NAACP hosts forum that allows leaders to give updates and interact with members of the Black community.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Residents in Daytona’s Black community recently got to question local elected officials on their plans for issues that impact them– public safety, taxes, education and much more.
The Daytona Beach/Volusia County Chapter of the NAACP hosted a March meeting at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church on March 23 brought out Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry; Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri; Daytona Beach Commissioners Paula Reed and Ruth Trager; Volusia County School Board District 2 Representative Ida Duncan-Wright; and Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
“When it’s election time, these candidates and elected officials come to our community and solicit our votes. They make promises. Our people are often lied to. It’s time for us to hold them accountable – not only the Black politicians but all politicians,” said Cynthia Slater, president of the Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP.
No member of the Volusia County Council attended.
“I am pleased with the turnout but disappointed with and offended by those who didn’t’ show up; especially those on the County Commission including Joyce Cusack. They have all taken their constituents for granted,” Slater stated.
The meeting was an opportunity for the elected officials to let constitutes know what they’ve been doing over the last quarter and a chance to showcase accomplishments. The NAACP plans to do this on a quarterly basis.
Henry touted job growth and the creation of the First Step Homeless Shelter.
“We need jobs in the city. We have actually created over 1,000 jobs in the city over the past five to six years,” he said. “I think that we are close to making the shelter a reality. Our hope is to have a comprehensive shelter. A homeless shelter is good for the growth of our community and our ability to attract people to the community.”
Henry admits that creating good paying jobs and getting work for ex-felons is a challenge.
“We have people in this community who just aren’t employable. People are held in check because of things that they may have did in the past. I am a member of the Minority Elected Officials and when jobs are brought into this community we work to get new companies to hire ex-felons. The city has also banned the box on the majority of its job applications,” commented Henry.
Henry wants to improve roads and sidewalks, bring a grocery store to Midtown, set bed and breakfast standards, see downtown development, and completion of the East International Speedway Boulevard improvement project.
Reed told the community that she is working on economic development in Midtown, proactive public safety, dealing with blight, and after-school programs.
Reed stated, “We need to bring in new businesses to our community. We must deal with blight in the community. We have a lot of property and old buildings that are an eyesore.
“Even when you look on Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard, the street doesn’t reflect the name of the woman. There is also city-owned property that we can identify, which would be easier for us to get developed. We must look at plans for Midtown and the rest of the city and move forward. Also, with after school programs we need to do more. It’s more than just sports. We need more arts and education.”
Reed also touted accomplishments like promoting the F.R.E.S.H. Book Festival, the Community Unity Festival and reducing fees for city facilities.
Wright on education
Wright boasted diversity measures, increased graduation rates and improving schools, including Campbell Middle School.
“Working on diversity in our school system has been a goal of mine. We have reached out to HBCUs around the southeast to recruit African-American and Latino teachers. There are programs African-American students aren’t taking advantage of like dual enrollment and AP classes,” she explained.
“These reduce college costs. The numbers have increased at ERAU (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) and B-CU (Bethue-Cookman University) but DSC (Daytona State College) enrollment is down. We are also confident that Campbell middle school won’t be closed down and that they will receive a passing test score.’’
She also encouraged the community to be active.
“When they have meetings for input on plans for building of schools and other school matters, make sure that you attend and get a chance for your voice to be heard,’’ she urged.
Chitwood touted juvenile program, diversifying the department and keeping the sheriff’s department as security for courthouses.
“The DBPD (Daytona Beach Police Department) is ahead of us in diversity. The sheriff’s department and DBPD are the only two police agencies recognized for the juvenile monitoring program. We are working with the YMCA to provide summer camp for kids and with DeLand PAL for education and sports for youth. We are also the only sheriff’s department still in the courthouse; we haven’t privatized security there,” Chitwood explained.
Chitwood also addressed how he has to go through County Manager Jim Dineen to get things done.
“If I want to do something, I must go through him. It’s somehow a county charter. I am the only elected sheriff that doesn’t answer directly to the people. I was elected by the people and should be accountable to them,” the sheriff added.
Police chief’s plans
Capri talked about planned summer programs, sports and education for youth, as well as bringing in more minority officers.
“We have increased minority police hiring. We have more minorities in the police academy. We want to bring education and sports programs for our youth. Education is big. I think education even helps police officers,’’ he mentioned.
“We are working on bringing back youth baseball. We will have a bike giveaway with a plan to give away 100 bikes and we plan on having a fishing tournament in June for the kids, which we will be getting help from Bass Pro Shops.’’
Both law enforcement leaders talked about the difficulties of enforcing immigration matters.
Chitwood said, “We’re not going to do it. We’re not just going to round up immigrants. We’ve been fighting with the issues. The problem with Trump’s agenda and new state laws is if we do it, the community will turn on us. This could stop us from getting money from the feds.”
‘More action’ needed
Daytona resident Tony Servance was pleased with what he heard at the meeting, but wants to see more done.
“I was pleased with the event and its planning. We need to give more notice in the community to announce such events. The event was much needed to give residents an update on city issues and our leaders’ roles. I think that citizens are being heard and are taking notes, but we need more action,’’ he said.