Republican State House District 2 Representative Mike Hill participated in a Pensacola public forum Monday September 9th to discuss issues affecting the Escambia County community at the Epps Christian Center at 2300 North Pace Blvd. The host of the event, Rev. Sylvia Tisdale, the Epps Christian Center pastor, stated that the event was for citizens to ask questions and to discuss how the State Representative can help enhance the quality of life in the community. Hill’s district covers portions of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties – namely Pensacola, Pensacola Beach and Gulf Breeze.
Hill has stated before, that he likes the direction that Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders are moving the state, pointing to efforts to reduce the size of government, lower taxes and reduce regulations. Last Monday, Representative Hill addressed an African-American audience made up of ministers, church members, senior citizens, business owners, military veterans, non-profit organization leadership, registered Democrats and Republicans who shared their concerns of community problems. The group listened attentively as he described his past growing up, serving in the Air Force, and going into business for himself.
After sharing his past experiences in the Air Force and as an insurance company owner, he described the decisions he had to make to run for office. He then presented his feelings about being elected as the first Black Republican male to the Florida House of representatives since the Civil War. Hill stated that he should not look at his election as a thing of pride; he said to him it is a shame that it took so long and should have happened a long time ago. As an avowed Christian, he provided a testimony that God placed him in the position to be a voice for people who have not had a voice in the past so that everyone may have a seat at the table. He then stated proudly, “I think that in order for me to be a good servant leader then I think what people want and what I should provide is good public policy”. Hill then listed four ingredients of good public policy that he wants to provide in Tallahassee. He also stated that public policy must be constitutional, fiscally responsible, fix problems through critical thinking, and morally sound with the Bible as its foundation.
He then opened the floor for questions. The first question was on the role of a state representative, which led to Hill’s description of his job and the five legislative committee assignments that he has been appointed to: Health Care Appropriations Sub Committee, Health Innovations Sub Committee, Energy and Utilities Sub Committee, Regulatory Affairs Sub Committee, and Civil Justice Sub Committee.
Other issues that were addressed by Representative Hill was the incarceration of a woman in Jacksonville who shot a warning shot at her husband who had assaulted her and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Another issue was the state of the prison industrial complex and the disproportionate representation of Blacks in prison. In both cases he stated he is very aware of both situations and is willing to address both issues. This led him to describe his role in working with youth programs to deter their entering the prison system. Hill offered the importance of a strong family, education, and business ownership as a way to stop the school to prison pipeline in the Black community.
These comments led to questions about Representative Hill’s role in determining the utilization of funding through State of Florida economic development programs (such as Enterprise Florida) to be combined with Florida’s allocation of Gulf Coast Oil Spill RESTORE Act federal funds to create jobs and business opportunities for the minority community in his district to impact these quality of life problems. Hill stated that he is willing to advocate for minority businesses of excellence that are well prepared to receive financial support from these state and federal programs. He consistently emphasized the need for citizens to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit to reduce unemployment and poverty.
Pastor Rev. Sylvia Tisdale asked a very fundamental question of how the community really connects with Tallahassee. She expressed the frustration of African-Americans experiencing a “disconnect” with Tallahassee and Washington. She continued expressing herself by asking how do concerned citizens call their representatives and know what to ask when they call. Hill responded that that’s what he is there for and he stated that he wants to have many more meetings like one held at the Epps Christian Center.
Other issues discussed included the restoration of rights for ex-offenders, state government agency advertising with Black media, the need for the involvement of the Black church in community development, programs to assist ex-offenders in transitioning back into community life and jobs, and the community’s concern that Hill does not allow the Tallahassee political process to change him and compromise his values.
Representative Hill was engaged in this lively discussion and responded to all the community concerns and assured those in attendance that if they see him compromising himself, to call him out and remind him of what he promised at the public forum at the Epps Christian Center.