Jacksonville City Council Could Keep RNC From Happening There In-Person

On Wednesday, Tommy Hazouri, president of the Jacksonville, Florida city council said that he plans to oppose a bill that could scuttle the entire Republican National Convention if it's not approved.

The bill, filed by Mayor Lenny Curry, would allow the mayor to independently allocate $33 million in federal funds for securing the upcoming convention.

Hazouri opposes the bill and the convention in general because he feels too many questions remain about plans for the city's safety and health amid such a massive political event.

Though Hazouri said he could possibly change his vote after the local sheriff and other officials to testify in front of the council on Friday, the mayor hasn't committed to attending the Friday meeting. If the mayor's proposal doesn't get the two-thirds council vote needed to pass at a council meeting next Tuesday, Hazouri said he believes it would make the convention near impossible to hold.

However, Brian Hughes, the city's chief administrative officer, told Hazouri via email that the budget for the convention will come from the city's Host Committee rather than the city budget and, as such, "he didn't believe any contracts or agreements necessary required City Council approval," according to The Florida-Times-Union.

In short, Hughes believes the convention could still happen even if the city council doesn't approve Curry's bill.

Republican National Convention Jacksonville Florida city council
A woman celebrates at the end pf day four of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center on September 4, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Eric Thayer/Getty

The publication states that in addition to the funding measure, Curry's proposed bill also lays out the event's insurance requirements, approves a plan for bringing law-enforcement officers in from agencies around the state to help provide event security, issues waivers for alcohol restrictions and specifies allowed routes, zones and permits for marches, celebrations and protests.

However, Curry's bill is vague about measures to contain the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic at the convention. The bill vaguely states that Jacksonville will assist "in providing resources to implement and administer the COVID-19 pandemic health protocols plan developed by the RNC and Host Committee in consultation with the City."

Hazouri said he hasn't been able to get the mayor's staff to answer questions about COVID-19 management. He added that despite the city council's predominantly Republican membership, Republicans on the council have similar concerns and could vote against Curry's proposal too if their "tough questions" about the event aren't answered by the testimony delivered on Friday.

Hazouri's pledge to oppose Curry's bill follows comments made on Monday by Sheriff Mike Williams that he felt the convention planning was "past the point of no return," meaning that police lacked sufficient time to ensure the event's safety for attendees and counter-protestors outside the event.

"With a growing list of challenges—be it finances, communication and timeline—I cannot say with confidence that this event and our community will not be at risk," said Williams.

While Williams said he lacks the power to independently cancel the event and won't refuse officers to help hold it, he also said that most large conventions of a similar scale are given 18 months of planning time beforehand, according to the Miami Herald.

But since the Republican National Committee (RNC) switched the site of the convention from Charlotte, North Carolina to Jacksonville in early June, Jacksonville and its police have only had just more than a month to plan for security, all while trying to find ways to prevent worsening of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.