There has been much speculation and assumption as to what the South Apopka Ministerial Alliance hopes to gain by their initiative to bring single member voting districts to Apopka.
Do they want an African-American Commissioner? Do they want an individual that lives in South Apopka? Do they want both?
Pastors Hezekiah Bradford and Richard King are the driving force behind the Alliance. Bradford is the President of The South Apopka Ministerial Alliance and the Apopka Ministerial Alliance as well. King is the Pastor of St. James AME Church in Eustis, a lifelong resident of Apopka, and a leading voice in the community.
But to understand what they want in a single member district format, they say you have to understand the goal of The South Apopka Ministerial Alliance.
Pastor King explains the aim.
“We want to see Apopka become more attentive to God,” he said. “In order to achieve that goal, we have to be attentive to the needs of people in every area of their lives. Do they have a job? Do they have good housing? Do their children have good schools? Our finances (The Alliance’s) go to a scholarship and to help those in need. We don’t get paid a dime to do this.”
It is their belief that a single member district commissioner will help achieve the goals of the South Apopka community.
“Everyone thinks we want an African-American commissioner,” said Bradford. "That’s not what we want.”
“If you listen to all of the City of Apopka council meeting minutes going back months when the Alliance began the discussion of single member districts, you will not hear a single word of reference to ethnicity or race, not one,” said King.
The Alliance is lobbying for a single member district so that they can hold one commissioner, from the South Apopka District, accountable to its needs.
“If you don’t ask for something, you won’t get it,” said King. “We are asking for someone who we can hold accountable. I know all of them (the commissioners) are supposed to be, but that isn’t the case.”
“I would ask them (City Commissioners) how many times have you driven through South Apopka? Or talked to The Alliance? Or asked us what we need? Look at the difference in recreation facilities. “How much money was allocated for the southside for infrastructure or anything else in the last budget? That’s why we are for single member districts.”
Pastor Hezekiah Bradford
They also point out that it’s what a South Apopka Commissioner can get done, rather than just having a person in office who has that title.
“And it’s not just about a single member district. Housing, jobs, infrastructure; it’s all important, said Bradford. “The needs of the people are bigger than any individual. You have to talk to a community about its needs.”
And so far they have not seen that kind of attention from Apopka’s elected officials.
“I would ask them (City Commissioners) how many times have you driven through South Apopka?” Bradford asked. “Or talked to The Alliance? Or asked us what we need? Look at the difference in recreation facilities. “How much money was allocated for the southside for infrastructure or anything else in the last budget? That’s why we are for single member districts.”
When the Alliance began this initiative, it seemed like an uphill battle with little support from the City Commission, but in light of recent circumstances, it seems as though single member districts may be only one vote from a majority on the City Commission. The emergence of Commissioners Bill Arrowsmith and Billie Dean coming out in favor of the initiative has given new life to the single member district initiative going to the next level.
“We appreciate the leadership of Commissioner Dean and Commissioner Arrowsmith on their open mindedness regarding this issue,” said King. We understand that we can agree to disagree and respect one another’s position, but we are just elated that they (Dean & Arrowsmith) are willing to allow and support public engagement for this issue to be heard by the community.”
But either way, their fight for single member districts will not end.
“We will not stop,” said King. “It may not happen overnight. It may not happen in a year. But we will not stop.”
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