Whoever becomes the Leon County Commissioner in District Two will have their work cut out for them.
According to the 2016 Distressed Community Index, the zip codes that make up the district – 32310, 32304 and 32305 – are some of the most distressed communities in the country.
Candidate Manny Joanos says in order to boost the economy in the district, vacancies in houses and stores need to be filled.
“Jobs is a key to bringing back District Two," Joanos says. "There are a bunch of business vacancies, a bunch of home vacancies. People that have some means and want to improve their housing, they’re moving somewhere else, and it’s leaving a lot of vacancies.”
Jeffrey William Bullock says a way to bring job growth to the district is by talking to residents in the private sector.
“We have to promote jobs through media (and) out in the private sector," Bullock says, "asking people what they think about what needs to be done to promote economic growth.”
While T.J. Lewis sees the housing vacancies as opportunities to draw in first-time home buyers.
“I see District Two as a gateway in the respect that when you want to establish your life here in Tallahassee, you want to plant roots," Lewis says, "District Two is the most accessible to people who are starting off, first-time home buyers. I really want to create opportunities for them to purchase homes in District Two.”
Some of the candidates are concerned about education.
Nancy Calhoun wants to meet with the Leon County School Board in order to help raise District Two’s school grades. She says the low performances drive families out of the district.
“Every single school in District Two is a ‘D’ school, according to the State of Florida, with Fort Braden being the only one that’s a ‘C,'" she says. "Now that I’ve been out and about in the community more than ever in the last 30 days, I’ve learned that the reason why people are leaving my community is because of the school systems.”
Margaret Franklin says a way to improve schools is to build cooperation between public and private institutions.
“I would develop a public-private partnership with all of the private schools where they work with the public system so that we can keep our schools open," Franklin says. "Private schools should be a help mate to the public schools.”
Other candidates like Kirk Headley-Perdue and Howard Font are concerned about the budget.
Headley-Perdue wants to look into funding for the district.
“Almost 70 percent of our budget comes from taxes and fees in this county," Headly-Persue says. "I’d like to see a summary...If one assumes we have five districts and District Two is one of them, it seems logical to me that we ought to be somewhere in the neighborhood...of $50 million for our communities. I don’t see that happening. I’d to see how that’s being spent.”
Font also has concerns about spending.
“We need to be smarter about how we’re spending," he says. "That way we can do more and there would be more room for assets and resources to go to District Two, which is what we need...We don’t get our fair share, like I think everyone agrees.”
The candidates joined WFSU's Tom Flanigan for Political Perspectives on Tuesday. Listen to the podcast here.
Candidate Jimbo Jackson–principal at Fort Braden School–could not attend the show.