WORDS DO MATTER

New Smyrna Beach residents want city manager out over controversial comments captured on video.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

Some irate New Smyrna Beach residents are calling for the ouster of City Manager Pam Brangaccio despite her apology Tuesday night over controversial comments made during a heated exchange with a Black pastor.

The Rev. Jeffrey Dove addresses the New Smyrna Beach city commission on Tuesday night at City Hall.
(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

The controversy was sparked when the Rev. Jeffrey Dove and the church he pastors, Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church, reached out to the city to request using the Alonzo “Babe’’ James Center immediately following Hurricane Irma to feed impacted community residents, which included some of the area’s homeless.

Dove said the church initially was given permission to use it from Sept. 12-14 to serve lunch and dinner. But he later received a text from an unfamiliar phone number stating that he couldn’t use it.

Crossed the line
Dove and members went to the center anyway and were met by the city manager and a heated exchange ensued that Dove videotaped. He posted a 17-second clip of the video on his Facebook page.

During the video, Brangaccio states that, “It’s not the pastor’s center. It’s my center.”

Residents express their thoughts on Pam Brangaccio’s comments during New Smyrna Beach’s city commission meeting Tuesday night.
(DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

Dove responds that “it’s the people’s center.’’

Brangaccio told them that she needed the center to feed city employees and later during the video stated that she doubted that a person in the group paid taxes.

During Tuesday night’s meeting, people held signs that read, “I pay tax and I vote!” and “I pay tax and I remember!”

An apology
Dove recalled the exchange. “It was getting heated. There were things said that weren’t captured. It’s hard as Blacks and others who are disadvantaged that we have to capture someone in their own actions and words on video to make a change,” he said.

Brangaccio apologized on Tuesday night, stating that “If I could go back, I never would had said that, period.”

Petition near goal
Since the incident, Dove and Brangaccio seemed to have buried the hatchet.

However, not all is forgiven for hundreds of local residents. On Wednesday evening, a Change.org petition calling for the resignation of Brangaccio had almost reached its goal of 500 signatures.

“I am still disappointed, but the fact that she did come and apologize says a lot. I think Pam has done a lot for the city. I think that her comments were, however, degrading not just to the homeless but all citizens,” Dove related.

“I hope that we can move forward. I will continue to be a voice and speak for the homeless. This isn’t an isolated incident. It is happening all over the county.’’

‘Right and wrong issue’
At Tuesday’s meeting, Allen Chapel’s homeless coordinator urged the commission to keep its promise to help the homeless.

“It’s not a Black and White issue, but it’s a right and wrong issue. I am sad to see this. I don’t see the homeless as homeless but as humans that are less fortunate,’’ said Edward Barnes. “The city manager told us before the storm if it was anything that we needed to let her know. I ask the commission and the city to keep promises that they made.”

Other problems
The homeless are upset as well.

“I am upset. I pay taxes. Work takes out my taxes and so does everything I buy. It was shocking for a city official to tell me that I wasn’t welcomed because I am houseless. I’m upset,” Dale Edmonds told the Daytona Times.

The incident has prompted talk about other problems in the city.

Dove expressed, “The Pandora’s box has opened. I think the hurricane has brought about several issues relating to the city, not just the city manager’s behavior as well as issues regarding the ‘Babe’ James Center and its program. Our responsibility as citizens is to make sure we do our part and we must hold them accountable.”

Westside woes
Patricia James-Gray is the daughter of Alonzo “Babe” James.

James-Gray commented, “I’m crying! We have a problem here that must be fixed. We have a wonderful town, but we must make it wonderful for everybody. I recently brought property on the westside. I asked why don’t the westside get as much as the east? I was told by a city official that they don’t pay as much taxes on the westside.”

New Smyrna’s westside neighborhood has historically had a predominantly Black population.

ACLU responds
The Volusia & Flagler County American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is looking into the matter.

“As we speak, the ACLU is looking into and documenting the discrimination occurring in every city across our county,” commented Debra Jernigan, a member of the local ACLU board.

Board member Ken Strickland added, “This has to stop. Letters have been sent to the county, Daytona Beach, DeLand and soon one will be sent to New Smyrna Beach. We are doing everything that we can. After that, the state Branch will look into it.”

‘Let’s fix it’
The city manager did have supporters speak on her behalf.

“It is what it is! She was asked a question and she gave a response. It was a mistake and out of context. A lot happened before the incident. It’s a problem. Let’s fix it and move on,” commented Michael Booth, a resident and city employee.

City commissioners also stood by Brangnaccio Tuesday night.

“I am disappointed after an hour-long attack on our city manager. The good that came out of this is that we can now make changes for the better. We need to pull the city together and move forward,” said Commissioner Judy Reiker.

Commissioner Jason McGuirik echoed, “I apologize for what happened. There is no excuse for it. It’s not what we want to represent here in the City of New Smyrna Beach.

We have problems that we can fix. I stand behind our city manager.”

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