Who won?

Manhattan Casino, featured


Dear Editor:

First and foremost, I want to thank everyone that has supported our efforts to win the lease for the Historic Manhattan Casino.  Your calls, emails, texts, donations and prayers mean more than you can imagine.  Congratulations and best wishes to the Callaloo Group.

I have been in business for close to 30 years.  I’ve had many competitors, sometimes I come out ahead and sometimes I don’t make the cut.  It’s one of the tenets of business, you are not always going to win, not every deal is going to happen and not every networking session will lead to a new contact.

That being said, what happened at the City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 20 wasn’t fair. Alan Delisle, City Economic Development Manager, confessed, in front of witnesses, that he had tilted the scales in favor of Callaloo.

Let me repeat for emphasis, Mr. Delisle confessed in front of witnesses that he tilted the scales for Callaloo.

Am I the only one that is outraged?  Vincent Jackson approached the city regarding leasing the Manhattan and/or other projects.  His existing team didn’t want to go forward with the Manhattan Casino project, so the city SELECTED where his investment would and with whom he would be paired.  Let that sink in.

The city during a period where groups were gathering to win a contract for the Manhattan Casino, one of the most significant cultural icons in St. Petersburg, gave one of the four groups competing an unfair advantage. Councilman Karl Nurse kept reiterating that The Callaloo Group had money. If the only thing missing was money, why didn’t the city give the other groups the opportunity to pitch to the investor?

They gave the group an unfair advantage that wasn’t publicly disclosed until minutes before the lease was approved.

If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention. This is not about being a sore loser; this is about economic parity for the African-American community and giving the “have-nots” a chance.

I believe the community and Manhattan Casino Legacy Collaborative (MCLC) did win. Why you ask? If MCLC had not submitted a stellar proposal, the Callaloo Group would have had no reason to revise their proposal from a four-pager to the final 15 pages submitted.

The Callaloo Group would not have had any reason to hire a community liaison to assist with shoring up their inroads into the area and garner whatever local support they could. They would have had no reason to bring on someone with ties to the music world. I am certain they will say it was always their intent but how do we know? These positions were not in their original proposal and only came about after MCLC ideas were reviewed.

Finally, benchmarks and requirements would not have been a part of the city’s lease with the Callaloo Group without the MCLC proposal.  I think Councilman Nurse stated it best, and I paraphrase: based on the fact you have everything you need in place, we do not want to see you back before Council six months from now asking for more time or concessions.  It was agreed the group will be considered in breach of contract if the benchmarks aren’t fulfilled.

The community won a guarantee this won’t be another stalled project that also awarded because they had money. I would encourage news organizations to outline for its reader these guarantees the community won.

After reading our proposal, several groups and organizations have already contacted us about collaboration and offered facilities for programming. Fundraising will aggressively continue and be our focus for the coming year.

The MCLC will not go away. We are moving forward with our planned projects. Fred Johnson, executive director said, “We will take the music to the streets.” Be on the lookout for the Legacy Music Series commencing in December.

Stay tuned, as we keep the legacy of the Historic Manhattan Casino and MCLC ALIVE!!!!!

Gloria Campbell, President, Manhattan Casino Legacy Collaborative

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