Have the promises made when the city of Jacksonville consolidated with Duval County half a century ago been fulfilled?
That’s an open question, and one with a spectrum of answers ranging from “nope” to “things have actually gotten better for most of the city.”
On Tuesday, members of the Jacksonville City Council convened to discuss Consolidation — specifically, the work of the city’s Consolidation Task Force.
However, rather than a holistic discussion, these legislators got into the weeds of structure and potential changes.
Councilors Bill Gulliford, Greg Anderson, Lori Boyer, John Crescimbeni were in the house, as was the city’s chief administrative officer, Sam Mousa.
Boyer began by correcting the record from a previous Council meeting regarding the work of the Consolidation Task Force not having come to pass; in fact, she said, much of it did, including charter amendments.
However, there is unfinished business — including term limits.
“There were all kinds of scenarios being floated,” Boyer said, without Task Force consensus regarding the three four-year terms in a current bill.
Boyer reviewed the previous work of the task force at some length, which got deep into policy weeds very quickly.
One such thatch of arbor: a discussion of interlocal agreements with independent agencies and smaller municipalities in the county.
Gulliford noted that there isn’t a master aggregation of interlocal agreements, and wanted a list of them.
“Every time I turn around, there’s a new interlocal agreement popping up,” Gulliford quipped.
Vetoes also came up.
“Currently there is a different standard for overriding line item vetoes than there is any other item,” Boyer said, in advocating a change to need 13 votes to override a budget veto.
Councilman Greg Anderson suggested that the entire “convoluted” veto process needs review, given byzantine wording.
Boyer agreed that there could be review, vis a vis timing.
Zero-based budgeting: also discussed.
Boyer noted that, in the absence of a “strategic plan, you can’t do it because there’s nothing to judge against.”
IT billing cost controls: also a robust topic of discussion. As were functions that have been opted out from central services over the years for a variety of reasons, many of them related to departmental specialization.
“Central services has eroded,” Mousa said.
Gulliford concurred, saying that it was consolidated government itself that eroded.
There is plenty to do, of course.
One ongoing initiative: a task force to deal with public health issues.
Employee health: another issue to be dealt with. Mousa suggested Mayor Curry may want to deal with that task force.
And changes in health care could be contemplated.
“The county hospital model is becoming a thing of the past in most cities,” Boyer remarked.
The expansion of CPACs – Citizen Planning Advisory Committees — also was up for discussion.
“When we consolidated, we became a big bureaucratic entity,” Boyer said, with CPACs serving an important role to bring localism to the larger government.
While CPACs were helpful in terms of capital improvement suggestions in the most recent budget, there was no consensus as to how their functions could be expanded, or made more uniform.
As well, bringing the discussion back full circle, a discussion of allocating a fixed amount of the capital improvement program budget to the promises made before Consolidation happened.
Boyer noted that would come out of general fund dollars.
“Part of the argument for Consolidation,” Boyer said, was standardizing city services.
“Much of [the work] hasn’t been done.”