Author Topic: Inaction on city parks is typical of mayor's style  (Read 1524 times)


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Inaction on city parks is typical of mayor's style
« on: June 04, 2007, 07:04:03 AM »
The Times-Union

Mayor John Peyton gets a lot of unsolicited advice. Here's some more: Get off your duff and do something.

Let's look back at Peyton's first four years in office, which wrap up this month.

His administration has always been stymied by one thing or another - the Shipyards debacle, the courthouse fiasco, Cecil Field and now the Tallahassee-induced budget crisis.

In the meantime, little gets accomplished. Take Jacksonville's parks system, for example.

Follow the timeline: In April 2004, Peyton appointed a task force to study the city's parks system and to move it from "biggest to the best."

That task force, one of the most dedicated I've seen, logged a lot of hours before issuing a report in March 2005 that provided an outline for success.

A critical component of turning the parks system around would be the creation of an independent commission that would oversee the parks.

Peyton opposed that, fearful that he couldn't get the support of district City Council members, some of whom view the parks in their districts as their personal fiefdoms.

Parks reform legislation, including a watered-down "advisory" board, finally passed the City Council in January 2006.

That advisory board held its first meeting in March of this year, two years after the task force issued its report and more than a year after the council had given the go-ahead.

And that organizational meeting was the board's only one and now, at the beginning of June, it's basically kaput.

Peyton did take the step of hiring John Culbreth to lead the parks department, once again with the goal of changing from "the biggest to the best."

Culbreth had headed the Fulton County, Ga., parks system and Peyton pursued him.

Now, almost 18 months later, Culbreth is gone. His final day on the job was last Friday. The Mayor's Office said his position was eliminated in a reorganization.

However for at least six months, there had been rumblings at the Mayor's Office that Culbreth wasn't the person for the task, but Peyton didn't do anything. Something, of course, got in the way. This time it was the mayoral election.

So more than three years after Peyton appointed his task force with no parks director, we have no parks board and a parks system that may be the biggest but certainly isn't the best.

For Jacksonville to be successful, the mayor has to lead. Peyton hasn't done that yet.

Having been re-elected and with no plans to run for another office, Peyton is in a good position to change course.

Certainly there will be bumps in the road, some bigger than others, but a leader finds ways around them and keeps moving forward.

Build the courthouse. Improve the parks. Don't let the downtown momentum die. Protect the St. Johns River. Support social service programs that are needed.

Find the money to do what needs to be done. Ruffle feathers, if you must, but lead., (904) 359-4284

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