FAST assembly addresses citizen's concerns

04/08/08 Jamie Kidder
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Faith and Action for Strength Together (FAST) is a Pinellas County faith-based orginization that works toward community justice.

FAST held its annual Nehemiah Action Assembly in Largo last night, where local community leaders, members of law enforcement and local government officials were invited to answer questions about issues that FAST members feel should be addressed.

The topics included education, affordable housing and crime. Members of FAST asked a series of yes-or-no questions to the invited officials, who were given the questions ahead of time.

Members of the Pinellas County School Board were asked the following questions:

  1. Will you commit to support the continued use and expansion of schoolwide discipline programs?

  2. Will you ask the school board to direct the superintendent to implement a formal evaluation of the schoolwide discipline programs?

  3. Based on the data, will you encourage the Superintendent to help schools with a high suspension rate?

School board members Mary Brown and Jane Gulluci wrote that while they unable to attend the assembly, they would answer "yes" to all of the questions.

Board members Linda Lerner, Carol Cook and Janet Clark were all supportive of FAST's proposals.

At last year's FAST assembly, city and county officials pledged to create more than 3,000 affordable places to live over the next three years for families in need. So far, St. Petersburg is the only city who has not followed the proposals by FAST.

The first question was a request to re-affirm the commitment made last year to create a net increase in affordable housing

Most everyone was supportive of the proposal.

Two years ago, the County Commission attended the assembly and agreed to create an affordable housing trust fund with $10-million for three years. This year, the trust fund was cut to $5-million. Six of seven commissioners also agreed to pass a mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinance, which stipulates that a certian percentage of new development are designated as "affordable."

FAST asked the commissioners if they would keep the trust fund at no less than the $5-million, less that a quarter of a percent of the budget, and if they would support the mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinance.

Everyone asked was supportive of the mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinance. Some felt that they would be unable to make a budget commitment without more information.

The last series of questions were for County Sheriff Jim Coats about crime in Pinellas. FAST presented Coats with "Hot Spot Cards," anonymous tips about criminal activity provided by citizens.

Coats pledged to help stop crime in Pinellas County and to immediately act on the tips he recieved.

The next large FAST assembly will be held on Oct. 27 with the location to be announced.

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