Thursday saw a host of Northeast Florida stakeholders from the education, transportation, and healthcare sectors address the First Coast Legislative Delegation at Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute.

Legislators from well beyond the First Coast, such as Gainesville Sen. Keith Perry, Lake City Rep. Elizabeth Porter, and Palatka Rep. Bobby Payne, are included in the delegation, which is a concerted attempt to leverage regional strength to accomplish priorities.

As Daniel Davis, a former state rep who is now of the Jax Chamber put it, “we here on the First Coast have not always been together.”

The delegation, Davis said, allows people regardless of party to fight for regional priorities, singing “from one sheet of music … on the same key.”

Harmony and leveraging strength in numbers: the theme of the day. However, there was a tension between what certain speakers wanted and what resources would allow.

As well, the discussion was largely centered around Duval County, which did not offer immediate utility to those from outlying areas.

At times, the gap between Jacksonville and the exurbs was palpable.

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An education panel including school superintendents from Duval and St. Johns counties, Nikolai Vitti and Joseph Joyner, and Terrie Brady, head of the Duval Teachers’ Union, kicked the event off.

Joyner, who is set to leave public schools to become the president of Flagler College, noted that St. Johns County is growing roughly 6 percent per annum, and that growth — coupled with inflation — requires real funding.

.72 percent was the year over year increase last year in terms of state allocations, Joyner said, which required program cuts. State parsimony, coupled with low millage rates, will impact services going forward.

Brady noted that needs across regions are different in terms of education, so demands are different, and she’d like dollars to be “unencumbered” by “cookie cutter” solutions.

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