BY GRAHAM COLTON & RICHARD MARINI, Neighborhood News Bureau
ST. PETERSBURG — Maria Scruggs, 59, president of St. Petersburg’s NAACP chapter, is one of eight candidates in the crowded city council race to represent District 6. This diverse district encompasses both downtown and Midtown. The seat is currently occupied by Karl Nurse who is term limited and cannot run again.
Scruggs joins Eritha “Akilé” Cainion, Justin Bean, Robert Blackmon, Gina Driscoll, Corey Givens Jr., Jim Jackson and James Scott, in the highly contested race.
The upcoming Primary Election will be held Aug. 29, and the top two candidates who receive the most votes will proceed to the General Election Nov. 7.
In an interview with Scruggs, she addressed some of the issues affecting south St. Petersburg, such as food injustice. However, according to Scruggs, food injustice is “political rhetoric that cannot be resolved.”
Areas of south St. Pete have been affected by food injustice in the wake of Walmart’s closing in Tangerine Plaza this past February. Scruggs said that the Walmart closed because the community was not able to support it.
She disagrees with the way that Mayor Rick Kriseman has been handling the situation and believes that she can offer better alternatives to the community.
“You can’t just put a grocery store in a location and [expect people will come,]” Scruggs said.
To cope with this closing on a short-term basis, Scruggs proposed using fresh produce stands staffed by local suppliers for one to two months.
On a long-term basis, Scruggs suggested raising the income of south St. Pete residents, such as those who worked at the Walmart that closed.
“You had young people that worked at the Sweetbay that could not afford to shop there,” Scruggs said. “You have to work with the people there.”
Scruggs’ focus on creating opportunities for workers translates to addressing high rates of poverty among the black community in Midtown.
While addressing some of south St. Pete’s issues, Scruggs mentioned her frustration with the politically charged rhetoric flooding the city council race.
“We have too many socio-economic issues in our community,” Scruggs said. “You need someone that knows the needs and knows the struggles.”
In a wide city council race, Scruggs aims to stand out on her community experience. She said her opponents aren’t clear on what the issues are and only spew political rhetoric. A successful candidate has to speak to not only issues in downtown, but also the issues in Midtown.
Scruggs said that her key value is “integrity.” She also offered a piece of advice for voters to follow: “Don’t ask a politician what they’re going to do, ask what they’ve already done.”
The Primary Election is Aug. 29.