A) ATN believes that growth and development decisions are key to making urban neighborhoods walkable, bikeable, and livable. Do you agree? If so, what specifically would you propose to implement these concepts?

B) In your opinion, has the Commission done enough to equitably share tax dollars and guide growth and prosperity generally, and more specifically, to implement the Southern Action Plan? What else should we do to ensure growth is equitable and benefits all of our citizens?

County Commission
District 1

Terrance Barber

A)

I certainly believe that good governmental decision making is necessary for those things. I will say that my candidacy is focused on serving what has traditionally been underserved communities . . . and those tend to be impoverished communities. These things you mentioned, like walkability are important. We should track where people walk now, get out there and observe. Then, we should be talking with the community about what they see as most important to do first based on what’s been observed and having the community help interpret those observations.

B)

It gets back to talking with citizens and being willing to follow up with what they are telling you as a politician or planner. Too often, it’s government telling people that the projects are in their best interests. They are not starting with the question, “What would make your life better?” There’s been quite a bit of new public spending on the Southside, but it’s not helping the basic citizens. Look at Midtown, there’s been a push to make it a place to live, work, and play; the infrastructure is in place with businesses, parks, sidewalks, and homes. There’s few places like that on Southside despite all the public spending. What does that tell you? We need that type of sustainable and prosperity-oriented infrastructure on the Southside to have more livable communities.

Donna Pearl Cotterell

A)

Yes.  But we need to make sure that we implement those things in a way that the surrounding neighborhood sees as useful. I think we can all agree that safe sidewalks are a good idea, particularly in the south side of town where so many residents walk rather than drive. But there are some projects that get built that seem like good ideas to planners and a few selected “community resource people” but that don’t meet the needs of most people in the neighborhood. I think of the St. Marks Trail extension that goes up through the south side to connect to Cascades Park. People that live near that extension don’t use it, particularly at night. They would have much preferred that there be more safe sidewalks built along neighborhood streets. Similarly with Speed Spencer Stephens Park, it must have seemed like a good idea to planners, but there’s really nothing to do there.  Then, at night, it is too often a place of prostitution and drug use. It’s not a park that was built for the surrounding community.

B)

There’s not an easy answer to this question. There is more tax revenue being spent on the South Side to reduce the inequality that existed for too many years. Yet, by the projects selected, residents do not see much of a return, much of an improvement in their quality of life. We need to empower citizens so they can convince commissioners and staff to produce projects and services that the citizens want. People feel that government doesn’t want to listen to them. We need to convince people to speak out. Plus, we need to convince commissioners and staff that, say, a woman working three jobs so she can support her family still knows what she wants; don’t ignore or discount her.

Bill Proctor

A)

Yes, I would agree.  There’s a lot to be done to make in happen in my district. When the streets were built south of Magnolia Drive, they were narrower than streets to the north. Without sidewalks, these narrow streets are particularly dangerous for people who have to walk in the streets to get where they need to go. We’ve built a bus transfer station, but it’s unsafe for people to walk to get to it. We need to recognize that many people in my district have to walk, probably more than any other district. They need safe sidewalks and also more nearby retail and grocery stores. We need those sorts of infrastructure improvements to counteract years of neglect.

B)

This is a complicated issue and I struggle with it. As I just mentioned, some infrastructure development is necessary for safety and making neighborhoods more livable. But, I’ve been thinking we need development in my district that I consider a little d development, not a capital D.  I did support putting in sewer pipes to Woodville, a capital D development, to reduce the use of septic tanks and improve water quality.  But, I do worry about the long-term impacts for residents. We know many residents are below the poverty level. They are struggling to make it by day to day. Too often with capital D development the improvements make the cost of living for homeowners and renters too high – rents go up and property taxes are increased. The result is people are priced out of their homes, homes their families have lived in perhaps for generations. We have to find a way to do little d development to improve residents’ quality of life without pricing them out of their homes. I’m trying to find that help without harm approach. I would love to see the Fairgrounds have a stronger economic impact and to see food deserts dwindle and to see small businesses flourish. I think we could do those types of things to achieve a more equitable use of tax dollars.

County Commission
District 2

Sabrina Allen

A)

Yes. District 2 is bikeable and walkable where I am. We can enjoy a great bike trail right in our district, to St. Marks. Specifically for District 2, I need to see the other areas to understand their needs and I am going to meet with everyone and go to every area in District 2 to understand the issues of my neighbors throughout District 2. It will be my job to advocate for the needs of District 2.

