An “equal opportunity” bill introduced to the Jacksonville City Council by Garrett Dennis picked up momentum Tuesday, with a half dozen councilmembers and stakeholders attending a public notice meeting to discuss it.
Dennis framed this bill as an attempt to ensure city agencies and independent authorities to “cast a broader net” in their hiring process.
“This is not a quota bill, not an affirmative action bill,” said Dennis, who maintained that “employees should reflect or mirror the demographics of the community.”
Dennis’ bill calls for the following: annual reporting to the Mayor and City Council on the progress and state of the Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Program; budgetary line-item for the position of Equal Opportunity/Equal Access Assistant Director; and an “annual review” of “adherence and commitment” to the ordinance by the CEO’s of the city’s independent authorities, as part of their evaluation of the CEO.
The annual reporting, said Dennis, requires agencies to discuss with council their diversity initiatives; Dennis would prefer that to be at budget time.
A representative of the general counsel office noted that Dennis’ asks are in ordinance code, but have gone unfunded for many years.
She also noted that, as a condition of federal grants from the Department of Justice, many of these agencies are actually doing the reporting; however, they are not being presented to the city.
These reports could be presented to the city council; however, agencies not getting federal money aren’t required to do these reports.
Thus, the legislation for them would be more of an “encouraging tool.”
Council VP John Crescimbeni urged mandating a separate report, and publishing it, as a “back door way of dealing with the issue” of demographic underrepresentation in the workplace.
Dennis has questioned minority recruitment in city employ, noting that “we have to do a better job of going after the talent that is here.”
“That’s a part of the [equal employment opportunity] plan,” Dennis said, “but we’re not doing it.”
There are still concerns.
Councilman Aaron Bowman cautioned that Jacksonville is near full employment already, which could impact the bill.
Councilwoman Joyce Morgan, meanwhile, called the bill a “good start,” but advised “something needs to be done on a wider scale.”