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Legislation aimed at ending ‘At-Large’ Jacksonville City Council seats to be introduced

There is a move right now to shrink the size of city government in Jacksonville.
There is a move right now to shrink the size of city government in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There is a move right now to shrink the size of city government in Jacksonville.

Legislation is planned to be introduced that would reduce the number of members of the Jacksonville City Council. If approved by Council and voters, it would take the council from 19 members to 14.

Councilman Garrett Dennis is proposing the idea to eliminate the five At-Large seats.

“I think government is just too big. We always talk about how can we reduce government how can we cut the bureaucracy,” Dennis said.

The seats are five members who do not represent a specific area of Jacksonville. Dennis says the plan will save the city millions of dollars and make government more accountable.

If it’s approved, it means voters would have less say on who would serve on the Council because they would only vote for one member in a district and not the five At-Large seats.

The current system has been in place since 1968 when Jacksonville’s government was consolidated.

Dennis also says by making this change, the City Council could save nearly a million dollars a year in salaries and other administrative costs -- money he says could go to other services.

It would not be a simple process because it would take a vote by the public on a referendum to change the city charter to make that happen. If approved, it would not go into effect until 2031 there by allowing the current At-Large Council members to finish out their terms.

The idea is not sitting well with some current At-Large Council members, including Councilman Matt Carlucci, who is a current candidate for mayor.

“I think the founding fathers of consolidation had it right at 14 districts, but have the five At-Large to help balance so that there’s always Council members looking at the big picture and not just a district,” Carlucci said.

Other At-Large district members agree, including Council President Sam Newby and Finance Chairman Ron Salem. They both said the city is better served with At-Large members who have the entire city in mind -- not just one area.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.