NAACP chapter president blasts city plan for Midtown CRA
The president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP on Tuesday issued an appeal for the defeat of the current configuration of the city's new South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area, characterizing the project as a "political payoff" for the benefit of outside developers and investors.
Maria Scruggs urged supporters to attend this Thursday's CIty Council meeting where a package of 10 programs for the tax-incremenet finance district are slated for a vote.
The city should scrap its current plan to spend $487,369 in estimated revenue this year on a mixture of commercial and residential rehab, redevelopment efforts and workforce training, Scruggs wrote.
Instead, she said in an email, the money should be spent on hiring a "real" consultant to work with residents and local businesses to revise the plan to meet the community's needs, not "investors and developers."
City Council member Karl Nurse, who helped develop the plan, said Scruggs was "completely wrong" and that the plan represented the best chance to revitalize Midtown in generations.
Nurse said residents, including Scruggs, who saw the plan as a tool to gentrify the area and push out African-American residents were misguided.
"It's paranoia. Unfounded paranoia," Nurse said Tuesday. Nurse represents parts of the CRA.
Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said the city had incorporated some of Scruggs' suggestions about early childhold education into the plan.
And she took issue with Scruggs' opinion of the city's work.
"Quite frankly, I find it counter to the majority of the response we've been receiving," Tomalin said. "There's been quite of bit of excitement, certainly a lot of community engagement and that's been by design."
Tomalin said she's heard positive things about the CRA from many NAACP members, who she said told her they don't share Scruggs' view of the project.
Tomalin said the plan's focus on workforce training, capitalization of local businesses and encouraging private development would help residents "self-perpetuate" the neighborhood's improvement.
The CRA's rough boundaries are Fourth Street to 49th Street and from Second Avenue N to 30th Avenue S. About 14 percent of the city's population--roughly 34,000 people---live there. Nearly a third of the population falls below the poverty line.
The City Council meeting willl take place at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. Tonight, a Citizen Advistory Committee for the CRA will meet at Room 100 at City Hall.
Check back to tampabay.com for more coverage of this developing story.