Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

The Lake City Hood - God is Watching

Chief Gilmore address the community at the Bethel Baptist Church as Pastor Baker, County HR Chief and grant writer -  Michelle Crummit, County Recreation Director and Community Leader - Mario Coppock, City Council Candidate - Tammy Harris, Lori Walker - DCF,  and County Commission Chairman - Ronald Williams (left to right) listen.

It is unknown if the latest initiative in the Lake City Hood is going to continue to gain traction even though funding at any level is uncertain. For months, a group of local government officials from various local governmental agencies, collectively calling itself Weed and Seed, after the terminated federal program of the same name, has been meeting monthly to develop a strategy to clean up the Lake City Hood.

Earlier in the day the steering committee met at Richardson

As late as last week, many of the agencies involved in the program did not know that new applications for the Weed and Seed grant were not being accepted. The stated aim of the group is now to be prepared for any new grant that may come along. The second community meeting was last night in the Bethel Baptist Church.

City Councilman Hill, Tami Harris and Citizen Advocate Washington.

Earlier in the day at the Richardson Community Center, the Weed and Seed group discussed that night's meeting, heard some community concerns and gave its take on some of the issues that were raised.

One of the primary issues was that of funding. Pastor Baker addressed this head on at both of the meetings.


Pastor Baker is committed to seeing a change in direction of the Hood.

Pastor Baker:  "It was my understanding that in the process there may be some changes to this program. There may be a name change; there may be funding changes, but continue with the process... Whatever changes take place we can adjust for that... We must get all our information packaged so when it was time to make a presentation we would have the information finished."

The importance of the Black Church in the African American community goes back to the roots of the nation.

Briefly touched upon during the monthly Weed and Seed meetings is the rift among the pastors in the Hood. It was agreed that without a united front in the churches, cleaning up the Hood would be almost impossible. Pastor Baker appears committed to bringing the energy of the Churches together to begin and continue this process.

"B" Coker, mother, author, activist, educator and a community leader is part of a new generation that is stepping up to the plate, doing its homework, asking tough questions and looking for solutions through new eyes.

"B" Coker asked the tough questions that needed to be asked and answered.

Ms. Coker pulled no punches when she addressed the officials at the altar as she did earlier in the day, when she told the group: "We are eight months into the program. The Jacksonville study was two years. Two percent of the population -- seventeen percent of the crime. Our study hasn’t begun. We are simply taking information from law enforcement and passing it on. I haven’t seen anything of the sort. Lake City is waiting for a compiled study. We need statistical study -- not just from law enforcement, but from independent agencies that look at what’s going on... (After the early afternoon meeting the statistics were made available for the first time and are available here).

One issue that Ms. Coker brought up at the evening meeting and was also of concern to many in the audience was the longer Federal jail sentences that would be mandatory should Lake City be approved for a grant.

Missing from the evening's meeting was any representative of the Columbia County School District.

Time will tell if this effort to weed out crime, drugs, criminals, blight and the corruption that has been allowed to fester for so long in the Lake City Hood will come to anything, or if this will be a repeat of the failed policies of the past.

It has been known for some time that some of Lake City's finest hang out with drug dealers or turn the other way when deals are going down. This is not a secret.

It has been known for some time that many folks in Lake City call the Sheriff's Department when they need real help, bypassing the Lake City Police Department.

Pastor Baker has stepped up to the plate and told the Observer that he is doing everything he can to move forward, away from the failed policies of the past.

Police Chief Gilmore can talk the talk. Whether or not she can walk the walk is yet to be seen.

One thing is for sure, this time in the Lake City Hood, God is watching. Just ask Pastor Baker.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On July 17, 2010 Patricia Perry of Lake City wrote:

Dear Mr. Lilker:

I grew up in what you term “The Hood”, and I am a member of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. The latest initiative by my pastor and others is a step in the right direction. Despite all of the unanswered questions, it is a positive step. More than what has been done in the past.

I have no doubt that it is legitimate and above-board, or Pastor Alvin Baker would not be involved in it. He does not become involved unless he has well-researched the subject and can do some good.

Aside from these points, the use of the term “Hood” is stereotypical and is insulting to the people who live there. I realize that it is a dramatic term and draws attention, but the law-abiding citizens who live there are not living in a movie title. To them, this area is home, or simply a neighborhood.

Thank you for your coverage of issues that are not covered by the Lake City Reporter.

Patricia A. Perry


On July 18, 2010 Bea Coker of Lake City wrote:

Mrs. Perry, the term "Hood" offended you as you rightfully pointed out. Speaking on behalf of others is an approach I believe removes the individual expression each of us should feel confident in sharing.

Hood may very well have a negative connotation, however, if this area is what one views as the hood, then we can all rest assured that the news coverage really makes "hoods" out to be more dangerous than they actually are.

Quote from Reverend Baker, "I have not called Mr. Bellswebber, nor have I called Mr. Daniels, I have trust in my grant writers and they tell me we are on track."

Commissioner Ron Williams announced at the Commissioner's meeting on Thursday that in fact there is no grant and the Steering Committee is ensuring that when a grant becomes available the Steering Committee on behalf of Lake City will be the 1st in line to apply.

It is very important that we as citizens, American citizens, be prudent about obtaining our own knowledge. Proverbs 14:15 states: simpletons believe everything they are told.

The citizens of this community are not simpletons, they are concerned parents, citizens and Americans and yes we trust those in authority, but must get involved for ourselves and must hold people accountable for what they tell us.

Feel free to contact Mr. Bellswebber, Washington DC, Executive Director of Funding (202.305.2975) or Will Daniels, Office of the Florida Attorney General (813.274.6000) for your own edification.

Knowledge is POWER!

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