Sunday, November 20

DOT, Councilmembers' Last Chance to Save Lives

In the five years I've been in East Arlington and I've personally seen one accident, heard about another, and seen/heard about/experienced countless near-misses along McCormick Road at the entrance/exit of Grace Lutheran Church and School. I've contacted local government officials without a response and brought it up several times to church leadership with a non-answer that our hands are tied, but someone will be killed at a very fixable school entrance, and I just wanted to propose a solution that works now that McCormick is being rebuilt so cars can drive even faster past the church and school.

I'd drawn up something several years ago, but maybe that was too complicated because I proposed a double u-turn lane on McCormick westbound and then a new exit for the church. My new idea just shifts McCormick one lane over as it passes the church, resulting in a short entrance turn lane and then in a dedicated exit lane that becomes the right turn only lane to Kernan. It's a technique used along the Kernan and Beach area of town, and it has the potential to save the life of a young mom with her kids. The primary change is stripping away half the boulevard from Running River to Bridgenorth Ct., or about a quarter mile.

Grace has been amazing over the years at NOT causing DOT problems for the major thoroughfare. Traffic does not line up on McCormick, and parents on the adjacent side street are even instructed to let traffic by. Administration has solved the challenge of higher enrollment by snaking vehicles through the lot. But vehicles, many heading to Mayport, speed by at 60+mph.  A recent School Entrance sign is a mere joke with no fines or flashing lights to encourage any speed adjustment. It's as much about abrupt lane changes as speed, however, as people are constantly weave around traffic without signaling. In fact, when I leave the school, I generally wait for both lanes to be clear.

I have my wife drive through Running River and its speed bumps every day instead of trying to deal with McCormick, but that isn't an option for most parents who live further away. Grace doesn't employ (or ask the city to employ) traffic police or crossing guards. It hasn't asked for a traffic signal that would disrupt traffic flow (though one a Running River would also do the trick). Lutherans aren't always in-your-face complainers, and we're good at dealing with challenges, but at some point the city of Jacksonville needs to admit the school isn't going away and it should be recognized as a school stuck on a road where people drive like maniacs. A little help would be nice, and the reconstruction of Merrill, Fort Caroline, McCormick, Wonderwood is the perfect time to make a change before the worst-case scenario happens.

Tuesday, November 15

Here's Another Reason I'm Glad We Missed Out on Sutton Lakes House

Back in 2017, we had an offer in on a house in Sutton Lakes (near Atlantic and Kernan). We lost our on the short sale to who turned out to be the father-in-law of the realtor. We were upset at the time because we needed a house, and the location seemed pretty good on paper (we were offering from afar). However, after driving through Sutton Lakes, I was kind of relieved, but now that the Kernan widening is finished near our current house and Sutton Lakes is about to get Amazoned, I'm so appreciative of that realtor's self-dealing that I may send her a note of thanks.

Sutton Lakes is already a pain to navigate because of speed bumps and street-parked cars, and because it's freakin huge. And there's one entrance off Atlantic, along with a weird afterthought ghetto entrance from Alden to the south. Living there would have added 10 minutes to any commute, even if the proximity to Atlantic seemed perfect.

Now, with Amazon wanting to add a delivery station to airport land across the street from Sutton Lakes, good luck everyone. Since Sutton Lakes Boulevard doesn't cross Atlantic in a straight line, we're talking about an extra set of lights so that both sides of the intersection can be cleared. Semi trucks to and from the 295 and delivery trucks in both directions. Yep, I can't think of a better time not to be living in Sutton Lakes, except for when they found a dead body in the one pond and then the alleged killer just kept living in the house next to the pond for six months. That had to be awkward for the neighbors: "Hey, sorry about the mysterious death of your ex-girlfriend in the pond behind our houses. Can I borrow a cup of sugar and the number of the lawyer who's keeping you out of jail?"

Just to add insult to traffic congestion, I noticed that land along Atlantic just to the east of Sutton Lakes is also being cleared. A mini neighborhood, a Family Dollar, another apartment complex? Luckily, I don't have to care. 

25% of Duval County Homes Owned by Investors - Is That Bad?

When I was taking urban planning classes in college, I learned some "truths" about cities, according to my professors. People like bridges. Urban sprawl is bad. Homeowners care more than renters. Widening roads doesn't alleviate traffic. And on and on.
 
