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Friday October 24th 2014

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Viewpoint: A Time for Political Vision, not Political Division

By George Hawthorne, C.E.O., Diversity Program Advisors, Inc…..

SOME, not all, of our elected officials have an inimitable ability to live in denial; and it is instructive as well as entertaining to watch these ‘public servants’ flutter frantically around, trying to shore up the defenses of ‘The Good Ole Boy System’ against the threat, the scourge, the blight of ‘economic diversity’ in favor of a ‘non-inclusive process.’

When challenged on their policies and actions, the minions of the institutionally-dysfunctional ‘good ole boy system,’ retort indignantly about, “the need for political progress and economic development.” They prattle sadly about a corresponding “good for the community” as a justification for their controversial actions.
Others in the community and in the ‘inner circle’, consistently defend and fail to challenge those selective few complacent, unimaginative individuals who occupy the ‘leadership roles’ of Pensacola’s society (in politics, government, commerce and the church) that are completely out of touch with the ‘realities’ of the ‘societal costs’ of poverty and crime confronting all of Escambia County today, and that they themselves have blindly condoned.

Those who are entrenched in the ‘Good Ole Boy Network’, basking in the ‘sunshine of public preference,’ have made the fundamental error of assuming that the socio-political conditions and institutional policies that exist – and that provide them with their own privileged existence – are absolutely good and just, immutable, God-sanctioned, unchallengeable, undeniable, unquestionable.

In this comfortable “worldview”, espoused by beneficiaries of ‘The System’, those “outsiders and visionaries” who depart from accepted norms; who fail to observe the conditions (as laid down by ‘the great and the good’); who speak out and flout new ideas; are castigated as the cause of the community backlash and divisiveness. Those ‘troublemakers’ should know better. They just don’t know what they are talking about and/or only have a “self-serving vision”.

And so, responding to their simplistic and self-serving logic, the defenders of the ‘status quo’ demand ever greater authoritarian measures to beat back the rising wave of community discontent that threatens to engulf their comfortable, privileged lifestyle.
Metaphorically speaking, our ‘progress’ has gone “to hell in a hand-basket.” Politicians are at war with themselves. The ‘Good Ole Boys’ are lining up for their slice of the Restore Act fine money. The possibility of political corruption is looking to run completely out of control. The business sector is screaming for relief, the people have been vocally outraged by political ‘division’ and lack of political ‘vision.’
I chuckle when I hear some political leaders speak about the ‘windfall’ from the Restore Act fines being a panacea for the Region’s “economic development and job creation” without a mention of a plan to address “diversity, inclusion, poverty and crime”. They might as well throw this ‘windfall’ in the Bay … or just cut ‘the Good Ole Boys’ individual checks and “call it a day.”
We must address the systemic deficiencies in a social structure of Escambia County and its product … poverty and crime. In other words: poverty and crime is the pain felt by a diseased society, caused by administrative, economic, educational, developmental and other dysfunction within itself that obstruct the flow of resources to ALL members of the group.

Think about it according to the analogy of a heart attack in your own body. Coronary artery blockages may trigger and promote the restriction of blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack. In a societal construct, dysfunctional leadership and ‘Good Ole Boy’ political policies are the arterial blockage; poverty and crime is the outcome and pain of a heart attack. The sufferer may not be immediately aware of the blockage and the loss of circulation, or that he or she will suffer a massive heart attack.

In like manner, the afflicted citizens are “very aware” of the pain of poverty and crime. However, our community leadership will not admit to itself that there is anything wrong with some of their actions and policies. Therefore, if nothing is wrong, nothing needs to be fixed … and poverty and crime is a result of a matter of a bunch of maladjusted, irresponsible, out-of-order people preying on the rest of us.
It is time for a new ‘Political Vision’ and stop the political ‘division.’

Elected officials want “economic development and job creation”? Maybe they should start by allocating a portion of the Restore Act fines to develop Escambia’s labor force and small business ‘infrastructure’ along with its ‘project-ready’ physical infrastructure. Then, when Restore Act ‘physical infrastructure’ project’s are planned, constructed and operated a more diverse segment of Escambia can equally participate, mutually benefit and collectively grow, instead, of just ‘the Good Ole Boy’s’ and out-of-state companies.

Next, the County (and City) should adopt a ‘First Source Job Program Ordinance’ developed to link Escambia County residents with employment opportunities provided through the City/County’s procurements, including contracts that have been awarded under the Restore Act fines. This proposed First Source Job Program Ordinance requires vendors seeking Restore Act and other City and County contracts for goods, services and/or professional services for over $50,000 to hire unemployed Escambia County residents.
Concurrently, the County (and City) should adopt a ‘Local Small Business Enterprises (“LSBEs”) Ordinance in all City/County contracts and procurements to provide “preferential” treatment (through race and gender “neutral” means) to Escambia County-based small business enterprises on all City/County contracts of more than $50,000. Thereby, increasing the City/County’s tax base and also increasing the capacity and number of LSBEs in City/County contracting and attracting new small business to locate in Escambia County to gain an advantage in County competitive bids and contracting opportunities.
We cannot continue to accept the ‘status quo’. Without new political ‘vision,’ our politicians should look to the poem, which ends with the immortal lines: ‘Therefore send not to know … For whom the bell tolls … It tolls for thee.’