JACKSONVILLE JOURNEY; Keep the Goals

Article excerpt

The noble aims behind a Jacksonville Journey Foundation proposed by Mayor John Peyton should not die with the City Council's rejection of the foundation concept.

The community needs measurable goals and more proof of results for its investment in anti-crime efforts.

Private grants and donations should be sought to expand proven crime-reducing programs.

And the community would benefit from an independent analysis of how well judges, the school system, the state attorney, the sheriff, the mayor and the council are working separately and together - or not - to improve public safety.

There should be more than one way to achieve the same results.

LOW-COST OPTION

The foundation proposed to offer all those benefits and more as a quasi-government group, with most members appointed by the mayor and City Council. Under Peyton's initial plan, the foundation would have contracted to administer $8.7 million in City Council-approved programs, conceivably with less administrative and overhead costs than the government.

The foundation originated as an idea from the mayor's 140-plus member Jacksonville Journey anti-crime task force. The task force met for four months earlier this year in search of steps that could be taken to reduce state-leading murder and violent crime rates that threaten the city's quality of life.

W.C. Gentry, a Journey task force member, attorney and a local School Board candidate, invested countless hours in working with Peyton's administration and refining the foundation's mission.

OPPOSITION AROSE

Peyton pitched the foundation as part of his proposed budget in July.

But the mayor eventually backed away from the concept as council opposition mounted amid concerns from the Jacksonville Children's Commission and nonprofits about duplication and potential competition for raising money.

Ultimately, council members couldn't live with an unproven foundation playing such a direct role in administering the Journey funds, which include money proposed for out-of-school suspension centers, expanded summer camps and helping ex-offenders stay out of trouble.

Fair enough.

But the foundation's objectives are too crucial to toss away, and both Peyton and council leaders say they are looking to retain them as the Journey moves forward.

FINDING A NEW ROUTE

The details are evolving, but, depending on the nature of the program, the council is proposing to channel funds to the children's commission, a public service grant council or the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to administer to nonprofit groups for action.

A Jacksonville Journey Oversight Committee would develop ways to measure and track results of the programs.

Council President Ronnie Fussell recently emphasized that nonprofits and public agencies involved would have to show results or lose future funding.

That's the right attitude, but the city must make sure that goals for programs and measurements for success are clearly defined. …