Spills, Infrastructure, and Climate Change
In one year, St. Pete managed to discharge as much sewage as the rest of the state combined. Our future leadership needs to make sure that we are investing in our infrastructure to have a clean future. In addition to preventing spills by improving infrastructure, we need to proactively stop future spills by not worsening our climate change crisis. St. Pete has committed to converting to 100% renewable energy by 2035. Still, it is up to the city's people and the officials representing them to ensure that we fulfill that commitment. Making St. Pete a glowing example of a green city is necessary for our city. With many of our homes in flood zones, our city's future is grim unless we reduce our impact on global warming. Some of our neighborhoods already experience flooding from regular thunderstorms multiple times a year. If we don't do anything to prevent sea levels from continuing to rise, our city faces a grim, wet future.
Affordable Housing and the Homelessness Crisis
47% of Pinellas County is one paycheck away from homelessness. In a city with severely limited affordable housing, this reality becomes even grimmer. St. Pete's leaders need to proactively work together with developers to create and set aside more affordable housing. Making a slight increase in the property tax paid by property owners who refuse to keep a small portion of their building's units rent affordable as defined by the city will increase the amount of affordable housing. This tax will also raise money to use to help get people off the street and into homes and keep people from becoming homeless in the first place. In 2018, Pinellas County Schools had 4,372 students who were considered homeless. The lucky ones could live in a shelter. I will put money from the affordable housing refusal tax to ensure that every student and every person lives in a home, not just a shelter, by creating a permanent supportive housing plan. This permanent supportive housing plan will also cost the city less than the continuous temporary solution that is straining our resources without fixing anything. In addition to supportive housing, I will also create a team to make a list of every homeless person. This team of specialists will then go through the list, one by one, and assist each individual personally. The best way to handle this problem is to stop looking at people as "the homeless" and instead treat everyone like a person and help them with what they need. The fund will also assist people at risk of becoming homeless to prevent the issue from starting. One day, hopefully, we can live in a world where we spend only money keeping people in their homes, not looking for homes for those who have lost them. Lastly, the fund will also provide assistance to those with mental health problems and those with addictions, and financial counseling and help to get people back on their feet. Additionally, to ensure every member of our city's safety, I will create a safe injection site near every hospital to help keep people safe and prevent the HIV/Aids epidemic that we are facing.
Every young person should have a say in the governing that affects them. That is why I am committing to creating a youth city council and mayoral position in our city. The youth services committee on our city council does not sufficiently allow young people to help make the rules and the solutions to issues they face. This youth government will be fair and diverse in its implementation by including representation from all parts of our city, regardless of economic or social status. The city will have a youth city councilor elected in each school district to represent young people who live in each of those districts. Additionally, a youth mayor will be elected by young people across our city. These representatives will run for election at the same time as our city council to simplify the process and encourage children and parents to go vote together. The campaigns for youth election will also have spending limits to promote representation and to promote fairness. The youth representatives will work separately from our city's elected representatives, although they will have some oversight and support from them to avoid issues and to help prepare them for a future of engagement in our government. I am also committing half of my salary to help start the youth government in my first year and a quarter of my salary for every following year as Mayor.
Central Avenue is a hub for life in our city and one of Pinellas's most dangerous roads. Closing down some small sections of it will keep everyone safe and benefit local businesses there by allowing more people to walk along there. Increasing downtown St. Pete's walkability by decreasing traffic flow in key sections of the city will help create a cleaner, more accessible atmosphere in many of St. Pete's most popular areas. The city should look into providing more publically available bikes and consider adding an electric scooter program to make downtown easy to access without going on a hike from where you parked, as is the case even now. The city should also look deeply into investing in more public transportation. With the Cross Bay Ferry serving more than 50,000 passengers per year, it's clear that public transit is a good investment in our city. Investing in our public transit system will help ease the burden felt by many low-income families by easing the commute to work. It will also decrease our city's fossil fuel emissions by allowing investments in technologies like the electric downtown looper bus system and push us even closer to our goal of 100% renewable energy by 2035. Lastly, To leverage the renewable energy, the city needs to upgrade our infrastructure to support green vehicles, helping us move into the future of renewable vehicles.