Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Uhuru activist Eritha Cainion speaks up in St. Pete City Council race

ST. PETERSBURG — Eritha "Akile" Cainion has been one of the most vocal candidates among the crowded field running for the District 6 seat on the St. Petersburg City Council.

She has garnered widespread attention for her loud, staccato-style declarations at candidate forums.

"I'm not angry," she said once. "I'm mad as hell."

The candidate is a member of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, a St. Petersburg-based organization that advocates for social justice for African-Americans.

Cainion has called for reparations for black residents. She wants the black community to run its own police force and to control its own economic development. She's against the millions being spent on the Pier District and the new police headquarters.

She is the only one of the eight candidates vying for District 6 who declined an invitation to meet with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. She did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this article.

She did, however, submit answers to an editorial board questionnaire about her candidacy for the district, which includes downtown and parts of the Old Northeast and Midtown.

Cainion wrote that the redevelopment of the 85-acre Tropicana Field site should focus on creating affordable housing for the city. She is against building a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, who are currently looking for stadium sites in Tampa.

She has called for an end to gentrification and "an end to land speculators, big real estate developers ... invading the black community."

She wants "black community control" of schools and an end to "the police presence" on school campuses. She also wants "accessible literacy," job training programs and affordable and accessible child care for black residents.

In regards to the city's sewage problems, Cainion wrote that instead of spending $66 million on the Pier District, or "(a fifth) of the city's budget on policing the black community," those funds should go into reopening and modernizing the shuttered Albert Whitted wastewater treatment plant and upgrading other sewage infrastructure.

Cainion graduated from St. Petersburg Collegiate High School in 2015 with a high school diploma and an associate's degree from St. Petersburg College. She has always lived in St. Petersburg. She listed "the people" as her political consultant in the editorial questionnaire. She has worked as membership coordinator for the Uhurus and is currently employed at Peltz Shoes near Tyrone Square Mall.

She also runs the "Justice for the three drowned black girls" effort that was launched after the deaths of 16-year-old Dominique Battle and 15-year-olds Ashuanti Butler and LaNiya Miller in 2016. The teenagers drowned when a stolen car they were driving plunged into a pond in a cemetery near Gandy Boulevard.

The Uhurus have accused the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office of acting negligently and criminally while pursuing the girls and for not trying hard enough to save them. The Sheriff's Office has denied the allegations , saying deputies were following, not chasing the car when it drove into the water. The agency also said conditions were too dangerous for deputies to attempt a water rescue.

Cainion has so far raised $5,840.98 in contributions in her bid for the District 6 seat. Joining her in the race to replace Council member Karl Nurse, who cannot run again because of term limits, are Gina Driscoll, Justin Bean, Robert Blackmon, Corey Givens Jr., James Jackson, James Scott and Maria Scruggs.

The top two candidates from the Aug. 29 primary will go on to the Nov. 7 general election.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes

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