Veteran Jacksonville City Councilwoman Denise Lee is on a mission.
From busting street-level drug dealers and cleaning up trash and abandoned buildings, to taking on what she calls “human blight," Lee is campaigning to clean up neighborhoods in the city. She joined Melissa Ross to discuss her efforts.
Lee said she has been working on improving the city's neighborhoods since she was first elected to the City Council in 1982, and that economic development and job creation have been key issues for city lawmakers for as long as she has been in office.
"At the end of the day, what businesses are going to move into areas that are number one, unsafe, and number two, that are depressed with blight, not just trash blight, and lack of mowing right-of-ways, but human blight," she said.
For Lee, human blight defines anyone who "contribute to the demise" of Jacksonville's neighborhoods.
"They stand on corners all day long, they break into people's homes, they put trash on the ground, and they sell drugs," she said.
"They don't work, and that is not because there are not some jobs out there, that is a result of 'I don't care,' and as long as I have a business and I can contribute to the demise by getting young folks to do what I do, then that is the order of those types of businesses."
Lee said every elected and appointed public official, from the City Council to law enforcement and school officials, has a responsibility to preserve a quality of life for city residents.
"And if we can't do that, they we don't need to serve," she said.
Lee is the chairwoman of an ad-hoc committee convened by City Council President Bill Guilliford to address these issues, and Lee encouraged First Coast Connect listeners to attend committee meetings and get involved.
Lee also encouraged city residents to report blight of all kinds, including reporting on neighbors.
"We cannot do this alone," she said. "The only way you are going to take back your neighborhoods is to be engaged."
"Everybody is talking about Stand Your Ground, and I get that, but what about stand your ground for your neighborhoods?" she said.
"If we stand our ground for our neighborhoods, some of this human blight will automatically be removed, because that's what's creating the criminal element."
You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.