Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Opinion

By Greg Jackson, Esq.

As I wrote this piece, the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger,” kept echoing in my head; that is until I came to grips with the fact that I neither created nor perpetuated the situation, but rather found myself trying to explain it. With that said, this week I wanted to take a different direction. Instead of focusing on violence, crime and the lack of economic development in the area of Apopka south of 441, I wanted to take some time to point to some of the positive projects taking place in the City. I wanted to give kudos for the $1.5 million that has been brought to the city through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to renovate Alonzo Williams Park. I also wanted to highlight the $75,000.00 that the City is receiving to update the playground equipment in Kitt-Land-Nelson Park. Additionally, congratulations are in order for the City’s summer youth employment program that is entering its third year, has garnered national attention and much-deserved accolades for the Mayor.

Greg Jackson
Greg Jackson

All these things I wanted to do, until Sunday when I drove down Central Boulevard with my 13- year-old child who commented, “I didn’t know we had third world communities in our country.” Initially, I was taken aback because even though I identify Vietnam, Cuba, and Eritrea as third world countries and have travelled the world and seen the slums of Panama, Thailand, and others, I never felt that our state, much less Apopka, had the poverty that I witnessed on the back streets of those countries to warrant such a statement. Trying to understand just why anyone would think such a thing, I forced myself to see the area through the eyes of a young person, who is full of promise, full of optimism and had never seen real poverty. I wanted to view the surrounding area from the perspective of a young mind that had not yet experienced the harsher realities of life, where “disparate treatment” and “economic disadvantage” were not a part of their everyday vocabulary.

I allowed myself to see the abandoned, broken down structures that should have housed small businesses through the eyes of a person who knew nothing of redevelopment strategies that could ignite the economic engine of the community. As the young children darted between their homes with boarded up windows, blue-tarped roofs and leaning foundations, I saw this as a teenager who felt that children deserve to grow up in homes that are structurally sound with windows to peer out of and roofs that provide cover from the elements. From that viewpoint, I could understand how one could view this as a place that should not be.

More than anyone else, I want to highlight all of the good that is Apopka; however, I cannot ignore the fact the there is still work to be done. It is not enough to build and grow around “South Apopka” and assume that any growth for the City will trickle down to the residents. Instead, we must be intentional about knowing the needs of the community and how best to address those needs. I could easily ignore what I see and say that progress is coming or has arrived. However, I realized that if I allowed myself, like others, to believe that this is acceptable, I would say nothing and convince myself that people are happy with the way things are.

Again, I must commend the City for the park renovations, new playground equipment, and summer jobs program. But, if those kids leave the parks and go to homes with sub-standard plumbing, a failing structure, exposed electrical wiring, etc., doesn’t that have more of an impact on them than a few hours playing? If those kids leave a summer job and go back into a community that is lacking job opportunities from within or economic development opportunities to help the community to become sustainable, what impression does that leave in them?

Believe me, as a business- and economic development-minded person, who has provided guidance and direction to businesses and communities, I look forward to the day that my pen will dry up, not because I am writing so much about the conditions I see, but because I have left the top off with nothing more to write in this regard. But, until there are real effort and progress in bringing economic development opportunities to all areas of Apopka, I will continue to sound this horn, I will continue to share my insights, and I will continue to do this all – in my humble opinion.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Greg, I enjoy your opinions that you write about here on the Apopka Voice, I really do. That said, the truth is, your commentary as to what you and your son witness as far as bad conditions of homes, run-down, abandoned, roofs needing repairs, tarps on the roofs, leaning foundations, etc. (third world communities) can be seen in other sections of the county, and in other areas of the City of Apopka, the conditions you describe are not just in South Apopka. Take a drive all around and you will see for yourself. You can go to almost any city or county anywhere that has been around for a long time, and that is not a new city or newly developed area, and you will see conditions just like what you have described in south Apopka in plenty of areas.

  2. I have not been around the world like you have, so you have seen true third world communities, but is south Apopka really a third world community? It all goes down to opinion. I have given some support to the native American Indian reservations that have way worse conditions in the Dakota states that don’t even have running water, indoor plumbing, and necessary heat to live in brutal harsh blizzard areas that turn to smoldering blistering heat with little to no shade in the summer. No transportation, no jobs, no hope, isolated from the rest of the country and no money for internet.

