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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 29, 200912:00 PM EST

Annual JCCI study shows room for improvement

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by: David Chapman

by David Chapman

Staff Writer

The 24th Jacksonville Community Council Inc. “Quality of Life” study was released Wednesday, with findings showing more problems than positives in several areas of the Jacksonville community.

The study is broken into nine focus areas revolving around quality of life factors that include: education, the economy, the environment, social well-being, arts and recreation, health, government, transportation and public safety.

Each area was then further broken down into several indicators, which are then studied and can be left alone or given one of two special markers: a red flag, meaning an indicator is moving in a negative direction and needs to be considered a community priority — or gold star, meaning an indicator is moving in a positive direction that represents progress.

“One of our review committee’s tasks was to identify areas of real progress as well as priority issues that we need to address collectively,” said Mike Hightower, Quality of Life review committee chair and chair of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Of the 108 indicators studied, 20 were marked with red flags while seven were given gold stars.

Red flagged indicators include 3rd and 10th grade reading levels, community satisfaction with public education, number of recipients of public assistance, several indicators relating to the health of the St. Johns River, recycling levels, perceived racism in the community and serious student conduct violations.

Gold starred indicators include the public high school dropout rate, library circulation rates, number of cancer deaths per 100,000 people, gallons of motor fuels sold per person, and satisfaction with both basic City and public-safety services.

Mayor John Peyton spoke during the presentation and said funding studies like the “Quality of Life” report is a good investment, as they assist agencies in reporting on what areas need to be addressed.

Many of the red flagged indicators involved education (four, tied with environment), which is an area Peyton said he is committed changing for the better.

“We have to commit ourselves to the at-risk youths in Jacksonville,” said Peyton. “That is where a lot of these challenges in the community begin.”

Peyton said a year ago at the same annual study unveiling, he was beginning his pursuit of the Jacksonville Journey crime initiative and its focus on education — something that will continue to be a top priority in his submitted budgets.

“Ultimate prosperity is tied to education,” he said. “We’re losing kids before they even start.”

In his presentation of the high and low points of each studied area, Hightower noted the challenges of addressing the studied problems but remained optimistic that they can be fixed.

“At the of end of the day we have our problems, but we are a great city,” said Hightower. “We’re going to meet these goals.”

To see the full “Quality of Life” report, go to www.jcci.org.

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