Three critical decisions that will greatly impact Jacksonville’s future are fast upon us.


For one, Mayor Lenny Curry wants his pension reform plan on the fast track.

The police union membership has already agreed to a monumental change that would put new hires under a 401(k)-style plan instead of the defined benefit pensions that current employees would continue to enjoy.

Members of the firefighters union are voting on the same offer this week.

It’s difficult to fathom them turning it down because all current employees, including those who lost some benefits in the 2015 pension reform legislation, would continue to receive full retirement benefits that include a guaranteed 3 percent annual cost of living adjustment and a guaranteed 8.4 percent return on their DROP accounts.

On top of that, they will get a 3 percent bonus for approving the deal plus a 20 percent raise over three years.

That’s definitely sweetening the pot.

However, firefighters across the country regard themselves as a family, and some pressure could come from outside Jacksonville not to give up on the defined benefit pensions that firefighters elsewhere hold dear.

Curry is trying to force a quick decision from the Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees, which also must sign off on the deal.

But it’s time to say, “Whoa!”

How much is Curry’s plan going to cost — not only the promised raises but the lucrative benefits current firefighters and police officers will receive?

And for new employees, Curry is proposing a 401(k) plan with the city contributing 25 percent of salary annually into each account.

Considering that the city’s contribution under the 2015 reform to current employees who lost some benefits and to new employees was projected to be 10 percent of salary, that’s a huge leap.

And all of Curry’s numbers rely on a robust economy in future years.

As we saw during the Great Recession, that type of gamble doesn’t always pay off.

The Curry administration says there are safeguards in the agreements that allow for adjustments if the economy falters.

The same thing was said about the previous 30-year agreement with the police and fire unions, and that didn’t stop the city from amassing a stifling pension debt.

Also coming up on the horizon is a decision on whether to spend $700 million to deepen the St. Johns River shipping channel from 40 feet to 47 feet.

As I’ve written before, the economic reasoning for the massive expenditure is full of weaknesses.

The environmental damage from the deep dredge also can’t be ignored.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offers assurances that environmental harm to the river will be minimal.

Alas, the past is likely prologue here.

The jetties project in the late 1800s completely changed the dynamic of the river at its mouth and dramatically altered the migration of sand along our coast.

In 1906, the channel was dredged to 24 feet. It was dug 6 feet deeper in 1916. It’s now at 40 feet. And with each dredge came changes that weren’t always beneficial.

If Jacksonville was once known as Cowford — named for a crossing where early settlers forded their cattle across the St. Johns — any cows attempting that today would end up in the Atlantic or swimming by Palatka.

Deepening the channel another 7 feet will send more saltwater farther south and impact the river’s health.

Also the Downtown Investment Authority will soon choose one of the three proposals to redevelop the Shipyards property and Metropolitan Park.

That decision will play a key role in shaping the downtown of tomorrow.

These critical decisions — pensions, dredging and developing the downtown riverfront — all require careful deliberations.

So why impose artificial deadlines for making these tough choices?

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