With all of the important City business on your plate, there is no question that much of Jacksonville — and a lot of America — will be most interested in seeing what you say, how you act and the way you vote on legislation to reappoint Parvez Ahmed to the Human Rights Commission.
We are braced for Tuesday's vote for a couple of reasons.
Last week in this column I implored the members of the Rules Committee to put behind us the 2-year-old saga of accusation and innuendo toward Ahmed's service on the commission.
For reasons mostly dealing with his Muslim religion, Ahmed has been singled out by screeching, demagogic opposition that would be better reserved for murderers and child predators.
He has been quoted as saying, "This is a caricature of my life's work. The rhetoric does not match the reality."
There is no conversation that he has not served as a solid member of the commission for the past two years, after being appointed by Mayor John Peyton.
If the past is prologue, Ahmed will be re-confirmed by the Council.
After the prolonged, ugly rhetoric two years ago, Council finally approved Ahmed on a 12-6 vote.
Council members who cast three of the six no votes against Ahmed are gone, leaving only Clay Yarborough, Don Redman and Ray Holt as the original cornerstones of opposition.
Of the 12 who voted to approve Ahmed, eight are still members of the Council, including Stephen Joost, who was pointed in his criticism of the treatment aimed at Ahmed.
"This is not the Muslim commission. This is not the Jewish commission or the Christian commission. This is the Human Rights Commission. I'm offended by this line of questioning," Joost said two years ago.
But, this is not about Ahmed.
Instead, it's an appeal that Council members will use the opportunity of Ahmed's reappointment Tuesday night as a re-affirmation for decency and tolerance in Jacksonville.
It's important enough because Jacksonville is being watched across America — even around the world — by those waiting on your actions, expecting us to continue as the poster child for prejudice.
Please disappoint them.
We'd rather be able to boast to ourselves and others that you did the right thing by staring down prejudice and, instead, you stood up for tolerance.
Instead of sitting silent in the face of unfairness and bigotry, we want to brag that you shouted loudly that in Jacksonville, we value inclusiveness, diversity and the dignity of every person.
It matters. It really matters.
Rally for Hemming Plaza
Thankfully, the focus is staying on Hemming Plaza at the Downtown Investment Authority, but so far the solution is unresolved.
While it's well documented that what happens every day on in the plaza in front of City Hall is deplorable, but it could be worse.
Last Sunday, the Tampa Bay Times highlighted St. Petersburg's Williams Park, a 4.3-acre venue in the heart of downtown. In Hemming Plaza we have our Confederate Memorial and at Williams Park there is a memorial to World War I.
Both venues have fountains.
Williams Park is 125 years old and, according to the Times, its bandstand was once very popular, hosting former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. The Sunshine City Band packed in the crowds on a regular basis.
Now, said the Times, "the park is home to a new community: drug dealers and drug addicts, hell-raisers and drunks, hustlers and philosophers."
The Times said the inhabitants of Williams Park and the environment they create "is a cancer that has long diseased what could be a prime city block." Leaders in St. Petersburg are searching for solutions, said the Times.
Not surprisingly, ideas such as regular markets and lunch events, redesigned sitting walls and fewer transit stops are among the suggestions to reclaim the park.
Apparently both drug use and drug-dealing are chronic and in the open, despite the St. Petersburg Police Department spending more than $100,000 a year on patrols, and parks officials dedicating one full- and one part-time staff members to clean the park.
Here's why I think this is important to us.
We have a problem at Hemming Plaza that's not becoming any better and somehow, someway, we have to solve it — and quickly.
Otherwise, I fear we are creating a heightened challenge in the heart of Downtown that can only become worse.
If it does, it will surely slow the rebirth of Downtown and could be extremely difficult to overcome.
It's time to rally behind it and make some drastic changes to put the Hemming Plaza issue behind us.
When you open your meeting Tuesday night, it would be fitting if you shared a prayer once offered by William Penn: "O Lord, help me not to despise or oppose what I do not understand."