In November 2013 after defeating former Mayor Bill Foster, Mayor Rick Kriseman found himself in an awkward position. His campaign manager, Cesar Fernandez, tweeted that Kriseman “did not need the African American vote to win.” Of course, Kriseman did what all politicians do — he denounced the comment as insensitive, and simply stated that he did need support from the black community to defeat Foster.
He definitely said the right things, but based on his accomplishments listed in the December 25-December 31, 2014 edition of The Weekly Challenger, a closer examination of Kriseman’s record doesn’t reveal that his appreciation for the black community’s votes has translated into substantive actions toward the African-American community.
Mayor Kriseman’s letter listed a hodge-podge of actions, however in times when public resources are limited and the demand is high, it is imperative that public officials who genuinely want to see positive change in communities of color must be willing to first understand the depth and breadth of socio-economic issues and then work collaboratively with residents and businesses within those communities to develop solutions that have a chance of producing outcomes that will move the needle toward all residents having an opportunity to an enhanced quality of life—where the sun does shine or at least peek through on all.
The typical response to critiques of these type of projects is public officials will recruit African Americans and some will even volunteer to come out and praise the accomplishments listed such as development of a CRA, working with the 2020 Plan to create jobs, kick off of the Deuces Live Market, the opening of satellite offices in the Enoch Davis Center and Childs Park, funding of poverty eradication programs and the city’s investment in early childhood education as examples of the Mayor’s commitment in the African-American community.
The truth is that when Mayor Kriseman is out of office either after four or eight years, the needled would not have moved one inch toward any sustainable socio-economic changes within the African-American community.
When reading the mayor’s list of accomplishments, the idiom “throwing good money after bad” and the scripture 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study and show thyself approved immediately” come to mind.
As a community we must first understand the depth and breadth of our own socio-economic issues; secondly, our leaders must stop accepting crumbs that are thrown at us in the name of progress and lastly we must be willing to do the work that will challenge public officials from continuing to make a mockery out of the socio-economic status within the African-American community.
Please do not get me wrong, millions of public dollars have been invested in south St. Petersburg over the last 20 years, yet there has been little to no socio-economic gains within our communities, merely a testament to it. It is not always about the money!
Maria L. Scruggs