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La Gaceta endorses Reddick for County Commission District 3 in Democratic primary

From “As We Heard It,” by Patrick Manteiga
Originally published July 31, 2020

This race offers several strong candidates and the public really can’t go wrong as far as finding a good leader, but this race also could create a big problem for racial equality and race relations in our community.
Gwen Myers started off strong last year but seemed to lose momentum this summer. She has an impressive resume in County government and tells of all the projects she led in the community. Her answers to present issues and needed solutions weren’t as strong as the other candidates and we were shocked when we asked her if the number of county commissioners should grow and she answered she would have to study the issue.
Rick Fernandez is a smart, passionate candidate. He is an attorney and a legal recruiter. He’s also been a neighborhood activist who has opposed FDOT’s plans to widen I-275 in order to add toll lanes. He does not want to see capacity added to our interstates and instead believes investment in mass transit can alleviate future increases to interstate traffic.
His campaign creates a dilemma for us. The current three-at-large/four-single-member district design of the County Commission created in the early ‘80s is starting to fail in its design to bring diversity to the County Commission.
When the four single-member districts were drawn up, District 3 was drawn to make it a predominantly Black district, which created the opportunity for the first African-American to be elected to the Commission in 1985. Since then, an African-American has always won that seat, but the percentage of Blacks in the district keeps declining as that population moves to other areas of the county. The current race could see four Black candidates split the Black vote and Fernandez receive enough of the white and Hispanic vote to win. We would then have a Commission that does not have a Black serving on it. To us, this would be a giant step backwards.
The fix is to increase the number of single-member districts or for racism in this county to end. While he hope for the latter, we believe we need to add single-member districts now so Blacks and Hispanics don’t have to wrestle over the same seat.
Fernandez has every right to run for office and his candidacy shouldn’t create this problem, but we failed to find four county commissioners willing to do the right thing for the 25 years we have advocated for more single-member districts.
Sky U. White is a nurse and is running for office for the second time. She is a smart, thoughtful candidate who has a good grasp of the issues. She is also a proponent of blocking FDOT’s plans to enlarge the footprint of I-275 for additional capacity. She wants rapid growth of mass transit to address the mobility needs of our increasing population. We could easily see White as a commissioner.
Tom Scott is a former two-term county commissioner and city councilman who worked well with other members on the board. That’s why his peers selected him three times as the chair of the County Commission. His style also allowed him to garner support for many projects in his district. He was a visionary in his support of the creation of CRAs, expansion of the Leroy Selmon Expressway and in laying the groundwork for the sports complex in Progress Village.
Voters wouldn’t be wrong to return him to the Board.
Our favorite is Frank Reddick. He has shown his willingness to fight for needs in the district. He had the respect of his peers on Tampa City Council and it showed with their selection of him as their chair twice. He was able to accomplish much, even after drawing the ire of the mayor for forcing the City to repair and reopen two swimming pools in the district that were going to remain closed.
He also battled with the administration for a citizens review board and police body cameras. He advanced this issue, but the program is watered down due to the strong mayoral system of government in Tampa.
With the Black Lives Matter protests and the exposure of police abuse around the country of Black citizens, Reddick’s fight was ahead of its time.
I have witnessed him advocate for the district he loves time and again.
La Gaceta endorses Frank Reddick in the Democratic primary for County Commission District 3.

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