Letter to the Editor

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor,

In 2 Timothy 2:15 & 16 the Apostle Paul is encouraging the evangelist Timothy to stray away from idle chatter because words can be twisted. Moreover he is encouraging him to study the word of God for himself and also to be diligent in working toward excellence because God is not a God of mediocrity.

During the course of my life, I have worked hard at understanding the systems of government that control our everyday lives. Therefore when I stand before any governing body to advocate for my community, particularly our children, I am not ashamed because I know that I am standing on truth and can support what I am advocating for with facts. Unfortunately, once again I can’t say that for our current administration that occupies City Hall.

Monday night the City of St. Petersburg’s economic development staff presented a “draft” of a community redevelopment plan, supposedly aimed at improving the quality of life in the area of south St. Petersburg designated as a Community Redevelopment Area or CRA.

This process is winding down after a series of meetings that will ultimately culminate with yet another plan aimed at helping the “poor and the down trodden,” mostly African Americans. Having participated in these processes many times since my return to St. Petersburg, I can predict the outcome, but I always participate with every new mayor and his administration in hopes things will be different — once again I am disappointed!

In March 2014, I and other stakeholders within the early childhood education community began meeting with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and  others  for two reasons:  to educate them on the fact that all of the elementary schools that primarily serve  African-American children have been D or F schools since 2009, and secondly  for the city to build an administrative umbrella that could help the independent homecare providers and center providers south of Central Avenue become “quality” early childhood programs.

Without going into a long diatribe about our presentations in summary we were stating that if given the level of support needed early childcare centers and homes were in the best position to prepare our children to enter kindergarten ready to learn. This is an economic development strategy that is supported by the research and occurring in progressive communities around the country.

It is unfortunate for our community that the very people whom represent us and whom have heard these presentations were some of the very people who spoke against the city supporting quality early childhood education in south St. Pete, either by their silence or by comments that conveyed the message.

The city of St. Petersburg, under the leadership of Mayor Rick Kriseman, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Councilman Wengay Newton, has no vested interest in the substantive economic growth of south St. Petersburg or in the investment of our children. They have loudly and boldly proclaimed by their inaction it is business as usual. They have made it clear they will continue to take token steps such as chipping in to St. Petersburg College’s scholarship fund for teachers and paying academically strong children $10 per hour to read to our children, as evidence of their support for our children and our community!

City staffers present this plan as a “multifaceted revitalization effort that embraces both traditional ‘placed-based’ economic development strategies customary to redevelopment plans as well as ‘people-based’ strategies that seek to improve the education, workforce readiness and workforce training opportunities for the residents of south St. Petersburg.”

However, this plan represents nothing more than traditional redevelopment strategies that have been repackaged and a hodge-podge of other projects that money will be thrown at, and once again, as a community we will see very little to no return on the taxpayer’s investment!

Sad for citizens of south St. Petersburg; the sun will not be shining on them!


Maria L. Scruggs

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