A Recap from the South Apopka Safe Neighborhood Community Meeting
From District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love
Last week, District 2 along with the South Apopka Safe Neighborhood Community Neighborhood and Orange County staff hosted a community meeting at the John H. Bridges Community Center to present findings on improvements for 13thStreet and Clarcona Road intersection where vehicle accidents occur regularly and to review survey results of community signage located exclusively on the south side of Apopka denoting, Welcome to South Apopka. I would like to thank everyone who completed (and returned the surveys), attended the meeting, and offered their input on what they would like to see in their community. In addition, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to City of Apopka Commissioner Alexander Smith and Pastor Hezekiah Bradford with The Luke Experience Church for attending, offering their input and history of the establishment of the signs. Understanding that at one point, there was a logical need for the signs, however as time has evolved, the signs represent a division of a community that is being strengthened by bold and unifying City and County leadership.
Shortly after I had taken office as District 2 Commissioner, I had expressed the concerns of residents as well as my own for several accidents that have occurred at the intersection of Clarcona Road and 13thStreet. In response to these concerns, Orange County Traffic Engineering conducted a study to determine options in addressing this issue. In their study, staff had analyzed 5 years of crash data ranging from September 2013 to September 2018. Through this analysis, it was discovered that 52 total crashes had occurred: 21 right angle crashes (40%), 7 in 2017; 3 left turn crashes (6%); 50% daytime/50% night-time; 0 fatalities, 14 injury crashes, 38 PDO crashes. In reviewing some of the studies and actions that had been utilized previously in an attempt to rectify this issue, staff did emphasize that a multi-way stop study has been conducted. According to Orange County Traffic Engineering, if a multi-way stop is installed at this intersection, it will have the following effects: Reduce delay for 13thStreet; increase delay for Clarcona Road, and improve safety. It is for these aforementioned effects that staff recommended the installation of a multi-way stop. Based on the findings, staff will submit a request to begin this process for consideration by the Orange County Board of County Commissioners during their December 4thmeeting. If the request is approved, it will take 2-4 weeks for the multi-way stop to be installed.
At the time I had discussed the possibility of installing a multi-way stop, I had also expressed concerns of residents over the name “South Apopka” given to the community. In an attempt to obtain a broader understanding of the community’s feelings on this, a survey was mailed to residents. The survey consisted of 5 questions:
- Do you live in South Apopka?
- What is the name of your street where you live?
- How do you feel about the name “South Apopka”?
- What name do you use to refer to your community?
- Please explain any thoughts you have about the community being called “South Apopka”.
Of the 1,901 surveys that were mailed out, 66 residents had responded as of October 30th, and 72 had responded as of November 8th.
In response to the first question, of the 65 total that responded, 87% of residents said that they lived in South Apopka and 13% said that they did not. For the third question, of the 60 total that responded, 15 (25%) and 16 (27%) residents said that they “hate” and “don’t like” the name South Apopka, respectively. In addition, 11 (18%), 10 (17%) and 8 (13%) said that they “don’t care either way”, “like” and “love” the name South Apopka. Out of the 58 that responded, the following results were recorded for the fourth question: 34 (57%) said Apopka; 11 (18%) said South Apopka; 6 (10%) said their street name, and 9 (15%) said other. The “other” responses included: Downtown; Clarkville Subdivision; Lake Jewel Heights; Tilden Annex; Beautiful (unincorporated) Orange County; West Apopka; Blueberry Hill; Highland, area; and Lake Jewel.
In response to the survey results, a majority of those who had responded as well as those who spoke at the community meeting appeared to feel that the name “South Apopka” gave a negative stigma to their community and that we need to be “One Apopka”.
“We need to think about the negative effect and connotation that the name “South Apopka” has on our millennials and future generations in the community,” said Ms. Monique Morris, District 2 Citizen of the Year. “Our signs should read: “Welcome to Apopka.””
There was much engagement during the community discussion to the extent that the majority of residents supported the elimination of the signage denoting “South Apopka”. The discussion was very passionate among residents and at the conclusion, I instructed staff to proceed forward and very surprisingly, as I congratulated staff and residents on participation in the process, I heard the word “coon” and turned only to hear it repeated and directed at me. While I maintained my composure, I thought to myself, the individual repeatedly directing epithets to me, who by the way was a black person, only solidified my resolve to be a better example for people even when I find myself in disagreement on the issues. I love my community, love having the opportunity to serve but I also realize, if the community does not send a strong message that behavior such as this is not acceptable and will not be tolerated, then I fear there is more work to be done than I could have ever imagined. I am proud to have served my community, and truly understand who and what I am. Just an ordinary God-fearing man, trying to be blessed with doing extraordinary things. We are a community of people and none of what I have accomplished has been done alone and didn’t come without individuals throwing rocks. It’s the people who stand up to the rock throwers and ask, are you making this place better or worst. Thank you all for helping with resolving the above items, as well as working with me to get things done in my short time serving on the Orange County Board of County Commissioners.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS / ACTIVITIES AS DISTRICT 2 COMMISSIONER
- Introduce to the Board of County Commissioners an innovative approach to incorporating economic development in blighted communities utilizing laser like data and incorporating Faith and Community Based Organizations administering human services, i.e., mentoring, tutoring, delinquency management, foster care services, vocation training, business development and financial literacy through Community Empowerment Zones, on July 17, 2018.
