|Posted by brojohn47 on October 21, 2014 at 10:00 PM||comments (0)|
Dr. Christopher Warren (L) Modertated the Forum and Bro John Muhammad (R) President of the Childs Park Neighborhood Association hosted the event
BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer - The Weekly Challenger
ST. PETERSBURG – Amendment 2 is making waves throughout Florida and right here in St. Pete the conversation has gotten a little heated. The community gathered at the Childs Park Recreation Center, located at 4301 13th Ave. S., hoping to get some information on the new proposal to make medical marijuana legal, but not everyone on the panel saw eye-to-eye.
The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, otherwise known as Amendment 2, is set to be voted on next week. Placed on the ballot as a constitutional amendment with voter approval, Amendment 2 would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. However, opponents of legalization argue the amendment is too loosely written and will cause more harm than good.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, community activist Kurt Donley and Eckerd College Assistant Professor of Biology, Dr. Greg Gerdeman, all took part in an expert panel to help guide voters to making the right decision come poll time.
“If someone is truly at the end of life I don’t want to see anybody suffer,” said Gualtieri. “But this amendment is not about that.”
Gualtieri argued that language of the constitutional amendment is too broad and holds loopholes that will make it easier for drug dealers, addicts, and thrill seeking teens to get their hands on the illegal stash. “What this amendment does is legalize the smoking of marijuana.”
The panel agreed that there is a legitimate medicinal value with marijuana, but as the sheriff pointed out, there is already THC drugs, like the drug Marinol, out on the market that doctors can prescribe to help ease pain and suffering among terminal patients.
So why legalize pot when there is already something out there to help? Proponents of Amendment 2 have a lot to say on that.
Gerdeman knows all about the drug Marinol citing its use since the 80s to cure nausea. But according to the professor, the drug can be too much for some to handle and the cost can be astronomical.
“It’s the caviar of medicine,” he said. But the high price tag and in Gerdeman’s opinion, lack of therapeutic effect, make a cheaper and more tolerable alternative attractive to the general public in need of a painkiller.
Gualtieri didn’t falter in his argument about the repercussions that would be felt if Amendment 2 passed as is. With more officers involved in the policing of the “pot shops” that some experts say will line streets, possibly right next door to you, other areas of police work may take a backseat.
Instead of keeping neighborhoods safe, law enforcement feel they will be inundated with marijuana related offenses from those looking to score some for a good time, to rogue doctors prescribing unlimited cannabis to anyone willing to pay 75 bucks.
“Look what we just went through in the pill mills,” said Gualtieri describing the doctors who disregarded regulations that demanded patient histories and physicals be completed before prescribing pain meds. “You showed up, paid and went out and got as many pills as you could.”
But resident Walter Evans has confidence in law enforcement’s ability to reign it all in, placing Gualtieri on the spot when he brought attention to the fact that lines at pill mills no longer exist and there has been no talk of any overdoses. “If you can control the doctors and how they dispense the hard pain killers, why can’t we do the same for marijuana,” he asked.
Gualtieri it seemed was outnumbered by those in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, the sheriff’s attempts at explaining the potential pitfalls, such as the State Department of Health’s inability to institute sufficient controls in managing the distribution of the drug within the time allotted under the amendment, falling on deaf ears.
Panel participants Donley and Gerdeman support Amendment 2 and are more laid back with its broad language. While Donley who suffered a stroke some five years ago can’t sing the praises of pot loud enough, Gerdeman feels any debate over phrasing can be ironed out in the aftermath.
“I think this absolutely will be regulated,” he said. Gerdeman believes setting up a database registry of clinicians that subscribe will be top priority if it passes and enforcement of those not complying will go smoothly.
A question regarding public safety if marijuana was made legal whether for medicinal purposes or the general public was posed to the sheriff as well. “What harm is legalizing actually going to have?” a community member asked.
Gualtieri listed his reasons. One of which concerns the amendment’s reference to medical use of marijuana being granted to anyone perceived by a doctor to have a debilitating condition. Gualtieri argued the language means any type of doctor, such as a chiropractor could okay a trip to the pot shop.
Instead, Gualtieri would prefer a medical marijuana amendment focused on specific medical uses instead of the amendment’s references to debilitating conditions in general language, which he equates to recreational use.
