Jacksonville’s Social Justice and Community Investment Committee met for the final time in 2020 on Monday, choosing to go over and decide whether to support six separate bills that will eventually go through the regular legislative process.
Several of the bills had been discussed in previous meetings, and were brought up as a formality before final approval from the committee, such as Councilman Ron Salem’s bill to launch a program alongside the Sulzbacher Center to help the recently incarcerated find housing, work and mental health help.
Salem’s bill was the only one that has already been filed. It’s expected to be heard during the last full City Council meeting of the year on Tuesday.
Other future bills that garnered support were:
- Councilman Sam Newby’s $200,000 proposal to help with job placement and underserved Florida State College at Jacksonville students.
- Councilman Randy White’s and Councilwoman Randy DeFoor’s $200,000 proposal to start a pilot neighborhood blight program that would beautify certain neighborhoods and analyze whether the improvements have an impact on crime.
- Councilman Michael Boylan’s $200,000 proposal to help create an electronic management system for health clinics throughout Jacksonville that don’t require insurance.
- Councilman Carlucci’s $140,000 proposal to give more financial resources to Jacksonville’s Teen Court program.
- Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman’s $250,000 proposal to create an after-school youth baseball program at Clanzel Brown Park.
In all, six bills were unanimously approved by the committee, and all will move through the standard committee process once they are officially filed.
A proposed bill from CM Reggie Gaffney is seeking $300,000 to restore the Historic Stanton school building, but Gaffney said he wasn't yet prepared to discuss details, and will offer the bill up next year.
Committee Co-Chair Carlucci congratulated the group on their work so far, but said he would like to make sure that they aren’t just short-term bandages.
“If it's just a one-shot, then you can't solve a problem,” Carlucci said. “It takes year after year after year after year of working to improve.”
Councilman Salem said that it would be good to find private funds to supplement what the city is spending in upcoming years, however Carlucci said it’s important for the city to remain involved in funding the programs.
“When there is city money invested in the program, it enhances your ability to reach dollars from the state and from the federal government, because they feel like we bought in,” Carluccia said.
The committee has also caught some backlash from other City Council members who believe the committee’s actions are an abuse of power that doesn’t consider the voices of many of the other council members.
However, Salem said any council member with an idea on social justice or community investment should attend one of their meetings.
“I want to make sure the other council members that may have issues or concerns that want to promote something understand that it's not just the seven of us,” Salem said. “There are other people getting those dollars.”
Co-chair Brenda Priestly Jackson said when the committee reconvenes in January there will be discussions on septic tanks, job initiatives, and infrastructure spending. The next meeting is slated for January 11.
Sky Lebron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.