Thursday, March 29

St. Johns, Not St. Jobs

Everyone wants to live in St. Johns County. Just like where I'm from, those people all say it's because of the schools. But that was supposed to be the purpose of consolidating Jacksonville's schools. Jacksonville went with an experiment that I actually would have thought might work, especially given the sheer distances created by making Jacksonville so huge. But it failed. Why? I'm not sure, but I'm still trying to figure out why so many people see St. Johns as the place to be.



Schools
People move out of cities for many reasons, and the easiest to SAY is that it's the schools. You don't have to defend yourself in any way when you tell others you're doing something for your kids. Heck, I'm even considering what we'll have to do when the kids get to high school. I went to a rough high school in Milwaukee, and my kids won't be at one of those, so we'll see. The fact of the matter is that if people really wanted to live in JAX bad enough, the schools would be just fine. St. Johns does not have better teachers, just better students: kids who were read to before they could read and parents who have college degrees. If those parents would have all decided to stay in Jacksonville, the schools here would be just fine. So what really made them leave?

Crime
Another reason for leaving the big city is crime. This one is legitimate, if the stats back you up. If you don't feel safe in your home, you want to move somewhere else. It's really more than just crime, however. I can drive or walk down a street and get a feeling for the block. I don't have to see a single person on the block. Just the houses and cars are enough for me to know I don't want to live there. There are still plenty of safe neighborhoods in Jacksonville, but these are kind of like the schools, since the more people who move away because of safety concerns, the more people move in who somehow invite crime to the area.

Race
In the North, people never said they were moving out of the city because of race, but it was very real. Something called White Flight, and it happened when the Tipping Point was met (a certain percentage of a minority). I'd argue that race was a bigger factor than any of the others, but I would not argue that in Jacksonville. That's not to say it doesn't play a role at all. I just get the feeling that race does not define neighborhoods here as much as it did in Milwaukee (the most segregated city / county / metro area in the country). You bet there's segregation in Jacksonville, but it's not always based on race. Therefore, the migration to St. Johns is also not based on race the same way it would be in the North. Probably.

Jobs
I started to think that if crime and schools could have been handled, and race isn't as much of a factor, what if all these people are moving to St. Johns because of all the jobs down there. Perhaps it was like my last area (Johnson County, KS) that had become the area to build corporate offices for national and international companies. It had become the largest county by population in the entire state of Kansas without having KCK, Topeka, or Wichita as an anchor city within the county. My realtor friend who lived through the expansion, however, said the original migration to Johnson County was based on race and not economics. But that was back in the 60s and 70s. We've moved past that now. I bet St. Johns IS an economic center that draws people from all over Florida. Let's look at the top employers:
Clearly, people are not moving to St. Johns for the jobs. Jacksonville's economy is driving St. Johns housing and schools. Is that right or good? Maybe.

Ambiance
I don't think all of St. Johns is like St. Augustine. I assume it's mostly suburban sprawl, though I do like the idea of electric golf carts if you're going to be pretentious enough to do that sort of thing. There are always going to be some people who just have to move out of the urban and into the new. But Jax isn't all that urban in most areas, since it's so spread out. And it's not all that old, compared to many of the areas I've seen. That said, homes tend to get run-down faster in the climate, so maybe people just want to abandon an area instead of clean it up.

The Way It Is
People moving to suburbs from cities kind of is the way it is in America. It says you've made it, especially if you have kids. Young couples might want to live downtown, and young hipsters might prefer San Marco or the beaches, but people who want to raise a family will gravitate south of Duval County. Just as folks in KC moved out to Johnson County, KS, and people in Milwaukee moved out to Waukesha County. Until Dad realizes his hour-long commute each way is not what he wanted. And taxes go up so the house can have fire protection. And people not as wealthy as you move into those new apartments so they, too, can send their kids to your schools. That's the way it is. That's when people start looking for the pockets of nice neighborhoods back in Jacksonville.