FLORENCE, S.C. – The leader of a local nonprofit says she feels her organization was insulted by the city of Florence.
The alleged insult occurred when Pee Dee Healthy Start approached the city in July about scheduling a music festival from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at a closed street in downtown Florence.
Madie Robinson, executive director and chief executive officer of Pee Dee Healthy Start, told the Florence City Council on Monday afternoon that she felt personally insulted and insulted for her team after the city suggested other dates and locations for the event.
It was vividly apparent that no matter the intent of the event that when we contacted the downtown development officer, "it seemed that the intent was to deny our application,” Robinson said. “This saddened me greatly. ... I read in the paper [the Morning News] where Florence wants to be an All-American City. These are not the attributes of an All-American City. All-American cities are inclusive, and they support everyone and they encourage everyone.”
Florence City Manager Randy Osterman denied that the city had any intent to deny the permit. He added that there are only certain days in which the city can block off streets downtown and that Oct. 16 was not one of those days.
Robinson implied that her perception of the city was that the staff was exhibiting biases toward the people served by Pee Dee Healthy Start.
This would be illegal for the city to do. Cities cannot usually discriminate against people based on race – Robinson said the organization’s clientele was largely African American and Latino – or socioeconomic status.
Robinson said she was under the impression that the city staff believed the event could be disruptive to the downtown.
This was also denied by the city.
She added that the organization was told that costs could be an issue and that it might be better for the organization to choose a lower cost option. Robinson said that at a follow-up meeting between the organization and city officials, including Deputy City Manager Scotty Davis, the organization was told that their mission and purpose would more closely align with the use of the City Center Farmers Market on Sanborn Street.
Robinson acknowledged later in her remarks that the Farmers Market could be a better venue in the current COVID-19 environment.
Osterman confirmed that the city felt the organization’s mission, to improve the health of babies and families in the Pee Dee, more closely aligned with the use of the farmer’s market because it was also designed as a way to encourage the city’s residents to make healthier choices.
The organization eventually agreed to hold its music festival and awareness event from 4 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the City Center Farmers Market.
Osterman added that the city has always worked with Pee Dee Healthy Start in the past, particularly after the organization lost its funding source in the mid-2010s, and looks forward to keeping that relationship healthy.
Robinson said that she also appreciated the relationship with the city and looked forward to working with them in the future.