Last month, veteran National Issues Forums (NIF) convener and moderator, Gregg Kaufman reported on a 16-forum public engagement project in the Jacksonville, Florida area, during February and March, 2018. The project was intended to help people in the community talk about Jacksonville's history, and to deliberate about the best way to deal with controversial statues and monuments in the area.
In the forums, participants used an issue discussion guide that was authored by Kaufman and sponsored by the Jesse Ball duPont Fund . The 15-page issue guide, titled How Should We Convey the History of Jacksonvile? Monuments, Parks, and People, is available as a free download.
Kaufman has recently followed up with information about the genesis of the forums project, and subsequent, issue-related media coverage, announcements, and activities on the part of public officials.
In the autumn of 2017, Anna Brosche, City Council President called for public discourse and enlisted the help of the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund. Along with Leadership Jacksonville and other organizatons, we hosted 16 forums in February and March 2018 with over 200 participants.
A June 20, 2018 local news report included:
"The city council president, who will conclude her leadership of the council at the end of this month, initially took a strong stand for 'respectfully removing' and 'relocating' the city's Confederate memorials to places like museums. She has since come to the conclusion that just isn't feasible in Jacksonville."
And the same report quotes Brosche:
"There's a desire to make our parks more welcoming to everyone in the city. At the same time, movement or relocation doesn't seem to be an option that the entire community supports," she said."
When invited to comment about whether, or in what ways getting feedback from public deliberation on this community issue was helpful to her work as a public official, City Council President Broshe responded:
It is an honor and privilege to have been elected by the people to serve the people. Public deliberation and public discourse are important contributors to our policy making responsibilities. I appreciate Gregg Kaufman's work to help us gain understanding from the citizens we serve on a very important issue for the Jacksonville community, and for the support of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and Leadership Jacksonville in working to meaningfully engage citizens in the work. Public engagement could serve to improve public trust in government and produce ideas and solutions for elected officials and we could stand to be more effective in educating and engaging the public in our work.
It is also important to note that my position of requesting an inventory for the purpose of respectfully relocating the confederate monument from our public park in the center of our city was informed by public input during meetings, comments in our local papers, as well as the report (from the 16-forum series). This process of public dialogue also yielded conversations and efforts that produced my proposal to erect a memorial to victims of terror lynchings based on the work of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice that opened in April 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama.