Kim Rivers is not happy.
Ms. Rivers, a successful local business woman and the engine behind Imagine Tallahassee, believes the Leon County Board of County Commissioners have voted to ignore the work of Imagine Tallahassee.
And she is not shy.
After the vote last week , she fired off an email stating her version of what happened in plain and simple language, “Yesterday, the Leon County Commission voted to ignore all of the work and effort of Imagine.”
Vince Long, the County Administrator, quickly replied to Ms. Rivers’ comments in an email to all Leon County Commissioners. He wrote in response:
“This is completely inaccurate. Again, it is important to remember that the County Commission officially endorsed the Imagine Tallahassee effort and dedicated the staff to the entire process. The Board’s actual votes yesterday embraced Imagine Tallahassee’s work and recognize all of the valuable community input received. The sales tax committee’s recommendations on Imagine Tallahassee were presented to the County Commission verbatim.”
Imagine Tallahassee is a group of private citizens who spent hundreds of hours getting input from approximately 1000 citizens to shape an economic development strategy that will impact our community for the next twenty years.
For the first time, the Blueprint process, set for the ballot in November 2014, will include money to be used for economic development. The amount set by the Leon County Commission is approximately $50 million.
Ms. Rivers’ concern is that the Leon County Commission will simply take the Imagine Tallahassee recommendations as advice and not use the structure that was set up to address an overall economic development strategy that was devised by the group.
And, based on discussions, that is one outcome that could happen. However, at this point it appears a number of outcomes are still possible.
What the Leon County Commission did not do with their last vote was to agree to fund all the Imagine Tallahassee projects exactly as presented by the group. What is left to happen before anything is settled in stone are meetings by the Leon County Commission and the City Commission to vet the Imagine development projects and any other projects the elected officials deem worthy and to finalize a list to present to voters.
And this is where politics enters into the fray. Specific groups are already starting to challenge the passage of the Sales Tax if their projects do not get due consideration.
In the end, Ms. Rivers and the Imagine Tallahassee group may still get most of what they recommended. But it appears it will not happen without strategic and aggressive involvement in the political process that is about to get underway.