP) and BJPII sought to address our greatest infrastructure needs, our growing city and environmental issues continue to compound our infrastructure challenges. Under the current funding mechanisms, I would advocate that we prioritize projects that directly contribute to the quality of life of our residents. Our resiliency and infrastructure is an important issue in our community and should be managed as such. As a council member, I would recommend we regularly monitor our these areas and add additional funding, staffing, and partnerships.
Ronald Tracy Robison Jr., LPF
To adapt to rising seas, increased heat, and flooding in Jacksonville is to bring a more localized solution to refine our infrastructure because the City Council has ignored this issue for a very long time. For example, in the Oceanway area, specifically in Blue Whale Way & Moby Dick Drive, during Hurricane Ian were submerged in 12 inches of water because of the culverts being dammed and blocked. The area isn’t a flood zone but because of gross neglect became victims of flooding. Now they suffer the same flood zone prices that Broward Road (which is a true flood zone) suffer from because now they’re seen as a financial liability.
As Councilman my plan is to not levy new taxes for refinement initiatives. What I could do is bring a local culvert replacement company for consultation, get a quote to fix the culverts, then consult with the community to set a payment plan, for they will be the immediate beneficiaries. No tax dollars will be necessary because they will be paying for their service directly in order to guarantee the job will get done ASAP.
Council District 9
Tyrona Clark-Murray, DEM (Current Council member)
The Council could be proactive in its response to climate change. We could prohibit the construction of homes in low-lying areas through zoning that preserves the land rather than developing it. We could allocate resilience funds to areas such as Cedar Creek and Ken Knight Drive for the construction of bulkheads to protect property. Also, we could invest in dredging rivers, such as the Ribault River. Furthermore, we could strengthen building codes for homes constructed on the beach or within a certain radius of the ocean or wetlands. Lastly, we could create a fund that allows the immediate disbursement of funds to homeowners after a disaster. One of the most difficult times for Floridians is waiting for insurance companies to survey property and supply funding for repairs or rebuilding.
Celestine Mills, DEM
The City Council should work collaboratively with climate agencies and the federal government to propel equitable and proactive solutions that address the cause and effect of climate change through advocacy, education, and community involvement.
TaNita Noisette-Woods, DEM
The Earth belongs to God, adapt through research and education
Kamren Stowers, DEM
The Council should take proactive measures to help Duval County adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as rising seas, increased heat, and flooding. This can include updating building codes and zoning regulations to account for increased flooding, investing in green infrastructure and natural coastal defenses, and promoting sustainable land use practices. Additionally, the Council should also consider educating the public about the risks associated with climate change and encouraging individual actions to reduce carbon emissions and increase resilience.
Council District 10
Vanessa Cullins Hopkins, DEM
Plans for infrastructure maintenance, reconstruction such as bulkhead reinforcements, along with disaster prevention and preparedness plans, need regular updating. This means that data collection and analysis must occur regularly and be used to make plan alterations. With leadership from JEA, along City government and federal and state funding, our reliance on fossil fuels for electricity and transportation must be significantly reduced, then eliminated. Development and implementation of such plans should take into account studies and recommendations by civil engineers, city planners, and academicians who have expertise specific to preventing or combatting rising seas, and increased heat and flooding caused by climate change. Clearly, Duval County needs a comprehensive plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. We need a plan for our community only to use clean, renewable energy sources.
Kim Stephens Perry, DEM
City Council should stop approving development projects in areas where it is obvious flooding will occur. The city should focus on in-fill development.
Ju’Coby Pittman, DEM (Current Council member)
The City Council members, the Mayor’s Office and environmental stakeholders should support and develop legislation with dedicated funding to prepare for rising seas, increased heat, and flooding caused by climate change. As a community, we are responsible for planning, protecting, and leading the charge of resilience to ensure that we are prepared. I am excited about the new Resiliency Office body of work, the data, assessments, and recommendations relevant to our future in Duval County.
Council District 11
Norman Brewer, REP
THE CITY COUNCIL WILL NOT BE ABLE TO STOP NATURE OR GOD, PERIOD. THAT SAID, WE CAN DEFINITELY IMPROVE FLOODING BY ACTUALLY WORKING ON AREAS THAT HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED FOR YEARS THROUGHOUT THE CITY. I’VE NEVER UNDERSTOOD WHY NO ONE HASN’T LOOKED AT RAISING THE WALLS ALONG THE RIVER DOWNTOWN TO HELP, IF APPLICABLE.
Ramon Day, DEM
By utilizing existing infrastructure, we can have higher-density development with a minimal marginal cost of development. This development will pull pressure off of our riverfront and other environmentally sensitive areas. This is an effective and efficient way to address our resiliency issues. We can achieve this through land use policy without massive public works spending.
Council District 12
Tammyette Thomas, DEM
The Council should help Duval County adapt to rising seas, increased heat and flooding caused by climate change is to reduce carbon emissions.
Council District 14
John Draper, REP
Continue to use natural gas as a primary fuel for generating electricity. Solar can be used as supplemental power. I do not support large-scale windmill projects.