Local leaders weigh in on their plans to better their communities in 2019
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
It’s a new year, but old challenges remain on how to improve the quality of life for the people in Volusia County, including the lives of residents in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
Challenges also remain on how to improve the makeup of the Black community – whether it’s good-paying jobs and economic opportunity, affordable and fair housing, infrastructure, education, health care, and access to healthy food, and more.
We asked some of the area’s Black leaders to share their plans for 2019.
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry
“I will work to ensure the successful opening of the First Step Shelter and a growing multifaceted approach to addressing homelessness. I will work to help implement Amendment 4 directly and through all available communication channels.
“I will implement a community program honoring fathers and encouraging men to embrace youth mentoring. I will steer the city and region towards a collective effort to make affordable housing a primary a primary objective.
“I will continue to focus on attracting employment opportunities to the community. I will ensure the resurfacing of MLK Boulevard and Jimmy Ann Drive.”
Barbara Girtman, Volusia County Council Member (Seat 1)
“As the only person of color serving on our County Council, I look forward to working with my colleagues and fellow council members to ensure diverse and inclusive investments in communities of color. We will identify how to improve resources for underserved communities within our municipalities for the residents.
“I believe it’s important to preserve communities such as Spring Hill in DeLand and Midtown in Daytona Beach. I will be working with the Minority Elected Officials of Volusia, a caucus of local Black elected officials.
“Our county and city governments will be the key to strategic planning for redeveloping these communities. It is critical however that we move all communities of Volusia forward to ensure the rising tide lifts all communities.”
Pierre Louis, Midtown Redevelopment Board Chair and president of the Military Officers Association of Volusia County “To move forward in 2019, I feel that we should have capital improvement projects on MLK and MMB boulevards, greater CRA funding for Midtown and improve updates to the community on the Midtown Redevelopment plan.
“We must attract investors to the area by creating special tax incentives to invest in blighted areas. There should be small business summits that include monies to assist business. Small home improvement grants should be increased to $10,000.
“We should invest in Midtown Wi-Fi along MLK and MMB areas. We need to create a technology exploratory committee to attract technology-based companies to Midtown to build and train employees. We must look into renewable energy like solar and wind parcels and return the savings to Midtown residents and businesses.
“We should create a special non-government grant/resource development committee dedicated to Midtown. We should create a Midtown Special District such as One Daytona, Pavilion, Downtown District.”
Daytona Beach City Commissioner Dannette Henry (Zone 5)
“I will continue to advocate for youth sports and a stronger, more backed Cultural & Leisure Services Department, which mainly funds activities and provide scholarships for youth in our community who need it.
“I will continue to sponsor and ensure proper funding for the Golden Oasis senior program, which serves mainly seniors in our African-American community. I will work to re-establish voters’ rights for ex-felons.
“I will ask the Daytona Times to help with real projects to affect change in our community, including scholarships for children, food drives, and investing financially in youth activities. I want to partner with various non-profits who work to advance the community. I plan to host affordable homeowner seminars for single moms.”
Daytona Beach City Commissioner Quanita May (Zone 3)
“On Beach Street and the surrounding area, I want to address speeding, lighting in parking lots behind Beach Street shops and meet both merchants and residents in person.
“On Beachside, I plan to meet merchants and residents in person, address street lighting, trash pickup on Halifax Avenue, address buildings ready to be demolished and walk A1A with local residents.”
“In Midtown, I plan to listen to the community by visiting churches, address speeding and debris on MMB (Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard) and other streets per merchant and resident requests, meet both residents and merchants in person, support B-CU students, organize health and wellness events.”
“I want to improve health in the 32114 zip code by promoting vegetables and fruit as medicine. I am encouraging reduction in street littering, sanitation issues, and improving community appearance. My goal is to be responsive to residents and businesses alike. I am present in the community and I have office hours at City Hall on Mondays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.’
Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater
“My plan is to hold our elected officials accountable for the plight of our community, especially the Midtown area. I would like to see some improvement projects as far as infrastructure. I think the only way to do that is if the City Commission looks deep within the needs of the Midtown area and see how it has been neglected. The city has been lacking in supporting the Midtown area.
“We must also hold the county elected officials accountable. The landscape of the county government doesn’t reflect the entire county. We also plan to make sure that both the city and county ensures equal employment opportunities as well.”
Southeast Volusia NAACP President Shyriaka Morris
“I think one thing that could be done is to focus on the youth by having proactive programs that teach the youth the skills that will give them the experiences they need to be successful in the future.
“We need to create programs that will keep the youth out of prison. Then, we do or do not have to worry about prison reform because out youth’s best case scenario will not be in the prisons.”
Community Healing Project Executive Director Dyrell Johnson (aka Rell Black)
“It is time for the Black community to have a real voice that is truly for us. We contribute so much economically and culturally and it’s time for our residents to have their fair share. We must hold our communities accountable when crime and danger occurs just as we praise during time of success.
“We must make sure each and every business in our community – from gas stations to doctors’ offices – are clean, professional and not littered with garbage or inebriated citizens. Once we show that we love our community, others will fall in, believe and begin to invest in our beautiful community once again.
“We must also make sure that businesses in our community are providing our people economic opportunities.”