Pensacola, Florida
Saturday November 22nd 2014

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Outtakes—2014 Elections Are Critical

The local elections next year may be the most important in recent memory, which is saying a lot considering how the past three were game-changers.

In those elections, we completely changed the face of government. In 2008, the voters ousted Escambia County Commissioner Mike Whitehead, Sheriff Ron McNesby and most of the Pensacola City Council. We also elected Malcolm Thomas the superintendent of schools and James Owens public defender.

In 2010, Ashton Hayward was elected the city’s first strong mayor and we added Sherri Myers and Brian Spencer to the city council. Two years later, Lumon May and Steven Barry joined the Escambia County Commission, and Andy Terhaar, Jewel-Cannada Wynn, Gerald Wingate and Charles Bare were elected to the city council. Pam Childers replaced Ernie Lee Magaha as clerk of courts and Bruce Miller took over Owens as the public defender.

For a community that likes its incumbents and resists change, those elections were anomalies that many took as indications that voters no longer were happy with the status quo.

The impact of the 2014 elections could be greater than those because many of the decisions made by the Escambia County Commission and Pensacola’s mayor and city council over the next four years will establish the future of this community for the next 20-30 years.

Over $100 million in RESTORE funds will be flowing into this area. Those we elect in 2014 will decide what infrastructure projects, restoration efforts and other capital improvements will be done with those dollars. The money will either be piddled away on pet projects that benefit a small group or will be used on projects that will advance the entire county.

The Local Option Sales Tax will be on the ballot in August 2014. The millions, derived by adding an extra penny to our sale taxes, have paid for nearly all of the capital projects in Escambia County and the city of Pensacola. The current tax is expected to generate $373 million by the time it expires in 2017.

If the LOST tax is extended by the voters another 10 years until 2027, county leaders will have $400 million to add to the RESTORE dollars and they can completely reshape this county. You can bet that there will be a lot of hands out for that half billion dollars.

If we elect the wrong people, then we may never recover from their blunders. Put the right ones into office and we will once again become the jewel of the Emerald Coast. Let’s hope we vote wisely in 2014.