On Wednesday the Apopka Community Task Force released a report in which it requests $1.8 million to fight violence in South Apopka. The vast majority of the request would come from state funding, but $165,000 would be from The City of Apopka. Three commissioners that attended and participated the most in the Task Force events were Doug Bankson, Kyle Becker and Billie Dean. All three had thoughts on the Task Force and its report, especially as it related to Apopka's participation in the funding.
Do they have an appetite for this initiative?
Bankson elaborated on many parts of the meetings and report, and believes it's time to change the way some people perceive Apopka.
"This has been a well attended community effort seeking positive answers to real world issues," he said. "As an elected official I was happy to have been able to observe and encourage the process. I do like the focus on educational options which do not limit those who are in a negative environment from better opportunities. I also like the emphasis on improving relations with law enforcement. The unfortunate political climate in our nation lends itself to distrust, and anything we can do to bridge the gap is a great step forward. Reducing crime is beneficial to the whole of the city therefore it's not misspent by focusing it on the most crime ridden area. Apopka's image is paramount when drawing new business to the area which creates opportunity and benefits everyone. Perception is reality, and changing the perception begins when we address the problems."
Becker pointed to the timing of the final report being beneficial given the violent events of the last few weeks in Central Florida.
"I think the mission and focus of the task force is critical in creating safe and productive communities, and along with challenges we have seen in Pine Hills and Orlando, the efforts of this task force are most importantly timely," he said. "I had the opportunity to participate in most, if not all of the task force community meetings with residents and community leaders, and it's great to see those thoughts consolidated and formalized in the released report."
Dean is the elder statesman of the City Commission. He has been fighting for South Apopka causes for years, and is skeptical that things will ever change. He also believes the Apopka/Orange County border hampers improvement. He did, however shower praise on the Task Force's efforts.
"I've been a commissioner for two decades, and very little has changed on this side of town. The problem is The City of Apopka's hands are tied to some extent, because our border ends at 10th Street. Everything south of there is Orange County. We cannot help beyond there because of the layout. However the city has nothing for young people to do. No boys club or girls club. Both the county and city treat this side of town like a step child. We don't have anything to invigorate our children. They are stuck. There is nothing. And then people are surprised when they steal cars or break into houses. I thank God for people like Rod Love, Ken Wilson and Greg Jackson... and all of the task force entourage because they see a need and come together. It's not all about money. We have to have community involvement too."
As for the $165,000 request from The City of Apopka, all three commissioners seemed to be open to the idea, but in need of more details before they gave their approval.
Bankson - "I like the emphasis on improving relations with law enforcement. The unfortunate political climate in our nation lends itself to distrust, and anything we can do to bridge the gap is a great step forward."[/caption]
"I would want request and disbursement of funds to be justified by the cost of the program presented rather than merely asking for a set amount and then deciding how it will be spent," said Bankson. "This is a backwards approach to funding that does not lend itself to efficiency or accountability. However I have ideas that may set aside certain funds based on a percentage approach to each area of the city to be spent on that which most appropriately meets the needs of the immediate community."
Becker also looked for more defined uses of the funds.
"I look forward to having further discussions with task force members to understand a little more detail about the programs proposed and how any approved funding would be allocated to ensure short term and sustainable success."
Dean was the most open to funding the task force, but he too would call for accountability.
"I do feel like we should put the ($165,000) money up as a guarantee so the state will see we are serious. And we'll make sure they spend it correctly."
In closing, Bankson hoped the Task Force would continue to involve and engage the community as it did earlier in the year.
"I would like to see follow up workshops that would allow interaction between citizens and public servants based on these findings. Interaction and communication are key to finding the best solutions. Perhaps this could be done in a town hall format that affords such interaction. Bottom line, it is good to see community involvement in problem solving and I am hopeful that we can see positive solutions from the task force groundwork."
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here