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Q&A With District 8 City Council Candidate Tameka Gaines Holly

Abukar Adan
District 8 City Council Candidate Tameka Gaines Holly

With less than a month to go before the May 14 runoff election, WJCT is profiling the candidates in the 5 City Council races.

Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly, a community activist and consultant, is a first time candidate who is running for the District 8 seat in Northwest Jacksonville. She’s challenging incumbent Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, who’s also a Democrat. Former Gov. Rick Scott appointed Pittman to replace indicted and suspended City Councilwoman Katrina Brown last year.

Holly grew up in the district she wants to represent. She’s now the president of Tamika Gaines Holly Consulting and serves as a volunteer CEO of Transforming Communities, a community revitalization organization in Northwest Jacksonville.

Here’s the interview:

What do you consider the most pressing issue facing District 8?

When we began our candidacy in January of 2018, we did a campaign tour for about four months where we went door to door talking to individuals to understand what they felt was the most pressing issues for our district, and overwhelmingly crime and the prevalence of that crime was the number one priority for the district. And I would have to agree. Having one of the highest crime rates in our city, crime is definitely one of the main priorities for District 8.

If elected, what would you do to curb crime?

I've already started that [fighting crime] as a community member, as a community advocate, as well as a partner to many different individuals within our community stakeholders. We started what was called the Evening Reporting Center because we understand that the root causes of crime is poverty, and poverty shows up with low employment, poor education. And so when we begin to address those social ills, we’re able to combat the issue of crime.

Related: Voters' Guide For May 14 Jacksonville Runoff Election

So putting resources, money within prevention, intervention services, for youth, as well as for the community as well as job opportunities, making sure that we're bringing in jobs and economic development that supports a livable wage. So we need to make sure that one, our families and residents have access to those job opportunities. And they're not the low level jobs. We're looking for jobs that can provide a livable wage, as well as making sure we have resources for prevention and intervention services.

One of the two sites of the Cure Violence Program is going to be in your district. What do you think about the program and its approach to crime prevention?

I support evidence based programming that is shown to be effective. I want to ensure that the stakeholders within the district are definitely included in the execution and implementation of the Cure Violence program. Of course, anything that has shown to be able to effectively reduce crime and murder, [I’m a] proponent of that. But we also have to make sure it's tailored to our community and our district. So including those stakeholders that are boots on the ground within that framework as we implement Cure Violence, it’s going to be very important for its it success.

Related: Jacksonville City Council Funds ‘Cure Violence’ Program To Start In 2 High-Crime

Many in Northwest Jacksonville have historically felt left out when it comes to the city’s priorities. How do you feel the city is doing with that now? What still needs to be done?

Historically, you can see, you know, just by the resources we received, the infrastructure that we have, promises that were made during consolidation. We can feel like the forgotten district. Of course that also includes [districts] seven, nine and 10 as well. But I think with the right leadership, we can ensure that the resources reach our community and our districts. We are moving in that direction through this election.  

Having a person who is embedded in that district - myself - that has grown up in the district that understands intimately its challenges, its needs, and currently has been working on addressing those without being the representative. So now just moving into a place where the relationships that have existed previously and the partnerships and collaborations with the city, with this faith based community, with the community based organizations, with the business community, we can expand that now to a representative that can boldly advocate for what we need and leadership is very important to achieving that.

The City of Jacksonville has been working on addressing food deserts in the Northwest. How do you think the issue should be addressed?

I participated in some of the conversations and the assessment as it relates to food deserts. And I've seen the new legislation that just came down, which is actually an addendum to the legislation that was proposed last year through Councilwoman Katrina Brown, Reggie Brown, Sam Newbie, and Reggie Gaffney. And I believe that we one have to understand why the big boxes moved out of our neighborhoods, and understand that we need to ensure that we have an answer to that question.  

I think as we look at it, one of the biggest challenges to accessing quality food has been transportation. But transportation is also a barrier to jobs, to education, to housing and everyday life. And so, if we aren't having the conversations around that, then whatever we put in, in our communities to address the food desert, then it will still exist.

I have not had the opportunity to read the report that was released that came prior to this newest legislation for the food deserts, but I want to make sure that we have the reason why the food desert exists. And if transportation is not a part of that conversation, then we definitely need to embed that into that conversation.

Should the city be doing more to address sea level rise? If so, what?

Absolutely. The last hurricane, hurricane Irma, devastated communities that had never seen that type of flooding and that type of disaster before so we understand something is going on and District 8 in Northwest Jacksonville was actually hit just as hard as other parts of the city, the Ribault Scenic Area.

We had flooding and the Hilltop, Fairway Oaks area. So these are places that had not seen flooding before like this. So we have to begin to address that. During that time, community transforming community, along with other stakeholders like St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, we responded to disaster relief. We did hurricane clean up. We do repairs to homes. We assist the individuals who needed shelter because their homes were ruined. So we were able to see firsthand the devastation that occurred because of disasters like a hurricane.

So we must be able to look at the reasons why this is happening and be able to prevent them. I think one way we can do that is reassessing. You know, our flood zones. You know, they may be outdated now since we're seeing areas that were not designated flood zones, flooding. So being able to assess those areas again, and ensure that we're putting the proper resources to support those neighborhoods.

Would you support imposing impact fees on developments or raising a sales tax to generate revenue to help with the Duval School District’s repair and replace costs?

I think we also need to take a another look at the facilities crisis because I actually serve as the PTA president for Ribault High School, which was one of the high schools that would be impacted by this master plan. I also serve as a school advisory council member for many of the Northwest Jacksonville schools, including Raines High School. And as a community member who was instrumental in the progress of those - the schools within Northwest Jacksonville - I think we need to want to ensure that our community has input as we look at how to address this facilities need with the infrastructure and capital improvements.

That is one of the things that I noticed, currently that we did not do. So there was a disconnect between developing this plan and the community.

I attended the community meetings that were held by the school district, and our constituents, our families, our residents within those areas, they were taken aback by the plans that were put forth. So before we can talk about - and even entertain - how to address that $1.2 billion ask, we need to look at, what does the community say?

How we talked to them about their desires for their schools, and then we can have those conversations about how we are to address that financially.

What are your thoughts on the mayor’s administration and how will you work with or against it?

My thoughts are that it's the mayor's administration. We've had many administrations, and we've seen the successes, and we've seen the challenges over the last four years. And we have the next four years to improve upon what we've done and do things a little bit differently. And I believe if elected as - and when elected as - the next council person, that I can work with the mayor.

I can help the council, as well as the mayor, understand the needs of District 8. I can help to craft a plan to address our challenges, like I'm doing currently, and be able to work with the city, work with the other council members to come up with a comprehensive plan that understands that District 8 has challenges. It has needs. It has opportunities as well.

So, working with the administration and the council persons to understand it, and then develop a plan collaboratively with them to make sure that the resources actually meets the needs of the residents and families.

What issue or type of legislation do you see yourself leading?

I see myself leading the legislation for additional funding for entities that provide prevention and intervention services to Jacksonville, and, you know, the Kids Hope Alliance, ensuring that they are fully funded to be able to reach the neediest individuals within our communities. The youth is definitely a focus, but the youth and their families.

Contact Abukar Adan at 904-358-6319, or on Twitter at @abukaradan17

Abukar Adan is a former WJCT reporter who left the station for other pursuits in August 2019.