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New Jacksonville City Council president promises successful and historical term

City Councilman Tommy Hazouri, who has served as state legislator, mayor and school board member is now president of the Jacksonville City Council.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There is new leadership at Jacksonville's City Hall, but it is an old face to local politics.

City Councilman Tommy Hazouri, who has served as state legislator, mayor and school board member is now president of the Jacksonville City Council.

He took oath during the city's first virtual swearing-in ceremony. It was a short ceremony, and there was no reception due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He spoke with First Coast News after the ceremony.

"These are tough times, but this city council can make a difference," Hazouri said.

Hazouri, in an 11-minute speech, said addressing social justice tops his agenda. In fact, he already named a social justice committee before taking his new role.

Also at the top of his agenda, meeting the needs of needs of law enforcement and working to build trust with the community.

"If you don't have trust, if you don't have transparency, you don't have successful government," he said.

And, rounding out his top three items is economic development.

He wants to see more jobs and wants the city to address the lack of services in the urban communities.

But Hazouri knows the proverbial elephant in the room is the budget. His tenure will undoubtedly face budgetary challenges. 

Hazouri said property tax collections should be okay, but he anticipates a shortage in sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"But you know what, we are going to deal with it," he said.

The city council president said the budget that gets approved by the city council will be seen as a template for community service.

"We have to have what I call the people's budget," Hazouri said.    

During his tenure, he also wants the Amtrak station relocated downtown at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

That would put it next to Greyhound and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority bus terminal; he said it would create a true inter-modal center.

"Amtrak needs to come back there, and we are talking with JTA and others," he said.

He also wants the year 2021 to begin with one Martin Luther King breakfast, as before, instead of two competing events as it has been for the past few years after the civil rights organization split with Mayor Lenny Curry.

"It doesn't make sense. I don't know what happened, but it is going to take cooperation," said Hazouri.

The veteran lawmaker is highly optimistic about the days ahead and said it will be successful and historical.

"We have been looking for a new identity in Jacksonville, and, well, that brand is we care brand, that brand is we mean business," Hazouri said.

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