It is Official: Apopka’s CRA puts profit over people

It is Official: Apopka’s CRA puts profit over people

Opinion

By Greg Jackson

As a civil litigation attorney, it is my experience that a death knell in a case against a corporation is when a plaintiff’s lawyer tells a jury that: “XYZ Corporation put its profits (making money) over the interest of people (the life of a human being).” In essence, the lawyer is saying that XYZ Corporation could not have cared less about the well-being of the person or persons affected by its actions, because money was more important. This concept of profit over people oftentimes infuriates citizens because it means that the pursuit of the almighty dollar, though not necessarily a bad thing, is more important than people, a bad thing. For example, you may remember a well-known tire manufacturer that allegedly knew its tires were defective but allowed the tires to be placed on thousands of vehicles without a single action because it would have affected its bottom line. The outcomes were devastating roll-over crashes that resulted in injuries and loss of human life.

Well here is something for Apopkans, particular those who live south of 441, to ponder: the Apopka Community Redevelopment Agency’s official position is that it is more important to focus on increasing profits for businesses rather than finding ways to quickly and efficiently address declining living conditions – “slum.” In short, Apopka’s CRA prefers profits over the needs of people. I know this because thanks to an active Apopka resident and business owner, I was provided a letter drafted on Apopka Community Redevelopment Agency letterhead and signed by an official with that Agency stating so. Shockingly, the letter makes it clear that the Apopka CRA is more concerned with businesses prospering than it is with the living conditions of residents.

In response to a call for the Apopka CRA to utilize a small portion of its funds (less than 7%) to support programs that would help build a sustainable community through affordable housing initiatives, improved public safety, as well as a focus on health/sanitation concerns, the Apopka CRA stated that its recent Updated CRA Plan’s “Finding of Necessity,” “was not based on any findings related to ‘slum’ conditions as enumerated in the statute.” In other words, Apopka’s CRA was encouraged to ignore the needs of the people in the community, while also downplaying the statutory provision it was founded upon to address “slum.” The Apopka CRA believes that it can fulfill the statutory intent by minimally addressing the needs of people or ignoring them altogether. Specifically, the Apopka CRA official stated:

As presented in the study, four of the statute’s criteria for establishing blight were met by the City of Apopka. These included:

1. Inadequate roadways or public transportation facilities. (Sec. 163.340(8) (a))
2. Faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility or usefulness. (Sec. 163.340(8)(c))
3. Deterioration of site or other improvements. (Sec. 163.340(8)(e))
4. Diversity of ownership or defective or unusual conditions of title which prevent the free alienability of land within the deteriorated or hazardous area. (Sec. 163.340(8)(m))
After you finish scratching your head and asking yourself how does this address the intent of Chapter 163, Part III, for Apopka residents clearly plagued by “slum,” which relates directly to people’s living conditions, take a look at section 163.340(8). You will see that the Apopka CRA missed a couple points that are applicable to its own CRA District and could have been used to focus on people over profits. A full and complete review of section 163.340(8) would show that if Apopka wanted to put people over profits its “Finding of Necessity” as to “blight” could have easily been based on:

1. Unsanitary or unsafe conditions. (Sec. 163.340(8)(d)) – People issues)
2. Incidence of crime in the area higher than in the remainder of the county or municipality. (Sec. 163.340(8)(i)) – People issues)
Additionally, a more complete review of Chapter 163, Part III would also arguably reveal that in addressing “blight” from a transportation, parking facility and roadway perspective, as the Apopka CRA has done, Chapter 163, Part III for the most part was referring to “coastal resort and tourist areas.” See Fla. Stat. sec. 163.335(4). However, for some reason the Apopka CRA has decided to fight tooth-and-nail to use funds for “blight” while blatantly ignoring the “slum” that unfortunately exists within its boundaries. The position of the Apopka CRA seems to be contrary to Chapter 163, Part III, which could not be clearer where it states in sec. 163.335(6) that: . . .

