Jacksonville City Council

Kevin Meerschaert

The long fought political battle over where the Duval Supervisor of Election's Warehouse will be located continued Monday at the Jacksonville City Council. The Rules Committee voted to approve a ten-year lease at the One Imeson location off Main Street a little north of the zoo.

The future of the Supervisor of Elections Office is still up in the air.

MyFlorida.com

 

A familiar face in Jacksonville politics is hoping to join the City Council.

Former State Representative Mike Weinstein has filed to run for the At-Large Group three seat now held by the term-limited Stephen Joost.

A two-time mayoral candidate, Weinstein says he’s running for Council so he can serve the city while continuing in his position as CEO of Volunteers in Medicine.

Weinstein was Chief Financial Officer under former Jacksonville Mayors Ed Austin and John Delaney.

Kevin Meerschaert

In a surprise move the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday night brought up and voted down Mayor Alvin Brown's Pension Reform Plan.  

Council President Bill Gulliford announced his intention to discharge the bill from committee at the council's agenda meeting an hour ahead of the regular meeting. 

He said there had been plenty of discussion about the bill and it needed to be decided ahead of the council's budget meetings. It caught many off guard including several council members.

Kevin Meerschaert

The Jax Chamber Board of Directors voted on Friday to urge the Jacksonville City Council not to pass Mayor Alvin Brown's pension reform plan.

Jax Chamber President Daniel Davis said any plan needs to be funded, accountable and predictable. He says the legislation in front of the council doesn't go far enough to do this.

The Chamber's opposition to the plan comes on the heels  of the Jacksonville Civic Council also asking the plan be rejected.

Kevin Meerschaert

Mayor Alvin Brown's proposed budget would close six libraries, three fire stations, half the city's pools and three-quarters of the community centers. Hundreds of employees would be laid off.

But the Mayor says most of the cuts could be avoided if his pension reform plan is approved by the City Council.

Part of the pension deal with the Police and Fire Pension Board of Trustees reduces the city's pension obligation for this year by $46 million.   

Kevin Meerschaert

Faced with a $64 million deficit, Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's budget could propose closing two fire stations and six libraries, and slashing funding for many programs including Legal Aid and Animal Control.

However, there is one caveat the Mayor will almost certainly bring up to the City Council: the vast majority of these proposed cuts can be avoided if it approves his pension reform plan.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office

After being asked by Mayor Alvin Brown to find $29 million in spending cuts for the coming year Sheriff John Rutherford instead has proposed a budget with far fewer cuts saying he couldn't make such reductions without endangering the safety of the public.

Rutherford says instead the city council needs to pass Mayor Brown's pension reform plan and approve a small property tax increase.

Kevin Meerschaert

A bill that would allow hens to be raised in the backyards of single family dwellings is being introduced to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday night.

The move to allow urban chicken farming has been spreading across the country. Under the bill, only a few hens would be allowed per acre and roosters would not be authorized.

Chickens are currently only allowed in rural and agricultural areas in Jacksonville.

Kevin Meerschaert

 

 The wait to find a home for the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Election Center will last at least another month.

A City Council meeting Wednesday ended with three bills each dealing with separate lease agreements being deferred until July.

Kevin Meerschaert

Some members of the Jacksonville City Council are unhappy with the legal representation they are getting from General Counsel Cindy Laquidara. They held a meeting Tuesday morning to talk about proposed legislation written by Councilman Matt Schellenberg that would ask Laquidara to resign or be replaced by Mayor Alvin Brown.

Brown says he has full confidence in his General Counsel and has no intention of replacing her.  

Under the city charter, only the Mayor can fire the General Counsel and it must be for a cause.  

Keristars / Flickr

  A spokesman for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown says no final decisions have been made regarding the upcoming proposed budget.

But it’s expected what is proposed will include major spending cuts of nearly 14-percent. That’s because by law the administration can’t factor in projected savings from pension reform until it’s approved by the city council. Brown says pension reform would free up 46-million dollars.

A vote on the legislation won’t come before the Mayor presents his budget proposal to the council on July 15th.

Kevin Meerschaert

The Jacksonville City Council has approved extending the Northbank Riverwalk under the Fuller-Warren Bridge from the Riverside Arts Market to Riverside Park in Five Points.

Plans for the extension have been on the books since the late 90's, but funding for the project was hard to come by.

Right now, the area is a fenced-in site with two dry retention ponds. The Artist Walk is expected to include sidewalks, green space, benches, lighting and two fountains.

Kevin Meerschaert

The City of Jacksonville has a budget hole to fill. But how large the gap is depends on if the City Council approves pension reform plans.    

The Mayor’s office released a preliminary budget Monday that shows an $18 million deficit with pension reform or $64 million without.

