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Jax City Councilman Bill Gulliford (Photo: A.G. Gancarski)

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Public comment changes looming for Jacksonville City Council

Members of the public who want to address the Jacksonville City Council during public comment in the future may be advised to bring quarters for the vending machine.

They may be speaking later than they are used to.

Currently split up among two commenting periods, new legislation (2019-19) would shift public comment to the back of the agenda, moving public hearings on specific pieces of legislation up.

Sponsor Bill Gulliford says the legislation is driven by practical considerations.

For one, public hearings take between 18 and 25 minutes of most Council agendas, much less of a time investment than public comment itself, which typically sprawls for hours.

Those familiar with public comment will note the predictability of the theater, with the same few dozen speakers giving variations on pet speeches every fortnight.

Gulliford disputed the notion that Council members have an interest in not hearing these remarks, noting that legislators are going to be there anyway through the end of the meeting.

The real benefit is to those petitioning the city for specific action. Especially those people who have hired lawyers to represent them on Council night, who won’t have to spend money and time waiting out debates on Confederate monuments and other issues without live legislation.

In recent years, public comment has been lively.

Discussions over expanding LGBT rights sprawled out over years, leading to fairly epic public comment sessions.

In the current Council year, President Aaron Bowman cleared Council chambers after one particularly spirited round of public comment.

The timing of this legislation suits those who would like to keep the politicking of public comment to a minimum. Bowman has already noted that, during the “silly season” of campaigning, that the public comment forum should not be used for politicking.

It remains to be seen if candidates will respect that provision.

However, if Gulliford’s bill passes, they will have to try their luck a bit later in the evening.

The legislation may serve as a blow also to activists who would like earned media, as television cameras typically do not linger in Council chambers once crews have gotten what they needed for their evening stories.

Jacksonville allows commenters three minutes to make their points typically; though some have suggested that may be too much time per person, Gulliford’s bill does not adjust time allotments.

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.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Seber Newsome III

    January 9, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I am one of those who has been coming down to speak at the city council for years supporting keeping the Confederate Monuments exactly where they are and should be. The idea of speaking later in the city council does not bother me at all, I applaud it. Lets see if those who want to continually spew their hate will remain to the last of the city council meeting, which could be after 9pm? I will always be down there speaking as long as the Socialist continue to come down to city hall.

    • Sarah

      January 10, 2019 at 11:23 am

      Makes perfect sense. Cockroaches like the dark.

    • Wells Todd

      January 10, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      African American are always labeled socialist or communist when we speak out about the civil war.
      When we speak out about the lack justice in any area of our society.
      It is very interesting that the people who want to The statues to remain up never speak about the heinous crime of slavery. They have been taught in their homes and their schools that the Civil War was not fought to maintain slavery .
      They have been condition, hardwired and brainwashed.
      They refuse to read what the southern leader ship said at the time that they started the war.
      The Jacksonville City Council Received proposed legislation for the removal of the statues well over six months ago. But not one of them black or white has had the back bone, nor the guts to present it to the full body.
      The KKK continues to have a strong presence in Jacksonville. Every so often they let us know that by throwing leaflets that degrade the African-American community on to people’s lawns.
      There is no other country in the world that celebrates traders. Confederate soldiers have never been recognized as part of the US army.
      To remove the statues would be an admission of guilt regarding what they stand for and that is white supremacy.
      To the white and black community of Jacksonville it’s time to take a stand. It’s time to join the international struggle to remove statues that represent white supremacy.

  2. Seber Newsome III

    January 10, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    Mr. Todd is very confused. First of all , I do not remember learning anything about the War for Southern Indepence in school, if anything, it was fought about slavery. Nothing about home. I do not or never have know anyone in the KKK. Confederate Soldiers have been recognized as American Soldiers by law. He cannot even spell traitors correctly. By using his logic, America was traitors when we broke off from Great Britain because of the taxes and tyranny, the same thing the South tried to do, because of taxes and tyranny. The memorials in Jacksonville are not about white supremacy, or lost causes or slavery. As I have said so many times, but, some people are to dumb to understand, the memorial in Hemming Park was to the soldiers who fought, period. 75% of those polled by Nationally recognized polling company “Gravis Marketing Research” said they want the monuments to stay right where they are. How about this Mr. Todd, lets have the registered voters of Jacksonville vote on the issue?? Or are you scared of the outcome. You and your group are the racists. I have said many many times to put up more monuments to famous Blacks in Hemming Park, have you forgotten that too??? America builds monuments, we do not tear them down. Go peddle your hate somewhere else.

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