Author Topic: End of At-Large council seats being considered  (Read 709 times)

Zac T

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End of At-Large council seats being considered
« on: September 21, 2021, 08:48:49 PM »
Garrett Dennis introduced two pieces of legislation aimed at shrinking the size of city government including phasing out At-Large council seats in favor of a 14 member council with only district representatives. Changes would take effect in 2030. Republicans currently have a 9-5 advantage in district seats.

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When voters cast their ballots in the 2022 General Election to replace Hazouri, involving what likely will be the top two finishers from a crowded field in the December First Election, they could be asked to weigh in via referendum on whether that Special Election to fill the At-Large seat could be among the last in Duval County history.

The City Council would have to approve legislation putting it on the ballot.

Democratic Council member Garrett Dennis introduced two pieces of election reform legislation Tuesday, both of which could save the city money. One piece would shrink the size of government itself, phasing out all five at-large members of the Council, and leaving just the 14 district representatives remaining.

Per Dennis, this shrinkage would save taxpayers approximately $885,000 annually, once salary and administrative costs are tallied for each of the five citywide legislators.

https://floridapolitics.com/archives/459373-end-of-at-large-jacksonville-city-council-races-eyed/

Charles Hunter

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2021, 09:48:30 PM »
Eliminate At-Large Seats
Hard No.
1. The At-Large seats provide a less-parochial view of running the City.
2. You don't have a legislative body with an even number of members, without a way to break ties.
3.  Eliminating 5 seats will save $885,000? At that rate, we could save about $3.4 million by eliminating all 19 City Council seats and let the Mayor do everything.
4.  What is the "outsized influence of At-Large members of the Council" that is bothering Garrett? They have the same one vote each that he does.

Moving the Council election to coincide with the Gubantorial (and other state elections and Congress) elections.
I can be convinced of this, but there is a need to balance the cost savings against turn-out and focus for a city-only election.

jaxlongtimer

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2021, 10:50:33 PM »
^ I agree, the at-large seats are the only thing keeping this City from completely going off the rails.  If anything, I would suggest reducing the district seats by 5 if we want to save money that bad (although the stated savings are missing the forest for the trees given the hundreds of millions we are giving Khan).  Garrett usually offers up some pretty straight forward ideas that the rest of the Council is afraid to take on but I have to differ greatly with him on this one.

The district council persons often are the most petty and outrageous, thinking only of getting a few more dimes out of the City dollars or pandering to the limited interests for their district, rather than thinking for the whole of the City.  Most importantly, because of this, the Mayor can play them like a fiddle, trading favors for their districts for votes he wants for his pet peeves and political cronies.  If you look at the most outspoken/with backbone Council members, they are often the at-large who the Mayor can't control given they are elected City wide and have no district sacred cows to protect.

Additionally, at-large seats, being voted on a city-wide basis, are immune to gerrymandering and most other political games played at the district level (such as horse trading - you vote for my district project and I will vote for yours).

Maybe Garrett believes cutting back at-large seats will increase the power of the minority voters.  I would suggest that if the voters in those districts matched  (or even increased just a bit more) the turnout  percentages in majority districts they could have single handedly decided the outcome of many, if not most, of the recent and very close City-wide elections, especially now that Duval is approaching, or at, minority majorities.  On this basis, the at-large seats would be much more likely to support minority interests than district council persons from majority-only districts.

Garrett needs to be careful for what he asks for here.   If Republicans jump on this bandwagon, you know it will backfire for him and his constituents.

marcuscnelson

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2021, 12:26:27 AM »
I was reading this earlier, I found it interesting, if nothing else.

Re: seat elimination, I think Garrett is starting from the standpoint that other cities don't generally have legislative branches in such a format. It's somewhat of an odd format, having this particular group of council members that are elected more like county commissioners, but formally have only the same voting privileges as regular city council members. I somewhat understand the reasoning for eliminating them, but I see why it might not be optimal. Jacksonville is pretty unique as far as governmental setups go. I remember not long after Lot J thinking about whether 19 council members really made sense. At the time, I thought of something more akin to jaxlongtimer's idea: Eliminate 4 districts to end up with a 15-member Council made up of 10 districts, plus 5 At-Large seats. Maybe something along those lines would be more appropriate.

Charles, I think he does have a point as far as "outsized influence." They can't be clearly identical and also provide a less-parochial view. I will say that if they're the only ones keeping the city from going off the rails, that might be an indictment of voters more than anything else, but I digress. It's possible part of the reason he's suggesting eliminating at-large seats instead of district seats is that district members might not vote to potentially eliminate their own district, while district members outnumber at-large members.

