City Council withdraws controversial pension board proposal

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville City Council withdrew a controversial proposal Wednesday that some said could have derailed pension negotiations with the city.

The bill would have changed how the fifth member of the Police and Fire Pension Board is chosen, making that person appointed by the mayor.

The withdrawal of the proposal is considered a major political victory for Jacksonville police and firefighters, who are pushing for a pension deal with the city.

There are five members of the Pension Reform Task Force: two are appointed by the Police and Fire Union, two are selected by the City Council, and together both groups choose the fifth member.

The debate had been over whether the Mayor's Office should appoint that fifth member, and a proposal before the City Council would have added the issue to the November ballot for voters to decide.

But the City Council withdrew that proposal during Wednesday's meeting. Police and firefighters in attendance were relieved, as many felt that if the proposal had passed it would have derailed pension negotiations.

"It takes this bill off the table for awhile and we can work on the pension reform bill that's already before the council," said Steve Amos, president of the police union.

City Councilman John Crescimbeni had been pushing to give more power to the city to help save taxpayers money in the long run, but knowing he couldn't feasibly get this issue to the voters on the November ballot, he chose to withdraw it.

"That window closed at the last council meeting," Crescimbeni said. "We just decided to make the motion to withdraw, and the council followed the motion."

Pension reform is not a done deal. While the Mayor's Office has reached a deal with the police and fire unions, the City Council will have the final say on whether that deal is approved.

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