Small town looking for big ideas to improve race relations

A Safety Harbor city commissioner is seeking suggestions on how to improve race relations.

SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. — The Pinellas waterfront community of Safety Harbor may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about improving race relations.  But don’t tell that to City Commissioner Scott Long.
 
“We don’t have the violence and the protests that other folks do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be part of the solution,” said Long, who wants to make a difference in the national issue of race relations in America.
 
Long recently returned from the annual National League of Cities Conference where he was inspired by a speech given by Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown. The Texas city’s police department was at the center of racial unrest last summer, with five officers killed and nine others injured.
 
“He closed his speech by saying, 'Ask someone to dinner who doesn’t look like you.'  And I just thought that was just a powerful and simple statement,” recalls Long, who brought the message back to Safety Harbor, asking the public for solutions at both this past week’s city commission meeting and on his Facebook page.
 
“I really do think to solve this problem we’re not going to have one BIG idea, we're going to have millions and millions of little ideas,” said Long.
 
And one of the ideas came from Richie Wilson, a lifelong New Yorker who just moved to Safety Harbor with his two young children.
 
“I’m from the most racially diverse place in the world, and I want my kids to have that down here,” said Wilson.
 
The new Safety Harbor resident who plans to open his own business proposed a speed-dating type event where people from different races and religious would spend 60 seconds getting to know one another-- not looking for love, but understanding.
 
He even offered to host the event at his soon-to-open social club which will be known as Gigglewaters, across from downtown.  The restaurant and screening room for classic movies is scheduled to open this November.
 
“As a parent who put his roots down in this town, it would be amazing to think I had a part in this,” said Wilson.
 
Long will continue accepting ideas on how to improve race relations.  The person with the winning suggestion will get a book authored and signed by the Dallas police chief, the man whose speech inspired the contest.
 

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