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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jun. 19, 201212:00 PM EST

Committee holds anti-discrimination bill, moves pension board, Brooklyn to Council

by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Two ordinances were voted out of the City Council Rules Committee on Monday that would increase the number of Council appointees on the Police and Fire Pension Fund board of trustees and another that would provide a nearly $5 million grant for a Brooklyn development.

However, a final vote on proposed changes to the City’s Human Rights Ordinance was delayed. Council member Warren Jones offered a substitute bill that removed language protecting individuals based on “gender identity or expression.”

Protection against discrimination based on “sexual orientation” was preserved.

The Rules Committee deferred the bill to July. The Council Recreation, Community Development, Public Health and Safety Committee is scheduled to consider it today.

In other action, the committee approved the nominations of Walter Bussells, Randle Shoemaker and Adam Herbert to fill vacant seats on the five-member Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund board.

The legislation would increase the Council appointments from two to three. The alteration eliminates a trustee-appointed member, but the other two members, a police officer and firefighter elected by their peers, would remain.

Also, it would add a requirement that board members shall have professional experience in finance, accounting investments, economics, pension management, pension administration and/or local government administration.

The ordinance will be considered by the full Council on June 26.

The committee also accepted the withdrawal of Bussell’s appointment to the JEA board of directors because of his proposed appointment to the pension fund board.

The bill for the 220 Riverside development proposed by Hallmark Partners also moved out of the committee despite some concerns.

“I’m concerned about the how the developer makes the investment,” said Council member John Crescimbeni, committee vice chair.

Steve Diebenow, a lobbyist for Hallmark Partners, explained that the legislation ensures that the investment will happen.

“That’s where this legislation has teeth. If we don’t invest $30 million, we don’t get the REV (Recapture Enhanced Value) grant,” said Diebenow.

Hallmark said the $30 million investment will be spent on a multifamily project, including 16,000 square feet of retail space and garage parking.

The project also proposes to include development of outdoor urban space with a performance area that can seat about 380 people.

The REV grant is a partial tax rebate that is refunded only after ad valorem taxes have been paid. The grant is capped at 75 percent of the City portion of ad valorem taxes and ends after 20 years or after a $4.9 million rebate, whichever comes first.

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