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Jacksonville Civic Council Research Presentation. Linda DiVall, President Randall Gutermuth, Vice President 300 North Lee Street, Suite 400 - Alexandria, VA 22314 - 703-684-3325 (Phone) – .

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Jacksonville Civic Council

Research Presentation

Linda DiVall, President

Randall Gutermuth, Vice President

300 North Lee Street, Suite 400 - Alexandria, VA 22314 - 703-684-3325 (Phone) –



  • Jacksonville Civic Council commissioned American Viewpoint to conduct a Jacksonville City survey of 2011 likely voters.
  • Interviews were conducted February 2-3, 2010.
  • The margin of error for the entire sample (n=400) is +/- 4.9 at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error among sub-groups is greater.
  • Focus groups were also conducted with a group of upper income voters, moderated by Linda DiVall and middle class voters, moderated by Randall Gutermuth. These groups were conducted in Jacksonville on December 10, 2009.

Outline of Presentation

  • Political Environment
  • General Budget Issues
  • Downtown Re-Development
  • Jaguars
  • Education
  • The Next Mayor

A plurality of voters say things in Jacksonville are going in the right direction, but there isn’t much intensity to that sentiment. Ticket-splitters are significantly less likely than voters as a whole to say things are going in the right direction.

Generally speaking, do you feel things in Jacksonville are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?




Why Wrong Track?


Unlike what is seen at the federal level, voters overwhelmingly believe that Jacksonville’s city government should do more to solve problems facing the city. Even a majority of conservatives share this sentiment.

Generally speaking, do you feel that Jacksonville’s city government should do more to solve the problems facing Jacksonville today, OR do you feel that Jacksonville’s city government is already doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals?





In terms of issue priorities, economic development, balancing the budget, crime and education are seen as the most important. Downtown improvements and keeping the Jaguars are seen as lower priorities for the next mayor and council. Note the difference between “balancing” and “reducing” the budget.

I would now like to read you several issues and have you tell me how important each is for the next mayor and city council to address soon after taking office on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is not at all important and 10 is extremely important. If you don’t know enough to rate, just say so.


In regards to budget priorities, public safety and transportation are seem as the most important, while downtown development, library hours and pensions are of lesser importance. As was seen in the focus groups, because of concerns over job losses, there is not much resistance to tax incentives for businesses.

Realizing that there is only so much money in the city budget, I would now like to read you several areas of the city budget and have you tell me how important each is to spend tax dollars on, using a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is not at all important and 10 is extremely important. If you don’t know enough to rate, just say so.


Voters are split on the role of city government in terms of services. However, both ticket-splitters and moderates see the need for government to offer a wide range of services. Conservatives call for less government, albeit at lower intensity than liberals call for greater involvement.

Which of the following statements comes closer to your view:

STATEMENT A: City government should do as little as possible and should keep taxes as low as possible, even if it means not offering as many services for residents. OR

 STATEMENT B: It is essential for the city government to offer a wide range of services and program, even if it means paying a bit more in taxes.





Voters overwhelmingly agree that the city should be funding important programs. Even 61% of those who say that city government should do as little as possible agree with this statement. Focus group respondents also understood the need for city government to fund services, but there wasn’t a clear understanding of the need for more local dollars due to less revenue coming from the Federal and state governments.

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: It is important for the city government to fund programs that provide for cultural activities, economic development and for the overall quality of life for Jacksonville residents.





A majority of voters haven’t heard much regarding the pension issue. In fact, union households are actually less likely than non-union households to have heard much about the issue.

As you may know, in order to reduce the size of the city budget, some have proposed changing the pension plans for city government employees. Have you heard a great deal, some, not much or nothing about this issue?


A plurality of voters favor changing the pension plan of city employees. Among those who know a great deal or some about the issue favor it 49%-34%. Opposition is greater among Democrats than Republicans. With such low intensity on both sides, this result could change quickly depending on which side first frames the debate. This issue was raised unprompted in the focus groups by a few respondents as well.

Knowing what you do, do you favor or oppose this proposal?





Overall the supporting arguments have slightly more resonance than the opposing arguments. In these challenging economic times, where everybody is tightening their belt, voters are of no mindset to treat city government any differently.  This argument is more effective than the statistical portrayal of increased pension costs.

I would now like to read you several arguments regarding this proposal to change the pension plans with city employees and have you tell me whether each would make you more or less likely to favor this proposal, or if it wouldn’t make a difference.


After hearing both supporting and opposing arguments, 26% of voters switch to favoring changing the pension plans and 17% switch to opposing it.

Now knowing what you do, do you favor or oppose changing the pension plans of Jacksonville’s city employees?








Mirroring what we saw in the focus groups, downtown is not very appealing at this point for many younger voters. Those living in the downtown area (Urban Core) find their area more appealing than those who don’t live there.

How appealing is downtown Jacksonville as a place to work, live and visit?





There is relatively low resistance to using tax dollars to improve downtown, with the Southside region, Republicans and conservatives having the greatest opposition, but even then a majority support it.

Do you favor or oppose spending tax dollars to make downtown Jacksonville a more attractive place to work, live and visit?




Hesitations in Spending Tax Dollars?


