*A/k/a the Jacksonville Civic Council.

They’re our besties, BFFs, homies. whatever, pick your favorite slang term.

They’re only trying to help, the Jacksonville Civic Council, which recently sent a letter to the Duval County School Board, to question and criticize the school district’s master plan to upgrade, rebuild, and consolidate schools that will require tax support in the form of an extra half-cent sales tax.

Who are these people, our best friends with only our best interests at heart, and what is their agenda?

From their website, they introduce themselves:

The Jacksonville Civic Council leverages the combined talents, experience and influence of a diverse group of business and civic leaders to accomplish goals that no individual or organization in our community can achieve alone. Established in 2010 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, the Civic Council brings together chief executives from the nonprofit, business and government sectors to make Jacksonville the best city it can be.

Working transparently and with no agenda, for the good of our community, the Civic Council strategically identifies crucial issues, conducts research, and identifies — and advocates for — solutions that will result in positive change. Our members deploy their collective resources throughout the process, remaining focused on the goal of a Jacksonville that is vibrant, growing, sustainable and responsive to the needs of its people.

Even in their own words, we find a contradiction. How can they work with “no agenda” when the Council “advocates for–solutions that will result in positive change.” Change as they define it.

GOT has no problem with the Civic Council developing policy goals and working to implement those goals; the problem is their pretense of being disinterested, of having no agenda.

But they are our ‘best friends,’ who only want to talk to us as man-to-man or son-to-son, lyrics that imply an equality of rank, social status, or position that many question the sincerity of. For example, Nate Monroe, Florida Times-Union columnist covering Jacksonville’s local government:

The business and civic establishment have thrown their lot in with charter schools. Indeed, the Civic Council — a private group of downtown CEOs and civic leader types — seems interested in using this opportunity to lift charters at the expense of traditional public schools.

In a letter to the district, the Civic Council complained that some of the proposed new school buildings the sales tax would finance are too expensive. The group argued the district should stop using state building standards for public schools and adopt more relaxed, cheaper standards used by charters.

This is a tone-deaf recommendation, and an unfair one.

The Civic Council wants the public school system to take one of its strengths — that its facilities must meet high-quality minimum buildings standards — and diminish it so charters can compete. And which of these CEOs will send their children to a public school built with these cheaper standards?

The School Board should only consider the Civic Council recommendations if — and only if — each and every Civic Council member signs a public pledge committing their support and personal money to financing the half-cent sales tax campaign.

What are the critical areas in which the Civic Council focuses its efforts? Again, from their website, they have five: A Great and Healthy City, Great Schools (K-12 and beyond), A Growing Economy (with a varied base of growth industries), A Standard of Operational Excellence (at all levels of local government), A Fun and Energetic Community (with a strong downtown, arts, recreation, cultural, and sports environment.) [GOT note: the parentheses are their, not my, additions.]

While the website offers no elaboration on those “five pillars,” it does offer what the Civic Council considers as its values:

The Civic Council was established to provide leadership on issues critical to the community’s long-term success. Although the organization’s structure, priorities and approach to addressing issues may change over time, the following values consistently guide us.

COLLABORATION:

LEADERSHIP: Addressing critical needs and issues when no other organization has the capacity or the will to do so.

FOCUS: Creating an effective civic-leadership model that minimizes inefficiencies and focuses on a few critical priorities at one time in order to solve complex, long-term issues affecting Jacksonville’s quality of life and economic competitiveness.

BROAD CONSTITUENCY: Seeking solutions that will benefit residents and businesses at every level of our community.

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: Supporting economic opportunity across race, gender, ethnic and other barriers that limit our potential as a world-class city.

HUMILITY: Sharing ownership of ideas and credit for accomplishments. As a founding member once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish when you are not worried about who gets the credit.”

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY: Using knowledge and research-based decisions to reach measurable outcomes.

ADVOCACY: Achieving lasting policy change through education and advocacy with policy makers and stakeholders at the local, state and federal levels.

GOT takes note that the collaboration value is blank. The Jacksonville City Council has nothing to say, nothing that represents a core value, regarding collaboration or working with others, say an elected school board or the local citizenry that does the living, taxpaying, enrolling their children in local schools, and dying in the city.

Did they just tell on themselves? That they don’t really care about your opinion? Or is it some website glitch they need to fix?

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