I came across the Tallahassee Democrat's editorial on Facebook while I was publishing my own update about a fundraiser for The Project Bridge. In one week Tallahassee came together and raised over $4,000 for this at-risk youth summer program. A few posts below that, people were donating and sharing the story of a local family with a son who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.
The mayor’s page was alive with excitement for the Tallahassee Future Leader’s Academy. A week later, trucks were filled with food and cash for Second Harvest.
I am in constant awe of the generosity of this community. It’s the driving force behind that intangible feeling that when you’re here, you’re home.
Yes, there is a ton of natural beauty all around us. A young hospitality scene is building the city’s appeal. Hidden gems like the Museum of Florida History sit right under our nose. We have a music scene producing great sounds year after year. Dozens of homegrown festivals like Gaines Street Fest, Tally Shorts, First Friday and Taloofa Fest showcase Tallahassee’s talent.
That might be the Tallahassee I see, but there’s a voice that often goes unrepresented in conversations like this.
When you’re worried about how to feed your kids, or are late for work because the bus went by early and you have to wait 40 minutes for the next one, you don’t have a lot of time to worry about what our city’s brand should be.
Whether the conversation is crime or development, no one denies the economic and racial segregation in our city. We live in a county that still has white high schools and black high schools. When Commissioner Richardson suggested a CRA for South City, we heard responses like “Your heart is in the right place” and “This isn’t the right vessel.” Then what is?
Everyone deserves to live in the same Tallahassee. Most of the city’s heart is in the right place — it’s time to take real and meaningful action to integrate the city.
To get there, we need business, government and media all committed and holding each other accountable. The business community needs to ask what it can do for the city. The city needs to open up the lines of communication to all in Tallahassee and proactively obtain feedback so the voices in committees aren’t chosen in back rooms and “good ole boy” networks.
The media needs to hold both accountable — before the 10th article about the mayor’s emails, we need real questions for and real policy answers from our politicians.
Our electeds need to represent the whole city. We can’t address economic segregation or economic vitality without the whole picture. Wages matter, and should be considered in any conversation that involves incentives or luring big business.
If I wanted to convince someone to move here, I would show them the whole city. Grab a pint from Proof and Grasslands. Search for painted rocks at Cascades Park. Take the bike trails out to St. Mark’s and stop at Campbell Pond. We’d pass neighborhoods half of us never go through and local businesses many of us never shop at.
We would talk about the potential, the opportunity and the growth that can benefit all corners of the city, if we just demand it.
Jeremy Matlow is a lifelong Tallahassee resident and an owner of Gaines Street Pies, Northside Pies and Midtown Pies.