Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SIX CHEERS; Good Example

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SIX CHEERS; Good Example

Article excerpt

Perks for public officials can rub the public the wrong way, especially during tight budget times.

We salute several city officials who recently passed on perks as a token of sacrifice. Those include:

-- City Council members Ronnie Fussell, Jay Jabour, Stephen Joost, Glorious Johnson, Daniel Davis and Clay Yarborough who returned their Jacksonville Jaguars tickets and parking passes.

-- Mayor John Peyton and City Council member Art Shad for forsaking free city parking and paying their way.

And kudos to council member Richard Clark for proposing that all council members, judges, constitutional officers, the state attorney and others who bypass the $85.60 a month to park in the City Hall garage start paying to save the city between $70,000 to $80,000 a year.

Clark probably won't get a lot of offers to hold the elevator door near the garage after that one.

Bravo also to Yarborough, who recommended to the City Council Finance Committee that the council members give up their annual 3.5 percent raise to save money.

COMMITTEES IN ACTION

Jacksonville's City Council has come under criticism lately, and justifiably so, for failing to conduct the public's business openly.

But it also does some things right in that regard.

Not only does it broadcast its regular sessions, but committee meetings are aired on Comcast Cable Channel 29, according to Katrina Fisher, administrative assistant to the council secretary.

You can watch them from noon to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

That's a good way to get informed on the city's most pressing policy issues -- and also to get a better look at individual council members.

Some improvements could be made, however. How about broadcasting entire committee meetings closer to their air date on a digital cable channel?

Also, how about superimposing messages on the screen to indicate the committee, the date and the time of the meeting?

And the City Council meetings could use an announcer to describe what is taking place.

Nevertheless, it's encouraging that local people can follow the committee meetings, where a lot of the important work gets done, from the convenience of their own homes.

SHARING THE SACRIFICE

Four members of the Jacksonville City Council provided some leadership by example recently.

Council members, the Times-Union reports, are given two tickets to five Jaguars games each year -- valued at $82.17 each -- plus a season parking pass.

"Due to the budget cutbacks that many charities and social organizations are facing," Joost was quoted in the Times-Union as writing. "I feel that it is important that some of the pain of these cutbacks be shared by the City Council."

He's right, of course, although he probably should have mentioned that nonprofit organizations aren't the only ones being asked to sacrifice; all Jacksonville residents may have to pay steep new fees. …

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