St. Petersburg community leaders come together at ABC Action News hosted community event

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Community leaders came together Tuesday afternoon for a community event hosted by ABC Action News.

The event was part of an initiative by ABC Action News to hear the big issues that are impacting your community.

More than 70 community leaders ranging from Mayor Bill Foster to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gathered for more than an hour at The Poynter Institute.
Following some introductions by Rich Pegram, general manager and vice president of WFTS,  Brendan McLaughlin emceed the event.  Telling guests he was their "walking microphone," McLaughlin brought up hot button issues for local leaders to weigh in on like the future of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was the first to address those in attendance.  He mostly talked of the growing prescription pill addiction in Pinellas County.  Gualtieri called prescription pill abuse a problem that crosses all demographics and one that is not limited by social status or income.
Ann Miller with All Children's Hospital backed up the Gualtiere's assessment.
"We have so many newborns in the NICU because they are addicted to prescription drugs," she said.
Both Gualtieri and Miller told staffers how this problem can be bettered through education and awareness-something ABC Action News plans to do with a documentary looking into this issue.
Staffers also listened as David Downing, deputy director of the St. Pete/Clearwater CVB talked about how much media impacts the area.
Referencing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Downing told the crowd how once the image of the bird covered in oil made its way to the airwaves, the area could no escape it.
"We are back to talking about the oil spill," said Donovan. 
He likened the issue to a baby that when put to sleep awakens and then cries.
There were issues that no one in the audience wanted to touch, particularly, what is the future of the Tampa Bay Rays.  
On a grander scale, local leaders stressed how our area can no longer be divided as Tampa versus St. Petersburg.  Instead, many want to see the two cities come together and work as a region--especially when it comes to the Republican National Convention.
"This isn't something that is just happening in Tampa, it is happening here in St. Pete too," Donovan added.
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