B)

No, they have not done enough. Something has to be done about crime in this city. The best thing about being in the county and where I am is not having the high crime and it should not be tolerated anywhere in Leon County. Equitably distributing tax dollars to support every area would prevent the high crime in the city.

Lynda Bell

Lynda Bell chose not to be interviewed.

Christian Caban

A)

I am particularly focused on District 2 and within that want to have smart and safe infrastructure that serves kids. Too many kids have to walk to schools and they don’t have safe sidewalks to use. We need sidewalks that are first off, built, and then have lighting and, ideally, even covers of some sort to protect kids from bad weather. The same could be said for bus stops for schools and for city buses. I like making neighborhoods more walkable, bikable, and the rest, but I’d like to think bigger than that. My question is, how can we create the infrastructure that gets kids right for success?  Let’s build that infrastructure.

B)

There has been quite a lot of tax-funded projects in District 2 over the past few years. That’s good as this district needs to catch up on spending that historically it has not received at an equitable rate. I certainly want to continue that “catch up” approach. But we need to focus more on projects that can have a more direct effect on people’s lives. I would like to see the district build the physical and economic infrastructure to support many more small businesses, make it safer to walk to schools, and make sure we preserve and enhance the natural features within and near the district, such as Wakulla Springs.

Hannah Crow

A)

Yes, I agree. Healthy kids and families need to be able to get outside into green space. In Ft. Braden it’s too rural for sidewalks, so we developed a walking path. It goes from our community center to our community garden to our meeting area. We developed an advocacy team to get it done, and also worked with KCCI to get benches, etc. We also built exercise areas along the path. And we were able to expand our playground to add new ADA features. We needed these things because our school has poor health rates.

B)

I’ve looked at the budgets and I see that the commissioners have been trying to distribute funding to all districts. We need to look at the whole county and work collaboratively.

Will Crowley

A)

As an urban planner, I certainly agree. Over the past 20 years we’ve learned how to redesign urban areas to make them more livable–everything from supporting local business areas, as in Midtown, installing protected bike lanes and safe sidewalks, reducing traffic speeds through road design, creating multi-modal hubs that make mass transit and alternative transportation options more viable, and the like. It’s a policy choice to implement these improvements. We have been slowly evolving in that direction, but we need to be doing more and not just in the affluent areas. When we are looking at more controversial options, such as no parking minimums and zero lot line developments, we need to do a much better job of educating and working with citizens to determine where, how, if, and when these could contribute to livability and affordability in urban areas.

B)

No, and particularly with regard to Blueprint funds. Blueprint is a sales tax and as such it is a regressive tax that has a disproportionate impact on low-income residents. Yet even while “paying more” low-income residents are getting less benefit from Blueprint projects, particularly in my district and District 1 of the county. The FSU stadium funding is simply the latest and perhaps most egregious example of this reality. We need to do a much better job of bringing low-income residents into the community decision-making process regarding what projects Blueprint funds. Instead of big-ticket items like the stadium and widening roads, we should be focusing on creating livable communities where people can live, work, shop, and play.  Imagine what a different world it would be if something like that could have been done in the area around the Meadows Mobile Home Park. Also, when Blueprint funds projects, we should prioritize employing local vendors. Finally, too many projects turn out to be empty promises as the projects change from what they were first advertised to be, as with the Airport Gateway evolution.

Max Epstein

A)

Absolutely. I live in 32304 where there are not a lot of sidewalks in District 2, particularly West Tharpe Street. That will be one of top priorities to get a sidewalk there so our kids don’t have to walk to school in the street. The ranking of our projects keeps changing over time. West Tharpe street has been bumped to 2040, IF we even have money by then, which I am doubtful we will. 

First, we need to stop expanding the Urban Service Area. Even before that we need a long term plan about how to grow and how to make sure these are a priority. It seems straight now it is all done Willy Nilly. 

We also need to be very aware of multimodal/micromodel options. We need to have neighborhood nodes, and account for the electrification of transportation. When I see a new sidewalk go in, it is only about 4ft-6f wide. There are ways to do this that are forward-thinking and account for walking, biking, scooting, etc.

