A bill to impose a 90 day moratorium on block parties in Jacksonville (and not the rest of Duval County) cleared its two city council committees Tuesday.
The legislation (2017-196) posits “a legitimate public purpose in imposing a temporary moratorium on permitting recreational street closings … ‘block parties’ within the City, to allow the City time to create appropriate local regulations and standards.”
Bill sponsor Reggie Brown, in addressing the Public Health and Safety committee, described that legitimate public purpose as a matter of life and death.
“There was an incident that took place [last weekend] at 45th and Avenue B, and my understanding was a 13 year old was shot … right in the same area as a block party … that did not get permitted,” Brown told the panel, adding that “something needs to be done because of safety issues and the impact on neighbors and JSO.”
Brown reprised complaints against the current set up, which makes it much easier for people to have block parties in the street than to gather in one of Jacksonville’s many public parks.
People can have these events from “8 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” Brown said, contingent on a threshold of “60 percent of signatures … you can be part of the 60 percent, but can you imagine loud noise” for that long, Brown added.
“And we don’t even have a way to verify those signatures,” Brown added.
Brown also noted “concerns” about “clean-up issues, mobile restrooms or lack thereof.”
“This moratorium. Do we need it? Absolutely. We’re going to have to do something … we need to do something in a hurry. I want to send a strong message: we’re determined to have safe streets,” Brown said.
“Do I want to move on the moratorium? Absolutely. But we need to do something quicker than 90 days.”
The goal: “fast tracking an ordinance that works for everybody,” Brown said, as “we have no structure in our streets.”
“We’ve created a system that puts folks in jeopardy right now,” Brown added.
All committee members voted for the bill. A couple of comments were interesting.
Chairman Sam Newby noted that his “daughter who doesn’t get politically involved came to me and expressed her opinion about the block party bill. It was really interesting.
Councilman Bill Gulliford was more cautious, meanwhile.
“I think what this moratorium will do is eliminate the permits but not the parties,” Gulliford said.
In Rules, the second committee to vote the bill through, Brown said that he hoped the bill wouldn’t be needed — ideally, ordinance code would be tweaked to allow parties to move to parks.
Brown noted that it’s “extremely inappropriate” to have “loud music playing in a residential area after 9:00 at night.”
Rules was a bit more skeptical than Public Health and Safety.
“You mentioned that there were a lot of good block parties. Why a moratorium? Why hurt those who are doing it right,” Danny Becton asked.
“When you start looking at the crime in our community … inappropriate behaviors,” Brown said, there’s a “liability issue.”
“Government, unless pushed, don’t work fast. The moratorium has woke up the city. Everybody’s looking for something to happen,” Brown said, noting that “everybody’s not happy” with the proposal.
“JSO don’t know who’s been permitted to have a block party,” Brown said, but they have to be there anyway.
Becton was unmollified, raising the prospect of “honorable block parties” being harmed by “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”
Greg Anderson noted that parties already scheduled and permitted shouldn’t be “penalized,” leading Brown to float the idea of a moratorium for “neighborhoods doing it the right way.”
Co-sponsor John Crescimbeni threw water on the fire, calling the bill a “timeout” that shouldn’t affect planned parties.