Better Northwest Jacksonville Plan Is Needed for City's Future

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Corrigan

In 1949, noted political scientist V.O. Key wrote an important book about the Southern United States titled Southern Politics in State and Nation.

Key concluded that the South was underdeveloped and in crisis because its politics were based upon enforced racial segregation and lack of political competition due to the nature of the one-party Democratic solid South. This stifling politics left many parts of the region in grinding poverty.

The South today is vastly different than the region that Key described. The South has led the nation in economic growth for much of the last two decades with an expanding middle class.

The civil rights movement in the 1960s has ensured that African-Americans are now vibrant participants in the electoral process. The Republican Party has now become the majority party in many Southern states offering vigorous two-party competition.

With these momentous changes, it is logical to ask why Southern cities like Jacksonville still experience serious issues with race relations and poverty. With the help of over 1,200 interviews of Jacksonville voters collected by UNF students, this question can be examined.

Stark differences in opinion are evident in nearly 80 percent of the answers from African-American and white voters in Jacksonville.

Most blacks believe that current discrimination is a major problem in their daily lives, while many whites do not view racial discrimination as a reality and point to a declining family structure in the black community. It is difficult to propose solutions when voters do not even agree on the problems.

These differences in attitudes are solidified by our current political system.

Political districts are drawn on the basis of party and race. This gerrymandering inhibits compromise and mutually beneficial solutions.

Over the past 40 years, the "Southern Strategy" of attracting white conservatives into the Republican Party has been enormously successful. As a result, many issues impacting the black community can be ignored.

Meanwhile, Democratic African-American politicians who try to work with Republican officials to solve problems are too often accused of being disloyal to their party and fellow blacks.

State Attorney Harry Shorstein has remarked that Jacksonville is really two cities - one relatively affluent and safe and one devastated by poverty and crime. …