15 Aug JBCC Roundtable with Andrew Gillum, Florida Gubernatorial Candidate
Mayor Gillum’s opening address to the JBCC room highlighted the need for criminal justice and health care reform in Florida after years of having a governor who he claims has restricted access to healthcare to Florida citizens and has not made proper efforts to try and lower recidivism in the state. Gillum stated that healthcare should be extended to more citizens in Florida who need it and more felons in the state of Florida should have fair opportunities for jobs and a chance at success.
When asked by YSRYL, President of the Jacksonville Black Chamber of Commerce about his plans for education and the economy, Mayor Gillum stressed the importance of early childhood education as a focus for prompting success in students throughout their lives. In addition, Mayor Gillum advocated for skills programs and specialized training in the K-12 system to provide economic stability for more students while also providing high skilled jobs.
Concerning economic development in the state, Mayor Gillum supports opening more opportunities for minority and female owned businesses in the state. The state investment fund currently has too many rules. There needs to be dollars appropriated to women and minority groups – something Gillum wants to improve on.
Throughout the event, Mayor Gillum spoke on a variety of issues and addressed many of the concerns of the attendees.
For example, Dr. Creer, one of the few African American physical therapists (PT) in the city of Jacksonville and the only mobile PT shared her issues with certain insurance companies not allowing her to become an accredited server for the community. The insurance companies are claiming there’s “no need” for her services. Gillum responded that there is indeed a great need for medical professionals in the state and supports more professionals joining the healthcare sector. Gillum also promised as Governor there would be more focus on training nursing professionals, while providing more access for Floridians who truly need their services. Gillum pointed out how little funding women owned small businesses get in comparison to men and wants to change that as well.
When addressed by Judy Thompson, founder of the Forgotten Majority, concerning his stance on criminal justice and the reinstatement of parole. Gillum voiced his support of felon voter rights restoration and his opposition to private prisons. In addition, Gillum sponsored Ban the Box legislation as Mayor of Tallahassee, Florida. Ban the Box stops prospective employees from being eliminated from the process. Having a criminal background should not eliminate you from being eligible for employment. In general, Gillum states that the justice system itself in Florida has grown expensive and inefficient. Bail reform is a solution that Gillum hopes will alleviate this.
Shellis McInnis, owner of the Sweet Spot and Urban Lounge shared her problem with the large amount of empty buildings in the city that go unmanaged and take useful property away from small business owners looking to expand. In the city of Tallahassee, Gillum oversaw the enforcement of stricter codes for empty and vacant properties and higher fines for owners that do not take care of property as a way to keep the city maintained properly. Gillum also proposed making CRA’s for community development as a way to help promote small businesses in addition to providing loans to small businesses through the state’s small business administration.
Residents who live next to a Super Fund site (owned by Fairfax Street Wood Treaters) that used the land as a chromated copper arsenate (CCA) wood treatment center from 1980 to 2010 showed up to implore Mayor Gillum to help. The workers who were employed at the company, were not properly trained nor were they informed on the hazards that came with handling such chemicals. Moreover, the community has also been unfairly exposed to the chemicals as well. Frequent chemical spills and improper cleanup has in turn contaminated the soil within a three mile radius.
This three mile radius includes 3 schools- two of which are directly adjacent to the site. Exposure to the chemicals used have been shown to have direct links to a variety of health issues. Gillum expressed the importance of making the Jacksonville Mayor aware of the issues as he can petition for funding from the governor. The presence of harmful materials that place a public health hazard is a top concern that needs to addressed.
Kris Rowell of the Florida Community Prevention Center shared the issues he’s run into as a case manager with finding proper funding for veterans experiencing homelessness or those at risk for homelessness. Despite the effectiveness of their organization, there is a lack of funding to the program. Gillum’s response being his support of evidence based work when it comes to funding. When it comes to combating homelessness, Gillum states that more attention needs to be given to mental and behavioral health issues as they are under addressed.
During the event Gillum also shared his views on the importance of environmental justice in the state. He expressed his support of mandates for testing of water for lead particularly in low income communities since environmental justice infringements happen mainly in black and brown communities. He spoke out against contaminants flowing into South Florida’s natural water systems because of a lack of proper regulation. Harmful chemicals need to be properly disposed of and not spread into the water and earth we depend on.
Closing out the event, Mayor Gillum stressed the importance of Duval County in the upcoming election, and how important the African American community in Duval was in particular. He stated that minorities in the state deserved a fair chance at success and deserved a governor that would support that. He spoke out against current Governor Rick Scott and his creation of low skilled low paying jobs that ultimately do not allow for sustainable growth. Instead, Gillum advocated for higher skilled jobs that would truly create a fair playing field for Florida.