Quality of life committee calls for summit

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Mayor Alvin Brown’s Quality of Life Transition Committee identified eight high-level issues from public service grants to information technology for the library system.

It also was one of several committees calling for a summit. The committee suggests a summit about race and multiculturalism.

It also called for consideration of renaming the stormwater fee the “St. Johns River Restoration Fee.”

The committee recommends that its suggestions be connected with recommendations of the other 17 transition reports.

Its eight recommendations were:

• Public support for arts and culture: The public service grants program.

The committee said art and cultural events, institutions and programs are among Jacksonville’s most important resources for community building, Downtown redevelopment, tourism expansion, education, crime mitigation, healing and well-being and more.

It cites a University of North Florida Center for Community Initiatives study that says an investment of $3 million, or $3.50 a person, and distributed among 25 cultural institutions yields an economic impact topping $60 million; support for 954 jobs; distribution of 222,032 free tickets; 588,131 paid admissions; and service to 339,826 students.

The committee recommends funding the cultural services grant program in 2011-12 even with the current year and seeking sustainable support for art and culture with a dedicated funding source outside the general revenue budget.

• The parks and recreation department should continue to develop partnerships “to accomplish more with less,” and explore creating a 501c3 foundation as a funding vehicle for capital projects.

(City parks are part of the Recreation and Community Services Department).

• Dedicated funding to meet nutrient reduction goals to restore the health of the St. Johns River and renaming the stormwater fee.

The committee addressed septic tank phase-out for reducing nutrients and bacteria and enhancement of stormwater pollution prevention and treatment practices.

Regarding septic tanks, the committee said $320 million is needed to remove 16,000 septic tanks within a 300-meter buffer of the St. Johns River and its tributaries in Duval County.

It said 62 tributaries in Duval County are impaired and considered an environmental hazard and public health issue.

Regarding stormwater pollution prevention, the committee said $200 million is needed to retrofit the Duval County stormwater systems to reduce pollutants entering the St. Johns River.

• Library information delivery system.

Starting with “what’s not working,” the report said that more than any other City department, information technology is at the core of the library’s services and that the Jacksonville Public Library has nearly one-third of the total computers in the City.

Under the current structure with the City’s information technology department, “the library’s ability to respond quickly to changes in technology and customer needs is seriously challenged.”

The report said the library is unable to set its own information technology priorities or manage its own technology budget.

“Furthermore, the City’s IT department is overpriced and under-delivers,” it said.

The library’s information technology costs “are disproportionately high compared to its peer libraries,” and said insufficient bandwidth and “outdated and often nonfunctioning computers” hinder the library’s ability to provide services.

The committee recommends that the library draft a “request for information” to determine whether information technology services can be managed more efficiently by bringing the service in-house.

It also recommends a commitment to invest in technology.

• Set a tone of inclusion, equity and multiculturalism.

The committee suggests the mayor convene a race or multicultural summit. The discussion would include, among other focuses, “support for amending the current ordinances to include sexual orientation as a protected class.”

• Improve library locations to increase the availability to the entire community.

What’s not working, said the report, is that “inequities exist in both the access to and quality of libraries in Jacksonville.”

“The four libraries in the urban core are inadequate facilities that cannot be rehabilitated as modern libraries,” it said. “The residents who use these libraries are not provided with the same quality of library services as other areas of the city.”

It also said the northeast region of Jacksonville has an expanding population and has no library.

It recommends building a branch in Oceanway.

• Social well-being, health and family financial stability policy.

In a wide-ranging recommendation, the committee suggests the City improve access to health care for low-income families, eliminate food “deserts” and expand mental health resources.

It also recommends providing families with information about financial management and cited the RealSense Prosperity Campaign initiative by United Way as one effort helping families.

• Maintain a healthy nonprofit sector with minimum funding at current levels.

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Quality of Life Transition Committee
Co-Chairs: Isaiah Rumlin and Quinton White

Members: Neil Armingeon, Khesahn Barker, Ann Hicks, Connie Hodges, Beverly McClain, Bryant Rollins, Vida Vongsay, Nina Waters, Bob White, Willie Walker, Dorothy Young, Harry Reagan

In transition
Mayor Alvin Brown and his staff are reviewing reports submitted Aug. 8 by 18 transition policy committees. The committees consisted of 217 people and another 125 subject area experts and staff. More than 110 meetings were held over a month. The Daily Record will summarize one report daily and include the names of the committee co-chairs and members. Today’s summary covers the Quality of Life Transition Committee.