Local leaders share perspectives heading into 2021

Local leaders share perspectives heading into 2021

After a tough year of political upheaval in 2020 and the lingering effects of the Coronavirus, challenges for legislators were abundantly clear with the wheels of progress grinding to a halt during the height of the pandemic. As we turn to a new calendar year in 2021, The Resident reached out to four of our local elected officials – District 5 Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber, At Large Group 4 Councilman Matt Carlucci, District 14 Councilwoman Randy DeFoor, and District 8 Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman – to learn the goals of some local elected officials who have their eye on what is ahead in the New Year.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

LeAnna Cumber
LeAnna Cumber
Matt Carlucci
Matt Carlucci
Randy DeFoor
Randy DeFoor
Ju’Coby Pittman
Ju’Coby Pittman

What big plans or what projects are at the top of your agenda for the New Year?

LeAnna Cumber – There are so many projects that I am excited about pursuing this coming year. I have been dedicated to replacing the playground equipment throughout the district to ensure all children have a safe and fun place to play and where families can gather. Angeline Denese, Crabtree, and Cuba Hunter Parks are all getting new equipment in 2021! I am also improving crosswalks and bike lanes to address pedestrian safety and promote a walkable community.

Matt Carlucci – At this writing, my plans for 2021 involve the finalization and restoration of the Laura Street Trio. This project is on downtown Jacksonville’s most historic corner and would be a catalyst for continued downtown core development. I am greatly concerned about drainage issues all over our city and problems with failing septic tanks. My office gets complaints about both problems, so I plan to work toward solutions. We also want to continue our emphasis on excellent parks.

Randy DeFoor – Drainage continues to be a top project for me throughout the district. Also, at my request, there will be a police bike patrol in Riverside and Avondale, and we will try to expand that to Murray Hill and Ortega in the New Year. Just ensuring that my constituents’ needs are met. It matters that everyone has a place in the neighborhood that meets their needs. What I would like to see, and I don’t know how I am going to pay for it – I need to figure that out – is more public art. I want to concentrate on the parks, which would include public art. I want to make sure they are properly maintained and that they are accessible by all my constituents. What we found with all this COVID is that people need a place to go outside. They need a destination, and the parks have really been that.

Ju’Coby Pittman – In many neighborhoods in our community, growth has outpaced certain sections of our City’s ability to provide adequate and/or same services which are essential.  My agenda includes economic development with services and amenities that are essential and deserving to ensure the quality of life is a priority. There are neighborhoods that have been left behind in District 8, and in the upcoming year the plans are to focus on economic development, revitalization, neighborhood zoning challenges, and beautification initiatives, while building on the historical and cultural assets that make the neighborhoods and district unique.

What are our biggest challenges as a city heading into the New Year?

LeAnna Cumber – While 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, I approach 2021 full of hope. As we navigate this new world, the biggest challenges facing us are public health and economic health. It is my hope that the financial assistance provided by the Federal CARES Act funding to individuals and small businesses will help constituents through this difficult time. I will continue to support local businesses through these tough times. When vaccines are widely available, I will work closely with the first responder and public health community to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine is able to get one. 

Matt Carlucci – Our biggest challenge right now is our young people. We need to invest in the prevention and intervention of at-risk youth. I believe this will go a long way to lowering our murder rate.

Randy DeFoor – Crime continues to be a big concern. Drainage continues to be a big concern. I just think quality of life. The bottom line is that it is so important that we focus on being a city first before we focus on anything else. That requires us to focus on quality of life.

Ju’Coby Pittman – The biggest challenge heading into the new year is “Resolve!” As a community, we must find a way to resolve the issues that continue to negatively affect our challenges, public safety, and the fast growth of our city. Collective engagement, dialogue and follow-up with tangible outcomes can be resolved and strengthen our vision for the New Year as a community! This year, City government operations have been impacted by the rapidly evolving COVID-19. With experiencing the temporary closure of schools, businesses, restaurants, non-profits, churches, and the decrease in the number of volunteers, COVID-19 has crippled and disrupted our lives.  Unfortunately, it is not business as usual, and it may not be for some time, before we get back to some normalcy.  Zoom has been our best friend in staying abreast and continuing the necessary work of day-to-day business.

What should the local readers of The Resident expect from your office in 2021? Is there any exciting project that would be of great interest to locals?

LeAnna Cumber – In 2021, I will continue to respond to constituent concerns as quickly as possible. Life is so busy. The last thing people want to deal with at the end of the day is an issue that is the purview of the City such as trash removal, people speeding through neighborhoods, and flooding concerns. I will help resolve these issues and more throughout the year. A major project underway during 2021 is the completion of Phase 1 of the LaSalle Pump Station. The 2021 budget includes $3.5 million for this critical flood control project. I will explore further solutions to the flooding that has plagued the district for years. 

