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City of Tallahassee holds final budget hearing on curbing gun violence

Young girls in their school uniforms hold signs while standing behind a podium
Patricia Moynihan
Students in their school uniforms appear at a Tallahassee City Commission meeting, calling for an end to gun violence

Today the Tallahassee City Commission will finalize its budget for the next fiscal year. The budget includes one million dollars to mitigate gun violence -- an issue that has alarmed city residents for years. But as yet there are no details about how the money will be spent.   

“How am I personally affected by gun violence? I see it every day.” Otis Young is the pastor of Kingdom Life Tabernacle and the chief executive officer of its school, which has 430 students.

“The students that come to my school that the Lord has allowed me to be at, they deal with gun violence in their neighborhood, so it’s not uncommon for them to come to school crying about a shootout or something that has happened in the neighborhood,” Young said. “It’s not uncommon for them to deal with the loss of a loved one that has been affected by gun violence.”

Two weeks ago, the city commission held the first of two public hearings on the gun violence budget. The second is today. Many of those who spoke last time described how gun violence had personally affected them.

“My high school football coach and his son, who was my teammate, were shot and killed,” said AJ Mealor, the pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian Church. “Just like drug addiction, gun violence is a communal disease that can be cured. We can’t mix up the remedy by ourselves. We need experts who know how to reduce gun violence to come in and help us learn how to cure it in our community.”  

In March the commission voted to spend $1 million dollars per year for 5 years to curb gun violence. Since then city staffers have been trying to figure out how to spend it. But as City Manager Reese Goad said on September 7th, the staff won’t have a recommendation today.

“So the agenda item will be very comprehensive in terms of what is happening elsewhere in the country,” Goad said. “I could list off many, many, many programs that have been implemented in cities…some cities, many programs have been implemented with varying degrees of success. So that’s the product that we’re bringing back.”

Mayor John Dailey doesn’t see a problem with the commission not receiving specific recommendations.

[WFSU: The other commissioners don’t have any specific recommendations, so how can they decide?]

“Well, that’s the thing…We’ll probably…I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes to a workshop," Dailey said. "You know, so we have more time to actually discuss and flesh out what we’re actually going to do.”

But Commissioner Jack Porter is frustrated by the delay.

“I think there was plenty of time. I’m disappointed in how long it has taken to come to us,” Porter said. “And frankly, the item we have before us simply does not have the information we need to make an informed decision. So even having waited that long, we still are not in the position we need to be to act.”

Today’s City Commission meeting starts at 3 p.m. at City Hall.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.