Jax commitment to workforce diversity: just ‘words on paper’?
Councilman Garrett Dennis says batch foreclosures could be one of the "tools in the toolbox" for eliminating blighted properties in Jacksonville.

Garrett Dennis

Thursday morning’s Jacksonville City Council budget review included a deep dive into improving workforce diversity in city employment.

Council members discussed ways to fulfill the letter of the equal opportunity/equal access law, relative to ensuring that Jacksonville’s labor force reflects the city’s demographics.

“It’s about priorities. Whatever the Mayor wants to do in that fashion, he can do by legislation or by executive order. I did it by executive order,” Hazouri said. “Ed Austin did it by law.”

“We had everybody from black, Asian, African-American, Jewish,” Hazouri said, noting that diversity wasn’t the reason for hires in his administration, but talent was.

“Pay often has a huge impact on recruiting,” Councilman Reggie Brown noted.

Employee Services director Diane Moser noted that pay was “low,” but collective bargaining led to adjustments.

“We do adjust pay scales and salaries in order to retain folks,” Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said, noting a “real problem in public works … hiring them or keeping them.”

“We don’t want to train them and have them go working for someone else,” Mousa quipped.

“I understand what Employee Services is doing,” Finance Chair Garrett Dennis said, “but it falls short … words on paper.”

Dennis added that current performance falls short of the “One City, One Jacksonville” goal. He recommended a more robust recruitment.

“It’s more than words on paper,” Mousa said. “We take every opportunity out there to recruit the best and the brightest.”

Dennis noted that agencies throughout the city “rely on Employee Services” to meet diversity criteria.

Mousa spiritedly pushed back, noting some categories — such as “African-American engineers” — are “difficult to find.”

“Most African-American engineers graduate from Northeastern universities and stay in the universities,” Mousa added.

“White males make up 80 percent of the workforce,” Councilman Brown said regarding some departments, citing Sports and Entertainment as an example.

“The smaller the department is, one person can change the percentage,” Moser said.

Councilman Brown noted that the higher the salaries, the more likely the employee might be a white male, with minorities occupying the “$10-12 range.”

Councilman Brown also wanted to “dig deep down into the bowels of the city” to elevate employees from lower to higher levels in the city hierarchy, suggesting that Jacksonville learn from other cities’ best practices.

Among the potential remedies discussed: $400,000 of funding for tuition reimbursement for city employees.

Mousa said the administration is “very serious” about retention processes.

“This is something we need to do city wide,” Mousa said. “Due to budget cuts, that went away. We are very strong in wanting to do that.”

“There could be some dollars left over in the $3.5M UAAL account,” Mousa said, saying that $200,000 may be available to be earmarked from that pension account, with $400,000 going to police and fire for the same purpose.

“It’s about making a bold statement to our employees that we’re committed to them,” Chairman Dennis said.

“Mr. Mousa, you the man,” Dennis said.

“No. No, I’m not,” Mousa replied.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes for the New York Post and National Review also, with previous work in the American Conservative and Washington Times and a 15+ year run as a columnist in Folio Weekly. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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