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A Minute with the Mayor: Controversial lessons during Black History Month

Posted at 11:01 AM, Feb 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-19 11:01:53-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Mayor Kevin Anderson says solutions for homelessness and cleaning a controversial creek are on the horizon. In this week’s “A Minute with the Mayor," he reveals some of those plans. He also tells Fox 4’s Rachel Loyd his take on controversial lessons taught to Lee County students during Black History Month.

Rachel: Next week is your 100 day mark being in office as mayor. What do you feel like you’ve accomplished so far?

Mayor Anderson: You know some days you think, wow, have we really done anything? Other days, it’s like, wow, we’ve done a lot. You know, the three task forces. Obviously, they’re all meeting, having their organizational meetings, either this week or next week. So, we’ll start to see some activity with that. I’ve worked with the Salvation Army, and the county, and the city government. We’re hoping to have some good news about the homeless issue in Fort Myers coming up. Obviously, we’ve started searching for a city manager.

Rachel: You also mentioned that there could be some good news for homeless - the homelessness issue. Can you hint at anything? Give us any type of information?

Mayor Anderson: We’re very close, I hope, to having a process in place where we can address the needs of the homeless, as well as returning public space to the public.

Rachel: We’ve also been talking about Black History Month, and issues that are affecting black people in black communities here in Southwest Florida. Now, this week there have been some lessons that some students have been taught in school - during Black History Month, that have offended students and parents. One lesson was about cotton. Elementary students had to actually pick cotton off of a plant. A dad was infuriated by that. He didn’t feel like it was appropriate for his child to learn about that, especially now in Black History Month. However, the teacher says, it wasn’t about slavery. It was a lesson about the actual crop itself. What do you think about that? Do you think the teacher could’ve been more sensitive to this issue, especially during Black History Month?

Mayor Anderson: Well, I think all of us who are public officials, or in the public eye, we do need to be more sensitive to these issues. I don’t know what the motivation behind the class was. Regardless, if we’re going to be out there, we have to be sensitive. And we have to understand that our words and our actions affect people differently.

Rachel: The other story, too that you mentioned that you saw - it was a student recording in class where a teacher was saying slaves weren’t whipped. How do you think the district should handle that teacher?

Mayor Anderson: It’s a shame when history is revised, and we see it happening a lot. I always felt that teachers should not be teaching their personal views of things. But they should be teaching what’s factual.

Rachel: We’ve also been talking about environmental issues. Billy’s Creek has been an issue that we’ve discussed. I know The Florida Department of Environmental Protection fined the city for that. But, instead this week, the city said that they’re going to spend that money instead on environmental tactics - or ways to help the environment locally. What ways does the city plan to help the environment with that money?

Mayor Anderson: Primarily, the money will be applied toward upgrades in the utility system, more specifically the wastewater plants to make sure that we have them operating at peek capacity with no issues. We have an obligation not only to be good stewards of tax dollars, but we have an obligation to be good stewards of the environment. Just not us as government officials, but our community as a whole.

Rather than paying a $500,000 fine from The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the city has agreed to invest more than $750,000 in environmental improvement projects.