On one side, there’s the Mayor.
Lenny Curry asserts that his proposed Kids Hope Alliance bill is the “real reform” Jacksonville children’s services need.
On the other side, there’s Council President Anna Brosche, who asserts the process needs to be more deliberate and transparent. And there’s also Council Finance Chair Garrett Dennis, who has his own bill for children’s program reform that is actually favored by members of the city’s non-profit/provider community.
Brosche and Dennis wanted a slower process, with both bills considered side by side; 13 Council co-sponsors on Curry’s bill seemed to want something different.
That was the setup for a Tuesday meeting — a meeting catalyzed by Brosche’s decision to cancel a scheduled Monday meeting, saying that she had too many questions about the Curry bill for that one meeting to answer.
Councilman John Crescimbeni — the man Brosche beat for the presidency — called for the Tuesday meeting. And 13 Councilors backed him up.
If Curry’s bill passes — and with a supermajority co-sponsoring the measure, that seems likely — it means that the Jax Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission programs will lapse, to be supervised by a seven-person Kids Hope Alliance board.
What is clear, however; the political turbulence typical to the third year of a Mayor’s term came to a head on a bill that, outside of providers and non-profits, has been off of most media’s radars.
The meta-discourse on the bill included Dennis telling Action News Jax that Council members felt “bullied” by the Mayor.
“Now it’s political football. The budget is now being held over some of my colleagues’ heads. You know, ‘Vote for this Kids Hope Alliance or your project’s going to be taken out of the budget.’ And that’s wrong,” said Councilman Garrett Dennis.
And that was followed by a Mayoral adviser saying that Dennis would have had to have violated the Sunshine Law to get that information.
With all that prologue and drama in play, it’s easy enough to forget what this bill is: an attempt to streamline children and youth programming in the city, taking these boards out of the role of running programs in-house and having them supervise programs.
The debate long since moved beyond that. It is now a political endgame. And the latest battlefield: Tuesday afternoon in City Hall.
Ahead of the 3:30 p.m. meeting of the full City Council, Mayor Curry, meeting with Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and former JCC Chair Howard Korman, was in a good mood, joking with this reporter.
Curry’s confidence set into mind an axiom he frequently Tweets: “Plan. Plan all the way to the end.”
Curry had applied this theory throughout his political life, from his run for Mayor to his successful shepherding of pension reform.
However, this time was different; he had the opposition of the council president and the finance chair.
And to overcome that, he has had to do an end run around Council leadership.
Curry wasn’t present in chamber; he had another meeting.
He left it to Council allies to make the sale.
The 3:30 meeting was delimited to the question of whether or not to take up the KHA bill, with a hard stop at 4 p.m.
Citing a “sense of urgency” from colleagues and “intense urgency” from the Mayor’s Office, Brosche noted her regret for the impact of the cancellation.
Brosche said some answers from the administration for her questions were “unsatisfactory.”
Brosche also pointed out a “dilemma” stemming from the Mayor’s perceived desire to exclude the public from the process, with an administration member saying that the sub from a Councilor was intended to hide the bill from the public.
The third issue: Brosche didn’t understand the “rush” to make this law.
Curry fired back after the meeting with a statement responding to Brosche’s claims: “At no time would any one from my office or the Office of General Counsel seek to subvert the legislative process or attempt to prevent the input of the people of Jacksonville. It is both irresponsible and disgraceful for an elected official to make such a slanderous allegation. The council president should immediately admit that the anecdote is false and should apologize to the two staff members who she attacked.”
Brosche did not address Curry’s statement, either in the opening of the Council meeting or in response to a question texted from this outlet.
Councilman Dennis and Councilman Reggie Brown had point of order questions regarding public comment and when it might occur in the process; these occasioned grousing from some members of the crowd — specifically, members who were ready to get down to business and discharge the bill.
Councilman John Crescimbeni got fiery with a few minutes left before 4 p.m., saying that he thought the stall tactics from the chair were “some sort of game” to delay the bill further.
Crescimbeni finally was able to move to discharge. The seconds came in quickly.
The bill was discharged to 3rd Reading Ordinances — an outcome that wasn’t in doubt.
An 18-1 vote. With Brosche as the 1. And the Council against the president.
And a vote on a bill that has been the subject of two months of back and forth is imminent.
Councilman Dennis called the process on this bill a “travesty,” saying that rushing forward and not hearing constituents was not in the public interest.
But in the end, the vote looks very likely to happen.
And in the process, the council president looks to have been kneecapped by the process — and a very politically-savvy Mayor.