OPINION NUGGETS; Sheriff's PR Disaster

The Florida Times Union, April 21, 2007 | Go to article overview

OPINION NUGGETS; Sheriff's PR Disaster


The dreadful public relations move of the month award goes to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff John Rutherford recently awarded his special assistant, Lauri-Ellen Smith, a 25 percent pay raise that boosted her salary from $76,192 to $95,241.

With that kind of a raise, most people might suspect she's an ace detective. Or maybe an outstanding field officer who risks her life in trying to tame the city's chronically high murder rate.

But Smith is a civilian, who, ironically, is the sheriff's point person coordinating public relations.

Her duties include fielding media and public requests for information and coordinating the sheriff's two-member public information staff.

Not only does the size of the raise sting rank-and-file police officers, who saw their pay increase by about 2.5 percent this year, but how could the timing be worse?

City officials are discussing funding cutbacks for the Sheriff's Office. The state Legislature is discussing changes to the state tax system to curb funding for local governments.

And an audit of the Sheriff's Office geared to finding savings opportunities has yet to be completed. This raise doesn't increase confidence in that process.

"There's no such thing as bad public relations," the saying goes.

Oh, well, there's an exception to every rule.

DON'T FORGET OVERPASS

If you're tied up in traffic, fuming about the Mathews Bridge detour, don't put all the blame on the Florida Department of Transportation.

Blame the Jacksonville City Council, too. Remember, the worst bottleneck - by far - is at the intersection of Atlantic and University boulevards.

Seven years ago, voters approved the Better Jacksonville Plan. One of the projects was supposed to be construction of an overpass at Atlantic and University.

If the city had followed through as promised, Mathews Bridge traffic wouldn't be backing up as much. But the City Council, under pressure from nearby homeowners, decided not to build the overpass.

So you're stuck in unnecessarily heavy traffic for what seems like an eternity every night, fuming.

If the city had followed the voters' orders, this wouldn't be as bad.

THE SINKING RIVERWALK

Concern for the future of downtown's riverwalk grew last year, when a portion of it collapsed on the Northbank.

It wasn't much of a surprise.

The original bulkhead along the St. Johns River was built between 1958 and 1962.

Although work has certainly been done since, the city has been planning to replace it. That's good, especially since concrete planters near the section that collapsed turned out to be the surprise.

Each weighs 16 tons.

That's 32 tons sitting on top of a riverwalk whose foundation is some four decades old.

To her credit, Councilwoman Lynette Self has pushed for their removal as chairwoman of the Waterways Commission.

Bids for the removal job are coming in and a study of the riverwalk's 2,000 pilings is due this month.

Both are important steps in making the most of this beautiful and engaging asset. …

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