Last week, Commissioner Pat Kemp, a Democrat, was taken to task by Hillsborough County Commission Chair Les Miller.
Miller, also a Democrat, spoke of injecting raw politics into Hillsborough County’s declaration of systemic racism as a public health crisis. Although he refrained from calling out Kemp, who made the motion, by name, those familiar with the County Commission knew exactly who he was talking about.
“I am the only one … [to have experienced] racism — all kinds of deplorable acts because of the color of my skin,” Miller said. “It appears it was a political move …. and that’s absolutely wrong.”
Apparently, Kemp is developing a reputation for failure to support minority communities in key votes.
Miller went on to point out his concerns about other votes Kemp had made at Hillsborough Area Transportation Authority meetings, including that she refused to support not one, but two, internal Black candidates’ further advancement into leadership roles.
In contemplating Hispanic Heritage Month, this brought to my mind another time Kemp sought to exploit people of color for political gain.
In 2018, Commissioner Sandy Murman pushed to increase diversity and minority representation on the Hillsborough County Commission. She gave several impassioned pleas to create dedicated commission districts for the county’s Black and Hispanic communities with the goal of increasing minority representation in all county policy decisions.
This could have been accomplished by simply putting the question on the ballot and allowing citizens to vote it up or down.
“I always work for diversity in all I do,” Murman said. “To me, a single member district accomplishes inclusivity, reflects our growing community, and brings the county commissioners closer to those we serve.”
Notwithstanding that this would have been a historic move — particularly for the Hispanic community — Kemp voted against that push, ostensibly due to her political influence and power.
“I don’t support this approach,” Kemp commented at the time. “But if this is going to be considered, we do need to talk about how these districts are drawn.”
Ultimately, other Democratic commissioners sided with Kemp and the effort was sidelined. (It is worth noting that Miller supported the effort, but voted against it because he preferred the objectivity of the Planning commission to handle the mapping.)
In the end, this resulted in decreased representation, diversity, and inclusivity for the Hispanic community on the Hillsborough County Commission. Although the Black community is concerned about gentrification, it still has a dedicated seat right now.
Another effort was mounted in late July 2020 at the Charter Review Board. However, Kemp and other Democratic appointees blocked that, too.
Perhaps, that is yet another reason that Hispanic voters are trending toward Republican candidates. At least in Hillsborough County, the only candidate who will step to the plate for the Hispanic community is Murman who is, of course, a Republican.