The upcoming days at City Hall could prove interesting.
Although there will be “making nice” in public, signs are pointing toward a blood feud.
The origin can be traced to when Councilwoman Anna Lopez Brosche took the unusual step of challenging Council Vice President John Crescimbeni’s ascension to the presidency.
Mayor Lenny Curry’s administration did what’s always considered a “no- no” by meddling in council’s internal politics.
It backed Crescimbeni, who had been a big help in carrying the water for Curry’s pension reform plan, against Brosche, who had questioned that dubious plan.
Brosche won the presidency, Crescimbeni wasn’t happy about it and Brosche wasn’t happy with Curry.
The debate this week over Curry’s proposal to do away with the Jacksonville Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey and replace them with a new agency, the Kids Hope Alliance, brought the tensions to the surface. And things got hot before last Tuesday was over.
Brosche wanted to use her discretion as council president to defer the bill for two more weeks, so questions she had could be answered and the public would have more time to offer input.
Curry wanted to ram the bill through. The previously spurned Crescimbeni helped him out again by leading the challenge to Brosche’s desire for a deferral.
In somewhat of a rarity, a majority of the council members voted to override their president.
With the bill now on the table for action at Tuesday night’s council meeting, Brosche didn’t mince words about one of her main concerns.
She said that during a meeting in her office with Ali Korman Shelton, Curry’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Korman Shelton said the Curry administration was using a technical procedure that would delay the public’s access to a substitute bill that would replace the original, which had been questioned by leaders of major nonprofits that fund children’s programs.
That charge of a purposeful lack of transparency led Curry to immediately issue a statement that basically called Brosche a liar. That’s a pretty good indicator of where things are headed.
Another indicator is that Curry’s Tallahassee adviser on hardball politics showed up at City Council Tuesday.
Some council members had charged that Curry was delaying signing the city budget the council had approved two weeks earlier and was using the threat of a veto of specific projects dear to some council members as a hammer to ensure that his Kids Hope Alliance legislation moved forward.
Such accusations are difficult to prove, but Curry didn’t sign the budget until about 10 minutes before the deadline of the 5 p.m. start of the council meeting.
By then, it was clear that the bill would be taken up and that the votes to secure passage were there.
Getting to that end, however, wasn’t pretty. The public comment period — which Brosche had been able to secure by getting the council to waive its rules — and the debate about the legislation lasted for four hours with council members finally tossing insults at each other.
Terms like “disgusting” and “making this a kangaroo court” were used.
Why did this have to happen? It didn’t.
The general consensus is that combining the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey is a good idea.
Also what had started out as a bad bill had been made much better through revisions and amendments.
Deferring final action for one more two-week cycle of committee meetings could have found ways to make a good bill even better.
Its eventual passage was certain, and that delay wouldn’t have hurt anything.
But it has become apparent that Curry’s operating mode is to insist on winning and winning his way. With that attitude, the tensions are likely to build.
After the 18-1 vote to pass the bill, with the lone nay vote coming from Council Finance Chairman Garrett Dennis, Curry went to Twitter and posted this:
“Council did a good job perfecting KHA legislation. The process worked because of their thoughtful work.”
That rings hollow.
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