Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JCCI REPORT; Volunteerism, Safety Some of Bright Spots

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JCCI REPORT; Volunteerism, Safety Some of Bright Spots

Article excerpt

Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

The economy took a toll on Jacksonville's quality of life, but the year was not without progress on some important fronts.

Huge job losses, increases in suicide rates and a drop in support for the arts were among the many indicators found by the Quality of Life Progress Report published each year by the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. But it also found better graduation rates, more people volunteering, and improved crime rates.

The report, being released today, tracks dozens of indicators that range from infant mortality rates to the number of nonstop flight destinations at Jacksonville International Airport. The important thing is to look at the report holistically instead of focusing on just one statistic, said Skip Cramer, JCCI's executive director.

"You can have great air quality, great water quality, huge public safety issues, and you've got a horrible quality of life," he said.

The Quality of Life Report was first published in 1985 and has received a makeover on its 25th birthday. The report itself is shorter and streamlined but has much more additional information available that is searchable online at www.jcci.org.

ENVIRONMENT

WATER USAGE DECLINES, BUT RECYCLING SLOWS

The good: At 187 gallons per person per day, water use is on the decline and has been for a few years, the report found. St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon said he hopes that's due to more awareness about the state's water crisis. With much in the news lately about the possibility of Central Florida siphoning the St. Johns River for drinking water, Armingeon said, it has generally raised awareness about shrinking underground aquifers. Rivers and streams are also increasingly in compliance with water quality standards, the report found.

The bad: Residential recycling was down sharply, from 62 pounds per person to 52 pounds. And air quality will be an ongoing issue, especially as new standards will almost certainly put this area out of compliance. "What's really going to matter on the river and the environment is each of us taking some responsibility," Armingeon said.

SAFETY

CRIME IS DOWN; PEOPLE FEEL SAFER, TOO

The good: Fewer people reported being victims of crime, crime rates were generally down, and there were fewer murders and verified child-abuse reports, according to the study. The percentage of people in Duval County who feel safe walking alone in their neighborhood at night rose in 2009 - that was after five years of steep declines in such perceptions, according to annual survey research. "We've had drops in crime and ... people are feeling that," Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said. The department is set to soon announce further crime reduction, he said.

The bad: The murder rate still leads the state's urban areas. …

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