Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JCCI Plans Look at Race Relations

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JCCI Plans Look at Race Relations

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis, Times-Union senior business writer

In the wake of tension-filled events, Jacksonville Community Council Inc. has chosen race relations as one of its studies to start this fall.

"We are excited and nervous because we know that it has been emotional," said executive director Lois Chepenik. "Some people are incredulous that we have never done it."

"Beyond the Talk: Improving Race Relations in Northeast Florida" is the title for the upcoming community study, which probably will start in October and conclude with a written report next spring.

Chepenik said the endeavor takes place as the city deals with tensions created by the elections process; the choice of a national candidate to lead the Jacksonville Transportation Authority over authority executive Michael Blaylock, an African-American; the controversy over school bus contracts; and the governor's One Florida Initiative to replace affirmative action in state university admissions.

The 26-year-old JCCI citizens group typically conducts two annual studies -- one a human services topic funded by United Way of Northeast Florida and the other a community improvement issue supported by city and corporate funds. The studies are open to anyone interested in participating.

Race relations will qualify as the human services study, Chepenik said. Meanwhile, the community improvement topic will be "Cleaning Up Our City" and will address litter, illegal dumping and the economic impact of keeping the city clean.

Chepenik said the program committee and board have not yet decided when the race relations group will meet nor have they identified a chairperson -- or, possibly, co-chairs -- for the study. …

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