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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What's good for Gate Petroleum... good for the rest of Jacksonville? Over half a century ago General Motors CEO Charlie Wilson uttered his famous axiom during his testimoney before the Senate Commerce Committee in 1955 that crystalized the conservative philosophy of business interests of the time: "What's good for General Motors is good for the rest of America." Karen Brune Mathis, in her column for the Florida Times-Union yesterday, educates us about Mayor Peyton's "potential" in his second term by harmonizing with that famous sentiment with a head scratching fluff piece through a series of "suggestions" to encourage an audacious and courageous policy agenda.

Entitled "Peyton has luxury, duty to be fearless," she opens her article breezing by his anything but humble origins as a member of the Gate Petroleum family and his non-political ambitions for a post term return to his father's business. Moving quickly to the essence of her column she decides to focus on economic development with a number of suggestions to enable the Mayor to be bold and fearless in a second term not bound by policy trepedations usually associated with re-election. Before I get to the mainstay of her column, a call for a one day only local buisness summit, one of her suggestions is puzzeling: '[....He could]launch a sort of "Rally Jacksonville!" book club for new businesses, sending resource information to owners who might not know where to find all the help they need.' Hmmmm. Don't we already have something like that through the Jacksonville Economic Development Council? I"ve toured the site and taken in what it offeres and it includes all the resource information a new prospective business owner would need. Why waste time and city funds on the launching of yet another program when we already have one? Perhaps a little more JEDC promotion here would suffice.

Then there is her call for a "one-day-only summit for Jacksonville-based businesses to find out what they need to thrive" as the center-piece of her column. Forget that once again the JEDC seems to already have exactly what she's calling for, it's her suggestion to foster yet more growth through less regulation and a faster permitting process that stands out: "Less government red tape? Faster (but no less thorough) permitting decisions? Quick answers from regulators? Help with easing traffic congestion? Better-trained workers?" I'm not quite sure where 'bold' and 'fearless' come in to play here. These suggestions are being offered in a city already plauged with, in some instances, a matrix of congestion issues nearing meltdown prohibiting basic access to brick and morter businesses caught in a stranglehold of massive rush hour traffic jams. These are issues that have already been ignored for far to long at the expense of working families while aiding the developer community at all cost and their continued push for unfettered growth.

This is just one column in a long series of columns that contine to be a clarion call for more status quo entrenchment. It's as if Ms. Brune Mathis gets her talking points straight out of the offices of the developers themselves. And when did cities comparable in size to Jacksonville ever not have initiatives to attract relocation of corporate headquarters from outside? This is not news. Usually when this happens these corporate entities get sweetheart tax breaks as an incentive at the expense of the property owner. They get a free pass on infrastructure up keep which they help themselves to and continue to be awash in city services like police and fire protection (just to mention a few) while property owners such as myself subsidize these new large businesses.

Ms. Brune-Mathis' columns suggest anything but bold and courageous initiatives. If that's what she really wants how's this for an audacious and courageous policy initiative: scrap every task force currently in effect with the exception of the downtown convention center which does have some merit (another time and post). Appoint a commission to study research done by Dr. Kathryn Neckerman, associate director at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, outlined here in an excellent article found in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This piece in the Post-Gazetter focuses on her research regarding the lack of basic access to public and private services for poor and minority communities and the effects they have on the community at large. Once the study is completed have the same commision come up with proposals and initiatives tackling these very divisive issues underlined and magnified in the recent Mayoral race by the final vote count showing 25% of the population centered in those poor and minority communities completely disconnected with city government.

Now that would be something while the developer community howls over some diverted attention that doesn't cater expressly to their needs. No need to worry. Neither the Mayor nor the editorial policy board of the Florida Times-Union will allow nothing to interfere with the "What's good for Gate Petroleum is good for Jacksonville" policies so intricately tied to them both.