We’re asking thought leaders, business people, and creatives to talk about 2023 and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2023.
2023 will be a year in which we continue the growth and advancement of St. Petersburg, guided by our North Star of Inclusive and Principled Progress for all. Utilizing our Guiding Principles – the “Six I’s” – as a framework, the City’s progress will be advanced and shaped by the focused application of these principles, which reflect our community priorities.
Intentional Equity – We will move forward with the most impactful project in our City in a century, the redevelopment of the Historic Gas Plant District. At my direction, the RFP was reissued in June with an emphasis on equitable redevelopment, including housing, job creation and impactful and sustainable economic development opportunities, including minority business inclusion. The partnership with the City Council and Pinellas County Commission has been strong and the responses to the RFP are promising. I look forward to the development team presentations, community feedback, staff analysis, and the announcement of my selection of the most responsive proposal at the end of the month.
Our work to advance the opportunity for equitable progress within city operations and citywide is critical as well. In alignment with our guiding principle of Intentional Equity, my administration has budgeted and will implement a cabinet-level Equity Office. Additionally, the City’s newly-formed Office of Supplier Diversity has hired Latasha Binder, who will serve as Manager of the office. We expect this office to be fully staffed and operational by the spring. These steps are responsive to the findings and/or recommendations of the City’s Structural Racism Study and the Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Disparity Study and are part of our administration’s ongoing commitment to the development and implementation of an Opportunity Agenda for Equity in our city.
In-Touch Leadership and Inclusive Governance – We will continue being present in the community and actively engage the public and the City’s workforce in our visioning. Our Community Conversations will carry forward, building on the successful engagement of more than 1,200 residents and stakeholders who participated in our community gatherings for the Historic Gas Plant District RFP and envisioning for the Manhattan Casino. Neighborhoods will be invited to Mayor’s Night Out – a unique one-stop opportunity for hyperlocal engagement and problem solving (thanks to former Mayor Bill Foster for creating this concept). Connecting with constituents will also be bolstered by the establishment or enhancement of advisory committees and roundtables for Business, Youth, Education, Arts and Culture and other focus areas. Internally, we will continue to build a culture of employee recognition via multiple channels and listen intently to our colleagues through formal and informal means.
Informed Decision Making – We will continue developing our data collection and analysis capabilities for transparency in decision making. Our Data Track engagement with Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Institute, which focuses on permitting data for analysis and process improvement, will resume. Business Process Improvement, based on data, customer and employee feedback, and best practices for service delivery will continue to be planned and implemented throughout the organization. We will stay focused on making major information system replacements and upgrades from asset management to zoning and conduct an important analysis of our enterprise cloud strategy.
Innovation – Our ongoing work with internal and external partners to find new solutions to current and future challenges remains a top priority. Innovative projects planned or funded for next year include a home ownership partnership for 56-townhome units with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties. Social Service Hubs, funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, will bring critical wraparound social, nutrition and mental health services to areas in high need. We will begin the feasibility process for transforming the Enoch Davis Recreation Center into an Opportunity and Innovation Center – a modern hub for community education, nutrition, support, and innovation. Many thanks to former Congressman Charlie Crist for requesting the federal appropriation for this project.
We are also researching innovative housing programs for home rehabilitation, senior housing replacement, creative housing assistance and homelessness prevention. Economic Development Director Brian Caper and his team look forward to working with the business community, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, and other partners to develop innovative solutions to our interrelated economic development, housing, transportation and workforce needs.
Community Impact – Every service, policy, or project should be judged by the measure of community impact. On the issues of economic development, housing, infrastructure, resiliency, city-owned lands, facilities (including the Municipal Marina and Albert Whitted Airport), and other key issues, our process and policies will prioritize the overarching goal of equitable Community Impact. Our methodology is to plan and collaborate with community stakeholders to have the necessary and sometimes difficult conversations and data-based analyses to make informed decisions on the best path forward.
On all of these matters, the status quo is not an option. Token benefits for a few will not meet the standard of equitable community impact for all. Inclusive Principled Progress is our goal; I look forward to our continued collaboration towards that goal in 2023.