COMMENTARY ON THE PETITION DRIVE
Imagine you are the president of a technology company and that you are planning to move your business to the Gulf Coast. Your site selection consultant has recommended several locations, including Pensacola.
You immediately begin reading the local newspapers and you like what you read about Pensacola. The airport, which offers the connections you need, is the most successful along the Gulf Coast. The university has established a special program to turn out graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math; that will help with your future workforce needs. And the city has launched a $52 million public development on its downtown waterfront.
That last news item about a maritime park particularly gets your attention. A community that will invest $52 million of public funds in a public development sends a message: We have full confidence in the success of this project and in the growth of this city. That public confidence is an important element in providing you the confidence that you will be able to get a good return on your private investment in Pensacola.
But then you begin to see headlines about a petition drive for a referendum related to the maritime park. When you read that the target of the referendum is a duly approved and executed contract between the city and a private company, red flags go up. You are shocked to learn that any incentive the City of Pensacola might provide to help you establish your business here could be subjected to a referendum. It’s tough enough to operate a business without the potential for such roadblocks. So you cross Pensacola off your list and look elsewhere.
The present Donovan-Nobles petition drive against the Maritime Park is a petty action that will not affect the progress of the Vince Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park but will harm this community’s ability to attract private investment for the new businesses and clean industry that would bring us the jobs that we so desperately need.
I beg the citizens of this city, which has so much potential for greatness, to look to the future and to tell Messrs. Donovan and Nobles that they need to find more productive and helpful ways to use their pent-up energies.