Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Leaders Talk about Diversity, Its Challenges; Jacksonville Hasn't Had Unrest of Other Cities, and There Are Reasons

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Leaders Talk about Diversity, Its Challenges; Jacksonville Hasn't Had Unrest of Other Cities, and There Are Reasons

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Hannan

Jacksonville isn't Ferguson, Mo., or Baltimore, and citizens can be proud of that, a group of city leaders said Tuesday while discussing the issue of diversity in the city.

But the city leaders, including the mayor, sheriff and state attorney, cautioned that the different government agencies need to continue working together and interacting with different segments of the community or things can turn around fast.

"If you look at Ferguson and Baltimore, they really lost touch with what was going on in their communities," said Sheriff Mike Williams referring to the racial unrest in those cities involving police.

Williams referenced the civil rights era and issues like the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles as situations where the minority community turned against the police.

"For all the good work we do, one incident can destroy that," Williams said.

When people working for him misuse their authority, he has to act decisively to keep the public trust, Williams said.

Mayor Lenny Curry repeatedly said that "trust is earned."

"I continue to go door to door to talk to people," Curry said. "Not to tell them what I think, but to hear what they think."

Curry encouraged people in the audience to go outside their own neighborhoods and get to know people in other parts of the city. Williams agreed, and said he appreciated how much better he got to know the city when he was running for sheriff last year.

State Attorney Angela Corey said the close relationships the elected officials had were key.

"We do have more public trust than in some places," Corey said. "That's because we work so well together."

Corey also expressed frustration with media coverage of her office that she said made problems seem more serious than they really are.

"People get led into believing there's a problem when there isn't," Corey said, while adding it was difficult to explain complex legal cases in television sound bites or newspaper stories. …

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