Government can control some aspects of these perceived truths more than others. While Jacksonville might not be building any new bridges for people to gaze upon, our government probably does have tools for some of the commonly accepted truths of planning, including home ownership.

Government regulation isn't always necessary when it comes to homeownership, and I'm not entirely sure the negatives of investor-owned homes warrant regulation, particularly if the main negative result is increased prices and gentrification until saturation. That's what happens if investors buy up homes for cash (outbidding families) and then perform quality work on the property. This results in higher sale or rent prices for the area, at least as far as the market can bear.

Of course, one could argue that it's silly for rental investors to buy up properties and then rent those to the unfortunate families who tried to buy the same homes. Worse, those families will probably be looking to save up to build in St Johns County. Assuming you can save anything when rent is $2500 a month (that's what I pay for TWO mortgages). I hope my new rental neighbors will adhere to less than 50% of income put towards housing/utilities and that they therefore make over $75,000 a year. That's a different clientele than for the same houses that rented at $1500 a month when we moved in a few years back.  

The problem is that these home rental investments, even if they charge a lot, need to see profits for investors. It's not like my house in Milwaukee, which I keep nice because I might return someday and because I care about my tenants. So when the investors have to lower the rent $200 a month in order to attract tenants (which just happened next door), that's $2,400 less in anticipated profits per house per year. I am sure the investment companies are seeing that there's a limited pool of qualified applicants who are willing or able to pay over $24,000 per year for rent alone, especially with thousands of apartments in large complexes being built. 

Assuming a bursting housing bubble in the near future, I would be interested to see the investment company strategy, since lower home value should precede a falling rental market. I assume the companies will sell the least profitable properties first, with my assumption being the properties in the worst locations (lower rent and more vacancies). Then again, that's kind of the traditional target market for rentals. Also, if these investment companies see diminished returns, will they really keep the properties looking good? If these investment companies end up like Carvana or Zillow, I wonder what that will mean for Jacksonville's real estate landscape. I guess we'll find out.

Bottom line is that the initial investment into a large percentage of local homes for rental purposes might renew some neighborhoods that probably needed a little work. I saw a lot of paint and new roofs in my neighborhood, and better than neglected homes. I just wish renters cared a little more about their own living conditions.

Thursday, November 10

Fletcher High School Should Have a Mascot -- Some Ideas

What does a senator look like? That's the question every student who attends Duncan U Fletcher must ask at some point. A senator doesn't look like a giant F, nor a skull and crossbones, but those are the primary images associated with the school as of 2022. I think Fletcher can do better.

I suggested to someone recently that the school choose Uncle Sam as the mascot.
Even if the school wants to stick to the F, you could slap some Fs where Sam normally has stars on his hat. I know, Uncle Sam wasn't really a senator, but he's a patriotic figure. I don't think there's really a general senator look, besides old white rich man in a suit.  That's an ok mascot, I guess. Maybe bald and wearing a Navy hat. 

When I searched for "senator Halloween costume," I got all Roman senator hits. That's not too bad, actually. US senators may be kind of boring, but a Roman senator is pretty sweet as a mascot. And you don't have to worry about being PC with the whole female senator thing because they didn't exist in Rome. Walmart even has a purple Roman senator costume for $26. I think I'll snap one up for my kids even if that doesn't become an official mascot.

I guess Fletcher could keep it simple and just use its namesake as the mascot, so instead of a generic senator, Duncan U would be THE senator himself, complete with heavy wool suit and handlebar moustache. He looks a little like the Monopoly guy. Actually, the only other team to be called the Senators that I know of was the Washington Senators (now Nationals--what's that?). I found two of their old-timey insignias, one showing a Monopoly-looking guy pitching (while smoking a cigar). The other depicted an outfielder catching a ball up against the Capitol, but the odd spotlight on him makes it look like he's about to be nabbed by the coppers (perhaps a January 6th rioter). Since Fletcher High School plays more than just baseball and it isn't even located in a state capital, using these wouldn't work.

While Duncan Fletcher was a senator, his wife was some kind of spiritualist, so Fletcher High School could take that angle with a witch or wizard mascot. Maybe both. And it would confuse the opposing teams, who'd be like, "I thought you were senators or beach rats. What's the meaning of this?" 

