Jacksonville, The Times They Aren’t a Changin

From the blue gate that opens to Roaring Creek Farm, Jacksonville is 195 miles to the east.
At the farm, it is peaceful. Jacksonville, however, is a hot mess.
It’s the Jacksonville way, and it’s been mostly that way during the 40 years I’ve reflected on the city as a journalist.
But the city’s bad traits have only been exacerbated by the current administration.
As demonstrated through words and action, at its core is a meanness and a posture of war.
Unfortunately, its enemy is inclusiveness and striving for common ground.
And it has molded people who know better into its ugly image.
While the city’s murder rate climbs ever upward, the administration, with a majority of the City Council bent to its will, has stuck its nose into another elected body’s business.
Before and since consolidation, the city’s minority neighborhoods have been treated shabbily.
That’s particularly true with the public schools.
The School Board hopes to reverse that shame by asking voters to approve a sales tax to upgrade the system’s dilapidated schools, the oldest in the state.
But the administration and council, egged on by a group of rich people who want to grab a disproportionate chunk of the tax revenue for their pet projects, stand in the way.
It’s the Jacksonville way.
Instead of this power play, the administration and council should be paying attention to city challenges that actually fall under their purview:
The murder rate. The fact that after 50 years, the promises of consolidation remain unfulfilled. Failing infrastructure. Pollution. Preparing the city for climate change.
It’s difficult to pay to correct such shortcomings while giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to favored developers who have the money to pay their own way instead of feeding off taxpayers who don’t get such breaks.
It’s the Jacksonville way.
With this administration just at the start of its second term, it’s going to be a long and dangerous four years.
An embarrassingly low turnout of voters put this crew into office. One has to wonder how much people care.
The mayor isn’t fiddling while the city burns. He’s attending Jaguar practices.
And the people shrug instead of demanding change.
It’s the Jacksonville way.

2019, Anno Domini: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall

She stood on a hill and cried out:
A reckoning is coming.
The children are sobbing.
Parents are taken, their brown-skinned hands cuffed.
The shots ring out rapidly again, again and again.
A reckoning is coming.
The seas are rising and covering the land.
Fields are parched.
Fields are flooded.
A reckoning is coming.
The winds howl.
The earth trembles.
A reckoning is coming.
A country founded in blood and subjugation still hates.
A few live lavishly and want more.
Those without are stirring, their anger increasing like a gathering storm.
A reckoning is coming.
Where are the leaders? Not here.
Where are the prophets? Silent.
A reckoning is coming.
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
A reckoning is coming.
She stood on a hill and cried out:
A reckoning is coming.
No one heard.

Failing Stewards

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God’s handiwork at sunset at Roaring Creek Farm

August is a difficult month at Roaring Creek Farm, this year especially so.
The temperature soars into the triple digits daily. The heat saps your strength.
There is no cooling breeze, and in the stillness, the gnats swarm and buzz around your face. A drenching of insect repellant is only a momentary distraction for them.
Is it possible to be driven over the edge by armies of tiny bugs?
But there is still joy here, even in August.
The setting sun can paint the sky in glorious colors.
Last evening screech owls serenaded a waxing moon that was already high above the horizon with their strange warbling calls.
An occasional firefly flashed by in the growing darkness.
Before sunrise is the time to be up and about.
While not cool, the air is not yet stifling.
Frogs by the lake, barred owls in the woods and birds awakening to a new day provide a heavenly chorus.
During the mornings, butterflies, with the Swallowtails perhaps the most spectacular, add even more beauty to the flowers they momentarily visit before flitting to the next.
God has blessed us with great beauty. We are not being good stewards of this magnificent creation.
Not that long ago, hundreds of fireflies would delight with their now you see me, now you don’t dance that lit up August nights.
Now there are only a few.
God forgive us for what we are doing to this land.
We know better.

