One thing I’ve observed growing up in south St. Pete is that the self-proclaimed “gatekeepers” have been in the business of tearing down, rather than building up for far too long.
We’ve torn down one another’s character over petty disagreements; we’ve torn down dilapidated black-owned businesses and neighborhoods as a result of gentrification; we’ve torn down the idea that if we work together, we can solve our problems together.
Lastly, as a result of a broken system and society, we’ve torn down the notion that all men and women are created equal.
The issue is, we as a people, have fallen asleep at the wheels of social and economic justice. We’ve deprived our village of a chance at improving our quality of life all because we do not vote based on the issues.
Instead, we vote for candidates based on whom we know or what they say, rather than accessing their platform and track record. The time has come for us to place a renewed focus on the issues plaguing our beloved city.
Quality affordable housing, or the lack thereof, has been an ongoing issue in south St. Petersburg since the days of segregation. High rental rates and money hungry developers have made access to fair housing almost intangible. Our city is building out to the water and to the west, but when do we begin to focus on the underdeveloped parts of our city?
Part of the American dream is being able to own a home. The problem is, it’s impossible to own a home if you can never afford it. The cost of living varies widely in various parts of our state. The minimum wage should be a living wage, which needs to be implemented at a rate that allows business owners to adapt their business plans so they are not rocked by the sudden increase in labor cost.
The pathway to prosperity in life begins with an education, a quality early childhood education to be exact. Many of our babies struggle to make it through the Pinellas County system due to a lack of funding for daycare and childcare centers within our own communities. Research has proven that the most pivotal learning stages of a child’s life occur from birth to age five.
I’ve worked in one of South Pinellas County’s five “turnaround schools.” During my time there I couldn’t help but notice that the broader cultural conflict we are facing is a lack of parental engagement in our local schools. The blame on our school board, administrators and classroom teachers can only go so far.
Truth is, at some point, parents must become more responsible when it comes to their child’s education. Attendance at PTA meetings should be equally as important as showing up to a Little League football game.
There’s been a full focus on reaching our full economic potential in Midtown. It’s time we make a shift towards becoming one of the greatest commercial capitals in the country. We have the tools, now we must ensure that we effectively use them to our advantage. Let us focus our energies on bringing in more economic opportunities, jobs and investment capital for our entire city, not just select neighborhoods.
I’m uplifted by the intensity of the spirit for change and I’m inspired by all the folks who I meet on a daily basis who have a yearning for accountability in our local government. However, there are still those who don’t quite grasp the concept of progress. It used to be about helping people and providing them with leadership committed to delivering results. Now it’s all about banquets, fundraisers and ribbon cuttings.
Election after election we are sold the same high hopes and as a community, we live through the same failed policies year after year. This is a result of a lack of pressure on those we choose to represent us and the power of the almighty dollar.
So when do we start asking ourselves the hard questions? When do we stop accepting things as they are and start challenging our people to achieve greater? The answer is simple: When we know better, we do better.
It’s time we wake up and take our future into our own hands because if we don’t stand for something, we’re liable to fall for anything.
Corey Givens Jr.