Jacksonville City Council united behind combating messages of hate, divided between competing bills

Competing bills have been filed at city hall, both aimed at combating the public displays of hate that have plagued the City of Jacksonville in recent months.

While the council is unified in support of the underlying policy, which bill to support is becoming a flashpoint of division.

Joined by six fellow council members, Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff TK Waters at city hall, Council President Terrance Freeman (R-At-Large Group 1) spoke of unity when he announced his bill combating messages of hate Thursday morning.

“This is an example of how and when government works best. When we are able to come together, unified, locking arms together to tackle big issues that are impacting our great city,” said Freeman.

An hour later, Councilmember and mayoral candidate LeAnna Cumber (R-District 5) held a competing press conference touting her identical legislation.

She was joined by four of her council colleagues and leaders in the local Jewish community.

“We need to all stand with everyone in this community, stand against this antisemitism, and take a strong stance and show that Jacksonville really is the one that values religious freedom,” said Cumber.

The two bills are word-for-word identical and both build on existing statutes dealing with unlawful signs, treating laser displays essentially as graffiti.

Projecting images or messages of any kind onto private or public structures without the consent of the owner would constitute a second-degree misdemeanor under the bills, carrying with it a minimum $2,000 fine, up to 60-days in jail, and confiscation of the items used to create the display.

When asked about the competing bills, Freeman encouraged members to sign on to his legislation since he has more co-sponsors.

“When things happen it shouldn’t matter who gets the credit,” said Freeman.

But who was first?

Freeman’s bill was assigned a lower ordinance number, which would suggest it was him.

But Cumber’s bill has a lower ‘GC’ number, which is automatically assigned when a first draft of a bill is entered into the city’s document filing system.

According to the Office of General Counsel, it was Cumber who first reached out about drafting a bill Sunday night.

Freeman contacted General Counsel Monday.

Cumber’s bill hit the city’s filing system at 12:16 PM on Tuesday, five hours before Freeman’s draft was posted at 5:20 PM.

Finally, time stamps show Cumber’s bill was officially filed with the office of legislative affairs four hours before Freeman’s.

Short and sweet: Cumber was first.

Despite that fact, because Freeman ended up with a lower ordinance number, his bill will come up first on the agenda when the council meets next Tuesday.

Short of the council voting Freeman’s bill down or Freeman withdrawing or deferring his own bill, Cumber’s bill will likely be deemed moot.

“It is unprecedented for somebody to defer another council member’s bill. Particularly if you’re Council President. You should be supporting your colleagues,” said Carlucci.

Councilmember Matt Carlucci argued Cumber’s bill should be the one to move forward.

“She’s done the hard work and as statesmen and women we should all be supporting the person who got out in front of this from the beginning,” said Carlucci.

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