Resolve to Lend Your Voice

So this is Christmas

And what have you done?

Another year over

And a new one just begun.

John Lennon released “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” in 1971 as the culmination of more than two years of peace activism with Yoko Ono. His declaration still resonates today. Beyond the anti-war message rise tidings of hope and renewal always on our collective minds at the flip of each calendar year.

A new year is another shot at getting things right, whether it be losing those extra pounds or spending more time with your kids. It’s also an opportunity for a city to make changes that would “take it to another level,” to use Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown’s favorite phrase.

Usually, resolutions are limited to the next calendar year, but a survey by the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) invites people to decide what kind of community we want to have in 2025.

The survey examines education, jobs, housing, transportation, health care, parks, safety, infrastructure, downtown, social services and government. Many invite open-ended comments. Most of the questions give you these options: very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, neutral, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied. The whole survey shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes, depending on how extensive your answers are.

Because JCCI wants a broad perspective of people’s opinions, the survey also asks for your gender, ZIP code, age range, ethnicity, household income, education level and length of time you have lived in Jacksonville.

A survey is only as good as the people who respond and the thoughtfulness invested in their answers. With that in mind, here is a sampling of my responses. Perhaps these will encourage you to take the survey and make the data JCCI collects stronger.

All things considered, how satisfied are you with the quality of life in Jacksonville today?

Somewhat satisfied, but I know so many people who would answer “not at all satisfied.” They can’t find good-paying jobs, they have a hard time getting around our sprawling city, they can’t afford a decent place to live, their children have few choices for education. I am lucky enough to live in the minority when it comes to these problems.

What do you like most about Jacksonville?

I appreciate being close to family and longtime friends in a city that is both familiar and constantly changing. The water, from the ocean to the rivers, paints a beautiful interactive landscape. Cultural and entertainment options percolate everywhere.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing Jacksonville today?

Racism, both personal and institutional, continues to have a stranglehold on Jacksonville. Many still deny it. Some are blinded by it. But until we deal with it honestly and productively, we will never move forward.

Downtown suffers because a large majority of Jacksonville’s residents don’t recognize it as the rightful center of the city. They don’t see their connection to it the way suburbanites in other thriving metropolitan areas do. Downtown also battles with real — and, even more problematic, perceived — issues with parking, crime and homelessness.

Jacksonville cannot bolster its infrastructure and create the added amenities needed because of an inadequate tax base created by a tax rate that is too low and the flight of residents to neighboring counties creating sprawl and traffic woes.

As one of the most spread-out geographic cities, Jacksonville is in dire need of real public transportation solutions.

Despite some truly world-class magnet programs, many of Duval County’s schools struggle with real problems, including a huge student population living in poverty.

When you think about the future 12 years from now, what is the most important aspect about Jacksonville that you hope is preserved or maintained?

Access to all kinds of water should be maintained and improved, whether or not you can afford a waterfront home or a boat. Art and entertainment venues and events should be cultivated.

If you could change or improve one thing about Jacksonville, what would that be?

We must invest in downtown — as a government, as business owners, as consumers, as a citizenry. A strong core creates opportunity and excitement for change beyond its borders.

Public transportation must be seriously addressed, not just for people who can’t afford cars, but to tackle congestion and pollution created by sprawl.

Overall, how would you rate Jacksonville as a place to live?

Good, with the potential to be excellent. We already have a location and weather that others envy. We’ve got several pieces, but we’re missing the box with the picture — the overall vision — to help us complete the puzzle.

JCCI is asking every resident of Jacksonville to take the survey and participate in one of four community meetings scheduled over the next four months.

Meanwhile, after a year of challenges, we look forward to 2013 and strive to learn from the past.

Let’s hope it’s a good

Without any fear.