In 2019, the world seemed a bit fuzzy, especially in Jacksonville, Florida. Crime was (and is) soaring. Notable buildings were torn down. Someone was trying to sell the community-owned utility company. The year was filled with these scratch-your-head moments, and we experienced many of them collectively, as a city.
In 2020, I have hope for a clearer vision for Jacksonville and its citizens. I hope city leaders will, on the very first day of the new year, open their eyes and gain 20/20 vision: a long-ranging and crystal-clear plan for moving forward. I hope we can turn our vision toward cultural tourism as a strategy to differentiate Jacksonville as a destination. I dream of a day we can see our history being used to set Jacksonville apart from regional varsity players such as Savannah or Charleston, cities that have dug deep into their past and use their unique, historical experiences and identities as marks of distinction. They are “cool” cities: interesting to visit as well as live in.
I envision a day in the not-so-distant future when we citizens might be presented with a plan (or a map, so to speak) that gives us direction and hope—a day when the thing to do will be to focus on small local projects and small business as a way to grow. In this 20/20 vision, all citizens can believe in who we are and where we are going.
I can visualize a city where creativity plays an important role. The arts can diversify our economic portfolio, create growth and put Jacksonville on the map of creative destinations. I see a city whose brand is built on several different economic, historic and cultural assets—a city that will build on what we have and where we are going, using content from where we have been.
I see with 20/20 vision a city that becomes world-famous by talking about its story. Jacksonville’s history holds stories that are unparalleled and incredible, if sometimes uncomfortable. We should be using them to create a stronger vision.
I also see a city in 2020 that could start supporting all citizens and listening to their voices, a city that works to right the wrongs—both past and present—and fight the fight for a more inclusive city and a more positive life for every citizen. Like our bridges that connect neighborhoods across the St. Johns River, I envision leadership that connects people, talks to people and listens to people.
With 20/20 vision, I have hope that we can get smarter, less wasteful and more transparent so that we all know what is going on. We have an emerald trail that snakes through the urban terrain and makes us wonder what’s behind the curtain. In a second, this place could be world-class, but it won’t be until we pull back that curtain and get real. We deserve to know why certain controversial decisions have been made: tearing down the old City Hall and courthouse, then The Jacksonville Landing; blowing up the JEA cooling towers and trying to sell the whole operation. Aye, 2019 has been a very, very shortsighted year. Let’s make sure that, in 2020, we clear out the cataracts and blind spots so we can see where we need to go. Let’s look to the future and plan to love ourselves more, believe in ourselves more and see ourselves as we really are, warts and all.
I dream that in 2020 we will have a perfect vision of a city where everyone is proud, excited and hopeful: a truly bold city in name and deed.
Williams is a local businessman and co-founder of the #mappingjax initiative.