While the discussion of the Tampa Bay Rays has been the hot topic, Council Chair Amy Foster and Chamber members were able to discuss several important issues impacting the economic growth and community vitality of St. Petersburg.
Some quick highlights:
· As the Council Member representing District 8, Foster’s focus has been on the redevelopment of the 34th Street Corridor. Foster was able to successfully pass the chronic nuisance ordinance to begin to combat the problem of nuisance motels that have plagued the city. The hope is that developers will turn around blighted properties into desirable commercial properties, which will revitalize the 34th Street corridor.
· Both Chris Steinocher and Foster serve on the Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Board and have looked at innovative proposals to answer the homelessness problems. One of the best practices discussed was rapid rehousing, which places homeless residents in existing multi-family properties rather than building another housing project in the city. This would require educating the public and working with multi-family properties to set aside units for the homeless, which would require waving the first and last month rent deposit, loosening the background check criteria and other requirements that would prevent a family from renting a unit in a multi-family property.
· On the topic of Williams Park, Foster stated that removing the bus hub from Williams Park will not solve the homeless problem in the center of St. Petersburg. While removing the buses and increasing police presence in the park, might reduce substance abuse in the park, the gathering spot for the homeless would simply shift from Williams Park to Mirror Lake or another location close to Williams Park. On a positive note, Council Chair Foster is eager to see how Williams Park will be transformed into the cultural center that it once was.
· Supports increasing St. Petersburg’s police force to combat crime, substance abuse and increase public safety for residents, businesses and visitors. Understands that this is a 20-30-year plan, not a short-term plan.
· Believes that universal recycling will be available for commercial and multi-family properties after the city has successfully rolled out alleyway pickups.
· Council Chair Foster is committed to keeping the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg and is confident that St. Petersburg has the most financial leverage to build a stadium in the region.
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