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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Veto won’t halt St. Pete Midtown efforts

— Nobody wants to lose $1.6 million.

But if you’re pursuing dozens of grants to reduce poverty by one-third in your city’s poorest area, and the governor axes it from the budget, you just have to keep on keepin’ on.

Or so says Gypsy Gallardo, who for years has been painstakingly trying to secure public and private money for a multifaceted effort to cut poverty in St. Petersburg’s Midtown area 30 percent by 2020, primarily by increasing employment but also by helping residents reduce blight and improve education.

On Monday, she and others learned that Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the $1.6 million state legislators had worked into the state budget for the program. City officials and community advocates weren’t happy.

“We see it not as a setback, per se,” said Jeff Copeland, executive director Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of the organizations that likely will work with the program. “It’s just on to the next plan.”

The Rev. Louis Murphy of Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, a member of the 2020 task force, said the governor didn’t veto state money for key organizations such as Community Action Stops Abuse and some University of South Florida community programs, which are likely to help carry out the plan.

“The organizations he did fund are the ones we’re trying to undergird,” Murphy said. “There’s nothing about what the governor has done that takes the wind out of our sails.”

Gallardo said the state was one of roughly 30 potential funding sources, and one the organization will seek again next year.

Other potential sources include federal money, private foundation grants and local government money. The program is seeking $47 million for its first year, which starts Oct. 1.

“The plan has secured small levels of funding already and it’s going to continue that resource pursuit over the summer,” Gallardo said. “What dollars will be available to begin programming Oct. 1 is still very unclear right now, and those answers will just kind of continue to shape up literally one-by-one.”

Private funding sources could include the workforce development wings of Microsoft America and Wal-Mart, as well as the New York City-based Surdna Foundation. The program also is seeking federal money through the Byrne and community development block grants, which would be $800,000 and $1 million, respectively.

“We’ve got a long way to go before we get to the point where we say this is infeasible,” Gallardo said.

The group plans to work with local organizations.

Specific goals for Midtown in the first year include creating 200 jobs for south St. Petersburg youth, expanding a USF-St. Petersburg program to encourage single parents to be more involved in their children’s lives, creating jobs by recruiting companies to the area and implementing a financing program for small businesses.

For Kriseman and the city, the 2020 plan was only part of an over-arching effort to confront poverty in Midtown.

“We will continue to forge forward and look for more opportunities to achieve our goals,” said Nikki Gaskin-Capeheart, the city’s director of Urban Affairs. “I’m very optimistic in that regard.”


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