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Friday July 25th 2014

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Outtakes: Power of the People


People like to joke that Pensacola is five years behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology, but once something catches on here, it spreads exponentially across the community.

How social media can be used to influence decisions is the latest trend that is affecting public policy on our local level. We have seen several social media protests pop up and have watched politicians and community leaders scramble.

Last year, residents in the Cordova Park area got wind of a Dollar General coming to their neighborhood. Greg Rettig set up the Facebook page “No Dollar General at the corner of Spanish Trail and Summit.” Nearly 1,000 people liked the page. Residents swarmed to a November town hall meeting to show their displeasure. The zoning change was taken off the Pensacola City Council agenda.

The winter storm that hit Pensacola in January prompted another grassroots effort. The protest concerned the city ordinances that targeted the homeless and outlawed them covering themselves with blankets in city parks. Rev. Nathan Monk set up an online petition, “Stop the no blankets for the homeless ordinance,” that garnered over 19,000 signatures and brought nationwide attention to the issue. In February, the Pensacola City Council amended the ordinance to allow blankets.

The latest successful grassroots effort was to stop the CMT redneck reality show “Party Down South” from filming on Pensacola Beach. A beach business owner told me about the buzz regarding the producers of “Jersey Shore” scouting out Santa Rosa Island for their new series. I posted a blurb about it on my blog on Monday, Feb. 24. Kimberly Blair covered in the next day’s daily newspaper and other media followed suit, but that wasn’t what really drove the effort to stop “Party Down South” from partying on Pensacola Beach.

The protest took off when Amber Kelley and Bri Snellgrove launched the Facebook page “Locals Against Party Down South in Pensacola” against the show. The page quickly collected over 11,000 fans that “liked” the page.

Tourism officials, politicians and business leaders began to change their tune and had second thoughts about the image the raunchy reality show could bring to the area. By the following Monday, you could not find anyone who said they liked the idea of CMT bringing their show to Pensacola Beach.

I don’t know how long this trend will last in this area, but I like it. Social media gives the “little guy” a chance to take on the rich and powerful. So far, the little guys have won.