Speaking of beach rats, I also like the idea of a dirty, disheveled rat. Like a homeless rat who lives on the beach and eats leftover french fries and washed up jellyfish. And who also could kick other mascots' butts in a bar fight (by cheating). Like Chuck E Cheese on meth, except wholesome (for the kids). So Chuck E Cheese on a Keto diet. Maybe with an eye patch.

When I first suggested a new mascot, someone in the house also thought of Fish. It's kind of general, but the alliteration works and you could change the species every few years if desired. Starkist has a giant Charlie the Tuna outfit, and I'm sure all kinds of Florida high schools have purchased plenty of other fish as mascots. Like Ponte Vedra High School. They have a dress-up shark as well as a real one that wanna-be-funny seniors hung from the rafters. (Side note: I told my kids that if I was in high school and played against the Sharks we'd all have called them Sharts along with lots of funny signs, images, and sound-effects. But I guess kids are more refined these days). The good part of being fish is you can have an early-season fish fry fundraiser. The school I taught at in Wisconsin always did a corn roast, though since the mascot was the Indians, it probably should have been a maize roast.

Sticking with the alliteration, Fletcher could be the Flamingos. I know, we don't have any Flamingos locally, but we also don't have any jaguars around here. Flycatchers and Fulmars are European birds that are pretty cool. Fulmars are like bad-ass seagulls that nest on cliffs and live to be 40 freakin years old. Since we're in Jacksonville and people love them some dogs, maybe French Bulldogs. I saw a house in Florida just got broken into and someone stole 20 French Bulldogs worth $100,000, so these are expensive dogs apparently bred in home breeding factories. French Bulldogs would allow Fletcher to have a mascot similar to Georgia, just smaller and cuter.

The main point here is that an F is not a team mascot. Students, alumni, boosters, and everyone at the Beaches ought to demand something better for the school. Since schools don't have newspapers anymore, I'm hoping this article can reach someone who cares just a little bit and can move the mascot /real insignia idea forward.

Tuesday, November 8

Florida Lottery Addicts: Thank You

There's another $1 billion+ lottery jackpot, but I won't be playing. Just winning. Even though I just read some bleeding-heart article about predatory gambling practices used to entice poor people to buy lottery tickets, I pretty much am A-OK with poor people, rich people, tourist people, and even foreign people paying for my kids' college.

Lots of people have bad habits that cost them either money, time, health, or happiness. An old lady might go on Kohl's shopping sprees. Men buy sports cars or giant pickups. Watch porn. Do drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. Sometimes, I'll click on article after article on Wikipedia for three hours straight. We all do something habitually, and some of it costs money. As long as you're not costing me money by entering state-funded gambling addiction programs, I am totally fine with you spending your hard-earned cash on pieces of paper. Think of them as receipts for my kids' college tuition. Or your own kids. Sure, if you put $20,000 into the lottery, you'll only win back $12,000 on average, but you'll be paying $8,000 towards my kids' education fund. You might only win back $1,000, or you could win $1,000,000,000. It doesn't bother me either way.

Now, if your own kids are starving for food or attention, and your gambling addiction leads to family problems, I feel bad for you. Maybe you need to play more often in order to finally win big and join the upper class overnight. I'm totally kidding: use some SNAP bennies and get those kids some Cheetos when you're at the convenience store playing the Lotto. Maybe a Lean Cuisine, too.

I don't get excited about corporate welfare on the backs of the middle class, but I just don't have a problem with free college on the backs of those who want to get rich quick. My kids don't go to college for free when you invest in Bitcoin or when you bet on the Jags to win the Superbowl. They don't benefit when you binge drink in Jax Beach or spend five hours watching TikTok videos. There are all kinds of ways for you to be a total loser and not send my kids to college, so please continue to choose to be a loser playing the lottery. There's even a chance you'll be a winner, though there's a better chance my kids will get their college paid for by you, and I can live with those odds.


Wednesday, November 2

No tebow ..

