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Jacksonville Councilors Eager To Discuss, Vote On HRO After 'Repetitive' Comments

Lindsey Kilbride

Tuesday’s Jacksonville City Council agenda was sparse, but three hours of public comment on two bills made up for it.

City Councilmen Bill Gulliford and Tommy Hazouri are both sponsoring bills that could expand the city’s human rights ordinance to protect people in the areas of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Gulliford’s bill, co-sponsored by Sam Newby and Doyle Carter, would require a public-referendum vote, while Hazouri’s, co-sponsored by Aaron Bowman, would have the Council vote.

After three town halls and two Council meetings, both sponsors agreed during interviews, they’re hearing a lot of the same arguments.

"At this point you wonder how effective the continual repetitive nature of some of the commentary is because, I think, most people have some sense of how they feel about the issue up there, and so now we’re going to get to that ultimately to that process where we vote,” Gulliford said.

They also both said they’re ready for the Council to start deliberating on the bills.

”Bottom line is you still need 10 votes, and I don’t know how the Council is going to vote,” Hazouri said. “I hope that we’ll wind this down and do what’s right for this community, mainly because it’s the right thing to do, and we need to move on, and this issue shouldn’t even be a part of any more discussions here in Jacksonville.”

Next week the Council will meet in the first of three committee-of-the-whole meetings to ask questions and make amendments on the bills if they wish.

Also on Tuesday night, the Council voted to defeat a bill that would have extended the statute of limitations on ethics complaints against public officials from two years to five years. The bill, which was sponsored by the Council president at the request of the city's Ethics Commission, was voted down 15-to-3.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.