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Your city, your money: How changing the mayor impacts you

Election Day is one week away in Jacksonville. Here's why political analysts say who the next mayor is matters.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Election Day is one week away in Duval County and you have seven candidates to choose from for Jacksonville's next mayor. What will your decision mean for the city? 

"I think it matters a lot," said Andrew Pantazi, editor at The Tributary, when asked how much changing the mayor impacts a city. "It matters both on the psychological level of setting a vision, casting an idea of 'what does it mean to be Jacksonville.' It also matters in terms of directing funding, what their priorities are."

Dealing with funding is a large role for mayor. Pantazi and UNF Political Science Professor Sean Freeder say Jacksonville's mayor has a lot of power because of the city's strong mayor form of government.

"Usually what the mayor wants, the mayor gets," said Pantazi.

He explains in other cities mayors act as city commissioners with less power beyond that. It's not like that in Jacksonville, where the mayor has authority over many boards and city staff and proposes the city budget. Pantazi says the impact is on your money.

"Your property taxes are going to be affected, your sales tax, gas tax," said Pantazi. "Where all that revenue goes, what infrastructure we're building."

"They can ask him to approve a new tax revenue and different sources of funding for different programs," Freeder said. "They're usually the people to propose a lot of new initiatives that the city deals with."

From the Jacksonville Jaguars planning to renovate TIAA Bank Field, which will likely involve a hefty price tag for taxpayers, to the sheriff's office budget and addressing crime, to downtown development and homelessness, who the next mayor is can decide which way the city will go on issues. What Pantazi and Freeder say is less indicative is their political party. They say this is also the case with candidates, which can make the decision of who to vote for more difficult.

"You have to kind of read between the lines," Freeder said.

"We tend to see less partisanship actually dictating where someone stands," said Pantazi. "For example some of the sharpest contrasts are between republican candidates for mayor." 

Current Mayor Lenny Curry is a Republican and before him, Alvin Brown was the first democrat elected in 20 years. 

"Whoever wins this race can really change where Jacksonville is heading," Pantazi said.

Early voting ends March 19. See First Coast News's interviews with each mayoral candidate before Election Day.

View the First Coast News voter guide here.

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