B)

Absolutely not. Every decision I have seen our local governments make are for wealthy developers that take tax dollars away from the southside. I am aware of the Southern Action Plan but it is not being taken as seriously as other areas such as Welaunee. For example, on Welaunee we spent an entire 18 months working on Welaunee, why can’t we get that kind of drive for our neighborhoods that really need it? This is another reason why I am running.

To ensure growth is equitable and benefits all our citizens we should follow the comp plan and actually do what is in the comp plan. Specifically moving forward, we need to have a comprehensive reorganization, reranking of all the projects coming from the City, the County and Blueprint and we need to prioritize the neighborhoods who have waited the longest and where our tax dollars would have the biggest impact to make them more equitable.

Manny Joanas

Manny Joanas chose not to be interviewed.

County Commission
District 3

Joey Lamar

A)

The Comp Plan talks about making neighborhoods walkable and bikeable, but I don’t see enough implementation. I understand that bike paths are not feasible everywhere, such as on Old Bainbridge Road, which is a narrow road and a protected canopy road. But there are many other opportunities for bike paths, such as in the Hartsfield area, where there’s room to accommodate bike paths but nothing is being constructed.

B)

The Southside has traditionally been under-served. It’s finally starting to get its fair share, but the new development is starting to price poorer people out of their neighborhoods. This is making it harder for some African-Americans to buy into a neighborhood. Capitalism takes advantage of the vulnerable. Government must step in and help. I want to work on crime, better education, better day-care options, better after-school options, and stable housing on the Southside. These are not separate issues; they are all inter-related and we need to understand their totality.

Rick Minor

A)

Right now, this community has 700 miles of trails and greenways, which I support and believe need to be encouraged.  I personally opposed the Thomasville Road multi-use path because I got a majority of negative feedback from neighbors, who were concerned about the safety of a path crossing the large number of access points on such a busy road. I proposed an alternative (which Commissioners Matlow and Maddox supported), but it didn’t get enough votes. Now that it has passed, I’m committed to working in good faith with FDOT and others to ensure that the path is as safe as possible and as user-friendly as possible and that it minimizes the loss of trees. Once the design is ready for review, I’ll work with FDOT and neighbors to identify any safety issues and then work to address these. I’m generally a strong supporter of greenway trails but, as with any project, you must weigh the pros and cons and take citizen input into account. Ultimately, I represent the citizens. We have a lot of trails to be proud of, but we need more and we need better connectivity.

B)

For decades, the answer has been an emphatic no, but in recent years we’ve made significant investments in the Southside. Some projects in the pipeline have not started yet. For example, there has been considerable investment in sewers on the Southside. Also, there has been investment in the Orange Avenue apartments. We recently approved 3 apartment complexes to be converted into affordable housing. 

Damon Victor

A)

One of my major priorities, if elected, would be to ensure that everyone has safe pathways to walk and bike. It’s important for kids to be able to walk to school safely or for people to walk to the grocery store safely. Many neighborhoods still don’t have safe pathways. We need to inventory the neighborhoods that still don’t have safe pathways and then make those the first priority in getting that infrastructure. Our priorities are out of balance. I’d also like to see that our new sidewalks and pathways are tree-lined and shady because this makes them more usable and attractive to use.

B)

Tax dollars are not being used equitably. Welaunee and FSU are just two examples. (See answer above.) Campaign financing is also part of the problem. Lobbyists and wealthy individuals make huge donations and then they get to guide our public decisions. Donors should not be in control of government. Ordinary people can see the inequality and they know that the game is rigged. I’ve returned PAC money because I don’t want to be beholden to anyone. I want to be independent in my judgment and decisions. Although Citizens United prohibits limiting the amount of contributions, candidates should police themselves and this should be an election issue.

County Commission
District 5

Paula DeBoles-Johnson

A)

I agree. We all need safe spaces to be outdoors. Indianhead has no sidewalks and we had to take our children to the St. Marks trail to ride bikes.  Everyone needs exercise. Children also need to be safe waiting for the bus and walking to school. Communities should be the ones to identify what they need. After all, it’s our money.

B)

I am a county employee; there are lots of things we do well, such as the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program, which helps people move out of poverty. I’d like to see more money invested in that and more services to help people move up. Citizens are crying out for what they want and government should help people in the community flourish.

