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Photo by David Chapman - Brown spoke Wednesday to almost 200 members of two Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce councils.
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 25, 201112:00 PM EST

Brown: Council must find $6 million

by: David Chapman

A day after City Council denied his request to waive an actuarial study on pension costs, Mayor Alvin Brown said he would accept whatever cuts Council offered to fill in the almost $6 million budget gap it will produce.

“It’s on City Council to find the $6 million,” Brown said.

“Whatever cuts they provide, I will accept them,” he said.

Brown was the keynote speaker Wednesday morning at a joint meeting of the Arlington and Downtown councils of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. They met at AT&T Tower 301 Downtown.

Brown told the group of close to 200 people that he was disappointed with the Council’s decision but was adamant about solving another issue that Council will decide — pension reform.

Council granted his request for a 60-day postponement of the pension reform deal for police and firefighter members. It initially was to be voted on June 28.

Brown said he wanted to make sure the deal provided the best return on investment for taxpayers and was a competitive system for employees.

Brown said Tuesday the postponement also would allow new Council members sworn in July 1 more time to offer their input.

Former Mayor John Peyton announced the deal in May between the City and the Police and Fire Pension Fund that proponents claim will save the City $700 million over 35 years.

Bill opponents believe more savings could be found.

Brown told the chamber members Wednesday the City was not “going to go bankrupt on the Brown administration’s watch” over the issue.

“I did not get elected to be a popular person,” he told the group when referring to the pension reform deal and negotiations.

He also talked about economic development and job creation as well as education, and he praised Education Commissioner Donnie Horner.

Brown signed an executive order Friday naming Horner to the post, a day after the Council Finance Committee eliminated funding for the office in its budget review. Horner is on loan from Jacksonville University for $1 a year.

“He’s doing a phenomenal job,” Brown said.

Brown also rallied support for his nine proposed advisory councils that the Finance Committee similarly rejected during the budget review.

The councils would have focused on areas such as Downtown, military affairs, quality of life, seniors, the port and several other areas at a combined cost of $111,000.

When discussing the advisory councils Wednesday, though, he referred to them as “needs” and said they would cost $1 apiece — similar to the Horner structure — and $9 total.

The mayor’s office did not respond to a question about whether Brown would re-pitch the proposal to Council under such a structure.

Brown called the group “the best Chamber in the world” and said he would assist its efforts while helping make Jacksonville competitive in the global economy.

“I will be your ambassador,” he said.

Brown’s keynote address was followed by a redistricting discussion by Council member Johnny Gaffney, chairman of the Council Reapportionment Committee.

Gaffney said redrawing Council and Duval County School Board district lines has been a “contentious process but expedited” and that it is difficult to satisfy all constituents.

Each Council district will have a population of 61,000-62,000 and at-large districts would have 172,000-173,000 people.

Goals include maintaining distinction for each area and having districts not cross the St. Johns River when possible.

“We’re pretty close,” Gaffney said, “and everybody seems to be happy.”

Public hearing sessions began Wednesday night and will continue until Sept. 1. The next is at 6 p.m. today at the Florida State College at Jacksonville Kent Campus and 6 p.m. Monday at the college’s South Campus. The last is 6 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Deerwood location.

“As with anything, it’s better with public input,” said Gaffney.

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