The Delaney Avenue Renaissance
The City of Avon Park, FL came up with $125,000 and is submitting a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) grant for $500,000 in matching funds for the year 2014. The CDBG grant is under the umbrella of HUD and is federal money. The $625,000 will be spent to revitalize South Delaney Avenue in the Southside Redevelopment Area of Avon Park to attract business back into the area by redeveloping the streets. This project will include but not be limited to adding street lights, burying the utilities and power lines, fixing the sewage problem to prevent flooding in the area and they are trying to get funding to enhance the security in the area with security cameras, to reduce crime. And there is a good change we might get this funding this year.
There was also a consensus by the CRA Community Redevelopment Agency, Southside District and Maria Sutherland the Administrative Services Director of Avon Park that fixing the streets without rehabilitating the buildings on the streets, would not solve the problems of this business district. And we need to find money to help these business owners rehabilitate their buildings. Therefore the job of the CRA and City Council of Avon Park will not be completed without finding grants and low interest loans to help these struggling businesses get back on their feet. Grants are imperative to the redevelopment the businesses physical structure (buildings) and low interest loans will be needed to stock up these businesses with inventory and equipment necessary to function properly. And with the proper business models, promotions and advertisement there is hope for South Delaney Avenue.
This area is a redlining district and the old business model has collapsed into insignificance due to the changes in our demographics. Back in the old days of the 1970’s and 1980’s most of these business were jug joints, whereby the cliental were the local agricultural workers. They supported these businesses because of their mentality of working hard and playing hard. But now most the agricultural workers in Avon Park are migrants out of Mexico and many of the African American population are chronically unemployed and due to our poor education system in Highlands County whereby Avon Park High School is one of the worst performing High Schools in Highlands County and because it was never designed to create an educated population because of the work that was available here, many are without high school diplomas and/or job skills and therefore cannot benefit from many of the retail establishments now in Highlands County. For this reason the local businesses on the Southside are struggling due to the high crime rate which is byproduct of high unemployment, which prevents outside cliental from patronizing these establishments. Therefore the high crime rate must be address, which means job training has to also be considered to truly revitalized South Delaney Avenue as well as perhaps light industry to employ the whole population of Avon Park. There is simply not enough jobs to go around and the jobs we do have people in the Southside are not qualified to get now. Job growth in Highlands County is in the negative digits.
Not many white people come to South Delaney Avenue because of the fear of the criminal behavior in the area. The only white people we attract are prostitutes and drug addicts looking for a fast dollar and a dope fix. And this does not help the businesses in the area prosper.
Something that I think is significant that is on the table is the renaming of Delaney Avenue to Martin Luther King BLVD. Members of the CRA and the people of our community wants this badly. The voices of the people is to relinquish the name Delaney for Dr. King. But there is a growing feeling it will not happen because the Delaney Family has political power in Avon Park, FL. And I do not think their political clout is a good enough reason to prevent this name change, which could enhance our Renaissance.
They say Mr. Delaney who the street is currently named after was the Mayor in Avon Park, FL. But I cannot even Goggle his name and get results, so exactly what was his great contribution to Avon Park, was he a mayor during the segregated south? Tell me! Is he an old time owner of the once segregated Southside Redevelopment Area? Who was he, to get in the way of real progress in Avon Park, FL? It is the consensus of the people of the Southside Redevelopment Area that the changing of the name to Martin Luther King BLVD, could bring back black pride to our community.
Today we at the Southside Redevelopment Area are filled with of many symbolically castrated black men (disenfranchised) and disgraced black women (lost to the streets) and the Delaney Family doesn’t have any community ties with us at all or with the problems we face such as the high crime rate, drug infestation, the AIDS pandemic and the economic disaster or local depression, so why are we being forced to bear his name on our streets today? Where is the Delaney Family when it comes to us? Therefore we need to know the procedure required for this name change and do this by the books. The City Attorney must explain to us why we are forced to bear this name under our current conditions. Just because they (The Delaney Family) know people in City Hall is not a good enough reason to force us to carry his name on our streets anymore, this street needs to identify with the residents and people of our local community if this community is to come out of our sense of lack of ownership of community and the lack of dignity within the people who live here.
The people of Avon Park must become active and concerned about what is going on here in Avon Park now and in the present. I especially call on the business owners, the churches and its leadership and other non profit organizations, because with us the people will follow. There is just too much crime and too much drugs and killing to not get involved with what is going on now. People find it easy to speak out against our City officials, but do nothing to make a change in our legislation processes and decisions. Now I am giving people $625,000 reasons to get involved in the Southside Redevelopment Area. While the CRA meetings are almost always empty, we find it convenient to simply complain, while the City Council meetings are almost always empty, we simply complain and do not voice our opinions. Wake up people, wake up!
Now I am going to tell you something you may not want to hear, but it is real. A drug epidemic like nothing since the 1960’s is about to hit us hard. With the troops returning from the Middle East and Afghanistan where the poppy plants has been harvested for several years undisturbed under the protection of the United States Government. South Delaney Avenue is an incubator for this disaster in the making. If we do not solve the crime on these streets now, with better education, job development and new business models to reduce crime here, we will not be able to handle it later. Opiates is now the drug of choice in America, but a good and cheep supply of dope is simply not available, so people shoot up stuff like Oxycontin. But this is about to change soon. And with a new heroin epidemic comes more AIDS infections, in an already town filled with sexual immorality. And unlike crack, heroin addicts need their fixes every morning and daily. This will lead to crime unlike we ever experience in Highlands County, especially coupled with these bad economic times unlike the 1960’s and 1970’s. Heroin on the streets of South Delaney Avenue must be averted. A heroin epidemic in Avon Park on South Delaney Avenue may well be the price paid for our silence now. So I warn the good citizens of Avon Park to wake up, because under these conditions nobody in Avon Park or Highlands County will be safe. Not any community not any people in our town will be safe.
Frank Paul Jones