When it comes to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s “Kids Hope Alliance” proposal, City Council President Anna Brosche wanted to put the brakes on.
But it appears that won’t happen. And in a process that one Councilman called “political football,” Mayor Curry — or one of his key allies — is calling the plays in Council Chamber.
Meanwhile, Brosche is saying that if Curry’s bill passes without a longer period of Council and public review, it’s a “loss for open and transparent government.”
Just hours ago, it looked like Brosche had the Mayor and his children’s program reform bill on the ropes.
On Monday, mere hours before a special Committee of the Whole meeting on the bill that would reform the governing structure of Jacksonville children’s services, Brosche cancelled the meeting. She said there were a lot of unanswered questions, and that the public needed to weigh in.
Later on Monday, Councilman John Crescimbeni — who lost a deeply personal race for the Presidency to Brosche — requested a meeting on Tuesday before the regular Council meeting.
And 13 of 19 Councilors signed on, and that meeting will be happening.
And — make no mistake — that meeting is happening against the wishes of Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis.
On Monday, both Brosche and Dennis talked to Action News Jax about their frustrations with the process.
President Brosche said that she didn’t think the public had had enough time to review the legislation, and she thought the Mayor was rushing it.
Councilman Dennis, as has been the case, went further.
The bill, he said, is a “political football — the budget’s now being held over some of my colleagues’ heads.”
“We have an obligation as the legislative body to be a check to the executive branch. What you see is a potential rubber stamp — and it’s wrong,” Dennis said about the process.
Dennis said that some Councilors felt “bullied” by the Mayor, leading one of Curry’s strategists to wonder on Twitter whether or not Dennis violated the Sunshine Law to glean that insight.
Dennis’ Sunshine compliance notwithstanding, Crescimbeni scored a political victory in this case, aligning Council behind the Mayor — and away from, on this issue, their elected President.
The KHA would phase out the Jax Journey and the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, folding them under a new seven-person board.
The timing of this meeting struck Dennis as apt: the city’s budget needs to be signed Tuesday by 5 p.m. And KHA is a missing piece of a larger puzzle, per an administration spokesperson.
“There are a number of budget uncertainties unrelated to KHA legislation. Some Council members have made statements that would have financial impacts on future budgets,” asserted Marsha Oliver Monday afternoon.
“For example,” Oliver asserted, “it has been proposed to find a dedicated funding source including creating a special taxing district. Also, support for excess pension payments has been presented and agreed to in publicly noticed meetings. It is fiscally responsible for the mayor to consider these impacts prior to signing the budget. As always, the mayor respects the work of individual council members and looks forward to working with them.”
The question going into Tuesday: does Brosche have a counter for what some are saying was a coup on Crescimbeni’s part?
We asked Brosche if she felt Council overruled her by siding with Crescimbeni and the Mayor, and she took the high road.
“For me, this has always been about the children and how the City of Jacksonville wraps itself around our children is the most important investment we can make. The mayor and I share a strong commitment to serving kids,” Brosche said.
“Ultimately,” the Council President added, “the legislative process is a hallmark of local government that is open and transparent. How we proceed is a reflection of the will of the majority, which is also a foundational element of local government. I’m seeking to honor the legislative process and to proceed in an open and transparent manner. If my colleagues feel differently, they’ll express their will accordingly and I fully accept the will of the body.”
“From the beginning of my term, and reiterated at the beginning of my service as Council President, I conveyed my deep respect for the diversity of perspective and thought of my colleagues. My respect and appreciation for my colleagues is and will remain strong,” Brosche added.
We asked Brosche about the political angle, and she was straightforward.
“As someone who has a long history of serving children, my due diligence over very important and impactful legislation is entirely about the kids. I’m elected to produce legislation that’s right for Jacksonville, and I’m working to fulfill that responsibility. If KHA passes tomorrow, it’s a loss for open and transparent government.