City Council announces new social justice committee in meeting with city leaders

Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and State Attorney Melissa Nelson weighed in on race issues in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city appears ready to act on improving race relations and deal with broken promises made to the black community in Jacksonville decades ago.

During a special Jacksonville City Council meeting on Wednesday morning, members heard from the Jacksonville Sheriff, the State Attorney and the mayor about what is ahead.

“The three of us have been listening, working towards one Jacksonville for the time we’ve been in office. That doesn’t discount or dismiss the inequalities, the pain, the broken promises of decades in the city that we all go to work together to fix,” said Mayor Lenny Curry.

Also in that meeting, a new City Council social justice committee was announced.

For now, it appears the protest and removal of Confederate statutes is going to bring about some change. Promises made 52 years ago during consolidation are now expected to be addressed.

The recent protests in Jacksonville are not only about police tactics and body camera video, they are also about promises not kept in Jacksonville when it comes to city services for all neighborhoods. While in the Northwest portion of the city, News4Jax asked people like Dorothy Davis what she would like to see happen.

“I think with a few changes, especially race relations,” Davis said.

The Committee for Social Justice will be a clearinghouse to sort though the legislation expected to be filed to bring about change and equality for all.

″To honor the commitment the unfulfilled promises of consolidation at the same time making certain that we have a responsive police force and city services to all of our residences in Jacksonville," said councilmember Brenda Priestly Jackson, who will co-chair the committee along with councilmember Matt Carlucci.

Those unfulfilled promises include a lack of sewer service and other infrastructure neglect in the core city of Jacksonville.

“These next few months are not going to be easy,” said councilmember Garrett Dennis. “We want a Kumbaya moment but we’re going to have to peel off all the dirt and the filth and the things that have been going on all these years in order to get to the root and start fresh.”

But this time, talk is not cheap. In fact, City Council is now talking about something they’ve been avoiding for years — a tax increase to keep the promises.

“Because we may need to raise taxes. Yes, I said raise taxes to get done what we need to get done,” councilmember Aaron Bowman said.

That would likely be a gas tax increase, which is only being discussed. The first public discussion will take place on Tuesday at the finance meeting.

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