IN report on Council meeting

September 9, 2008

City acknowledges economic problem, divisive on attack
by Sean Boone

What could be worse than hearing your elected city officials (up for reelection I might add) tell you they haven’t done a great job addressing your city’s prolonged economic problem?

Not being able to give you a decisive solution to handle the problem – that’s what.
Although not on the written agenda, the highlight of Monday’s Pensacola City Council Committee meetings was certainly the discussion over the recently released economic survey that paints Escambia County – as you already know – gray.

Although one could argue that the current slump of the national economy has trickled down to create employment problems in our area, the majority of the council acknowledged they haven’t done the best job to handle the prolonged situation.

“I would suggest we (the council) are the number one problem,” said council member Sam Hall. “We don’t provide an environment for people to invest. I’m not a bit surprised by the survey.”
Council member Marty Donovan agreed.

“It’s clear to anyone paying attention that Escambia County continues to fall,” he said. “That’s the plain truth. We need to do something very different.”

But what can be done?

Donovan suggested creating an alliance with Santa Rosa County to create a regional commission to study the “field” while council members Mike DeSorbo and Mayor John Fogg stated the problem must first be addressed with the state of Florida’s economic development program.

Sounds encouraging, right?

Council vice chairman John Jerralds felt the survey didn’t do the city justice since it was done during a time in which the whole country is struggling.

“I’d like to do that survey on a sunny day,” he said. “It gives people a false sense of where they are (economically).”

Jerralds also stated that the only way for the economy to grow in the city is by creating a better annexation plan.

“One of the goals we set in strategic planning a few months ago was annexation,” he said. “Until we grow, I’m not sure we can have a legitimate conversation for economic growth.”

But how can the city annex without offering its approximately 55,000 residents enough high paying jobs to want to stick around? After all, city limits didn’t seem to stop the development of our neighbors to the east and west, did they?

No matter what approach the city and or county takes to address the current dilemma, one thing can be agreed upon by all involved – the county has seen brighter days.

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