Friday, October 11, 2013

Your Candidates Address South St. Pete Concerns


A word of caution: This is a long Post. The responding candidates have taken the time to provide in-depth answers to your questions.

Each candidate was asked five questions taken from submissions from PATCH readers.

Here I bring each candidates answer to a specific question.

Question 5
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents? 

Mayoral Candidates
Bill Foster:
Repeated e-mails to the Foster campaign and a telephone call resulted in NO RESPONSE from the Mayor.

Rick Kriseman:
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?
I like this question because it gives me the opportunity to talk about the bigger picture. I want to knock down these ‘walls’ that too often divide us by making South St. Pete and Midtown cultural destinations. These neighborhoods are home to many historic buildings, great parks like Dell Holmes, and museums like the Carter Woodson. There’s been progress, but we’ve also seen false starts and setbacks. We need to sustain the progress by working to bring in more amenities and conveniences. 

Reducing poverty by 30% by 2020 will better allow the residents of South St. Pete and Midtown to find opportunities and then keep their hard-earned money local. 

District 2
James R. "Jim" Kennedy, Jr.:
Following repeated e-mails there was NO RESPONSE

Lorraine Margeson
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?

 Fully fund and implement the Mid-Town and Child's Park Initiatives.  The road map WAS laid out, we just need to FOLLOW it.......

District 4
Carolyn Fries
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?

As an engineer and technology entrepreneur with real-life work experience in the majority of industries targeted for high wage job growth in St. Petersburg (manufacturing, medical devices & life sciences, marine science & environmental technologies and information technology), I am uniquely qualified to assist with economic development and job creation. However, Dr. Webb’s question asks what ELSE I would do to improve quality of life – and for south side residents in particular. During this campaign and in my own district, I was able to get an alleyway paved by the city in less than 4 weeks for a resident who had fallen into 22nd Ave N multiple times due to poor footing in a sand alleyway between her home and a nearby bus stop. It was a matter of alerting city staff to a safety issue (in writing via email, with description, location and supporting photograph) and following up to ensure the job had been properly prioritized and completed. I must note that city staff was extremely responsive and professional during this effort - a pleasure to work with. I will (continue to) work with residents, city staff, the mayor and fellow council members to clearly define and set priority for infrastructure projects impacting quality of life by taking into account safety, severity, time in project queue and citywide distribution of effort/attention. I will communicate with residents on a regular basis regarding these projects. I will also work with code enforcement and property owners to ensure proper maintenance of land and buildings, improving the appearance of south St. Petersburg. In cases of financial distress for the owner, volunteer organizations may be recruited to assist with minor repairs or upkeep such as painting. I also support the establishment and active use of a database to tracking down owners of foreclosed properties to ensure these properties are being maintained to code standards.

Darden Rice
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?
I support:

a.   The creation of a Youth Advisory Council and Task Force.

b.   Creation of the Midtown CRA/ TIF district.

c.   Bringing in another Community Health Center to support community health care needs.

d.   Historical preservation efforts in Midtown.

e.   City support for south side cultural amenities on par with support with other cultural institutions.

f.     Promoting easy access to and participation in voting, including advocating for ex-felon civil rights restoration. Continue my fight against voter suppression.

g.   Support minority business development.

District 6
Karl Nurse
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?

 Jobs, crime and education – See answer above.  Along with housing, these are the four legs of the stool needed to turn these neighborhoods around.  In each case, the earlier we attack the problem, the better the result relative to cost.  I have worked on housing issues the most because I know the most about it.  There is a logical order in the housing field.

First, tear down the worst housing.  Next, increase code enforcement and rehab incentives for the housing that can be fixed.  When, those steps are clearly moving forward, it will be possible to attract builders to begin infilling on the vacant lots.    Every time we lessen the hurdling to starting and growing a business, the more businesses will grow.  We need to more actively solicit business recruitment.   This investment pays many dividends. 

