Sister City - Jacksonville, FL

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.
  • Jeff Glauser's New Website
    Jeff Glauser is a local consultant, writer, trainer, branding expert, and virtual COO. I met him at a local business group, and we hit it off because we have some similar interests and abilities. At first, you might think that another freelancer with similar abilities would be intimidating, but we both saw it as an opportunity to employ each other's talents in a meaningful way. He'd never totally built his own website, and I'd never been paid much for all my consulting, writing, and training that I'd done as part of my website building. Plus, I wanted to learn more about what it takes to be a branding expert and virtual COO.

    Jeff's website was easy to build because he had excellent content ready for me. Many times, I need to create empty pages that I hope will be filled by some kind of updated content, and clients don't always get around to doing it. Having the content ready for me also allows me to format it properly from the start, since copying and pasting from Word often results in lots of added code that I like to remove. If you hire a web designer, it pays to have some content ready to go so that the designer can use his or her talents to get it looking good from the outset.

    Jeff and I decided to trade services in order to make the website happen. I think bartering for a website is perfectly legitimate, especially if the trade can further result in jobs down the road. Jeff will see that I can build a top-notch website fairly quickly, and when he needs something like it for one of his clients, I can be called upon. Plus, I get some branding or consulting to help me. Back before I made website building an actual part of my career, I built sites for friends who would let me play in a baseball league for free or record a song for me (yes, I built the website for a song). As long as both parties are satisfied, I like trading services.

    I've tried this technique with other local businesses, but it rarely works unless you meet the person. For example, I contacted a local music shop to ask a question, and mentioned that I could also work on the website as part of the email. Every time I send an email like that (and it's only when I have a legit question), I just receive an answer and no response about the website. That's too bad, since most of these local businesses would benefit from a new customer and a fresh web design.

    Anyhow, if your local business needs a website, I'm here. If you're more in need of consultant, writer, trainer, branding expert, or virtual COO, Jeff's a great person to contact.
  • If You Have to Ask How Much Fortress Garage Suites Cost...
    That's right, you can't afford one. If you have to ask, I mean. But they do (or will) exist in Jacksonville. 13 of 30 are sold at the location I saw near Beach and I-295.

    If you don't have to ask, they start at about $170,000. People who are in the market for a garage suite more than likely own a home valued at 10x the garage price, as well as cars valued at more than my home's value. But they are real people, too, and they are totally normal once you get to know them.

    Then there's that one crew that pools together for a garage suite because all four of the guys own one nice car. Except the one guy, we'll call him Todd, doesn't make his $42,500 payment. Never should have trusted Todd, boys. Not when it comes to money. Or dating your sister.

    For most of the people, this is a man-cave deluxe. Some of the online renderings make it seem like where you might bring all your guys to hang out, complete with basketball hoop, but others have couches and intimate lighting, so maybe you bring your dates to see your NSX?

    I love cars, so I really want to understand garage suites that cost more than my second house. I guess for people who have that million-dollar house but not enough room to add a nice garage. I mean, these are nice garages, with room for four cars and some weird observation deck where you can stand and look at your cars from above. And watch TV. I guess you could also fit more cars with one of those car stands that allow you to drive one car above another, since these garages are two stories high.

    They are over 1,000 square feet. Somewhere slightly bigger than 20' wide by 50' deep. With RVs running about 8' by 30', maybe some people will store two RVs in their Fortress Garages, though it's definitely marketed for car enthusiasts. And no one owns two RVs, right? Maybe fifty motorcycles, none stolen.

    So $170,000 gets you in the door, then pay your own utilities. There's a clubhouse in case you're not storing your Sega Genesis in the loft area. Or if you need more guy time once your guy friends stop coming along to stare at your cars worth more than their life insurance policies.

    I assume some VIPs with Ferraris will pretend like they are going to work on their cars here, but I'm not sure if it's the right kind of setting for DIY oil changes and fixing the other 80,000 problems you get to own along with the Ferrari.

    But it's a good place to start up that Cobra, rev it, pull it into the alley, show it to the other guys, and then slip back into the Cobra Cocoon.

    And then there's the elusive guy who supposedly owns a McLaren F1, but he only shows up on Tuesdays at 10am when everyone else is at work, except the old guy with three Corvettes named after his three ex-wives.

    You know what, I really want in. No matter how sad I try to make it seem, I'd love to have a special home for my 1986 Bertone X 1/9, surrounded by other cars loved as much by their owners, who would all understand why I can't sell my Precious. Even though my wife did make me sell my Sega Genesis, so I'll be over after I stare at my car a while to play Streets of Rage.

    But the problem is that I had to ask how much, so maybe I'll just drive by the place a few times with my X, hoping someone will see me and want a selfie with their MR-2 or TR-7, and invite me into the fortress. Just for a fleeting moment, as a sing Calloway's "I Wanna be Rich" to myself.
  • Quick, Now is Our Chance to Kill Public Schools
    Jacksonville entered into one of the most liberal educational experiments of any city when the city basically became the county. While I am not sure forced busing was ever associated with the move, it's still fairly unique as an attempt to bring all the awesomeness of the suburban schools into the city schools. Problem is that the suburbs are now, basically, in other counties (St. Johns and Clay), and that's where all the Duval educational hope has run to. What if, instead of throwing $2 billion into Duval Public Schools, we step back and see how we can do it all different once again? I'm wondering what our unique version of public schools might be today.

