My city is broken. No statistic is more telling than that, despite the extra spending for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Cure Violence nonprofit initiative, and the handwringing, my city continues to experience more murders per capita than any other place in Florida.
Yet our politicians and leaders remain focused on privatization as the solution that will bring relief.
The now-aborted process of selling off our city-owned utility, the blocking of a school sales tax to rebuild and reinvigorate our city’s public schools, the vision of a city that is 50% or more charter in schoolchildren enrollment, the proposal made by a Downtown Investment Authority board member to privatize parking meters (by himself, of course, but at least he had the decency to resign from the DIA before immediately making the proposal … but wait, for the sheer chutzpah of the action, he was immediately nominated to a board position on the city utility), the condemnation of city (public) owned buildings and the fencing off of the resulting grass lots … how is this helping?
My city is broken.
2019 has not been a good year for Jacksonville. The “Bold New City of the South” has been spiraling backwards to the days of pre-consolidation, when every city leader had his own barony, a fiefdom of corruption, the stench in the city was not merely pollution from the paper mills.
The new American feudalism.
Fortunately for Jacksonville, the attempt to sell the utility brought about a public fury that even the chief baron himself, the overlord Lenny Curry, had to back off.
That doesn’t mean he has changed, either his philosophy or his intentions. He will have to try a different way.
Wait a minute, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT). You started this post talking about the murder rate.
Yes, I did. All the privatization mentioned above, even if it does take place, how will this change the circumstances in Jacksonville’s neighborhoods? How will despair change to hope? How will this cause young men to throw down their guns and see a future in which they can make a living wage, establish loving relationships, and be fathers to their children?
GOT is not blaming the young men. They are making the best choices they can under the circumstances in which they find themselves. GOT does not condone the choices, but! to change the choices means we must change the circumstances.
How about a city that provides resources where they are needed?
A rich, gentrified downtown will not save Jacksonville from the violence. Better opportunities in its neighborhoods will.
A public-owned utility can help rebuild neighborhoods by upgrading water and sewer systems without the need to satisfy a ROI (Return on Investment) that a privately-owned company must meet. It can replace failing septic systems. It can improve the quality of water throughout the city.
How about it?
Good neighborhoods need a school. Public schools are more than centers of learning; they are community institutions. They provide identity, they provide meeting space, and they provide programs that communities need outside their operating hours.
In Jacksonville, public schools and city parks go hand-in-hand. To lose the former is to lose the latter, access to green spaces, access to places where community sports teams can practice and compete, access to recreation.
If we turn our public school facilities over to charter schools, will they provide that access? Anyone playing basketball on KIPP’s courts over the weekend, please speak up.
This points out how the city only works well when resources from disparate sources are combined to meet the needs of the citizens, those whom do ‘most of the living and dying’ in the town. (Obscure reference to a line from the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.)
How about it? How about, instead of shutting schools down, we brought the resources to bear that would make them a success?
How about establishing enterprise zones in the places they are needed instead of the sports complex so that people needing jobs could find them in the places where they live instead of providing subsidies to a certain billionaire who wants to develop property next to a stadium? How about it?
How about we stop judging our schools by test results, nay a test result, singular please, a once-a-year stress-off-the-charts failed exercise that fails to capture student learning and achievement due to bad standards, bad practice, and political pressure to perform? A test that most closely correlates to the income levels of the families of the children.
How about it? How about we use our city resources to bring all agencies to address the trauma of children that leaves them biologically less able to learn?
How about a mayor more concerned with helping the least of his people rather than leaving a legacy?
Years ago, GOT lived in Chicago. The public housing projects were a mess. Crime-ridden, forlorn, no one wanted to address the issues.
Then a mayor made a splashy move. She moved into the worst of the projects as she reasoned that if the mayor lived there, the city would focus its efforts on making the project an outstanding place to live.
How about it? What would happen if Lenny Curry moved his family into the northwest corridor? Grand Park or across the river in Arlington.
Would his priorities change? Would the city’s?
How about it?