City Commission bolstering TEMPO, plotting future of Northwood, aiming at legislative priorities

From the Tallahassee Democrat

City commissioners will come together for their first meeting of the year Wednesday where they hope to bolster the efforts of the TEMPO program through partnerships, will get an update on the progress at the Northwood Centre and review efforts in expanding the Independent Ethics Board’s jurisdiction.

The Tallahassee City Commission meets Wednesday at 3 p.m. in City Hall.

TEMPO could expand its reach through partnerships

The city’s successful TEMPO program (Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity) could continue its impact on the city’s disconnected youth by pairing with the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce and Tallahassee Community College.

The city could approve tapping into a $50,000 grant from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives through its Equitable Credential Attainment Cohort program. The program aims to help “increase the number of adult learners of color who earn an industry-relevant credential or degree.”

Tallahassee was among seven communities selected on Jan. 10 for the new partnership.

Started in 2017, TEMPO connects participants with GED programs, higher education and grant funding in the hopes they’ll obtain gainful employment. Of the 1,600 people enrolled, 110 graduates have gone on to higher education, more than 130 have earned a GED and the program boasts a 0% recidivism rate, said TEMPO Founder and Director Kimball Thomas.

The proposed program would be administered by the Chamber. Corrie Melton, the Chamber’s vice president of membership and talent development, said all chambers around the country were invited to apply for the grant. What gave Tallahassee a leg up may have been the existing workforce training at TCC and the on-the-ground efforts of TEMPO connecting to Tallahassee’s youth.

Those all overlap with the goal to expand opportunities where there may have been few before.

“We’re looking at best practices of how we can increase the number of people in those populations who have education beyond high school,” Melton said. “We’re looking at training post high school for jobs that are in demand and not just providing a job, but jobs that provide upward mobility and those that provide for a career pathway. That’s where we’ll start seeing real differences in decrease in crime decrease, in dependency on public assistance that will really lift our whole community.”

In addition, the city is looking to tap into a partnership with Goodwill Industries and its Young Adult Reentry Partnership grant. TEMPO was named an anchor partner in the program which aims to increase opportunities in education, employment and training for people who are formerly incarcerated.

For TEMPO, the program would impact 110 participants and is likely to include mental health, life coaching and other support services, Thomas said. “These are add-ons. These are things that expand not only the program but expand the narrative for what we’re doing,” Thomas said. “Particularly when it comes to area youth when it comes to giving them opportunities or those who are formally incarcerated other alternatives and opportunities.”

Northwood Centre plans emerging

City Commissioners will decide whether to accept an offer to include a performing arts center into the redevelopment of the Northwood Centre, which is also set to become the new home for the Tallahassee Police Department. The site has been envisioned as more of a city services center than a stand-alone police department headquarters. City staff are in the process of gathering community input that could help shape the future of the site.

In 2019, the city acquired the building and roughly 30 acres in a public auction for $6.8 million after it sat nearly idle for years. Initial comments that came before a community meeting Thursday include proposals to include retail and commercial use, green spaces, bicycle connectivity, housing and small shops. Held at the city’s Senior Center, the community meeting last week drew nearly 200 people according to city officials. Additional meetings to gather input are being planned.

Commissioners will debate a proposal a proposal by local philanthropists to incorporate a performing arts center into the Northwood Centre in the hopes the city will donate 5 acres of land. The Michael H. Sheridan and Judy W. Sheridan Center for the Arts Foundation is proposing a $9 million performance venue on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Tharpe Street through a public/private partnership.

The foundation has indicated it would fund $5 million to build the performance space, another $3 million in donations privately raised by the Florida Center for Performing Arts and Education and another $1 million pledged by David Watson, the president of the FCPAE.

City Attorney weighs in on expanding Ethics Board jurisdiction

The Independent Ethics Board does not have jurisdiction over the Community Redevelopment Agency or the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency, according to an opinion from City Attorney Cassandra Jackson.

Her opinion will go before City Commissioners, some of whom have already voiced their approval of the increase in oversight the Ethics Board has pushed for in the last year.

The CRA is made up of all five City Commissioners and is supported by city of Tallahassee staff while the Blueprint board consists of them and all seven Leon County Commissioners.

Although the city charter provides jurisdiction over “the officers and employees of the city of Tallahassee, Jackson said their role ends with the city of Tallahassee. Any change to that would need to come from a referendum vote by the city’s electorate. “Both Blueprint and the CRA are independent legal entities,” Jackson wrote in her opinion. “Their board members and employees are not subject to the jurisdiction of the Independent Ethics Board.”

2022 Legislative update

Commissioners will get an update on $1.8 million in state appropriation requests going before the Florida Legislature as well as a number of bills which could have local impact. They include:

  • A request for $500,000 to create a workforce scholarship for vocational, technical and licensing programs through the city’s TEMPO program. There is a $175,000 local match if the project is funded.
  • A request for $750,000 to construct a new wastewater system at Pump Station 12 which has he capability to service 25% of the city’s wastewater flow. The project would replace a 27-year-old pump station which is nearing the end of its service life. There is a $6.25 million local match.
  • A request for $550,000 to fund studies, training, technology and facility support for the application to establish a foreign trade zone at the Tallahassee International Airport. There is no local match.

The city’s legislative affairs team is monitoring a half-dozen bills that could have local impact, most dealing with preemption challenges to local government and home rule. Along with the position of the Florida League of Cities they include:

  • Support of SB 518, filed by Sen. Jason Brodeur, R-Lake Mary, which would amend current law that prohibits local governments from requiring permits to remove “dangerous trees” from residential properties.
  • Support of SB 280, filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, which would amend the legal standard and process for assessing the validity of municipal ordinances and impose new requirements for adopting and enforcing ordinances.
  • Opposition to SB 1194 and HB 777, filed by Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, and Rep. William Robinson, R-Bradenton, which would require referenda elections related to increases in municipal and county property tax millages to be held at the general election.
  • Opposition to SB 1162 and HB 621, filed by Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Pensacola, and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, which would prohibit specified state agencies and water management districts from disbursing state funding, including grants, for local government infrastructure, water and resiliency projects if the local government transfers its utility revenues for use in providing general government functions and services, which the city of Tallahassee does.

A full list of the legislative priorities for the city of Tallahassee can be found here.