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City Council President Stephen Joost
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Economic development reform in Council’s hands

by David Chapman, Staff Writer

City Council will begin to address Mayor Alvin Brown’s proposed economic development reform this week, the first restructuring of the policies in 15 years.

Introduced two weeks ago by Brown, the two pieces of legislation deal with the transition of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission into a new Office of Economic Development and create a Downtown Investment Authority that would handle just Downtown development. Both will be the topic of a Council workshop scheduled 2-3:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, prior to the 5 p.m. full Council meeting.

Council President Stephen Joost said he scheduled the workshop so that his Council colleagues could directly ask the administration questions about the legislation and hear “the direction the mayor wants to go” for expediting economic development.

“The most important part is reducing that 10-week process (of reviewing economic development deals),” Joost said. “Other cities that we’re in competition with, it takes four to five weeks … this will help us get on an even playing field.”

Joost said he hopes Council members will be able to have all their inquiries answered before the legislation is vetted at the committee level, currently scheduled for the Council Finance, Rules and Recreation, Community Development, Public Health and Safety committees April 16-17.

Joost said he anticipates the legislation can pass in its regular cycle.

Council member Matt Schellenberg said he expects the administration to clarify and explain the nuances and rationale behind the creation of new government entities.

“It’s a mass of new rules, new regulations,” Schellenberg said. “I want clarity.”

Schellenberg said he thinks Brown has his priorities “out of whack” and should instead focus on one particular looming issue instead of another round of reorganization.

“Pensions, pensions, pensions,” Schellenberg said. “He should be working on it now … we don’t have time to shuffle people anymore. We can work on that (reorganization) the next three years.”

dchapman@baileypub.com

356-2466

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