“Achieving equity—just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential—is the moral imperative, a potent antidote to inequality, and the superior growth model.” – PolicyLink
With the fanfare and attention of the 2018 mid-term elections in the rear view mirror, it’s time for Duval County local elections to take center stage. The process for qualifying for office is over, and the election hype is once again underway.
All local constitutional offices are on the ballot – Mayor, City Council, Tax Collector, Sheriff, Supervisor of Elections, etc. Leading the way is the race for Mayor with four candidates vying for the position and roughly six weeks left before election. With such a short time frame, all eyes should be focused on issues, right?
Most of the campaigning so far has come from incumbent Mayor Lenny Curry telling us why we shouldn’t vote for arch rival Anna Broche. And while it may still be considered a little early for voters to officially pick a candidate, it’s definitely not too early to talk about the issues that affect the African American community.
Let’s be clear – Jacksonville’s African American community has more to lose and less to gain from this year’s election. Given the fact that there are no Democratic candidates in the race, Blacks have no traditional champion for base issues and concerns. Nevertheless, African Americans must choose someone who will advocate for policies most important to them.
Jacksonville has a long history of neglect when it comes to the Black community. The struggle certainly started long before this election cycle. Yet, people get surprised when non-status quo recommendations are made. So let’s go ahead and be bold and demand that candidates address what we really want.
First on the list is a commitment to growth and development of African American-owned businesses. Not that watered down, “I support small business growth” stuff. I’m talking about a concentrated effort to put Black business owners on the map. Candidates should know and care about how Black-owned businesses are faring. Important that candidates understand that while Jacksonville’s economy maybe booming, minority companies are still struggling and those gaps need to be addressed.
Serious contenders should also be unflinching with incentivizing large and medium-sized Black owned companies to migrate to Jacksonville. Let’s be real, the city has been pretty good at doing it for everyone else.
Next, we know political rhetoric suggests that all winning roads go through public safety. What this really means is that “voters” need to feel safe as they move freely about their lives. There are various public safety ideas that have come from groups and stakeholders that have fallen on deaf ears. As a result, a lot of good policy concepts have been neglected because they didn’t come from the right people. The fact is that public safety needs of the Black community are a little different.
Everyone deserves to live in a safe community, whether they vote or not. Candidates should focus on public safety policies that ignite trust, and not just focus on improved police response times. Prevention is the core ingredient to everyone feeling safe. A vibrant and safe community means investing in people, not the latest law enforcement tactics.
I can remember as a young boy growing up in the Durkeeville area of Jacksonville. My friends and I could bounce from one recreational center to the next. We could play sports for our schools or neighborhood teams. We played at parks and gyms and participated in art and culture programs – there was always something for us to do.
Because of the diversity of community-based activities, we learned how to dream of better futures. And yes, most of it was publicly funded because city leaders saw the benefits in investing in people – even Black folks.
In other words, increase funding for targeted prevention programming in the African American community.
And that brings us to my final recommendation for those looking to secure Black votes. While Jacksonville claims to be bold, it refuses to do anything that would let the world know its population is 30 percent African-American. It’s time to tell everyone that Jacksonville isn’t short for “Andrew Jackson-ville.” Yeah, we have an NFL team, but so do 31 other cities. It’s time to stage an event that would showcase the pride and culture of Jacksonville’s African American community.
Jacksonville should invest in and host an HBCU football classic. Bring back Florida A&M University or Bethune-Cookman University and make it a week-long festival atmosphere for the entire city to enjoy (Just like they make us do for the TaxSlayer Bowl). It’s been about 18 years since FAMU or BCU played in the Duval County. It’s time that drought came to an end.
Cities like Birmingham, Baltimore, Atlanta and Tampa make it their business to use HBCUs as a drawing card. Those towns do that because it’s good for the community and makes economic sense. So why not Jacksonville? After all, there is a stadium on the edge of downtown where the hometown NFL team only plays 9 games a year. Additionally, Black taxpayers’ help to support everything that goes on down there, and deserve to use it as well. The candidate who can make that kind of commitment will win Black voters. My vote for sure.
It would take a lot for any politician to speak directly to African American voters in a language specific to the needs of a community long neglected. However, if you are looking to get out front on the issues important to Blacks, this is your way forward: Black owned business growth; investing in people; and finance African American entertainment, culture and sports.
See you at the polls.
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