City Commission Seat 5: Dianne Williams-Cox
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 first decided to run in 2018 because I saw the need. I’ve lived in Indianhead Acres for 37years, raised my children there, and been involved in community organizing and in the local schools.
B) What event(s) led you to run for elected office?
I recognized the lack of equity in our community and wanted to contribute.
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?
As a sitting commissioner, I am very familiar with the Comprehensive Plan update process.
B) What role should citizens have in deciding on growth and development policies for our community?
All citizens and neighborhoods should have input and interaction with the process. Their input is valuable. Citizens need to understand that the process is collaborative, and to remember that the commission members have a broad view of the issue, and need to take a look at the whole picture. Neighborhoods need to consider the commissioners role in considering the whole picture, while advocating for their individual issues. Individual commissioners don’t represent specific districts in the city but represent the entire city and citizenry. Commissioners are accountable to all citizens of the city, they do not represent one district.
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?
Citizens should provide input because the properties belong to the citizenry and can participate in various ways. I welcome input and engagement with neighborhoods because that is where the action is. We want safe and vibrant neighborhoods and places to live. As a commissioner, I was elected to be their voice. I meet individually with constituents, I do my research on issues, consider staff recommendations, take briefings with staff and ask pointed questions.
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?
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 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?
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.
5) Commissioner/Staff/Management Roles
What do you see as the appropriate role between staff and the commission in decision making?
The job of a city commissioner is to decide on policy and give direction to the city manager. Our Charter is to work through the city manager. I meet regularly with officials and look for solutions. I provide feedback behind the scenes, not from the dais in chamber.
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?
There are 1900 affordable housing units in the pipeline right now. In addition to affordable housing we also need low-income housing and ways to identify how to provide that.
Also, we need to continue to look at ways to impact poverty. TEMPO is a positive initiative for that. I’m a big supporter of TEMPO. Also, our current program called Future Leaders Academy is a summer program for young people helping them to find jobs and earn money legitimately. I want to expand that program to year-round and not just in the summer.
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.
The Welaunee Project had been on the books for 30 years, with the expectation of a population explosion in Tallahassee. And so, I wanted to get in front of that explosion, expanding on the South End of the project, making sure that housing growth was done smartly. I wanted to be a visionary that helped the city grow smartly.
The city has professional staff who know about expanding urban service areas. I trust the professionals. I’ve also done research and talked to many people about these kinds of projects and urban growth.
B) How about the vote to give $27 million of Blueprint money to FSU for stadium upgrades? Explain your answer.
Years ago, there was discussion in partnership with FSU to build a $20 million convention center. FSU said there was significant pushback on that idea and it was not pursued. Meanwhile FAMU came in and asked to build a stadium in the future. I called the FAMU athletic director and was told that Bragg was going to be condemned and the field house needed repairs. It was felt that this would help the local economy and subsequently $13 million was allocated for repairs rather than building a new stadium in the future. TCC also came in and requested $2 million to expand their ability to bring in sports tournaments.
FSU reiterated the pushback on the convention center, and asked for funding for the stadium for safety concerns and contribution to economic development. Having approved the funding for those two projects I believed it would be hypocritical of me to not fund the FSU project.
I met with FSU President McCollough and we agreed that the use of these public dollars would ensure public access to the stadium after football season.
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?
I welcome the input from and engagement with the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are where the action is and we want them to be vibrant and safe.