The Downtown Investment Authority hasn’t truly been independent since it was created two and a half years ago.
There’s been one component holding it back.
Without an approved business and redevelopment plan, the authority had to keep coming back to City Council to spend money on the urban core.
Those days look numbered now.
“This work product and all of the pieces of the work product are something they’ve spent a year on,” council member Lori Boyer told members of the Rules Committee on Monday.
The group ended up unanimously approving, 7-0, the authority’s Downtown development plan. Later in the day, the Transportation, Energy and Utilities Committee approved it 6-0. Three more committees will review it today. If approved, it likely sets up a final vote next week.
Aundra Wallace, the authority’s CEO, said he thought the committee process was going well and hoped the success continued today.
In effect, the plan is an update to the Downtown Master Plan adopted in 2000 and to the Community Redevelopment Areas programs, which haven’t been altered since the 1980s.
The 81-page bill highlights functions of the authority, such as being able to negotiate and approve incentives for businesses without council approval. The authority’s overall budget still must annually be approved.
In addition, the authority will directly manage Downtown’s tax increment finance areas, also known as TIFs. Those cover the Southbank and Northbank, with funds in each dedicated toward projects in those respective areas.
The legislation also sets up authority liaisons with Downtown aspects of which it isn’t in control, such as public parking, parks and special events.
Uber-Lyft bill deferred
A bill that would strengthen regulations on ride-sharing businesses Uber and Lyft were pushed back two weeks by the committee, but it didn’t stop some discussion.
Grady Braddock Jr., whose father founded Gator City Taxi, told the committee the ride-sharing companies continue to operate illegally and should be regulated by the city like traditional taxi services. Those newer companies, he said, don’t pay the same taxes and fees and don’t have background checks filtered through the Department of Justice and FBI.
“Please stop deferring this,” Braddock told the group. “They continue to operate illegally and nothing is being done about this.”
Rules member Robin Lumb said the problem might lie with paying for enforcement. He suggested having companies tacking on up to a 50-cent surcharge for each fare that could go to the city to hire Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers to enforce the law.
The legislation before council would stiffen penalties for noncompliant operators, such as booting or impounding cars.