Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay area Obama organizers collect ideas to pass on to White House

Dr. Mani Ghansah continues President Obama’s grass-roots movement during a meeting at a Beef O’Brady’s in Riverview to discuss the stimulus package. At right is his wife, Dr. Tomar Ghansah.


Dr. Mani Ghansah continues President Obama’s grass-roots movement during a meeting at a Beef O’Brady’s in Riverview to discuss the stimulus package. At right is his wife, Dr. Tomar Ghansah.

TAMPA — For most people, Friday night marks the start of weekend fun.

But Mani Ghansah and about a dozen of his friends and neighbors instead chose to spend three hours Friday night talking about President Obama's economic recovery plan.

It was a return to a role he already knows. Ghansah, 46, volunteered to host a series of "house parties" during Obama's campaign for president. This weekend, he responded to a call from Obama organizers to resurrect his e-mail lists and phone numbers from the campaign and continue the grass-roots effort launched during the campaign.

Events like the one Ghansah hosted Friday night were held Saturday and Sunday throughout the Tampa Bay area, from Lithia to Largo. The goal is to promote conversation and drum up support for the president's proposals to turn around the economy. The House has passed an economic stimulus package, and the Senate is expected to vote on its version of the legislation this week. Ghansah promised to forward the stories, pictures and ideas of his guests to the White House.

"Just casting a vote and walking away doesn't work," he said while waiting in a private dining area at Beef O'Brady's in Riverview. "So I decided to be part of facilitating the action."

In the main restaurant, families munched on chicken wings, nachos and burgers, surrounded by television screens largely tuned to hockey, car racing and other sports.

But around 6:30, as Ghansah greeted people passing through a door labeled the "Coaches Meeting Room," three television screens showed cable news reports of the Senate's debate on the stimulus plan.

Ghansah used guidelines provided by Organizing for America, an outgrowth of the Obama for America campaign, to run the meeting, touching on key points about the stimulus package and asking the group to help him develop a list of action steps to recommend to the president.

They talked about losing jobs, friends losing houses and an expensive war they don't want the country to fight.

Kiplin Chin, 45, who was born in Jamaica, said he voted for the first time in November, and this was his first political event.

"I just lost my job at Verizon," he told the group. He used to lay fiber optic cables for the company. "It's pretty tough out there."

He said he trusts Obama to listen to the people and try his best to fix the country's problems without "politricks."

"I haven't lost my job yet. It could be me next," said Michael Phipps, 49, an engineer for Siemens.

Darlene Carter, 49, said she avoids taking her daughter, who has asthma, to the doctor because she can't afford it with her other mounting financial obligations.

"They're already calling my cell phone for bills that I owe," she said.

Donna Mitchell-Robley, a nurse, said banks that received bailout money need to report what they are doing with it, and work with homeowners to lower their monthly payments.

"Accountability," she kept repeating.

As her two children, ages 6 and 2, sat beside her nibbling on cheese quesadillas, Ebru Watt, 32, said she works in a day care center. One family recently pulled two kids out of the center because their father lost his job at Circuit City. Watt, who was born in Turkey, said she worries if that continues, the day care center will close. Her husband is a soldier serving in Afghanistan.

"Send the troops home," Mitchell-Robley chimed in. "It's too much money.''

"I'm saying that in capital letters," Ghansah said as he took notes.

Ideas generated by the group and their pictures will be posted on the Organizing for America Web site.

There will be more of these meetings, Ghansah said as the discussion ended about 10 p.m.

"We've been just trying to organize people from the grass-roots up, just like Barack Obama did in Chicago," he said.

Janet Zink can be reached at or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa Bay area Obama organizers collect ideas to pass on to White House 02/08/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 8, 2009 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa girl, 4, dies of gunshot reaching for candy


    TAMPA — One day last week, 4-year-old Yanelly Zoller reached into her grandmother's purse looking for candy, her father says.

    Nelly Zoller snuggles with her grandfather's dog, Venus. Her father says she went looking for candy in her grandmother's purse and found a gun instead. [Facebook]
  2. Mikhail Sergachev begins real Lightning audition vs. Carolina Hurricanes

    Lightning Strikes

    RALEIGH, N.C. — The spotlight will remain on Mikhail Sergachev throughout the Lightning preseason.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) on the ice during hockey training camp in preparation for the 2017-2018 season in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  

  3. Tampa police search for man in connection to Sunday killing (w/ video)


    TAMPA — Police released surveillance video of a man they believe might have information about a Sunday morning fatal shooting.

  4. Pinellas announces Hurricane Irma make-up day


    The Pinellas County school district has announced how it will make up one of the seven school days missed by Hurricane Irma.

    Residents make their way into Joseph L. Carwise Middle School to shelter ahead of Hurricane Irma Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017 in Palm Harbor. The storm is forecasted to affect the Tampa Bay area overnight with winds subsiding Monday.
  5. Hooper: Hillsborough marks 100th anniversary of historic photo collection


    Everyone ends up with a favorite.

    Or two or three or 10.

    Rest assured, no one who adores Tampa Bay, appreciates art or cherishes history can explore the Burgert Brothers Photographic Collection without storing at least one snapshot in the mental scrapbook.

    Part of the Burgert Brothers collection now featured through the Hillsborough Public Library shows a beer garden on Central Avenue in Tampa from July 1942. [Burgert Brothers collection]