Personally, I think moving the election is a great idea. People are very much not big fans of repeatedly going to the polls, especially during an odd year, months after already holding an election. Tying it to the midterms and starting the new council & administration in January or so would be great. More convenient for voters and better for the budget cycle.
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Tacachale

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2021, 07:45:14 AM »
Other consolidated city-county govs have the same setup. I know Nashville does.
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vicupstate

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2021, 08:49:45 AM »
A terrible idea and especially so for a government that is already largely set up to fail. Get rid of partisan elections and implement ranked choice voting, if you want better governance. Get rid of term limits or at least allow a third term.

Elections are in May/July, so it is already set up to match the budget cycle of Oct-Sept.

A great exercise would be to look at past decisions that would have been reversed, had at-large council votes not be included.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2021, 08:51:18 AM by vicupstate »
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Charles Hunter

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2021, 10:33:09 AM »
I was reading this earlier, I found it interesting, if nothing else.

Re: seat elimination, ... At the time, I thought of something more akin to jaxlongtimer's idea: Eliminate 4 districts to end up with a 15-member Council made up of 10 districts, plus 5 At-Large seats. Maybe something along those lines would be more appropriate.

I like this idea. Also, the 'residence zones' for the 5 at-large seats could be tied to pairs of council districts.
One drawback, the seven School Board districts are made up of pairs of the 14 current council districts. Reduce the school board to five?

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Charles, I think he does have a point as far as "outsized influence." They can't be clearly identical and also provide a less-parochial view. I will say that if they're the only ones keeping the city from going off the rails, that might be an indictment of voters more than anything else, but I digress. It's possible part of the reason he's suggesting eliminating at-large seats instead of district seats is that district members might not vote to potentially eliminate their own district, while district members outnumber at-large members.

I think you have hit on at least part of the rationale for targeting the at-large seats - no one likes to vote to eliminate their job, although by deferring implementation to 2030, no incumbents would be affected.

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Personally, I think moving the election is a great idea. People are very much not big fans of repeatedly going to the polls, especially during an odd year, months after already holding an election. Tying it to the midterms and starting the new council & administration in January or so would be great. More convenient for voters and better for the budget cycle.

As I said, I don't have any problem with this. I would like to see turn-out numbers of city elections and mid-terms (thanks for reminding me of the proper short-hand), just because.

Charles Hunter

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2021, 10:42:51 AM »
A terrible idea and especially so for a government that is already largely set up to fail. Get rid of partisan elections and implement ranked choice voting, if you want better governance. Get rid of term limits or at least allow a third term.

I agree with making the elections non-partisan and using ranked-choice voting. I could be convinced a third term is OK, in exchange for three terms being the absolute limit of terms.  No serving 2 (or 3) terms, sitting out one term, then coming back for another 2 (or 3) terms, ad infinitum.

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Elections are in May/July, so it is already set up to match the budget cycle of Oct-Sept.

A great exercise would be to look at past decisions that would have been reversed, had at-large council votes not be included.

The May/July* election schedule and the October budget cycle are not a good match. It forces the incoming Mayor and Council to take action on a budget developed by the prior administration. With an August/November* election cycle taking office in January, the new Mayor and Council would have time to learn what's going on and develop their own budget.

* and why is there such a long gap between the first and second elections? However, if we were to go to ranked-choice, would that eliminate the "first election" (primary)?

vicupstate

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2021, 12:34:06 PM »
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The May/July* election schedule and the October budget cycle are not a good match. It forces the incoming Mayor and Council to take action on a budget developed by the prior administration. With an August/November* election cycle taking office in January, the new Mayor and Council would have time to learn what's going on and develop their own budget.

* and why is there such a long gap between the first and second elections? However, if we were to go to ranked-choice, would that eliminate the "first election" (primary)?

It would eliminate the second election.

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jaxoNOLE

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2021, 01:05:01 PM »
Perhaps the reason at-large councilmembers have the appearance of outsized influence is because their citywide position leads to more nuanced, swing-vote-style decision-making. Kind of like John Roberts on the Supreme Court, Joe Manchin in a 50/50 Senate, etc. -- their votes still count the same; just because everyone else is entrenched and predictable doesn't make Joe Manchin is a legislative autocrat.

Another way of interpreting "outsized influence" -- a term which wasn't a direct quote from Dennis in the article, and isn't expanded on by the author -- could be not that the councilmembers themselves have outsized influence, but that having 5 citywide councilmembers is dilutive to minority voices' representation via their district rep. If that's the argument, though, redistricting policies are far more impactful than the presence of at-large councilmembers. As Duval trends upward in minority population growth, you'd expect representation in the at-large seats to shift accordingly. In that way, the at large seats serve to provide a check and balance similar to a bicameral legislature. Duval needs that balance.

Ken_FSU

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Re: End of At-Large council seats being considered
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2021, 09:33:13 AM »
3.  Eliminating 5 seats will save $885,000?

And would have only cost taxpayers $300 million had the at-large members (Hazouri and Carlucci) not been there on the Lot J vote.