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River health rates high on new Jacksonville City Council president’s list

River health rates high on new Jacksonville City Council president’s list Jack Webb said his year as Jacksonville City Council president will focus on the health of the St. Johns River, fiscal reform and revising the city charter. Webb acknowledged during his installation speech Thursday that leading the council through another tough financial year will be a challenge. “This is one of, if not, the most difficult times to be a public servant,” he said.

He said he was prepared to lead the group of 19 without letting personal agendas or vendettas get in the way of doing what is right for the city.

Webb said signs that an algae bloom was forming in the river and recent fish kills should worry all Jacksonville residents. The government should be encouraging water conservation, environmentally friendly landscaping and low-impact development, he said.

“If we value our quality of life and the economic prosperity that the river provides to us, we must each do our part to preserve its health,” Webb said.

He also pledged the council would review the Charter Revision Commission’s recommendations, which were submitted in March. Webb said he would push for ethics reform, as the commission has suggested.

Both Webb and Stephen Joost, who was installed as council vice president, said pension reform was an unavoidable reality for the upcoming fiscal year.

Joost, who enjoyed strong union support when elected in 2007, pleaded for his “union brothers” to agree to benefit reductions. He said the city’s pension debt is roughly $200 million in one year.

Even if a new mayor and 19 new council members were elected, Joost said, “It simply will not change the math.”

Joost wore a suit he said one of his Firehouse Subs colleagues gave him back when the company was in its infancy and he was not yet drawing salary. He got the suit tailored for $60.

“I wear this suit to keep it real,” Joost said. “And I think in a lot of ways it symbolizes what this city is going through. We have to make do with what we got.”

Article by Tia Mitchell taken from the Florida Times Union