East Tampa has been proposed as a community redevelopment Area, or CRA, and tax monies should soon be coming into the largely African-American neighborhood. The city of Portland and Hillsborough County have recently held several community meetings with the community for input on how to best use this new money. Last night was the latest one of these meetings; WMNF reporter Andrew Stelzer was there and filed this report. ---------

ACT “For those of us who are natives…�

Bernadine White King was one of about 30 community members who came to voice her opinion about the future of East Tampa.

“..Many of us who are natives here remember walking…�

Many East Tampa residents came with suggestions for what needs to be done in order to revitalize the area east of I-275, and North of I-4. Representatives from the city and county presented maps of how east Tampa is currently made up, in terms of residences and business, and what the vision is for the next 30 years. The area has been designated a Tax Increment Financing District, which means that’s percentage of tax money raised can be reinvested in making the neighborhoods better. Parks, sidewalks and streetlights are just a few of the things that this money can be used for, and the question posed to area residents was—what should the money be used for?

"One of the problems is that can we attract businesses to this area?"

All those in attendance agreed that business development was a key to changing the area, which has become filled with auto repair shops, abandoned or neglected homes, and certain intersections known for drug dealing and prostitution. The community identified 22nd and Martin Luther King as the heart of their neighborhood, and in fact, the city person said that population wise, the center of Tampa is just south of that intersection. 22nd avenue was repeatedly referred to as the strip, which should be focused on for business growth.

One man raised questions about public transportation, and why no improvements had been made in the community over the years.

ACT "My question is why don’t they have a bus station here? They didn’t consider the fact that a transfer station might not only be aesthetically beautiful for this area but useful"

Hillsborough, by the railroad tracks, was suggested as a good location for a transit transfer station. One woman mentioned when she had traveled to Oakland, California, she had been at a bus stop that also had a head start childcare center and shopping facilities, so that people could conveniently complete all their errands at once.

About halfway through the meeting, James Hosler, from the Hillsborough planning commission, brought up the issue that new information has come to light since a survey was conducted last year, asking area residents what their priorities were. It has been found that almost half of the water pipes under EAST Tampa are over 50 years old and need to be replaced, not only for health and safety purposes, but to attract business to the area. Hosler blamed the water department for not having their records on computers. 22 million dollars will be needed to replace water pipes, and no funds have yet to be identified to pay for the replacements. So the question was posed to the community—given this new information, should infrastructure be moved up on the list of priorities?

ACTS: "We need to take a page out of the people in Hyde Park, Bay Shore, etc. I don’t see that we should have to sacrifice sidewalks and lighting....

"We done paid for everybody else’s pipes, now we gotta pay for our own pipes too"

"We’re being asked to make a trade off--were being asked to trade off ...for items that are being funded for other area...people in this community have paid for other improvements in other communities"

City and county officials repeatedly claimed that no trade off was being asked for, but instead said they were asking residents to determine their priorities.

When asked for their vision of East Tampa in the future, area resident Clarence Duketown said he thinks that that racism has a great affect on when and where money is used, and until that is addressed, East Tampa will never get what it needs.

ACT "We need to build decent homes. Before you change anything, you have to treat everyone the same. For this to develop, you have to I don’t want to see people barbequing in the front yard, if I see that same type of housing over there then its all right, when the police came in the houses they cant run out the back door...only un east Tampa, so they tale the money from us and put it everywhere else.

After the meeting, Bernadine White-King said despite the history of the area, she has hope for the future.

ACT "This was a thriving community, the building you are standing in is the only investment in 30 years, and so that explains a lot of it One thing that encourages me is that this is the first plan for east Tampa that actually has dollars attached to it. This time money is attached, I’m more hopeful" END ACT

Based on information gained at this and other meetings, a community redevelopment plan will be created by the end of March. It is unclear how much money will be raised by the Tax increment Financing District, but just one of the issues identified by the community—enforcing code violations, could have resulted in up to 1.4 million dollars coming into the city, a portion of which could have been reinvested in the community last year. The city council will have the final say on what should be prioritized, and where money is directed. County officials hope that the Financing district will be established by the end of June.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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