Seeking 'deeper partnerships'
There has been a lot of talk about whether previous efforts in the University Area have been successful or if success here is even possible. Some very powerful people in this community have written off both this at-risk neighborhood west of USF and the families who live here. I disagree with them.
I became the new chairman of the board of the University Area Community Development Corporation not only because I believe economic success in this community is possible but because I believe it is coming. We have unveiled a holistic plan for community transformation that brings all of the community's assets to bear on the central problem of poverty here. The economic empowerment of the people who live here is crucial to this plan.
Our hope is to convince the large employers in our community to do two key things. The first is to keep us informed of the types of employment skills they will need to fill jobs. UACDC and its many partners will then train community residents so they can become the workforce of Hillsborough's future. The second is to attract private building projects to the University West area. By replacing blighted and abandoned properties with thriving new enterprises, corporations can add to the critical mass UACDC is achieving with its own building and renovation projects.
This is the future of the University Area community: connecting vulnerable people to the affluence and economic power that surrounds our blighted neighborhood. Opportunity is key to transforming lives, as well as an entire community that some people have given up for dead. With a lot of hard work, and deeper partnerships with our neighbors, we can transform the University Area community into the kind of self-sustaining, healthy neighborhood whose success can never be argued again.
Putting suitcases in storage
I am a member of the clergy who has served the University Area community neighborhood for nearly three decades. Two of the most critical areas of concern to me are reducing crime and strengthening families. People are entitled to their opinions, but when they make statements about the failure of our neighborhood, what they are really talking about is their perceived failure of the people who live here. While it's easy from the outside to reduce this to numbers and statistics, from the inside this is all about people and families. Strengthening families and reducing crime are complementary. We cannot reduce crime without strengthening the families living here. Both issues must be addressed at the same time, taking full strategic advantage of how they affect each other.
UACDC's new Partners Committee, which I have agreed to chair, will do just that. One of its vital strategic initiatives will be to stabilize this community's families. These families will be our greatest allies when it comes to standing up to the criminal element that has taken advantage of this vulnerable community for so long. These families will stop the revolving door, and allow the true transformation of this community to begin.
I invite those who would pass judgment on our community prematurely to visit first. Meet the hard-working families that don't fit stereotypes, and listen to their dreams for their children. All they ask is an even playing field to achieve those dreams. That's what those of us who work in this community every day intend to help them get. And as the seeds we have sown continue to bear fruit, there is nothing I look forward to more than helping strengthened, self-sufficient families here find someplace to store their old suitcases.
Rev. Donald Grantham
A 'grand-slam' plan
If I, as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays, could have the permission to talk to the Rays' front office, I'd argue that the Rays should stay in St. Petersburg, but with one little exception: that they be located at the same site where they plan to "raze" The Pier. That location could solve St. Pete's double dilemma. If I were Mayor Bill Foster, I'd lure that carrot before really innovative investors to come up with a grand-slam plan. I can envision the scenic park/Pier vividly, with a marina also in the backdrop overlooking Tampa Bay and its sister city across the bay, where boaters could sail in to enjoy a game, too. Derek Jeter could even Jet Ski to the game from his mansion on Davis Islands when the Yankees are in town. Incorporate these projects into one scheme, and you can have a double play.