Community Conversations identify top areas of concern for St. Pete residents

Mayor Ken Welch and his administration are using the results to identify additional priority strategies

St. Petersburg, FL — Mayor Ken Welch announces the results of an analysis of his Community Conversations series, which took place in December ahead of his historic inauguration.

In partnership with the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, the Downtown Partnership, and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, Mayor Welch hosted three Community Conversations, two in-person and one virtual, December 10-13 to hear from members St. Petersburg congregation on their opinions on five areas: housing opportunities for all; equitable development and business opportunities; environment, infrastructure and resilience; educational and youth opportunities; and neighborhood health and safety.

“One of my pillars of governance is staying in touch with everyone who lives, works or plays in St. Petersburg. Our Community Conversations series is one of our tactics to achieve this goal. I was inspired by the feedback we received from attendees and my administration will take it into account Everyone the issues raised and the suggestions offered, as we proceed with policymaking that emphasizes informed decision-making, conscious justice and innovation to find solutions that benefit all,” said Mayor of St. Petersburg Ken Welch.

For each of the five core areas addressed, the participants were asked the following questions:

— What do you think is the biggest hurdle we need to overcome to effectively address this issue?

— What is already happening in St. Pete in relation to on this subject that you would like to convey to Mayor-elect Welch? (Note that this meeting predates the Mayor inauguration.)

— What is the boldest idea that our community should activate and implement to address this issue?

The central theses

— 2,707 unique answers were checked

— Comments identified 1,122 obstacles, 1,045 bold solutions and 540 existing activities

— housing offers for all received the most answers with 637; followed by education and youth opportunities at 572, equitable development and business opportunities at 507, neighborhood health and safety at 505, and environment, infrastructure and resilience at 486 responses.

— Poverty, accessibility, financial literacy, mental health, homelessness, public safety, systemic racism, lack of education and wages were common themes when discussing housing opportunities for all.

— Respondents expressed significant concern about the impact of out-of-state investors and developers building quality housing that does not serve affordable housing goals. Participants reported their belief that the City Council is approving too many luxury developments without requirements such as affordable and workers’ housing components.

– Participants also offered a variety of affordable housing proposals, including addressing zoning and permitting issues, streamlining processes, expanding access to secondary housing units, setting property tax caps for residents in disadvantaged areas, and creating a Land Trust for African American Communities.

— Participants expressed frustration with the city’s bidding process for municipal contracts, noting that the process is difficult to manage and favors existing businesses that already know how to navigate the bureaucracy.

— Respondents suggested better education about the bidding process to increase the number of local contractors who can compete for city contracts.

— Many residents expressed concern that not enough banks in South St. Pete would lend to residents.

— The participants expressed broad support for the ban on plastic straws and the increased use of solar energy. Sea level rise and climate change were among the most important environmental problems.

Next Steps

— Next, participants are asked to categorize the identified issues into their top three problem areas. The results can then be used to further develop priority issues.

— Affordable housing was the most frequently cited challenge, and numerous barriers were discussed during Community Conversations. The city will continue to work internally and with partners to create a robust affordable housing plan, using these discussions, existing data and analysis from the Harvard Kennedy School study to inform informed decision making.

View the full report, survey and a message from Mayor at stpete.org/communityconversations.

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