Black Elected Officials Focus on Jobs in City-County Government Joint Meeting

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By: Tony McCray

Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May, Pensacola City Councilwoman, Jewel Canada Wynn, and City Councilman Gerald Wingate directed their joint political power to job creation and development in Pensacola and Escambia County. The Escambia Board of County Commissioners held a joint meeting with Pensacola City Council at Pensacola City Hall on Monday, January 30th, to discuss projects that benefit from the involvement of both governments.  The agenda included focus by both governments on the Midtown Commerce Park, an Indoor Sports Complex, use of local contractors on the construction of the new Pensacola Bay Bridge, BP Oil Spill funding through the RESTORE Act and Triumph Gulf Coast funding process, crime in City and County Parks, homeless issues, and the VT-Mobile Aerospace Engineering construction project at the Pensacola International Airport.

City Councilwoman Jewel Canada Wynn made it very clear that the joint government meetings are critical in addressing issues impacting the African-American communities.  She stated in an interview with the Gulf Coast Voice, “These joint government meetings are crucial and are needed to happen more frequently to direct our efforts toward jobs being created for our residents.  These meeting are important because they help us to be aware of the jobs being projected, how to qualify for the jobs, and where to get training for the positions being offered.  These meetings also contribute to our learning about the different pots of funding so that we are involved in the process to ensure that the African-American communities obtain a fair share of the resources that become available”!

The joint government setting provided a powerful forum for the development of the Midtown Commerce Park. Escambia Arms Public Housing and the adjacent residential neighborhood of Rosewood Terrace were torn down because of a wood treating facility that contaminated nearby soil and groundwater!  Thus, some 350 families, mostly African-American families were relocated from the area.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been committed to cleaning up the site for some time.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been working to clean the site so that it is suitable for commercial and industrial use, and once the agency’s work is finished it intends to turn the land over to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In turn, the DEP is seeking to give the land to either the city or the county. Escambia County commissioners and the Pensacola City Council discussed how they might work together in developing the property to create a commerce park creating business opportunities and jobs for area residents.

Commissioner Lumon May commented on the Commerce Park’s economic impact to the Gulf Coast Voice. The Voice repeated the job creation impact numbers to the commissioner projected as generating 1,714 manufacturing, trade, and service jobs with an additional 3,244 indirect and direct jobs with business sales forecasted at $418 million. “Now that’s job creation that we can prepare for to ensure that minorities and locals African-Americans get a fair share of those jobs, because I do not want to vote for another project that will send the job opportunities outside of Escambia County”!

Councilman Gerald Wingate raised his voice to make a statement on how the two bodies had discussed millions of dollars in economic development and projects which need infrastructure financial support, but he noted that not a cent had been discussed in terms of aiding the homeless or other human needs. He stated in the open meeting that, “We talk the talk, but we won’t walk the walk. We won’t put the money where it’s needed. We would rather put in a storm water hole than to help people move forward with their lives.” He evidently hit a important point that got the attention of both bodies that agreed to meet on Feb. 23rd to develop a plan for reducing area homelessness, and also agreed to have a second joint meeting within the next two months to discuss other issues they didn’t get to on Jan. 30th.

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