Jax City Council Faces Gas Tax, Redistricting, President/VP Election This Week

May 21, 2021

The Jacksonville City Council has a busy week ahead. Here are three big items on the agenda:

New Council President and Vice President

 

The Council will hold elections for its next president and vice president on Tuesday, May 25. 

Council elects a new president and vice president every May for year-long terms that begin in July.

 

The current president, former Mayor Tommy Hazouri, is a Democrat, although Republicans outnumber Democrats on the council by 13 to 6. The Republican Party of Duval County is pushing to succeed Hazouri with a Republican, who would have the power to oversee meetings, appoint other council members to committee chair positions and call special meetings. 

 

While Republicans currently chair most of the city’s committees, Hazouri has put Democrats in key positions. Councilmember Garrett Dennis currently chairs the special Committee on Redistricting, which prepares a redistricting plan to present to the entire council, and Brenda Priestly Jackson chairs the Rules Committee, which oversees confirmation of government nominations and sets Council agendas.

 

The president/VP vote will take place during a special meeting on Tuesday, May 25, at 4 p.m before the council’s regular meeting at 5 p.m.

Gas Tax

 

The Council will then decide the future of a proposed 6-cent gas tax increase Wednesday.

 

The legislation would raise the current gas tax from 6 cents to 12 cents a gallon to fund infrastructure projects, freeing up previously budgeted city funds for septic tank removal.

 

Council members voted 13-6 on Wednesday to move the legislation to the council for a final vote. If that margin holds, the gas tax will pass, as 11 council members are required to pass the ordinance instead of a 10-member simple majority because Florida law requires a higher threshold of council support for cities to implement or raise local gas taxes.

 

A UNF poll found 58% of residents oppose the gas tax hike to increase road and transportation improvements. However, 68% said they would approve reallocating funds freed up by the gas tax increase toward septic tank phase-out projects.

 

The council will vote on the gas tax during a special council meeting Wednesday, May 26, which begins at 10 a.m.

 

Redistricting

 

The Special Committee on Redistricting is scheduled to meet on Thursday. 

 

Redistricting occurs after the U.S. Census every 10 years. The city must redraw council district boundaries to attempt to ensure each district represents an approximately even number of residents.

 

District boundaries can influence which political party is more represented in each district and give them a leg up at getting candidates in office.

 

The committee’s meeting is the first since a Duval Democratic Party committee recommended the party fire its local chair after Democratic Councilmember Garrett Dennis, the chair of the redistricting committee, brought a grievance against Chair Daniel Henry. 

 

The internal investigation centered on a January 24 meeting between Henry and Republican City Councilman Rory Diamond. Henry alleges Diamond approached him with an offer to work together on redistricting, which he said he did not take seriously, partially because Diamond is not on the redistricting committee. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

 

The Democrats’ internal grievance committee found Henry acted negligently by failing to correctly disclose he met with Diamond. A vote on whether to remove Henry is expected in the coming weeks

 

The redistricting committee will meet on Thursday, May 27, at 9 a.m.

 

 

Tristan Wood can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org or on Twitter at @TristanDWood.