On May 24th, Leon County Commissioner Christian Caban sent a letter to the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency addressing the discourse from the last meeting surrounding the proposed Northeast Park Project. Caban noted that the meeting and media surrounding it reached an inflection point that made Caban feel “uncomfortable,” and that he wanted to “take this opportunity to clear the air and make sure we as leaders are all on the same page and operating in a shared reality”.
Caban stated that he supports the park at the allocated budget of $12 million, and disagrees with fellow Leon County Commissioner Brian Welch for “fervently advocating” for the park to be approved despite the proposed project being roughly 60% over budget. Caban continued, “I have a serious issue with some of Commissioner Welch’s word choice and over dramatization of the need for this baseball park.”
Additionally, Caban stated that Welch’s “overly emotional appeal for equity in his district” has “offended” his sensibilities. He then explains in the letter that equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. Caban called out Welch for claiming there is a lack of equity in his district. He stated, “Claiming there is a lack of equity shocked me…..He represents a district with no Title I schools and no residents living on lakes affiliated with toxic sediment from other districts’ storm water.”
Caban described the inequity between their two districts, saying that while Welch has “newly built shopping centers and restaurants in the unincorporated area that enjoy the ability to tap into public utilities,” while Woodville restaurants have been waiting years for the same accessibilities. He then stated, “Some kids in my district must fill their backpacks with food from their school pantry because they might not get a meal at home during the weekend. But Commissioner Welch is talking about long car drives to baseball parks?”
TR reached out to Commissioner Welch for a comment about Commissioner Caban’s letter.
Welch told TR, “It’s unfortunate that some would conflate the full funding of a NE park with issues such as access to grocery stores and Doctors. All corners of our County have different needs and I respect Commissioner Caban’s perspective. However, the suggestion that the NE Park project somehow comes at the expense of the Southside is completely off base. The NE Park is fully funded and doesn’t take away from any other areas needs. Its cost increases are completely budgeted for, just like every other Blueprint project.”
Welch added, the “residents of NE Leon County deserve public infrastructure investment as much as any other part of the County.”
In closing, Caban expressed his opinion that local leaders need to recognize that some areas of Leon County are better off than others. He ends his letter stating, “If we as leaders can operate from this understanding, I know that we will be able to deliver tangible improvements for the people, in every district, of Leon County.”