Councilwoman Boyer commended for two efforts

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

For 10 months Lori Boyer had a standing weekly meeting on her schedule. From August 2013 to May 2014, the 30 members of the Task Force on Consolidate Government chaired by Boyer met in three subcommittees to review the city-county consolidated form of government legislated back in 1968.
Recently Boyer and those committee members were acknowledged for their efforts in City Council Resolution 2014-401.
An excerpt states:

Former City Council President William Gulliford presents District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer with a plaque acknowledging her leadership of the Task Force on Consolidated Government. Photo by Wesley Lester, City of Jacksonville

Former City Council President William Gulliford presents District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer with a plaque acknowledging her leadership of the Task Force on Consolidated Government. Photo by Wesley Lester, City of Jacksonville

“The Task Force’s three subcommittees produced dozens of recommendations for structural and operational changes and improvements, which the full Task Force reviewed in great detail and adopted as its own recommendations in the form of proposed Charter and Ordinance Code amendments and recommendations for administrative policies and

Boyer also received an award for her leadership of this nearly year-long effort to identify weaknesses and opportunities for improvement in the current form of government. In her newsletter Boyer shared four of those issues:

“First, our City lacks a strategic plan and vision that helps guide and coordinate the decisions and priorities of the City government and City independent agencies and creates a cohesive effort toward common goals over time. Second, our neighborhoods often feel that our government is too big and bureaucratic and doesn’t hear their concerns or address their unique needs. Third, we suffer from significant turnover among City employees which is exacerbated by term limits on elected officials creating a regular loss of institutional knowledge and hampering operational efficiency. Finally, the promised cost-saving from centralizing common services has not been fully realized.”

She also noted that there were “many other more specific issues that were addressed as well. Some examples might be employee health care and its rising cost, the St. John’s River, zero-based budgeting and procurement code changes.”

Noteworthy recommendations

The three subcommittees – Governance & Mission; Neighborhoods, Infrastructure, Planning, Services & St. John’s River; and Organization, Operations, Personnel, Budget, Borrowing, Risk & Economy – held meetings for public input and waded through volumes of material to come up with recommendations to address some of the weaknesses in the consolidated form of government. Some of those recommendations include:

• Move City elections to November in a non-state and federal election year, with January 1 as the date on which officials take office. The purpose is to allow newly
elected Mayors and Council members 4-6 months of experience on the job before they are faced with preparing and adopting a new annual budget.

• Create a Strategic Plan developed and regularly monitored by a commission comprised of representatives of each independent government agency and authority as well as the Mayor, City Council and in collaboration with a broad-based Community Advisory Council. The purpose is to provide common goals, transparent evaluation of efforts across agencies toward achieving those goals, and a mechanism to bridge administrations of different mayors, different Authority CEOs and Boards, the business community and the citizens.

• Incorporate into the Charter the Neighborhood Bill of Rights, adopted by ordinance 19 years ago but never codified. Among other things, the bill of rights provides that neighborhoods should be consulted in advance of projects impacting their area and the City should encourage the creation of voluntary neighborhood associations as a means of encouraging civic engagement and participation.

• Eliminate Central Service billing within the General Fund in most circumstances. Generally, the Task Force found that the potential cost savings of centralized services were undermined by users opting out, primarily due to the lack of control over charges which were inflated by incorporating several cost factors that made them non-competitive (such as a department’s share of unfunded pension liability for prior employees).

All the recommendations contained in the final report will be available on the City Council webpage under the link to Task Force on Consolidated Government.

Legislation for Larsen

In his July 14 address to City Council about the 2014-2015 proposed budget, Mayor Alvin Brown acknowledged Boyer’s efforts to ensure that residents in her district
had access to safe drinking water.

He said “Quality of life means giving every Jacksonville citizen an opportunity to enjoy the unique assets that our city has to offer. But some in our community do not even have access to basic services like city water.

“Nearly 50 years ago, certain neighborhoods were promised access to city water – and those promises have not been kept. These citizens have been waiting far too long. Our City must make good on its word.

“I would like to commend Councilwoman Lori Boyer for working with my administration, the faith community and the private sector to fulfill that promise in the Larsen neighborhood. Legislation is currently before City Council to extend waterlines to residents of the Larsen neighborhood.”

That legislation – Bill 2014-385 – went into effect last month when Mayor Brown signed the bill at the Larsen Outreach Center.

According to the bill summary, there are approximately 300 homes in the Larsen Neighborhood Association and many are not connected to the City’s central water services system. Those homeowners cannot afford the costs to connect to City services and have been utilizing unreliable wells for drinking water.

The $413,000 appropriation will be used by Northeast Florida Builders Care to provide planning, design, supervision, materials and labors to extend the water lines and connect all homes in the Larsen neighborhood.

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