|Waiting at King Corona.|
It was a little cooler than it should have been. Hurricane Isaac was getting closer, sucking all the heat it could off the water to power itself, creating the gradient we were feeling. A few journalists were hanging around the tables outside the cafe, some with two large cameras dangling on either side, others with iPhones on monopods, tweeting in real time.
[Megatrends, a popular book published in 1988 and written by John Naisbitt predicted Tampa as "America's Next Great City", a phrase the city unfortunately adopted as its mantra. As we would find out, this prediction did not come true -- at many levels.]
|Connie Burton (center)|
|Life Malcolm Turner (r.)|
|Journalist in the van|
This sleight of hand, followed by displacing those living and doing business, was a repeating story as the tour threaded through various blighted neighborhoods around Tampa. While these areas were left untouched as they sink further into poverty, somehow Tampa managed to find $34 million to spruce up for the RNC Convention, plus $48 million more for security from a state grant. Needless to say, nothing trickled down to any of the places we went.Tampa's lack of urban awareness and concerns for its quality of life are hardly a well-kept secret.
Inside the van, hearing the guides was often difficult. The riders quietly traded shop talk and got to know a little about each other while trying various meditative techniques to stay cool.
|Mural at Police Station depicting the past.|
It wasn't an illusion. When we stopped at the police station on 22nd st, one we were told was built with community funds, we were shown murals that had been commissioned to a "Negro from out of town". About 75 feet away, as if on cue, a police cruiser pulled and watched our every move. One of the last panels of the mural ironically depicts a vibrant, idyllic community. Someone asked if this depicted the past or a hopeful future. "The past" was the answer.
|Life Malcolm Turner|
The van rolls into West Tampa, past Joe Redner's park, stopping at Jeff Hilaire's Main Street Choice store. He's multi-tasking, a small businessman working on community building. Looking toward Howard Ave is a small park with benches where older men sit, talk and play games. Outside the store are benches, where younger men sit slumped as traffic goes by on Main St.
|Jeff Hilaire (on left).|
At Robles Park, a large green space and lake, young men congregate in the shade of a shelter. Ms. Burton informs us that the city wants $168/wk. for the local girls' teams to be allowed to play kickball, so the park remains empty, unused.
Sulfur Springs is what should be a beautiful neighborhood along the Hillsborough River. Jack Kerouac often stayed there in a friend's house on the river, sleeping in a loft. Now it is a square mile of boarded up houses, gang graffiti, people's belongings rotting at the curb, remnants of evictions. The van turns into street after street, making me a little dizzy. The per cap income here is $13k/yr. less than half of what it is for the rest of the city. I remember it during better days. Almost half of its population are kids under 18. One in ten of the girls will give birth before that age.
|Ed, CSS Founder.|
|Sulfur Springs resident.|
At North Street & Branch Ave. a media event is going on. The front yard is peppered with media covering the the reclamation of a foreclosed house with the help of neighbors for a previously homeless couple, Vashon and Gladys Seabrooke. Activist/performance artist Vermin Supreme energetically mows the lawn, sweating profusely in the heat and humidity.
|Romneyville Security Chief|
We return to the visible parts of the City and our regularly scheduled programming.