Though this reporter’s focus has been on the Sam Mousa budget review marathon, Lenny Curry‘s transition committee meetings continue apace at Jacksonville University. Today, we are sitting in on a couple of these; the first, as the title suggests, is Operations, Human Resources, and Productivity.
The big news out of this: a Neighborhoods Department, cut in recent years, looks to be in the offing for the new administration, as strongly advocated by former Neighborhoods chair and subcommittee chair Kerri Stewart. The open questions are what could go in it.
The session started off with a review of documents encompassing re-organizations, going back to 1997. Kelli O’Leary of the Employee Services division of city government provided Org Charts and other information, including head count snapshots going back to 2008.
Stewart: “We have a lot of information.”
The last org shift, developed by the City Council relative to the Office of Economic Development, went back to 2013.
There also was a discussion of the dismantling of the Neighborhoods department, which apparently had something to do with Council not being happy with the chair of that department, so, in Stewart’s words, they made him the chair of nothing.
The Neighborhoods discussion continued; Stewart pointed out that there is a strong possibility, given her review of the Blight committee’s work, that a Neighborhoods department very likely will be re-created in the coming administration.
Discussion, from the Clara White Mission CEO Ju’Coby Pittman and Neptune Beach mayor Harriet Pruette, reflected a need to include the beaches communities and Baldwin in the mix.
From there, community block grants were discussed. Charles Moreland talked about the value of some grants being combined; however, not all grants can be combined and managed on a larger level. Pittman responded that a grant department might be able to leverage further grant procurement.
Stewart kept trying to move the discussion back to Neighborhoods, but the group seemed much more interested in grants.
Eventually, it got there. Housing and Community Development struck Stewart as a strong inclusion in Neighborhoods. Animal Control and Mosquito Control were also discussed.
Issues like mowing, landscape maintenance, and other “traditional public works activities,” said Stewart, “affects neighborhoods greatly.” She mentioned that Blight created a Mowing and Landscape Maintenance Committee to address these matters.
From there, the discussion moved to the 630-City helpline, and whether it could be in Neighborhoods. Pittman, who just ran a campaign for City Council, observed that many folks have complained that they called for recourse but that there was no response or remediation.
“How do we make sure that the problem is taken care of so the person doesn’t have to call back three or four times?”
It was observed that the message was just passed on to the appropriate department, and it was the departmental responsibility to take care of the problem.
Another discussion revolved around how these moves would affect Intragovernmental Services.
The salient point, adds Pittman, is ensuring that people get responses for their concerns. “Because government is a big bureaucracy, at the end of the day people want to know if their problem will be fixed or not, or what is the time table.”
“Since the Neighborhoods Department was dissolved,” Stewart said, there hasn’t been a central clearinghouse for “cross-lateral communication,” and this is something a Director could resolve.
The meeting closed with a resolution to create a Neighborhoods Department, to include the Beaches and Baldwin, and to revise grant practices. No opposition, and the motion passes.
Future meetings will revolve around IT, the Fire Department, and, perhaps, 630-City.