I was trying to use my stylus to write the title of this article about notebooks, but my phone thought I wanted to write about "no tebow .." That's kind of weird that Tim Tebow (or his half-meadow wife) would be mistaken for my hand-written word "notebook," but maybe it has something to do with the misuse or non-use of the actual word in the Jacksonville area (and the reason I wanted to write an article about notebooks). The word confusion probably has something to do with where I'm from versus the locals versus all the other transplants to Jacksonville, but we seem to have a bit of a miscommunication about what a notebook is or is not. 

One of my kids got a class supply list that included "notebook paper." Another class wanted a "three-ring notebook." Still another class demanded a "spiral." The notebook paper is probably loose-leaf paper. It doesn't come in a notebook, nor can it be added to a typical notebook. However, it can be added to a three-ring BINDER. The problem is that some teachers around here think the three-ring binder is a three-ring notebook. Not really. There are at least two kinds of notebooks: the spiral notebook and the composition notebook. I believe my kids had a teacher who asked for a composition notebook but really wanted a spiral notebook. A spiral notebook has a metal wire that spirals around as the binding. A composition notebook has a glued binding. These notebooks have paper inside them already. A binder is empty but can be filled with loose-leaf paper, after which point you could call it a three-ring notebook, I suppose.

This stuff isn't really all that complicated. And it probably shouldn't bother me as much as it does. It's nowhere near as confusing as the fact that no two teachers in DCPS give out assignments in the same format, as some use Teams, some use One-Note, some use paper, some use their own websites, some use third-party websites, and some just tell the kids something in class. And these are the professional teachers, not ex-military and other heroes who don't know a thing about education. 

But more importantly, what ever happened to Trapper Keepers. Those were all the rage when I was in middle school. I know, it was just a three-ring binder with cool stuff added, but that cool stuff was pretty cool.

In conclusion, today we learned A. no Tebow and B. a notebook is a notebook is a notebook.

Blowhard County Sheriff's Pressers Invite Behavior He Condemns

I get this Florida sheriff in my news feed who likes to tell the stories about the stupidity of his constituents. Criminals who get caught by the police or shot by responsible homeowners. He's all about the consequences. If you break the law, you'll get caught or killed, and you'll deserve it. He had even said it was good that one burglar looked like grated cheese after being shot by a homeowner, and that's a weird description, though it goes to show how far he wants to take the heroism of defending your property.  But what happens when swift vigilante justice meets misinterpreted neighborly neighborliness? Pretty much what you'd expect. Also, it's complicated.

So a father and son, who may generally love the sheriff for berating criminals, decided to chase down a neighbor who had merely dropped off a misdelivered package. Instead, they fired shots at a woman parked in their apartment complex with dark tinted windows and the engine running, assuming she was the getaway driver for whatever was stolen by the neighborly neighbor from their front porch (or from other apartments he'd successfully burglarized). She was not associated with the good neighbor at all.

The sheriff, in his typical manner, lumped this father and son dream team along with other criminals because they left their homes with guns to shoot at suspected criminals, whereas he said that staying at home and shooting criminals is a-ok. Or if the lady had exited her car and threatened bodily harm on one of the gunmen. Or if they see a shoplifter at Walmart.

Problem is, if you keep missing the porch pirates while they are robbing you, you're eventually going to take your guns to town. In any given situation in Florida, there's a 50/50 chance you have the right to shoot someone around you. In the situations where it's perfectly legal, 2nd Amendment supporters are quick to point out the effectiveness of the laws. That's great, but there are also tons of really stupid people in Florida, and I bet most of the stupidest own guns. Probably multiple guns. Fear-mongering by local the news, county sheriffs, politicians, gun shops, and fathers-in-law leads to vigilantism. As a nation, we've bought into the notion that guns save as many lives as they take and prevent as many crimes as they commit. 

I live in Jacksonville, so I know the stories of getting no response from the police for minor incidents. Broken car windows, porch pirating, etc. And I can probably legally shoot someone dead on my porch or driveway, but what if they are riding off on my bike or running down the street with my catalytic converter? Or if I catch them wearing my stolen Reggie White jersey a week after a burglary? Just like we get hurricane awareness packets, local governments in Florida should send out shoot-your-neighbors-dead awareness packets that detail when we can and can't kill people. I bet Pops and Junior thought they had every right to shoot at people on their shared apartment complex property who were suspected of stealing, hoping to be highlighted as local gun heroes by the sheriff if they took out the local porch pirate syndicate.

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