[T]here exists in counties and municipalities of the state a severe shortage of housing affordable to residents of low or moderate income, including the elderly; that the existence of such condition affects the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of such counties and municipalities and retards their growth and economic and social development; and that the elimination or improvement of such condition is a proper matter of state policy and state concern and is for a valid and desirable public purpose.

So why is it that Apopka’s CRA, and many CRA’s across the State of Florida, opt to ignore this “policy and state concern,” by mainly focusing on roads, transportation, parking lots, etc., to address “blight,” when “slum” is an equal if not the predominate concern in underserved communities. I would submit that it is because the people writing the plans for CRA’s have no real understanding of the needs of underserved communities. Instead, they appear to have an understanding of and work to assist, business development and profits, not people. Additionally, CRA’s get away with ignoring the needs of people because quite frankly community leaders are perceived as weak in their silence. CRA’s see that community leaders, religious leaders, business leaders, etc., will speak out to support a political candidate or against the injustice of a person arrested, but these same “leaders” stand mute when it comes time to speak out against the disparate treatment of underserved communities from a resources standpoint. I believe the great urban philosopher, O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson, Sr., said it best in a 90’s cult classic film when he stated: “Either they don’t know, don’t show or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.” Because this is not just an Apopka CRA issue, it is time that residents demand more from CRA’s statewide and demand that CRA’s find ways to address “slum” in the same ways they fight to address “blight.” I believe the purposeful focus on “slum” in conjunction with “blight” by CRA’s could reduce the need for municipalities to seek state funding year-after-year to address affordable housing shortages, infrastructure needs or health/sanitation concerns within underserved communities. It is time for CRA’s across the State of Florida to put people over profits or in the words of one of Florida best-known attorneys, John Morgan; it is time for CRA’s to be “For the People” —in my humble opinion.

Greg Jackson

 

Greg Jackson is a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, a military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Bill

    Interesting statement, South Apopka leaders putting their interest first? Thought you would be original by citing, Mayor Joe Kilsheimer directing millions of tax payer dollars in no bid contracts of which he then solicits campaign contributions from. Also, did you mention the no bid contractor that Mayor Kilsheimer created a for profit company with the provide services to convicted felons on the South Side, Oh, also you didn’t mention the ethics complaint filed in Tallahassee against Mayor Kilsheimer for going into business with a city vendor of who he went into business with. Oh, also is the State Attorney going to investigate the splash pad contract approval by Mayor Kilsheimer after the bid was submitted after the bid closure and yet allow to be submitted and voted on? If the leaders on the south side have not pressed for progress on behalf of the people there, they need to be ashamed of themselves and the people on the south side need new leaders. But wait a minute, I almost fell into the race card trap. This is about right and wrong, but let’s get back to deflecting from the facts… http://theapopkavoice.com/festival-purchases-violate-city-rules/ http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/orange/os-apopka-splash-pad-20170731-story.html http://orlando-politics.com/2017/05/01/joe-kilsheimer-addresses-ethics-complaint-filed-against-him/

    Reply
  2. Mama Mia

    Greg, this letter you refer to in your above article, that you state you obtained from an active Apopka resident and business owner…..is that an official letter by the Apopka CRA board and is that a letter that is officially on the record? Was this letter on an official CRA letterhead sent directly to the business owner that provided it to you? I don’t care to know his or her name, really….. Why was it signed by only one official? I mean, I am trying to figure this out…. I am not disputing your claims. You know you told me I shouldn’t be a sheep and blindly believe everything I hear or am told (bahahahahbahahabbbaha…..sheep noices) You make it sound like attorney John Morgan is into CRA’s…..maybe, maybe not, but are you stating that John Morgan actually attributed the words, that it is time for the CRA’s to be “For the people”???????? Do you want to share this CRA letter with us so we Apopkans can read it for ourselves here on the Apopka Voice? If you care to answer me remember I don’t have a Facebook account so I can’t post things to Facebook, and apparently for some strange reason now I can’t see any Facebook account comments on any Facebook website where I was formerly getting to read people’s Facebook comments. I am not a tech savy computer person and do not know this sort of stuff about why I can’t read comments on Facebook now, but can read the articles. I just know while it is aggravating to me, I am not motivated enough to get a Facebook account because I hear it is depressing and that is a good enough reason for me not to want a Facebook account. Also heard Facebook is pondering charging for having an account or for viewing articles on Facebook. So answer me here on the regular Apopka Voice, not Apopka Voice Facebook so I can view your comments. Thanks Greg, and have a great day.