  3. There was a gentleman who came to a City of Apopka meeting awhile back, I can’t remember his name, and he worked with a group of volunteers who go all around our area and do volunteer manual labor and work to help people who are elderly and others who don’t have the necessary income to do needed repairs to their homes. I can’t remember his name, but I was impressed by his talks to the council and what his group was doing.

  4. There was a man also at one council meeting who also represented a federal money program to help elderly low income people repair their homes. It sounded good at first, but when you realized it was really a loan, and that the necessary repairs to say do a roof, also involved bringing the entire home up to code for other problems. That could get very expensive on some of the old homes, but this was a federal requirement to get the approved loan. Also if the needed repairs totaled more than half the assessed value of the home the federal program would decline the application, is what I believe he said. I don’t think that many elderly needy low income people barely getting by would want to take on a sizeable loan like that, so it didn’t seem like much help to the residents to me.

  5. Mr. Jackson, Mama Mia is a classical example of a deflector, yes there are issues in every community if you really take a look, but it matters to who steps up to lead the charge, Mama Mia is yet another deflector from the issues of people standing up in their communities and demanding accountability. I notice Mia appears to respond as a paid blogger which means she knows nothing of the plight of those that advocate specifically for those that are either not knowledgeable or just have given up, in any case she is should serve as motivation for advocates to press on. She has the nerve to deflect from the specific topic at hand, disgraceful!!!

  6. Since we are reading is “The Apopka Voice”, it makes perfect sense that this article focuses on the poverty in South Apopka, as opposed to a native American reservation in the Dakota states. I wholeheartedly agree with the “disparate treatment” and “economic disadvantage”, which is undoubtedly a legacy from our previous mayor, and applaud Mr. Jackson for continuing to bring this issue to the forefront.
    And as much as I appreciate the tone and intention of this article, Reggie Connell, Managing Editor, it could have been much more effective with some better editing.

  7. Maybe things should start with the actual people that live there. I see boarded up homes..tarps and whatnot driving through there..but you know what I also see, trash and garbage strewn around that can be picked up by anyone who lives there. Why can’t someone take some initiative in the community (I don’t mean an outsider either) to at least START to clean it up. Maybe that will press others to get off their own haunches to do something and maybe, just maybe that can plant the seed to care. I’m not pretending I know what it takes. Just thought I would throw that out there.

  8. Great observations by your son and you. Although poverty in America pales in comparison to most third world countries it still needs to be addressed. For too long we have swept it under the rug

  9. The reality described in Apopka is a reality encountered in all parts of this country. I have driven people from so-called “third world” countries through neighborhoods in U.S. cities and heard them express their dis-belief that they were seeing conditions in this country similar to those encountered in their part of the world. The change will not come from tweaking economic development or bringing more attractive businesses, or creating little areas of green space in Apopka or in any other town. Change will require understanding that these conditions are a reflection of the system that drives our economy – focused on looking out for the 1% at the expense of the rest of us. Yes, we share third world conditions with other nations because we are all living within the same global system. Unfortunately our governments in Washington and Tallahassee are focused on maintaining this status quo. The only way change will come is when we the people envision a new reality and demand and act in order to bring about change to the present system.

  10. I take exception to this constant blaming former Mayor John Land for anything and everything that someone perceives as a slight in this town, or a ongoing problem…. It is getting to be a really old subject, it is always so easy to blame someone who is dead, buried, and not here to speak his side of this discussion. This constant degrading our city by comparing it to a third world status…. how in the world do you all expect to draw businesses in? Why is it okay to talk about CRA’s out of Miami-Dade and compare to Apopka CRA, but it is not okay for me to tell you of true third world conditions that exist right here in America, on remote native American Indian reservations? Mayor John Land had so many people from both city and county areas of south Apopka come to his funeral and were truly hurt by his passing, and paid sincere respects to him at this funeral…..didn’t appear to me that they were ill- treated by him. If I was ill-treated by someone, I wouldn’t go pay respects, and be teary-eyed at their passing.

