BP Disaster Environment Escambia County

Viewpoint: RESTORE Money-How to spend it

July 18, 2012

From Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson:

Since the passage of the RESTORE Act, there has been a considerable amount of discussion about how the money should be spent. Different groups have pushed for different actions most of which are looking at ideas which in the past have either lacked funding or support.

However, the current ideas are literally infinite and far exceed the potential sums identified for our community. The interesting question, that has not been asked, is what would restoration look like?

Before we discuss the future, we need to travel back only 27 months ago when we were rocked by the fear and speculation that our community could be contaminated forever like some American Chernobyl. At that time, what was our greatest fear both for our environment and economy? We must remember that pain in our gut and the hole in our soul that the Deepwater Horizon created for us.

Over the next 24 months, a handful of citizens across Northwest Florida began working in relative obscurity to address those issues. Their work was in obscurity not because of its value, but rather the likelihood that they could succeed in their ambitions. Now that they have, there is considerable angst as to how to spend it. As with any large windfall, whether personal, corporate or community, there is no shortage of opportunities to spend it as evidenced by the number of both community and individual projects that have been presented.

However, before discussing the merits of spending the money should we not first determine what we hope to achieve with the funding. Think of the community 5, 10, 25 or 50 years from now and what we hope what the community will be. Only against this backdrop should we consider a project.

Will it be able to create a significant and sustainable impact to truly move our community and its citizens forward? Under this scope, the focus can become sharper on those projects that will truly allow us to invest in our future and not merely to survive the present. Please understand that survival will continue to be an important part for all of us as we continue to regain our footing after the Deepwater Horizon spill and the Great Recession. However, this once in a lifetime opportunity cannot be squandered on expenditures that do not truly transform this community and its future.

While there is a rush to immediately find ways to spend the money, it is my hope that we will truly take the time to evaluate and analyze what this opportunity means and how we can best use it to create a better future for all of us in Northwest Florida. It is my hope that whatever we as a community choose to spend this money on, it will be spent in ways that truly take time to evaluate the best possible solution and not simply the most expedient.

Too much time, energy and effort has been put in to achieving this moment to simply allow us to squander it.

At this time, I urge you to bring forward ideas not on how to spend the money, but rather on how to evaluate what would generate the best opportunities. How do we wish to see our community in the future? If we can stay committed to that vision, I am confident that these monies will be spent in ways that will truly propel our region forward.

Thank you for your time, thoughts and consideration.

Grover C. Robinson, IV

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