Matt Carlucci – What folks should expect from my office is friendly and caring service. I plan to continue my goal of servant leadership guided by my core values. 

Randy DeFoor – In 2021 we should see the Memorial Park balustrades go up. We should see definite planning to make improvements for Riverside Park. I want to focus on the parks in Ortega. I want to make sure pickleball is available to constituents. There are a lot of things I want to do that relate to parks. I want to work on recreational projects. With this COVID I think we may see more of the same next year. This pandemic highlighted the need for public parks, so I will be focused on that next year.

Ju’Coby Pittman – I plan to work on three major areas – neighborhood infrastructure, promoting Jacksonville’s Small and Emerging Businesses and developing Clanzel Brown Park into a sports complex. 1) Neighborhood Infrastructure- Unfortunately, there has been many years of broken promises, disparities, neglect, and inconveniences for residents in District 8 pertaining to these issues. To improve these issues, funding has been allocated to address these issues in 2021 through Capital Improvement Projects (CIP), which I have had the privilege to work on. Secondly, I have been working to address the failing septic tanks in the Beverly Hills and Christobel neighborhoods, with support from JEA, the Mayor’s Office, and City Council colleagues. With many of the septic tanks being in the “north quadrant” the city is committed to ensuring these septic tank problems are resolved by identifying and allocating funding in the upcoming year and I am on board. 2) Promoting Jacksonville’s Small & Emerging Businesses (JSEB) – This is an opportunity to solicit small businesses located in District 8 to register and become a JSEB certified vendors based on their experience and capacity to potentially do business with the City of Jacksonville as a suppliers, prime contractors and or subcontractors. It is necessary to promote and educate the businesses through community outreach and how to navigate and understand the process to participate as a small business. 3) Developing Clanzel Brown Park to a Sports Complex – I plan to work on transforming the park into a sports complex benefitting the community and youth.  Programs will include an After-School program, that will provide evidence-based prevention programs weekly, academics, and sports activities.

What was your biggest takeaway from 2020?
What could/should city leaders and the Mayor’s Office have done differently, in your opinion?

LeAnna Cumber – 2020 was a challenging year for everyone. After I was able to pass two significant pieces of legislation making Jacksonville a safer place to live – one regarding sex trafficking and another shutting down internet cafes, a global pandemic hit which stopped everything in its tracks. The City did an admirable job responding to an unpredictable world. Although projects – big and small – were delayed temporarily, we passed a robust 2021 budget providing funding for needed city services and projects necessary to continue to grow our city. In retrospect, I think council could have gone back to in-person meetings sooner than we did. Online meetings can accomplish only so much – as we all learned in 2020! 

Matt Carlucci – My biggest takeaway from 2020 is how courageous and resilient our people and businesses are in facing some of the greatest odds due to facing the COVID pandemic. In addition to this on-going threat, we face big issues and that gives us big opportunities. We need to work on our drainage and our infrastructure. We have a big opportunity with the revenue from our school tax to improve our school buildings. It has been proven better school conditions enhance student achievement.  Jacksonville is a wonderful place to live; we work best when we work together, and that is my biggest and most valued wish for the coming year. Happy holidays and a happy, safe, and healthy New Year to all, from the Carlucci family to yours.

Randy DeFoor – One of the biggest takeaways is that I’m chairing the City’s Resiliency Committee and resiliency is more than just flooding. Resiliency really comes into play with this pandemic. This has reinforced the importance of having a chief resiliency officer and an Office of Resiliency. I think the administration did a good job of addressing the pandemic. Could we have done a better job? Maybe. But what it shows us is the importance of the Boy Scout motto, ‘Be prepared.’ The thing about it is, given the pandemic, Jacksonville was probably one of the cities that was least affected because we are not a tourist town. It’s a time to also celebrate who we are as a working town, and this really benefited us in terms of the pandemic. Orlando has lost a tremendous amount of tax revenue, a situation of which we, thankfully, have not experienced.

Ju’Coby Pittman – 2020 has been a year of clarity. Together, we have opened our eyes as a community and nation. We must continue to plan and mitigate for large scale threats that can and will affect the health and welfare of our citizens and economy. Now, that the vaccine is available for distribution to communities, we are going in the right direction to heal and prepare for the future! Progressive communication is imperative from the City Council and the Mayor’s Office as it relates to Lot J. The decision will be made on what is best for the citizenry of Jacksonville for long-term sustainability and economic growth that will enhance our City. Together our conversation and action will continue.

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