David O'Keefe

A)

I agree we need to make our neighborhoods more bikeable and walkable. As the Tallahassee/Leon county area develops, we see a big increase in traffic. I think the answer is not building bigger roads. We have to encourage other means of transportation as Tallahassee is not a city that is truly accessible for folks who do not drive vehicles.  It’s not only traffic, but we have to drastically cut down on our carbon usage. Multi-modal transportation, shared and public transportation are some of the most effective ways to do this. 

Whenever you have walkable, bikeable open spaces, you have a stronger and more resilient community which greatly improves and positively impacts a community’s sense of place and a stronger community.  Every problem that we have, we can solve by coming together as a community.  

Even though the City funds the public bus system, it doesn’t mean that the County is uninvolved. I think investment in public transportation should be one of our biggest priorities and will be a good return on our investment.   

Right now, we have a city that is deadly to walk and bike in. Yet, we are not investing in good lighting and sidewalks. I ride a bike, but unfortunately it is not safe.  To encourage bike use, we have to make it safe. This can be done with separated bike lanes, expanding our bus service beyond Capital Circle, and other things.  We need to focus on this.

B)

I am not specifically aware of the Southern Action Plan. I do know that we need to make sure the southern part of Leon County is getting an equitable share of resources.  My opinion is that when it comes to resources, as a City and County we have abandoned the south side in comparison to any other area. While I am running for the seat in District 5, I am running to serve all people in Leon County.  For decades, we have neglected to give the southside the resources and when we have given resources, we have done so in a way that the people downtown want and not necessarily what people in the community on the southside want.  

Changing this involves not only fulfilling the commitments for all the projects that have been on the list for a long time, with projects often getting pushed further and further down the list, but we need to give more resources to make up for our past failures to provide resources.  If we have been ignoring areas, we can’t just say, ‘well, now you’re equal.” We have to give more resources to areas neglected before it starts to even out.  I am a proponent of going to the community and finding out what they need, then trusting them to know and finding a way to provide that. Let the people lead.  

I believe in “Community First” development which ensures that the residents impacted by the development have a say in what happens and benefit from the change.  We don’t need to have people bounced out of an area that then become gentrified. 

I understand that saying ‘yes’ to one project means saying ‘no’ to another.

Jay Revell

A)

Leon County has over 700 miles of trails.  We are quickly becoming one of the great trail cities in the US. In many neighborhoods, people have the ability to go straight from their neighborhood onto a trail. We have a lot on the commercial side like the multi-modal district requirements. I think we should have requirements for large, raw land developments that are coming online. The developer should be required to develop additional greenway trails that connect to existing trails in the vicinity.  We should insist on this as a part of the development plan. Again, codifying our community’s character and culture. Things like our trails are a part of our culture. 

B)

Historically, no, we have not done a good job, but I think we are getting better but we still have a long way to go.  I like the idea of a seamless community.  I think we should be able to go from one part of the county to another and never feel like you’re in a part that has been neglected.  

I think it goes back to being intentional in the Commission’s decision making. There’s a demand on our resources across the entire community, but if you have places that are deficient, then we have to reset our thinking and prioritization. An example that comes to mind is some of the deficiencies we have in fire services across the County.  We are two to three fire stations behind and that hits people in their pocket books because homeowner’s insurance is based upon the home’s location to fire services (fire rating). 

We have to reprioritize our spending to make sure certain areas are not being left behind as new developments are built out with their own infrastructure—roads, etc. When you are in a different part of the community that is not growing at the same rate, the sense of being left behind by public investment is just exacerbated. With new development, not only does one area get new roads and sidewalks, connections, etc., but the money that it costs the local government to maintain those things also travels to that area. More and more of those resources get pulled out farther and farther away from places that perhaps need it. 

When you think about the southern parts of our County, it is time for us to invest there in ways that can provide solutions to some of the issues we are facing there.  

Dustin Rivest

A)

I think it is in the best interest of any developer to create communities that are walkable, bikeable and livable. That’s a major part of what any community is. It adds extreme value to any new development.  I don’t necessarily know where the role of government is in regards to mandating developers to do that.  There needs to be some sort of guidance on what the local government expects.

For older neighborhoods, we have to consider whether the disruption to the existing infrastructure to create bikeable, walkable neighborhoods is doable. In some cases, to create new pathways in an established neighborhood can cause extenuating uncomfortableness—changing traffic patterns, dirt, flooding, and it may become just a mess.  The decisions to make these changes in established neighborhoods needs to be made with the residents on the streets, not in City Hall or Commission Chambers. Let’s have the meeting with the residents and the Commissioners right there in the neighborhood. Let’s go to them and not make people have to come to city hall, making it easier for them to give their feedback. 

