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OPINION: Ron Littlepage: Add Moody's to the list of pesky folks chirping about Curry's pension plan

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05/20/2017 | 03:00 am

May 20--Mousing around the news of the day ... click.

Mayor Lenny Curry accused critics of his pension plan of chirping.


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Last week, a bond rating agency, Moody's Investors Services, joined the chorus of chirpers.

Just as many had said during the pension debate, Moody's in effect agreed that Curry's plan was kicking the can down the road.

Moody's said Curry's "pay less now, pay more later" approach will cause the city's already staggering pension debt to grow even bigger until the half-cent sales tax Curry promoted starts in 2031.

Chirp. Chirp.


For his part, Curry says the pension issue is done, kaput, settled, fixed, finished.

He points out that both the voters and the City Council approved it.

That part about the voters amounts to revisionist history.

The voters didn't know what they were voting on.

Curry and his team refused to provide any details of the plan, such as the fact the debt can was about to get another swift kick, before voters went to the polls.

In fact, at one point, Curry's chief financial officer, Mike Weinstein, told the City Council that providing details would only confuse the voters.

Perhaps Curry's team was afraid the chirping would have grown louder had voters known.


Now that the pension issue is in Curry's world "solved," his team is dropping hints that "something big" is coming soon.

It will be interesting to see where the money to pay for it will come from.

During one of the City Council's debates on Curry's plan, Council President Lori Boyer asked the administration if some of the anticipated savings in the general fund -- say, about $11 million -- could be bonded.

She was told that was possible and that it would produce about $150 million, presumably money that could be spent on capital projects.

That was all that was said, and the debate moved onto other subjects.

But if that approach were taken, it would go against the council's usual insistence on relying on cash for projects instead of more debt.

It would also be highly risky since in the intervening weeks, the Legislature stupidly put a constitutional amendment on the 2018 ballot that would increase the homestead exemption by $25,000 to $75,000.

If that passes, which is likely because of voters' affinity for tax breaks for themselves, it would further drain the city's general fund and make any new debt payments difficult.

I don't think additional debt will be the route taken, but stay tuned. There are some big numbers out there, such as paying the city's portion of the foolish $700 million dredge of the St. Johns River shipping channel that JaxPort is pushing.


During a meeting Boyer organized earlier this month to continue discussions on how to take better advantage of the St. Johns River and our other waterways, she showed pictures of riverwalks in San Antonio, Augusta, Detroit and Ontario.

The trees and beautiful landscaping were striking.

In contrast to that, another picture showed an uninviting and sterile section of our Northbank Riverwalk.

Plans are underway, Boyer said, to begin changing that, starting with improving the area known as Corkscrew Park. That's the portion of the riverwalk next to the Acosta Bridge.

Getting that done in the next few months will be a welcome visual start to the new efforts to activate our waterways -- a goal that will only be accomplished if the city makes it a priority and sticks to it.


You may have noticed that in the last few weeks, candidates have been emerging to run to replace Rick Scott as governor.

Certainly more will get in the race, and 2018 is likely not on people's radar yet.

But it's not too soon to pay attention. Electing the right governor is critical to undoing the damage Scott has done to Florida in his two terms.



[email protected] (904) 359-4284


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