Thank you for your email and concerns. Many of your points are valid but some are the same political stereotyping that gets us nowhere.
I write to you as a reasonable person and I hope you will evaluate these comments as I have yours. Like the meeting Friday, the community is a better when we discuss issues and separate the wheat from the chaff.
The SRIA setup a steering committee to evaluate the parking, access and safety problems on Pensacola Beach. The measure was taken after the SRIA received multiple unsolicited bids for a parking garage and other pedestrian features. There was a meeting at the beach church with roughly 100+ in attendance. I do not know if you were there.
If you were you will remember that the position of the audience was anti to all the proposals for a parking garage and a pedestrian cross walk that would cost TOO much (sounds familiar). The crowd wanted to pull off, slow down and regroup. The cry was refocus on making the beach and especially its core more walkable with trams and possible under crossings. There was no talk of rotaries but everything was the opposite of what had been presented.
The steering committee was the SRIA’s. They asked for some BCC appointments but did not look for us to get engaged in the process. I did attend three public meetings with very few attendees outside of the opening meeting at the church. Both the planner and the committee listened to the people who spoke. They devised a plan they perceived worked to our advantages. I certainly did not like everything about the plan (rotaries), but the safety enhancements to pedestrian traffic were good.
As for your comments about the plan’s passage, who had the plan taken to county staff for their evaluation. In turn, who took the plan off the committee of the Whole in March until staff had an opportunity to review. (In addition, county staff has real feasibility concerns about the engineering of the plan.) Finally, whose appointee to the SRIA called for the meeting so the citizens would have another opportunity to discuss. (Tammy and I have different opinions yet I respect her and appreciate her leadership. She and I have gone round on the toll increase as I indicated Friday.)
As I said to people Friday and before, $46 million was a wish list and we would not nearly spend that much. As you questioned why would we spend anything? Economic Development.
To me government’s role in the economy is to make an environment that is attractive to business. It is not able to force business to occur (hard lesson to learn in Washington) because the market not government planning dictates. Therefore, we have to focus on a sound policy of low, stable taxation (I know what you want to say about the beach taxes. As a leaseholder myself I agree, but that is not the BCC suit, rather property appraisers.) In addition we focus on good infrastructure and incentives which we have established (However the county cannot compete with the incentives offered by other states. Florida will have to do something to help.). Finally, we need to create great public amenities that cause people to want to live in our community. The beach is one of the public assets and it is vital to our success as a community.
I want a beach that makes you want to visit. Where you feel safe to walk with a variety of activities, some like the core where the public is included and others such as the conservation areas where you can be alone.
As I said Friday, there is merit to both sides of this issue. The real issue for leaders is to find solutions that present balance. As your County Commissioner, I have diligently worked to do just that. I hope we can work together towards that end.