District 6 Council candidate Justin Bean crisscrosses St. Petersburg
ST. PETERSBURG – City Council District 6 candidate Justin Bean spent Thursday crisscrossing the city by bus, electric car and bike as part of a campaign to get his message out.
His final stop was City Hall, where he spoke on the steps of the historic municipal building about what he referred to as the most pressing issues facing St. Petersburg, among them economic development, the lack of a grocery store in Midtown, affordable housing, early childhood education and the redevelopment of Tropicana Field.
"What a lot of people don't know is that site used to be a neighborhood," he said, referring to the displacement of a number of residents in the city's African-American community to make way for the stadium.
Any redevelopment must include healing "that wound," he said.
One of Bean's stops was Tangerine Plaza in Midtown, where two supermarkets have failed.
"We need to make sure that we have resources for everyone in the city, not just people in downtown and that includes a grocery store," he said in front of City Hall, vowing to make it a top priority if elected.
Bean, 30, a business development sales manager for his family's downtown firm, Reusable Transport Packaging, is making his first run for office.
"My message is I want to create a St. Petersburg that works for everyone," he said by telephone during a pause for lunch at the Chattaway restaurant in the Old Southeast neighborhood. "We are going to try to see all of St. Petersburg, so we are traveling from north to south and then west to east talking about different components of my platform and plan."
His first stop was at Jabil, at 10560 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, to emphasize economic development.
"The primary focus would be to help the small companies and the growing businesses ... as well as recruit established businesses here," he said. "We used Jabil as an example of a large employer."
Bean said he plans to work with Enterprise Florida and the new St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation to achieve his goals.
His journey also took him in front of Melrose Elementary School. That was to emphasize education, he said, especially apprenticeships and improving the quality and access to early childhood education.
"I believe that education is the great equalizer and in order to create a St. Petersburg that works for everyone, we need to improve our education," he said.
Bean's most recent endorsements have come from the St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters Local 747, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association and the Pinellas Realtor Organization.
Gina Driscoll, 46, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and a sales manager for the Hampton Inn and Suites downtown, is Bean's rival for the District 6 seat.
She said she is focused "on making our neighborhoods stronger and working on the specific issues" that affect residents' quality of life.
"When I'm out talking with people from different neighborhoods throughout the city, their biggest concerns are those things that are happening right outside their front door," she said by phone Thursday.
"As I'm listening to people, they have concerns about our infrastructure, not just our sewage system, but our sidewalks and bridges. They are concerned about affordability and that's whether I'm talking to a resident who is renting a home and hoping to buy their first home, or a small business owner concerned about the retail space they rent."
She added that by working on those issues and making neighborhoods stronger, the entire city will be stronger.
Driscoll's latest endorsements have come from Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, School Board member Rene Flowers and City Council Vice Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman.
District 6 includes downtown and parts of the Old Northeast, Midtown, Historic Uptown and the Old Southeast.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.