New Deal for St. Pete prepares plan for FY19 Budget Open House

Bro. John Muhammad, Senator Darryl Rouson and Councilwoman Gina Driscoll. Photo: Jabaar Edmond

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – This week the New Deal for St. Pete, a community-led agenda developed by the People’s Budget Review, met Monday night at Pinellas Technical College to prepare its recommendations for the city’s FY19 Budget Open House, which will be held Monday, May 14 at 6 p.m. at the Coliseum.

Bro. John Muhammad, president of the Childs Park Neighborhood Association and community organizer with Service Employees International Union Florida, stated that while the original date for the Budget Open House had been set for June, the group learned only days earlier that it had been moved up. This unexpected change in the schedule demanded that New Deal’s planning needed to be completed earlier than originally scheduled.

“It accelerates the timeline that we have to organize, but we’re going to buckle down, go into overdrive and accomplish those deliverables because we really want to be able to present our recommendations,” Muhammad asserted.

New Deal Group, CRA

New Deal members agreed, aware that the Open House offers an opportunity to the share their agenda and assuring the city officials present will hear the ideas for community development that came from the continuing community surveys and conversations.

Muhammad shared the city’s open house format with the approximately 50 activists, community leaders, educators and business people in the room, explaining the various departments would be in attendance to field questions during the breakout portion.

“You can go in and talk specifically with the heads of each department – Public Works, Parks and Rec. — you name it,” he explained.

The departmental breakouts would be followed by a presentation from the city where they will reveal their ideas for the budget. After that, the floor is opened to the public.

“We want to take the group that’s in here tonight and have each of you bring a friend and go in and talk about what we recommend. Because this started with us being people who reviewed the budget and wanted to be able to voice what matters to us and how we want to see our dollars spent.”

New Deal, CRA

New Deal St. Pete developed four points of progress, and this year has focused on one issue from each category:

Affordable housing:  To expand significantly affordable housing and land trusts.

Educational opportunities: To convene a conference between the city, light industry and manufacturing, urban agriculture proponents, green job creators and unions and community groups at the Pinellas Technical College to coordinate workplace development, succession and apprenticeship programs to target economically distressed areas of the city for recruitment.

Build community wealth: To coordinate and assist in community and worker-owned cooperatives, beginning with a community-owned grocery co-op on the south side.

Make St. Pete a living wage city: Require that developers sign community benefit agreements within the City of St Pete with community organizations and institutions where development occurs around wages and services to be provided to the community in question.

Living wage workgroup leader Bruce Nissen spoke on what it would take to force developers to sign community benefit agreements.

“One of the things we do know is you really need mass support and mass mobilization and the ability to bring out large numbers of people or else a developer just doesn’t take you seriously.”

Community wealth group leader Judith Turner shared that one initiative was asking the city for an ordinance to include cooperative business development very much in keeping with the kind of traditional business development they’re offering already, an ordinance Councilwoman Darden Rice was considering sponsoring.

Turner also related that they were still in the planning stages of the grocery co-op. Responding to a question on whether the group would pursue the request for proposal for the Tangerine Plaza as a location, she explained why it wasn’t a consideration at that point.

“There’s a very specific and well-defined process for starting a grocery co-op. First, you incorporate then build your board, then attain 300 members…and then you begin to look for your address,” Turner explained, noting that a co-op is really the people, not something a city can give.

She also shared their workgroup is teaching a class on youth-owned cooperatives at the Enoch Davis Center, Wednesday, June 27 from 2- 4 p.m. At this meeting, they will provide examples of how young people are already running cooperative businesses “just to show you it’s not rocket science, it’s a very easy model.”

The FY19 Budget Open House begins at 6 p.m. next Monday at the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N.

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