At Monday’s meeting of a special City Council committee on social justice, a co-chairman declared that it is not the committee’s job to seek out and correct “systemic racism.”
During public comments after the meeting, three far-left speakers complained the committee was not doing enough to address systemic racism.
This nebulous term is being used by the far left in an attempt to justify sweeping changes in the American system of government and way of life.
Council Member Brenda Priestly-Jackson responded that it was not in the charge to the committee when it was established a few weeks ago and therefore was not the committee’s job.
Council President Tommy Hazouri outlined the duties of the committee he appointed thusly:
“The committee is established to serve as a clearinghouse for all ideas, policies and legislation pertaining to three main areas: (i) social injustices; (ii) law enforcement; and (iii) economic development (which encompasses employment, education and infrastructure issues). The goal of the committee is to further equal access and opportunity for all citizens of Jacksonville and to strive to establish programs and policies which serve to eradicate systemic bias as well as honor the unfulfilled promises of consolidation. The committee should engage in active listening of those adversely affected by the decisions of the past which has created historic inadequacies as well as to address current issues which further disparate outcomes. Through an open and frank dialogue of the issues affecting the City, it is my hope that the committee can leverage the momentum spurred by current events and work with community representatives, stakeholders, and community organizations in the process to address present and past inequities by providing equal access and opportunity for the citizens of Jacksonville.”
No politician has yet defined or detailed either inequities or the social injustices in Jacksonville. No one has listed any examples of Jacksonville residents being denied equal opportunity.
Vague references have been made to “unfulfilled promises” made before the consolidation of the city and county governments but, again, no one has cited any promises made or identified anyone who made them.
To date, the Special Committee on Social Justice and Community Investment mostly has focused on how to distribute public works money throughout the city.
Observers have been puzzled over exactly what the committee’s purpose and intent was and, while Priestly-Jackson’s interpretation was encouraging, it still does not make it clear.
She also said during the meeting that the focus on where money will be spent should be based on need, which is another encouraging bit of rhetoric that might be welcomed by those who view the committee’s work as simply fighting over money based on geography and political muscle.
Need could be established by the city’s public works engineers and presumably is the basis for the mayor’s annual proposed budget for capital improvements.
That budget was approved by the council last week without any changes. However, the council did add a request that in future capital improvement plans the mayor would endeavor to spend at least 17 percent of the total in the 4 percent of the city that is bounded by the old city limits.
Priestly-Jackson also presented a chart showing that four council districts in the northwest part of the city have the highest percentages of poverty of the 14 districts and she suggested that should be a factor in directing resources.
To some, that further confused the issue. If sewers are badly needed in one district but not another, should money be spent on sewers in the district that has the most poor people or the one that actually has the most need?
Council Member Matt Carlucci offered one helpful suggestion when he urged the committee not to pit one group of Jacksonville citizens against another.
However, despite the attempts at clarification, the mystery surrounding the purpose and direction this committee is going is not yet solved.