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Candidate wants to represent workers

Ray Brooks says people are being underrepresented in District 4, so he's challenging incumbent Susan Latvala for her County Commission seat.

By NICOLE JOHNSON
Published January 2, 2006


A leader in a grass roots movement aimed at strengthening mobile home owners' rights says he will run for the Pinellas County Commission.

Ray Brooks, president of the Front Street Association at the Anchor North Bay mobile home park, said he plans to challenge incumbent Susan Latvala for the District 4 seat.

Brooks, 54, filed to run as a Republican with the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections office last week.

"We've been unrepresented too long," Brooks said . "Where is the voice of the working people, the mobile home owners, people who work for Kmart or for Hess?"

Since March, Brooks and about 50 other residents in his park have fought developers who aim to turn the 7.8-acre site into luxury condominiums.

SAB Investors LLC purchased the park, which overlooks Old Tampa Bay, in December. Residents were served with eviction notices in March.

Brooks' group has hired legal counsel and has filed a claim against the developers. The residents say they were led to believe the developers would not change the use of the park. The group also asserts they should have been given the option to purchase the land.

The Anchor North Bay group and several other parks facing the same development fate statewide, recently formed Floridians Against Injustice to Residents of Mobile/Manufactured Homes. Also known as FAIR, the group serves as an information clearinghouse and advocate for park residents facing eviction.

The County Commission recently passed the Mobile Home Transition Program, which aims to provide financial assistance to displaced mobile home residents.

Brooks opposes the program and said he would prefer that the commission slow down development.

"I'm not against development," Brooks said. "But I want us to be citizens of sensitive development. I want us to be known as the smart coast, unlike Miami and Fort Lauderdale."

Brooks said he decided to run against Latvala after her recent vote in favor of the transition program.

Latvala, who has served on the commission since 2000, said her decision to support the program was based on the need to balance property owners' rights with the needs of park residents.

"When someone owns a piece of property and they don't want to operate it as it currently is, they have the right to do something else with it," Latvala said. "I think the average person understands that the county is doing everything in their power to help with this situation."

Brooks, a St. Petersburg native, has lived at Anchor North Bay for the past three years. The former information technology manager for Chase Manhattan Bank had plans to write a book when he moved to the park, he said.

"I thought it would feed my book-writing ability," Brooks said of his waterfront mobile home. "I never dreamed that somebody was lurking to eat up the place."

Brooks must still meet qualification requirements to appear on the September primary ballot. That means he must pay about $5,200 or get about 1,500 signatures.

He plans to do the latter.

"I'm at least certain I'll have the support of every mobile home resident in this county," he said.

--Nicole Johnson can be reached at njohnson@sptimes.com or 727 445-4162.

[Last modified January 3, 2006, 01:57:16]


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