Tom Slade, circa 1967, from the State Library and Archives of Florida.

Wrapping up the campaign for consolidated government

Heavy turnout expected as voters prepare to decide consolidation question Aug. 8
By: 
Jul. 31, 2017

Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century ago? It was a different era of history, culture and politics but there are often parallels between the kind of stories that made headlines then and today. As interesting as the differences may be, so are the similarities. These are some of the top stories from this week in 1967. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Associate Editor Max Marbut.

It was the week before the referendum that would decide whether to consolidate government in Jacksonville and Duval County, and supporters of adopting the plan were far more vocal than those in opposition.

Leading the charge was state Sen. Tom Slade, who said he had run in a number of political campaigns and was familiar with the tactics.

“The attacks on consolidation are so irresponsible in some cases, and so sown with outright falsehoods and insidious half-truths, that I am appalled by it,” he said.

Slade said he had come to the conclusion that those who most loudly opposed consolidation were either business owners fearful of losing existing government business, public officials fearful of losing their jobs because of reorganization, people who thought consolidation was “a communistic plot,” or people who were confused or misinformed.

“I can’t say anything to the first three groups, but I ask those citizens in the fourth category who may be honestly confused or are  uncertain as to the advantages of consolidation, in whom would they place their faith? In the hands of those who are fighting to maintain the same kind of government that has been operating here for years and which seems either unwilling or unable to cope with our most serious problems, or will you place your faith in your most accomplished and devoted civic and business leaders who helped draft the original consolidation plan, your most knowledgeable and unselfish citizens who are actively supporting consolidation?” he said.

Meeting at the Pine Tree Country Club, the West Jacksonville Jaycees voted in favor of melding the county and municipal governments.

“Consolidation is branded as metro government, socialism and a lot of other things it isn’t. The club supports consolidation on the basis of our organization being dedicated to the betterment of all Duval County, now and in the future,” said club President Walter Williams.

“Neither is the proposed governmental plan a cure-all for all our ills, nor a utopia, but it is a step in the 20th century we have long needed to take,” he added.

The Urban League of Jacksonville also came out in support of consolidation. Executive Director Clanzel T. Brown said the board adopted a resolution endorsing consolidation as “the best form of government for Jacksonville.”

The league’s resolution supported elimination of duplicated services. It further stated that consolidation would foster economic growth for all citizens and give needed economic development that would help African-Americans and other disadvantaged citizens break the poverty cycle in Jacksonville for minority groups.

Supervisor of Elections Harry Nearing said if absentee ballots were any indication, a heavy turnout was likely on Aug. 8 when voters went to the polls to decide the consolidation question.

He said 1,667 of the 2,371 absentee ballots requested had been returned to his office, compared to only 631 ballots cast in the March 28 general election that filled seats in the newly reapportioned Florida Legislature.

“It could be a record turnout,” Nearing said.