Mayor Donna Deegan’s transition committee report released Nov. 16 makes policy recommendations to shape the priorities of the new administration.
The report focuses on infrastructure; health; economic development; public safety; arts, culture, and entertainment; constituency and community outreach; and military and veterans affairs.
The 206-page document is available at Jacksonville.gov/transitionreport. You can also download a PDF here.
Deegan announced the transition team and committees in May and June. She directed them to develop policies for what the administration calls a healthy, safe, resilient, inclusive and innovative city.
“The recommendations in this report have been a true community-wide effort, and I look forward to moving our shared priorities forward,” Deegan said in a Nov. 16 news release.
Here are some highlights of the report:
• The committee recommends providing strategic leadership, collaboration and continued community engagement for the Downtown riverfront. The riverfront should be a “Mayoral Initiative” and have a “point-person” from the administration for oversight and coordination.
• It recommends hiring a director to obtain grants for the riverfront and the rest of the city. “Hiring a Grants Director for Jacksonville can lead to improved grant acquisition, enhanced and efficient funds allocation and utilization, and increased funding opportunities.”
• As part of a solution to the housing crisis, the administration should streamline the permitting process to reduce the backlog and speed up the development process for housing, particularly for low- and moderate-income housing.
• The committee recommends creating permanent focus committees and a Health Programs Advisory Committee to help the administration bring the health care community together to explore issues and map out solutions for a greater impact on community health.
• It encourages Deegan to collaborate with organizations to streamline the qualifying process for the elderly as they apply for services.
• The administration should partner with community organizations to promote physical and mental health through health education and events.
• The administration should dedicate and maintain a section of the city website to serve as an information hub on available health services in the city, including those addressing social determinants of health. There is no central repository on the city website of the multitude of organizations addressing health needs.
Economic Development Committee
• The committee recommends revising the existing city code to streamline the construction permitting process and minimize completion time for applications. The administration should consider hiring more permitting staff to keep up with demand. And it should reorganize to give Public Works control over permitting.
• The administration should develop a specialized fund focused on providing financial support to small and emerging businesses. “This fund should offer various types of financial assistance, including micro-grants, and low-interest loans. In addition to initial funding, the fund can provide ongoing financial support to businesses that demonstrate growth potential.”
Public Safety Committee
• The committee recommends establishing a Jacksonville Journey Forward program, based on the Jacksonville Journey crime prevention program established by Mayor John Peyton 15 years ago.
• It recommends expanding the Read Jax literacy campaign and the services of Kids Hope Alliance, a city agency that funds nonprofit, community and school-based after-school educational, training and early intervention programs, to improve literacy rates. Literacy rates are sometimes connected to cycles of poverty and crime.
Arts, Culture and Entertainment Committee
• The committee recommends creating a city department that partners with arts and cultural organizations to generate more funding. The department will collaborate with the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, which advocates for funding and ensures a robust community of arts organizations and individual creatives.
Constituency and Community Outreach Committee
• The committee recommends creating a LGBTQ+ citizens board or commission and a refugee and newly arrived immigrant board or commission as ways to address discrimination and inclusion.
Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
• The committee recommends creating a veterans center to provide support for the military community.
“While several support centers and support services are available to veterans in Jacksonville, there is not a dedicated location that provides the necessary range of services to support veteran needs.”
• The administration should explore city-subsidized housing or rental partnerships for military and veteran high-need populations. “The lack of affordable housing in safe areas, with good schools, was a recurrent concern raised by the public and committee members.”