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Stories from Jacksonville

New Jax Witty

Articles, reviews, advice, and legitimate research to go along with some back-handed comments. Think of us as Jacksonville's mother-in-law.
  • Duval Schools Referendum: What it Means to Me
    As someone who has not used the local public schools (for my kids) in the past, I didn't have much of an opinion about them. Even when I worked as a teacher in one of the not-so-great schools, the school district didn't matter all that much to me. This is because my kids weren't part of the school district. However, after researching options for local high schools, we decided to transition from a private K-8 school and into a Duval high school, so now funding for the schools DOES matter. Luckily, it mattered enough to other voters in order to pass a referendum in the 2020 election that will allow Jacksonville's schools to (finally) make some upgrades. 

    Unfortunately, many of the upgrades will come in the form of tightened security and completing 
    deferred maintenance. When a school district is underfunded for many years, that's kind of what happens, I guess. The security upgrades are obviously in response to the national rash of school shootings, and I also understand that expenditure, but it's still unfortunate that a percentage of the money allocated will have to be used for this. 

    I also wanted to reiterate my opinion that a well-funded public school system is NOT a problem for private schools, since I'm sure some of those parents voted against the tax increase. If public schools are bad enough (and Duval was close to this tipping point), then families will continue to move to St. Johns or Clay, and your wonderful private school will be located in a less-desirable neighborhood. Your home, too. This is not to say that new or updated facilities will fix all of the problems in Duval schools. As a teacher at two different local middle schools, I can tell you that the behavior of the kids (always dictated by their parents) plays a much bigger role in the success of the schools than new classrooms. 

    I am glad to see that new classrooms are a part of the equation. The school my kids will be attending is building (or has built) 32 classrooms. I hope. It's actually a testament to how poor the communication is in the district that parents of a student who will be attending a school that has $24 million to spend is not aware of how that money has been spent. But no one could tell me when volleyball season starts, either, so it's not a huge surprise. Anyhow, I am hopeful that 30-something classrooms will be added so that my kids won't be relegated to temporary portable trailer rooms. Of course, it's hard to believe we ever let that happen in the first place, but I'm hoping the sales tax money helps fix past wrongs so that I can funally benefit from the property taxes I've been paying since we've moved to Jax.

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  • Secret Beach is for Everyone, Just Not Now
    I recently spoke with a former mayor of Atlantic Beach who told me that Secret Beach IS for me. And you. And all taxpayers. But there are some problems. 

    1. Finding Secret Beach
    The local residents seem to have gotten the beach removed from Google Maps. I have to wonder how a taxpayer-funded, state-mandated public beach access got removed from Google Maps. Until I drive around the area of Atlantic Beach near the parking lot, and I then assume Google was dealing with angry lawyers and CEOs who would rather their city within Duval County (with publicly-funded roads, sidewalks, police, and fire) be treated more like a gated neighborhood. The thinking is that the only scourge to this haven is the parking lot that allows my family to have access to the beach in the otherwise Utopian bubble. It's the only blemish keeping the area from being as elite as parts of Ponte Beers.

    I understand. In my own enclave of an un-gated neighborhood, I want to keep the riffraff out as much as possible. Luckily, there's nothing in my neighborhood that is guaranteed by the state for others to use, so the only outsiders that show up are porch pirates. And Jehovah's Witnesses.

    Those who know the secret don't want everyone to know. With 10,000 new residents a year and newly-created paid parking near the local beaches, a free and relatively exclusive parking/beach in Atlantic Beach is a secret for a reason, even for those of us who know it exists. I'm not listing the location here for that very reason. Just ask someone if you want to know. If Google can't stand up to the moneybags keeping it a secret, I, sure as summer rain, can't.

    Even though he lived in the area, the former mayor I talked to invited me and my family to use the beach. That's not the attitude of most of his neighbors, but he is a nice person who also understands public funding and laws. I am sure you will get dirty looks when you park and be monitored by Atlantic Beach's finest as you leave the area, but it's your right to be there, and those who hold office understand that.

