Grassroots groups want City Council to reject JSO budget, re-allocate funds

Groups call for ‘major overhaul’ of relationship between city, Black community

Activists protest on steps of City Hall (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Representatives from two dozen grassroots organizations rallied Saturday afternoon on the steps of City Hall to call attention to their demands of major budget and police reforms in Jacksonville.

Members of the Northside Coalition and the Jacksonville Community Action Committee want a “major overhaul in the relationship between the city and the Black community.”

“The city must begin to take certain steps in the right direction to improve that relationship,” Michael Sampson of the JCAC said. “The major problems involve racial issues, the city budget and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.”

There was a rally at City Hall Saturday against the proposed Jacksonville police budget, and another one blocks away, calling for more voting outreach for the Supervisor of Elections Office. In each case people were asking for more from their public officials.

The activists want more oversight from the City Council of JSO’s budget spending.

“The city council should establish new methods to evaluate how effectively JSO is spending the lion’s share of our city funds,” said Ben Frazier, founder of the Northside Coalition. “Historically, city officials have not been fair in the allocation of budget money. The city has broken promises and ignored the needs of Black neighborhoods for more than 50 years.”

In addition to that demand, the groups say the City Council should:

  • Create a police accountability council to review police investigations. (This panel of citizens would review cases and issues relating to allegations of police misconduct.)
  • Allocate more funds for social programs. (Including more money for mental health, Black-owned businesses, and to create a massive job training and job creation project in ZIP codes 32206, 32208 and 32209.)
  • Create a Marshall plan of revitalization and redevelopment in economically ravaged areas.

“The People’s Budget calls on the city to reallocate and reinvest money from the proposed half-billion dollar budget for JSO,” said Christina Kittle with the JCAC. “$200 million in the proposed JSO budget should instead be reinvested in Black lives and communities of color.”

“We should move to create a police accountability council to review police investigations, to review police misconduct,” Frazier said.

However, local councilman Garrett Dennis said he is working on more police accountability. He has drafted a bill for a citizen’s review board. The board would independently review police conduct.

The local president for the Fraternal Order of Police, Steve Zona, has said he opposes a citizen’s board because “police should also be judged on facts and evidence, not politics and agendas.”

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams increased his annual budget request by $6 million this year. In total, Williams is asking for $481 million to fund his office.

That budget will be voted on by City Council before the end of the month.

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