St. Petersburg City Council met yesterday, January 12, which marked the first City Council meeting of District 1 elected Councilman Charlie Gerdes. I had the opportunity to speak with Councilman Gerdes that evening during the Mayor’s Night Out event, hosted in the Councilman’s district at the J.W. Cate Center.
Gerdes expressed that he was genuinely optimistic despite many challenges ahead for the city. In addition to the City Council meeting held that morning, Council Members participated in a goal-setting session later in the day where several initiatives were put to the forefront of concerns that the Council intends to address in the year.
These goals include: 1) public safety; 2) job creation and economic development; 3) codes enforcement, emphasizing neighborhood association support; 4) the new Pier and St. Petersburg waterfront district; and 5) homeless initiatives.
Regarding public safety, St. Petersburg Police Chief Harmon stated that among the primary concerns for the city are youth violence intervention and prevention, working to support education and firearm safety. “Too many violent crimes are committed with guns that have been stolen from citizens who have not properly secured their guns such as leaving them on dashboards of cars or in unlocked homes,” reported Harmon.
Beyond crime, public safety is deemed to be inclusive of many systems throughout the city such as codes enforcement, schools, housing and sanitation. Mayor Bill Foster stated that public safety is the foundation of any development in our city. “If St. Petersburg isn’t deemed safe, we can’t expect tourism to rise or new businesses to move in and new jobs to be created.”
Job creation and economic development is of critical concern. One demographic of particular concern to City Council is youth and young adult employment. “In an economy where many seasoned professionals are having difficulty obtaining employment, it’s even more difficult for young people lacking experience to earn an income,” said Gerdes.
While it is comforting to see that goals and priorities of the city government are reflective of some of the greatest concerns of its citizens, the solutions are still very much under development. When I asked Mayor Foster about his feelings on the state of homeless services in St. Petersburg and the county, he said, “It’s a good start.” I agree.
Some ideas and plans are on the table to address some of the goals determined by City Council, but funding some of the ideas still needs to be secured along with consensus and implementation to see them come to fruition. Action always speaks louder than words, and St. Petersburg needs to see much more action to believe the many good words.
Via Daphne Taylor Street, SaintPetersBlog City Hall correspondent. You can reach Daphne at firstname.lastname@example.org.