B)

I’m not entirely familiar with the Southern Action Plan, but in general I don’t think we’ve equitably shared resources across the community.  I know the amount of money given in one zip code is completely different in another zip code, in some cases it’s not even close. 

Some communities have been given millions and millions of dollars trying to fix problems in our community.  I don’t think money fixes anything.  I think people and heart fix things.  You can look at the amount of money that has been spent in specific areas of our community and not see the return, or continuing to see the same issues come back and back.  

One could argue that there is a lot more development in the Northeast and infrastructure that has been around longer and needs less money to maintain than something out on Apalachee Parkway or on the Southside. One thing I am confident in is that there has been a lot of wasteful spending.  As a businessman, I would be looking at why the County spends so much money on things.  There’s a lot of “back scratching.” There is a lot of money given to overlapping services and if we can look at those and readjust those, then we could be serving everyone more equitably.  

I think that as Commissioners we always need to be looking into the future and what it could look like. Ask: What is our community more than likely going to look like?  We need to be proactive rather than reactive.  

We have so many places we can grow that are not necessarily in urban infill areas. One of the things I commonly hear is that people don’t want more infill in their neighborhood.  I understand the purpose of urban infill, but we also have to tell ourselves that there is so much potential to develop outside of our urban services core if we have the right infrastructure in place.  I feel that the conversation around only urban infill is disrupting potential smart, sustainable growth that is walkable and bikeable on the outskirts of town.  

I’ve always had a heart for real estate and building small communities. I would love to see Tallahassee become a place that has small and unique neighborhoods/communities.  Communities like in Southwood, which offers a variety of homes, including the Cottages that are small dwellings.

I would like to see us create something like ‘oversize’ tiny homes that are smart, sustainable, livable and community focused. We have a problem talking about affordable housing and the terms that are being used revolve heavily around rental rather than opportunities to build equity through home ownership.  I think if we build 900 – 1,000 sq ft single story homes, for example, with two bedrooms, one and a half bath with a nice outdoor area, we could make some housing that is really affordable.  I’m talking about creating communities that people want to move to.

County Commission
At-Large Group 2

Rudolph Ferguson, Sr.

A)

Yes, this is very important. Before we tear down and build new, we must understand that most mortgages are 30 years so we are part of these communities for a very long time. Even if just 10-15 years voices should be heard. We need to make sure all communities have conveniences. Residents of Fort Braden have to come all the way in town for a shopping mall, emergency services must be available, and no one should have to drive 20 miles to a grocery store. We should ensure the entire county has all essential services – and focus on most vulnerable communities first. Help those who want and try and aspire to do well. When the whole county comes up, no one will feel superior to others. It helps when ideas and concepts are brought to the table.

B)

I am glad to be asked this question because what has really stuck with me has been the decision to not listen to citizens. The FSU vote was misguided. While we love sports, is it incumbent on us to be careful with tax dollars. First, we should deal with the economics of our communities. Some are disenfranchised and really need help. We need to pay attention to the most needy. When we address poverty and crime there are many benefits. Money is scarce but we have an educated citizenry and financial resources that can help support unmet needs. I think so far “just enough” has been done like the student who settles for a B or C to pass a class.

Josh Johnson

A)

First, I will address walkable and bikeable. Not only by common sense but also statistically walking and biking are important to human physical health and to our economic health. When urban areas are more walkable businesses do better and transportation is not as much as an issue. With Amazon moving in there are two sides to the argument. We could make it a good thing but there is no public transit because it is outside the city boundary. It is completely obvious that walking and biking help us thrive. But it cannot always be quantified. A supporter has talked about bike lanes but some are ill- or under- planned and they are not always done well, for example, lanes run out or there are inappropriate shoulders and lane widths. If we plan better, we will see areas benefit from it.

Secondly, livability. Growth and development means how will we build structures? It is a systemic issue that touches resources and investment. You take away from livability if development is too heavy on “big box” stores for economic vitalization. Money could be better used to equitably grow and develop. Lots of urban communities over time are followed by a cloud trail of gentrification that pushes communities out. We can look at sprawl versus infill. This is key to concrete solutions to systemic issues.

