City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow spoke at the Network of Entrepreneurs and Network Advocates (NEBA) monthly luncheon on Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at Capital City Country Club.
Matlow, who was elected last year, owns a couple of restaurants which includes Gaines Street Pies. He employs approximately 94 people.
Invited by NEBA, Commissioner Matlow gave a twenty-five minute speech chronicling his first ten months in office and then took questions.
Matlow talked about the challenges of implementing his campaign vision, which was to push back on the status quo. He said the toughest decision he faced was dealing with appointment to replace former City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
One of the issues he took on as a newly elected commissioner was citizen accessibility to local government. Matlow said, when I first took office “City Hall was on lock down mode.” Matlow was referring to the burdensome process in place facing citizens that wanted to engage at City Hall.
Matlow said now you do not need an appointment to visit City Hall. Other changes he supported included the way the City deals with speakers on issues at meetings and expanded mailings to those impacted by property use changes.
Next, Matlow discussed what he labeled the “era of no.” This referred to the move by newly elected city commissioners to challenge decisions addressing the proposed location of the police headquarters and a parking garage in Midtown.
He said the contentious process was difficult, but in the end it resulted in a more comprehensive community discussion about these major projects.
Matlow spoke about the need for local officials to listen to the concerns of people who value their neighborhoods and said we need to change the way we discussion issues. “You should not have to hire a lobbyist or a PR firm to be heard”, said Matlow.
Then, Matlow said, the establishment struck back. He referred to negative press he received for not following the agenda on a trip to Greenville, South Carolina. He referenced a negative Tallahassee Democrat editorial and said his new approach to governing made some people nervous.
“We should celebrate what we are doing well, but we need to look at what we are doing wrong and do better”, said Matlow.
Matlow addressed the FBI investigation and the Scott Maddox guilty plea. He said the guilty plea verified that some city commission votes were tarnished by the exchange of money.
He said this unacceptable and it is why he called for an audit to find out which vendor contracts were related to the illegal actions. He also supports an internal audit to find out how the corrupt activities went undetected and how we can keep it from happening again.
Matlow said he would have no problem rebidding projects that may have been tainted by actions taken by former City Commissioner Maddox.
Matlow said, in his view, public relation firms need to choose between working on campaigns and pursuing local government contracts.
Matlow also addressed the Blueprint process. Despite voter approvals of Blueprint projects, it is still important that we make sure that neighborhoods take ownership in the specifics of the projects that were approved years ago.
He also said that he prefers that the economic development part of the Blueprint revenues be focused on local business. “We need a broad discussion on how these dollars will be spent, a discussion that includes groups like NEBA”, said Matlow.
Matlow on other topics:
- Permitting – Matlow said he is pushing the Office of Economic Vitality to identify permitting issues. Also, Matlow is seeking feedback from approximately 4,000 business on issues related to starting and operating a business in Tallahassee.
- E-Scooters – Matlow said we need to make sure the use the scooters do not infringe of rights of property owners.
- Northwood Mall – Matlow said he was not thrilled about the timing, but he concluded the City bought the property at a good price.
- Gun violence – Matlow is focused on making a good hire for police chief, making sure public safety resources are available, addressing the poverty issue and helping people who want help.
- Washington Square – Matlow commented this was a not city problem. The city has been eager to work with developers.
- Crime – Matlow said we are not going to solve the crime problem by arresting people. Need to address underlying problem