Philanthropist and community activist Timothy McKinney is still considering challenging incumbent Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards.
By Jacob Engels
In recent weeks, tension has been running high between Timothy McKinney and longtime Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards. The two have gotten into a contentious back and forth over Edwards lack of focus on the impoverished Bithlo area in East Orange County.
McKinney, who has been dedicating the past six years of his life to building what he calls the Bithlo Transformation Effort, sat with the East Orlando Post for a Q&A late last week.
For those that don’t know about UGO, your efforts in Bithlo, or who you are… fill us in.
Basically, I am just a life long resident of Orange County that decided about 6 years ago to find out what some of the issues and barriers to success where for some in the Bithlo community. The things I learned about were so serious and complicated I could hardly believe they existed here in the county I grew up in.
Things like clean water quality, lack of safe and affordable housing, no access to healthcare, dangerous or lacking infrastructure, environmental pollution and so on. The take away for me though was that all of these problems were solvable but no one was working in a coordinated way to solve them. UGO is the non-profit vehicle that now leads the Bithlo Transformation Effort.
What kind of help have you received from elected officials in your effort to transform Bithlo?
Most of the elected officials that govern Bithlo and the surrounding areas have been very supportive and helpful. Most notably, Congressman Mica has gone above and beyond his own responsibilities to help drive awareness and work toward solutions for issues involving transportation in particular.
As a result, the dangerous bridge over the Econ River is halfway completed on its expansion and all of Colonial Drive leading up to and through Bithlo will be widened, have street lights, bike lanes and separate sidewalks and so much more to improve the quality of life for East Orange County and increase safety.
Recently, you have had a publicly called out Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards over his involvement, or lack thereof in helping the residents of Bithlo. Why was that necessary?
Because I literally hit a wall that cannot be overcome without the District 5 Commissioner advancing vital things needed for Bithlo to be a healthy community providing an equal opportunity for everyone to succeed – clean water, the huge chronic homeless issue, increased public transportation, affordable housing and environmental cleanup, to name just a few.
Is there anything that would help Ted Edwards prove his commitment to bettering Bithlo?
Yes, he could aggressively work to address the issues I just mentioned.
You have hinted at challenging Edwards in the 2016 election. Why enter the candidate side of politics now?
Should I make that move, it will be because Commissioner Edwards forced the decision. No longer can inaction and the status quo be OK. Also, there seems to be a deliberate refusal to engage with constituents and community partners to solve problems and represent the people in District 5.
Currently, the big development east of the river is moving forward against the overwhelming opposition, Corrine Drive is in limbo after decades of neglect in spite of an active citizenry calling for action, and of course the issues we have raised related to Bithlo are not only not gaining attention but are downright being sabotaged. Enough is enough.
Whether it’s me or someone else, Ted’s got to go. He has been the Commissioner for most of the past two decades so he owns the issues.
Any new projects on the horizon for the Bithlo Transformation Effort?
Yes. There is a lot happening. Transformation Village is nearing completion. We also will build the areas first model small home which I believe will be an incredibly innovative, first class and cost effective option at affordable housing. There is already interest from jurisdictions thorough out Central Florida to duplicate this model which is really exciting.
We will continue working to solve problems to the benefit of others.
To learn more about UGO, and McKinney’s efforts in Bithlo, click here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org