69ºF

Leaders a mixed bag 50 years after Jacksonville's consolidation

'Bold New City' became America's largest 5 decades ago

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the six former living mayors of Jacksonville tout the accomplishments made in the 50 years since the city's consolidation, some leaders are focused on areas they say need improvement.

Former Mayor Tommy Hazouri, who is a city councilman, is one of the "white hats" who supported consolidation. He believes the City of Jacksonville improved tremendously since it merged with Duval County.

"It was the most archaic form of government of any city in this country today," Hazouri said. "I would not trade it for the world."

Former Jacksonville City Council president Warren Jones doesn't share the same perspective.

"I think the biggest problem with consolidation is our zeal to reach out to the surrounding areas and make sure they grew," Jones said. "We neglected the core city. We don't maintain the park systems. The roads."

Jones, who was in high school at the time, said consolidation was approved with the idea of removing some politicians with questionable ethics from office. He also said the merger might have had some racial roots.

"Some people brought in the idea that if you don't consolidate, then you're going to have an all-black city council because the old core city was becoming more of a minority community," Jones said.

Isaiah Rumlin, the local president of the NAACP, had similar thoughts.

"I think they sold the black community a bill of no return, to a certain degree," Rumlin said. "It might've worked in other areas but when you look at the infrastructure, when you look at education, when you look at economics, it just hasn't worked."

Jones believes education improved as a result of consolidation. At the time, vocational schools were not accredited, which changed.

Rumlin, however, believes schools in the urban core have been overlooked.


About the Author: