It is clear that a special committee of the City Council is mired in a muddle over its mission.
The Special Committee on Social Injustice and Community Investment met Monday, and some of the defects began to show.
The first is that the committee was tasked with creating social justice without any predicate being laid that social injustice exists in Jacksonville.
To date, the committee has not done so and did not attempt to do so Monday.
The second part of its mission is essentially a tussle over how millions of dollars will be spent, and where.
The allegation is that some areas of town have been neglected when it comes to public infrastructure. To bolster that claim, some politicians repeatedly have alleged that promises made before consolidation were not kept.
Eye on Jacksonville repeatedly has challenged the politicians to provide a list of such promises. None have done do.
Monday, Council Member Randy DeFoor asked the committee what promises were broken.
No one provided an answer.
In trying to reallocate money in the mayor’s proposed capital improvement budget, committee members have been unable to decide where to redirect the money.
Some want to put the bulk of it into districts 7, 8, 9 and 10, the northwest area of the city.
Mayor Lenny Curry’s office said that those districts, which make up 29 percent of the city, have gotten 39 percent of the capital outlay money in in the past five years.
Council Member Matt Carlucci proposed an ordinance that would call for one-third of future spending to go into the area within the former city limits.
That area is 30 square miles of the 840 square miles in the present day city.
Carlucci contends the former city area was promised public improvements after consolidation, although he did not enumerate them or detail what has been done. He previously had presented figures purporting to show that the area has gotten a small share of the capital spending in the past 10 years – if you don’t include public facilities.
His bill would not include public facilities in the redirected spending.
Here’s the fatal flaw in his approach.
The old city largely had paved streets, sewage, drainage, sidewalks and street lighting. It was areas in the former county area that were being developed in 1968, some without such amenities.
Therefore, one would expect less to be spent on the former city after consolidation.
For example, the Blueprint for Improvement that preceded consolidation called the sewerage needs in the unincorporated county “colossal” and went on to say, “Indeed, it is of such proportions that it endangers the public health of the entire county.”
Carlucci’s approach would mandate 33 percent of the spending to be done in 4 percent of the city, without regard to need.
There is a rational way to approach this problem.
The committee should ignore the skin color of the city’s residents and also promises that may or may not have been made 50-plus years ago, and focus on what can and should be done now.
It should call in professional engineers from the Public Works Department and ask them to list capital improvements needed throughout the city that are not addressed in the mayor’s plan, in priority order.
Eye on Jacksonville has sought such information from the mayor’s office, to no avail.
Simply directing a certain amount of money to a certain area has no relation to need. It is just a political food fight.
Politicians don’t know how to formulate such a list. If they want to tinker with it afterwards, that’s fine.
But get the relevant information first, and then do what is best for all of Jacksonville.