Council Panel Pushes Back on 2 Requests in Brown Budget; Finance Committee Says Advisory Boards Redundant, Holds off OK on $2 Million for Economic Development

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Byline: Steve Patterson

Two pieces of Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown's plans to change government and attract businesses faltered Thursday when a City Council panel began reviewing his 2012 budget proposal.

The council Finance Committee rejected Brown's request to fund nine new advisory councils, saying several would duplicate work that other boards do already.

The committee also voted to withhold $2 million the mayor wanted to put into an economic development fund he could use at his discretion to help seal deals for business expansion. Members agreed to revisit that subject before finalizing the budget.

"It's just too much. It's too much to try to do at this point," Councilman Clay Yarborough said of the mayor's plan for advisory groups. "This is creating more government."

Chris Hand, the mayor's chief of staff, told Finance members the boards were part of Brown's plan for building citizen involvement in city government.

The proposed boards were supposed to advise Brown on issues affecting downtown, military affairs, neighborhoods, quality of life, seniors, the port, youth, education and workforce development, and small business and entrepreneurship.

Brown wanted a total of $111,000 to cover expenses for the nine appointee groups.

Yarborough noted he spent six years as a member of one of the city's six mayoral-created Citizen Planning Advisory Committees before being elected to office and said he didn't know what a neighborhood council would do that CPACs don't.

"They aren't shy," he said, adding they were also full of citizens.

Hand answered that the mayor was planning to reorganize city government and that "boards and commissions are not something that are going to be exempt from that."

Councilman Warren Jones said some panels, particularly for the port, could serve useful roles but agreed the full list had some duplication.

Jones asked Finance members to withhold funding tentatively and reconsider later as they had decided for the development fund. That would have left the mayor's staff time to plead their case further. …