Councilman Dennis Garrett critical of how taxpayer funds are being used to help developers

JACKSONVILLE, Fl — Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis was a big supporter of Mayor Lenny Curry, now he has become his nemesis.

A few months ago Dennis was in Tallahassee convincing state lawmakers to extend the 1/2 penny sales tax in Duval County to ease the pension burden, and it was successful.

But now the councilman said he is just being a watchdog of how tax dollars are being spent.

"I took on a fiduciary responsibility to look out for the taxpayer," he said.

Dennis is critical of two bills being supported by Mayor Curry. The proposed bills would help fund two downtown development projects.

"Any development is good," said Dennis, "but we need to make sure that we are going to get a good return on investment for $10 million that we are giving away."

He calls them a giveaway.

And on Monday Dennis took to his Twitter account to blast the city’s Downtown Investment Authority, now headed by the mayor’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes, and its proposals to give $9.3 million to developers.

The money will be distributed in grants and a loan.

"One of the projects that we are considering is a $750,000 loan at 1.5% interest," said Dennis, "You can’t go to the bank and get that. Can anyone from Northwest Jacksonville get that?"

One project takes a defunct furniture store on Hogan Street and creates 28 apartments with retail space; the other project is a 185 unit apartment complex on the South Bank.

"It is just not right to give money away," he said, "corporate giveaways."

Dennis said there are other needs in the city that should be addressed first, like drainage and quality of life.

The two bills to approve spending the $9.3 million were approved by a city council committee and yes the same councilman now critical of them, voted for them. Why?

"I voted for it in committee," he said "We have full council next week. It is almost procedural so I am considering how I am going to vote when it comes to the full body."

On Your Side reached out to the mayor for comment with no success.

But his staffers are surprised by the councilman’s position. Garrett in the past he has shown support of the mayor’s efforts by voting for his budgets.

The bills in question will be voted on next Tuesday.

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