St. Petersburg, FL
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
Author: In Search of Robin
Thursday's St. Pete City Council meeting consideration of the South St. Pete CRA and TIF and the plan to implement them was a high-water mark in the City's long running struggle with south St. Pete. Mayor Rick Kriseman and his team deserve a lot of credit for getting the City to this point.
Not all went smoothly as the President of the local NAACP president spoke against the plan.
You can get a good sense of the plan and the issues in these two articles by Tampa Bay Times writer Charlie Frago:
Tampa Bay Times, Charlie Frago, St. Petersburg City Council approves South St. Pete TIF programs
Tampa Bay Times, Charlie Frago, In effort to boost Midtown, City Council approves anti-poverty program
After an intense debate and agreement to modify, the plan slightly by making more of the funds available for workforce training City Council adopted the plan unanimously.
During the discussion on a number of occasions, speakers referred to the plan as a multi generational change. Current thinking puts a generation at 20 to 25 years.
The plan looks solid, if it works, as it should it would be self-funding through the life of the TIF.
Assuming it takes a generation and a half to affect serious change that is over 30 years. What does the City do in the meantime?
There are serious questions.
Unrest and discontent run deep in South St. Pete.
In the midst of the discussion, the meeting was interrupted by a protest from the UHURUs
St. Petersburg Tribune, TBO Staff Bag accidentally left in St. Pete city hall after Uhuru protest triggers brief evacation
See my Post from one year ago The Two Faces off South St. Pete.
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch commented that the plan was a good strong foundation and now "it is time to build the house."
If you buy into the general fact, a generation is 20 years, then the current generation is probably the easiest group to get to with the plan's elements.
Can the plan provide training and create jobs for this group more attractive than drug dealing and more acceptable than having babies and living on ADC, food stamps and Welfare programs?
Moreover, not to be overlooked is a group of people who will not want these programs to succeed.
Poverty is big business.
There are people in St. Pete, who make a lot of money from the area defined by the TIF.
The easy ones to pick out are the drug dealers, pimps, gang leaders and the crime lords, but equally egregious are the slumlords, absentee property owners, payday loan operations, social service groups and even some churches that would exploit the very programs meant to break the circle of poverty.
The subset of our society that lives off south St. Pete's poverty is neither small nor powerless.
Plans that plant trees, pave streets and put up streetlights do not bother them much, but plans like Mayor Kriseman's strike at heart of their enterprises.
Lisa Wheeler-Brown said it best when speaking about accountability, "So that people who have their own agenda will not be able to pocket what is really the community's. I have lived here my whole life, and it is no secret what I'm saying."
Ken Welch is right we have the foundation now let's build the house. Everyone in St. Petersburg has a stake in seeing things improve in south St. Pete. The resistance will be subtle at first, perhaps like the comments from the NAACP President, and stronger as the programs begin to roll out and become successful.
Mayor Kriseman, Deputy Mayor Tomalin and the team need to be diligent in their implementation of this plan and not afraid to call out those who would pervert the process.
This plan is a long road. Those starting it will not be the ones that finish it. It is up to the people to stay the course.
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