Daniels chairs Council committee
Several black City Council members who resigned their 2012-13 assignments to protest a lack of committee diversity didn’t attend the first meetings of the Council year Monday, although Kim Daniels chaired a committee.
Four of the five black members of the 19-member Council resigned their appointments June 27. They asked Council President Bill Bishop to appoint a black member to chair a standing committee and to appoint a second black member to the influential Rules and Finance committees.
Bishop had appointed white Council members to chair the five standing committees.
Three Council committees met Monday. The Rules Committee met at 10 a.m.; Transportation, Energy & Utilities at 2 p.m.; and the newly recreated Public Health & Safety Committee at 4 p.m.
Each had at least one black Council member who was absent.
While Daniels did not attend the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee meeting Monday afternoon as a member, she did chair the Public Health and Safety Committee late Monday, an appointment made by Bishop after the resignations.
Daniels said after that meeting she was no longer on the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee due to time constraints and did not want to discuss the protest issue.
Council member Reggie Brown did not attend the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee. A call to his office seeking comment was not returned.
Council member Warren Jones was absent from the Rules and the Public Health & Safety committees.
Jones said Monday his absence was in protest and that he hopes Bishop meets with the four black Council members again soon.
“I hope so. I hope we can get it straightened out,” Jones said, when asked if there was a chance for resolution.
Denise Lee was assigned to the Land Use and Zoning Committee and Recreation and Community Development Committee, which meet today. Her executive Council assistant said Monday he was unsure whether she would attend.
Each resigned his or her appointments after raising concerns over the makeup of Bishop’s assignments, although he said late Monday he had seen letters only from Lee and Jones.
After the committee resignations, Bishop split the Recreation, Community Development, Public Health and Safety Committee, which had been combined the year before, and appointed Daniels to head Public Health and Safety.
Johnny Gaffney was the only black Council member who did not resign his appointments. He is vice chair of the Recreation and Community Development Committee and a member of the Finance Committee, which meet today.
In a July 9 interview with the Daily Record, Bishop discussed the issue that began before the Council year began July 1 and the status of the committees if the holdout continued.
“As far as I am concerned, they are still on the committees. If they want to come and participate, I encourage them to do so,” Bishop said.
The six committees have a quorum without the resigned members, meaning they have the number of members necessary to conduct a meeting, he said.
Bishop said he didn’t intend to change the membership on the Rules and Finance committees and repeated that Monday.
“The committees are set,” he said.
Bishop said Monday he was not going to recognize resignations because it would cause an unfair workload on other Council members who would have to fill the void.
He said if the members do not show up today to committees, he might send a notice asking their intentions.
“My hope is that they decide they want to participate. I think it’s very unfortunate for them and their constituents if they choose not to, because they are removing themselves from the legislative process,” Bishop said.
In other news from Monday’s committee meetings:
• An ordinance amendment was withdrawn that would have added a referendum to decide if term limits for constitutional officers should take effect for terms beginning in 2012 or after. A Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this year enforced limits in Broward County. General Counsel Cindy Laquidara issued an opinion that also upheld the term limits, but said Monday she did not know whether the City or a challenger to someone potentially violating the rule has the authority to initiate striking a candidate from the ballot. Council member John Crescimbeni, who is in favor of term limits, said he would work on a resolution that would allow Laquidara authority to pursue such action. It could be ready as an emergency measure Tuesday night for the full Council. The issue would immediately affect Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller, who took office in 2001 and is running this year for re-election to a fourth term.
• Discussion and action were shelved for two weeks on expanding the anti-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation. The Rules and Public Health and Safety committees will revisit the legislation in two weeks for a vote. The Recreation and Community Development Committee is expected to defer it today.
• Renaming the green space between the new Duval County Courthouse and Adams, Broad and Pearl streets the “Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Square” is on hold after notice from the bill’s sponsor, Council member Richard Clark, that alternate locations were being sought.
• An ordinance was withdrawn that would have appropriated more than $19,000 from a special Council operating contingency to retain Jacksonville Jaguars suites.
• An amendment was deferred to allocate $30 million from the Duval County Unified Courthouse program for build-out of the Old Federal Courthouse building to house the State Attorney’s Office. Bishop, sitting in on the meeting, questioned how much of the $30 million was available and said he did not want to see the transfer as a backdoor way to increase the entire project past the $350 million budget. The fund has around $25 million remaining, according to the Council Auditor’s office.