In the 1960’s Duval County was facing a crisis.
A Grand Jury investigation into corruption led to nearly a dozen indictments of local officials, and several others were forced to resign. The school system was discredited. The population was falling, property taxes were skyrocketing and Jacksonville city government was facing a financial crisis.
A commission created to find a solution came up with consolidation, combining the county and city governments.
On Aug. 8,1967, Duval County voters approved the plan by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
In the 50 years since, many discussions have focused on whether consolidation was the right call and whether changes are needed to Jacksonville’s governmental makeup to prepare for the future.
Appearing Tuesday on “First Coast Connect,” former Mayor Alvin Brown’s chief of staff and co-author of “America, The Owner’s Manual: How to Take on City Hall and Win,” Chris Hand, said it’s clear Jacksonville wouldn’t be where it is without that vote.
“It has provided accountability and efficiency that have given Jacksonville the platform to make some of its greatest achievements over the last 50 years,” he said. “The late Mayor Ed Austin once said there is no chance Jacksonville could have ever gotten the Jaguars without consolidated government.”
Hand adds that promises were made during the runup to consolidation that were not kept, and the 50th anniversary should be seen as an opportunity to keep those promises. He said consolidation was sold to predominantly poor and African-American communities around the urban core as a trade between losing some political power but gaining economic development opportunities, infrastructure improvements and improved schools.
Hand said the political power was lost but the improvements have lagged behind.
The 50th anniversary of consolidation’s implementation is Oct. 1, 2018.