“Brown Equals Green: The Conservative Case for Alvin Brown”

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This column runs on Election Day, so most readers have already made their final choices for the handful of spots that remain in play, including Mayor and a few seats on the City Council. These are big decisions, with bigger consequences for our city, our state and perhaps even our country. When it comes to the top spot, I’ve decided to vote for Alvin Brown, and the next few paragraphs will hopefully help explain why.

I wrote in these pages a decade ago that our nation’s future depended to no small degree on what happened in Northeast Florida in that time. Unfortunately, I was proven right, as our strategic slack and political instability cost us the ability to continue being the “Bold New City of the South”—so the slogan was changed to reflect our projected status as the city people drive through en route to places that actually want the revenue generated by tourists and the relocation of new businesses and young families.

It was a revolutionary idea, the notion that anything that happens here matters. Many dollars have been invested cultivating the prevailing stereotypes of this region: racism, ignorance, illiteracy, a stern resistance to change of any kind on any level. The unstated subtext is that our citizens’ faith in God amounts to a form of mental disability that retards progress and stymies fresh thinking. Of course, the core of the church’s actual power is simply the perception of its power, ably assisted by liberal media.

Nevermind that Brown’s election would immediately counter the stereotypes and allow for the immediate rebranding that is so necessary. It would also send the message that Jacksonville is open for business. The case for him can be made in strictly capitalistic terms. His is ultimately a candidacy rooted in free-market conservatism, as reflected by the support he has drawn from the business community. People like Preston Haskell and Peter Rummel don’t fall in with losers. Tommy Hazouri, Matt Carlucci and Delores Weaver are no chumps. Even Ed Austin got “down with Brown” after he gambled and lost on Audrey Moran, writing a fat check in the last days of his storied life.

No mayor can upset the apple-cart. Transformative change is not on the table right now. Our nation’s municipalities are fighting an existential battle against 40 years of bad economic policy and a world war entering its second decade, reaching deeper into the homeland every day. The assorted cliques and cartels of this world are not laying people off like our governments and corporations are. Even al-Qaeda is recruiting a new CEO; the perks are great, but don’t even bother asking about the health insurance. There are challenges, but there’s no need to adopt a defensive posture.Jacksonvillemust take up a stronger leadership role in the economic, cultural and political life ofFlorida; if not, then you can easily imagine what the next few years will be like.

Mike Hogan is a good man, and a public servant of quality. While many outside observers, myself included, questioned the wisdom of putting his wife and grandchildren on-camera as de facto surrogates, the fact that they came off so well in those commercials is a testament to his abilities as a husband, father and grandfather, so good for him. It’s entirely possible that, once elected, Hogan could prove to be far more moderate than one might expect. He could even be the kind of loose cannon Florida’s gotten very good at producing—the kind of man for whom microphones turn themselves on.

For local progressives, this is probably the most important electoral stand they will ever make. For conservatives, this is a crucial test of what that ideology means in the new reality. The question revolves around growth and prosperity within a fair free-market system, versus slowing the speed of progress to service social objectives. Expectations were low for John Peyton, but he became one of our best mayors ever, and a plausible primary challenger to Rick Scott, who needs to be beaten in 2014, preferably by someone fromNE Florida—maybe even John Peyton. Alvin Brown is not the guy to do it, but he can help create the political conditions that make it possible.

I’ve long believed that the concept of “objective journalism” is ridiculous. Human beings have opinions about damn near everything, and those who don’t are either dumb or just lying, for one reason or another. “Objective” and “impartial” are different things; the debauched FoxNews slogan “Fair and Balanced” more closely approximates the point. The reporter should gather the facts, give all sides’ views a fair hearing, and give the audience an honest appraisal of the situation, whether it’s a war, a football game or a kitten stuck in a tree. Or, for that matter, a political contest.

sheltonhull@gmail.com; May 9, 2011

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