Emergency Community Council Meeting 330 5th Street North St Petersburg, 33701 Register now
We are at a unique moment in our city as we recover from COVID-19. For many, getting back to normal may sound great, but for too many of us going back to normal won’t be enough after surviving the pandemic. The sacrifices of our frontline workers, the lack of access to healthcare, our affordable housing crisis and the alarming rise in gun violence in our city have all exposed a new urgency for change.
To respond to the unique challenges and opportunities of this moment, the Pinellas Theory of Change (PTOC) has aligned the momentum of faith groups, labor unions, climate and justice organizations, multi-racial organizers and others committed to building power for every-day people no matter what we look like, where we live, or where we come from.
In response to the historic investment coming to our city from the American Rescue Plan, and based on our collective experience working in the communities we serve, PTOC offers our Priorities for a People’s Rescue, which we feel reflects the needs of residents at this critical time. Equally important, these proposals encourage (■) expanding democracy for our residents, (●) real investment in our community wealth and (◆) putting an end to the legacy of Jim Crow as guiding principles for lasting change.
Priorities for a People's Rescue
Recognizing Healthcare Heroes and Other Essential Workers ●
During the pandemic healthcare and other essential workers risked their lives to provide vital community services. They deserve recognition for their sacrifice. Payments should prioritize grants for these essential workers who faced greatest risk during the height of the pandemic and are in the greatest need of support.
Addressing the Public Health Crisis of Gun Violence ◆
The highest number of gun homicides in the U.S. in over 20 years happened in 2020. This crisis requires investment in community-based intervention programs focused on individuals at highest risk. Examples include substance use treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, trauma recovery services, emergency housing, job training and employment opportunities.
Healthcare for Our Most Impacted Communities ◆
The pandemic revealed serious healthcare disparities in COVID-19 cases and treatment. Black Florida residents contracted the coronavirus at 2.5 times the rate of white residents and St. Petersburg infections clustered in predominantly black neighborhoods. We need to greatly expand accessibility to health services for our most impacted populations through bold investments that empower local providers who have established relationships in the community.
Preparing for Climate Change in Working Communities ●
In St. Petersburg rising waters threaten to inundate public infrastructure and natural settling is causing land to slowly sink. These conditions pose an existential threat to vulnerable communities that are already seeing the damage caused from hard rains and large storms, which now regularly flood neighborhoods in our city. Our city must invest in green infrastructure that improves the sustainability and resiliency of these communities.
An Affordable Roof Over Our Head for Today and Tomorrow ●
Housing is a public good just like our roads, libraries, and schools. We must establish rent relief programs that can help families stay in their homes and prohibit fines and fees for late payment. Above all our city must also invest in strategies that prioritize permanent affordability as defined by the residents themselves, while providing dedicated funding for education, tenant-landlord mediation services and technical assistance for renters and homeowners.
Getting Residents Back on the Road ●
The COVID-19 pandemic reduced bus service and made it extremely difficult for residents to use public transit. Our city should encourage residents to return to our public transportation systems by providing vouchers and reduced fares for individuals and families in greatest need with special priority for those seeking vaccinations as well as elderly residents.
Youth Unemployment as a Historic Opportunity ●
A significant portion of our city’s workforce is approaching retirement age. American Rescue Plan funds can preserve the experience and institutional knowledge needed for delivery of our public services through investments in workforce development and apprenticeship programs to prepare our youth today for the quality union jobs we know will soon need to be filled. Our city should partner with local institutions with established community relationships to provide career opportunities to youth in our most impacted communities.
Confronting Gentrification and Increasing Black Ownership ◆
Gentrification pushes low-income and minority populations out of their homes. Similarly, small, locally owned businesses and neighborhoods are impacted. The city can support minority-owned firms in St. Petersburg through small business-friendly policies and programs that focus on both job creation and job retention for local residents. We must also increase the diversity of businesses eligible for local government contracts through the Inclusive St. Pete partnership.
Expanding Residents’ Voice in Local Democracy ■
St. Petersburg residents desire to play an active role in local government—especially around the allocation of the budget. A portion of city funds should be set aside annually to establish a process of participatory budgeting that will allow residents to vote directly on publicly-funded projects. This will build stronger communities and make our budget more equitable and responsive to the needs of everyday people.