Last year, Jacksonville lost a long-time champion for the St. Johns River. Former City Council member and Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri loved the river and his actions as an elected leader reflected his passion for protecting the St. Johns. He secured funding to remove failing septic tanks, advocated for transparency and mitigation for dredging, and supported policies to protect our river and environment throughout his career as a public servant.
Two candidates are currently running to fill his City Council At-Large Group 3 seat, Nick Howland and Tracye Polson. We hope the candidate who wins this Council seat will continue Hazouri’s legacy by serving as a strong advocate and leader for our river. With this in mind, we asked Mr. Howland and Dr. Polson to respond to the following questions to help the voters of Jacksonville decide which candidate may be best positioned to support a clean and healthy St. Johns.
Find voting information and dates below.
What do you consider to be the most significant pollution problems and threats to the health of the St. Johns River?
Nick Howland: I have been an advocate of the river for well over a decade. I served as a representative of local industry on the City’s Environmental Protection Board (EPB) for 8 years, including the final year as Chair. I got to know two recent Riverkeepers – Neil Armingeon and Lisa Rinaman – and learned early on in my tenure that environmental stewardship and economic development are not always mutually exclusive concepts. There are ways to successfully achieve both.
The river is a great natural asset for Jacksonville and must remain a top priority. While we have seen significant improvement over the last 10 years, the largest dangers to the health of the river continue to be nitrogen and fecal coliform – in the river and in tributaries. Recent rising levels of phosphorus are also a threat.
Tracye Polson: Right now, the most significant threats to the St. Johns River are coal ash, septic waste, unregulated development, and climate change.
What do you specifically plan to do to address these problems, if elected?
Nick Howland: I support the removal of failing septic tanks. Not only because of the risk of overflow and subsequent contamination of the river, but also to make up ground on one of the key unkept infrastructure promises of consolidation. I am glad to see this project addressed in the current City budget.
I would also work to increase public access to the river and to ensure new development continues to responsibly follow code. If elected and amidst our expected population growth, my vision is that Jacksonville emerges as the top destination in the Southeast for families and for business, for work and for play. A healthy river is a key component of that.
Tracye Polson: Coal ash is incredibly dangerous on a short-term and long-term level. It’s unacceptable that we put our residents and waters at risk to it. If elected, I will work with the Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, and more local groups to advocate for the banning of coal ash from our waters, our air, and our city.
Outdated and faulty septic tanks pose a serious danger to the health of our river. As councilmember, I will propose allocating funding to provide grants for low-income families who cannot afford the expense ($400+) of removing their private septic tanks and attaching to city septic lines.
Unregulated development such as dredging and the elimination of marshes and wetlands damage the health of our waterways and increase the potential threats of flooding from hurricanes and storms. As councilmember, I will work with the St. John’s Riverkeeper to advocate for more natural barriers and green development of our riverfront.
Our river is rising and it, as well as our infrastructure, is in danger. As councilmember, I will fight for the implementation of renewable energy targets and clean energy incentives for Jacksonville’s small businesses and residents.
Voting Information and Dates
Deadline to Register to Vote: January 24, 2022
Vote by Mail: January 13-20, 2022
Early Voting Dates: February 12-20, 2022
Election Day: February 22, 2022