This Black History Month, Fox 4 is dedicated to holding Southwest Florida leaders accountable to address ongoing issues in black communities. In this week’s “A Minute with the Mayor,” Fox 4’s Rachel Loyd talked to Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson about two things: police relations in black neighborhoods and the environment.
Rachel: Unity has been a very big jumping point for your first 100 days. You’ve been talking about making Fort Myers a more unified city. When it comes to that, you served as a police officer for several years - decades even. Now, when it comes to police relationships with the black community in Fort Myers, there’s been some distrust. So, what has FMPD done to sort of salvage that relationship and what progress still needs to be done?
Mayor Anderson: Was it 2016, I think it was, we brought in a new chief from outside. He’s focused on violent crime, and reduced violent crime by over 40 percent during his tenure. Now, a lot of that violent crime included homicides that were occurring in the Dunbar community, in and around Dunbar.It’s made Dunbar a little bit safer community. There’s also efforts to rebuild the trust, to enhance the community relations. And having that trust is very important. I’ve heard a colleague of mine say several times, it’s like we protect one half of the city, and police the other half.
A lot of the confrontation that occurs between the police and minority communities centered around either it being a crime area, or somebody being involved in criminal activity. What are the factors that contribute to crime? And what are we doing to address those factors?
Rachel: When it comes to environmental issues in the black community, Billy’s Creek has been in the forefront for a few years now. When it comes to contamination there, there’s a healthy threshold of contamination the Florida Department of Health has, which is 70 level - it’s a 70 level when it comes to contamination. But, Billy’s Creek is well over 10,000. So, why has it taken the city so long to clean up that creek?
Mayor Anderson: There’s dispute over what the levels of contamination are. There’s a dispute over what’s causing them, and we need to quit disputing and recognizing there is an issue. We saw this with the sludge years ago. When you have these incidents in neighborhoods of color, then people perceive that they happen just because it’s a neighborhood of color, and that the people in those neighborhoods don’t matter. And that’s not true. All our residents matter, and we should address issues very aggressively in all neighborhoods when these environmental issues happen. We are - I think on the next agenda will be discussing a consent decree with EPA - I believe Billy’s Creek is part of it.
Mayor Anderson added the city has spent $14 million on billy’s creek since 2004. that included lift station upgrades, construction of the ford street preserve, dredging and annual testing and maintenance. what would you like to ask the mayor? email your questions to Rachel Loyd at firstname.lastname@example.org