In two separate Tampa Bay Times’ articles, they make it clear why voters in District 7 must reject their endorsement of Lisa Wheeler-Brown for the St. Petersburg City Council District 7 seat.
In one article entitled “Failing Factories: Officials announce stepped up efforts after Times’ Failure Factories school investigations,” The Times enlightens us about Superintendent of Pinellas County Schools Michael Grego’s plans to make Fairmont Park, Lakewood and Maximo magnet schools. This is his solution to the issue of black children being disproportionately behind academically in the five elementary schools in south St. Petersburg. Over 50 percent these schools’ population is African American.
Translated, that means that black children would be bussed out of the community again, white children would be bussed and we would be unable to discern the magnitude at which black children were failing because they would be spread throughout the county, making it difficult to ascertain the depth and magnitude of the problem.
Whatever side of the argument you sit on in regards to desegregation, the one fact that can’t be disputed is that the problem of the district failing to educate our children has been illuminated by them being concentrated in one area.
Yet, in spite of their own in-depth investigation into the academic failure of black children, The Times encourages us to vote for Wheeler-Brown because she will join Karl Nurse and others in ensuring the Rays are afforded the opportunity to look for a new home, not because she would be an effective advocate for the residents within District 7.
In a second article specific to the District 7 race entitled “Candidates move away from Wengay Newton’s legacy,” The Times thought it important to remind us that Sheila Scott Griffin’s law practice had problems and as a result her practice closed. Her law practice failing is synonymous to what many businesses experienced during the onset of this country’s economic decline.
However, as opposed to highlighting the fact Scott- Griffin took on the challenge of starting a law practice while caring for a disabled husband until his death and after completing years of academic preparation to earn her bachelor’s degree, masters in public administration and a law degree, they chose to remind us of what happens when African Americans pursue excellence—the message was we fail!
Interestingly enough, The Times chose not to remind us of Wheeler-Brown’s criminal record, a fact that many may find relevant when deciding on whom to vote for!
District 7 voters this election has a lot at stake. There are plans to develop the 14 acres of land across from Sylvia’s. It is going to be imperative that whoever wins the seat has a base of knowledge and skills relevant to complex deals such as redevelopment within the public sector.
This past May the city approved a community redevelopment plan aimed at addressing the multitude of blight and social issues connected to that blight such as education. It is going to be imperative that the person elected to represent District 7 be familiar with the back door deals that traditionally accompany the potential of millions of public dollars within the Community Redevelopment Area and have solutions on how to avoid the systemic rape of the black community once more!
Lastly, the Pinellas County School Board’s failure to educate black children within neighborhood schools is an issue that must be addressed by the individual representing District 7. The representative must be a student of public education. The representative must also elicit a depth of understanding consistent with the sacrifices made by parents who are their children’s first teachers and providers.
Voters in District 7, let’s for once reject the notion once and for all that others have to choose our elected officials for us!
~ Maria Scruggs