^Simms, I would completely agree that "the people" of Jacksonville need to behave more as a collective when it comes to influencing the direction this city takes and how it votes. Consider this if you will. I don't think Metrojacksonville users all "live in a bubble". If you take a moment to think about it, at all levels in any community whether it be online or in formal meetings or coffee shop conversations, people of like minds and concerns are drawn together, this is just natural. What I would point out is that when we make a statement like "it's the fault of the people" you need to remember you are invoking "people" of all views. So consider that with a "call to the people", it may be a good thing to define who those people are.
Jacksonville's roots and who has had influence here for decades tell much of the story of why issues like having a "Muslim" on any board is problematic. Control has been held by White Christian men for nearly all of our political history. Only now has that started to change, on the surface at least.
At the core of the issue is "religious bigotry". Consider that conflicts between Christian and Islamic religious views are age old. Now consider the influence of Christian churches and pastors on the folks currently holding office here from the Mayor to all elected officials as well as upon their followers, i.e. voters. When any group has fear of, or suspects the religious views of another group we unfortunately see one try and repress or destroy the other. In so doing many local Christian's and activists not only believe they are doing "Christs" work but are also saving the community from potential influence of Muslim extremists. These ideas presented on local pulpits by fearful pastors and activists like the fellow named "Randy" who readily fans the fires of Muslim distrust is at the heart of this ongoing conflict. So we end up with this mucky soup of religious bigotry wrapped in the "justification" of public security from Muslim extremists.
We have a sizable FBI office and presence in Jacksonville, along with the Navy and a port authority. If there was any chance that Mr. Ahmed were a "terrorist" as some are suggesting, you can be darn sure he would already be on the radar of officials. There have been no public indictments from authorities. Regardless of individuals that Ahmed may have been photographed with or groups he frequented that may have had members with more extreme views, he himself has done nothing while sitting on the Human Rights commission that has had even a hint of impropriety. It is absurd to imagine that as individuals we are guilty of anything simply through association.
Now lets put the same equation to the issue of Gay rights and protection of those rights in Jacksonville. Again look to local history influenced heavily by pastors and people of the Christian Faith. Many individuals have been taught by their pastors that "homosexuality" is a sin against God, an absurdity of a belief to be sure, but embraced by many people none the less. This is a position not only expressed through white church leadership, but also through black church leadership. In the case of the legislation recently rejected by city council that spoke to protecting gay rights, we again see in your face religious bigotry, in this case wrapped up by some as an issue of landlord rights, church rights etc., to make it a more acceptable to a wider range of persons. Taking this position they hoped would say "we are not bigots or homophobes, we are just looking after our own rights". A simple mind game and charade to be sure but the best some could come up with to hide the truth of bigotry and judgement.
I do not think "the people" in this case failed to get this bill passed. The failure of this legislation falls directly at the feet of a mayor who refused to take a position on the issue in spite of declarations of support for equal treatment of all citizens and a councilman named Johnnie Gaffney, who became a turncoat after being "pressured and promised" by some individuals of color and influence to change his vote. People who were and are protecting the valuable asset of church support in politics and well as political donations from more conservative donors. It was Gaffney's last minute vote change that killed this bill. So who got to Gaffney? That is what "the people" in support should be asking along with why the mayor refused to stand in support of this bill after having the support of many in the Gay community for his election.
As far as believing "the people" who are not fearful and open minded in both cases have "allowed" this to happen is inaccurate in my view. There were hundreds upon hundreds of supporters in both cases who spoke out on this issue, legislators who voted in support of both issues. Ahmed is reappointed and we saw folks like Mr. Woods of the T.U. and Mr. Bailey of The Daily record speak up as well as past mayors, university leaders, community leaders etc.
I think the thing that can be done to put "bigotry" in the case of sexual identity to rest in our city is to go "big"! The group needs to work to get signatures to put this up as a ballot issue voted on by folks citywide and also take the issue to the State level and push legislation there.
The young folks coming of age along with many of voting age now do not hold to bigotry in any form. Time and effort will change this dynamic with consistent attention and involvement.