Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

EDITORIAL >> New mayor in town

Gary Fletcher was sworn in as mayor of Jacksonville on Tuesday, and he’s set himself an ambitious agenda for the next 16 months before he must face the voters again in November 2010.

As he finishes the uncompleted term of outgoing Mayor Tommy Swaim, who stepped down yesterday, Fletcher wants better schools for Jacksonville and has made a strong case for separating from the Pulaski County Special School District.

He has gone before the school board and sought an agreement on drawing up boundary lines for the proposed north Pulaski County school district. He believes local control of the schools would provide better educational opportunities for all students.

Parents, especially, have despaired over the quality and lack of discipline in the schools, as well as the dilapidated conditions that make it even more difficult for students to learn.

The school board has agreed to build a new middle school, thanks in no small part to Fletcher’s hectoring, as well as pressure from local groups that have tired of the board’s foot-dragging.

Much work remains to be done: Attracting middle-class families once again who flocked here in the 1970s by bringing in more jobs and creating better housing and more parks for young and old. Fletcher says he’s rolled up his sleeves and wants to work for Jacksonville 24/7. This is a job he’s pursued for nearly a quarter of a century, and he wants to do at least as well as his predecessor.

If Fletcher succeeds on the education front and works toward revitalizing Jacksonville, including the Sunnyside Addition, and reducing crime, his first short term could be the start of a more ambitious program that he could complete in a full second term. The community wishes him well.