By Greg Jackson, Esq.
WARNING: IF YOU ARE OVERLY SENSITIVE TO THE TRUTH AS I SEE IT, YOU MAY WANT TO AVOID THIS PIECE!!!
As "community leaders" in Orlando continue to struggle to find answers to the question of how to address violence in the community; and while they seek to implement antiquated strategies and programs that have proven to be ineffective in the past, residents of Apopka should be proud to know that Apopka is doing things right.
When Apopka, the second largest municipality in Orange County, found itself facing the same challenges and struggles with violence that Orlando is plagued with, instead of establishing a group made up of the usual cast of characters, some of whom prefer to clamor for face time on television than provide solutions, Apopka residents assembled a Task Force on Violence that went to work. In just 90 days, the Apopka Task Force developed some community initiatives and a solutions-based Report that provided a comprehensive plan to address violence through economic development, job initiatives, education, as well as community and government accountability. The Apopka Task Force's work has proven to be so effective that everyone is asking for a copy: legislators, news media, elected officials from other municipalities, everyone; well, all but Orlando "community leaders" that is. So why is it that Orlando "community leaders" have failed to reach out to its sister-city for guidance, but instead have opted to rush to the media with a plan, that leaves the community frustrated, with even more questions and no real solutions.
What, you may ask, is the difference with Apopka's Task Force's approach to violence. First, Rod Love and Ken Wilson, who served as co-Chairs of the Task Force, took a multidisciplinary approach to putting the Task Force together. As such, residents, educators, business leaders and students had a place at the table with law enforcement and clergy. Next, Love placed a 90- day timeline for the Apopka Task Force to meet, identify the key issues and formulate solutions. Then, Love sought the guidance of legal counsel and an acclaimed community crisis expert to develop recommendations that were incorporated in to a Report that in effect offered strategies to address violence based on its root causes -- lack of economic opportunity and poverty.
Apopkans should be commended for coming together with an all-inclusive, open process that garnered no media attention, but has had some definite positive effects for the betterment of the community. From "Coffee with a Cop," to small business workshops being planned and the upcoming Apopka Family, Faith and Food Festival, which brought together members of the Apopka Task Force, I have witnessed the positive outcomes from the Task Force's existence. Furthermore, believe it or not, but I have also heard some Apopkans say that there has been a decrease in violence in areas where violence was virtually a daily occurrence prior to the Apopka Task Force being established. Because Apopka's and Orlando's residents are interdependent on each other in many ways, my sincere hope is that Orlando "community leaders" will move away from the news cameras, do away with the multiple community meetings and follow the lead of Apopka by addressing the causes of violence and not just telling people what they already know, which is violence is a problem within the community. The solution to violence is not an easy one to figure out, but, by addressing the root causes there will be a reduction in violence throughout the community -- in my humble opinion.
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.
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