County Commission At Large Group 2

The Leon County Democratic Environmental Caucus endorses JOSH JOHNSON.

We endorsed Josh Johnson before the primary and we continue to urge voters to choose him.  

We were very impressed with Josh Johnson.  He has two degrees from FAMU, a bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in applied social science with a focus on global security.   He teaches government and economics at Godby High School, and political science at TCC.  He’s the president of 621 Gallery where he focuses on the interaction of art and activism.  He created a social justice podcast, and he created a Roku TV show called Art on the Margins.  He has a consulting firm that’s helping COCA bring large scale art to the Bond neighborhood.  In 2016, he ran for state house representative and, in a very cordial race, lost to Loranne Ausley.  

Josh sees the main problems with the county commission today as a failure to allocate taxpayer funding in a fair and equitable way.  Too much money is spent on big projects like the Northeast Gateway, too much is being wasted on the FSU stadium grant, and not enough is going to what should be our top priorities – poverty, housing, crime, and the environment.  As to specific actions the commission should take, he’s aware of the complexity of the problems and the danger of unintended consequences.  It’s an absolute responsibility, he says, for the county to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and requiring more efficient construction is something he would definitely support, but, although he would like to see solar on every roof that gets sun, he would not mandate rooftop solar without a way to protect low-income residents from the cost.  On transparency, he has no reservations.  Why not let the public see deliberations of Blueprint’s Interagency Management Committee, he asks, unless there’s something to hide?

When Commissioner Nick Maddox leads meetings, as he has when he’s been chair of the county commission or of Blueprint, he does it with confidence and skill.  His votes in recent years, however, have been disappointing.  He rejected calls to change the route of the FAMU Way extension, leading to the demolition of Boynton Still, a historic, affordable African-American neighborhood, and to the removal of dozens of mature oaks to make room for a holding pond.  He voted to spend $40 million of taxpayer money for an FSU-run convention center that would have been a bad use of the money even if the convention center had broken even, which might never have happened, but luckily FSU abandoned the project.  He voted to change the comp plan to facilitate development of a large piece of the old Welaunee Plantation, a decision that is expected to mean that most Leon County growth will continue to be concentrated in the northeast part of the county for decades to come.  He also voted for the “Northeast Gateway,” a hugely expensive road that will go through Welaunee and ultimately, the planners imagine, lead to a new exit on I-10.  Even less defensible than any of these was Commissioner Maddox’s vote to give $20 million of taxpayer money to FSU for repair of the football stadium.  

Most disappointing of all, at a Blueprint meeting Maddox was chairing, during a discussion of transparency in Blueprint decision making, Commissioner Maddox supported a sudden motion to adjourn, effectively ending the discussion.  Commissioner Matlow had said that after others had a chance to talk, he would ask the Blueprint board to request guidance from the Attorney General on the question of whether the Blueprint management committee is required to meet in public.  At that point, Commissioner Williams-Cox moved to adjourn the meeting early, ending the discussion and cutting off Matlow’s chance to make a motion.  Williams-Cox’s motion passed, barely, with Commissioner Maddox’s vote.  It’s hard to imagine a more blatant move to prevent the asking of questions that needed to be asked.  Commissioner Maddox’s decision to support the sudden motion to adjourn leaves us skeptical of his commitment to ethics and transparency.   

We believe that Josh Johnson is the best choice.  His passion for the environment, thoughtfulness, analytical ability, perceptiveness on the implications of policies, education, insights about the needs of at-risk boys he’s gained from teaching, and his history of working for social justice, all lead to our decision to recommend Josh Johnson for this position.