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TCAC hosts first of three local candidate forums

By satya

TCAC member Dawn Freo moderates online candidate forum

Tallahassee, FL – The Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC) held an online candidate forum July 25 to give TCAC members and the wider public a sense of which local candidates for City Commission might unite with TCAC’s progressive platform on community control of police and other issues. “TCAC does not endorse candidates,” clarified TCAC member and forum moderator Dawn Freo at the start of the event, hosted on Zoom and broadcast on Facebook Live, “We encourage candidates to endorse our policy platform and our demands.”

All active candidates for City Commission Seats 1 and 2 were invited to participate in Saturday’s forum. Neither incumbent, both of whom are endorsed by law enforcement – Elaine Bryant (Seat 1, appointed after Scott Maddox was removed on federal fraud charges) nor Curtis Richardson (Seat 2, former state house representative who’d voted in favor of Florida’s now-notorious Stand Your Ground legislation) – were present.

In attendance were City Seat 1 candidate Jacqueline “Jack” Porter and City Seat 2 candidates Trish Brown, Geraldine “Gerri” Seay, and Bill Schack. TCAC members posed questions to all candidates on topics of community control of police, city budget, housing justice, city management, development priorities, public comment, LGBTQIA+ concerns, and the city hospital’s recent “F” grade in patient safety.

Community control of police as a concept and goal – that communities gets to say how they are policed, by whom, and with what funding and equipment- seemed novel to most candidates, as well as the distinction between an appointed citizen Police Review Board (PRB), recently proposed by the City, versus an independent, all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) as proposed by TCAC and other coalition partners. The exception to this was Seat 2 candidate Trish Brown, longtime local activist, whose campaign centerpiece is community control of police and the election of a CPAC. All other candidates were in favor of “at least something,” regarding police oversight, though they differed in what that oversight should or could look like; who would serve on such a body; and how much power it would have, given present state law.

“I am encouraged to see multiple candidates finally using the word ‘accountability’ and not just ‘review’ in regards to law enforcement,” said TCAC President Regina Joseph after the event. “While TCAC doesn’t endorse candidates, it is eye opening to see which candidates stand firmly with us, our vision and our demands, which candidates aren’t yet familiar with the decades long struggle for CPAC, and which ones just refuse to take up the fight for community control of police.”

The Tallahassee Community Action Committee, other organizations, and many individual residents have been demanding the resignation and/or firing of city manager Reese Goad since his opaque selection process for chief of police last winter resulted in the installation of killer-cop Lawrence Revell at the helm of the Tallahassee Police Department. During Saturday's forum, all candidates present roundly condemned the city manager’s chief of police hiring process and each firmly declared, in their own words, that Goad must go.

TCAC will host two back-to-back candidate forums Saturday, August 1. The first will be at noon, for public defender candidates, and the second at 2 p.m. for County Commission candidates. Both forums will be held over Zoom and broadcast on Facebook Live.

Satya Stark-Bejnar (they/he) is an activist in Tallahassee, FL.

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