County Commission District 1: Bill Proctor
1) Interests and Reasons for Running
A) Tell us a little about yourself, where you live, and your involvement in your neighborhood (issues impacting your neighborhood).
I grew up in District 1, along Ridge Road and in the Jake Gaither Park Neighborhood and I still live there. As the Leon County District 1 Commissioner, there are many actions I take or support, such as infrastructure, that support my neighborhood.
B) What event(s) led you to run for elected office?
Let me answer that from the perspective of why I’m running for reelection. It became very obvious to me as we formulated the county government’s COVID response that Tallahassee and Leon County benefit from having seasoned commissioners that know how to bring the power of government to bear in a competent way and without being overbearing. With COVID, we were trying to match the CDC recommendations to the state requirements in a way that would be most successful in providing safe healthcare. That’s in an environment that was quickly becoming politicalized. Then, there was the federal money that came down to the local level to get the economy going again. Again, it became clear to me that knowing the political process and being able to make sure it worked right to get the money distributed equitably and efficiently. I worked in the Chiles administration, I teach constitutional law at FAMU, and I’ve been a country commissioner, all of which prepared me to face the challenges exemplified by COVID. I believe we’ll be dealing with similar governmental crises in the near future given the political climate we’re in these days.
2) Comprehensive Plan Update Process
A) Are you familiar with the comprehensive planning process and its role in guiding growth and development, and protecting neighborhoods?
Yes, I know how the plan should work as the constitution that sets the standards for guiding growth and development. It’s naïve to believe the plan works as written. We see it every year that the comp plan is changed to benefit what I call the “bigs.” That is, the large, established development interests. Many of the commissioners and staff do not stand up to the bigs and make them toe the line regarding the comp plan.
B) What role should citizens have in deciding on growth and development policies for our community?
It hurts me to say it, but significant citizen involvement doesn’t happen like it did years ago. It sounds good on paper all the things we say we do to gather citizen input, but it’s done to little effect when it comes to following the will of the people. But, like I said, that’s on citizens as well as officeholders and staff. People have to demand a say and that their say be incorporated into the policies, at least to a reasonable degree. Too many people have tuned out of the upfront work and only get involved when it’s too late, when the bulldozer is clearing the land.
3) Process Used to Decide on the Use of Public Properties
What role should citizens and neighborhoods have in deciding on the use of public properties and how do you think and how do you think that should work, for example in the development of the Northwood Mall site?
For many people in the Black community, the police are not viewed as being in their neighborhoods to serve and protect. The police department too often works in ways that do not help with acceptance. I was happy to have worked on getting the new police headquarters moved out of Southside and up to the Northwood Mall site. White communities tend to be more deferential and supportive of police. In that sense, in this case, the move of the police headquarters was a win for citizen participation for public properties and how they are being used. That’s a good thing.
4) Growth and Development Decisions
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?
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) 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?
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.
5) Commissioner/Staff/Management Roles
What do you see as the appropriate role between staff and the commission in decision making?
Staff should basically vet a potential policy or project for the commissioners. That is, how it fits or doesn’t with existing policies, how well it meets the standards of the commission for being fair and consistent, its legality, and options and costs of what it takes to implement. At the county, we’ve done a very good job of hiring and developing smart and capable staff. That’s a double-edged sword. On one edge, staff do good research and provide clear information. On the other, they have a point of view and that may not represent the best interests of the community at large. When there is a lack of experience on the commission, that point of view can lead to an overstepping of staff’s role. We have had significant commissioner turnover in the last few years, and will have more with this election, and that points out the need to have some experienced commissioners to serve as the guardrails for keeping staff focused on the role they should be playing.
6) Issues of Interest to Candidate
Are there one or two issues you would like to work on and/or take leadership on as a Commissioner?
Yes. First, as I mentioned, I want to improve the infrastructure in District 1 in a way that improves the quality of life for residents but doesn’t lead to cost increases that drives them from their homes. Besides adding safe sidewalks and more small businesses, I’d like to be active on completing the road expansions on Capital Circle Southwest and Woodville Highway and the upgrading of the Fairgrounds.
Second, I’ll be pushing for certain neighborhoods in my district to be annexed by the city. Currently, these neighborhoods are on city utilities, but they are not receiving other city services, nor can residents vote in city elections. Since a substantial part of utility payments go to fund city services other than utilities, this situation is taxation without representation. Being in the city could help them with getting roads paved, sidewalks built, and other needed improvements.
7) Votes on Key Issues
A) If you had been a commissioner during the vote to expand the Urban Service Area to include the Welaunee Arch (2800 rural acres) north of I-10, how would you have voted? Explain your answer.
If you had been a commissioner during the vote to expand the Urban Service Area to include the Welaunee Arch (2800 rural acres) north of I-10, how would you have voted? Explain your answer.
I did vote in favor of the expansion. My view was that this had been in the works since the 1990s, a lot of the planning for the development had been completed and was sound. It was time for us to act. Perhaps more importantly, my district is made up of a blue collar workforce. Welaunee as it develops will need plenty of carpenters, bricklayers, concrete workers, truck drivers, etc. That’s jobs for my residents. Those jobs enable the residents to get a home, pay child support, stay out of jail, and do the things that make for productive citizens. I appreciate the economic development of a tract of that size.
B) How about the vote to give $27 million of Blueprint money to FSU for stadium upgrades? Explain your answer.
I voted for the funding because I believe in the economic development potential it can bring forth. But, not just in terms of more people in the seats at games and staying in town for a few days. Good facilities, including stadiums, bring the best athletes to FSU. Some of them may go pro. We’ve seen FSU’s football success generate good economic and social returns from a fair number of its players. Look at Peter Boulware; he employs a lot of people at his car dealership. Warrick Dunn helps people get houses. We have others in town in real estate and other businesses that grow those companies and that means jobs and philanthropy.
Plus, between Jacksonville and Tuscaloosa, there’s only FSU and UF that can pull in 80,000 people to a game. The money from that crowd supports the Title IX female sports as well as the men’s minor sports. The sales tax revenues contribute to a variety of government projects too, including Blueprint projects.
8) Additional Comments We appreciate you sharing your time and thoughts with us. Is there anything you haven’t had a chance to tell us yet that you would like our neighborhoods to know?
A candidate’s government experience can work for and against citizens. Some officeholders are content to maintain the status quo and resist necessary changes, particularly those that benefit the traditionally underserved in our community. Some candidates have the ideals, but not the practical government work experience to accomplish those ideals. I hope I’ve been able to show that while I’ve been on the county commission for many years, I have stayed true to being a critical but thoughtful voice to keep us moving forward in our march to being a more perfect community. I would appreciate your vote to keep me speaking out for residents that need an advocate in government in District 1 and all of Tallahassee Leon County.