Sharon Russ:
Repeated e-mails and a phone call produced  No Response

District 8
Amy Foster
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?
I believe we have much work to do to ensure that residents in South St. Pete have access to quality schools, services, jobs, and safe neighborhoods and I look forward to the day that our city is no longer described with divisions like “South St. Petersburg”. Residents in South St. Pete lack sufficient access to healthcare, food, jobs, and transportation. I believe we need to start focusing our efforts on preventing poverty rather than focusing our investments on interventions. I support the development of a CRA TIF District and the Agenda 2020 plan to help address the health of Midtown. I have been engaged in public meetings on these topics to stay abreast of developments. Investment will be necessary and public engagement and buy-in from community stakeholders will be essential. I’m largely concerned about the increasing access to transportation in the area as well as addressing the food dessert issues largely found only on the South side of our city. As with most other complex issues, in order to create systemic change a multi-prong approach is key. A few key priority focus areas should include:

· New commercial development and city infrastructure support

· Increased access to transportation

· Reducing blight in neighborhoods

· Forming and/or strengthening neighborhood associations

· Broadening community policing to reduce crime

· Workforce development, training, and apprenticeships for hard to employ segments of the labor force

· Support growth of local businesses

· Focus on education and out of school time enrichment opportunities, including summer employment and year round internships (as discussed in an above question). Most importantly focusing on early childhood education opportunities from birth-Age 5.

· Increase health prevention programming for diabetes, HIV, obesity, and heart disease

· Partnering with nonprofits and other social service agencies to engage families in community activities

I also support the creation of a 34th Street South Redevelopment Plan and have been attending meetings to stay informed of the process and developments. The 34th Street South plan will increase the quality of life of South St. Pete residents by increasing their access to services. Both of these plans will take quite some time to come to fruition but many of the above stated priorities don’t have to wait until the plans officially “launch” to start taking action in some areas now.

Steve Galvin:
Jobs, education and crime are all problems we agree that affect South St. Pete. What else specifically would you do to improve the quality of life for all south side residents?

Assuming from the question that the problems related to jobs, education and crime have been addressed, the quality of life for Southside residents could be improved by the addition of retail and service businesses to the area.  The new Walmart Neighborhood Grocery should have a bank branch inside of it just like Southtrust Bank used to have teller service inside of the Albertson’s.  Quality of life would be improved if citizens who are working two jobs or do not have reliable transportation could accomplish their necessary daily errands without having to travel to another area of the city to do so.  The City Council cannot force businesses to set up in locations that the company may not find economically advantageous, but the City does have the power to at least establish a cashier’s window in an easily accessible location in the Southside or Midtown within an existing establishment where the residents can pay their water bills.  The City could also simplify the process of setting up a recurring payment of one’s water bill.  Instead of having to take a blank check down to Municipal Services, it should be able to be done online from home and without a “convenience fee”.   That just makes people angry when they’re struggling to pay their basic bills.

The Greenhouse needs to work with existing small business owners and people interested in starting a business in the area to introduce them to each other and the resources of each so that needed services, such as a nail salon, could partner with an existing business like a hair salon.  We could also consider working with interested developers on City-owned properties in the area to create environments for businesses to locate to. 

The City could also target some of the desirable retail corridors for right-of-way enhancements that would further improve the desirability to perspective business owners in the area.  I believe that the 34th St. Community Redevelopment Area designation could be a great way to offer more of the desired and needed businesses to Midtown and the Southside.  Some decent restaurants would be a good start as there are few choices other than fast food for almost 100 blocks of 34th Street.  But, we need to be careful that it does not lead to a gentrification of the area as a whole and begin to price people out of their own homes and neighborhoods.

As a small business owner who started his first business in retail, it would certainly be attractive to me to open a retail business or service-related business if I knew that the City was willing to work with me while I got my business established.  For many people who start their first business, the processes of dealing with the City can be cumbersome and often unclear.  Sign ordinances for example may need to be rethought so as to make St. Petersburg a more retail-friendly City in which to thrive.  I have had many small business owners complain to me on the campaign trail about sign issues and being able to display some of their wares in front of their businesses.

Be sure to comment below or you can e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook Friend request.
Campaign Disclosures: Contributor to Kathleen Ford Campaign, Darden Rice Campaign, Concern Citizens of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman for Mayor, District 2 Lorraine Margeson
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