Each year, we release our #1 in the 904 issue — an issue that’s all about highlighting the many amazing and talented local businesses and individuals who make North Florida a place we want to show off. While the focus of our message will always be to promote positive things, sometimes we need to step back and address issues that hinder our greatness. By doing so, we hope to motivate our community to action, and ultimately, not see these things on this list again next year. Here’s what’s NOT #1 in the 904. We can do better, we just have to want it enough.
You might not be surprised to see this one on here, but before you assume, this issue goes much deeper than a simple desire to light up a blunt and get baked. Each year, almost a million people are arrested for marijuana-related charges. That’s about 50 percent of all drug-related arrests, and every 42 seconds, someone else gets added to that list. If you’re thinking that sounds crazy, it is, especially when you consider that more people are arrested for possessing (less than 10 grams) weed than ALL violent crimes combined. Law enforcement could probably be better served tackling larger problems than arresting otherwise-law abiding citizens enjoying a joint — just like anyone visiting a bar for happy hour after work.
Even if you couldn’t care less about this issue, think about the $3.6 billion states across the U.S. spent to enforce these antiquated laws, while Colorado raked in a whooping $69 million in tax revenue between 2014 and 2015 thanks to the sale of legalized marijuana. The state actually made so much money from legalization that they had to give some back to residents (about $7.63 per adult) in the form of tax refunds. Prohibition is never the right idea. Just look back at history and the massive organized crime empire that was built as a result of alcohol prohibition.
Home renovation laws in historic districts:
Jacksonville is rich with history that transcends the streets we walk on a daily basis. We were the original home for over 30 movie companies, the “Harlem of the South,” we host the country’s largest urban park system, the only true symphony hall in all of Florida, and, of course, the Jacksonville Jaguars. It is pretty cool that we have multiple historic districts that seek to preserve that heritage. In fact, the goal of the historic preservation society is, “to identify, document, protect and preserve its archaeological, historic, architectural and cultural resources.” This all sounds like a great idea … until it is creating a cityscape that is stuck in the past.
Living in a historic district is truly a dream. Old brick homes that are often adorned with pillars and porches create a scene straight out of Southern Living magazine. The aesthetics are breathtaking, but the interior inside most historic homes is an annoying inconvenience to the modern family. What you find in most preserved homes is little to no closet space, one bathroom for every three bedrooms, electrical outlets that line the floorboards and a dining room that is larger than any other room in the house. Want an island in your kitchen? An open floor plan so that you can watch TV and cook at the same time? Do you want to end arguments over who is going to charge their phone next?
Of course, every modern family wants a home to suit their needs, but the city makes remodels to older homes nearly impossible for the sake of preserving historic districts. This is something that cities like Atlanta, Austin and San Francisco got past years ago — and is why these cities are booming with beautiful modern architecture. There is a happy middle ground, but the laws simply have not evolved to meet homeowners.
Walkability of urban core neighborhoods:
Speaking of modern metropolitan cities, what do most have in common? A person living in the urban core can walk to get groceries, go to the gym and eat dinner at 10 different restaurants. Not to mention, their entire social sphere lives in the same zip code. This is not the case in the 904. For most, a trip to Publix means sitting at over five red lights in three miles and tasks such as bringing the kids to school are a daily nightmare.
This is obviously an inconvenience that developers in Jacksonville are striving to resolve, but getting there has taken decades. Most have gotten used to living in a commuting city, but for the love of all things progressive, we need to strive for greatness. We have a great city, and its value is diminished when a young professional has to be in a car for three hours a day just to live. That is time that could be spent having a beer at a local taproom
Our Inferiority Complex:
Alright, so this one is probably not an uncommon issue in any given city to some degree, but here in the Jacksonville area, our love of self-loathing is sickening. This spewing of negativity has spread through our streets, infecting far too many locals with its disease. You might think it’s all a harmless jest, but it’s not. Sure, we’re all probably guilty of saying some derogatory things about Jax now and then, but complaining and self-hate never got anyone anywhere.
Reflection on ourselves is a great way to identify problems, so long as this behavior is actually constructive. Many here are quick to see only the negative parts of our daily life and would rather wallow in self-pity than open their eyes and see the potential this place has (let alone attempt to do some good). Changing the mindset that for some reason, we aren’t as good as this city or that place is no small feat. This didn’t just happen overnight, and it won’t change that quickly either.
If you find yourself only focusing on the reasons another city is better than Jacksonville, maybe you should try looking a little more closely, you might just find that there isn’t another place like here. Whether you’re a multi-generation resident, a displaced hipster or simply a student working on a degree at UNF, make an effort to promote Jacksonville for its good parts next time you think about b****ing.
By Zach Sweat | Digital Editor & Emily Simpson | Contributor