Are the citizens of Jacksonville who are being accused of racism ever going to get a fair hearing?
At City Haul, the drumbeat continues, but the specifics never come.
Eye on Jacksonville has asked Council Member Brenda Priestly-Jackson for a list of the promises made at consolidation that were not kept. She is one of the politicians who has repeated that accusation a number of times.
Two accusations have been made.
One is inherent in the creation of a special City Council committee to restore social justice and eliminate “systemic racism.”
The name and charge alone establish the claim that a majority of the city’s residents are racist.
The other claim is that promises were made at consolidation that have not been kept.
That was the reason for Eye’s request to Priestly-Jackson, which has not been answered. We also have asked other politicians to explain the weasel word “disparities,” to no avail.
Current City Council President and former mayor Tommy Hazouri, who created the committee, had a more realistic perception of the issue of promises made: “I think of this issue not so much as promises not kept, but promises that have yet to be fulfilled,” he was quoted in a local magazine.
Most of the claims relate to infrastructure, the allegation being that some areas of the city lack the improvements other areas have gotten.
But, again, no one provides specific information. It is hard to respond to vague, nebulous claims.
The original claims for the benefits of consolidation were made in the Blueprint for Improvement in 1966.
I probably have read that document more than anyone else except the late Lex Hester, who wrote it.
Nowhere did it promise that every street would be paved, every septic tank eliminated, and every street corner would have a streetlight within a certain time frame. Or that crime would disappear. Or that every home in the city would be immaculate and have a white picket fence.
It pointed out that the efficiencies of merging the city and county government would make it easier to pursue those goals. Those efficiencies made it possible to reduce taxes annually for the first 10 years of consolidated government.
Six years ago the City Council revisited consolidation. In its Blueprint for Improvement II it repeated the allegation of promises not kept and – again– left out specifics.
Billions of dollars have been spent to eliminate sewage outfalls to the river, pave dirt roads, build solid waste landfills, improve stormwater management, create public park and recreation facilities, etc., over the past 50 years. These occurred throughout the city, to the benefit of all residents.
It is easy to claim for political purposes that Jacksonville is not yet a Utopian dream but we challenge the politicians, again, to provide the taxpayers with a specific list needs, explain why they exist and drop the reckless charge of widespread racism unless they can document its existence and identify those involved.