A bill about Js? Don’t get excited; it’s not about cannabis.

What is a J-Bill? It is legislation being considered by the Florida legislature that will amend the city charter of Jacksonville without a referendum of Duval County voters.

According to the Office of General Counsel, ” Under the Jacksonville Consolidation Amendment in Article VIII, section 9 Florida Constitution (1885), as held over, the State Legislature retains jurisdiction to amend or extend the Charter without referendum.” (See slide 16 of the link.)

” The Legislature shall have power to establish, alter or abolish, a Municipal corporation to be known as the City of Jacksonville, extending territorially throughout the present limits of Duval County, in the place of any or all county, district, municipal and local governments, boards, bodies and officers, constitutional or statutory, legislative, executive, judicial, or administrative, and shall prescribe the jurisdiction, powers, duties and functions of such municipal corporation, its legislative, executive, judicial and administrative departments and its boards, bodies and officersbut so long as such Municipal corporation exists under this Section the Legislature may amend or extend the law authorizing the same without referendum to the qualified voters unless the Legislative act providing for such amendment or extension shall provide for such referendum.” (Source: Article VIII, Section 9 of the Florida State Constitution) (Bold emphasis is mine.)

That enables Jason Fischer, the member of the Florida House of Representatives–District 16 (Mandarin), who is attempting an end run around the latest incarnation of Jacksonville’s Charter Review Commission that meets every ten years, the means to introduce a bill that would change the school board from an elected body to one whose members are appointed by the mayor.

Chris Guerrieri, Jacksonville’s long-time local education blogger, has been reporting unfolding events in his posts and uncovered the fact that the source of the proposed legislative change is none other than the Office of General Counsel.

Events are moving so fast in this story that it’s hard to know what to think from one day to the next.

Therefore, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is not going to try. Rather, he is taking a long view based upon Florida/Southern history.

As Reconstruction ended in 1876, the period was marked by a resumption of power by the wealthy planter class, who if deprived of their slaves, was establishing a new means of exploiting the labor and maintaining the poverty of poor black citizens. As they had in the antebellum days, blacks continued their activism in pushing for their rights and the rights of others with whom they felt an affinity, especially the struggle in Cuba for freedom and independence from Spain.

Other events of the times involved the organization of labor that included the cooperation of working class whites and blacks in the struggle against the power of corporate interests. As they achieved some success in cities like Jacksonville and Pensacola, the planter class, now evolving into the corporate class of business owners, struck back.

Beyond the establishment of domestic terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and voter suppression that were diminishing the political power and rights of black citizens, they would work to eliminate unions in the interest of maintaining subsistence wages.

“In 1889, Florida state legislators revoked the city charter of Jacksonville, an act that empowered the governor to replace pro-labor elected officials with a white regime that was controlled by the state.” (Source: An African-American and Latinx History of the United States, Paul Ortiz, Beacon Press, 2018, page 90.)

At the same time, the state legislature revoked the city charters of Key West, where a free society of blacks, Cubans, whites, and others intermingled in all ways, including marriage and sharing of governmental power, and Pensacola, where a pro-labor local government also presented a threat.

Business is better than farming, but I did make my money in wholesaling groceries.

130 years later, and it’s the same story, the Never-Ending Story. (Apologies to the movie.) Wealth brings power and they don’t intend to share either.

Instead of ex-plantation owners, Jacksonville has its Civic Council, not to be confused with the City Council. The City Council is the elected body of local legislators for the city. The Civic Council is not elected, it is a private group of wealthy business owners and politicians, along with a group of carefully-selected executives from city non-profit agencies.

Perhaps the mayor doesn’t trust the stacked Charter Review Commission, the one where education privatizers were selected. Maybe he thought the J-bill option would be faster. The Florida legislature will reconvene in January. Maybe he thought the CRC would choose an option other than mayor-appointed.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Lenny Curry, his slogan “One City, One Jacksonville” really means a silencing of dissent. It really means One Mayor Decides Everything.

Or maybe Lenny Curry is not in control; he is beholden to the corporate class, the wealthy elite that remains in control after all these years. It really doesn’t matter because the struggle is real and the latest J-bill is only one of a long series of attempts to consolidate power into the hands of an oligarchy.

An elected school board, one that responds to the voters and citizens who put them into office, offends the corporate class. They turn to their power in the legislature to stamp democratic resistance out of existence as they have done before.

FB picks up the last image in the post. So I’ll finish with this one. But the dragons in our story are not cuddly and they are not on our side, at least, if you believe in public schools.

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