by Max Marbut
Not one of the students showed up with an apple, but other than that it felt just like the first day of school. Sign in, pick up your workbook, note pad and tote bag, all festooned with the logo of the City of Jacksonville.
Good natured banter began as soon as the first few freshman arrived Thursday morning for the first of two days of orientation for City Council members-elect.
One member-elect asked if they really needed the bag. “Yes,” a member of the Council staff replied, “because you’re going shopping later.”
Council member-elect Jay Jabour was asked by one of his classmates why he wasn’t wearing a tie. “I know we’re in school, but it’s not parochial school,” he said.
Council President Michael Corrigan called the class to order at precisely 8:30 a.m. and advised the members-elect they were going to learn a great deal over the next two days. “You’ll see the way things happen in City government.”
He also said, “You may finish with more questions than when you started.”
Class then began as an opportunity to learn about how City government works and meet many of the people the members-elect will be working with for at least the next four years.
Director and Council Secretary Cheryl Brown began by leading the group through the comprehensive orientation manual and explained how the legislative branch is organized and all of the functions the Council staff performs.
“We’re a small group, but we carry a mighty punch,” she said.
Brown also explained the new paper-less document systems, public records requirements and gave a brief overview of the Sunshine Laws.
When Council Auditor Kirk Sherman was introduced, a collective “oooh” went through the room. Council President-elect Daniel Davis remarked, “Don’t worry – he’s going to be your best friend,” then Sherman explained that the Council “is the Board of Directors for the City of Jacksonville, so the auditors report to you.”
Chief of Research Jeff Clements went over the services his department provides, including a new digital archive of newspaper clippings related to City government that goes back to 1968 and Consolidation.
When Clements explained how the Research Department can assist Council members in drafting legislation – especially as it applies to the difference between an ordinance and a resolution – Deputy General Counsel Steve Rohan stood up and stated for the record, “I draft all resolutions concerning national championships earned by the University of Florida.”
By the time the group adjourned to have lunch in the fourth-floor conference room with Mayor John Peyton, they had covered office procedures, human resources and benefits, travel, communications, office equipment, purchasing and the new high-tech electronic aids available to Council members.
They also received their badges and parking decals, enrolled in the retirement and insurance plans and selected business cards and stationery.
The afternoon session was devoted to the legislative process from introducing a bill to amendments and substitutions to public hearings and parliamentary procedure. Members-elect were shown how the voting process and equipment works and also participated in a mock Council meeting.
Corrigan shared his recollection of the day he and Davis attended their orientation four years ago.
“It seems like yesterday the two of us were sitting here and I can tell you that the excitement doesn’t leave you,” he said, then Davis added, “I had a permanent smile for a month.”
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