What could $1.8 million do in South Apopka?
Could it change the culture of violence and improve safety? Could it bring jobs, prosperity and education to a struggling community? Could it help to improve the relationship between law enforcement and residents?
Yesterday the Task Force followed-up the release of a 40-page report with a press conference at The John Bridges Center in South Apopka - the site of the first Task Force meeting this past summer.
The report had many authors, but Task Force Co-Chairman Rod Love wrote the framework, which was reviewed, revised and edited by Love and Dr. Randy Nelson, a researcher and professor at Bethune-Cookman University. It was also reviewed by several subject matter experts for substance, consistency and to ensure that it presented a compelling argument according to Love. Also involved in the final draft was Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson, who provided analytical feedback and recommendations. Attorney Greg Jackson, also a task force member, helped develop the possible application of Community Redevelopment Act (CRA) uses.
The report details challenges and proposed solutions, but the biggest takeaway was a request from the Task Force for state, county and city governments to provide $1.5 million to support their initiatives.
"It is requested that legislative support be given to this holistic and first of its kind state legislative budget request that has significant statewide interest and implications relative to combating issues that are not unique to Central Florida," the report states. "In an effort to ensure that there is local investment in securing a return on taxpayer investment, this initiative will also be requesting a 20% match from the two affected local government municipalities based on a pro-rated share of jurisdiction."
The proposal calls for The State of Florida to contribute $1.5 million, Orange County $135,000 and The City of Apopka $165,000.
It's a big ask, but the Task Force has already begun to make headway.
"Over the past three weeks we have begun the process of meeting with state legislators to garner sponsors in the house and senate," Love said. " Representative (Jennifer) Sullivan has expressed a willingness to consider sponsoring this project in the State House of Representatives. We met with Senator Dennis Baxley in Ocala two weeks ago, and Senator (Randolph) Bracy’s staff last week regarding support of a companion bill in the Senate. Commissioner Nelson and I will also travel to Tallahassee to present the final report to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House upon scheduling availability. I am also setting up various meetings with legislative staff as well and plan to present to the Central Florida legislative delegation in January."
According to Love, the funding would be strategically allocated to not-for-profit organizations that provide specific services such as delinquency prevention, mentors, job training/coaching, healthcare training, economic development, and housing. However these services would have to be provided in a specified high-risk community with data that demonstrates the need... such as disproportionate arrest rates, school suspensions and high unemployment.
And while a request, proposal and steps taken to secure $1.8 million for South Apopka is certainly the big-ticket item in the report, passion was the theme during the press conference.
"We could not do this work without our community," said Task Force Co-Chairman Ken Wilson in a booming voice that did not need the provided microphone. "It's the people of Apopka that make you successful... true warriors when it comes to community concern. And the only reason we were successful on this Task Force was because of the community, the faith based community and the youth that all contributed greatly."
Wilson paused for a moment as if to build up extra steam and then continued the rousing speech.
"This is not our first rodeo. I've been in law enforcement for 35 years. We cannot put a band-aid on a cancerous sore. This is a cycle of violence. And we have to stop this cycle. We have to stop the bleeding. It has to stop!"
Part Two: $1.8 million is a lot of money. What chance does The Task Force have of actually closing on that request? The Apopka Voice asks the County and City Commissioners who will play a big role in that decision.
To read the complete 40-page report, go here.
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