By the end of the evening though it seemed the panel was spinning its wheels, unable to agree on anything concerning the amendment, while community members weighed internally what the passing of Amendment 2 will mean for their families. One resident spoke out about patients in Pinellas being arrested for treating medical conditions with cannabis, asking how law enforcement arresting patients benefits anyone.
Gualtieri tried to squelch that concern with a definite denial that anyone on their deathbed is being arrested.
But Donley quickly jumped on the Sherriff’s response inciting race into the issue of legalizing medical marijuana. “It’s the last of the Jim Crowe laws to arrest blacks,” he said.
With recent reports comparing black arrests for marijuana as being five times more likely than arrests on whites, it’s no doubt some community members are wondering if legalizing the plant isn’t better for minorities.
Gualtieri shifted the focus back to the initial question, explaining the debate of course isn’t with the dying, but with those using marijuana to treat other conditions like anxiety, menstrual cramps, or minor back pain. While he worries pot will be too easy for scammers, frauds and virtually anyone wanting to acquire it, he also wants to limit the potential issues with addiction that may crop up with those looking to score dope to deal with minor pain.
“One of the crux problems we have is addiction; we have an addictive society,” said the sheriff who witnesses the community’s inability to use alcohol and other legal drugs such as prescriptions in a responsible way each day. “Why are we going to throw something else on the table that is going to be susceptible to abuse?”
But his arguments seemed to be lost on those in attendance, at least those asking the questions. The next question being, “What danger does it pose to the actual community?”
“No different than any of the other drugs that are out there,” said Gualtieri.
The last day to vote yes or no on Amendment 2 is Election Day, November 4.
To reach Holly Kestenis, email [email protected]
Childs Park Neighborhood Association Members are Volunteers Extraordinaire! Even the President of the United States thinks so!
|Posted by brojohn47 on June 11, 2014 at 9:30 PM||comments (0)|
St. Petersburg, FL - On Memorial Day, during a formal luncheon and ceremony, a group of Childs Park Neighborhood Association Menbers were honored with the prestigious Presidential Volunteer Service Award. At the same ceremony, many other wonderful groups and individuals also received awards for their hard work as volunteers in the community.
These dedicated members were presented their awards, which included a a beautifully framed congratulatory letter from the President of the United States, and a special pin: for their work with The Stop the Violence Coalition in St. Pete, FL
The historic Fort Harrison hotel hosted this spectacular event, which was followed by a festive barbeque with amazing entertainment, on the beautiful hotel grounds. The Church of Scientology’s Miss Pat Harney, worked very hard to ensure that all of the good works of so many in our community were acknowledged.
If you would like to be part of the Stop The Violence Coalition or any other Community Projects and initiaitves please CLICK HERE and contact us today! To see photos of the event visit facebook.com/MyChildsPark.
|Posted by brojohn47 on October 16, 2012 at 2:25 PM||comments (0)|
St. Petersburg, FL - When the Childs Park Neighborhood launched its "Putting Neighbor Back in The Hood" initiative back in May of 2011, they had no idea that their efforts would lead to them being recognized a little over a year later by the City of St. Petersburg as "Neighborhood of the Year for Civic Engagement."
The project was the result of a general consensus among members of the Association that residents have become more individualistic and focused only on themselves and their immediate families. While this is important, it was agreed that we should not do so at the expense or to the neglect of others. The neighbors talked about how residents had seemingly lost the "old fashioned" values and folkways of looking out for one another, their children and property. Instead, residents seem to have taken an "it's none of my business" approach and in most cases turned a blind eye to some of the problems in the area because they didn't see how it affected them.
The goal of the project was to facilitate events and activities that encourage residents and community stakeholders to get to know each other while discussing common needs of the Neighborhood. They wanted to create an environment that showed neighbors that they care about them and are willing to help in any way they can. They also wanted residents to see how pulling together and being a united community could help reduce crime and improve the quality of life for everyone involved.
In June 2011 residents held a Public Forum with The St. Petersburg Police Department and Officers of the Street Crimes Unity to address resident concerns about police Chases through the Neighborhood. During this forum residents shared their experiences and interaction with Officers and discussed ways they could have been handled better on both sides. Residents walked away from the forum feeling as though their voices had been heard and were optimistic that the department would make the changes required to settle resident concerns.
