In one sentence, Jacksonville suffers from a leadership deficit.
From lackluster support for expanding anti-discrimination ordinances, to waiting until it’s too late to speak up for public employees and their earned benefits, to spending our time on pettiness instead of getting work done, something needs to give.
While the mayor plays games with compensation packages for police new hires, many parts of the city are seeing significant bumps in robbery and car theft, as the department already struggles to stay on par with industry norms and just filling the ranks, in general.
While members of a school board facing complex, difficult issues throw shade at each other, the state legislature cut millage by 2% (literally a few dollars savings per home owner, but millions lost for the district), with no plans to put a measure on the ballot to get it back, let alone ask for a much-needed increase.
While members of the City Council ink their rubber stamps and look the other way as colleagues walk thin ethical lines, decisions seemingly can’t be made on many issues of great importance to the future, and current state, of the city (protecting people from discrimination and building a stronger urban core, to name a couple).
And, while we’re obsessed with a losing football team that studies of other NFL cities would suggest has a net negative economic impact for the city, we sit by, many idly, as mediocre people with mediocre policies are elected and reelected.
This is the best Jacksonville can do? I don’t think so.
We don’t have to settle for this. Some may think the 2019 municipal elections are still pretty far off, but trust and believe it will be here sooner than you think. Being a good citizen doesn’t mean just going into a voting booth every couple of years (or 4 as is the case with many). It means holding those who are already elected accountable, and pushing people who should run for office to do so, especially if they are not part of the existing corral. And it means volunteering for those candidates and helping them reach enough voters to win. The good side of the low turnout double-edged sword is there are always votes to get.
Forget protests, angry letters and dissident Facebook groups. What we need is some good ol fashioned changing of the guards. It’s time to hold people accountable for their actions, or inaction as the case may be. I know for a fact this city has some brilliant, motivated people who want to see all of us succeed. And I don’t mean the people jabbing elbows to the top of their respective party ladders. I mean the people who lead in everyday life. The people everyone in their neighborhood or office knows they can go to for solid, smart advice. The ones who just seem to naturally have a grasp on what it means to convene equitable groups of people to solve problems.
We can do better, Jacksonville. Let’s go.