The season everything changed


If Spring 2017 were a videogame character, it’d be the Avatar of Change.

In the eight short weeks since the spring equinox closed the chapter on what passes for winter in the era of climate change, we’ve lost a superintendent, waved bye-bye to pension plans for most public workers, convicted the longtime de facto head honcho of the local Democratic Party of 18 federal charges, made national news for police brutalizing protesters on camera in real time, and learned precisely how cray-cray things can get in the Florida legislature.

Proceeding in no particular order, first off, now-former Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, a man as beloved by some as he was hated by others, including people on the school board, dropped what had to have been a victory lap of a resignation. Yeppers, Vitti’s flying the Duval coop for Detroit. (Consider how bad it would have to be for you to prefer paying state income taxes and suffering Michigan winters to staying here another second.)

Even as some cheered Vitti’s departure, his fans wondered whether the reformer might have stuck around if he hadn’t been treated like a cotton-headed outsider who just doesn’t understand how we do things down here. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, sure, but he’s hardly even gone and it seems like some of his toughest critics have a lot more nice things to say about him now. So maybe he didn’t do such a bad job after all.

As to city pensions, or lack thereof, after many years of arguing, analyzing and agonizing in the grand spirit of Much Ado About Nothing, Jacksonville City Council unanimously agreed to kick the can down the road yet again on a plan that will cost us billions more than the current tab for the unfunded pension liability. In spite of a laundry list of critics, most recently including Moody’s Investors Service, complaining that it isn’t fiscally responsible to let our pension debt balloon until 2031, when the half-penny sales tax revenue will start being used to pay it down, just so we can fix a couple of curbs and, I’m betting, get balls deep into the boneheaded river dredging, everyone at City Hall is stubbornly committed to the narrative that this is a good thing for the city. And you can bet your sweet patoot that 20 out of 20 re-election robocalls, mailers and stump speeches will agree.

Now on to the tragicomedy of Corrine Brown. The veteran Democrat had previously fought off adversaries, redistricting and the racially charged mockery of her more-pedigreed colleagues (psst: belittling an African-American person’s accent and syntax is not OK), plus narrowly avoided the financial misconduct danger zone more than once. Even an arsenal amassed over 24 years in Congress proved no match for federal prosecutors and betrayal by a man she considered a surrogate son. On May 11, Brown was convicted of 18 federal charges, ranging from tax evasion to wire fraud.

Don’t count on her giving up any time soon—she’s indicated that she will seek a new trial—but her conviction signaled the end of an era for Northeast Florida politics, for better or for worse.

On April 7, the people who would come to be known as the Hemming Park Five protested the U.S. bombing of Syria in Downtown Jacksonville. Like in many communities across the nation, this was another in a series of local civic actions expressing disapproval of the Trump Administration. Unlike other protests, which proceeded in peaceful, if at times disorganized, fashion, this one ended with people getting the business end of officers’ fists and, for one deaf, African-American protester, Tasers. On camera … well, on several cameras.

The optics weren’t great. Though the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office rushed to take control of the storyline by releasing police reports on Facebook that very night, making the case for their use of force to arrest the five, apparent contradictions between the footage and police reports only served to add fuel to the fire, as did JSO’s failure to arrest the alleged provocateur.

A lot of folks around the state were trepidatious about the incoming class of legislators who rode the Trump wave to victory. Unsurprisingly, there was cause for concern. This year, the legislature basically took an enormous shit on the 71 percent of citizens who voted to legalize medical marijuana (they’ve granted so few licenses that there’s effectively a marijuana cartel of growers, plus it’s illegal to smoke pot, no matter how sick you are), started a blood feud with the governor over corporate welfare, voted to hand the keys to 115 public schools to charter school companies (no takesies-backsies on property deeds, yo), and enacted an entirely unnecessary piece of legislation that would make an outcast of any student who doesn’t participate in the school-wide Jesus parade. And it could’ve been worse: If the State House had its way, it would’ve also gutted the Sunshine Law and ramped up the ineffective drug war against the opioid addicts our pill mills created.

One trembles to think what the remaining four weeks of spring may bring.

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Maybe the editor should leave the education reporting to Julie Delegal. If all you know about education is what you've gleaned from Melissa Ross on First Coast Connect(disclaimer: FCC education reporting sponsored in part by Gary Chartrand of School Choice & charter school renown. No conflict of interest there) then you might want to get a different perspective. Try talking to teachers--real teachers--not those TOY's posing in Rick Scott re-election ads or taking selfies with JPEF's Trey Csar.

Vitti was a change agent but not for the better unless you're Jason Fischer, Gary Chartrand, or have some vested interest in for profit charter schools. (Note: school choice is code for the deregulation/rubber stamp approval of charter schools & the fundamental dismantling of teacher unions/traditional public education.) Did you ever consider that Vitti's hardcore anti-charter school stance only came out after he threw his hat in the ring for the Detroit job? When the latest bill to destroy public education made it's way to Scott's desk it was already too late. At that point Vitti was just posing for the cameras, microphones, or any news outlet that cared to listen to a lame duck with one foot out the door. Where was all this outrage the last few years when he was approving charter schools left & right for his benefactor Chartrand?

Incidentally Vitti told the principal at my school at the beginning of THIS SCHOOL YEAR that he wanted our school to be more like a charter school. He & the principal have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in that respect. As for the kind words said about Vitti on his way out the door what did you expect? You don't insult the corpse at a wake, do you? You say nice things about them like they were nice to animals because you never saw them hurt one?? That's essentially what Couch, Wright, & ASJ did. Even though Vitti's gone & they're doing backflips on the inside they still have to work with Grymes, Shine, & Warren who are in Chartrand's pocket. Why not do a story on that??

As for Curry he plays for the fans not the critics or "chirpers" as he likes to call them. (He doesn't like things that are more complicated than sports metaphors.) Moody's whose opinion he valued so much during his election campaign can join the chorus of haters for all he cares. He got what he wanted & everybody else can go to hell. That picture of Curry & city council raising their glasses of champagne in a victory toast will be shown again in 30 years when our infrastructure is crumbling, residents are moving to greener pastures further eroding our tax base, & the idea of real shared sacrifice is an actual concept instead of empty rhetoric. Thirty years from now we will ask why our city council did not ask the tough questions. Most of them will have passed on one way or the other but those that remain will say that they were "tired" of dealing with the pension. The rest will claim they didn't know what they were doing & were bullied into a groupthink vote. Ignorance will be their excuse but unfortunately that will be of little comfort to our children & grandchildren. But hey at least the pension referendum passed with John Q. Public voting on something he had no clue about. They are much like the City Council in that respect.

Saturday, May 27, 2017|Report this