A family meeting: Father-son council members sit down to discuss Jacksonville's priorities
For the past week, in a small, quiet room off the rotunda at Jacksonville City Hall, City Councilman Matt Carlucci has been holding public meetings with newly elected council members set to take office.
On Monday, Carlucci talked about legislative priorities for Districts 1, 9 and 3 in one-on-one meetings with Councilman-elect Ken Amaro, Councilwoman Tyrona Clark-Murray and Councilman-elect Will Lahnen. Tuesday and Wednesday, he had chats with incoming council members Michael Gay and Jimmy Peluso for Districts 2 and 7.
Thursday's tête-à-tête with the incoming District 5 councilman was unusual in only one way: It was the first public council meeting between a father and son who will serve simultaneously on the Jacksonville City Council.
Back in March, 64% of District 5 voters elected Joe Carlucci — Matt Carlucci's son — to represent them in the area including San Marco and the Southbank. Joe Carlucci is the third generation of his family to sit on the council dais, and the younger Republican's successful race against fellow GOP member Morgan Roberts was not free of mudslinging.
Roberts campaigned heavily against the family connection, alleging that the two serving on council at the same time would create a higher risk of Sunshine Law violations.
The candidate presented a valid concern: Family dinners and holiday events pose potential pitfalls for the two officials at, possibly, a higher rate than any two of their colleagues on the council.
But the two believe they can safely navigate those waters, they said Thursday. The family members "finally" met in the Henry Cook Room at City Hall with just their executive council aides and a single reporter present.
"Councilmember Joe, my son, I want to know, finally, what you're up to," Matt said.
For a little under an hour, the two discussed the younger Carlucci's legislative hopes, including parks, flooding concerns and saving historically Black cemeteries in his territory, as well as bringing more businesses and people to the riverfront.
"The end goal, we want to have small businesses come and be on the river," said the son. "You know, we've talked for decades about activating the river. And we've struggled with that. And I think it's because there's just nothing to do."
The elder councilman took notes as his son spoke, weighing in here and there on issues where he felt he could provide advice.
While discussing myriad topics, both were keenly cognizant of their familial relationship and how those optics were landmines.
"Back when it was just speculation (we'd be serving together), we did a lot of research to make sure there was no ethical issues for a father and son or a mother and daughter, or any nuclear family serving together," the senior Carlucci said.
There is no law restricting voters from electing related board members — though the Florida Commission on Ethics restricts appointments encouraged by family members.
"A public official is prohibited from seeking for a relative any appointment, employment, promotion or advancement in the agency in which he or she is serving or over which the official exercises jurisdiction or control," according to ethics agency documents.
"Look," Matt Carlucci said, "he's a councilman in his own right. I may be his father, but he's the councilman in his own right. His constituency, like my constituents, elected him. … But being related, we want to make sure that people see, at the end of four years, that this can be a good thing."
As his father has said throughout his own election, Joe Carlucci emphasized that he wanted a collaborative effort on the council.
"This is just one of many (meetings), he said. "And not just with, you know, you as my dad, as my colleague, but with other council members too. You know, I think collaboration is a very, very good thing."
"We're kind of blazing the trail, and we're gonna blaze it right," said the elder Carlucci. "And when we disagree on issues, you know, we just will disagree, but I suspect we'll agree quite a bit too."