TDC approves Visit Pensacola governance. Others are not as positive

September 18, 2013

Last night, the Escambia County Tourism Development Council met to hear from Ron Ellington about Visit Pensacola, the new entity that has been proposed to take over the $5.5 million tourism marketing budget.

I’ve been told that, other than Denis McKinnon, Jr., few board members asked questions. Pensacola Larry B. Johnson, Jr. made it known that he was upset with this blog’s reporting on Visit Pensacola, but there was little opposition to the Visit Pensacola’s structure or bylaws.

However, the TDC wasn’t ready to vote to give Visit Pensacola the $5.5 million tourism development tax revenue without a budget. A meeting has been set for this Friday for the TDC to review that.

Some county commissioners have circulated the proposed transition plan that Ellington delivered to the Board of County Commissioners late Monday afternoon. The reception hasn’t been as accepting as the TDC.

One chamber board member emailed me his concern that the transition plan —which moves the $5.5 million budget from the Greater Pensacola Chamber to Visit Pensacola by Oct. 1—was never reviewed, discussed or approved by the chamber board.

He wrote: “None of this transition was approved or discussed by the chamber. (Ellington) makes it look like it was. That’s bs. I believe the public and all would like a smooth transition to a community board with the best we can find. Their plan will not cash flow. Without help or debt.”

For the record, I support an independent board running tourism marketing. I have no personal issues with Ron Ellington or any of the hoteliers.

I do take issue with the structure of Visit Pensacola, which was decided without any public input. The mission of the organization and its bylaws have been narrowly written to serve the lodging industry. An effort has been made to control the appointees. And the African-American community was not allowed to participate in the discussions of the structure of Visit Pensacola and are being discriminated against in the bylaws.

Plus, there has been a concerted effort to avoid public discussion and review of Visit Pensacola by delaying the sending of any written documents to the county until the last possible minute.

I expect more openness with $5.5 million at stake.

I apologize if this position upsets Councilman Johnson, Mr. Ellington and those hell-bent on this rush for approval, but, like Commissioners Steven Barry, Lumon May and Gene Valentino, I have a fiduciary responsibility to be sure the public interest–and the interest of our readers– is served and the $5.5 million is properly managed.

You Might Also Like

  • Slack Jawed Bystander September 19, 2013 at 5:23 am

    “For the record, I support an independent board running tourism marketing.”

    What does he think the TDC is? Of course TDC Sunshine Law would interfere with the cash being stolen without fingerprints; always a problem for local tax dollar ho’s and their newspaper doggie friends.

  • John September 18, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I listened in on the BOCC meeting Tuesday night. I am pretty sure I heard Commissioner Robertson say (and I am roughly quoting) “This isn’t about tourism; this isn’t about promoting restaurants. If they want us to promote restaurants, then maybe we’ll put a tax on them and use the money to promote them. This is only about putting heads in beds. The hotels collect the tax and this money will be used to bring folks to those hotels”. About 10 minutes later I thought I heard hotelier Nash Patel say “This is only about tourism; promoting north Escambia County, downtown, our cultural attractions and the beach”.

    So which is it? Is it or isn’t it about tourism? Is it or isn’t it about marketing the hotels? At the end of the day, what is the significant difference between the TACC and the new Visit Pensacola board? That hasn’t been explained with any clarity that I can discern.

  • jeff September 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Larry johnson is nothing more than a puppet. He is also a mooch over in Biloxi every weekend digging in the pockets of people who have made some money by working hard. My pocket knows first hand.

  • Ames September 18, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    It appears there is scant opposition to the agressive neoliberalism in Escambia County, FL. Are the majority of the elected officials, and county employees who hold fiduciary responsibility to county citizens just not aware of the significance of what us taking place? If so, and they agree with the neoliberal model, then their jobs can be eliminated from the County budget.