The 2020 Plan comes of age

BY Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, Ph.D., Guest Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — More than 200 diverse and enthusiastic people gathered at the Manhattan Casino to celebrate the 2020 Plan’s 7th Anniversary. A bold initiative, the 2020 Plan seeks to reduce poverty by 30 percent and to add 5,000 adults and older teens to south St. Petersburg’s employment rolls before the 2020 U.S. Census is taken.

In the absence of prosperity, the 2020 Plan has been a hope for many generations of south St. Petersburg’s residents. It is a hope, still unborn for some, whose faith in its possibility was crushed after many generations, by the inability of government to embrace, with its often fleeting and cynical attention span, the promise of equity and opportunity. This hope now feeds thousands of residents’ prospects for themselves, for their county, new city government, and especially for their children.

The celebration’s master of ceremonies Carl Lavender, Jr., the 2020 Plan’s administrative consultant, was assisted by the Plan’s chief designer, Gypsy Gallardo, in introducing those honored for their contributions with 164 awards and citations.

For the devout supporters of the Plan, among them Gypsy Gallardo, the Plan’s creative genius, references to biblical passages and values like faith and hope come easily to mind. Originating out of the Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church over 300 fraternal, religious, neighborhood and civic leaders pledged their confidence in the real possibility of permanently reduced poverty and well-paying, career-ladder jobs.

The Great Society’s approach, first introduced nationally as race riots raged in the 1960’s Kennedy-Johnson years, offered an inspirational model of a front-end funded effort, led by a close citizen-government partnership and public and private investments to support concentrated data analysis and comprehensive planning.

Many younger St. Petersburg residents may not know this history. This city has never participated in such a concerted focus on poverty-reduction with large national or local support.

In St. Petersburg the models for community revitalization have followed the South’s school desegregation Deficit Model, which generally has led to transitory, compensatory and remedial solutions.

What was presented to the  2020 Plan’s founders was the innovative Developmental model of community regeneration that provides transformational and sustainable solutions by reducing statistically measured poverty and  raising employment.

These are the goals to be reached by 2020 when the National Census is taken again.

The city’s administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman, the city council and the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners have taken major supportive actions. The Plan’s core-action group often includes Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin or City Urban Affairs Director Nikki Gaskin-Capehart and several top City Economic Development staff, such as Dave Goodwin and Rick Smith, the latter of whom was honored as a “cornerstone” of the 2020 Plan at the recent celebration.

Earlier this year city council approved a grant of $74,000 to the Pinellas County Urban League for a summer pilot of the wrap around family service model, prioritized by the 2020 Plan.  The Board of County Commissioners last year authorized the South St. Petersburg Community Renewal Area (CRA) and recently approved an inter-local agreement with the city to complete a new CRA Plan, both of which are significant economic policy contributions to success in South St. Petersburg.

While Governor Rick Scott vetoed funding in the 2014 State Budget for legislatively proposed expenditures for 2020 Plan partners, several community organizations and service providers were approved for state funding.  The Chamber of Commerce continues to advance the involvement of its business members in 2020 Plan implementation strategies, and over  three dozen local and county independent agencies contribute to a shared work load of planning and action initiatives.

Fund-raising strategies are integrated and interdependent. A real-time performance-tracking technology has been identified to help in assessing progress toward the goals of poverty reduction and improved employment levels.

The first action-year for the 2020 Plan begins on October 1, 2014.  The 7th Anniversary Celebration was a shot of adrenalin for the Plan’s core-staff, partners and collaborators.  Replication at this local level, of an ambitious national model has taken guts and will require a thick skin on the part of the city, county, and the 2020 Plan’s leaders and partners.

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