There are disputes about who first said this: “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.”
What’s not in dispute is that sentiment was never as true as when the City Council Finance Committee met this week and took up Mayor Lenny Curry’s signature legislation to provide services to children.
The bill, which was introduced in early August, would do away with the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey.
The Kids Hope Alliance would take their place. It would be a part of the executive branch and governed by a new seven-member board.
From the get-go, it was a bad bill, but that didn’t stop 14 council members from raising their hands in support when Curry announced the shake-up at a news conference.
Silly me, I thought that predicted another City Council rubber stamp of a Curry proposal.
But the blowback started soon after, with much of it coming from the major philanthropic funders in Jacksonville.
The Children’s Commission had been set up as an autonomous entity in an effort to depoliticize the process of providing services to at-risk children.
Curry’s original proposal would have amounted to a coup. He would have complete control over who served on the board and who the chief executive officer would be.
Consideration of the bill by the council was delayed, and in the process, positive changes were made.
The mayor would only be able to remove board members if two-thirds of the council agreed, and the board would select the CEO.
Fast forward to late last week when a revised version of the bill, now 30 pages long, was given to City Council members, allowing them only the weekend to digest it.
The council’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee had first crack at it Monday morning.
I wasn’t there, but it has been described as a long and contentious meeting. Councilman Garrett Dennis tried to have any action deferred, but he was rebuffed.
That moved the bill with a positive vote to the Finance Committee meeting Tuesday morning. Dennis chairs that committee, which gives him power over how the meeting is conducted.
I’ve been to many committee meetings, but I’ve never seen one quite like this.
If the committee chair allows public comment on a bill, the speaker is usually limited to three minutes.
One of the speakers Tuesday was at the podium for more than an hour. Clearly Dennis was trying to drag out the meeting until it bumped up against the start of another committee meeting, which would require the deferral he had sought Monday.
Dennis was aided in his effort by the fact some of the committee members take five minutes to ask a 30-second question.
The Curry administration was pushing just as hard to get a vote out of the committee to move the bill forward.
In the end, Dennis was successful in running out the clock, although some of his colleagues who had to endure the four-hour meeting were less than thrilled with his tactics.
Dennis isn’t the only council member who still has questions about the bill, so does City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche, who emailed 17 questions — all of them pertinent — to the administration Monday afternoon with the possibility of more to come.
She made it clear that if all of her questions aren’t answered, she will defer action on the bill at next Tuesday’s regular council meeting.
The administration is in a hurry to get this passed to meet deadlines in the bill. Time was lost on revisions, and Hurricane Irma added delays.
In introducing his plan, Curry spoke of the needs of some of the city’s children and said, “We have to get this right.”
That should be everyone’s goal, and if it takes two more weeks to get it done, so be it.
But, please, no more sausage making.
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