Jacksonville ‘quality of life’ committee previews final recommendations
Jacksonville City Hall.

Jax City Hall
Special Committee issues a final report Tuesday to the Jacksonville City Council.

A Jacksonville City Council Special Committee charged with “quality of life” issues discussed the draft version of its final report Wednesday, an aspirational document which will be available to the public by the end of the week.

The five-person panel, which includes four Republicans and one Democrat, was charged with considering paths forward to address issues like housing insecurity and health care woes. Chairman Michael Boylan hopes these “recommendations become reality,” as he writes in the “message from the chair” leading off the document.

“This is the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey,” Boylan contended.

Jacksonville has its share of problems. Its homeless population exceeds 3,000, and the report identifies a shortfall of at least 35,000 affordable housing units. The pandemic still casts a shadow, as does stubborn inflation, and rent increases of up to 25% from one lease to the next. A full 190,000 Medicaid recipients are expected to lose their coverage in February.

Among the larger recommendations: referendums for “sustainable solutions” for health care, homelessness, and affordable housing issues, such as a recent successful one in Colorado; public-private partnerships to address one or more of these issues; wrap-around services; a more aggressive pursuit of dedicated funding, including outside grants; work to remedy transportation shortfalls.

“Short term funding programs for each issue — Homelessness, Access to Healthcare, and Affordable Housing — provides a band-aid approach in contrast to more long-term, sustainable solutions. The systematic costs on healthcare and temporary sheltering are greater than preventative solutions including affordable housing, and not addressing the affordable housing issues means more funding for short-term shelters, which drives up healthcare costs,” the report contends.

Affordable housing is particularly acute as an issue in recent years: “the sharpest rent increases have occurred since 2019, placing Jacksonville in the top ten metro areas in the nation for rental price increases.”

Boylan said the report was “comprehensive,” suggesting that Wednesday’s meeting would not bring wholesale revision, but small changes. The full report would be available to the public in 24 to 48 hours, he said.

“We were reluctant to push it out until it was finalized, but we will have it as soon as we possibly can,” Boylan explained about the lack of availability of the report to attendees.

Former Council President Sam Newby, on the committee, called this a “great report.”

“I don’t want this to just sit on the shelf,” said Newby, who has a little more than six months left on the Council.

“Now is the time,” added Council member Ju’Coby Pittman, the only Democrat on the five person committee. Pittman also doesn’t want the report to “just sit on the shelf.”

Republican Nick Howland lauded the “amazing and robust” report.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy at this moment,” said Council President Terrance Freeman about the “call to action” the committee product provides, and promising a “deep dive” into the report.

“I look forward to, within reason, doing something that brings these causes forward,” Freeman said, noting the importance of “ten votes” in passing a potential “omnibus bill that captures the spirit of these recommendations.”

See the draft committee report here: COJ Draft Final Report 12.6.22

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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