ST. PETERSBURG — Marcile Power has been around politics from a very young age. As her father was a campaign manager, she worked on her first campaign when she was only five years old. Now the small business owner and mother or two want to be St. Pete’s next mayor.
An internationally published artist, Power knows how integral a role the arts play in St. Pete.
“I understand what the artist community needs as far as government grants,” she said.
Concerning the Grow Smarter plan, the city’s current has economic development strategy targeting five key sectors, Power said she doesn’t think the residents are pleased with the way the city has been growing and doesn’t believe the plan is applicable anymore.
“A lot of people are really unhappy with the way growth has become concrete high-rises on top of more concrete, and it’s adding to our sewer problems,” she said. “So, we need to figure out a way to start collecting rainwater as we grow.”
Power believes climate change is “a number one issue,” and rising sea levels are a big concern.
“We need to start replanting the mangroves and be an example to all the other oceanside and bayside, gulf side cities that they need to start doing the same,” she said.
Planting mangroves, adding algae blooms, and adding carbon filtration systems into the sewer systems turn St. Pete into a “carbon negative city by the time I’m done in four years.”
The city has faced significant sewage overflows in recent years resulting in a state order for costly improvements, and Power had thoughts on finding the funding.
“We should look at putting in a developer tax when someone puts up a new building,” she said. “They need to pay the infrastructure dues on top of that. I’m not against asking the feds and the state for money. We don’t really need to tax our citizens anymore. So, I would be interested in opening some conversation back up with the state, seeing if we can get ourselves put on the budget.”
To keep the historic charm of downtown, she said the size limits on the buildings that have allowed the smaller shops to stay on Central Avenue have helped.
“We also need to look at potentially adding more places where startups and street vendors can start working from,” she noted. “We have the Pier, but also looking at revitalizing the Tropicana Field, we need some places where people who are just starting their business to set up and grow clientele.”
Due to stagnating salaries and rising costs of rents and real estate prices, some locals are being priced out of the market. Power wants to incentivize homeownership and advocates classes that will help people lock in on low mortgage rates on houses and condos.
“In addition to wanting to see more local ownership and setting up a program where we have local owners, I also like the idea of using the city land trust to buy land and have the city directly be landlords for low-income people,” she said.
On moving forward with the Tropicana site redevelopment project if she is elected mayor, Power said such a large decision shouldn’t be left to one person or even a board.
“It needs to be a city-wide referendum vote for the final plans,” she said.
She believes the city must find a way to get back into the statewide budget and is optimistic about obtaining assistance from the federal level.
“Right now, the city’s annual budget mostly comes from the city because the state has cut us off from funding because of our rough relations with the legislature,” Power explained. “The city has decided that they do want to pay for certain programs, which is very honorable and good. However, we do need to get back into the statewide budget, and I do believe [President] Biden would write us in on the federal budget.”
To ensure that the police department is a transparent, accountable body for all citizens, Power would like to see police officers trained in nonviolent communication and even go to internal family systems therapy to work on deep-rooted traumatic experiences.
“We have officers who are veterans who need therapy,” she said. “I really don’t want to send a triggered person into a complex situation. I want to know the people that we are sending into these situations are emotionally stable enough to handle them.”
Power urges citizens to play an active role in decisions for St. Pete and believes the city government must listen to their needs.
“I don’t really like politics sitting behind a podium,” she averred. “I would like to have more city council and hall meetings where we have more…empathetic listeners and active engagement. Where we can actually hear what the citizens want, one-on-one. I think that could be really transformational, to have a government that understands empathy.”
For more information, visit powers4thepeople.org.