St. Pete activist Richie Floyd enters 2021 city council race

Activist Richie Floyd

BY DEIRDRE O’LEARY, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Activist Richie Floyd is the first candidate to declare a run for the soon to be open District 8 seat, currently occupied by term-limited Amy Foster. The district contains parts of Kenwood, Central Oak Park and Disston Heights.

Floyd, 29, grew up in Fort Walton Beach in the Florida panhandle. He moved to St Petersburg after college, eventually settling in with his wife Miranda. A science teacher at Azalea Middle School, he is currently on leave due to Covid-19.

He said his students have a similar experience to his own as a Florida student, namely a lot of standardized testing and “many students being left behind by the austerity in the school system.”  Before becoming a teacher, Floyd worked as an engineer at Honeywell but felt that teaching was “more in line with my values than working for the military-industrial complex.”  He’s excited by the idea of teaching science to a new generation.

As an activist, Floyd worked to push for the Community Assistance Liaison (CAL) program with the St Petersburg Police Department. He also organized for Fight for 15, the coalition that scored a victory for Amendment 2 in November, raising the minimum wage over time to $15 in Florida.

Floyd says the $15 an hour victory is only the beginning, not the end.  He supports increasing the unionization of jobs, particularly in the service sector, by using the city’s resources in contracting.  He noted St. Pete already passed the Raise the Bar resolution, which encourages apprenticeship programs that lead to higher-wage jobs.

Floyd’s priority campaign issues are affordable housing and ensuring that community benefits such as jobs for residents accrue from new development, protecting the environment and fighting climate change, increasing public transit and working with the police on Black Lives Matter issues.

Regarding equity for its Black residents, Floyd notes a long history of problems in St Pete. He points to the Tropicana Field development that displaced residents and promised jobs that never materialized.  The redevelopment of that same site when the Rays leave is an opportunity “to do everything in my power to make sure that the jobs that come in go to existing city residents and increase wages for residents, and the housing that is built be priced for existing city residents.”

Looking at police reform, Floyd wants to see that the CAL program is implemented as planned.  He also wants to see it expanded to where some of the things that are currently considered crimes, such as marijuana possession and use and sex work, are decriminalized and therefore taken out of police jurisdiction.

“When it comes to defunding, you don’t hear the whole term, which is defund the police and invest in the community. This campaign is about the ‘investing in the community’ part.  The community is safer when there’s job security, when there’s housing security, when there’s food security.”

Floyd says the recent building of luxury housing in St. Pete is more evidence of the need to focus on existing city residents.

“The jobs that are created and the housing that is built all too often do not benefit the existing residents of the city,” he said. “The word affordable means nothing if people don’t have any money.  A recent study said that 60 percent of adults over 18 make less than $20,000 a year.  We can look into the government building more housing, and also into solutions like community land trusts where massive amounts of land come out of the marketplace and are set aside.”

Floyd is a Democratic Socialist, which he explains promotes the idea that working people have rights beyond the ballot box, extending to the workplace through unions and worker-owned enterprises.  He worked on issues such as health care for all, the green new deal and fighting to save the postal service through the local chapter of Pinellas Democratic Socialists of America.

“If elected, the immediate goals are to see through the CAL program, push for ordinances to increase workers’ rights like a fair scheduling ordinance, make sure that workers laid off due to COVID are the first ones re-hired and making sure that St Pete meets its climate targets. This campaign is about building a movement of ordinary people demanding more of the city, state and the country.”

To reach Deirdre O’Leary, email do’leary@theweeklychallenger.com

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