At its May 4th Apopka City Council meeting, Commissioner Alexander H. Smith began his second term in Seat #1 by requesting three things get done that he believes are vital to the community - a housing state of emergency, a committee to study the annexation of South Apopka, and a committee to study diversity, inclusion, and equity in Apopka.
Over two months have passed, but little has been done on any of those three issues.
"When looking at the crisis that we're now experiencing with affordable housing, let's look at the possibility of declaring a housing state of emergency in the city of Apopka and pursuing a rent stabilization program," Smith said at the meeting. "It's important that we address affordable/workforce housing. The situation is getting worse, and it does not appear that it's going to get better any time soon. Working-class people find themselves homeless, struggling to make ends meet, and putting stress on their families. Tenants who pay more than 30% of their income on rent are rent-burdened, meaning they have fewer resources to pay for other basic needs for themselves and their families. Declaring a housing state of emergency in this crisis may be the only relief at this time. Pursuing some rent stabilization program to help those struggling could be a lifeline."
There has been no return to the topic of a housing state of emergency or action taken since the May 4th meeting.
Annexing South Apopka became a hot topic in the summer of 2021. That was followed by a political cycle in which it became a core issue among the candidates running for city commission. Smith took a more pragmatic approach to annexation by calling for a committee to study it before having a workshop.
"Annexation is a topic that is not going anywhere and needs to be addressed," he said in a statement to The Apopka Voice. My recommendation is for the City to appoint a committee to begin serious negotiations with the County and the residents in the unincorporated areas of Apopka. It's time for Apopka to become united rather than divided down the middle of a road. A price tag should not be put on the quality of life or be the determining factor whether to annex or not. Do the humane thing, which is the right thing, by annexing and investing in all of Apopka. A true "One Apopka" should be our goal!"
Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson referenced a workshop during an April 26th interview with The Apopka Voice.
"If we're gonna do it, we'll probably have to do it before we get heavy into budgets," Nelson said. "So it will probably be May or June. Probably either the second meeting in May or June. I'm not leading the charge on that. But obviously, if I get enough interest and they [the Council] want me to move forward with at least a presentation of the good, the bad, and the ugly; then we'll absolutely do it."
But now, just days before the start of the budget workshops, no committee has been formed, and no workshop is scheduled.
Smith's third request was for a committee to study diversity, inclusion, and equity in Apopka.
"During the election cycle, diversity, inclusion, and equity were topics in each debate," he wrote in a statement to The Apopka Voice. "The makeup of our city is very diverse, and it became obvious during the discussions that it's a subject that needs attention. That's why I asked the mayor to appoint a Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Commission and allow each Commissioner to appoint one person to the Commission. Its role would be to establish communication, respect, goodwill, understanding, and equity inclusive of all citizens and businesses in Apopka. There are five "P's" I believe will address many of the issues that concern Apopka residents: People, Programs, Projects, Policies, and Partnerships. It's a tall order, but we can accomplish it."
At the July 6th City Council meeting, Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson referenced the committee during the Mayor's report:
"An update on the City's diversity, equity and inclusion committee... we've got seven members now. We've got two more I'm trying to add... so we'll have a very, very well-rounded committee I think you'll be proud of. I'll bring that back hopefully next council meeting on how that goes as far as budgets and all that."
The Apopka Voice made three public records requests for the names of the committee members and the details of the committee on July 7th, 11th, and 15th, but has not received a response to those requests.
When asked byThe Apopka Voice in a text message on July 13th if he had details or names from the committee, Smith replied "No, not at this time."
When asked on July 18th if there are any members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion or the South Apopka annexation committees, Smith replied "Names have not been released."
The three budget workshops are Monday, July 25th through Wednesday, July 27th. The next City Council meeting precedes the final budget workshop on Wednesday, July 27th.
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