Manhattan Casino: You must start with a plan

Maria Scruggs

Dear Editor:

Our beloved Manhattan Casino has become a point of contention in the hotly contested mayoral race as a result of it being turned over to a group that has no ties to the African-American community.

The Manhattan Casino is one of two publicly-owned facilities within the African-American community that many had hoped to see one of our own budding entrepreneurs have a shot at turning it into a hotspot on the Deuces that it once was.

Many are hurt that one proposal wasn’t chosen over another and the sentiment within the black community is that once again we lost because the city did not “give” us the property. That is not my issue! My issue is embedded in the fact that the Manhattan was turned over to a group without a transparent competitive process or a comprehensive plan.

After years of advocating for a comprehensive economic revitalization planning process for south St. Pete, the city has put $100,000 into the FY 18 budget allegedly for the purpose of conducting a planning process. In several conversations with the city’s administration, I have tried to share examples of what that planning process should and should not look like, and not based on Maria’s opinion but based on research on implementing economic and community redevelopment efforts in challenged urban communities.

Not one time in the many years I have researched and been a part of community-based redevelopment efforts have I found strategies that say you get results from implementing project based strategies for political expediency. When this is done, as it has been done in south St. Petersburg for years, you are bound to have what we have occurring now: a public battle and major finger pointing. After the dust has settled, what will be left is a lot of hurt feelings and strained relationships.

God in his infinite wisdom always puts us in the right place, even if we feel differently about the situation we’re in. This week, one week prior to the election, I am in another leadership program at the Central Florida Public Safety Academy.

Yesterday I received the results of what I know to be my fourth or fifth DISC profile, which simply stated is a behavior personality assessment. It is my hope that everyone within Pinellas County who is in a leadership position has an assessment.

It comes highly recommended from both the public and private sectors. The behavior assessment truly is an excellent tool for one to gain a better understanding of one’s leadership style and gives recommendations on how these various learning styles co-exist to get optimum results.

One must be asking what the DISC has to do with the Manhattan Casino?  My response is everything.

Planning in south St. Petersburg has been for the 20 plus years I’ve been back a hodgepodge of ideas, personal agendas and personal wish lists as opposed to thoughtful planning efforts facilitated by individuals who are detached from potential monetary gains.

With some ingenuity and transparency, there are ways to incorporate and finance local participation in the planning process; however, that should only be done in conjunction with the community as opposed to a back door deal resulting in one person over the other being chosen to lead the planning process. The DISC is one of many tools leaders use in the 21st century to ensure that the right people are in the right seats on the bus.

In St. Petersburg, our proverbial bus is consistently filled with individuals who appear to have minimum understanding of the tools that exist within the public and private arena to assist leaders in utilizing our limited public resources to maximize the greatest results.

The answer in determining the best use of the Manhattan Casino, or developing any other initiative aimed at helping black people, must begin with a planning process that has a clearly defined road map and the appropriate folks driving the bus who can navigate our community and improve the quality of life.

Maria L. Scruggs

District 6 candidate

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