Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

FAST Coalition presses Pinellas elected leaders for changes

ST. PETERSBURG — Stephen Manning wants to work, but his past hangs around his neck like an anchor.

First arrested at 17 for stealing a cassette tape from Walmart, the 48-year-old St. Petersburg resident was in and out of jail for drug-related offenses when he decided a dozen years ago to change so that he wouldn't have to talk to his children "through a Plexiglas barrier." He'd work in a warehouse or at a fast-food restaurant, but employers aren't interested because of his record.

"We need more opportunities for people like me who want to work and can work but just aren't being given the chance," Manning told a crowd of about 3,000 gathered Monday night at Tropicana Field for the FAST Coalition's annual Nehemia Action Assembly.

A coalition of Pinellas churches and synagogues with the motto "Faith and Action for Strength Together," FAST puts local officials on the spot each year to effect change on a range of social policy issues. The event is named after a biblical leader who called authorities to account. The odds are looking good that would-be employees like Manning will have a better shot at getting a job in St. Petersburg.

Four of the city's eight council members and Mayor Rick Kriseman told FAST members that they support changes to city ordinances being drafted to require city contractors to hire "disadvantaged workers" who have criminal records or already have lower incomes.

The group wants the city's ordinance to define disadvantaged workers as applicants making less than 30 percent of the area's median income at the time they are seeking the new jobs. The group also wants the ordinances to apply to projects with price tags of $2 million or more. The ordinances as written sets a minimum of $10 million for the project price tag and gives preferences to applicants making 80 percent of the area's median income again.

Council members Karl Nurse, Darden Rice and Wengay Newton said they supported the requests. So did Chairman Charlie Gerdes and Kriseman, though they want a 50 percent threshold for defining a low-wage earner.

"I'm asking you to meet me in the middle," Gerdes said.

Kriseman encouraged the crowd to urge their state lawmakers to reject at least two bills percolating that could strip the power of local governments to enact local hiring laws.

"If those bills pass, no matter what we do we can't enforce our local ordinances," Kriseman said.

Three county commissioners who attended, Pat Gerard, Charlie Justice and Janet Long, were asked to release a request for proposals by Aug. 15 to spend $10 million in Penny for Pinellas for affordable housing projects. That's already in the works, Justice said, drawing cheers.

The commissioners also agreed to support setting aside about $950,000 in next year's budget for a proposed mental health pilot project to treat 33 "high utilizers" who repeatedly wind up in the county's jail and its Baker Act facility. Each participant would be assigned a treatment team consisting of a law enforcement representative, case manager and therapist. Nearly three-quarters of the targeted participants are homeless, so the program would focus on providing permanent housing.

"If it works, we'll have a model the entire country can use," Gerard said.

Commissioner Ken Welch sent the group an email saying he also would support the request, making a majority on the seven-member commission.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri agreed to put in writing his agency's decade-old policy to allow some juvenile offenders to take part in a diversion program more than one time, and to allow participation for some third-degree felonies.

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

Comments
Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Florida leads other hurricane-prone states in quality of its building codes

Times staffFlorida has the strongest residential building codes among 18 coastal states, according to a new study by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Florida’s rating is 95, almost three times higher than lowest-ranked Texas. Other...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

We tried the new restaurants at Tampa International Airport, and we're full

When Tampa International Airport debuted in 1971, each terminal had a newsstand and a snack bar, called something kicky like Snack Bar.
Updated: 16 minutes ago
College basketball commission wants NCAA to regulate agents

College basketball commission wants NCAA to regulate agents

RALEIGH, N.C.  — With agent conduct part of the federal corruption investigation into college basketball, the commission charged with finding reforms wants the NCAA to actively monitor agents and provide regulated ways for them to advise a...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Dade City may add code enforcement magistrate

DADE CITY — The city is poised to put more teeth into its code enforcement by setting up a system to handle major problem cases.Dade City Commissioners on Tuesday approved on first reading an ordinance that allows the city manager to place certain co...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The case for the Bucs and NFL draft prospect Derwin James

The case for the Bucs and NFL draft prospect Derwin James

The best weapon against the NFL's evolving offenses, Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher said, is a defender who can do it all — someone who can cover a tight end, shadow a receiver or blitz the backfield."The way the game is played now on defense," Fishe...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Two hospitalized after crash on Bayside Bridge

Two hospitalized after crash on Bayside Bridge

CLEARWATER — Two Brandon men were hospitalized Tuesday night after they lost control of their car and crashed into trees on the south end of the Bayside Bridge, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.At 8:15 p.m., 19-year-old Coi Jenkins was driving...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Seminole Heights murder suspect to undergo psychological exam

Seminole Heights murder suspect to undergo psychological exam

TAMPA — A judge appointed a psychologist Wednesday to determine if the man accused of four Seminole Heights murders is mentally ill.Hillsborough Circuit Judge Mark Wolfe approved a request from attorneys for Howell Emanuel Donaldson III to have Dr. R...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — A second district-wide survey to evaluate the performance of Superintendent Lori Romano soon will go out to about 3,000 Hernando County School District employees, giving them a chance to weigh in on the job she is doing.The instrument, ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Memorials, crisis counselors at Lakewood, day after student dies in crash

Memorials, crisis counselors at Lakewood, day after student dies in crash

ST. PETERSBURG — Memorials are building and crisis counselors were at Lakewood High School on Wednesday morning, a day after a student was killed and two others seriously injured in a crash Tuesday afternoon.The fatal crash occurred just before 2 p.m...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

Carlton: The zoo is changing, but don’t worry. The meerkats are on it.

The other day I stopped to check on some progress. And got to see a meerkat, too.Progress in Tampa these days usually refers to the development of Vinikville — excuse me, Water Street Tampa — along the south edge of downtown.Or what will allegedly be...
Updated: 2 hours ago