Voters are clearly aware of the team’s importance for the economy. In the focus groups, some respondents state that the impact of the team leaving would have a devastating effect that could create a spiral effect on the economy in terms of attracting and maintaining employers in a city that couldn’t sustain an NFL franchise.

How important are the Jaguars to Jacksonville’s overall economy?





As with the importance of the Jaguars to the economy, the impact that the Jaguars would have on the community is clear, especially in terms of civic pride. In the groups, many felt this was a critical time for the Jaguars and the city. Several respondents felt that if the team survives in Jacksonville, future generations would begin to show strong Jaguar pride as they were raised supporting the team.

How important are the Jaguars to Jacksonville’s overall quality of life?





Jacksonville’s public school system receives a failing grade from voters, both in terms of those who have children and grandchildren in the system, and those who don’t. This is consistent across nearly every voting bloc. Respondents in the focus groups saw a direct correlation between failing schools and crime, as well as making it difficult to induce new businesses to come to Jacksonville because of the lack of a trained workforce.

Generally speaking, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the quality of Jacksonville’s public schools?





While not as bad as the quality measurement, the school board does not receive high marks for its management of tax dollars. Their ratings among Democrats are slightly higher, but still far from where they should be. In the focus groups there were complaints of a lack of accountability from both the board and many teachers, with tenure of teachers mentioned.

Do you approve or disapprove of the job the Duval County School Board is doing

managing the tax dollars it receives?





While voters were more receptive to this concept in the focus groups after hearing some of the arguments supporting this proposal, in a vacuum most do not want to change the current elected system. In the groups, some saw this as an opportunity to have a board that would be more accountable and knowledgeable about problems facing local schools.

As you may know, the Duval County School Board is currently elected. Some

have suggested that rather than electing school board members they should be

appointed by the Mayor and not be paid a salary. Knowing what you do, do you

favor or oppose this proposal?





Issue Priorities for Next Mayor-

From Focus Groups

  • Respondents held a clear understanding of what the priorities of the next mayor should be.
  • Getting the budget under control, cutting wasteful spending and having everyone involved in the city budget engage in budget tightening measures were consistently mentioned.
  • Improving schools and demanding greater accountability from the school board and elected officials was also in the top tier of priorities.

Desired Characteristics of Jacksonville’s Next Mayor-

From Focus Groups

  • Respondents were able to name very specific character and quality traits they envision in the next Mayor of Jacksonville.
  • On the character dimension, they cited leadership, being charismatic and inspiring others, demanding accountability, having roots in the Jacksonville community, having an honest administration, being able to attract new people to the city who could think outside of the box, an ability to delegate responsibility and that a good leader empowers people to take command.
  • Qualities mentioned were being fiscally responsible, promoting Jacksonville and its natural resources, the ability to make wise decisions and implement them, coming from a business background and bringing in new business and industry, having a plan to promote Jacksonville, having a strong education background and being innovative.
  • Respondents wanted their next mayor to be inspirational, to be a closer, to demand accountability and performance, to improve on what the city already has, to not be content to perpetuate the status quo and to have a game plan for the future of the city.

Executive Summary

  • 1. Voters want a plan for the future. Overall, Jacksonville continues to convey a spirit of positive energy while feeling that the city is relatively stagnant in terms of formulating an agenda that will pivot the city into embracing and planning for the future, rather than reacting to problems as they occur.
  • 2. Unlike what is seen nationally, and likely different from what is seen in terms of the progress of the state as a whole, Jacksonville voters are somewhat satisfied with where Jacksonville is today and see a need for local government to take an active role in improving the quality of life of its residents.
  • While they want a plan for the future, increasing revenue to pay for it will be difficult in the current environment. The anger directed at Congress and state government is evident but that same intensity of anger does not translate to any specific local politicians in particular. However, there is an overall sense of a lack of accountability of local government officials leading to money being wasted at every level of government. In this era where corporations and families are cutting back their budgets and doing more with less, voters don’t take kindly to perceived government inefficiencies.
  • 4. While a balanced budget is essential for voters, that doesn’t necessarily mean cutting the budget.  Rather, they do expect vital services such as public safety and transportation to be funded and for the most part, see the importance of investing in projects such as developing the port and offering incentives to businesses to create jobs and improve the economy.

Executive Summary, Cont…

5. Voters are receptive to addressing the pension issue if it is done in a fair and open manner and commitments are kept with current retirees.  Voters need to be educated that this is a necessary consequence of the economy and a measure to protect taxpayers.

6. Clearly the educational system is in a state of distress and a wide range of reforms should be considered for Jacksonville.

7. Jacksonville voters find downtown appealing as a place to work, live, and visit and generally support spending tax dollars to improve downtown, but this investment needs to be part of a overall long-term economic development plan.

8. The Jaguars are an integral part of Jacksonville’s economy and overall civic pride. It is important however for the public to realize that they are part of the solution. However, for the Jaguars to remain a viable entity, the team and civic leaders need to better communicate to the public that support needs to be generated across the city and across generational lines. This will help put more fans in the seats and convey to the rest of the NFL nation that Jacksonville is an NFL caliber town.

9. More than anything else, these respondents are looking for a strong leader as their next mayor. The candidate who has a real plan for Jacksonville’s future and the leadership to implement that plan will likely be the next mayor.