Ed Austin and Rick Mullaney on Consolidation's Future

October 29, 2009 3 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

A fascinating discussion between Ed Austin, who has the distinction of being the former Mayor of Jacksonville and long time State's Attorney and General Counsel Rick Mullaney. Austin is a member of the Charter Review Commission charged with recommending changes to the form of government that defines the city. Rick Mullaney is the attorney for the entire City and all of its component authorities, boards and bodies.



Ed Austin: We've had testimony here, Mr. Mullaney, about the advantage of being elected, being closer to the people, hearing the people during campaigns, being responsive and so forth. Do you think the General Counsel should be elected?

Rick Mullaney:
No, sir, I do not.

Ed Austin: How about the director of Public Works, the director of JEA, the Airport Authority, roads, parks and playgrounds, should any of those be elected?

Rick Mullaney:
The short answer is no. You commingled different groups -- the executive departments, Public Works, Human Resources, I would not elect the department heads of the executive branch of government. I would not elect the executive authorities or the independent authorities, no, sir, I would not recommend that.

Ed Austin: What you've told us here was that the philosophy of the people who put this charter together, to have a strong mayor who would -- who would do -- make policy and handle all of the executive functions with a -- with a council that balanced it with the balance of power that we have at the federal system?

Rick Mullaney:
Yes, sir.

Ed Austin: At the federal level, if I'm correct, you have an elected president and an elected congress, and nothing else elected, right?

Rick Mullaney:
Yes, sir.

Ed Austin:And at the state level, for the whole state apparatus, you have a governor, legislature, and maybe -- I don't know, do we still elect some cabinet officers? Not many.

Rick Mullaney:
Not many.

Ed Austin: Not many. But basically you have a governor and a legislature for the entire 20 million people inthe state of Florida?

Rick Mullaney:
Yes, sir.

Ed Austin: And one president and the council.What we have at the local level, we have an elected sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, Clerk of the Court, sheriff I think I said. Do you have any comment on that, or does it suggest comment, or do you want to -- do you think these people should all be elected?

Rick Mullaney:
I want to be careful as to which groups we talk about, which ones we're not.

Clearly, I do not think you should be -- the departments of the executive branch should be elected. I also do not think the independent authorities should either.

 I believe, if you extend the elections, like you're just talking about, you will create the very anticonsolidation problem that -- I don't know how well I communicated -- which is interfering with our ability to speak with one voice; interfering with the public policy debate; and, quite frankly, interfering with a strong mayor form of government, who, in the end, as the mayor goes at consolidated government, so goes consolidated government.

 So my short answer to you is -- is that -- to the extent you create silos of authority and independence and fragmentation, I believe you undermine consolidated government.

Ed Austin: The charter originally recommended an appointed sheriff, right?
 
Rick Mullaney:
Yes, sir, it did.

Ed Austin: And appointed a non- -- recommended a nonsalaried school board?
 
Rick Mullaney:
Yes, sir.

Ed Austin:Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Mullaney. If I might say, I've been listening to these presentations on consolidated government for 40-plus years, and that's the best I've ever heard.

Thank you.

Rick Mullaney:
Thank you.