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Candidate forum for Leon's 3rd district gets heated when it comes to North Monroe revitalization efforts

Three men in suits sit at a table with microphones, an American flag and WFSU banner are behind them.
Lydell Rawls
WFSU Public Media
from left to right: Joey Lamar, Rick Minor (center), Damon Victor

Crime, homelessness and redevelopment are weighing heavily in the race to represent Tallahassee’s Northern corridor and the candidates vying to unset Commissioner Rick Minor are accusing him of neglecting the area.

During a feisty forum hosted by WFSU, The League of Women Voters of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Democrat, Minor defended his positions and pushed back on the charge that he’s not doing enough to revitalize the area.

An effort to revamp Tallahassee Mall failed after the developer died; it’s now housing some state offices. The city is constructing a new headquarters for the Tallahassee Police Department at the site of the old Northwood Center, but up and down North Monroe, candidate Damon Victor sees problems.

"Certainly, North Monroe is a sore thumb,” said Victor, “I really don’t understand why Rick Minor is so proud of this citizens task force which had to be commissioned to figure out why it's gotten so bad in the last 3.5 years and also funding a CRA—an additional government agency—into something that should have been fixed by Blueprint in the first place.”

Minor, who presently represents District 3 on the Leon County Commission, has pitched a new community redevelopment agency for the area, that would steer a portion of tax revenue from the district back into infrastructure projects there. And Blueprint, the joint city-county redevelopment and infrastructure agency—has long had North Monroe revitalization as one of its target areas.

Minor is now defending his time and his votes while a member of the county commission and Blueprint, and he batted down accusations from his opponents that he’s not done enough for the district.

“It's like each of them woke up one morning and thought it’d be neat to be a county commissioner. And right about the time they filed to run for office, they started being really busy to show everybody how much they fared. I don’t know what’s in their heart. But I think district 3 voters have seen this time and time again, and I think they’ll see this for what it is.” 

Many of the concerns playing out in local races this year are the same: crime, homelessness, housing. The city is seeing many new homes go up: but as candidate Joey Lamar notes, the price points for that new housing doesn’t match with what most people in the district can afford.

“We say we want affordable housing, yet the county just voted to give [wages] at $15/hour,” said Lamar. “Well, when you look at some of the projects they voted on, like the Welaunee project—those houses are starting at $200,000. So nobody making $15/hour can afford a home in Welaunee. So, how are we building affordable homes yet we don’t have the salaries and wages that match those demands?”

All three candidates declined to make an endorsement in the mayoral race. Lamar says his priority is to tackle homelessness, while Minor wants to focus on North Monroe Revitalization and Victor says he’ll focus on improving Tharpe Street. The forum was filled with tense and testy moments between the candidates.

To watch the forum, go to wfsu.org

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.