Grass Roots Group Urges a ‘New Deal for St. Pete’
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
Members of the People’s Budget Review say St. Petersburg’s elected officials should strive to give residents what they need – affordable housing, expanded educational opportunities, and a living wage.
ST. PETERSBURG – Sewers, the Pier., the Rays – probably the three most talked about issues in the race for mayor.
But are they the issues the community cares most about?
Not according to the People’s Budget Review, a grass-roots organization that has reviewed the St. Petersburg city budget for the past five years and surveyed residents about their priorities. They’ve then taken those priorities to elected officials in an effort to have those concerns and needs reflected in the city’s spending. This election year, they’ve stepped up their efforts and come up with a plan called “New Deal for St. Petersburg” that, they say, reflects the true needs and wishes of city residents. Among those needs: affordable housing, expanded educational opportunities, and a living wage.
“We have other issues that need to be addressed” not just sewers, the Pier and the Rays, said Brother John Muhammad, the Tampa Bay Regional Lead for SEIU Florida. Muhammed is heading up the New Deal for St. Pete proposal.
The idea, he said, is to “inject other issues into the narrative and and unite the community around an agenda.”
The New Deal for St. Pete has four broad objectives with specific actions to reach those goals:
- No more displacement of residents through gentrification.
- Greatly expand affordable housing and land trusts.
- Make the heart of all economic development designed to bring capital into the communities, not extract the capital that exists.
- Provide support for community led plan for economic development and growth.
EXPAND EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
- Convene a conference between the city, light industry and manufacturing, urban agriculture proponents, green job creators, and unions and community groups at the Pinellas Technical College to coordinate workplace development, succession and apprenticeship programs. Target economically distressed areas of the city for recruitment.
- Design and implement early education and mentorship programs in conjunction with city recreation centers.
BUILD COMMUNITY WEALTH
- Develop Financial Empowerment Centers that help residents in building their wealth through financial literacy, credit repair, fiscal planning and provide the opportunity through local financial institutions for low interest micro loans. Put the payday lenders out of business.
- Coordinate and assist in community and worker owned cooperatives, beginning with a community owned grocery co-op on the South Side.
MAKE ST. PETE A LIVING WAGE CITY
- Pass a living wage ordinance with minimum wages moving to $15 an hour over a short period of time for city contractors, temporary employees and part timers.
- Require that developers sign community benefit agreements within the city of St Pete with community organizations and institutions where development occurs, around wages and services to be provided to the community in question.
- Work towards restorative justice for all by banning the box on employment forms. [Banning the box refers to an international movement by civil rights groups and advocated for ex-offenders to persuade employers to eliminate a box on employment applications asking about the applicant’s criminal history.]
Denise Deja, who receives about $1,234 a month from Social Security disability, said affordable housing is extremely important to her. She, like many people on fixed and low incomes, pays greater than 50 percent of her monthly income on rent. In her case, rent is $900 a month although she’s recently halved that by getting a roommate.
The need for affordable housing, Deja said, is an issue that cuts across the entire city to anyone who earns low wages, from those in the hospitality and fast food industry to secretaries and others in white collar jobs. It’s a problem that’s becoming worse across the city as older housing is destroyed to make way for high-end condominiums.
One possible solution, Deja said, is for the city to require developers to set aside a certain number or percentage of units in a condo or apartment complex for those on low incomes.
“There’s a lot of different ways you can do affordable housing,” Deja said.
For information about the People’s Budget Review and the New Deal for St. Pete, go to pbr2017.org.
Photo shows Anthony Jones, CEO of Bright Community Trust, discussing affordable housing. By Anne Lindberg, TB Reporter.
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