Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Politics

FAST wants more Penny for Pinellas tax money spent on affordable housing

ST. PETERSBURG — City and county officials were asked to commit millions of dollars of sales tax revenues to build more affordable housing in Pinellas during a gathering of about 3,000 people Monday night at Tropicana Field.

The program was the latest effort by a group of religious congregations called FAST, with the motto "Faith and Action for Strength Together," to get local governments to spend more money to secure housing for the county's poorer residents.

Several audience members told their stories of struggling to find decent places to live on limited incomes. Elyse Milligan, for instance, said she earned her master's degree two years ago but still works two jobs.

"I pay over a third of my income for a small apartment in Dunedin," she said. "Until last week, my windows have been bolted shut from the outside."

FAST is asking public officials to use more of the 1 percent sales tax known as "Penny for Pinellas" for affordable housing. The voter-approved tax brought in $1.45 billion for local infrastructure projects over the past decade.

It's on the ballot for voters again this November. If approved, county officials project the tax would bring in $2 billion over the next decade, assuming steady economic growth for the county.

Right now, 1.3 percent of the tax revenue is committed to go directly to affordable housing initiatives, which would add up to about $25 million over the next decade if the estimates bear out.

FAST leaders are asking for an overall commitment of 8.8 percent of Penny for Pinellas to go directly toward affordable housing. Additionally, they're asking city officials to commit 10 percent more of the city's portion of the tax. Current plans call for city governments to share 48 percent of the tax's total revenues.

St. Petersburg council members Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Darden Rice both pledged to the crowd that they would support spending 10 percent of the city's Penny for Pinellas funds on affordable housing.

"I think everyone deserves a fair shot at the American dream of homeownership," Rice said.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and council member Karl Nurse said they didn't support that level of spending due to the need for improvements to the city's sewer system, which Kriseman estimated would take up 75 percent of the city's Penny for Pinellas funds. Nurse said the city would have to raise water and sewage rates if the sales tax funds went elsewhere.

"We have significant needs as it comes to infrastructure," Kriseman told the crowd.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said he didn't have enough information to pledge support to either request, and council member Steve Kornell said he believed money spent on economic development would help solve the problem instead.

"People in our community are working very hard but not able to make ends meet," Kornell said.

The county's current plan sets aside an estimated $149 million of the fund to economic development. But Paul Gibson, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg, said that the priority should be on building more affordable housing, not on just economic development, which helps people who already have access to high-skill jobs.

"What does that do for retirees, the elderly, and the people without those job skills?" he asked. "The land we have left has to be dedicated to housing."

Contact Nathaniel Lash at [email protected] Follow @nat_lash.

   
Comments
‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago

‘What do we want? Apology!’ Hundreds of Haiti supporters protest near Mar-a-Lago

Sun Sentinel (TNS)PALM BEACH — About 500 Haitian-Americans and their supporters used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to protest derogatory comments President Donald Trump reportedly made about immigrants from majority-black countries."What do we w...
Updated: 9 hours ago

U.S. forced to renew DACA permits as furor over Trump’s immigration slur persists

Los Angeles Times (TNS)WASHINGTON — The Trump administration, under court order, said it would resume taking applications to renew temporary protections from deportation for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegall...
Published: 01/14/18
GOP senator: Reports of Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments a ‘gross misrepresentation’

GOP senator: Reports of Trump’s ‘s---hole’ comments a ‘gross misrepresentation’

A Republican senator is insisting that President Donald Trump did not use a vulgar term in referring to African countries during a closed-door meeting on immigration that he and five other senators attended last week.Georgia Sen. David Perdue called ...
Published: 01/14/18
Ethics panel advised to deny legal fees in unfounded Ken Hagan complaint

Ethics panel advised to deny legal fees in unfounded Ken Hagan complaint

A Florida Ethics Commission staff attorney has drafted an order denying Hillsborough County’s request for reimbursement for attorney fees from one of four citizens who filed unsustained ethics complaints against Commissioner Ken Hagan.The commission ...
Published: 01/12/18
Haitians in Tampa Bay area react to Trump’s slur:

Haitians in Tampa Bay area react to Trump’s slur: "It’s very racist"

Fadia Richardson had just finished dinner Thursday when she sat down to watch the news and saw a report she didn’t want to believe.In an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers to discuss immigration policy earlier in the day, President Donald Trump repor...
Published: 01/12/18
Sen. Durbin says Trump said ‘hate-filled things’

Sen. Durbin says Trump said ‘hate-filled things’

WASHINGTON — A senator present at a White House immigration meeting says President Donald Trump used vulgar language to describe African countries, saying he "said these hate filled things and he said them repeatedly." Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois D...
Published: 01/12/18
Trump denies he used vulgarity to describe African countries

Trump denies he used vulgarity to describe African countries

WASHINGTON — In bluntly vulgar language, President Donald Trump questioned Thursday why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "sh--hole countries" in Africa rather than places like Norway, as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal, ...
Published: 01/12/18
Africa startled by Trump’s ‘extremely offensive’ comments on immigrants

Africa startled by Trump’s ‘extremely offensive’ comments on immigrants

JOHANNESBURG — Africans woke up on Friday to find President Donald Trump had finally taken an interest in their continent. It wasn’t what people had hoped for.Using vulgar language, Trump on Thursday questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigran...
Published: 01/12/18
Hillsborough Republicans off to a rocky start in 2018

Hillsborough Republicans off to a rocky start in 2018

The Hillsborough County Republican Party is having a shaky start to election year 2018. Chairman Deborah Tamargo has been ousted over a seemingly petty squabble that reflects the long-standing division between East Hillsborough conservatives and esta...
Published: 01/12/18
Clearwater City Council Candidate Tom Keller says he’s a voice for the ordinary resident

Clearwater City Council Candidate Tom Keller says he’s a voice for the ordinary resident

Editor’s note: Ahead of the March 13 election, the Tampa Bay Times is publishing profiles on Clearwater City Council candidates for Seat 4 today. Profiles on candidates for Seat 5 will appear next week.CLEARWATER — Tom Keller is the first one to admi...
Published: 01/12/18