JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The City of Jacksonville and Duval County consolidated into one government 55 years ago on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.
A unique municipality was established here in Florida and one of only a few around the country. That consolidation followed a very dark period in this city’s history. There were promises made in the consolidation campaign and more than half a century later many of those promises remain unfulfilled.
“Jacksonville was in a very difficult period in the mid-1960s,” said Chris Hand, a government law attorney and author of the book ‘The 50th Anniversary’ update to “A Quiet Revolution” chronicling the consolidation.
“The schools had been discredited. The St. Johns River was polluted. There had been multiple municipal officials indicted for corruption.<” said Hand. “We had a very byzantine complicated local government structure. So, local leaders came together and the reform solution they came up with was consolidation, the merger of the city of Jacksonville and Doval County, Hand said.”
The promises made more than half a century ago stemmed from a confluence of challenges and racial injustice. And there were a myriad of infrastructure problems that were supposed to be fixed that remain today.
“Very explicit promises were made in that consolidation campaign,” according to Hand. “To pave streets, illuminate streets, build septic tanks, to central sewer. And, in many parts of Jacksonville, those infrastructure improvements have not yet been done,” Hand said.
Three years ago Hand told then City Council President Tommy Hazouri that to fix the problem the city has to look through a telescope not a microscope at the problems that still exist. He maintains that is the only way to fix the problems that remain more than half a century later. And he says everybody needs to “take the proverbial bull by the horns.”
“I think there needs to be a clear mission. A clear strategy to fulfill these unfulfilled infrastructure promises made during consolidation,” Hand said. “And I think the entire community needs to be involved. Not just this consolidated City of Jacksonville, but the business communities and others. Because that is one of the impediments to Jacksonville achieving its full potential, making sure the benefits of consolidation reach everybody, no matter where you live,” said Hand.
Hand has no doubt that 55 years later, the fathers’ of consolidation would not be very happy with the way things are today, even though, “some progress has been made.” He adds they would not give up and continue to make sure that progress was made to fulfill the promises they made after being approved by Duval County voters in a referendum on August 8, 1967, by a vote of 54,493 to 29,768 with the consolidation taking effect on October 1, 1968.
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