Are you one who ascribes to slogans? Would you, when offered a shot of alcohol just as the bar has announced last call, exclaim, “YOLO!” Or, more pertinent to this article, do you say, “Duval ‘til we die,” and then turn down relocation opportunities, even if offered increased economic incentives?
Many states and cities across our fine country seem to feel that a person’s behavior might be manipulated by a catchy turn of phrase turned adopted mantra. Certainly there are examples of crafty, cheeky slogans capable of luring in outsiders (“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”), or filling a city’s residents with pride (“Keep Austin weird”). But for every example of prudent, accurate municipal branding there are hundreds of counterexamples (Fruita, Colarado chose to be known as “Home of Mike the Headless Chicken” while Oberlin, Ohio felt its distinction as “The Town that Started the Civil War” was worth advertising).
Jacksonville, meanwhile, having sought over the course of the last half century to be known as “The First Coast,” “The River City,” “The Bold New City of the South” and “Where Florida Begins,” now has a new slogan, “Jax. It’s easier here.” The motto, developed by Visit Jacksonville in a partnership with The Dalton Agency, employs a colloquial abbreviation. It has punctuation. It’s short.
It also manages to offend. As a caller to WJCT’s Friday edition of First Coast Connect pointed out, the slogan seems oblivious to the fact that it’s certainly not easy if you live in one of the city’s several neighborhoods where pervasive violence and chronic economic disparity are the norm.
The intention, one can assume, was guided by a version of reality in Jacksonville to which some can relate. Those who live near the water can take advantage of leisurely, aquatic-based activities that are distinctive to our area. Cost of living estimates show Jax to be fairly affordable when compared to metropolitan areas of similar size, and thus a place where it is somewhat easier to make ends meet.
Other reasons “it’s easier here” proffered by Visit Jacksonville, include that it’s easier “to visit by car or plane,” to “immerse yourself in nature and the wild outdoors,” to try “surfing, golf or skateboarding” and to “taste fresh local food and drinks.”
Though fairly vague, the clarifications do add some nuance. Yet, the fact that the slogan itself draws such a broad conclusion about the day-to-day experience of living in the largest city by land area in the contiguous U.S. distracts from the diverse, disjointed experiences such sprawl creates.
Jacksonville is growing. There’s been an influx of ambitious young people over the last half-decade or so. And, while some were certainly drawn here by the low-cost of living and economic opportunity, many also came after identifying something the region might have been lacking, and were thus motivated to contribute to the city’s march toward progress. Whether opening a new business, chasing a creative muse or working to improve the collective quality of life, few would argue the undertaking has been easy.
That’s the true, authentic narrative of Jacksonville in 2018. We’ve got a waterfront urban core, for which revitalization efforts have occurred in fits and starts. We have yet to tackle a pervasive income inequality that in many cases seems dictated by zip code. The waterways and beaches that give us our unique identity are, and will continue to be threatened by the unintended consequences of our very encroachment upon them. We only recently recognized that all our city’s citizens are worthy of basic human rights, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Jacksonville is a very fine place to live. It has a lot to offer, and it’s getting even better.
But there’s work to be done for our beautiful, diverse, water-adjacent city to live up to its potential. Those who’ve come, and will come eventually, should be prepared to grind it out. We’ll have to work together, and we’ll have to work hard.