    Reply
  3. Mama Mia

    Also because we are now in “Trump world” whether we want to be or not, I again state CRAs are the least of my worries. I am much more worried about the nukes flying across the skies or the nukes flying under the ocean to destination “Trump world”.

    Reply
  4. Greg Jackson

    Mama Mia,

    Thank you for the questions. The letter is on official letterhead and signed by the Community Development Director, who used his designation and CC’d the Mayor and four commissioner. Interestingly, he left off the other two meme era of the CRA Board, which I believe it improper and disrespectful. There is no need or benefit for me or anyone else to misrepresent a letter of this magnitude. What should be questioned is why the CRA “Director” continues to refuse to acknowledge the poor use of CRA funds and tries to justify it. Moreover, how is he able to do this without question from the Board?

    As to the nuclear weapons, please rest assured that the South Apopka community will continue to be ignored and will become desolate before a nuclear weapon from North Korea hits US soil. My former naval Intel experience allows me to make this statement . Thank you again.

    Greg

    Reply
    1. Jerel Safford

      Greg,

      I agree about the concerns or no concerns with the Nukes….. The concerns with the CRA Director refusal to acknowledge the use of funds or the lack there of in our South Apopka community is mind blowing and should be addressed…

      Reply
  5. Greg Jackson

    Khay,

    Thank you for your interest. Plain and simple, the community must speak out. Literally nearly $1 million is about to be spent on a parking lot. Thank about how those resources could be put to is in the community. A parking lot, really and the Board approved this plan. If no one say anything than people will think it’ is acceptable to ignore people issues.

    Greg

    Reply
  6. Mama Mia

    Thank you for responding Greg. I didn’t imply you misrepresented the CRA letter, I was just trying to figure it all out, that is all. I am thankful that your former Naval Intel gives a vote of confidence against a NK nuke flying over here hitting US soil, I can only hope you are right. Greg, have you given any serious consideration to running for Orange County Mayor this next go round? Maybe if you win the seat you could help South Apopka citizens that way. The seat is wide open, and it does not “belong” to anyone, maybe you should give it a try. Seriously.

    Reply
  7. Barbara

    Mr. Jackson, I don’t reside on the south side, however, it doesn’t negate the fact that fairness and equality should be inherent characteristic in us all. The question regarding the authenticity of this letter from the city, versus questioning the actions of the city commission first show that this Mama Mia is not far mentally from Charlottesville Virginia. This is a sad day for America and our children. Thank you and those that offer their voice to speak up against despair treatment, no matter where people live. Not familiar with the Apopka city leaders, but already not impressed if what I have been reading and seeing is true.

    Reply
  8. Mama Mia

    Barbara, sorry if you don’t like my questioning Greg about the CRA letter. I live in this town, pay taxes in this town, vote in this town, and have every right to question an Apopka CRA letter that Greg refers to in his article above that is not published in this article that I can view. It is galling that you state that my mentality is not far from Charlottesville, Virginia. I am not from Charlottesville, Virginia, I have never been to Charlottesville, Virginia, and I am not a part of what is happening in Charlottesville, Virginia, how dare you compare my mentality to Charlottesville, Virginia, and you state that fairness and equally should be a inherent characteristic in all of us…….yeah, right Barbara, what about your mentality??????

    Reply

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