Posted in: Exclusive, Opinion, Stewart's Blog

Stewart’s Blog: $90 Million, Transparency & Cecilia Homison

Posted on January 28, 2016

Stewart’s Blog: $90 Million, Transparency & Cecilia Homison

The recent controversy involving the Tallahassee Economic Development Council  and the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce made local headlines for a number of days. Here is why this controversy should matter to everyone in Tallahassee.

First, during this dust up, Mayor Andrew Gillum admitted the performance of the Tallahassee Economic Development Council over the last twenty years has been “pitiful.”

That is a strong admission. It basically means the brains behind our economic development initiatives have not done a good job.

Now remember, we just voted for a tax to give the economic development types $90 million of our money over the next 20 years to implement economic development initiatives.

Citizens and business leaders need to ensure that a transparent and responsible process is in place with regard to this tax money.

Second, why was this “pitiful” information about economic development not more widely discussed and reported over the last few years. You would think this issue would be a hot topic at the Chamber retreats?

The citizens of Leon County and our business leaders need to do a better job of providing facts when dealing with our elected officials.

Anecdotal information about a “booming Gaines Street” and the explosion of the “entrepreneur culture” may all be true, but where is the impact in the numbers? What needles are we moving? These are important questions that demand answers.

Finally, the split between the EDC and the Chamber played out in a very public way. And what was on display was a power struggle between personalities and egos. At the end of the day, there were no concrete answers provided as to why this happened and how it was good for our community moving forward.

Say what you will about Cecilia Homison, the former volunteer Chair of the Tallahassee Economic Council (EDC), but the way in which employees of the EDC resigned, strategically followed by board member resignations that were publicly released, is nothing short of a public smackdown usually reserved for nasty political campaigns.

Now, some have told me Ms. Homison was difficult to work with. Others told me her new ideas were threatening the old guard. Regardless of where the truth falls with these varying assessments, what unfolded was not productive and will not encourage people with new ideas and different perspectives to participate in a process where diversity is vital to finding solutions to our economic development puzzle.

Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, former EDC chairman and current board member said the decision to split was “hurried” and “hastily made.”

Our community deserved a more thoughtful and respectful process.

5 Responses to Stewart’s Blog: $90 Million, Transparency & Cecilia Homison

  1. Merry Ann Frisby Reply

    January 28, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    This decision is important to taxpayers. We are due some answers. I have 2 rental properties in Leon although I live in Jefferson. But money is money. I would like to hear the plans moving forward.

  2. James Reply

    January 28, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    No doubt Steve. All these new retail jobs are sure to move the needles.

  3. Curtis

    Curtis Reply

    January 28, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    We certainly need transparency for this $90 million. It is earmarked for political insiders and will available to the politically connected, which is good for them, but IMHO will hardly satisfy the needs of the broader community. Far more of us could be better served by using the money for infrastructure, which is the purpose of the infrastructure sales tax. We can create all the new organizations we want, hoping that the new ones will be more successful than the old one. However, is an organization with the history, talent, and involvement of the EDC is not and has not been successful, what makes us think that a new organization with no history, experience, or track record will be any more successful?

  4. Trent Reply

    July 9, 2016 at 11:09 am

    It has been six months since this article ran. How about a follow-up? Any news about the $90M available or is it too soon to tell?

  5. Phil Reply

    August 28, 2016 at 12:09 am

    So the guy from the EDC gets the big job at the city pulling down 140k with no job search.The $90M is from the Blueprint fund where we all voted for roads, and drainage improvements, and parks. Now Blueprint is becoming the lead agency on economic development. That’s not what we voted for.

    Is anyone concerned about the coziness between the city and the Chamber? Did you see how many top city officials were in Amelia Island at the Chamber retreat? Why are we spending taxpayer dollars to send city officals to a party at the beach?

    Stay in Tallahassee and have the function here and keep the money in our local economy.

    Oh, and let’s not forget half of the work force in Tallahasse who are public employees and have no say in the Chamber or the city. We just keep paying taxes with no pay raise.

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