Practical Solutions for the Apopka Task Force on Violence

On June 2, 2017, the three principles of the Apopka Task Force on Violence  will present their report at a National Conference on violence in the black community. The report, presented originally in December, 2016, found that it will take almost $2 million of taxpayer money funneled through a still unnamed high quality and reputable not for profit, for a 5 pronged attack on violence.

Throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars and reinventing the wheel with a myriad of new and unproven government programs is not the answer because there are many programs already in place run by local churches and businesses that stand ready and willing to help.

One supposition of the Report is that CRA housing  is one answer. Why push a government program that one of the principles of the Violence Report appears to have a huge stake in, whether financial or political? While decent housing is certainly a weapon in the war on crime, why not work with Habitat for Humanity which is already building 58 affordable homes in the South Apopka community? Push to work with them on more affordable housing communities and other projects.

What about jobs? In this City, when presented with companies offering real jobs and opportunities wanting to come to our area, all we hear from community leaders are howls of protest about “dirty Jobs”.  Those “dirty Jobs” people turn their noses up at are good paying, high quality, high tech manufacturing jobs with excellent futures. Most WILL provide training to those who are willing to put in the time to train and learn. These holier-than-thou self appointed leaders of “South Apopka” should do a little more practical research into private organizations and businesses who already have proven jobs training programs. Check out:

Machining Training Solutions in Longwood, a leader in skills training with an innovative program called “80 to Work”. After two weeks of intensive training, a person with little or no skills is ready to work and become a  productive, contributing employee to a manufacturer almost immediately. Other training programs are also available, and MANY are paid for by potential employers. These programs offers job and life skills that will transfer from job to job. Many machine shops and fabricators in our area are desperate for workers and many are willing to TRAIN people willing to work. THESE are the type of jobs that will present REAL pay, real benefits and REAL futures. Also, check out all the educational and employment resources the Manufacturer’s Association of Central Florida  have to offer to those willing to put a little effort into their lives.

Work with some of our top employers right here in Apopka, like Qurvo, Collins Manufacturing ; Mullinax Ford, as well as exploring the many opportunities  opening up in Apopka with the New Wekiva Plaza, the Kelly Park Crossings, and other fine opportunities. Nothing is quick or easy; people will need to work hard and be patient! People must be willing to learn and show respect to employers and teachers. Many hospitals, including Florida Hospital offer training opportunities leading to fulfilling careers. Work with the UCF Incubator or even the Chamber of Commerce to seek out opportunities instead of creating new, expensive and unproven government programs .

Education and jobs go hand in hand; As for Education opportunities, don’t wait for them, go out and get them. Work with the School Board and school parent organizations. Reach out to these local churches and organizations and see what they are willing to do, or already doing, without having a carrot of taxpayer money dangled in front of them. Stop the duplicate efforts of programs already in place, tripping over each other in the process.  Stop making excuses, “I can’t”;  “I’m poor”; “people are racist”; “no one will give me a chance”. THESE are the type of excuses that stop a productive life in its tracks. Check out Junior Achievement, which according to its website “fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and uses experiential learning to inspire students to dream big and reach their potential”. They also provide the training, materials, and support necessary to bolster the chances for student success. Business people and other volunteers share their workforce experience with students, all while teaching sound economic principles and reinforcing class curricula.

All of these programs and more are available for a fraction of the $2 million price tag being proposed in the Task Force Report. If you really want to help these kids, stop throwing out generic and non-specific feel-good programs. Stop holding conferences and forums where self-important theories are discussed, but nothing ever gets done.  Instead look into real world solutions for these problems; solutions that are already in place and stand ready to serve, if asked.

Practical Solutions for the Apopka Task Force on Violence

Apopka Task Force on Violence Report paved with good intentions

Recently, a group of concerned citizens gathered together to start examining reasons for and solutions to the crime and violence problem in the south part of Apopka FL, aka South Apopka. After months of meetings, focus groups and more meetings, an ambitious, bold and as it turns out costly plan was formulated and presented to the Apopka City Commission. A holistic plan of attack was presented that included: Job creation, educational opportunities, government accountability, crime prevention initiatives designed to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community.  And at the end of it all, a request for $1.8 million dollars of taxpayer money, to be funneled into and dispersed via a “high quality and reputable not for profit organization”, who at this point, is still nameless. The plan is long on theory and solutions are presented as a word salad of up to the minute feel-good about ourselves buzz words and plenty of blame placing. Several of the suggestions in the report are variations of programs that already exist or will be started shortly.

Only a couple of sentences in this 40 page report talk about accountability or getting the community to  buy-in to the theory and proposed solutions. Plans like this are filled with good and noble intentions; however, plans like this also tend to not only see blacks as helpless victims that can only be lifted up by  good deed doers, but can enable a mind-set of self-pity among the black community. The War on Poverty has been fought for decades, with little measurable economic, educational, or employment success; what does that tell you about the chances of success of plans like this one.

So,what is the answer? More money? More costly programs with few measurable metrics to gauge success? Blacks must ultimately help themselves; they must WANT to take the lead in solving their own problems and re-inventing their communities and their lives. They must take ownership of the conclusions and solutions, and take pride in their communities. Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery and fought his way out of it to become a Great Statesman and freedom fighter said, “I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us. If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, let them fall… All I ask is give him a chance to stand on his own legs”. Douglass recognized the limits of government benevolence and that it would be up to blacks themselves to ready themselves to meet the challenges of improving their lot in life.

Just this past week, I dialogued with one of the chief authors of this plan, who apparently took exception to my daring to challenge this plan. When I told him my questions and comments were too involved to do via text, I was asked not  to waste his time as he is very busy and involved. So I won’t. He suggested I come up with my own plan. So, I plan to explore each aspect of the Apopka Task Force on Violence Report, in detail in the coming weeks.  Again, while I applaud the efforts of all involved in this task force, including this very busy, self-important gentleman, I question the blame placing, conclusions and amount of money necessary to accomplish the lofty goals of the Task Force, or whether the goals are even attainable. The plan, in its many phases is full of good intentions, no doubt; but we all know what road those can pave.

Apopka Task Force on Violence Report paved with good intentions