Eye on Jacksonville still is holding out hope that someone will lay a predicate for what looks like a huge spending spree, and accompanying tax increase, on the horizon.
We didn’t hear it in the mayor’s budget message and we didn’t hear it at the first meeting of the City Council’s new special committee on social justice.
That’s part of the problem – the committee’s name.
It could just have been called the Committee to Jack up Spending on Infrastructure, or something. Instead it got wrapped in a wide-ranging mission to root out and eradicate social injustice.
The big problem is, no one yet has documented any social injustice.
It more closely resembles an old-fashioned pork barrel fight with one faction claiming to have been shortchanged and attributing that to racism.
What makes it double suspicious is the nearness of a presidential election where minority votes may prove pivotal.
There is some evidence that the city has not kept up with infrastructure, although it has not been spelled out by anyone.
If and when it is, someone needs to explain how the billions of dollars spent in the past 20 years did not keep us up with the alleged needs.
Because all residents of the city should be treated equally, the skin color of the residents of various neighborhoods should not even be a factor.
Instead, the city’s planners and engineers should be able to show the council members where infrastructure is lacking.
One member of the special committee asked the mayor’s office for detailed information and got only a sketchy comparison that provided more questions than answers.
The committee should utilize the City Council’s own auditors. They are more than capable of compiling the information.
It isn’t that information is lacking. It is just that the politicians, bureaucrats and the media – whose job it is to provide information – aren’t providing it to the public.
One place to start would be in the city’s own five-year Capital Improvement Plan.
This detailed document is updated each year.
In the 2018 version, which projected spending through 2022, it called for $150 million for 103 projects, and an additional $1.2 billion in spending overall.
Each project was listed in detail, and even referenced by council district. Thus, it should be a simple matter to track and report where the money has been spent in recent years.
In the 2018 CIP, for example, it shows a new baseball playground to be built in District 10, to be completed in the summer of 2020. The document said that district did not have a baseball facility, “which hinders the growth of the popular sport among minority youths.”
New fire stations and libraries in the four council districts that claim neglect also were included in the plan.
Miles of sidewalks and repairs of old ones were included along with millions for storm water drainage.
In addition, $13 million was to be spent in those districts to clean up ash from the city’s former incinerator. The city has spent some $125 million on that effort to date.
There is a wealth of information in the CIP. Between that and whatever else the city has stored in the bowels of its computers, the special committee should be able to get enough information to determine:
1. Whether there has been insufficient spending overall.
2. Whether the money has been distributed equally, factoring in need.
That is the minimal information the committee should have before proposing tax increases or throwing around unjustified accusations of racism.