Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Debating Large City Council Turnover

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Debating Large City Council Turnover

Article excerpt

In 2015, a majority of the Jacksonville City Council could be new.

Nine members are term-limited; there are competitors for 14 of 19 seats.

Yet Duval County has a large consolidated government. It requires some time to get up to speed.

For many years, proposals for staggered terms have been made, ranging from the Charter Revision Commission, to Jacksonville Community Council Inc. and various individual council members.

Proposals have foundered, sometimes for lack of detail, sometimes because they were paired with other controversies, such as moving local elections to state and national elections in the fall.

The method for creating the one-time change has been controversial. Should new council members receive a two-year term or a six-year term? What about the cost of more local elections?

Nevertheless, it simply seems like good government to stagger elections. The U.S. Senate turns over one-third of its membership. The Duval County School Board staggers its elections.

Here is one idea. Select nine members of City Council for a two-year term. They then would be eligible, if voters approve, for two more four-year terms. This would be a one-time deal.

Select the five at-large council members and one district member from each of the four quadrants of the county.

This subject is an appropriate one for City Council's consolidation task force. So we asked the thoughtful members of our Email Interactive Group for their insights.

THE JCCI BACKGROUND

I was part of the JCCI Local Elections study that advocated term limits for local elections. The public support was amazing. When the suggested change went before the voters, it was passed and has been law ever since.

At that time we organizers believed that terms should be staggered but were concerned that term limits would have a better chance of passage if we omitted that provision.

This is the best suggestion that I have heard. Giving the council members who receive only a two-year term the first time an opportunity to have two more four-year terms is a good incentive to gain their support. In fact, they may possibly decide to bring it to the voters themselves.

Nancy Edwards, Jacksonville

AN OPPOSING VOICE

I do not think they should stagger the elections. The government function should not be so critical that elections would cause such worry. If there is worry about maintaining function, other proposals need to be made to fix the function and not the elections.

Andrew Lee, Jacksonville

QUESTIONING THE NUMBER

Why do we have 19 members? Most cities our size only have five to nine district members. And they don't have at-large members. Just look at the savings. We will still have more than enough.

Richard Snodgrass, Jacksonville

SUGGESTION FOR TIMES-UNION

I agree with staggered terms and also that the Times-Union should publish a progress report on each member's actions after four years in office. …

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