The VOICE of discourse

Opinion

By Greg Jackson

  Though I am strong-willed and known to zealously speak out for those things I believe to be right, when I am wrong, I have no problem saying I am wrong. As many of you know I have been very critical of the Apopka Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA); but wait, don’t pop any celebratory bottles of champagne just yet because I am not saying I was wrong about Apopka’s CRA. However, you may recall that to some extent as a part of my criticism of the Apopka CRA’s “spending” decisions, I have opined that the Florida Redevelopment Association (FRA) encouraged and supported the Apopka CRA’s ill-advised decision to ignore the true intent and purpose of Florida Statutes Chapter 163, Part III, by purchasing a parking lot instead of focusing on more important issues within the CRA district. Boy, was I wrong …about the FRA that is.

Recently, and by “recently” I mean just this past Thursday, I was a panelist at the 2017 FRA Conference in Daytona Beach. The specific topic I spoke on was “Engaging the Underserved Community.” To the FRA’s credit, they were fully aware of my criticism of many CRA’s throughout the State of Florida that use funds for business purposes while ignoring the affordable housing and various other issues related to “slum” within their respective CRA districts. When I went to check-in at the conference registration table to find the room where I was assigned to speak, I was a bit surprised that many FRA members and Board Members knew of my general role in working through the Florida Economic Consortium (FEC) to help educate CRA’s, as well as my specific criticism of Apopka’s CRA. I was also a little less than astonished that many of the folks I encountered while checking-in had actually read some of my previous pieces in The Apopka Voice and were appreciative of the willingness to speak on an issue that has been ignored for several years, if not decades. In short, despite my unapologetic perceived faults of the FRA, I was welcomed as a peer and resource by them. In fact, without divulging identities, within five minutes of me arriving no less than a half dozen FRA members and/or Board Members approached me and thanked me for coming to provide my insight. I was also encouraged to speak about Apopka’s CRA to help steer other CRA’s from following suit. Even more encouraging was that an FRA Board Member told me not to “water-down” my statements, to give it to people straight because it could help to make a difference across the state from various perspectives, one of which is to get the continued existence of CRA’s off the radar of Florida’s Legislature amid new calls to terminate CRA’s due to questionable funding decisions.

It was no secret that I have spoken out against the FRA and willingness to allow an opposing voice and viewpoint to the table brought something very important to my realization: the FRA is not the problem. What I have discovered is that for the most part the FRA encourages the CRA’s to be knowledgeable about their roles, functions and responsibilities to the communities they serve. When the CRA’s opt to do things that are subject to criticism, more times than not it is because those CRA’s are doing things that do not coincide with the FRA’s aim, which is for CRA’s to utilized funds to be impactful within underserved communities, not just increase revenues.

Is the FRA perfect? Not really because more can be done to educate CRA’s on how to better focus on “slum” or what I refer to as the social aspect of Chapter 163, Part III. This can be done by providing strategies to address affordable housing shortages, antiquated infrastructure, crime and declining health conditions within underserved communities that are also encompassed in a CRA district. Based on the feedback from the approximate 100 or so attendees of my session, I welcome the opportunity to serve as a continued resource for CRA’s across the State of Florida in order to secure their continued existence. To its credit, the FRA has shown that it understands the deficiencies in certain trainings to CRA’s and has shown a sincere willingness to listen and address those shortcomings head on for the betterment of CRA’s and the citizens they serve; which, is much more than can be said for the Apopka CRA — 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.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Greg, I know this is a different subject of sorts, but I would like your viewpoint on this article I read, and found to be interesting. If you google, “City’s investment in bar-b-q business is doomed by lofty goals” then give me your perspective of the city’s role in giving away money such as this. This is in Jacksonville, Fl. It all started with a gentleman who owned a bar-b-q restaurant, and who started making a recipe of bar-b-q sauce. Then his daughter got involved too, and they started bottling it to sell, as well as used it at his restaurant in Jackonville. I was wondering if you have ever been there, as I know your parents live in Jacksonville? Anyway, the man’s daughter, goes to the City of Jacksonville, and requests funding to get her bar-b-q sauce business off the ground, and to turn her business into company supplying bar-b-q sauce nationwide. The economic developer is all for it, and the city council votes to give her $ 590,000, all together, a loan. She was also suppose to eventually employ 56 people in the agreement. This was suppose to be a big plus for the city, somehow. Long story short, it was a nightmare. She was late on payments, defaulting on loans, and also she had obtained a small business loan from the feds, the Small Business Administration loan of $ 2.5 million also, and defaulted there too. The best part was that she then ran for the city council herself, and got elected, after telling everyone around, of her business know how! All of this in an effort, on the city’s part, drawn in, by jumping on the economic development bandwagon. I would like to hear what you think about this subject, of a city’s throwing money around for economic development, such as this. The bar-b-q sauce vote was 14 to 3, I believe it was. They must have a lot of city council members there in Jacksonville! Let me know what you think about this……

  2. Greg, one more question….I notice that the latest gospel fest, and the firemen’s bar-b-q competition event, are scheduled at the same time, and same date, Oct. 28th. How did that happen? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing from your perspective?

  3. Actually on the first posting I made about the $ 590,000, the Jacksonville city council gave the bar-b-q sauce bottlers, it was like this: $ 210, 000 was a cash grant, and the difference was $ 380,000 that was a loan, expected to be paid back eventually, that didn’t get paid back, but landed in court for alleged breach of contract. The 56 employees never materialized either. I wanted to report it correctly. I guess I will be accused of deflecting from the subject by someone on here…LOL

  4. Also the Small Business Administration loan she received was for $ 2.65 million instead of the $ 2.5 million I stated, as I want to get the facts correct, but anyone can read the article, and find it easily. I personally think it is crazy, when cities give away big taxpayer funds like this, to “for- profit” companies, under economic development.

  5. The next time I am at Winn Dixie, I will look for her bar-b-q sauce. Winn Dixie is still selling it, as long as their current supply lasts, and then the grocer indicated they were not carrying it anymore. They may not have it now, don’t know.

  6. I just wish that you were in support of social change on various levels and from various entities versus being in strong pursuit of the one that your cronies have been trying to sell to the city for 1 million dollars.

  7. Greg, you should submit the contents of your speech you made in Daytona Beach to the Apopka Voice, so everyone can see it. I don’t know how lengthy it was, but it still would be interesting to read, I’m sure. Back to the bar-b-q sauce business….the lady that got the cash from the City of Jacksonville, and got elected to the city council there….has she ever been in the state’s legislation, in any position, since then? Her name sure seems familiar to me. Do you know? Just wondering……..

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