As predicted, the moment the TIFF funds began to be doled out for the purpose of bringing black folks out of poverty, the critics started…and for good reason.
For approximately five years, starting with the planning process in 2011, I have tried to offer input into the structure of the CRA planning process from the perspective of a 20 plus year public servant and certified public manager, but more importantly as a resident of Midtown.
For free, I have researched other CRA plans in urban communities, taken vacation time to attend CRA planning meetings, attended CAC meetings, attended City Budget meetings, meetings with the deputy mayor and meetings with city staff with the simple message: We must develop a viable plan that has a strategic focus.
Midtown residents must be able to see with clarity that the plan had the potential of making an impact on the socio-economic status of the Midtown community. In an attempt to appease me, there was a mention or two about early childhood education in the plan, but my plea is to take the same level of planning used in the Central Avenue and downtown CRAs fell on deaf ears.
I believe in my heart of hearts that there are many individuals within City Hall and throughout the city who would like to see the socio-economic status in the African-American community elevated to a level where the sun really does shine on them; however, it appears that the forces to keep the African-American community oppressed and depressed utilizing plantation-style politics is stronger than the combined membership of the NAACP and Happy Workers Children’s Center, an 87-year-old institution.
If the African-American community in the City of St. Petersburg is ever going to be poised to see the socio-economic status of other communities, there are a few inalienable truths that the city and the black community must adhere to:
• Sustained and improved socio-economic status is not grounded in a grant program
• A viable Midtown CRA plan must begin with a strategic plan with specific goals and defined outcomes
• The plantation-style politics of breaking off a few must be buried
• The African-American leaders must stop allowing themselves to be leveraged for a dollar that elevates them or their organization and does nothing to elevate the community
• City officials must seek out viable community input that can be translated into a viable strategic plan
• African-American elected officials, leaders of churches, Greek organizations, community-based social justice organizations and neighborhood associations must make a collective decision to take active roles in killing off the complacency and acceptance of mediocrity that has laid the foundation for such a plan to be created under the guise it will reduce poverty
Disclosure: In last week’s Letter to the Editor, Gypsy Gallardo correctly stated I led Happy Workers in the pursuit of TIF funding. She was correct. One of the roles of the board of directors is to raise money and seek out funding to support Happy Workers’ mission. We believe that a CRA is needed in Midtown; however, we contend that the current CRA plan in its current format will not sow the seeds of a viable socio-economic strategy.
Maria L. Scruggs, President, St. Petersburg Branch NAACP