A Few Minutes with the Mayor – May 2017

I’ve always wanted to “play” Walter Winchell in one of my columns. Walter would jump from topic to topic in almost every other sentence. So… with the forbearance of my publisher, here goes.

Greetings Mr. and Ms. Jacksonville wherever you are, in your home or in one of our coffee shops, restaurants, or traveling.

We’ve had great feedback on ODOT’s change to the Y intersection where the Jacksonville Hwy and 238 meet. This should reduce the accidents at that location… and there were many. Congratulations to the bureaucrats who got it right. Now the next change will be at the intersection of 5th and California where near-misses happen all day long.

A couple stopped in at New City Hall to see what the place looked like. It turns out they were from the other Jacksonville—the one in Florida. They like our town so much they’re coming back in five months to see about moving here. During their tour of our new offices, they stopped to admire Jacksonville’s latest acquisition, a marvelous 1883 piano donated to the city by Donna McMann. On top of the piano is a matching clock dated 1883 and, of course, the building was completed in 1883. Donna doesn’t even live in Jacksonville. Now that’s generosity. Another very generous donor is Joyce Coleman who donated an early Eugene Bennett original enamel on paper for New City Hall. This can be seen in the conference room which was the old Peter Britt room on the main floor. A big thank you to these two people!

Also a thank you to Donna Briggs as a new Britt season unfolds. Blessed by Donna Briggs’ leadership, it promises to be another outstanding year. Few people know how complex the job of running a venue like Britt really is. Dealing with artists and their temperaments, negotiating with their managers, staffing, operating, and maintaining a large facility, and dealing with government regulations at every turn, are only some of the tasks.

We ran a movie called The Westerner at Old City Hall. The story begins in a saloon owned by Judge Roy Bean where the judge calls on the drinking customers to act as jurors. Turns-out Texas wasn’t the only place where that was common. From 1852 to about 1859, that’s how it was done right here in Jacksonville where bars served as makeshift courtrooms. It isn’t recorded whether sobriety was necessary to serve as a juror. Nor was the quality of the whiskey!

Town citizens continue to prove how great they are. The latest word is the Boosters have donated $1,500 to help defray the startup costs for the Randall Theatre at the Calvary Church. Also, three Booster couples wishing to remain anonymous have each offered $500. Now that’s community spirit in action. On the same theme, our citizen of the year, Linda Kestner, can be seen attending every City Council meeting… always with a smile… always with a positive bearing… wonderful is the word that comes to mind. How different from another citizen who comes with a scowl hoping to find something wrong. Every town has one.

Another citizen with a smile is Michele Brown-Riding who approached the City with a marvelous idea. Why not have a Firewise Garden where the lumber yard ends at Fourth and Main Streets, where citizens could go and discover plants that are more fire-resistant for landscaping their houses? This idea is too good to pass up. Another suggestion was made by yours truly to run our new trolley once every hour from Royal Mobile and Pioneer Village to the center of town. Chamber Executive Director Tim Balfour is considering that one. This new trolley is a welcome addition to our town because the windows can be taken out during the warmer summer months. That’s the way the streetcars used to operate where I grew up. Meanwhile, it seems old trolleys don’t always wind up in the scrapyard. Ours has found a new home in Bandon, Oregon where they have the money and resources to restore it.

In just a few days, May 5th to be precise, On the Town will open for a month-long run at our new Randall Theatre. The show focuses on New York but the title suits Jacksonville. We live in an incredible town. As the publisher reminded me, “This is a wonderful time of year to get out and discover something new and wonderful about Jacksonville and make new friends in the process…what a town!”