One City: One Jacksonville is a great saying for a political campaign; but it is not the truth! Jacksonville is a city significantly divided by race, class and political affiliation. In 2015, Lenny Curry defeated Alvin Brown and took over the mayor’s office. His campaign slogan was “One City: One Jacksonville.” Jacksonville is, in fact, “a tale of two cities.” One is a big sleepy Southern town with a legacy of racism. The other one is a growing and thriving metropolis attempting to redefine itself for the challenges presented by the 21st century.
STOP THE VIOLENCE AND INCREASE THE PEACE
I earnestly desire and pray that the leaders of my home town are approaching this critical issue with candor, confidence and a sincere commitment. I will work with any group that has a desire to stop the violence and increase the peace. I will not be a part of anyone’s dog-and-pony show or political smoke-screen!
These are the essentials for making the city’s anti-violence initiatives work: strong leadership, positive attitudes, effective partnerships, honest dialogue and consistent funding. The final necessary ingredient in this recipe is a group of city officials who will work together to develop solutions and who will not simply kick this issue around like a football to advance their own political agenda.
It will take teamwork to make this dream work!
PUBLIC SAFETY AND VIOLENCE
The major issues that will define the city’s image to its residents and also to the rest of the world are public safety and violence.
Back during the 2015 mayoral campaign, violent crime was up, and Mr. Curry promised to fix it.
“This will be a safe city again,” Curry said.
After three years in office, Mr. Curry has increased police budgets by millions of dollars and hired another 147 cops. Unfortunately, the body count in the streets continues to rise just as fast as JSO’s budget. The crime-fighting plan designed and implemented by Mayor Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams has been an epic failure.
The murder and violent crime rates in Duval County are still the highest of any large city in Florida.
RACIAL ECONOMIC DISPARITIES
To reduce violence, we must begin to eradicate racial, geographic and economic disparities. We must create policies and programs that address underlying issues like the disproportionate poverty and unemployment.
We should focus our primary efforts on ZIP codes 32206 and 32209. These geographic locations, with their distinct and apparent racially demographic markers, should be Ground Zero for our economic redevelopment efforts and this is why:
1. 17,000 people live in ZIP code 32206 on the Eastside
a. 79.3 percent are black.
b. The poverty rate 38.9 percent.
c. The unemployment rate is 11.4 percent.
2. 39,653 people live in ZIP code 32209
a. 98 percent are black.
b. The poverty rate is 40.3 percent.
c. The unemployment rate is 11.9 percent.
Social, racial and economic injustices are intricately interwoven into our present reality. We are all angered by an upsurge in gun violence that is taking place in broad daylight. An honest assessment is that even in 2018 racial division and discrimination is still stifling the city’s social and economic growth. It’s all connected.
The city’s white body politic still refuses to expose, acknowledge and address this infamous connection. However, even despite the apathy, we all know these are the underlying issues that should be addressed.
Here’s the big question: How do we make a change?
The Northside Coalition is pushing the city to implement elements of its 10-point plan for gun violence reduction with all deliberate speed! This is by no means a magic wand but it is a viable data-driven plan that represents a new approach and new ideas.
NORTHSIDE COALITION’S 10-POINT PLAN FOR GUN VIOLENCE REDUCTION
1. Holding a town hall meeting to allow residents to question elected officials about any anti-violence and public safety plans being developed. (City officials have agreed.) The purpose of these two noticed meetings would be to open lines of communication, build trust and tear down walls between residents and elected officials.
2. Closing the gun-show loophole to cut off the availability of guns to people who should not have them. Private gun sales should be documented, and buyers should have to undergo background checks.
3. Creating a multimillion-dollar major plan of social and economic redevelopment. This would include improved delivery of various public services, education, health and the arts. Major input and funding from the public and private sectors will be needed to fund these ideas.
4. Input from experts in the fields of education, health, music and the arts would be helpful.
5. Targeting disadvantaged areas like ZIP codes 32206 and 32209 which have high poverty rates and double-digit unemployment rates.
6. Implementing a massive job training and job creation element would be a key component. Working with various businesses, community colleges, nonprofits, universities would be necessary.
7. Developing and implementing conflict resolution training by professionals in schools and on the streets. Working with counselors in the public and private sector would be a part of this effort.
8. Expanding and supporting minority businesses should also be a priority.
9. Providing more accountability and transparency in the criminal justice system and at JSO. Review policies, practices and procedures to eliminate racial bias at JSO to enhance trust with the black community.
10. THE CURE VIOLENCE PROGRAM: The city is considering implementation of the Cure Violence program. We believe it will save lives and that the city should move to implement it. And city leaders should make sure that enough money is committed from the outset to fully sustain at least the first five years of the program’s existence (about $4 million). Cure Violence is guided by clear understandings that violence is a health issue. NCOJ believes community and strategic partnerships will be the key to the success of this initiative. For this effort to work, all the stakeholders, each of us, will have to work together like we never have before! Individuals and communities can change for the better. I believe we can restore hope in our city, our communities and our people. Those who say it can’t be done are usually surpassed by those who are doing it!
Frazier is the founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.