NAACP meeting sheds light on city plans

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — There was optimism for a growing “city on the move” at the NAACP general meeting held by the St. Petersburg chapter April 15.

City of St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin

City of St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin addressed the crowd at 1501 16th St. S. and conveyed a vision of hope that she and Mayor Kriseman share for the city. [level-active-subscribers]Due to his observance of the religious holiday, Mayor Kriseman was unable to attend.

“One of the first things we focused on during our first 100 days of office is setting a vision,” Tomalin stated. “St. Petersburg is a city of opportunity. We will be a creative, innovative and competitive community that honors our past while pursuing our future—that is our promise to you.”

Tomalin explained some of the key issues that garnered the administration’s attention during the first 100 days—issues she believes will set the course for the next four to eight years—including the Pier, the police department, the Rays, the education crisis and transit transformation. As for what the ultimate design and look of the Pier will be, Tomalin affirmed that function must follow the architectural form.

St. Pete on the Move NAACP meeting

“What is it that we want to happen at the Pier,” she asked. “Do we want it to be a boardwalk with a Ferris wheel and mini golf or do we want it to be an aquarium? As a community we’re going to decide that first and let the form follow the function.”

When the current interim Chief of Police, David DeKay, steps down, Tomalin said the administration will remain committed to finding a chief that “shares our values and building a police department that reflects the best of the officers and the city that they serve.”

Along with making St. Pete a healthy city, leveraging the momentum of a “city on the move” and economic development, Tomalin listed substantial progress in south St. Pete as a priority the administration has brought to the office.

“What we are able to impact here will set the tone for the entire city,” the deputy mayor asserted. She added that the mayor is always willing to listen to input from residents about how to improve the community. “You have an audience in Mayor Kriseman that is unparalleled.”

St. Pete on the Move men at meetingNikki Gaskin-Capehart, director of Urban Affairs for the city, outlined a plan for the prosperity and improvement of St. Pete, which featured cornerstones such as opportunity creation, the nurturing of neighborhoods and families, connecting through cultural affairs and finding catalysts for commerce.

Some specifics include Venture House, a program that will see rehab properties done in a different and innovative way that will help to bring in diversity; an art conservatory for teens; a gallery walk for the showcasing and exposure of local talent and Deuces Live Sunday Market, which offers space for business owners.

“We want to make sure that we are offering opportunities to people who want to start businesses or who have businesses that aren’t necessarily storefront,” Gaskin-Capehart explained, “because we already know that is a high overhead. So by being able to participate in a Deuces Live Market, it’s only $60 right now for a four-Sunday commitment. These are the types of things that we want to make sure that we support as a catalyst for commerce.”

Other speakers included Loretha Cleveland, an agent for the New York Life Insurance Company based in Tampa, who outlined a Child ID Program available from her company.

“We try to reach out to the community, because unfortunately we know that our children are at risk,” Cleveland said. “And we want to share with you the opportunity to provide a legitimate ID that can be shared with the authorities in case information is needed on a missing child.”

Through the use of a portable computer, agents take a photo of the child, fingerprint all 10 fingers, obtain the demographic information from the parents and burn all the information on a CD. The free service will be offered at the May 10 meeting of the St. Pete NAACP.

“We can do K-12, but we usually do K through middle school,” Cleveland said. “We’ve done babies six months old.”

Committee chairman Kurt Donely, along with Councilman Wengay Newton and Police Chief DeKay also attended and encouraged the members of the community to get more involved in what’s happening in their city, citing low voter turnout as something that must change for the good of St. Pete. Yet with the new administration in place, council members and the deputy mayor were optimistic that the city is on an upswing.

“It’s a great time to be here,” Tomalin affirmed.

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com.

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