Councilman not in favor of shrinking commission with emergency measure

John Crescimbeni says other boards, committees should be included in conversation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - City councilman John Crescimbeni says he's not in favor of another councilman's proposal to have an emergency measure at Tuesday night's council meeting to reduce the size of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

He said a move like that needs to be part of a bigger conversation involving all boards and committees, including the council itself.

"I'm all about having the conversation about the Human Rights Commission and how many people should be sitting on that panel, but I think we need to include other boards and commissions and how big the City Council should be," Crescimbeni said. "I'm not in favor of trying to do that tomorrow night as an emergency on the floor."

Crescimbeni said of the 67 county commissions in Florida, 57 have just five members, a handful have seven members, Palm Beach County has nine members and Miami-Dade County has 14 members.

"Duval County, Jacksonville sticks out like a sore thumb. We have 19 members," Crescimbeni said. "If you talk to a lot of citizens, they would think that we're probably more ineffective or inefficient than the Human Rights Commission. It costs the taxpayers money to have City Council members. The Human Rights Commission members won't get paid, they're volunteers."

Councilman Matt Schellenberg made the proposal last week to shrink the Human Rights Commission. In doing so, it would eliminate a controversial member who is up for reappointment.

Parvez Ahmed (pictured, below) joined the board three years ago. He is Muslim, and those religious beliefs sparked protests during council meetings, before his appointment.

He's due to be reappointed, but if the commission shrinks, Ahmed would be left out.

Schellenberg said the commission is just too big and would be better served with 11 members, not 20. He said the council needs to act now and not do any reappointments until it gets the number to 11.

Schellenberg said he is aware of the controversy surrounding Ahmed and the uproar his appointment caused nearly three years ago.

Schellenberg said the debate is not why he's making this proposal. He said there are just too many people on the commission.

"I think when you get more than 11, I don't think they function as well. And that is why we limit it," he said. "I saw that there were quite a few people coming up in the next couple of months on the Human Rights Commission, and I think it is time to pair it down and get a good core group of people in there to do the right thing."

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