Parks, green space, public plazas. All catchy buzzwords that the public loves to hear and Mayor Peyton knows it – especially when we are quickly approaching the April 2007 city elections. Budget cuts, overspending and job losses. Now those are NOT the buzzwords that the public loves to hear.
So, what does our Mayor do when the news gets out to the public that he and the City Council have overspent for 3 years now and it will require 295 job cuts off of the city payroll to get us financially back in balance? He does the only thing that makes sense…he announces that he is going to build another park downtown.
And check out the geography of this park. It is proposed to be built along Main Street. It will be one block from the existing large city park, “Hemming Plaza” (also known as “The Homeless Village” during much of the day and night). And one more point on the geography of this park…it is in very close proximity to the Salvation Army and WorkSource (a labor pool business), which are both highly frequented by the homeless.
Throwing “affordable housing” out the door for this parcel and creating more “free housing” for the homeless? I guess it makes sense to someone on the fourth floor of City Hall. But I suppose only after you have created a huge budget deficit and you are facing re-election next year. Which begs the question of, “How did we find the money for this park when we have major budget deficit and the Mayor keeps crying that there is no money in the vault?”
In Peyton’s most recent push to provide “green space” along Main Street in the form of a pocket park, the Mayor is seeking to deplete the city of potential future revenue (in the form of taxes collected from that property) AND is taking away a prime location for a downtown affordable housing project. The Mayor should issue an RFP for this property to be used as affordable housing.
The Mayor himself has said we need to focus on improving our existing parks, rather than building new ones. Whatever happened to this theory? My best guess is that the Mayor knows he can’t hold a press conference for the same thing twice.
So, now, if you are homeless in Jacksonville, you have options. Current renters and homeowners who are on the brink of being forced out onto the streets may not have affordable housing options, but that’s okay. When you lose your home, you’ll have multiple parks to hang out in downtown.