In July and August 2011 residents continued to meet and discuss ways to make the campaign a success. They also hosted a needs assessment meeting at the Childs Park YMCA that was facilitated by Students of USF to help identify the areas of greatest need in the community. It was agreed that Education, Housing and Development and Health would receive the priority. Another one of the things that was discussed was during these meetings was the fact that residents often have great ideas but seem to have difficulty moving from ideas to action. To help remedy this, the leadership of the Neighborhood Association reached out to the City's Neighborhood Partnership division.
The Association was given the opportunity to work with the City on pilot program that had been successful in other Tampa Bay Area communities. The program was a "Grassroots Leadership Development" training class that would offer training to residents to help increase their planning, team building, organizing and project management skills. The program was sponsored by the City and facilitated by The Jim Walter Partnership Center.
The Grassroots Leadership Program began in 2004 with the “Across the Bay” class. Initially, the program targeted local government and its employees. However, it soon became clear that the real need in the community was providing support to the people who lived in the community, so they could contribute to making a change in their own community, interact with government and solve their community issues.
The Grassroots Leadership classes were held: September 15th, 22nd, 29th & October 5th at the Childs Park Recreation Center. Rather than conducting traditional full-day, Saturday sessions, the program was offered on Thursday evenings and was presented as a “fast-track” to grassroots community development. The class brought together diverse leaders and community members including: the Mayor of St. Pete, a leader in the Pinellas County School System, city commissioners, and dedicated neighborhood residents. A Pinellas County commissioner attended the graduation ceremony. The final project developed from this class was a holiday neighborhood re-union. The re-union was held on December 10th at Childs Park and attracted over 300 residents who were treated to live entertainment and a good meal. Residents were also provided information from vendors around the City about programs and services they may not have been aware of.
In January 2012 the Association used the skills they obtained in the training class to help organize a local "Stop The Violence Coalition" that united residents acrosss neighborhood lines to address the common problem of violence in crime that plague our areas. The coalition is comprised of a diverse group that includes members of other Neighborhood Associations, The Pinellas County Urban League's Crime Prevention Task Force, Community Housing Solutions, Superfriends Ent, The NAACP,The Childs Park Rattlers Youth Organization, a local attorney, in addition to concerned citizens and business owners.
In April 2012 the Association and Stop the Violence Coalition held a Stop The Violence Candlelight Vigil in Childs Park to highlight the magnitude and impact that violent crime has on the entire community. Family members of those that have lost their loved ones addressed over 150 people that were in attendance and shared their testimony. Grief counseling services were made available to the community along with other relevant information to help prevent and deal with the issue of violence and violent crime. A second vigl was held in the Campbell Park Neighborhood In June.
In August 2012 a community forum was held to discuss the progress and development of The Childs Park Neighborhood plaza. The plaza will be the jewel of the neighborhood and will be located at the site of the Childs Park Lake on 43rd Street and 11th Ave South. Several residents came out and shared their thoughts and ideas for the project. As a result of their participation, the project, once completed, will truly reflect the vision on "the people" that live, work and worship in the Childs Park Neighborhood.
Much to their surprise, while discussing plans for the next community event and refining their long term strategy, members of the Association received the news that their efforts to "Put Neighbor Back In The Hood" had earned them an Outstanding Volunteer Achievement Award and on October 9, 2012 they were recognized as Neighborhood of the Year for Civic Engagement.
When asked about the award and recognition,Bro John Muhammad, President of the Association said, "We really appreciate the support we have received from the City of St. Petersburg's Neighborhood Partnership department. We also would like to thank the residents of the Childs Park Neighborhood for responding to our calls, attending meetings when they can and for having faith that if everyone does a little no one has to alot and together we can make a difference. "
When asked about future plans for the group he discussed the development of a Neighborhood Skills Bank that would allow them to organize and pool the human resources and skills of members of the neighborhood so they can begin to have greater participation in the rehabilitation and development of the area. When asked if he had any closing remarks or anything he would to say to the community he replied, "There's more that needs to be done than needs to be said."
For more information about the Neighborhood Association of Childs Park you can visit their website at MyChildsPark.webs.com or email: [email protected]