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City Hall ‘hit-free zone’ falls in third Jacksonville City Council panel

For the second straight committee cycle for the Jacksonville City Council, members mulled legislation to make city property a “hit-free zone.” 

And although it cleared committees two weeks ago, problems cropped up for Resolution 2018-171 which would turn all city property into “areas in which no adult shall hit another adult, no adult shall hit a child, no child shall hit an adult, and no child shall hit another child.”

Monday saw the first of three committees — Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety — consider the bill. Once the bill was limited to just apply to City Hall, it passed 4-3, even amidst concerns about potential overreach.

Tuesday morning saw the Finance Committee approve the bill by a 4-3 margin.

Tuesday afternoon saw Rules take up the bill. That committee offered considerable headwinds as did the previous panels, with now-typical consternation over the concept of the bill (which some said divested parents of their rights to discipline) and potential overreach.

Rules downed the bill 3-4, with chairman Doyle Carter casting the deciding vote.

Councilman Al Ferraro said justifications for the bill were “doubletalk,” and unmoored in specifics, including the dispensation of the next mayor and potential constitutional officers who may have to enforce the measure.

“This thing’s going to grow and grow and is going to get teeth. Everything that this government touches expands,” Ferraro said.

Councilman Scott Wilson noted that the responsibility will create tensions between employees and residents when enforcement becomes necessary, with other potential dire consequences.

The resolution, per bill sponsor Garrett Dennis, would give the Lenny Curry administration “full discretion” over how to craft a policy that could include city buildings or parks.

This so-called “hit free zone” bill was smacked down on Tuesday evening by the Jacksonville City Council, which pushed it back to committees amidst concerns about “big government,” potential costs of posting signs, and burdens created on city workers tasked with enforcing the rule.

The full Council will take a shot at the modified resolution next week. Though with weak performance in committees, it is uncertain how strongly the measure will fare.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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