Task Force on Government presents final report

Task Force on Government presents final report

Next step is implementation

A little more than a year after Jacksonville City Council passed a resolution creating the Task Force on Consolidated Government, District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer, as chair of the Task Force, presented the 118-page final report to City Council last month.

Boyer – and many others – put a lot of time into an in-depth review of the history, formation and operation of the consolidated government of Jacksonville.

“It’s very exciting to get to this point, where we have the published report,” Boyer noted. “Now it’s out there for people to respond to.”

She stated that this is also the starting point of the implementation phase. “We completed the work and the meetings of the task force in May and now we’re going to gear back up again. From an implementation standpoint, it’s City Council, but I’m sure many of the members will continue to be engaged and advocate for particular recommendations.”

Boyer and Bill Gulliford, District 13, spoke of scheduling regular noticed meetings to talk about the status of the recommendations and what the next step will be.

The Blueprint for Improvement II, as the report is called, identifies challenges with consolidated government structure and operation.

One of those challenges is neighborhood engagement, participation and involvement. Rena Coughlin, chair for the committee on Neighborhoods, Infrastructure, Planning, Service and the St. John’s River, said being a member of the Task Force was “hugely eye-opening. The issues are so complicated, and you really need to understand so much context in order to make smart decisions, that we spent a lot of time on context, on history and the evolution of city government before we even looked at specific issues.”

Coughlin noted that findings revealed discrepancies between what is the perception of accurate and efficient city service delivery and what the neighborhoods really think and feel about their connection to and the responsive of city government.

“We looked at mechanisms for connecting both individuals and communities back to city government and found that to some extent they’ve been eroded over the years,” Coughlin said. “The connection to the infrastructure in city government that really made the voice of individual neighborhoods more easily heard seems to have been changed.”

In addition to the challenges reported, the Blueprint also contains specific recommendations for Charter amendments, ordinance code changes and policy and process improvements, but the Task Force noted that other alternative solutions may be preferable to codification.

Boyer commented “I don’t think any one recommendation is going to make an earth-shattering difference in the way our city government operates but I think one the of things that was a game changer at the time of consolidation was the buy-in and enthusiasm and community backing for our city government; we were behind this and we bought into it for maybe 20 years. We were known for something…we were this consolidated, bold, groundbreaking city. That enthusiasm has waned and, if we can by adjustment, bring our consolidated government back to a point where the citizens feel that way about it [again], that would be a game changer.”

District 14 Councilman Jim Love attended the presentation of the report to Council President Clay Yarborough and plans to ask residents in his district what they think the most important thing is and use that feedback to figure out what Council needs to tackle first.

“A step at a time we’ll try to make improvements to our form of government,” said Love. “I think it is a good form of government, but anything good can always be better.”

“Making Jacksonville a better place is so important and we need long range plans that everybody can get on board with; that’s part of this blueprint,” said Love. “There will be other items that will jump out that we need to do; some of it at no cost and some of will have cost; some of it will be radical changes and some of it won’t be.”

To see the final report in its entirely, go to http://www.coj.net/city-council/docs/reports/consolidation-task-force/task-force-final-report.aspx.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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