Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Romano: Give the Uhurus credit for pointing out the problem, and blame them for failing to solve it

RECOMMENDED READING


If it is merely attention they are seeking, members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement have succeeded. People are buzzing about the outlandish rhetoric of candidates and disruptive behavior of followers.

In a municipal election that could have drowned in the wonky discussion of sewer repairs, neighborhood debates have somehow turned into hot tickets and viral videos.

But here's the unfortunate truth of the matter:

If it is progress the Uhurus are seeking — real, substantive change and meaningful reforms — then I fear they will be horribly disappointed. And they will share in the blame themselves.

Before I explain, let me back up for a moment.

This is not the first time the Uhuru movement has put candidates on the ballot. In 2001, Omali Yeshitela ran for mayor in the same election that featured then-newcomer Rick Baker.

Yeshitela ran a comparatively low-key campaign and finished fifth among the nine candidates in the primary, pulling in a little more than 10 percent of the vote.

And now, 16 years later, St. Petersburg is a much different place.

It is a city of craft breweries and art galleries. Of Beach Drive and rising condominiums. The city once derided as God's Waiting Room is now a darling of the New York Times travel section.

But change hasn't come to every street corner.

In the city's predominantly black neighborhoods, the same problems that were apparent in 2001 — or in 1991 or 1981, for that matter — still exist to some degree today. Schools lack prestige. Jobs are hard to find. Crime is higher than in other parts of the city. And hope, to some, is just a rumor.

When you view it through that lens, it's no wonder that emotions have been running high. If there was a renaissance in St. Petersburg, many of the city's black neighborhoods were left behind.

So, yes, residents should be angry. Yes, they should be impatient. And if protesting and shouting is necessary to get everyone's attention then, yes, they have every right to make their voices heard.

But to what end?

Is the point to bask in the cheers at a political rally, or to enact change in the community? Because, after listening to Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel in a debate Thursday night, it seems like he was more interested in pandering to his followers than advocating for realistic solutions.

Should we be looking more closely at the disparity between how blacks and whites are treated in law enforcement situations? Absolutely. Will that question be taken seriously when you repeatedly accuse sheriff's deputies of murder after three teenage girls drove a stolen car into a lake? Certainly not.

Is affordable housing a legitimate issue when low-income residents are being forced out of their own neighborhood? Absolutely. Will you win over any converts when you suggest the opening of a neighborhood post office and a grocery store was part of an evil, gentrification scheme? Certainly not.

Is it fair to second-guess the commitment and policies of City Hall when the economic needle in Midtown has barely budged in a generation? Absolutely. Do you think the most effective way of making that argument is to vaguely hint that Baker or Rick Kriseman might want to bomb the Uhuru headquarters? Certainly not.

Then again, maybe I'm missing the larger picture. Maybe the real strategy is to energize the local community, and not convince the larger populace. Maybe there's a long-range hope that the overblown rhetoric will have a trickle-down effect.

These were questions I would like to have asked after Thursday night's debate. But neither Yeshitela, the long-time face of the Uhurus, nor Uhuru City Council candidate Eritha "Akile" Cainion, would agree to talk to me.

And so, as I drove away from Greater Mount Zion AME Church afterward, I couldn't help but feel like an opportunity might be lost in this election.

The Uhurus already did the hard work. They got the city's attention.

So why would they want to throw that opportunity away for the sake of cheap applause lines?

Comments

Motorcyclist, 27, dies in crash with taxi cab in Largo

LARGO — A motorcyclist died after crashing into a taxi cab Thursday morning, police reported.Sydney Pender, 27, was riding a 2012 Yamaha motorcycle southbound on 66th Street about 10:30, according to a Largo Police Department release.At the same time...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from the University of North Florida’s campus — but will remain a student, university officials said.Ken Parker, a 37-year-old Navy veteran who once served as the grand dragon, or highest-ranking leader, of the Ku Klu...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 6 hours ago
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

TARPON SPRINGS — The city is considering a way to honor the legacy of the late longtime sponge merchant George Billiris at a city building. "We know how he promoted Tarpon Springs," Commissioner David Banther said at a recent City Commission meeting....
Published: 11/23/17
New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

WEEKI WACHEE — Mark Lee was looking for an accomplished coach to take over Weeki Wachee High’s boys basketball team. Not only did he find what he was searching for, but he may have gone above and beyond with the hiring of Rick Scruggs.The 30-year vet...
Published: 11/23/17