U.S. Rep Al Lawson invites Jacksonville community development director as guest to president’s State of the Union Address

Special to the Outlook

WASHINGTON DC — U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) today announced that Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) Executive Director Paul Tutwiler will be his guest for the State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday, January 30 in Washington DC. The NJCDC offers services to 25,000 Jacksonville residents, many residing in Eastside, Durkeeville, Moncrief and Ribault Scenic neighborhoods. These communities were drastically damaged during Hurricane Irma.

Each year, members of Congress bring guests to the White House for an opportunity to hear the commander-in-chief discuss the state of the nation.  Members often choose to bring individuals who embody issues that need to be addressed in their respective districts. Rep. Lawson will wear black in solidarity with his Democratic colleagues in support of #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Additionally, Rep. Lawson and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus will wear red “Recy” pins as a tribute to Recy Taylor, an African-American woman who was kidnapped and raped in Alabama in 1944.

“Mr. Tutwiler stepped up to assist residents in our community affected by Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever documented in the Atlantic Ocean,” said Rep. Lawson, who was in Jacksonville days following the Hurricane, assessing the damage and meeting with residents. “He is the epitome of ‘my brother’s keeper,’ helping neighbors to recover and ensuring their safety. His hands-on support and invaluable presence made the recovery effort for those most effected in the great city of Jacksonville less of a burden. I am honored to have Mr. Tutwiler join me for the State of the Union.”

Hurricane Irma produced more than 200 billion gallons of rain on the Jacksonville area in a matter of days – equivalent to 22 days of water flow through the St. Johns River. The hurricane also negatively impacted Jacksonville’s economy, shutting down business for weeks. Power was lost to more than a dozen pump stations, causing more than 1.5 million gallons of raw sewage to overflow into rivers and city streets.

Tutwiler, who has served in his position for 15 years, witnessed first-hand when Hurricane Irma devastated much of the city, leaving many residents displaced and without resources. Nearly 200,000 gallons of raw sewage spewed into the street of the Ribault Scenic neighborhood, one of the areas Tutwiler oversees.
“There are many uninsured or underinsured families within the community I serve,” said Tutwiler, who was without power for a week following Hurricane Irma. “As a community, we were uncertain as to how long the power would remain off, but we remained vigil.  Many families were fragile before the storm. After the storm, many were without work or stable homes.”

Rep. Lawson has been a strong advocate for disaster relief. In November of last year, he introduced the Flood Water Relief Act, a bill that would ensure supplemental funding appropriations ($116,968,000) for the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and storm damage reduction projects in areas affected by flooding in Jacksonville.

He also testified in front of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the devastation and flooding in Jacksonville from Irma, and also requested funding for 11 flood mitigation projects in the area. In that same year, Rep. Lawson wrote a letter with Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09) to Gov. Rick Scott requesting he consider the economic impact of Irma on SNAP recipients. Most recently, Rep. Lawson voted in favor of the Continuing Resolution for a $81 billion supplemental appropriation for disaster assistance.