It’s time to get serious about winning new dollars for our community.
Before the St. Petersburg City Council and Pinellas County Commission cast their final votes to approve the creation of the South St. Petersburg CRA (i.e., Community Redevelopment Area), a handful of vocal critics published accusations and speculations all over Facebook and email.
They accused that the new CRA was nothing more than a financial hook-up for a few “political insiders.”
They railed that most of the dollars would go to wealthy outside developers instead of the everyday people who live and work in South St. Pete.
They confidently predicted that the CRA plan would lead to gentrification
Well, the decisions are in. The first round of CRA dollars has been granted. And the critics were wrong.
I’m hoping that A) those critics are big enough to recognize that they were wrong, and B) that we – as a community – can get serious about pursuing these dollars for more Southside businesses and non-profits in the next round of grants in 2017.
Here’s a recap of how this year’s grant dollars were divvied up by number of awards:
• Local non-profits – 7
• Local small businesses -24
• Locally owned residences – 1
• Non-local small business – 1
• Wealthy outside developers – 0
• Total – 33
If my math is correct, about 55 percent of the dollars went to black-owned businesses and black-led non-profit agencies ($252,398).
That’s a win by any interpretation, but here’s the thing…
If it hadn’t been for Elihu and Carolyn Brayboy (owners of Chief’s Creole Café) and their forward-thinking development partners, the black community would have almost entirely missed out on this round.
The grant secured by the Brayboys toward renovation of the Merriweather Building on 22nd Street South was for $170,000 (or two-thirds of the total going to African American-led organizations).
Absent their grant, the black community would’ve secured a mere 18 percent of the CRA funds awarded this year, and if that had happened, the fault would’ve been partially ours.
That’s because during this past go-round, when the grant application period opened, there were some who spent more time complaining that the CRA was bad for the community, and little or no time spreading the word to their neighbors, churches, family and friends to step up and submit their applications for dollars.
Community – it’s time to wake up, sit up, step up and recognize that a new day has dawned.
Several new dedicated funding channels are open to our community. Yet some community leaders continue to sleep and protest rather than pursue the newly available dollars.
Please know that I do not count NAACP President Maria Scruggs in this group. Although I disagreed with her positions on the CRA, her protests were substantive. She’d at least spent time doing a serious review of the CRA and formulating serious recommendations.
And, she had the good sense to lead Happy Workers (where she is board chair) in securing some of the CRA dollars available in this round.
The critics I’m talking to are the ones who sat back and casually cast aspersions without doing their homework and – in my opinion – without the gumption or good sense to either pursue the dollars themselves or help someone they know to secure the resources our community so urgently needs.
Some of the very people who grumbled about the CRA never attended a single public workshop to lend their voice to the process.
It’s “time out” for child’s play.
This new CRA will grant dollars every year for at least the next decade, and if those grants are successful, the CRA will continue to invest for the next 30 years.
Now, as we begin to look to next year’s CRA grant cycle, I pray that we – as community leaders – will get serious and get busy…not only helping more of our people go after CRA dollars (and other new funding sources as well), but also sitting at the table of decision-making to influence how resources are spent.
Gypsy C. Gallardo
CEO, The 2020 Plan