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Hemming landmarks, Ability Housing highlight Jax Council committee calendar

The Jacksonville City Council launches into committees this Monday. A number of bills merit tracking, including measures related to historic Hemming Park and the Ability Housing settlement.

Hemming Happening: Neighborhoods, Community Investments, and Services kicks off Monday morning with a consideration of a historic designation of the Coquina Road and Confederate monument structures in Hemming Park as “landmarks” (2016-559). Land Use and Zoning also mulls the bill, ahead of potential full council consideration next week.

Golf carts in Nocatee: NCIS also considers a measure (2017-66) to make Nocatee a “golf cart community.” Drivers would have to be 16 and older. They could drive golf carts in the public right of way during daylight hours, provided the carts are equipped with lights, turn signals, and other accoutrements that make them street legal.

Ability Housing settlement: The city considers two bills (2017-68 and 2017-69) that may close the book on an issue that first emerged during the Alvin Brown administration.

In 2014, Ability Housing set out to renovate an apartment building in Springfield to create 12 units of housing for the chronically homeless and disabled.

The planning director balked, likening the proposed use to that of an assisted living facility. Soon thereafter, the Department of Justice, Disability Florida, and Ability Housing sued.

The proposed settlement ensures that the city not discriminate via zoning against those with disabilities, including via so-called zoning “overlays” such as Springfield and other neighborhoods have, and allows Ability Housing to become eligible for Jacksonville Journey funding again.

Ability Housing and Disability Rights Florida will receive $400,000 and $25,000 respectively per the settlement. Jacksonville also is required to grant $1.5 million for the development of permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, after a competitive grant process including Ability Housing.

Finance and Land Use and Zoning will both have to approve these settlement bills before they are ready for the full council.

New housing for 200 Riverside: City incentives look poised to bring new mixed-use development to 200 Riverside Ave., via 2017-101.

In 2014, a $7 million REV grant, payable over 20 years, was approved for development. In 2017, the number is $9 million – but more units (295, up for 229) and more retail space will be included.

As well, the private investment now is $50 million – up from $32 million in the original conception.

Here’s to your health: Ordinance 2017-20 would authorize the city’s employee services department to offer the option to workers and retirees to enroll in the UF Health plan starting on March 31.

The contract would be administered by a third party, “Integra Administrative Services,” via a no-bid contract.

The bill summary refers to this deal as a “network option under the City’s self-insurance plan that consists primarily of UF Health providers.”

For UF Health, a rollout of a program like this could be a game changer.

The city spends $88 million on health claims a year, with only $6 million going to UF Health.

People in both the mayor’s office and on the council have expressed a sincere desire to get more of a paying customer mix at the city’s safety net hospital.

Jacksonville, unlike other Florida cities of its size, lacks an indigent care tax; this surfeit makes UF Health funding especially vulnerable to flux in state and federal funding.

Estimates from the employee services division are that 500 to 600 of the city’s staff and retirees will choose this option, which would move them away from Florida Blue.

The plan is said to be revenue neutral for the city, yet allows a meaningful cushion for funding formulas that may be shaky from Washington or Tallahassee in the coming years.

This bill will be considered Tuesday by Public Health & Safety and Rules, then Wednesday by Finance.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles – Council members delegated to attend Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties meetings may have a budget allocation soon, via 2017-97.

The bill would authorize $16,000 for such travel during the current budget year, with a $20,000 cap going forward.

Currently, council member travel allowances are capped at $3,000 per member, regardless of being a member of such delegations.

Matt Schellenberg, delegated for this travel to both FLC and FAC, contends that Jacksonville doesn’t take advantage of the opportunities these organizations present. A limited travel budget, coupled with not sending as many people as other cities, puts the city at a competitive disadvantage.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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