Above Photo: Rally for affordable housing and Peoples’ Budget outside Jacksonville City Hall. FIght Back! News / staff.
Jacksonville, Florida – As the people of Jacksonville face rapidly increasing rent hikes and evictions, local organizers and residents rallied outside of City Hall on August 9. Before entering the city council meeting, they rallied and chanted, “Peoples Budget now!” “Make housing affordable,” and “Rent stabilization now!”
After listening to speakers outside of city hall, many people spoke at the city council meeting, demanding a People’s Budget. The proposal from the Jacksonville Community Action Committee will reallocate funds from the inflated Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) budget back into the community.
The People’s Budget proposal focuses on Jacksonville’s city budget and reallocating funds because, under Mayor Curry, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office currently holds nearly 40% of the $1.4 billion budget.
Sara Mahmoud of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization stood at the podium and said, “JSO has consistently proven that they have no intention to protect our community but would rather brutalize and kill our residents. On top of that, as we witnessed over 1200 eviction filings in July, it is JSO who will enforce those evictions. Instead of funding measures that will help our residents in the middle of a pandemic and crisis, they’re choosing to fund police who will penalize the working class for simply being poor. This is why we’re demanding a Peoples Budget from city council, that includes proposals for a Tenants Bill of Rights and an Office of Tenant Advocacy to enforce the bill of rights.”
Shayne Tremblay, a local IBEW union member said, “I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: We the workers, are what make Jacksonville the city it is. We are the ones building the homes, delivering the packages, teaching our children, making the coffee, and keeping the city clean, but we are being priced out of living in our own city, and our city officials are letting it happen.”
Christina Kittle, an organizer with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee, stated that Jacksonville should enact a housing state of emergency, like Orange County, which was able to get rent stabilization on the election ballot.
Kittle explained, “There have been 20,825 evictions in Jacksonville from March 2022 to the end of July 2022. It’s clear we have a housing crisis, yet more and more funding goes to the police. It is unfair when organizations have to provide numbers and data and months of research just to be considered for funding, but a department that underperforms consistently gets millions each year. No questions asked.”
Protesters demanded that the city council focus on two initiatives that could help combat the housing crisis in Jacksonville: First, a housing state of emergency that will put in place an eviction moratorium. Second, an Office of Tenant Advocacy that will uphold a Tenant Bill of Rights to hold landholders accountable for negligence in maintenance, management or unjust rent hikes. This could be created by taking the $37million proposed for police and reallocating it.
The People’s Budget proposes legislation that will provide for resources lacking in Jacksonville. This includes funding the Division of Mental Health Services to improve access to quality mental health services, funding for the construction and maintenance of new homeless shelters to reduce overcrowding in existing shelters, increasing wage raises for case managers and recruiting more shelter employees. Other legislation includes supporting Black businesses, crime reduction, and public infrastructure efforts.
Protesters vowed to keep the pressure on the city council until their demands for a People’s Budget are met. You can read JCAC’s proposal for a People’s Budget at https://jaxtakesaction.org/peoples-budget-now.