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Justice Ministry suggestions for addressing youthful gun violence and the affordable rental crisis receive mixed reactions from local elected officials

Several people are seated in an auditorium.
Tom Flanigan
WFSU Public Media
Elected officials sat in the front pew at the Old West Florida Enrichment Center on Lake Bradford Road. In addition to the crowd that nearly packed the sanctuary, hundreds more watched the meeting online

A community forum on youth gun violence and affordable housing attracted nearly a thousand in-person and online attendees last (Tuesday) night. It was hosted by the Capital Area Justice Ministry, which hoped its suggestions to solve those problems would be accepted by local elected officials. The coalition of nearly 20 congregations was only partly successful in that effort.

All five Tallahassee City Commissioners promised to set aside $1 million a year for five years to address youthful gun violence. Then Fellowship Presbyterian's Reverend A.J. Mealor asked State Attorney Jack Campbell to reduce the number of juvenile arrests.

"We have a goal that at least 80% of the children who are eligible for civil citations receive them by this time next year."

But Campbell declined to override the actions of arresting officers.

"We have never turned down a civil citation and I can't undo what's already been done. But I can divert them to diversion, and I'll agree to do that."

For more affordable rentals, Sister Sentoria Houston from Bethelonia AME Church asked city commissioners to make a pledge.

"Create a trust fund dedicated to producing rental units for those with very low and extremely low income."

That pledge, lamented Temple Israel Rabbi Michael Shields, was agreed to only by Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter.

"Right now, we have no's from Mayor John Dailey, Mayor Pro Tem Richardson and Commissioner Diane Williams Cox."

Ministry members said they'll continue to meet with elected officials in hopes the coalition's ideas will ultimately get unanimous acceptance.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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