This is a press release of the Steps Coalition, an alliance of non-profits on the Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast formed following Hurricane Katrina. The expansion of the port has huge economic and social implications for the citizenry as it involves a diversion of at least $481 million dollars from HUD to port expansion. I attended this meeting briefly and will report more soon.
From: Steps Coalition
More info: Roberta Avila, executive director, 228-435-3113, 228-229-8552
Press conference planned on Port of Gulfport expansion
Members of the community will speak out about their concerns for the $481-million expansion of the Port of Gulfport at a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday, June 13 outside of the old 28th Street Elementary School which is located on 34th Avenue (between 28th St. and 33rd St.).
“The port expansion will dramatically impact North Gulfport communities and the City of Gulfport,” said Roberta Avila, executive director of the Steps Coalition. “Members of the community want community sustainability that creates jobs while protecting air quality, property values and health. We want to protect residential areas from displacement because of industrial activity.”
Residents of Gulfport represented by organizations that are allies of the Steps Coalition want to make sure that the that the activities of the port are compatible with the impacted residential areas in Gulfport.
“These Housing and Urban Development dollars were meant for people and communities recovering from Hurricane Katrina,” said Ruth Story, Gulfport NAACP. “It is therefore essential that the Port Authority and Mississippi Development Authority know that investment in the port and investment in the community health are inseparable.
Any port expansion/development should integrate the vision and needs of the community and result in positive outcomes such as sustainable, long-term economic benefits for the all of Gulfport and surrounding communities. We need an expansion that is the right size for Gulfport, and assurances that the port will hire local residents who are properly trained.”
This press conference is in response to the Port Authority’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the community’s concerns. The Press Conference will also address Port Board President Frank Wilhelm’s statement at the May Port Commission meeting that “The port is focused on maximizing the creating of quality jobs and committed to maintaining our quality of environment and life.”
“We feel this ‘commitment to quality of environment and life’ must acknowledge the needs/concerns of downtown Gulfport and North Gulfport,” said Pastor Anthony Thompson, executive director of the Kingdom Community Development Corp., and a member of the board of the Steps Coalition. “We want to make sure the neighborhoods around the port and port connector road don’t dry up and blow away. And we want to assure that recreational facilities downtown such as Jones Park are healthy places for our families. We want safe, healthy and livable communities.”
This press conference will also serve as the culmination of the Steps Coalition’s Artful Activism workshops that engaged local youth in building a huge paper mache image of Dr. King. “We are using Dr. King’s image as an art visual to reinforce the message that the community lift up “having a dream for what they want their community to look like, feel like, be like now and in the future of our children and grandchildren–livable, sustainable communities,” Thompson said.
Attorney for the Steps Coalition: Reilly Morse