Members of the Downtown Investment Authority board met Wednesday in a special meeting to engage Council members, including members of the Finance Committee that Friday moved $9 million earmarked for Downtown to a capital projects account that potentially could be used for the fiscal 2013-14 City budget.
The committee is underway in its budget review for fiscal 2013-14 and members for some time have discussed the idea of redirecting the funds.
"I believe we need to send a message to City Council, let them know the work we are doing," said authority Chair Oliver Barakat.
Barakat said Council's action to move the money now "really impairs" the authority's work and attracting interest to Downtown.
Board members Kay Harper and Tony Allegretti expressed disappointment and surprise with the Council action.
"I wouldn't know what to think if I was a developer," Harper said.
In response, Harper said she supported "any and every step possible" to lobby Council to not adopt the recommendation to move the funds.
Another option suggested by Barakat and board member Melody Bishop was to draft a resolution to inform Council of its stance against potential fund reallocation and tell Council of the authority's accomplishments and approach.
Barakat offered to write the resolution and bring it to members Wednesday during the regularly scheduled authority meeting.
Not everyone was in agreement.
Board member Jim Bailey, publisher of the Financial News & Daily Record, said the proposed efforts were "a total waste of time." He said much work went into making the authority independent, but the board "has done everything in our power to dissolve that."
The board at its July meeting authorized the City Office of Economic Development to handle negotiations for six Downtown projects.
As part of Mayor Alvin Brown's reorganization, the office is to handle economic development in Duval County with the exception of Downtown, which is under the purview of the authority.
"I think we have more serious problems," he said, addressing the confidence level Council has with the authority. "Lobbying is not going to return that confidence to the DIA."
Barakat said one issue is authority staffing levels, or lack thereof.
The board selected Aundra Wallace as its CEO who will report to the board, but he begins Monday. Outside of Wallace, the authority has no dedicated staff and has been assisted by members of the economic development office.
Council member Don Redman, who represents parts of Downtown, said that discussion around City Hall is that the authority members "are losing your ability to operate" and Brown's administration is "taking charge" of what the board should be doing."
"If the other City Council members are getting fed the same thing I am getting fed, you can understand why we're getting disillusioned," he told board members.
Council member Lori Boyer regularly attends authority board meetings and told the group that, given massive budget gaps, to not personalize the decision to redirect the funds.
"Don't assume it's only based on 'oh, we're upset with something the DIA is doing,'" she said.
She suggested that a formal response in addition to individual discussions with Council members were probably in the authority's best interest.
"I would be pleading your case if you have a specific case to be made," she said.
Days after a City Council committee diverted $9 million of Downtown-centric funds, members of the board charged with overseeing Downtown's revitalization determined how to react.