- Advocating for a pro-rated portion of $20 million to be directed by policy to communities that demonstrate based on data, the critical need at Board of County Commissioner’s meeting October 30, 2018.
- Secured Orange County funding support for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade Funds for the second largest municipality (Apopka). (September 20, 2018)
- Hosted the Trilateral Safe Neighborhoods Community Information and Innovation Briefing,( Apopka, Lee Road, and Pine Hills) (July 19, 2018)
- Hosted the “Engaging Men, Advancing Women” Open Communication Town Hall Meeting-at Apopka V.F.W. Community Center on August 8, 2018. * focused to address improved advocacy & responsibility of men within their communities, their homes, and children.
- “Engaging Men” Phase two Town Hall Forum (September 20, 2018, at 5000 Silver Star Road, Orlando) *Focused on criminal justice reform and implicit Bias by law enforcement and community stakeholders.
- “Advancing Women” Forum Phase Two (September 27, 2018, at 2801 N. Apopka Vineland Road, Orlando) *Focused on professional mentorship of young women, psychological and mental health issues of abuse.
- Secured the construction funding for the creation of South Apopka Adult Technical Vocational Center (Orange Board of County Commission, August 31, 2018) with a negotiated cooperative agreement with Orange County Public Schools to manage and facilitate operations.
- Negotiated with Orange County Public Schools for the Apopka Community Citizens to participate and have ownership in the Naming of the South Apopka Adult Technical Vocational Center.
- Successfully secured an automobile to assist a worthy citizen in becoming self-sufficient.
- Host the School & Community Violence Forum, “It’s Time to Talk” at Evans High School on November 1, 2018.
- Host in partnership with the Community Back to School Fair with Community Partners, i.e. City of Apopka, Sam’s Club and many more at the John Bridges Community Center on August 4, 2018.
- Hosted and funded in partnership with the Orange County Public Schools, and area residents, a Back to School Black Panther Movie Night at Wheatley Elementary School for children and their parents on August 10, 2018.
- Host the Criminal Records Seal & Expunge Workshop at Wekiva High School on September 29, 2018.
- Facilitated the cooperative partners improvement of hospital signage in the community to ensure wayfinding for residents needing medical assistance.
- Aggressively triggered traffic remediation in high crash areas in South Apopka, (ongoing). (13thStreet & Clarcona )
- Initiated Engaging Men and Advancing Women to a diverse group by making the publications available in Spanish and English.
- Secured funds from the State of Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Orange County Government for the Central Florida Urban League and Sub-recipients in Pine Hills and Apopka programs.
- Established funded Mentoring Partnership with Wheatley Elementary School and Save Our Sons.
- Established funded Mentoring Partnership with Robinswood Middle School and United Foundation of Central Florida, Inc. and Save Our Sons.
- Results Based Accountability Training with Dr. Randy Nelson Bethune-Cookman University, the Annie B. Casey Foundation with support from Florida A&M University, Edwards Waters College, and Florida Memorial University on November 15, 2018.
- Established a Mentoring and Mental Health Services Partnership between Meadowbrook Middle School, Robinswood Middle School, Wheatley Elementary and Saving Our Sons and Future Leaders United.
- Secured and presented approximately $8k to community based organizations at the Spirit of Florida Gospel Fest to Boy Scout Troop #211-(Apopka), Oasis Reading Program-(Apopka), Saving Our Sons-(Apopka/Orlando), Future Leaders United-(Pine Hills), I-BUILD/Restoration of Senior Citizen Homes-(Apopka) and LANES Girls-(Orange County).
- Transitioned the Senior Exercise Class in Apopka to a government-funded health and wellness class for seniors of all ages.
THINGS ON THE HORIZON
- In conversation with Orange County Public Schools, Orange County, Apopka Chamber of Commerce, Zellwood Aviation Authority, Valencia Community College, and U.C.F. to discuss an aviation mechanical vocational training initiative to work in collaboratively with the Apopka Vocational facility and in conjunction with the West Orange Aviation Authority at the Zellwood Airport. (Pending successful advocacy with Gov. Scotts Office)
- Working on getting Infrastructure Discretionary Funds for a Feasibility Study for Passenger Rail.
- Established a new relationship with Historic Black Colleges and Universities like Bethune Cookman University through Dr. Randy Nelson, Criminal Justice Administration Graduate Program School of Graduate Studies/Liberal Arts Director. This relationship will track the success and failures of program initiatives executed with taxpayer dollars to determine the viability of success and return on taxpayer dollars.