The City Council hasn’t approved the pension plan, and has requested two different versions of the budget, but now the Finance Committee says it wants just one final version.

City of Jacksonville

Jacksonville City Council Vice-President Bill Gulliford has been elected to be the Council President for upcoming council year. The vote was unanimous.

Gulliford says the two biggest issues facing the Council over the next year will be the budget and pension reform.

The Alvin Brown administration has come up with pension  reform plan with several of the city's unions.

A deal to modify the pension of new hires in police and fire was introduced to the city council Tuesday night.   

Florida Times-Union

 

The Jacksonville City Council is considering hiring outside attorneys to evaluate Police and Fire pension reform deal from Mayor Brown's administration.

Several Council members met Tuesday to discuss the possibility.

City Councilman Matt Schellenberg says the pension deal, which has not yet been introduced to council, will need an independent review.

Mayor Alvin Brown announced the pension reform plan two weeks ago.

Kevin Meerschaert

The Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to have the city purchase the Haverty's Building, now known as the Jake Godbold Building, from the Police and Fire Pension Fund (PFPF).

The city gave the building to the Fund in 2006 after renovating it to reduce the city's pension obligation and forgive debt owed.

As part of the deal, the city leased the building for city office space. It currently houses the Public Defender's office.

Kevin Meerschaert

While workers  were setting up the stage and seats for this weekend's "Funk Fest" Concert at Jacksonville's Metropolitan Park, a City Council Committee heard the results of noise level testing at last month's "Welcome to Rockville" event.

In previous years some residents in the St. Nicholas neighborhood across the St. Johns River from Met Park complained the concert was too loud, rattling their windows.

What appears to have worked well at "Rockville" was repositioning the temporary stages so the sound would be directed away from the river.

City of Jacksonville

The Jacksonville City Council Rules Committee wants to know if Environmental Quality Chief Vince Seibold was let go because he publicly expressed concerns about reorganization plans involving his department.

Seibold told the Environmental Protection Board, or EPB, about potential problems with moving environmental control under Public Works.

The administration says Seibold was let go because he had requested a member of the General Counsel's office to prepare a document for the EPB without the consent or acknowledgment of her superior, Cindy Laquidara.

Kevin Meerschaert

    The Jacksonville City Council has approved an 18-month sliding reduction of the city’s mobility fee.   

    The fee is paid based on a formula of how much a new development is expected to affect transportation.    

    For the next nine months 75-percent of the fee will be waived. The waiver falls to 50-percent for the six months after that, and then 25-percent for the final three months of the waiver.

Kevin Meerschaert

After repeated disruptions at Tuesday nights city council meeting by supporters of concerts at Metropolitan Park, Council President Bill Bishop cleared the room.

During public comment, "public displays" like signs, boos, shouting and applause are prohibited under council rules.

The public was sent out of council chambers into the Lynwood Roberts and Donald Davis rooms and brought in to speak three at a time.

After about 90 minutes, Bishop let everybody back in, but reminded them to abide by  the rules.

Hens in Jax

Advocates of urban agriculture in Jacksonville are pressing the City Council not to chicken out (author's note: I had to do it) and to legalize domestic hens in residential areas.

A group called Hens in Jax is leading the charge.

Kevin Meerschaert

Jacksonville City Council Vice-President Bill Gulliford says the city should dip into into the city’s banking fund to buy the Haverty-Godbold Building.

The building at the corner of Laura Street and Duval Street is owned by the Police and Fire Pension Board. The city rents the building to house the Public Defenders office.

The city can buy the property for $14 million in May - but if it doesn’t, it doesn't have another chance to purchase until 2017, and the cost would increase by about $1.5 million.

Beth Meckley

The Jacksonville City Council has approved legislation to restore some city services that were eliminated during last year’s budget process.

The frequency of city right-of-way maintenance will increase and streetlights in industrial areas will be reactivated.

The $1.45 million for the right of ways comes from discovered unspent funds from the previous fiscal year. The $300,000 to turn back on the streetlights comes from a JEA customer fuel credit.

Council members say the services are essential for the city to provide.

National Humane Society

  Animal rights groups like the Humane Society say dogs left chained alone often become aggressive and dangerous.

In March of 2011, 17-month old Dylan Andres was mauled to death by a neighbor’s dog in Jacksonville when the toddler wandered into their yard.

He had walked away from his mother as she was unloading groceries from the car. The neighbor’s rottweiler had been chained to a pole while owner was away.

Animal rights group have been pushing for legislation to ban unattended dog tethering.

Three Jacksonville City Council Committees have deferred a vote on legislation that would have waived the city’s mobility fee for three years.

Council members want to try and reach a short term compromise, while a task force is formed to take a longer look at the fee’s formula and structure.

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