On Wednesday evening, the first of three public budget summits drew a standing room only crowd at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the entire City Council sat and listened to dozens of citizens voice their concerns ahead of the final budget proposal.
It was a very different budget summit from last year, with a newly elected Mayor and two new City Councilmembers.
But the biggest demand from residents, that hasn’t changed since last year’s meeting, concerns the city’s youth.
“If we don’t have a bright future, we don’t have nothing,” said Tony Macon, owner at Esquire Barbershop in Midtown. “It’s like we have a 10-watt bulb and I ain’t never heard of a 10-watt bulb. And it’s getting dimmer because we are not focusing on our kids and what they are doing.”
Macon says he doesn’t mind mentoring neighborhood kids because, “it don’t cost me nothing to teach kids how to cut hair.” What Macon is really concerned with, is giving youth confidence in themselves.
“If a kid doesn’t feel good about himself, he’s worthless,” Macon said. “And that’s our future and we need to lock in on that.”
After hearing public comments, District 5 City Councilman Steve Kornell responded to Macon directly. Kornell noted he’d visited Macon’s shop with community activist, Momma Tee.
“When we say we need more unity because there are needy kids on the southside, there are also people like Tony on the southside,” Kornell said. “There’s nothing wrong with any part of St. Petersburg that can’t be fixed by what is right.”
Several residents who spoke mentioned serious concerns about pedestrian safety.
“I walk everyday, I love to walk,” said Peggy Green. “That’s how I know it’s not safe to walk in St. Pete. The traffic patterns promote collision course between walkers and drivers.”
Green wasn’t alone, several citizens drew maps suggesting medians for slowing down traffic near school zones.
One resident recommended removing the boat wash from Demen’s Landing, saving $32,000 in the FY2015 budget for other needs, noting it could be contributing harmful chemicals directly into Tampa Bay. Other issues mentioned included installing more recycling receptacles throughout the city, flood containment, and continuing to develop sustainable and environmental initiatives.
During Council Comments, District 6 City Councilman Karl Nurse announced that the city had just closed on 70 boarded up homes in Child’s Park for a rehab and rebate program.
“Elections matter people, you now have a Mayor and Council that are sympathetic to your goals,” Nurse said. “It is a different world in St. Petersburg after January 1, 2014.”
The program requires the owner (the city) to spend $25,000 on mainline improvements and after passing inspection, receive a 20 percent rebate from those improvements. The homes were purchased through a non-profit donation, and Nurse says the city is already set to buy 12 more.
“There’s a new energy in the city, I feel it, and it’s exciting to see this renewed desire to take us to the next level,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said in closing. “Tonight, you all expressed where we are wanting to go as a city.”
The second meeting is Wednesday, May 14 at 6 p.m. inside the Wildwood Recreation Center, 1000 28th St. S., and the third budget summit will be Wednesday, June 18 at the Willis S. Johns Center, 6635 Dr. M.L. King Jr. St. N.