"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

Stream of Consciousness: The Insomnia Edition

06:14 Tuesday, 29 October 2019

I've been awake for a couple of hours now. Finally decided to give up and spend a little time with my thoughts in here, rather than just watch them running around in my head while I'm hoping to fall asleep.

Came in here thinking I'd made an October file, but found I hadn't. But I had written another September post I'd forgotten about and never published. Sheesh. My blogging discipline is shot!

So I'm glad I got up, at least I won't let October go by without writing something.

That's not strictly true, I have written a few things in Facebook, but I don't think that counts. I suspect very little of what I write in Facebook is ever actually read. If I post a picture, I can count on about a dozen reactions. If I write a few paragraphs of text it's crickets. Probably "the algorithm," and actually reading anything longer than a meme is inconsistent with the Facebook experience.

So, here we are. What was on my mind?

Well, I'm very fortunate. I'm not in debt, my children are all well, my wife is fine, my health is pretty good, so I wasn't thinking about any of those things. Mostly I was thinking about how twitter reveals the weaknesses in small and petty men.

I live in northeast Florida, which is pretty solidly "red" in the great red/blue divide. It's not something one thinks about often, it's just the water we swim in, the air that we breathe. Which is a mistake, naturally.

We take it for granted, when we should be challenging it relentlessly.

I don't live in Jacksonville, I live in St Johns County, which is even more solidly red. I have lived in Jacksonville, or rather, Duval County for about half of my time in Florida, and the water we buy here in this part of St Johns County is provided by the Jacksonville public utility, JEA. But Jax is one of the largest cities in America, the largest strictly by land mass, and it has a number of natural assets that keep it poised seemingly perpetually on the verge of becoming a first class, top tier municipality.

Unfortunately, one of those assets isn't its political leadership. Politically, it's pretty much a monoculture here. The reins of power are solidly in the hands of the Republican Party, and while there have been brief interludes with a Democratic mayor, power was still wielded by the Republican Party. Some of those Republicans were more enlightened than others. The current one is decidedly benighted.

Jacksonville's current mayor is a guy named Lenny Curry, whose professional background is in accounting. There's little in his bio that suggests he's encountered much adversity in life. He's burdened with an overabundance of unwarranted confidence, which often manifests itself as arrogance or hubris. He surrounds himself with aides and advisors similarly ill-equipped. As an accountant, and as someone who gives the sense that he once wanted to be known for athletic achievement, his social media posts and approach to governance display a narrow, zero-sum view of the world. Winning: Good. Losing: Bad. He's also very binary in his view of other members and institutions of government; you're either with him, or against him. He's given to posing as a man of piety and humility, a "servant leader," which is betrayed by virtually every other thing he does, a fact that seems to elude him. So there's very little evidence of any sort of self-awareness or introspection. Lenny's just fine the way he is, and anyone who has a problem with it, well, that's their problem.

Because Jacksonville is a political monoculture, the idea of accountability is an abstraction that is used to bludgeon opponents in rhetoric, rather than a genuine consequence. As a strong-mayor government, the city council is strongly aligned with the mayor because they wish to be welcome in the halls of power.

There's an effort underway, largely believed to be driven by the mayor, who is doing a bad job of hiding it, to privatize the city's public utility JEA. Local media have subjected the effort to intense critical scrutiny, and there is much to both scrutinize and criticize. The media attention also seems to suggest that there is popular opposition to the initiative as well. But things aren't always what they seem in Jacksonville, and while there probably is some popular opposition, it has little power to alter the course of events.

What is underway now is plainly an effort to craft a narrative that suggests that this was an open process, undertaken for sound financial reasons based on unwelcome realities in the marketplace, and that all the public institutions of government did their due diligence as good stewards of the public trust. This makes them uncomfortable, because while the result is a foregone conclusion, the effort to make it appear as though it is not is expensive, and requires many public figures appearing thoughtful and serious and independent, something that comes naturally to almost none of them.

Lenny, for his part, is content to sit back and bide his time, supremely confident that his will be done in Jacksonville, as it is in Duval County. And when the dust settles and the ink dries, he'll have a few billion dollars with which to fashion his legacy as mayor of Jacksonville, and use that to move on to his next goal in his ambitious political career.

And Jacksonville's water and energy destiny will be in the capable hands of private interests.

So that was what was on my mind. Now it's off; but it's morning and I can't go back to bed.