JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry says keeping people safe is at the top of his priority list, and Wednesday he asked the City Council to approve more than $450 million for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
Of the budget, $250 million is for capital improvements -- city projects like a new library in Oceanway. Of that, $100 million is targeted to go to Northwest Jacksonville, where promises made during consolidation more than 50 years ago were never kept. There will be an emphasis on road, sewer and drainage projects.
“With this budget, I maintain the top spending priority for public safety,” Curry said during his budget presentation.
Curry says he’s still supporting programs, that have hands-on community involvement.
“This budget also includes prevention and intervention programs like Cure Violence with the Kids Hope Alliance,” he said.
City Councilman Rory Diamond said in reference to the budget, “I think the mayor got this one right.” He said the discussions and protests happening in cities nationwide that are calling for defunding the police won’t keep citizens safe.
“People who are very reasonably upset with officer involved shootings need to realize that the way we stop that is to have better training, more community policing. That costs more money, not less,” Diamond said. “In addition to that, the city can do more for our kids, they can do more for our neighborhoods, there’s no question about that. But you don’t get there by ripping the police apart.”
Ben Frazier, a community activist and president of the Northside Coalition, disagrees.
He issued a statement reading in part: “25% of the mayor’s $482 million dollar budget for JSO should be reallocated for community services.”
Daillo Sekou, a human rights activist and president of the Kemetic Empire, says the city keeps giving money to police who have the same problems year after year.
“The money is not the issue, it’s an administrative issue and an institutional issue that exists inside that particular agency,” Sekou said.
In regard to the $100 million allocated for Northwest Jacksonville with an emphasis on infrastructure and other promises made to that community during consolidation more than 50 years ago, Sekou says that money is based on the community’s needs back in 1970.
“One hundred million dollars can cover about three to four blocks inside of a city when we talk about infrastructure. And then, you’re talking about dividing one hundred million dollars between four districts. It’s ridiculous,” he said.