Orlando’s mayoral race heats up
There are three candidates running for the title of Mayor of the City of Orlando and some voters are watching this race closely. To many black people living in the inner city, this race is personal. A mini-focus group consisting of members of the Haitian, African American and Hispanic communities talked about the five top things that matters most to them and there is enough evidence to show that the swing vote, may not swing in the direction of Orlando’s current Mayor, Buddy Dyer.
One woman in our focus group made it fairly clear that Dyer is certainly no buddy to black people in Central Florida. During the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board interview, candidate Sunshine Grund said she feels as though her voice and the voice of other Central Floridians is not being heard. She said she is also running to help save the 100+ acres of wetlands that are set to be destroyed and to provide a voice to the people of Orlando.
Paul Paulson, said he is running because we have had a 17.7% tax hike this year which we can’t afford. Paulson continues, “the hardworking people of Orlando deserve much better.”
Paulson also said, “We can’t give Mr. Dyer a blank checkbook to write checks every time and spend our money.”
The top 5 issues our diverse group said mattered most are as follows:
1. Housing – Residents in highly populated black and hispanic communities say housing is deplorable and gentrification is not only in the near future but is happening now. Owners of black businesses along Church Street were upset because they were shut out of the All-Star Game years ago under the leadership of the current city mayor, Buddy Dyer.
2. The Orlando Police Department – OPD has a record of 23 reports of excessive force under the current police chief and nothing has been done about it outside of a press conference or two. Sheriff Jerry Demings’ office was awarded a grant for body cameras for all of his officers. Keep in mind Demings’ office is not receiving reports of excessive force but the Orlando Police Department, under the supervision of Chief Mina, is responsible for all 23 excessive reports. One officer was even caught on camera kicking a man while he was sitting on the curb adhering to the officer’s requests. This assault happened while another OPD officer watched.
3. Tinker Field – Historic Tinker Field housed the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and other baseball teams. Legends played on this field and it is also the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke before many Central Floridians in 1964. Now, Tinker Field is expected to be demolished. Although, Tinker Field is nationally recognized as a historic place within the United States, some feel that is not enough. Properly paying tribute to the historic significance of Tinker Field is unsatisfactory to many people of color who live nearby.
4. Affordable housing – For blacks looking to build businesses and thrive in the downtown area, affordable housing and rent for a business is almost impossible. City View on Church Street was initially slated to be “affordable” however the apartments alone are more than $1700 per month. While Johnson’s Diner was able to receive financial assistance to move their business from their old location to Church Street, they were still unable to make the rent and pay all of their expenses. Mathematically, the traffic around City View just isn’t quite significant enough to warrant a successful business with the overhead being so expensive.
5. Excessive pollution in the black community – Nap Ford community center sits on polluted soil. According to some community leaders, no one cares about black children and their health especially when the pollution cleanup comes with a hefty price tag. The way the situation was rectified is unacceptable to some community activists. There was a lining put underneath the school to separate the soil from the building and unfortunately, primarily black and hispanic children are still being educated on those grounds.
Residents also said they feel left out of the planning process. When it comes to the issues that plague the black community in Orlando, there is either a meeting for black community leaders or no meeting at all for issues that matter most to the community however, some black leaders want to sit at the same table with everyone and are not willing to continue to only sit alongside the same people they have sat alongside for years. As a community, if we continue to do what we’ve always done we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten. People of color can make no progress if we are not communicating with all who can help move the community forward, regardless of race.
Dyer certainly has more name recognition in this election than any of the others running against him but will that mean he will re-elected on November 3rd?
This election is about more than selecting a mayor. To many black people, it is about changing the conditions in which they live. The number of registered African American voters is significantly higher than in past years and in about four weeks, we will see whether or not the black community is ready to move forward with a new mayor.