Obama holds town hall forum in St. Pete

08/01/08 Emily Reddy
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

At this morning’s Economic Security Town Hall meeting at St. Petersburg’s Gibbs High School, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama outlined a new “emergency economic plan.”

During segregation, Gibbs was the only high school for blacks in St. Petersburg. Today, the first competitive black candidate for president spoke to a crowd of about 1,500 supporters gathered in the school gym. Obama debuted a new plan to stimulate the economy, before opening the floor to questions. He described the “two-part emergency plan” for the crowd.

The first part calls for a $1,000 emergency energy rebate that would go out to families this fall to cover rising prices, not only in gas, but also in home fuel. Obama said he would pay for the rebate by taxing windfall profits by oil companies.

The second part of his plan is a $50-billion stimulus to jumpstart job creation. Half of this money would go to state governments.

Obama said this stimulus package is just a short-term solution, in the long-term he said the United States needs to end the war in Iraq, roll back the Bush tax-cuts, make government more efficient, and fix Medicare and Medicaid.

Members of the Uhuru movement sitting in the audience disrupted Obama while he spoke about the economy. They held a banner that read, “What about the Black Community, Obama?” Obama told the interruptors they could ask their question later.

Later, a man accused Obama of failing to stand up for the black community. He cited predatory lending, Jenna 6, and the killing of Sean Bell and Javone Dawson by the New York and St. Petersburg police departments as events Obama had ignored.

Obama responded that he had spoken out on those issues but that it might not be the way some would like.

Dr. Marva Denard graduated from Gibbs High School back in ’57 when it was still segregated. She changed her registered party from Republican to Democrat just last week so she could vote for Obama.

Britney Farley is about to start her Junior year at Gibbs. She won’t be able to vote in November, but she’s talked some of her older friends into voting. She says she’s seen the effects of the poor economy and hopes it will get better.

Rabbi David Weisman supports Obama, but holds no illusions that repairing the economy will be easy.

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