August 31, 2012
When Tony Bates didn’t show up for last week’s City Council meeting, his friends knew something was wrong. After all, the Jacksonville native who helped organize the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County was in his center row seat at every session.
And when he didn’t answer his phone, they became really worried. Mr. Bates was found critically ill in his home Tuesday night.
He died early Wednesday at Shands Jacksonville hospital. He was 78. The cause of death remains unknown
“Even though he had all these health problems, he arose every day with purpose,” said friend Connie Benham, adding that he had survived throat cancer and heart problems in the past.
He had served as president of Concerned Taxpayers, which was formed in June 2009, and was a board member when he died. He was such a constant presence at council meetings that one city leader called him the 20th member.
He literally lived to fulfill his fiscal watchdog role, said John Winkler, Concerned Taxpayers president and a long-time friend.
“The loss of his institutional knowledge about the city of Jacksonville is a hole that we cannot fill,” Winkler said. “He was a great believer in government doing a very small number of things as efficiently and effectively as humanly possible.”
While he realized that government needed to provide core functions such as police and fire protection, he thought it should be done in a fiscally responsible and transparent way, Winkler said.
Councilman John Crescimbeni, chairman of the council’s finance committee, said he wished more people shared Mr. Bates’ level of interest in local government.
“He was an amazing guy,” Crescimbeni said. “He was one of those quiet observers who soaked in all the information, all the facts and all the data that was presented to council members, and then he was not shy about voicing his opinion. It will be different looking out at the audience and not seeing him