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Desperate House of Lies | Opinion

Last weekend, I saw an ad with my face on it, insinuating some sort of conspiracy between my businesses, Grow Tallahassee and Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox. I hate to give gossip sites airtime, but I feel obligated to explain what is going on behind the scenes:

As some of you know, Our Tallahassee (the page that is running this ad) is a breitbart-style, political gossip site, established last year to help a certain group of politicians and candidates. It looks like Grow Tallahassee’s 2022 local election endorsements did not sit well with the lobbyists and political operatives that are in charge of this website. So, they are trying to bully us.

The ad is about Grow Tallahassee’s January event, featuring “Growth & Social Equity”. Our guest speakers were Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox and the President of Capital City Chamber, Katrina Tuggerson. We discussed private and public sector initiatives in the Southside, aiming to promote smart economic development. In addition to our guest speakers, Commissioner Curtis Richardson and Krystellis Estanga (former aide of Commissioner Jack Porter) were also in attendance, joining the conversation.

The ad is creating an ugly narrative that, somehow, Commissioner Williams-Cox has been supporting the Grow Tallahassee mission, and my company’s real estate project in exchange for campaign donations and the support of Grow Tallahassee PAC. Allow me to unpack the intention behind this unethical smear campaign: Our Tallahassee’s legal documents were filed by Shelby Green, who is now running against Dianne Williams-Cox in this year’s city commission race. One of the authors of this ad, Bob Lotane, ran against Dianne Williams-Cox in 2018, and lost with a large margin: 34% vs 65% to Williams-Cox’s favor.

The other author, Max Herrle, is managing Adner Marcelin’s campaign to also unseat… yes, you guessed it, Dianne Williams-Cox.

Mr. Herrle has a reputation of “selling” Jeremy Matlow’s and Jack Porter’s Commission votes through lobbying contracts.

In 2020, he sent my company one of those contracts in the amount of $38,000 for our CRA application with a follow up phone call: “I’m one of Jeremy’s best friends. Your chances of getting his vote go higher…”.

Now that he is trying to get Adner Marcelin elected, I wonder how much Mr. Herrle plans to charge for Adner’s vote?

Let’s correct the facts:

The article claims that I made a donation to Commissioner Williams-Cox, and two months later she voted to approve grant funding for my real estate project. The truth is, the recent vote was about the approval of “project modifications'', not grant funding. It passed with 5 in favor, 0 opposition, including Mr. Herrle’s so-called best friends Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter, voting alongside Commissioner Williams-Cox.

The grant funding was originally approved two years ago with another 5-0 vote. Not because I paid Max (or anyone else) $38,000, but because it is a good project embraced by neighborhoods, advocacy groups and leaders in our community. It is creating jobs as we speak, triggering further development in the southside and building a sense of community on a city block that was once full of dilapidated buildings.

The authors, Bob and Max, know all of this.

They think pinning lies and false accusations on Dianne Williams-Cox is the only way they can beat her. They intentionally leave out the facts in that ad, creating an ugly narrative that as a successful black woman, it is not possible to gain major political and financial support without accepting bribes.

Desperation at its finest. Shame on Adner Marcelin, as the former chair of NAACP Tallahassee Chapter, for allowing this smear campaign against Commissioner Williams-Cox to continue. Action speaks louder than words. There is a political machine in this town, claiming to be the “good guys” saving us from the “special interest, dark money insiders” but I implore you to ask what they have contributed to our community beyond divisive rhetoric.

Over the last couple of years, Grow Tallahassee has increased its exposure and membership exponentially. Through our public events we have informed guests on various issues such as sustainable growth, smart economic development, Tallahassee International Airport strategic plans, urban infill, local start-ups and talent retention. We want to thank every person who shows their support for Grow Tallahassee by sharing our social media posts, attending our events, and donating money to our political committee.

We will continue to advocate for the full potential of our beautiful city regardless of these baseless attacks on our organization.

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