The three candidates vying for Seat 5 of the Tallahassee City Commission faced off in a forum organized by the NAACP, Tallahassee ALERT (African American Local Election Review Team) and several other neighborhood organizations and associations.
City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox, who is seeking a second term, was attending Tuesday’s event at Watson Temple; Shelby Green, Data and Software Engineer; and Adner Marcelin, a financial institution executive.
Candidates weighed in on issues ranging from gun violence and pandemic relief to a controversial 2020 Blueprint board vote to spend $27 million in sales tax dollars on stadium improvements Doak Campbell.
Here are excerpts from the forum:
Why are you running for election?
Williams-Cox: “I am your commissioner. I served for almost four years. I told you when you elected me that I would be your voice, and that’s what I did. I am seeking re-election because we still have work to do. We’re moving our city forward, and we need to keep moving our city forward. I am a 30+ year resident here in the city of Tallahassee, born and raised in Gadsden and Quincy County and came here and raised our family. And I’m very proud of what we’re doing here in Tallahassee and I’m looking forward to it even more.
Green: “As we have seen during the pandemic, the municipal commission was not there for us when we needed it to be there. Instead of adopting different policies than other city commissions, they have not forgiven…the utility debt. So I’m running because we’re at a time when the climate is changing and intensifying and the same communities – our communities that have been left behind in the pandemic – are going to continue to be left behind as the climate changes. So I’m showing up to come up with new ideas and push Tallahassee in an affordable, sustainable, and equitable direction.
Marcellin: “I’m here to essentially advocate for those who need it most and to stand up against special interests, which have taken over our city for decades. And it doesn’t matter how long you serve or whether you hold a position or not. What matters most is that when the people you serve need help, you respond to everyone’s needs, not just the needs of special interests. I got this comment and feedback that says, “You’re hard to work with.” It’s because I can’t be bought… and everyone knows that. I want to serve the people.
For the challengers, what incumbent policy has had a negative impact on African Americans?
Marcelin: “The first that comes to mind is…the vote for Doak Campbell. When we look at $27 million and not just for African Americans but for every citizen of that community, I think that particular vote not only matters what we could have done with that money, but it is equally important to know what will ever be for that money. For small business owners who were looking to grow their business, that will never be the case because that money is now gone. For the companies that we could have attracted here in town and that could have provided more than 45 jobs, it will no longer be because that money is no longer on the table for us to negotiate. No matter how you try to frame it, how you try to flip it, how hard you try to do it…it was just an outrageous waste of money considering what we had going on.
Green: “I think the biggest policy I have a grievance with Commissioner Williams-Cox was voting to end the moratorium on utilities. Last year during the pandemic, the city thankfully had a utility moratorium…. Fast forward, the city unanimously ended the utility moratorium with no communication to the press, no communication with a press release and without telling people who were expecting help from the government that they would now have to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in debt. When I asked the city for data to show who the people are struggling and falling behind on their utility debt, an overwhelming majority were members of our community and black and low-income communities who are struggling to regain financial security and are struggling to progress. in society during a global pandemic.
Williams-Cox, who had the chance to respond: “For those of you who watched what really happened, the City of Tallahassee was the first to stop disconnecting utilities for our citizens during the pandemic. We were the first. And we did it for over a year. We were the last to start disconnecting again. And we didn’t let people hang. We had a concierge service available through our customer service department to ensure that residents who needed help with their utilities got that assistance. We didn’t interrupt people without notice. And even today, we still work with people who need help with their public services. »
“As far as Doak Campbell goes, I’m a pure Rattler. And when I heard that Florida A&M needed help or the stadium was going to be condemned and those dollars were going to go to other communities…I went with FAMU, and we did. When TCC came and asked for help, we also provided $1 million in aid to TCC. Now I went hard for FAMU and supported TCC. How could I then turn my back on the state of Florida? And what we get for that is a community benefit.
Would you fire City Manager Reese Goad? Is it time for a new manager?
Marcelin: “I think this decision is very premature. I was disappointed that my opponent gave a five out of five (on Goad’s assessment). I think there are a lot of things that have challenged his work and giving high pay raises to city hall executives while our…lower working class individuals struggle day to day to win $15 per hour. I think it’s just not acceptable to justify increases of $30,000 to $60,000 and we just can’t take care of the grassroots people who run the city every day. I wouldn’t say I would fire someone without having their information and opinion right in front of me. But let me answer the question this way: I have been a supervisor in many jobs. Am I able to fire someone? Absolutely, without a heartbeat.
Green: “I think running a city is tough, but I also think our city manager Reese Goad has way too much power. As we have seen in City Board meetings, we produced policy by allowing the City Manager to make decisions without public input and input from the City Board. If elected City Commissioner, I would not immediately vote to dismiss him, but I would vote for an audit, I would vote for a performance review of the City Manager, and vote to…restore the balance of the City Commission and remove some the power of the city manager.
Williams-Cox: “I evaluate the City Manager and other appointed officials based on their performance aligned with our strategic plan. And I’m very comfortable with my evaluation because when I look at our strategic plan and we achieve our goals, we Our city is moving forward My assessment of the current city manager is that he is meeting the target of the strategic plan that we, the commission, have put in place for him to act on. That’s no longer the case, we’ll deal with it then. But right now, I see our city moving forward, I see us growing, and I see no need to make any changes to any of our appointed officials. And I gave all of our named officials a high rating because they achieve the rating we set for them.
How should the City Commission respond to the Anatomy of a Homicide Report from the Sheriff’s Office?
Green: “The City Commission needs to understand what the ills are in our community and what interim steps we can take so that by the time the strategic plan is completed for the Status of Men and Boys Commission, we can have proactive measures in place. What causes crime in our community is that people cannot afford to live. People are struggling to regain financial stability and have no other choice when it comes to upward social mobility. Forty-six percent of the crimes committed involved basic survival bills, including utility bills and grocery bills. So, when the city commission has the opportunity to come to the aid of people in difficulty, especially those in areas prone to crime and the 30324 zip code, it should take advantage of this opportunity.
Marcellin: “My take on the anatomy of a homicide is that I’m not surprised. It’s not rocket science or new information that we haven’t all been used to. We knew there were gun problems in the community, we knew there was violence. It starts first with schools and expulsion because a majority of these individuals who… have committed acts of violence in our community, they have been expelled from school and have had no other choice . And so when you have individuals who are kicked out of school and they’re given no choice…they have to find a way to live, they have to find a way to make money and it becomes a bigger problem. We need to find a very serious way to address the economy and poverty, because that is the fundamental reason why there is crime in the community.
Williams-Cox: “What we do in the City of Tallahassee, we provide funding from the Tallahassee Police Department as well as the city budget to help with the Sheriff’s initiative on the Status of Men and Boys Commission. We also have the TEMPO program. We plan to use this to continue to provide people with the opportunity to get their GED, go to college, get training and open their own business and we have degrees where it’s life changing . We also have the Tallahassee Future Leaders Academy that…pays kids, students over the summer so we can help them understand that it’s a good thing to earn money legitimately and be able to spend it legitimately . This is what we do in the city of Tallahassee and I would like to do even more.
Contact Jeff Burlew at [email protected] or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.
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