B)

NO! We can look at specific examples like the Blueprint sales tax, which is a regressive tax, by the way. I do not believe that the majority of citizens are aware that it is a slush fund that is not equitably disbursed. I’ve been here 34 years and I hear from my grandfathers that the south side looks the same compared to other areas. We can step outside and drive around. From Providence to Bond, they have the airport over their left shoulder, railroad lines through their spine, and a wastewater treatment facility. What else should we do? Growth needs to be equitable and beneficial to all. Make actions affirmative not just fund a project. We should not do three projects on one side of town before starting to balance the other side.

Nick Maddox

A)

I do agree. We can involve not just the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) but also our multimodal transportation plan to make sure neighborhoods are bikeable, walkable, and livable. To ensure sidewalks are wide enough, parks kept up, that all have good quality of life. But are we hearing all the different voices? We need to ask what is desired. All of that is important.

B)

If you look at what is coming up the next five years, the amount of projects, and the tax dollars being spent – there is a real Action Plan. We just need to continue to stay focused on plans and projects to ensure they are executed in a timely fashion.

Dominique ('Nikki') Danielle Zumbo

A)

I have assessed areas around town with a college friend who is a young civil engineer. He believes that there are considerable errors in a lot of the sidewalk and bike infrastructure. For example, gutters running into sidewalks and bike signs painted on the wrong side. So, I would propose getting what we have right – not necessarily more of it. I would speak to DOT and correct the civil engineering and architecture of projects before putting more money into it. We are supposed to have the best.

B)

I don’t know what the Commission has done, but the tax collector receives lots of tax dollars. There is a need for honest work with tax and property appraiser. Intermingling and a lack of understanding has been detrimental, so more communication is needed. In history class I learned that infrastructure is set up to segregate people, which violates fair housing laws. Affordable housing is not well kept but more like ghetto, slums, and shacks. There are no sidewalks and lights are out, so homeowners have no incentive to keep nice. Complaints are futile because HOAs don’t do anything, or they drop the ball. I know friends that have been served letters for long grass, but others are responsible. People should just start doing their jobs and paid well for it. Gentrification does not have to be a bad word. If people are kicked out and rents skyrockets, then that is bad. If you do the numbers and make sure investors are not putting people in bad predicaments. All tenants should be represented, and consultants must follow fair housing.

City Commission
Seat 3

David Bellamy

A)

I absolutely agree. I think most of the new developments are coming with sidewalks, near roads with bike trails so a good job is being done with that now in new developments.  This needs to be done by going back with the older neighborhoods that don’t have those services.  We need to allow home builders to be able to plan ahead for these services they will slowly buy up all the unused land and build unaffordable housing there displacing the residents who can’t afford to move back into the neighborhoods they were displaced from.

Newer developments do a better job planning for walkable, bikeable and well-lit neighborhoods.  We need to retrofit older neighborhoods and to plan for them so they don’t get run over with new development.

B)

Step 1 with equity is to treat our underserved areas the same way we treat our Northeast Tallahassee. Simple things like picking up the trash from empty lots, cutting back the growth at City parks, make sure all the lights are working.  So, for starters, all we have to do is apply the same standard of care to our underserved areas as we do our Northeast areas.

I met with the Griffin Heights neighborhood association, and they mentioned that it would be nice to have a median with grass and flowers growing on it that would cheer up the place.  That’s what’s on the Northeast side of town, so they aren’t asking for anything special, they’re just asking for the same.

Step 1 – treat all our areas the same.

Step 2 – another way to address economic discrepancies is to allow careers to come to Tallahassee.  While I love Tallahassee the way it is, I’m also aware that the way Tallahassee is, is not good for everybody. We have to sacrifice some to allow the impoverished to have good careers that will change the economic disparities.  A minimum wage of $15 an hour job at a big box store is not a career.  This is only $31,000 a year at $15 an hour where $41,000 is considered a functional level of poverty for single mother with one child. Changes must be made to help our poorer neighbors.

For instance, when the Office of Economic Vitality finds a company that wants go to the airport at Innovation Park to provide careers, with 401(k)s, matching contributions, pensions… it has to be allowed or we have to admit that I only want to help the poor, if it’s no skin off my back.

It’s harder to fix economic disparity than it is to offer the solutions. If you provide good careers that people can be proud of and can learn a trade that they can take anywhere in the United States, that’s how you fix economic disparities. 

