Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will be in Tampa Heights Thursday morning to hear from residents, as part of her 2022 “Coffee with Castor” series.
The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. inside McDonald’s at 501 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd off Interstate-275.
The series is an effort by Castor to hear feedback from voters on a range of issues, like the rapid growth that has led to staggering rent increases.
“Have a cup of McCafe with the Mayor while sharing YOUR ideas on how to continue to improve the quality of life in our city,” the city wrote in a press release.
The March installment comes after “Coffee with Castor” kicked off at West Tampa’s Arco Isis in January, and February’s event where people crowded into a South Tampa Mickey D’s to give the mayor a full of ears regarding affordable housing, flooding, and the state pre-empting the city on a myriad of issues. Someone even complained about 5G towers.
Choosing this McDonald’s in Tampa Heights is a bold move on Castor’s part, as the fast-food restaurant is just steps from Robles Park, where residents have been the subject of a “crime-free multi-housing” at city-wide, started by Castor while she was chief of police. . The program alerted landlords to “documented violent offenders, gang members or career criminals”, but also flagged those arrested for misdemeanors, including some people who eventually had their charges dropped.
last fall, a Tampa Bay Times investigation found that approximately 90% of those reported to the “Crime-Free Multi Housing” were black, although black residents accounted for only 54% of all arrests in Tampa over the past eight years.
In response to what critics have dubbed “Renting While Black”, civil rights leaders have called for the program to be stopped altogether. A Yale professor and author of “How Fascism Works” told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that the language used in “Crime-Free” presentations to landlords was “extraordinarily dehumanizing.”
“Calling humans weed is pre-genocidal,” Professor Jason Stanley said. Last fall, Acting Police Chief Ruben “Butch” Delgado called for a transition from “Crime-Free” to a new “SAFE” model. Delgado has since been reassigned to deputy chief after Castor announced his choice for chief was Mary O’Connor who, in 1995, was arrested for assault and battery on a Hillsborough County sheriff’s officer.
In the weeks following Castor’s selection, the mayor’s staff and city council wrangled over the process of selecting and approving O’Connor who has been serving as leader since the announcement. Just last week, members of the city council suggested that the mayor’s administration could be behind a pressure campaign from prominent businessmen who recently flooded the council with letters of support to O’Connor.
O’Connor was also a high-ranking officer during then-Police Chief Castor’s crime prevention program, where the Times found that eight out of 10 ticketed bikers were black. In 2016, the Department of Justice investigated the Tampa Police Department and found that the program had indeed unfairly arrest and verbalize Black Tampeños.
To make the cafe of tomorrow even more complicated, the event is also taking place on the border of Tampa Heights and Seminole Heights, two neighborhoods where landlords and renters are battling developers and rising rents that have risen by 24 % over the past year.
Today, in announcing $5 million in rent assistance that will go to landlords, Castor and city staff again said rent control was not on the table, adding that putting in place of a ceiling on rents “would kill development”.
Can’t tell who will show up tomorrow, but you have to hand it over to the mayor to get face to face with people at these events.
More information on “Café avec Castor” on Thursday, February 10 at 9 a.m. is available via @cityoftampafl on Facebook.