2023 Candidate Survey

2023 Jacksonville Mayoral Candidate Survey

The Duval County local elections are right around the corner, and it is important that Jacksonville elects a mayor who is committed to protecting and restoring our St. Johns River and addressing the causes and impacts of climate change.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER does not endorse candidates. However, we have asked Jacksonville Mayoral candidates to complete a survey to determine their opinions and positions regarding some of the most critical issues facing the St. Johns River and its tributaries.

Below are the survey responses we have received from the candidates, so far. We will update this page as we receive more responses.

Last updated 3/28/2023 to reflect candidates running in the General Election on May 16

Daniel Davis - No Response
Donna Deegan

What do you consider to be the most significant threats to the health of the St. Johns River? How will you address these problems, if elected?

Pollution and Fecal Contamination

Water polluted with fertilizers and chemicals have become a major problem to the health of the river. The fertilizers have their own ramifications as they feed all kinds of algaes out of their natural proportions and often turn them into their own kind of problem for the river, but we have seen the levels of fecal coliforms explode as they are also nourished by the nutrient rich runoff. Fecal matter seeps directly into the St. Johns River as a result of collapsing and neglected septic tanks, following decades of inaction from a governmental point of view. As Mayor, we will look seriously to do our part here in Duval County to stop contributing to this preventable problem, including further investment to speed up septic tank removal.

Saltwater Encroachment

Over the past decade and a half, we have all witnessed the significant damage that seawater, with its higher salt content, has been doing as it reaches back through the St. Johns River. It’s a thorny issue that is not going to decrease as sea levels continue to slowly rise, and as Mayor I would urge the formation of studies to address it long term and then do everything possible to get the ball rolling on those solutions.

Water Drainage for Human Use Further Downstream

In this capacity, the Mayor can be an advocate and a partner with the various governments with domain over the St. Johns River to effectively manage the resource instead of just pillaging it.

As Mayor, what would you do to reduce the loss of wetlands in Duval County to protect the ecological services they provide, like flood control and water quality protection?

In order to create a more sustainable community in Jacksonville, it is imperative that we prioritize climate resilience in our decision-making processes. Our city is a First Line of Impact to the effects of climate change.

We will be subject to the staggering costs of extreme heat, sea level rise, coastal erosion, and frequent hurricanes and storm surges. Our only defense is the one that Nature provided in the first place: marshlands, wetlands and runoff systems that have dealt with wind, water and heat for the past few thousands of years.

We would address this primarily by rezoning and conserving these areas as more than just parklands, but as necessary natural infrastructure for the resilience and survival of our real estate and city.

By taking these steps, we can ensure a more secure and sustainable future for generations to come while reducing our vulnerability to the negative effects of climate change.

As Mayor, what steps would you take to ensure that Jacksonville is reducing nutrient loading to the river to fulfill our regulatory obligations?

The most obvious solution is to heavily regulate the use of such materials in Duval County, which also has the distinction of being one of the most phosphate rich areas of the United States, and therefore a major source to this day of phosphates, phosphorus and other minerals.

So we will have to hold ourselves to a higher standard than other locations simply because of the natural runoff that will occur with even slightly higher water levels.

This is a complex issue, one in which we welcome guidance and education from St. Johns Riverkeeper and other authorities.

What will you do to address failing septic tanks and to ensure that the City can fulfill its BMAP obligations for the tributaries?

The Deegan Administration will work to utilize the Federal resources and funding available for exactly this kind of investment. We will treat it as seriously as a bomb squad or a hazardous material team might treat explosive and dangerous materials, because ultimately, that’s what this is. It is a biological bomb waiting to poison our rivers, sicken our people and devastate our environment. We can’t afford to play around with these dangerous problems any longer. It’s time to confront them head on and do something that may end up saving our own children and grandchildren.

Do you think Duval County should allow permits for new septic tanks, or require the use of performance-based treatment systems?

No. Septic tanks should have been removed a long time ago and under my administration, we will secure the funds to make sure this happens as quickly as possible.

As mayor, what tools and strategies would you implement and prioritize to more effectively treat and manage stormwater?

Oftentimes the best place to start something is at home. We would require that all city properties and new construction adhere to best practices, and we would encourage the inclusion of berms and bioswales as mandatory elements of design in our city building and design codes and guidelines. The City should be setting the example, and it is one of the largest landowners in the County. Simply by cleaning up our own properties and practices, we could go a long way to righting the problem, and setting an example for the kinds of code changes that will be necessary to help save our real estate and land.

As Mayor, will you prioritize the work of the Chief Resilience Officer and support the implementation of the impending Resilient Jacksonville Strategy? If so, how?

Yes. The Deegan Administration aims to think ahead and provide the solid groundwork for the next fifty years. Even the most optimistic forecasts regarding climate show that we will have significantly more challenging natural conditions by then. The work of the CRO is a good starting point, but I look forward to making progress and even more profound preparations for our collective future as a city. It has to start somewhere, and we are already behind.

What would you do to ensure that the City of Jacksonville is taking steps to reduce its carbon and greenhouse gas emissions?

We would start by converting over all city motor vehicles to an all electric fleet. Require that all city construction include solar power in each new facility, provide incentives for real estate developers to build for as carbon free a lifestyle as possible and advocate publicly for the conversion of JEA power products to come from renewable, carbon free sources. (such as a much more rapid and easy rollout to solar and wind, for example.)

As Mayor, what would you do to prioritize or ensure underserved neighborhoods receive the infrastructure that is needed to protect homes and businesses from flooding and other environmental harm?

Improving and repairing our crumbling infrastructure, particularly in neglected neighborhoods, is essential for the city’s growth and development, and is a top priority for my administration. It’s time to deliver on the promises made to these neighborhoods since consolidation, including removing septic tanks, building sidewalks, installing streetlamps, and more. Furthermore, I will address the affordable housing crisis by repurposing unused city-owned property, requiring new developments to include workforce housing in exchange for city incentives, supporting multifamily units, and confronting out-of-state investors who displace families and drive up rental costs. Resiliency will be a huge guiding factor in these efforts and will be factored into all of the City’s decision-making processes when I am elected mayor.

As mayor, will you work with other Northeast Florida lawmakers to restore and reconnect the largest tributary of our St. Johns River to reclaim the significant ecological and economic benefits of a free-flowing Ocklawaha?

Yes, and with passion.

Early voting runs from May 1 to May 14 for the General Election on May 16, 2023.

Find your nearest poling location at DuvalElections.com.