Sparks fly at workshop on Agenda 2020 in St. Pete

Posted by Ellen Kirkland on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Thursdays St. Pete City Council Workshop

Sparks flew at Thursday's St. Petersburg City Council allocation workshop when an unincorporated civic group asked the city to trust them with $68,000 of city money which up until now had been loosely earmarked to hire an economic development officer/grant writer.

Amid questions about who the fiscal agent would be for this money, it was revealed at the workshop that the Urban League would step up as the fiscal agent for the group.

The plan had also undergone some last minute changes, according to magazine publisher Gypsy Gallardo, who is also leading the Agenda 2020 plan.

Instead of using the money to hire an economic developer/grant writer the $68,000 is now going to be received and managed by the Urban League and it is now intended to go toward "direct services" for neighborhood families — in order to help children in poverty.

When Watson Haynes, President and CEO was asked about the Urban League’s role in the Agenda 2020 plan, he instead discussed the recent fights at Gibbs High School and the need to intervene in the lives of middle schoolers before they reached high school.

Early in the discussion Councilman Steve Kornell made a motion to award $74,000, even though the plan organizers asked for only $68,000. He said that there was some money left over that could be allocated to the plan.

Council Chair Bill Dudley shot back, “So you want to spend every penny?”

New council members Amy Foster and Darden Rice (who has worked with the group that wrote and created the Agenda 2020 plan) agreed that this was an ambitious plan, but that direct services could work and they were in favor of a holistic approach and also the allocation.

Councilman Jim Kennedy said, “And I guess I am a little confused on how this money will be spent…I had some issues with the other plan but at least I understood the economics of it…which was going to make me ask a question on the old proposal — would it be more efficient to have the city hire a separate grant writer/resource developer within the city rather than have all these additional expenses?”

Gallardo then went on to explain that she had written a budget for the latest proposal based on a Miami-Dade program of direct services that reduced recidivism and was scientifically and evidence based.

Kennedy pressed on, “I would be interested in seeing that. Do you have it with you?”

Gallardo, “Oh, I don’t have it with me but I could forward it by email.”

Chairman Dudley asked, “Can you provide it to all of us before the meeting on the 6th.”

Gallardo, “Yes, well before the [February] 6 meeting.”

Watson Haynes interjected, “Government has spent a lot of money planning for us…We want to plan for ourselves…while government wants to plan for us, it might be better for us to plan for ourselves since we know better what happens in our community and that is where we are going with this.”

In the course of the same discussion, new deputy mayor Kanika Tomalin said that the new administration was in complete support of the Agenda 2020 plan.

Part of Tomalin’s job is economic development in Midtown — she was hired for that purpose, as was Nikki Gaskins-Capehart our new Director of Urban Affairs.

Several members voiced additional concern that if (and that's a very big if) the plan makes sense and it really can reduce poverty in Midtown by 30 percent within five years, it makes sense to adopt it and then let the two women who are being paid handsomely to do these jobs — well — do their jobs.

Left unsaid was whether it is appropriate that a plan that will need $170 million in private, city, state and federal funds be parked with an unelected group as opposed to the administration.

At another point in the discussion Gallardo said that the “group " (which is not a sunshine law group, but merely a loosely organized contingent of mostly Southside organizers) who wrote the Agenda 2020 plan has raised $58,000 dollars over the course of the last year from private donations. It is not known whether the Urban League has been managing that fund.

Kennedy then voiced his concerns again regarding allocating money for a plan that he knew nothing about.

Kornell asked to have a straw vote on his earlier motion to give the additional funds totaling $74,000, which was seconded by Wengay Newton. His motion passed six-to-two with the added caveat that Council be provided with the new plan and that city staff should be consulted before a final vote.

In another matter, funding for the Skyway Marina District in the amount of $50,000 passed unanimously. The Greater Pinellas Point Civic Association had already obtained 501 (c) 3 status. and private donors and businesses from the area have donated in excess of $50,000 to demonstrate community commitment to the project.

Comments (3)

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I wish Kennedy and Dudley had been as adamant in their concern over spending money on the Lens boondoggle...5 MILLION out the door in the face of overwhelming public opposition. And they're still in office.

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Posted by Thorfinn Skullsplitter on 01/31/2014 at 4:48 PM

I definitely agree, someone was asleep at the switch on the Lens. This new administration seems promising and I really like Kriseman, so far. Otherwise, what did you think of the article?

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Posted by Ellen Kirkland on 01/31/2014 at 10:39 PM

I believe that our city is in serious trouble with Watson Haynes and Gypsy Gallardo advocating for money to help the poor. For six council members to so easily agree to give these individuals 74,000 dollars without a specific plan in hand is absurd.

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Posted by Mr. Right on 02/02/2014 at 9:03 PM
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