Political Perspectives: City Commission Seat 5 Candidates Talk Ethics, Development, Crime

Jul 19, 2018

From left: WFSU's Perspectives host Tom Flanigan, Dianne Williams-Cox, Bob Lotane, Henry Adelusi, and Howard Kessler
Credit Lydell Rawls / WFSUNews

No matter the victor, City Commission Seat 5 will be getting a new face this election. Four candidates vying for the seat are talking ethics, development, crime and law enforcement.

The four candidates differ greatly in their backgrounds.

Henry Adelusi is a 30-year-old Fort Lauderdale native who moved to Tallahassee to attend Florida A&M University in 2006.

Howard Kessler is a retired orthopedic surgeon and three-time former Wakulla County Commissioner.

Bob Lotane has a long and varied professional history, but his story of beating the odds to survive and recover after contracting West Nile Virus has inspired many.

And Diane Williams-Cox is a Quincy native and data specialist who has worked in state government.

Their conversation on ethics focuses on troubles at City Hall. Candidates are pitching their ideas for strengthening public trust in government.

Adelusi says he wants to expand the jurisdiction of the Independent Ethics Board – something the Board already wants from the Commission.

“Maybe even giving them a little more power to investigate wrongdoers - maybe even suspend or remove people from out of office,” Adelusi said.

Kessler says he’s familiar with issues of ethics in government.

“I think it’s very important, from day one, that whoever’s elected to the City Commission, that all of the city commission, including the new people get educated with ethics,” Kessler said. “And I know there’s ongoing courses, but apparently it’s not enough.”

Bob Lotane also suggests widening the ethics board’s jurisdiction.

“At the City Commission, the new City Commission, this is going to have to be job one,” Lotane said.

And Diane Williams-Cox says she supports beefing up the board’s powers as well. She also backs civil citations for small amounts of marijuana in lieu of arrests.

“Looking at possibly using civil citations and other diversion programs for things that are considered criminal right now,” Williams-Cox said. “But as progress continues, as we continue to grow and know, and see what’s happening in other parts of the country, we really need to look at how we are locking people up.”

The other three candidates strongly support the civil citation concept as well.

In discussing law enforcement, Lotane says he sees a potential move of Tallahassee Police headquarters to the South Side as a positive. He says the idea is to improve relationships between police and the communities they serve over time.

“By bringing people – you know, kids and cops — close together, what they want to do with a law enforcement campus, I think is a good idea,” Lotane said.

And Kessler calls bridging gaps between law enforcement and the public “one of the most critical issues” facing us today.

“Until law enforcement looks at and respects that this person is a person, and until the person respects that this law enforcement officer is a person and gives them respect, we’re going to have huge problems,” Kessler added.

Next up, development – protecting Tallahassee’s iconic oak trees is something each candidate feels is expected of them. Adelusi says his concern is keeping Tallahassee, Tallahassee.

“We don’t want to end up like another Jacksonville, or another surrounding city. We want to be Tallahasseeans,” Adelusi said. “We want Tallahassee to have its own look, we want to preserve our trees and our canopy roads.”

While Lotane says balance is key to responsible growth:

“Going forward we’ve got to be more respective of both sides,” Lotane said. “Development is going to happen, we want it to be done with the character of the city in mind.”

Kessler says the next Seat 5 commissioner can’t in his words “compromise” on protecting Tallahassee’s natural gems when developing.

And Williams-Cox says of development:

“We really need to make sure that we stay ahead of the game as citizens. Be informed, show up at meetings, and make developers understand that the character of our neighborhoods and the character of our city, does not necessarily require the removal of those things we hold dear.”

The candidates spoke on WFSU’s Political Perspectives Thursday. The winner will replace outgoing Commissioner Gil Ziffer.

Contact reporter Ryan Dailey at rdailey@fsu.edu or follow on Twitter @RT_Dailey