    2. Health Risks (2021)
    The other reason you might not want to visit Secret Beach in 2021 (and maybe beyond) is the ecological disaster waiting to happen just off the coast. I was told it's a garbage boat that's been sitting there stuck for too long in the hopes it might not leak garbage or completely sink when a hurricane hits. This isn't a small Colombian cocaine boat or a cruise ship with nothing worse than bottles of Malibu on board. It's a garbage barge with tons of waste ready to pollute our relatively nice beaches, and nothing was done about it for months.

    Honestly, I've seen enough people get their vehicles stuck trying to cross medians to know that Cletus and Rosco with a pickup can generally get-r-done, so why is it that we can't move a garbage boat off the sandbar? The freaking US Navy is stationed a few miles away. Get them some shovels and ropes, and then let a couple of Littoral Combat Ships tow the boat out to sea. It's not like those are useful for actual combat missions, anyhow. If Egyptians in gallibayas can unblock the Suez Canal, Jacksonville's best wearing wife-beaters can do just as well. 

    Anyhow, if we don't get the garbage boat out of there or it's found to have leaked garbage, I'd stay away from Secret Beach for the next two decades.

    3. Time
    Because the roads are slow and parking is very limited, Secret Beach may end up wasting more time than it's worth. A country club means access from A1A is off Plaza, and that means police-enforced 25mph roads for several miles. Or cutting through fancy-pants neighborhoods. Either way, it's often just as fast to find a spot in Neptune Beach or Jax Beach. If your goal is to pretend not to stare at throngs of pretty girls and/or pretty boys in thongs, then the more populated beaches are for you, anyhow.
  • Leaving Passengers On Board Plane With Possible 'Device' Makes Sense?
    I read that a Delta airlines plane coming into Jacksonville was diverted to a separate runway and then thoroughly searched for a 'device' of some kind. With all the passengers on the plane! I know the public isn't made aware of all the details in a case like this, but doesn't it seem like the opposite of the right way to search the plane?

    I guess I'll have to assume someone sent a threat that maybe included the instructions that a bomb would go off if anyone was allowed to leave the plane. That's the only scenario that makes sense. It's like, "Send 50million crypto coins to this account or else I blow the plane. And if anyone tries to leave, I blow the plane."

    However, in every other scenario under the friendly skies, I would say you get all the people off the damn plane FIRST. If it's a ticking time bomb somewhere on board or a passenger with a remote or something volatile in the cargo area, it seems to make sense to get the people out of there.

    Imagine being one of the passengers stuck on a plane that has arrived without a problem, then being told by the pilot that there's a maintenance issue (which could obviously be fixed once everyone is off the plane), then being told the pilot lied and it's something else. You assume someone on board is a killer or drug czar. Or that there's a bomb. The last place you want to be is in your seat for three hours, just waiting to see if one of your fellow travelers finally cracks and takes the little kid in row 19 as a hostage. Or the whole plane blows up.

    I'm sure this was all done by the book, but it seems to me the book has to be wrong. Since I don't have a background in law enforcement, I might be missing something. I just remember the time I was on the London Underground and saw an unattended bag sitting in the middle of the walkway for several stops, my anxiety skyrocketing until I (a total introvert) started asking every single passenger if the bag was theirs. I was floored by how others didn't seem to think a bag like this was a concern. I was considering picking the luggage up and throwing it (or myself) out the door at the next stop when someone several seats away grabbed it, but that was the most stressful ten minutes of my life because I was sure that bag was going to explode. That's not a feeling I wish on anyone, but many of the passengers in Jacksonville must have felt similarly. 

    Call me a romantic, but I'd rather see everyone safely off an airplane that might explode even if there's a small chance the perp gets away. It's like a police car chase through a densely-populated part of town: I want the bad guy to get caught, but I don't want others to die just so that can happen. 

    Anyhow, nothing was found, no one was arrested, and nobody died, so I guess it was "mission accomplished" for federal law enforcement.