Critics have slammed the first term commissioner, but an analysis of her expenses demonstrate a story of community engagement.
By Jacob Engels
Since the release of the Orlando City Commissioners and Mayor’s office expenses, commentators and fellow Orlando City Commissioner Jim Gray have been deriding District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill for using up all of her $90,000 budget.
Gray has been quoted as saying that it’s a leaders responsibility to manage their office finances. But comparing expenses from the more affluent areas of Orlando with Hill’s impoverished District 5 – which includes Parramore… is like comparing apples to oranges.
After reviewing Hill’s expenses for FY 2015, her office spending was mostly dedicated to things like providing educational scholarships to local non-profits, community events, and fees for herself and staff to attend important conferences involving crime in the black community and civic training. Missing from these expenses are large sums spent at lavish restaurants or high priced hotels, usually a common place expense for elected officials who are abusing their office budget for personal gain and posh lifestyles at the taxpayers expense.
See for yourself – community events, scholarships, and donations to non-profits.
Gray himself has spent lavishly on high dollar dinners at The Capital Grille and Disney’s Grand Bohemian. To contrast, Commissioner Hill seems to have a penchant for local legend Lee & Ricks Oyster Bar, and several other well footed local eateries and small businesses – all very economical.
Any observer of local politics will tell you that Hill has been relentless when it comes to being in her community, and partnering with small business owners to promote higher education, job placement and giving members of the community the tools needed to better themselves.
So when critics started attacking Hill for her office spending, I was reasonably pissed. First of all, she is working budget that is far less than her predecessor Daisy Lynum ($50,000 LESS), who fleeced the pockets of her cronies and used her elected office for personal gain – forgetting long ago about the needs of District 5 residents. Hill even had to absorb Lynum’s overages – to the tune of almost $30,000. That makes Commissioner Hill’s request for more resources very understandable – especially considering the fact that she is not the only person sitting on the Orlando City Commission asking for the increase.
Look, if she had blown threw her office budget wining and dining at top-tier eateries or splurged on 5-Star hotels during time spent at conferences, I would be singing a different tune. BUT…she didn’t.
Instead, she decided to spend tens of thousands of dollars on community engagement, non-profit donations, and relevant conference and meeting fees. We should be championing the efforts of elected officials who are doing these things. And to be frank, Commissioner Gray and others who are attacking Mrs. Hill as being a bad manager of her finances, live in areas that require far less resources to be spent in the community.
You can’t compare the wealthy enclaves of Lake Nona to the below poverty line neighborhoods of the 5th District.
From the start of her campaign and beginning of her term, Regina Hill, a longtime resident of Parramore, has been laser focused on building people up in the economically depressed and impoverished District 5… and that costs money. PERIOD.
After almost 20 years of neglect from their former leader on the Orlando City Commission, District 5 residents were afraid that a Commissioner Hill would be a continuation of the Chicago-style ward boss mentality displayed by her predecessor. One could argue that Mrs. Hill has had to go above and beyond to earn back their trust – a noble and successful effort thus far.
We need more Regina Hill’s in office.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at email@example.com