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Mayor Brown moves forward on Pension Reform

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Mayor Alvin Brown responded to the City Council vote with a continuing call for ratification of the pension agreement reached with the Police, Fire and Municipal Unions. In a written statement, Brown stated his continuing opposition to a “tax increase.” His reasons: “…Many of our fellow citizens have struggled to remain in their homes, keep their jobs, and get back on their feet.”

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The democrat Mayor restated the positives of his agreement: $1.2 billion in savings over 30years, including $45 million saved in the 2013-14 Budget.

And although the agreement package, according to Brown has received sterling reviews from “several internationally known financial ratings agencies…” his pension plan has been panned by the local groups who matter the most: the Jax Chamber and the Jacksonville Civic Council. It doesn’t help that a lawsuit concerning an alleged Sunshine Law violation from the Florida Times-Union would have muddied the water for passage of his plan had it continued in the council.

Conversations with Mayoral staffers including Associate Chief of Staff Michelle Barth, reveal they were blindsided by the vote called for by City Council President Bill Gulliford. And while the move was a surprise to both the staff and the Mayor, it could have been avoided with just a weeks’ worth of preparations and briefings to key members of Council-starting with the five democrats and the Chairmen of the Finance Committee, Rules Committee and Council President. This is legislation 101 which apparently did not happen before the Pension agreement was announced.

The five true democrats: Councilpersons Denise Lee, Warren Jones, Kimberly Daniels, Reggie Brown, and Johnnie Gaffney could have been in a better position to defend the Mayor’s initiative had they been briefed sufficiently on its merits and the politics behind the plan. Lee and Jones carry more than 20 years of city council and state legislative experience. This did not happen.

Another key would have been a singular briefing with At-Large Councilman John Crescembini, this independent politician is serving his second 8 year term on the council, and although registered as a democrat, he is one of most respected members of the council with a proven agility in city financial matters.

The Mayor has been operating with a City Council Liaison. Political operative Teresa Eichner is not scheduled to start until the middle of August.

In his written statement, received July 27, Mayor Brown does not indicate when his plan will be reintroduced. He uses the name of Attorney Bill Scheu, who was to head a Task Force to examine the plan, but Scheu indicated in remarks after the council vote that there was no further need for his group.

Meanwhile, there are 64 days until left until the council votes on the budget for 2014.