A council for Black males in Florida faces potential roadblocks ahead in its mission to improve the lives of Black men and boys, with issues arising over funding — a $150,000 veto by the governor — and the ability to fill a full slate of board members.
The Florida Council on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys began a virtual meeting on Tuesday, but it was canceled due to what has been described as technical difficulties and issues surrounding public meetings laws.
The council did release its 2020 annual report that day, but the meeting’s agenda was supposed to include “reappointment of council members” and several other items.
The Phoenix attended the meeting briefly, which commenced around 2:30 p.m. before a representative abruptly canceled the meeting. Only seven individuals were on the video call at that time.
The council – housed in the Florida Attorney General’s office – is supposed to consist of 19 members, according to its website.
Meanwhile, the council faces funding challenges following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto of $150,000 in the 2020-21 budget.
Eddy M. Regnier, chair of the council, told the Florida Phoenix on Tuesday that the requested amount of $150,000 was supposed to be “used to fund positions and money for travel.”
“The council has grown exponentially with what we are doing,” said Regnier, a clinical and forensic psychologist who operates a private practice in Sarasota.
He told the Phoenix in a phone conversation on Tuesday that, “So now we are back to $70,000 bucks, which we can certainly use. But it’s not enough to hire what we need.”
However, it’s unclear about the details of that $70,000.
The Phoenix reached out to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s communications staffers, but they couldn’t pinpoint funding information for the organization.
And State Sen. Perry Thurston, a Democrat representing part of Broward County, hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Thurston is a member of the council and filed a “Local Funding Initiative Request” for the $150,000 in the 2020-21 budget, legislative records show.
That was the amount that was vetoed in June by DeSantis, a month after racial unrest over the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by police in Minneapolis.
The issue over the veto incensed Regnier, who told the Phoenix earlier that DeSantis had refused a meeting with the council. “DeSantis has refused to meet. I don’t think he’s interested in Black people.”
Regnier also said about DeSantis: “I don’t think he likes us. I don’t think he likes Black people.”
In 2006, the Florida Legislature established the research organization to study negative conditions affecting Black males in Florida and propose measures to reduce high school dropout rates, violent crime, and incarceration rates, according to its website. The studies range from homicide rates to poverty, drug abuse, and death rates.