Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — James Scott's central tenet is sustainability.
He told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on Monday that his "vision" for St. Petersburg is to build on its reputation as "Florida's first green city."
Sometime in the future, he could see some of downtown's streets being shut down and filled with green space broken only by sidewalks.
"Sustainability has kind of been my thing," said Scott, 29, one of eight candidates running for the District 6 seat on the City Council.
Scott said he wants to help the city build a green, sustainable economy that develops jobs for the modern age.
"I see a lot of my friends leave this community because there are no opportunities for them," he said.
Born in Daytona Beach, the second-generation Floridian once wanted to become a veterinarian, but that was scuttled when he dropped out of high school. Eleven years later, equipped with a bachelor of science degree in environmental science and policy, and an interest in public service, he decided to delve into city politics.
"I've known for a long time that I wanted to do this," Scott said, calling St. Pete his "forever home."
Scott touts his experience as student body president at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and his negotiation skills in getting a health clinic and a new student center on campus. Later, as an employee with the university, he helped to establish its first office of sustainability.
His ideas for District 6, which covers downtown and parts of Old Northeast and Midtown, include "integrating and streamlining" the workforce by creating an education system from preschool through high school, training and higher education to fill jobs.
Scott said he believes that, for now, the city is on the right track in its attempt to solve its sewer problems. "Long-term, we need a really comprehensive plan," he said. "We need a much better plan."
St. Petersburg must make sure that the millions of dollars that will be spent to repair the system will result in a fix that's going to last through future challenges, including rising sea levels, he added.
Scott commented on two initiatives — the 2020 plan to reduce poverty by 30 percent and the creation of the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area — aimed at the mostly poor, predominantly African-American Midtown neighborhoods. He said he would like to see better coordination between the plans and their advocates. Many of the ideas and tools overlap, he said.
Speaking about the pier, Scott said he generally supports Mayor Rick Kriseman's hopes for the attraction: "I want it to be a destination, too, for everyone."
But Scott said he is not in favor of the extra millions being sought by Kriseman for "bells and whistles." He added: "There are a lot of other community needs."
Citing "two different realities" in Midtown and the more prosperous downtown, he said, "I'd rather see that money spent on economic development," or sewer repairs.
Scott would like to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, but said redeveloping the 85-acre Tropicana site is "a once-in-a generation opportunity." Any new development should reflect both the needs of Midtown and the city's Innovation District, he said.
The first-time City Council candidate said it is complicated running in a race with eight candidates, but that he's "more motivated than ever to be in public service." He spoke of his knowledge of the issues and of Florida law and history. According to the latest campaign figures, he has raised, $4,640.
Scott said he admires outgoing City Council Member Karl Nurse, who cannot run for the District 6 seat again because of term limits.
"I'll try to emulate his style of leadership, his political agenda," Scott said.
But Nurse has endorsed Gina Driscoll, another District 6 candidate and president of the powerful Downtown Neighborhood Association.
Joining Scott and Driscoll in the race for District 6 are Robert Blackmon, Justin Bean, Eritha "Akile" Cainion, Corey Givens Jr., James "Jim" Jackson and Maria Scruggs.
The Aug. 29 primary will determine the top two candidates who will go on to the Nov. 7 general election.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes