Dear OurJax Members,
The good news is several organizations in Jacksonville are beginning to focus on ways to bring more transparency and community conversation to decisions made by our city government. One of those is the Florida Times-Union, which is calling for the re-birth of the Jacksonville Community Council, Inc. (JCCI), a non-profit that for four decades brought community insight and conversation into some of Jacksonville’s most difficult issues.
Unfortunately, because of funding challenges, the great work of JCCI came to an end in 2017.
We recommend you read the editorial in today’s Florida Times-Union and have included a copy below.
Thanks for believing in Jacksonville.
Editorial: It’s time to resurrect JCCI
About this time last year, we called for a new Jacksonville Community Council Inc. We say it again.
For more than 40 years, JCCI took a deep dive into some of the city’s most perplexing problems – education, crime, health care, the environment — providing real insight and data that were used both publicly and privately.
Funding was the key reason for its demise in 2017 and its various functions were to be taken up by other groups. But recent events show once again why we need to resurrect JCCI.
The city has been in turmoil in recent years over a variety of significant issues:
- The attempt to sell JEA with the deal being negotiated behind closed doors and rubber stamped by its board. The city investigation is complete but the federal grand jury is still out.
- The contentious debate over the half-cent sales tax to repair our public schools. That was approved by the voters and finally enacted.
- The Lot J deal that also was negotiated behind closed doors and was expected to be approved by the City Council but was defeated by a single vote.
These issues generated huge public debate, often with the public complaining that they weren’t being heard.
Several civic groups — the time-honored NAACP and newcomers, the Civic Council and OurJax — are vocal advocates for the public interest.
And now the public is trying to make its voice heard again, this time about how the downtown riverfront is developed – or not. A new coalition of civic groups, Riverfront Parks Now, is calling for a public discourse and an overall vision for the riverfront.
Too often in Jacksonville the public’s voice is not heard or ignored in favor of power interests. Important decisions that should be critically examined get rubber stamped by boards and elected officials, who too often represent one constituency not all.
Or, tax dollars are spent on master plans and investigations that are rolled out in a flashy news conference and then shelved.
And as we said a year ago, we need to resurrect JCCI so that issues can be studied without a political agenda and let the chips fall as they may.
But we would hope that a new JCCI could come with some teeth so that its recommendations get a hearing before public boards and incorporated into policy debates and decision-making. Can another of our nonprofits take the findings and sponsor public forums to educate residents and also get their input.
Too many major issues facing this city are getting shunted aside.
Though there is some progress, vast sections of Jacksonville are food deserts. As problems go, it isn’t that hard to solve, and yet it lingers. Infusing low-income neighbors with healthy food would have ripple effects on things like infant mortality and mental health. It might also reduce the crime rate.
Our septic tank issue has got to be addressed. But it is only one of many issues facing our river and the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
Is anyone ever going to get brave enough to try to tackle our steadily rising homicide rate?
A new JCCI could help give citizens a voice in setting priorities for the city.
Empowering the public will also be a good look for Jacksonville. Companies are attracted to cities with an engaged citizenry. Less so to cities that like to sweep their problems under the rug.