We almost had Honda Jet that wanted to come here and build their jet airplanes at the airport in the poorest ZIP Code in the state, 32304. That would have provided jobs that you could take anywhere.  A jet engine mechanic can go anywhere they want making 6 figures.  But because so many people claiming they want to help the poor were unwilling to allow that to happen, we ended up with our poorer neighbors still not ending up with careers.

And going back to the way you stop it, is don’t allow people to buy up the land in our underserved areas and develop it into properties that the previous residents can’t afford. Especially when you consider right now that there is nowhere else for them to go.

Jeremy Matlow

A)

I agree these are great goals. Every neighborhood is different, but when looking at the urban core, there needs to be more investment in pedestrian, cycling infrastructure. The road I live on doesn’t have sidewalks so he doesn’t feel safe taking his kids walking or biking. There needs to be renewed effort in connectivity to parks, shopping but his and other neighborhoods are fighting for basic infrastructure like street lighting and sidewalks.

One of the better ideas that’s taking place now in southside neighborhoods is enabling them to come up with spending plans, investment plans. The actual community members are making decisions on how the funds are spent but the current budgets aren’t’ large enough to accomplish the transformation changes needed. But this is as close to participative budgeting government as we have seen.  This concept should be expanded to other neighborhoods, too This can help in getting ahead of major changes like parking garages and other large projects that were not suggested by the neighborhood but came down from on high.

B)

It starts with public investment when discussion equity.  It’s said that the southside doesn’t look like the northside of town. What it looks like is that decades of decisions that benefit some areas over other areas.

I was such an opponent of the Welaunee Comp Plan and Northeast Gateway expansions which is dumping hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment, clearcutting large areas of forest and the local neighborhoods didn’t want this expansion, but it was fast-tracked. So now there is hundreds of millions of dollars that can’t bring equity to neighborhoods that already exist.

It’s said that new development will create the taxes to help us do new things, but it seems that tax money just ends up going to new develop and it never trickles down to the neighborhoods that need it and have paid their taxes all along.

Equity can be achieved with the government leading by example and invest in equal measures. As an example, we will give $6 million dollars to a neighborhood but $80 million dollars to a developer to build a new roadway. There is a huge imbalance in the amount of money being used to address these issues.

City Commission
Seat 4

John Dailey

A)

I agree, and believe in the 880 cities approach that growth and development should provide what is needed and desired by people from age 8 to 80. Communities should be walkable and bikeable. The challenge is in retrofitting communities that were designed around the car. Decisions should be made on whether urban redevelopment should go up, out, or both. I support public transportation to reduce the use of cars, but it has to be well planned. The Bradfordville park-and-ride effort failed due to a lack of use by the public for reasons including public transportation (buses) did not go where people needed to get to for work and shopping, and a lack of education on why it matters. I agree that we need intermodal connectivity and that investing in infrastructure and educating people on why it’s important to use public transportation instead of driving is needed and a good investment for the Community. People will use public transport only when and where it makes sense. An example is the Gaines Street area where students could go from campus to sports events to restaurants and shopping in a compact area using public transportation alternatives as well as walking and biking. We need to develop iconic, efficient, and easy to use alternatives to cars for transportation. It should be smart, practical, and well-planned. We need to commit to providing the infrastructure and education to the community on the benefits. We need to change how people think about alternative forms of transportation and develop a social commitment to alternatives to cars for transportation.

B)

We are headed in right direction, but need to do more. I supported the Blueprint projects that have spent $127M for improvements in the Southside. There is over $1B planned for Southside development projects. We need more affordable and low-income housing. Housing stocks are needed across all sectors. We have more affordable housing in the pipe-line now than over the past 50 years, but it is still not sufficient to meet the needs. I am interested to see how the Airport Gateway Project and making the airport international works out toward enhancing economic development and return on investment. Southside infrastructure projects are important and our Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) requirements and goals contribute to equity. The SoMo Walls project is a good example of public and private investment contributing to enhance equity to the Southside. SoMo achieved 45% MWBE participation and exceeded the 35% participation goal for the project. We need to leverage our local dollars to bring state and federal dollars to the table. Our partnership with HUD to build low-income housing is a good example of this.

Kristin Dozier

A)

I agree.  I think we’ve made some progress with the bike/pedestrian master plan and changes to the CRTPA that have helped them to get additional grants and other funding for trails. There is a need for substantial investments in neighborhoods that have not seen many of the improvements, and have open ditches and no sidewalks. These infrastructure improvements increase property values and improve safety and walkability. We need more action in filling in gaps by investing in the areas that lack this basis infrastructure.

