The Jacksonville City Council currently has five At-Large seats, only four of which are filled in the wake of Tommy Hazouri‘s death.
When voters cast their ballots in the 2022 General Election to replace Hazouri, involving what likely will be the top two finishers from a crowded field in the December First Election, they could be asked to weigh in via referendum on whether that Special Election to fill the At-Large seat could be among the last in Duval County history.
The City Council would have to approve legislation putting it on the ballot.
Democratic Council member Garrett Dennis introduced two pieces of election reform legislation Tuesday, both of which could save the city money. One piece would shrink the size of government itself, phasing out all five at-large members of the Council, and leaving just the 14 district representatives remaining.
Per Dennis, this shrinkage would save taxpayers approximately $885,000 annually, once salary and administrative costs are tallied for each of the five citywide legislators.
The referendum’s results would not affect the Council before 2030, and would not affect any sitting members’ terms.
Dennis, in his second term on the Council, has at times bristled at the outsized influence of At-Large members of the Council.
The race to fill Hazouri’s vacancy has already drawn considerable talent. Former City Council member Matt Schellenberg, former legislative candidate Tracye Polson, and Fire Watch Executive Director Nick Howland have already filed. As the language reads currently, a winner could earn terms in 2023 and 2027 before the At-Large phaseout starting in 2030.
A second piece of legislation proposes aligning the Spring election time frame with that of the off-year, even-numbered election cycle, a move Dennis says could save the city $4 million every four years in administrative costs. This too would take effect next decade as the language currently reads, should Council approve the legislation putting the question before voters.
“It is my goal to give the opportunity to help eliminate government waste by cutting the size of government and save taxpayers millions of dollars.” Dennis said.
We will track this legislation as it progresses.