    Consolidation 2.0

    Sure, we could go to St. Johns and Clay and say we want in. A combined school school district covering 2,300 square miles. Basically the same size as Miami-Dade (except half of it's area is Everglades). Milwaukee asked for this sort of opportunity to combine with the rich suburbs for years. And since Duval already did this once, it's probably not even on the table. I guess I thought I'd remind everyone that since Jacksonville was really a trailblazing city in trying to save public schools here once, maybe some lessons were learned.

    Technically, the city of Jacksonville has a huge percentage of the high-paying jobs AND all these new suburbs get out of such nuisances as Section 8 housing and public transportation, so there should be some way to equalize the educational systems. Basically, people leave the city to avoid the problems and find better schools, but their pocketbooks are very tied to the city, and the city has to recognize this without totally alienating those who have moved away. Good luck, since this is pretty much standard in every major metro.

    UnConsolidate 1.0

    So all the integration lawsuits and whatnot have gone away. Our neighborhoods in Duval are integrated to some degree, and busing is expensive and relatively stupid. Some of the highest ranked schools are in high-crime areas, and kids who live there take buses to low-performing schools. It's all a circus in order to pretend the school system works, and everyone pretty much knows that. If we UnConsolidate, the best schools will be in the best neighborhoods. I'm fine with paying for programs, police, extra teachers, charter schools, or whatever for failing schools in lower-income areas as long as my kids can attend a legitimately good school near me. I almost hate to be a snob, but we left good schools in Wisconsin and Kansas to come to Florida, where education is anything but a top priority. And we live in a county that does not have a good reputation even within that state. Like most people who have the means, I'll move my family to St. Johns before I'll send them to a joke of a school in Duval.  And I don't even believe that St. Johns schools are all that special for all the talk, but at least they'd be on par with the Shawnee Mission schools back in Kansas or the Brookfield Schools in Wisconsin.

    Kill em All 

    Yes, now would be the time to kill all local public schools and start over with something new. Back when I got let go from public school teaching, I suggested everyone else (mostly getting paid a lot more than myself) also get let go so that schools could start over with lower salaries. Sure, there was some spite in that suggestion, but I have also met some head-in-the-sand public school teachers in Duval who don't worry much about job security, even as schools don't perform well and the best kids move away or get siphoned off by charter schools.  Or we could sell the schools to charter schools (I think that's the city council / mayor's plan), not unlike the JEA plan. Charter schools like operating in mini-malls and other obscure places, probably because it's easier to get out fast, so we could just tear down the schools to build some more housing, and let charter schools figure out the whole problem of facilities.

    I'm not REALLY in favor of something like this, but now would be the time to think very big. $2 billion is huge when it's all about just rebuilding bad schools that have students leaving every year. Are you saying that for $2 billion, we won't even get a few boarding schools to house kids who would be better off away from home? Are there any brand-new buildings for those of us on the (somewhat) wealthier side of town, or is all the money just to rebuild old-ass schools where all the infrastructure is already dilapidated?

    Basically, will a $2 billion investment somehow create a situation where Duval can compete with St. Johns for the wealthiest clientele? Follow me on this one, since it's important. When new subdivisions go up at the current rate in St. Johns and Clay for a few more years, we will see a strong desire on the part of these people (with jobs in Jacksonville) to try to find a place closer to work. That is a natural progression in urban sprawl. If Jacksonville's investment in schools takes this future desire into consideration, I wonder how it might change the needs for the same money.

    What Then?

    Jacksonville might be the only city in the country in a position to try out the straight-up capitalist model for education (choice/charter/private/vouchers). It also might be time to move good schools out of crappy neighborhoods. It might be time to invest in the schools in Duval's version of suburbia. Or maybe getting new schools will turn around our worst schools for some reason. No matter what, I look forward to a bold new plan that isn't just the typical money pit public school solution.

    I do know that the worst thing that can be done is to just throw money at a system that doesn't work. The current plan asks for $15,000 for every student enrolled in Duval's schools. I'd bet that most of those families would be perfectly happy sending their kids to the same old, falling apart schools if they got a $15,000 check for each kid enrolled in public school. Heck, I'd enroll my kids for that.

    I wonder, however, if anyone's asked the question of current students and graduates. THE question that all this money is supposed to answer: What parts of attending Duval Public Schools made it difficult for you to learn? That's the $1.9 billion question, really. As a graduate of Milwaukee Public Schools, I can tell you that my answer would have been about:
    • Students fighting during lunch or in the hallways. 
    • Worrying about getting jumped by groups of kids.
    • Disruptive students in my classes.
    • Students who didn't care about learning in my classes.
    • Teachers who were probably awesome at one point but who were exhausted when I was there.
    • My stuff or my car getting stolen.
    • The bathrooms always being locked because of vandalism.
     My high school was built 30 years before I attended. Maybe there were some small maintenance issues, and maybe Jacksonville has much more major ones, but the point is that if I'd been asked about it, my answers would all have been about safety, security, and learning environment, not whether or not we had the newest computers, science labs, or brand-new classrooms (we didn't). Five years after attending MPS, I substitute taught in many of the schools on the North Side of town, and my answer would have been pretty much the same. Old and new schools alike seemed clean. My former middle school (now a magnet school) was a "better" school than when I went there, and the building itself was a decade older. Same desks and lockers and classrooms.

    Anyhow, if the Duval School Board is forced to wait a year before the referendum is allowed to make it to the public, maybe the question above needs to be answered first and foremost. If the answer locally is all about how the schools are falling apart and nothing else, then I would totally vote for the money needed to fix the central problem of education in the city. If it's more about people than places, however, then maybe the answer isn't as simple as brick and mortar.