Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Community group seeks accountability from government

LARGO — The line outside First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks started forming a half-hour before the doors opened Monday night. All the people were there for a gathering of 35 interfaith congregations collectively known as Faith and Action for Strength Together, or FAST.

By 7 p.m., more than 2,000 people of all faiths, colors and creeds had filled the cavernous fellowship hall to discuss ways to make their communities better. Among their priorities: reducing student discipline problems in Pinellas County schools, expanding opportunities for affordable housing, and ending neighborhood drug and crime activity.

"We're here to do some very important business tonight, the work of the Lord," said Joe Magri, a parishioner of St. Cecelia Catholic Church in Clearwater, whose remarks came at the start of FAST's fifth annual forum. "We come not to complain, not to blame. We come here as people who have power because we have numbers, and because we have done our homework."

Since it formed in 2004, FAST has become increasingly vocal on social justice issues. The group's methods include holding public officials accountable and demanding that they give "yes" or "no" answers to questions about their level of commitment to the community.

At Monday night's event, the group extracted a promise from Pinellas deputy school superintendent Harry Brown to send a district liaison to report to FAST regarding the expansion of school discipline programs. Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch committed to support a countywide plan for a phone system to provide better access to available affordable housing.

And Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats pledged to work with FAST to develop inmate re-entry strategies to decrease recidivism by meeting the literacy, housing and transportation needs of inmates sentenced to the county jail.

FAST representatives say that calling on school, city and county officials to take stands on issues such as affordable housing and crime in the presence of community members is the best way to create change. They credit themselves for creating more transportation opportunities for the elderly, expanding prekindergarten programs, and persuading the school district to implement more discipline programs.

"We are the watchdogs guarding the territory of justice," the Rev. Ron Williams of Mount Olive AME Church in St. Petersburg told this year's gathering. "God has a way of taking even the smallest of our efforts and blessing them, expanding them, and using each of us to help."

FAST, or Faith and Action for Strength Together, has two offices in Pinellas:

North County, 1676 S Belcher Road, Clearwater; call (727) 524-3303.

South County, 1310 22nd Ave. S, St. Petersburg; call (727) 823-9197.

Community group seeks accountability from government 04/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 12:22am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Baker cautious on Pride politics

    Elections

    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  2. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  3. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

  4. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 26-July 2.

    Events

    Vans Warped Tour: The festival returns Saturday to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, featuring shock-metal icons Gwar, hardcore punks Sick Of It All, ska band Save Ferris and indie-pop group Never Shout Never ($39.50-$49.50). vanswarpedtour. …

    Crowd for the Motionless in White band at the 2014 Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park, Friday, July 25, 2014.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times