  11. Mayor Joe Kilsheimer is planning on hiring an economic development director. He hired a grant writer at the suggestion of one of the council members. This was to try to obtain grants for areas that need improvement. Yes, improvement is a good thing, and the grants are coming in, and being put into effect. Mr. Jackson has expertise in a lot of areas, I am not doubting his good intentions. I just don’t like the broad exaggerations (down talk) that I keep hearing about our city, coming mainly from those that don’t even live in south Apopka, who also are trying to force annexation on people that have not asked to be annexed. I don’t care for those who say they want unity, then attempt to divide the town, and make it a north/ south issue, or a racial issue. No, I don’t get paid to blog, how ridiculous…………..

  12. You cannot force businesses to come to town and set up shop in areas that their businesses don’t see as fruitful. You can offer incentives to try to draw them. You can’t bulldoze older residents homes because they aren’t like the more attractive newer homes just built. It is easy for someone to look down their nose at someone’s older smaller home that is not in the best shape. So what is the plan? Are you going to sick code enforcement on these poor elderly people in these areas that some of you complain about? Then you will see the people won’t be able to pay for the code enforcement orders, and the fines will accumulate, and the amounts will be put on their annual real estate tax bill under special assessments….if they don’t pay, because they can’t, and don’t have the money, they will lose their homes! Think, when you all in our city, make these demands, and think about the problems you will create for the poor living in poverty who are trapped already! Stop this holier-than-thou sing-song about third world conditions. If you have a problem with the areas go volunteer your services to help some of these residents instead of pushing them into losing their homes!

  13. Honestly, really tired of hearing Mr. Jackson’s side of the story. He went from complaining that the city isn’t giving him a million dollars to do his economic development (for which he has so many examples of communities he has developed) to bringing his 13 year old into the picture. Lol. Please find a new black representative for your South Apopka issues. Maybe someone educated that has either lived or currently lives there.

  14. There are empty lots in both city and county parts of south Apopka, as well as other areas not in south Apopka. But you all only want to focus on south Apopka instead of the entire city/county area……this is because really badly falling apart homes and businesses that were vacant have been demolished. I don’t consider that blight. The smaller lots just sit empty but the lots have to have mowing and upkeep. Eustis recently had a surplus of lots such as that and they took applications from people who were given the lots free and deeded to them, but only after signing a contract to agree to maintain and mow, trim, etc. the lots for a period of two years. Then they would own them and could pay the taxes yearly, maintain the lots, and do whatever with them as allowed by the city’s rules. This could be considered as a solution to some of Apopka’s vacant unused smaller lots………..

  15. I think another good thing the county did was to get with the owners of old very badly unlivable homes and businesses and offer to demolish them free of charge in order to get them cleaned up rather than being punitive and punishing the sometimes elderly owners and code enforcing, condemning, and taking the property or sending a giant bill to them for them to have to pay to get their properties demolished. Clearly many didn’t have the money…….I call that working with the owners and not taking advantage of disadvantaged owners.

  16. David C….I totally agree with you about change needs to come in Washington and Tallahassee…..and your response where you say quote ” — focused on looking out for the 1% at the expense of the rest of us. ” Everyone is seeing what is happening, even a blind man can see this mockery of the presidency. It is an extremely dire situation that goes way beyond partisan dissatisfaction and fighting. We have a system of checks and balances in our US political system, Congressional members should take action now to stop this run-away train, but they are just spinning their wheels, and are spineless, or smirking thinking it is funny. Too much is at stake!

  17. Wishing much success to new Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy’s new proposed bill, at least someone is trying to save our country!!!!

  18. Well…let’s say South Apopka is successfully redeveloped into a residential, retail, light commercial oasis. The current residents of South Apopka will quickly be displaced by the simple economics of supply and demand. Blighted areas don’t atteact the affluent and affluent places aren’t priced to accomodate blighted folks.

    Government funds will simply subsides private investors to indirectly displace the current residents. Private money is hesitant to invest in blight, but if government funds elevate the area to the point where private investment finds opportunity after the risk has been assumed by government then private investment will quickly advance. Current residents can’t afford the rising costs brought by newly attracted affluence and out they go.

    Can’t escape the reality of economics.

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