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:
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch commented that the
plan was a good strong foundation and now "it is time to build the
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
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
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
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
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.