The City of St. Petersburg: Challenges and resolutions

Trenia Cox

By Trenia Cox: A candidate’s perspective

The City of St. Petersburg is enjoying a high level of economic vitality. However, this high level of economic vitality is not enjoyed in every community and by everyone.  Communities of color are lagging by every economic indicator: wages, high-paying jobs, incomes, employment status, and poverty rates.

In 2013, Pinellas County government released its Poverty Impact Study and five poverty zones were identified, with south St. Petersburg being the largest and most negatively impacted.

In 2019, An Equity Profile of Pinellas County was released. Findings clearly revealed that racial disparities and inequities in employment, income, wealth, education, health, justice, housing and transportation persist due to racial discrimination and a disinvestment in these communities.

These communities of color and the socio-economic status of residents within them reflect an opportunity gap.  Unless deliberate policies and interventions occur, this city will not be Seamless, Equitable or One; it will continue to represent the vestiges of a separate society: one of apparent entitlement and the other of deliberate EXCLUSION.

Consider:

  • Low-wage industry jobs have increased and jobs in high-wage industries have declined.
  • Wage increases only occurred at the top; wages of low-paying jobs decreased from 6-12 percent.
  • Median hourly wages decreased for workers of color (since 2000).
  • Middle -income households declined from 41 to 36 percent and lower-income households increased from 30 to 37 percent.
  • Unemployment rates were highest among black workers at 10 percent in comparison to six percent for whites and seven percent for all workers 25-64 years old (2016).
  • At all educational levels, blacks had a higher unemployment rate.
  • At all educational levels, blacks have a lower median hourly wage.
  • African Americans have the highest poverty rate at 29 percent as compared to 12 percent for whites (2016).
  • The child poverty rate for black children was 43 percent as compared to 15 percent for white children.

As a future policymaker for the City of St. Petersburg District 5’s diverse community, the following recommendations would be proposed and pursued to narrow the wealth and opportunity gap for black citizens:

  1. Advocate and utilize tax increment financing dollars to train the targeted workforce in the Grow Smart industries of finance, data analytics, art, light manufacturing, and marine sciences.
  2. Conduct a salary study to determine if there is wage discrimination among workers in St. Petersburg utilizing local learning institutions. Work with existing labor and business organizations unions to correct, if appropriate and necessary.
  3. Explore and create rapid transit routes to key employment centers, such as beaches and outlying areas, in collaboration with existing transportation coalitions.
  4. Expand employment opportunities to youth and adults with felonies. Promote the engagement of the not-for-profit and faith communities in this effort.
  5. Increase social allocation funding to help address rising youth homelessness among Pinellas County public schools students.
  6. Enhance the Greenhouse Business Development Center to increase minority participation in city contracts for professional services, suppliers, and in construction projects.
  7. Create a business incubator center to develop and increase minority-owned businesses for protected classes.
  8. To develop targeted undeveloped shopping plazas for job creation
  9. To advocate tirelessly for a livable wage to better enable and facilitate renter and homeowner affordability.
  10. To re-visit the livable wage ordinance to better meet the needs of workers for family economic stability and sustainability.

The implementation of these recommendations would address the race and ethnic disparities for the realization of this city as one of equity and opportunity for all who live, work, and play in this Jewel of the South: City of St. Petersburg.

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