More than 100 people gathered Thursday night to hear candidates running for Orlando’s District 5 outline their positions on a number of issues with job creation and affordable housing their top priorities.

Six of the eight candidates running for the seat, which includes the west side of downtown Orlando, participated in the 90-minute forum. The discussion at the Dr. J. B. Callahan Neighborhood Center was sedate compared to a May District 5 forum where audience members heckled the candidates.

The candidates were given an opportunity to introduce themselves then two minutes to answer questions that revolved around the district’s future growth and development.

Jibreel Ali, Ericka Dunlap, Sarah Abuobaida Elbadri, Betty Gelzer, Cynthia Harris and incumbent Regina Hill participated in the forum. Candidates Ondria James and Darryl Sheppard did not attend.

All six candidates agreed that the district, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the city, needs more job opportunities and affordable housing options. The participants were asked how to get more single-family homes rather than apartments built in District 5.

Abuobaida Elbadri, an urban planning consultant, said she would rezone land for single family or duplexes to townhomes to give developers an incentive to build so they could make a profit.

Harris, who runs the runs the Carson-Chaney House nonprofit, proposed giving developers tax breaks as incentives to build single family homes in the low-income community.

Incumbent Hill said she would use community development block grants and funds from the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program to hire small business contractors rather than big developers to build single-family homes on land donated by the city so the homes could be affordable.

Ali suggested suggested the community raise money to build homes in the district.

“A year ago, tragedy came to this community and they responded,” said Ali, who founded the One Community, One Orlando nonprofit. “By raising just 1 percent of what was raised by the Pulse Foundation, we could meet our community’s housing needs.”

Dunlap, a public relations business owner and former Miss America, said there are plenty of single family homes in the district and she wants to hire black contractors to rehab homes for resale rather than give money to developers to build new homes.

Gelzer, who has owned Peabo Child Care Center for 40 years, said she would “surround myself with people who know about these issues.”

All six candidates agreed that job creation was a top priority and said residents need more skills, education, and vocational training to increase employment in the area.

The forum also discussed the candidates’ opinions on gentrification, homelessness and term limits.


About The Author

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

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