End of ‘at-large’ Jacksonville City Council races eyed
Garrett Dennis speaks at Valencia Way. Image via A.G. Gancarski

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A smaller City Council would be cheaper.

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.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. 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 [email protected]


4 comments

  • Reginald L. Gundy

    September 21, 2021 at 7:58 pm

    The days of at-large seats being eliminated are long over-due. This is extremely important in view of the ethic demographics of Jacksonville. Minorities are under-represented based on drawn districts in view of the 2020 census. This is a great legislation proposal and a need to address not only the at-large issue, but also the implications of the voters at the beaches. With all of this said, it boils down to democrats going to the polls and voting for all city offices in Duval County. It would resolve many issues in our community as it relates to equity for all citizens.
    However, the legislative law of the off year elections to maintain power by the now minority must end. It equals no less than an apartheid approach to governing. Bravo Councilman Dennis, this is long over-due. It is a battle worth fighting for and it will be a good fight to engage in.

  • Johny Reb

    September 22, 2021 at 4:44 am

    Would four of the five seats being held by Republicans have anything to do with why Dennis is proposing this?

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    September 22, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    They need 19 council members? Sounds like Chicago politics And of course the race card is played

  • Dr Juan Gray

    September 24, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    This is a fantastic recommendation by CM Dennis. The 5at Large Council Members do not have assigned legitimate constituents. What`s the purpose of serving on the council with no direct responsibility for any group of citizens. This move will reduce the number of voting members to a manageable size. Stacking the council with 5 At Large voting Members with no political accountability by citizens fails logic.

Comments are closed.


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