City Retreat: Is 'Southside' a Dirty Word for Dunedin?
City leaders in a retreat focused on Dunedin's future talked about abandoning use of the word "southside" when talking about parts of the city in order to change some possible negative perceptions. What's your take?
The word "southside" leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some Dunedin city leaders.
They honed in on the beleaguered nickname during a segment for identifying development opportunities in the southern half of town as part of a daylong commission retreat Feb. 28 focused on planning Dunedin's future.
Some commissioners believe banning "southside" from their vocabulary would help expel negative perceptions of the southern half of town.
"We need to stop talking about that area like it's a problem," Commissioner Julie Scales said, suggesting that south Dunedin residents looking for a different identity are welcome to call themselves something else.
Commissioner Ron Barnette suggested that officials start speaking more specifically when referencing southern areas of Dunedin. He offered "the ballpark area" as an example.
Other city officials, however, cautioned of downplaying what are real issues for frustrated residents living in troubled "pockets" of south Dunedin.
"There are some spots of the southside where there are some problems," Mayor Dave Eggers said. "I don't think the conversation needs to go away."
Eggers suggested ways the city can help with accountability in terms of keeping enough boots on the ground and proactive policework.
"It's real down there to folks who are experiencing it," he said. "I don't want to ignore it, but I don't want to over-characterize it."
Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski agreed, and reminded the commission about feedback from at least 80 residents during a Southside Town Hall meeting with the Pinellas County Sheriff in November.
"They told us how they feel about their neighborhood and they told us their problems," Bujalski said. "The sheriff told us he had a task force in the area. There are problems or he wouldn't have that."
Bujalski continued with other ideas for revitalizing south Dunedin, including a possible spray park or some programming for younger children near Dunedin Highland Middle School. Eggers suggested another soccer field and bringing competitive leagues to the area.
"If it's done right, it helps improve the area itself," Bujalski said, adding that right now, the Boys and Girls Club only offers "freeplay" and "hanging out" for teenagers and tweens. "What's missing there is the younger — the children — aspect."
What's your take? Is banning the word "southside" a good idea for helping bring positive change to parts of south Dunedin? What types of changes would you like to see in southern parts of town?