By Greg Jackson, Esq.
This past Sunday morning, while drinking my weekly dose of coffee, it finally hit; I know what the problem is with Apopka. While I know many of you will find my statement to be presumptuous and possibly arrogant, allow me to explain before you start to disagree.
It should come as no surprise to anyone with a pulse that Apopka has an issue with the allocation of resources to various underserved areas within its boundaries. As businesses come to the city and rooftops explode from the ground, not all parts of Apopka benefit from such growth, especially when resources are diverted from the very community that could help the most. The disparity of resources has perpetuated a disturbing trend that is evidenced by the lack of economic development, which leads to poor living conditions and the lack of employment opportunities for those residing within the underserved areas. Oddly enough, through community redevelopment efforts and funding, the resources that could assist with improving the conditions noted herein are available. Even more interesting, the resources I speak of are statutorily required to go towards such conditions and communities to address “slum” and “blight.” But, for some reason, no action is taken to address what everyone knows and sees as an issue.
"Apopka should take advantage of its active, vocal citizenry and create ways to work together. However, the coming together cannot be done in a vacuum, but rather must occur in an open, inviting manner that allows everyone to have functional input."
With all of that said, the problem is this: Apopkans are not talking to each other. People from the community have no idea that community redevelopment agency funding is available to improve living conditions, as well as promote business opportunities to become sustainable, so they say nothing. Persons with a thorough understanding of the issues and how community redevelopment agency funding may be used to improve underserved communities are not being brought to the table to speak on the issues, so in effect they say nothing. The administration of the City has its own ideas of how community redevelopment agency funding should be used, so it says nothing. Organizations that are well aware of the scrutiny surrounding community redevelopment agency funding being used in ways that do not meet legislative intent say nothing. So, as you can probably tell by now, the problem with Apopka is that when no one says anything, no one is talking. This breakdown or lack of communication by key members of the community, government, and business prevent the formulation of collaborative efforts and ideas to better the City. Apopka is not Orlando, so opportunities to engage the community are much more plausible; at least until 2037 (refer to my previous article, “All that Glitters”).
Apopka should take advantage of its active, vocal citizenry and create ways to work together. However, the coming together cannot be done in a vacuum, but rather must occur in an open, inviting manner that allows everyone to have functional input. As an example, I recall that members of the Apopka Task Force on Violence, a community-driven group, was finally asked to present its findings to the City Commission. At the conclusion of the presentation, despite some differences, there appeared to be a door opened by the City to further the discussion on ways to work together to improve the community. However, since that time nothing has happened to facilitate that opportunity to work together. When leaders (political, community, business, etc.) play the game of “I-ain’t-talking-to-that-person” or “I-don’t-like-that person” or “my-idea-is-better-than-yours,” lines of communication are severed and the community fails; or in this case, certain portions of the community continue to be ignored. But, now that I have shared with you what I believe is the problem with Apopka, I must now share my greatest fear . . . no one is listening – in my humble opinion.
Greg Jackson is a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. In 2016, he was a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.