With the election of Curtis Richardson to the City Commission, the southside of Tallahassee will get someone on the Commission that actually lives in their part of town.
Mr. Richardson makes his home in Tuskegee neighborhood off of Orange avenue which is located in the heart of District 1, which is represented by Commissioner Bill Proctor on the Leon County Board of Commissioners.
The City portion of the District 1 is 85% African-American.
Mr. Richardson made where he lives and his race a significant part of his campaign during a forum at Tabernacle Church when he said “we do not have City Commission that lives south of Gaines Street.”He also, made the point that the City Commission needed two black Commissioners to properly represent he black community.
His opponent, Diana Orapollo, lived in Killearn Estates and is white.
Now that Mr. Richardson has won, how will where he lives affect his votes.
The issues that dominate the southside are public safety and economics. It appears public safety will be the easier issue to move on since leaders have finally been forced to recognize the problem.
Mr. Richardson will be able guide the policy in this area due to living in the section of town that needs the most help.
However, the economic issues may be another story.
Commissioner Bill Proctor has made electric rates an issue for years on the southside. His argument is that the City of Tallahassee electric utility is using a regressive tax that hurts the economically disadvantaged which are concentrated on the southside to balance the general fund.
Mr. Proctor, who has spoken directly to Commission at public hearings on this issue, has seen little progress, despite having two African Americans on the Commission in Andrew Gillum and Mayor John Marks.
Why will it be different now?
“Curtis lives among the people on the southside, this will impact how he votes on kitchen table issues and that includes electric rates” said Proctor.
The City is protective of the electric utility and it will be difficult for Richardson to change policies that have been put in place that provide for automatic rate increases and the confiscation of overcharges all without a vote.
However, records indicate that a vote on an electric base rate increase, which is beyond the automatic rate of inflation increases, may come before the City Commission within the next year.
Another issue that Mr. Richardson will be able to influence, is the spending of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). A large party of the CRA includes the Southside, however to date most of the spending and incentives provided by the CRA have gone to projects north of Gaines street.
The question is will Richardson be able to change the economic development conversation so that it includes issues important to the southside?