By Dr. Richard Danford, President (Jacksonville Urban League) – Neighborhood Bill of Rights: The more citizen involvement in matters of the present, the better will be the future. Common sense does not become outdated. For example, in 1995, recognizing the most important part of Jacksonville’s fabric is its residents, the City Council established the Neighborhood Bill of Rights (NBR), City Ordinance 95-247-106. This clearly stated directive grants neighborhood citizens the opportunity for formal input into the annual budget process, including the opportunity to express preferred City government priorities, suggested capital improvement projects, and other statements that fairly represent the opinion of Jacksonville’s citizens.
It is obvious that widespread community involvement in every phase of Jacksonville life is the foundation to ensuring a good place to live for all. Every effort should be taken to encourage and rely upon the insight, involvement, and engagement of our most important resource: our people. There are limitless opportunities, such as town halls, our City Council Special Committee on Social Justice, structured surveys, and virtual focus groups that can and should be used to carry out the mandate of Neighborhood Bill of Rights.
The events of the past week, both in Jacksonville and elsewhere, are an indication that many of our leaders have lost touch with its citizens, individuals who seek the best for our communities through traditional government processes. From a local perspective, millions have been spent on misguided projects, such as the JEA sale. Still other funds have been proposed for large projects such as Lot J, without proper community input and without corresponding plans to finally revitalize neighborhoods after decades of neglect. Most disturbing, is the utter failure or our city to come up with a comprehensive plan to fight COVID19 or to provide much needed vaccine. In large part, citizens have had to fend for themselves to obtain information which, if provided, has been too little, too late.
If one obtains proper engagement across all political spheres, those in the community with the least amount of power will feel that they have a pathway into government. That is why the Jacksonville Urban League is asking the City of Jacksonville to abide by the Neighborhood Bill of Rights and work with members of the community and community organizations join us in developing a comprehensive community engagement initiative. Anyone who would like to join us in this effort, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 904-723-4007.
Dr. Richard Danford, President
Jacksonville Urban League