B)

No. Regarding the Southside neighborhoods, there was much planning done but little action in 2010, and the same is true now in 2022. We have good plans and funding set aside to implement, but we should be able to pay for the basic infrastructure needs out of the capital improvement budgets, and use the set-aside funds to assist with implementation of the Neighborhood First Plans, such as the robust plans developed for Frenchtown, Bond, and Providence. Folks in these communities have been asked to sit through a lot of planning and they have not seen much action. We should take quick action with the funds and implement the Plans.

Michael Ibrahim

A)

Yes, I agree.  I think Tallahassee should be good for walking and riding bikes.  I think talking to and working with people from places where this has been successful is key, to find out how they have succeeded.  The developers who benefit from the MMTD designation should contribute to the physical and social amenities that are intended for the MMTD; a fund could be set up for this purpose.

B)

No, my business is in the southside and there has not been enough done to help the people who live there.  There is a lot of poverty.  There are few good jobs.  We need to invite medium-sized businesses there; then money will flow to the area, people will move there, and schools will be more adequately funded.  The city could lower taxes for businesses that are starting up or provide low-interest loans.  The housing there is rentals and not neighborhoods.  We need to mix residential and commercial.  Commercial property brings value.  Another problem is there is no fresh food; that impacts health and well-being and mental development.

Whitfield Leland III

A)

Yes, I agree. I propose we have representatives from citizen organizations sit on the various planning committees. All of our committees should include citizens who are on the ground and understand what the communities need, and not just developers and other business interests.

B)

No, they have not done enough. They just move projects around and get little done. The Southern Action Plan has been around for 25 years, and we don’t see things happening. From day-one action is needed to implement the Plan. The Commission should take action and get things moving on the Plan and work with the communities to understand and provide what is actually needed. We have the funds to do this, and we should.

City Commission
Seat 5

Shelby Green

A)

I do agree that smart and sustainable growth and development are needed for enhanced livability, fueled by data. For example, I propose that we regularly collect data on where there are higher incidents of traffic and bike safety incidents and accidents, so that the public and the city government can know what is needed. The data will help us know how our infrastructure is lacking and how to adjust accordingly on an ongoing basis. Several aspects of the Airport Gateway project need to be revisited, because this project causes roads to be widened and increase car traffic and gas emissions, which also run through Innovation Park providing increased accessibility only to students and faculty. Are these assets or detriments to the community?  Growth and development needs to serve all residents and be sustainable, to ensure walkable livable and healthy neighborhoods.

B)

No, the commission has not done enough.  Single family Housing growth has occurred in the Northeast or in the southwest for luxury student housing. This approach does not serve all of the people.  We need a smarter and more conscious approach to development in all areas, particularly in the Southside in order to better maintain our natural resources. Development and growth need to be integrated and built out in a way to preserve conservation and good water quality.

Adner Marcelin

A)

I absolutely support those things. We need to provide more sidewalks in neighborhoods, to make them walkable and safe, we need to repair the existing sidewalks that are broken (recently our mayor fell on one of our broken sidewalks) to reduce liability, and provide improved lighting. The City does what it wants to do and is not responsive to the peoples’ needs when developing policies.

B)

No. More needs to be done. There aren’t any grocery chains in the Southside, we need to address the food deserts in our communities, and provide options for other services and resources to these communities. Eliminating blight and making these communities walkable and safe increases access once resources are available. The $27 million given to FSU could have helped economic development on the Southside.

Dianne Williams-Cox

A)

I agree. However, not all parts of the city are the same. Every area is different and they all do not have the same priorities. 
B)

In the past, Southside has not been equitably funded. Funding and projects have increased for the Southside. Eighteen out of 31 Blueprint projects are designated for the Southside for infrastructure. Development of the Southside Park is underway.  There is a lot going on in the Southside that has not been effectively communicated to the community. For example, there is a Facebook page with updates, commission meetings are televised so that citizens are kept informed about what is going on. More needs to be done to make sure the citizens are aware of what’s going on.  

As a commissioner, I pushed for the issues identified in the Strategic Plan, such as impact on poverty, safety, infrastructure needs, and overall quality of life issues. New CRA funding has been provided for the Bond, Frenchtown and Griffin Heights neighborhoods.