The Flower

On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael’s 145 mph winds ripped through Roaring Creek Farm.
In the deep ravines, the wind toppled towering white oaks, magnolias and other decades-old hardwoods.
In the planted longleaf pines, trees snapped midway or hit the ground entirely. Others leaned at awkward angles, pushed by the wind.
Among the twisted wreckage, other trees stood tall and straight with no explanation of survival discernible to the human eye.
Not long after the historic storm cut its devastating path through Florida and Georgia, a young forester observed the damage at Roaring Creek Farm.
“Nature will heal herself,” he said.
Nature, chainsaw work and patience.
Ten months later, August brought searing temperatures, heat advisories and further evidence, just as Michael was, of climate change and the future.
On a 105-degree Saturday, in the tangled mess of broken pines, a plant with delicate white, bell-shaped flowers stood out.
How a single Easter lily took root and prospered there is a mystery.
A sign of hope? Of resurrection?
Nature will heal herself, but we must reverse our destructive ways for nature to have a chance.IMG-0816

Save Hallowes Cove

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Hallowes Cove on the east bank of the St. Johns River near Switzerland is magical.
It’s a place where eagles soar and ospreys dive, where wildflowers blossom in the spring and where massive oaks draped in Spanish moss tower over the land.
The cove’s water is tannic and clear and shallow.
The cove is also in danger.
The RiverTown development is once again eyeing Hallowes Cove for a 250-slip dry stack marina and related facilities.
This same battle was fought in 2016, and the developers agreed to abandon the plan.
But Florida’s natural treasures are never safe when there is money to be made.
The developers are reneging on the master plan they agreed to and now are seeking changes from the St. Johns County Commission to allow for the marina.
With the marina would come pollution and dredging to make the cove navigable for boats. What is now a beautiful park would be interrupted by commercial activity.
The St. Johns River itself would be damaged. And a special place that appears much like it did when William Bartram walked there in the 1700s would be lost forever.
A sign at the park reads: “RiverTown believes in celebrating the beauty of our Natural Environment and protecting our Natural Resources.”
Then stick to what was agreed to in 2016.
There’s a Facebook page — Protect Hallowes Cover — where opposition is mounting.
Never give up the fight.
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What Curry said four years ago

During a televised debate on May 12, 2015, Lenny Curry pounded Alvin Brown, blaming him for the city’s soaring murder rate.
“Mayor Brown, you have had four years to fix the problem,” Curry said.
Turnabout is fair play.
Mayor Curry you have had four years to fix the problem, and the city’s murder rate during your watch has stayed the same.
During his inaugural speech, Curry continued the theme that “our city has faced over the last few years a spike in violent crime and murders.”
“Many of the problems that are before us were not of our making,” he said. “But they are absolutely ours to own.”
And Curry made this pledge:
“I met a 10-year-old kid months ago that after a story he told me about baseball told me he saw his friend get shot in the chest. That should not happen to our kids in this city.
“But this is going to take a new way of thinking. We are going to resurrect the Jacksonville Journey. We are going to invest in programs that work and make sure they are accountable.
“But the new way of thinking is really about these kids knowing that we love them. If they think they are simply a problem the Mayor’s Office and the council or the business community is trying to solve so we can get them out of the way and go about our business, it won’t work.
“Here’s my commitment. I will work for the resources and the accountability in the programs, but I’m going to get in the trenches. I’m going to get with these children and I am going to let them know that we love them and care about them individually and I’m going to challenge every one of you in this room to engage in this effort in the years ahead. These are our children. These are Jacksonville’s children.”
You can be the judge as to whether Curry has fulfilled that pledge during his four years as mayor. The facts are the murders have continued unabated and too many of the victims and the perpetrators have been Jacksonville’s children.
It was in that same speech that Curry chanted, “One City, One Jacksonville.”
Four years later, how’s that working out?
It’s time for a change. Vote for Anna Brosche.

Lenny’s change in Twitter tone

Lenny Curry’s Twitter time has been mostly sugar and spice of late instead of his usual macho tone.
Perhaps he’s trying to erase his reputation for bullying by tweeting daily prayers, praise of exercise routines with his wife and kind remarks instead of talk about crushing opponents.
Sorry, stripes aren’t changed so easily.
Now that he has an opponent for re-election, Anna Lopez Brosche, his tweet at 9:07 Monday morning was more like the real Lenny:
“Fundamentals. Focus. Sicko mode.”
Sicko mode?
Really?
This is not a football game where hyped-up players taunt and strut.
We need a mayor who governs with reason not adrenaline rushes.