Business Escambia County

Lobbyist tried to dictate who would represent the arts community on new tourism board

September 16, 2013

Ron Ellington, paid lobbyist for the hotel industry, apparently has his Visit Pensacola board chosen to run tourism for Escambia County.

According to David Bear, head of Art, Culture, and Entertainment, Inc (ACE), Ellington told him that his volunteer group that represents the cultural community could have a seat on the new tourism board, but only if he appointed Blaise Adams to the seat.

“I have no issue with Blaise,” said Bear, “but I’ve never known him to have any interest in the arts or our organization.”

How independent will this new board, called “Visit Pensacola,” created by Ellington and the hotel industry be if they are dictating who gets on it? Why does it matter who represents the art community?

The Powerpoint presentation made by Ellington last week before the Board of County Commissions included a seat for ACE, but ACE hasn’t agreed to make Adams its representative.

But Ellington’s strong arming went even further. Bear has been lobbying the county commission for 25 percent of this year’s bed tax surplus to create a cultural arts festival that would involve all our cultural arts. The surplus is estimated to be about $1 million, meaning ACE would get about $200,000.

Ellington told Bear that HE would give him $50,000 from Visit Pensacola and that they would put another $100,000 in advertising.

Again – the question is what gives a lobbyist this power? Well if he controls all the appointments to Visit Pensacola, then he make these kind of statements.

Bear is very skeptical of any promises made by Ellington. We are hearing that others in the hotel industry aren’t happy with Ellington’s strong-arm tactics.

The BCC meets today. They have an opportunity to take control of the process.

BTW: There is no public document detailing who are the other individuals that have been given seats on the Visit Pensacola board.

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