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Candidates: Jobs key to east Tampa revival

By WAYNE WASHINGTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000


TAMPA -- It might not look like it along Lake Avenue or 22nd Street in east Tampa, with the tattered storefronts and loiterers. But there is forward momentum here.

The city of Tampa is working with not-for-profit groups to get vacant or abandoned lots it will then have moderately priced homes built on.

The Tampa Housing Authority, using a $32.5-million federal grant, is tearing down and rebuilding College Hill Homes and Ponce De Leon Courts, two of the most dilapidated public housing complexes in the area.

The arduous job of turning east Tampa around has already begun. Arthenia Joyner and Frank Reddick, hoping to represent the area in the state House of Representatives, both want to step up the pace.

Economic development and job creation are at the heart of their campaigns.

Crime reduction is important they say, and so is improving access to health care and child care. But a good-paying job goes a long way to solving those problems, the candidates say.

"We don't have a diversity of good-paying jobs," said Joyner, 57, a founding partner in the law firm of Stewart, Joyner and Jordan-Holmes.

Reddick, the 43-year old president of the Sickle Cell Association of Hillsborough County, has specific ideas about how he would address that problem: meet with business and community members to come up with a plan and work with churches and private businesses to establish a job apprenticeship program.

Joyner is not as specific, but she may not have to be. The $67,000 she raised through Aug. 11 dwarfs the $11,210 Reddick brought in.

In fact, from July 29 through Aug. 11, Reddick raised only $50. Joyner, meanwhile, raised $8,140.

Reddick, whose mother recently died, said he was not pushing hard to raise funds during the most recent reporting period. He believes Joyner's edge in money does not mean an automatic victory Sept. 5 when the two Democrats face each other.

"History has stated in many other races -- and particularly in the black community -- candidates that have raised a lot of money aren't always successful," Reddick said. "People are turned off by big money."

Joyner's connections are just as extensive as her contributor list.

Her resume is dotted with high-profile board and commission appointments, and her campaign contribution list is just as glossy. Curtis Lane and Fernando Noriega, high-level assistants to Tampa Mayor Dick Greco, have contributed. So has Adelaide Sink, former head of Florida operations for NationsBank, and her husband, Bill McBride, managing partner of the state's largest law firm and chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

Joyner's supporters are betting on her sterling connections to help get the job done.

"She's in touch with people on both sides of the fence -- people in the community and people who can bring businesses to the area," said Gretchen Hunter, Tampa businesswoman who supports Joyner. "A lot of times it is who you know."

Charlie Reese, the Chamber of Commerce's director of communications, said a state legislator can help spur economic development by supporting incentives to bring businesses to their district.

Les Miller, who represented the district in Tallahassee for eight years and is now running for a seat in the state Senate, supported the state's tax refund policy for businesses that brought high-paying jobs to the area, Reese said.

Reddick, however, has said Miller did only a fair job of bringing jobs to the area. One problem, Reddick said, is the fact that many of the district's poor residents have criminal records.

If elected, Reddick said he'd work to pair those residents with employers willing to hire them. Last week, he met with Stephen Jackson, founder of a program called Victory is Shouting in Our Neighborhoods, which helps people with a criminal history get jobs.

Jackson said his program has been successful, but job seekers with a criminal past still face a very tough task finding work.

"There are some employers who will slam the door in your face," said Jackson, who himself has spent time in jail for theft. "Others will say we don't want your kind. And other employers will say, "We've tried something like this, and it didn't work out.' "

Reddick said he wants to keep trying. The reward for success, Jackson said, is high.

"The spirit of the people will rise," he said. "The neighborhood will begin to grow and prosper."

Because there are no other candidates, the Democratic primary voting is open to all voters regardless of party affiliation, and either Joyner or Reddick will emerge from the primary as the next District 59 state representative.

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