Grab your wallets. Another plan to “revitalize” downtown is in the works.
Taxpayers have been diverting money they need for their families to the city treasury for decades in order to “invest” in the downtown area. The effort began in the late 1940s under Mayor Haydon Burns and, arguably, downtown was a mess – then.
But 25 years later, businessmen still were saying it should be the No. 1 priority of local government.
Usually, the revitalization call is from a group of businessmen who will profit from the expenditure, as it is this time.
As for your money?
John Rood, multi-millionaire chairman of the group, says “don’t worry where the money is coming from.”
That Marie Antoinette moment in the Daily Record sums up this latest effort.
The Record story by Mike Mendenhall also revealed what may be a major problem in revitalizing downtown.
The city owns most of the waterfront property.
If the private sector owned it, they would invest their own money and it would be attractive and useful.
But city planners can play at creating some utopian dream when it is Other People’s Money.
That’s how they were able to subsidize the Jacksonville Landing, not live up to their commitments, then tear it down when it failed, leaving the bare expanse called Lenny’s Lawn.
It is how they are able to come up with plans like Lot J and then watch them crumble in the glare of public attention to the details.
In this case, they want one shot of $104 million and $7.7 million annually.
Part of the plan is to help build a new, bigger Sulzbacher, which provides shelter and aid for the homeless. It would still be downtown, where about three other shelters are located.
Why not move all of those facilities out of downtown, into an industrial or commercial area?
If you want to reduce crime and improve the appearance of the city’s central business district, that would be the way.
City leaders are living in the past. It is true that 75 years ago Jacksonville residents would go downtown to shop during the day and attend restaurants and theaters in the evening.
That has not been true for a long time and probably never will again. People have voted with their feet. They live in the suburbs and they go to malls for shopping and entertainment. Only people living downtown are going to patronize downtown businesses, or in some cases those who work there, which is another dwindling number.
For new arrival, the downtown area looks better than it ever has and the private sector is working daily to make it even better.
Downtown is a special taxing district. Let those taxes, and those paid by tourists and visitors, pay for amenities there.
It may only be coincidence but this new spending plan comes soon after another group published data showing that Jacksonville residents pay comparatively low tax rates.
For some, that is a sign of a well-managed city. For others it is an excuse to increase taxes and spending.