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Catalyze 2024: Councilmember John Muhammad

Mark Parker

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We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about the new year 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 2024.

St. Petersburg City Councilmember John Muhammad placed increasing community engagement in the local political process atop his priority list after taking his seat on the dais in October 2022.

He now hopes to see those efforts manifest in 2024.

The city council appointed Muhammad to represent District 7, which encompasses several predominantly Black neighborhoods and borders 16th Street South to the east and 49th Street and the City of Gulfport to its west. He said educating and engaging residents leads to creative solutions that directly impact their lives.

“A lot of times, they think we have a magic wand as city leaders or representatives that we can just wave and make things happen,” Muhammad said. “It’s really driven and led by communities.”

He noted that diverse groups of people advocating for a common goal can influence local government policy. Muhammad speaks from experience, first as a community activist and now as a city official.

Muhammad is at the center of a plan to create a business district along 49th Street South. The oft-overlooked commercial corridor bifurcates the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and Gulfport.

He and Gulfport City Councilmember Ian O’Hara began hosting Strategic Visioning Sessions in August. Stakeholders have since established a framework for the 49th Street Business District, and Muhammad hopes to build on that momentum in 2024.

“There are about seven corridors in the CRA, and we just want to make sure they’re (stakeholders) organized and ready to take advantage of the opportunities,” he explained. “I’d like to see resources allocated to the CRA for corridor planning make it to the people who need it the most.”

Muhammad said the 18th Avenue South corridor is next on his list, followed by 5th Avenue. “That ought to keep us busy for a few seasons,” he said.

Muhammad noted the 16th Street and 22nd Street South (the Deuces) corridors are more active, and the plan is to start with the least organized areas. “The overarching goal is to create a space where businesses can not only survive but thrive,” he said.

That includes infrastructure changes to slow traffic, and increase walkability and pedestrian safety. Muhammad said those improvements can transform an overlooked area into a destination.

He also hopes to address food insecurity and a lack of nutritious options throughout his second year in office. Local leaders consider multiple South St. Pete neighborhoods food deserts, yet Muhammad believes they have not clearly defined the problem.

He would like a better understanding of “the magnitude of the problem we’re having … and what are the contributing factors. Some systems changes must be examined to see the root cause of this,” Muhammad added.

While he appreciates community food pantries and giveaways, Muhammad called providing thousands of meals a “more affordable Band-Aid.” He believes the problem requires multi-pronged solutions, and decreasing the need is the best measure of success.

Muhammad said intentional city investments could help address the issue. Council members will discuss establishing city-owned grocery stores in 2024.

South St. Pete stakeholders are working to create a community-owned grocer that prioritizes people over profits. Muhammad said he is among those working to prepare the One Community Grocery Co-op for a city council presentation “so, as we start to make our budget recommendations going forward, we can see how we can support them.”

Muhammad will launch an election campaign – his first – sometime next year. While he hopes to remain in office, Muhammad said he would pursue the same agenda on or off the dais.

“If I’m not elected, I’m still going to do the work and apply hella pressure to whoever is elected,” Muhammad said. “Because these things have to happen.

“I love the city. I love serving the community – it’s my passion. It’s what feeds my soul, so I’m going to do it, regardless. For me, what the election is going to decide is what role I have in that.”

 

 

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jabaar Edmond

    December 31, 2023at11:32 pm

    Amazing story on a strong community leader with a clear history of working with those of all walks of life…. I unite with council member Muhammad trademark statement “Believe And Do Good”
    Sometimes we must go beyond the out of context sound bites and quotes & Gotcha moment politics

  2. Avatar

    Mike

    December 31, 2023at9:58 am

    The st Pete catalyst and the city council seem to believe that as long as their hearts are in the right place, they can do no harm. A different interpretation of this is that irrationality has been adopted as a virtue. You’d think this arrogant delusion would be cause for concern. But no. It’s celebrated. Widely celebrated. If that doesn’t terrify you then I don’t know what would. There are no adults left in the room. It’s over. Pack it in. Has no one heard the expression “the road to hell is paved with good intentions “?

  3. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    December 31, 2023at9:00 am

    Mike, Yesterday I posted a link highlighting examples of CM Mohammad’s antisemitic / anti gay comments in the press . That post was removed. The Catalyst merely addresses that which furthers their agenda of the day. A quick internet search will support my claims of antisemitism by the subject of the article. I guess that passes for freedom of the press. NEVER FORGET!!

  4. Avatar

    Mike

    December 31, 2023at2:56 am

    I’d like a response to my question. Why is his past off limits for comments? Why is the catalyst political agenda off limits? Does the truth hurt so bad? Stand up for yourselves if you’re just going to blacklist comments.

  5. Avatar

    Donna Kostreva

    December 31, 2023at12:06 am

    For your edification, a differing view relating to the antisemitic
    stance espoused the subject of this article.
    https://www.jta.org/2022/12/06/united-states/how-jewish-leaders-tried-and-failed-to-keep-a-farrakhan-follower-out-of-a-florida-city-council

  6. Avatar

    Velva Lee Heraty

    December 30, 2023at5:36 pm

    A very thoughtful man. His agenda is everything this city needs right now. We need it a lot more than a new stadium. It’s forward focused with no hidden agendas. Very impressed

  7. Avatar

    Mike

    December 30, 2023at2:50 pm

    I’d like to know why my comment was censored. Was it incorrect?

  8. Avatar

    Maria Scruggs

    December 30, 2023at11:53 am

    I am happy to read that CM Muhammad and CM I’Hara are having strategic visioning sessions to build a framework for the 49th Street corridor. I also appreciate CM Muhammad’s understanding of the difference between band side approaches and substantive solutions.
    I am hopeful that his reelection bid will be successful. Leaders in the 21st century must be strategic if we are going to ever solve the quality of life issues facing us today!

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