By: Tony McCray
Both the Florida House and Senate unanimously approved significant economic legislation that directs $300,000,000 of BP Oil Spill Economic Settlement funding to the Gulf Coast Economic Corridor which includes Escambia to Wakulla Counties, the eight most disproportionately affected counties by the environmental disaster. The exact names of the eight counties are Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin, and Wakulla counties. Senator Doug Broxton who represents Florida’s 1st district, which includes Escambia, Santa Rosa, and part of Okaloosa Counties in the Florida Panhandle, worked effortlessly to ensure that the state immediately release the 75% ($300 Million) of the $400 Million received by the state last year, to the non-profit created to manage the money, Triumph Gulf Coast.
Florida Senate District 1 voters gave Broxton the victory over African-American Senator Mike Hill, and now he covers Escambia County, Santa Rosa, and an eastern edge of Okaloosa. Senator Gainer, who represents the urban half of Okaloosa that Broxton does not, also worked very hard on the historic legislation. Northwest Florida’s corporate and business community also participated and has taken the lead to ensure involvement of its minority population in anticipation of the economic development impact of $1.5 Billion in BP Oil Spoil Settlement Funds. The Northwest Florida’s corporate and business community was additionally involved in the “call to arms” to make sure the funds are focused on the region most impacted by the oil spill.
The Gulf Coast African-American communities along the Gulf Coast collaborated with corporate representatives (over the past few months) such as the region’s chambers of commerce, FloridaWest (an Economic Development Authority), Florida’s Great Northwest (a regional marketing and business development non-profit), Gulf Power, and the University of West Florida’s Haas Center to receive input on the strategic plan developed by the Austin, Texas planning and economic development consulting firm, TIP Strategies, Inc.! That plan was presented to the public on March 9th and ongoing planning sessions are being held to further define the more specifics to the economic development strategies. The Gulf Coast Voice, Owner Jacqueline Miles, Rodney Jones, President of the Pensacola Branch of the NAACP, Lewis Jennings; the Area Director of Florida State Conference of NAACP Area #1 and #2, Van Johnson, the Mayor of Apalachicola; and other business representatives from Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla Counties have attended the brainstorming sessions from Pensacola to Panama City,
Additionally, the federal judge in New Orleans has granted final approval to an estimated $20 billion settlement, resolving years of litigation over the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s order was released Monday, six years to the month when Deepwater Horizon exploded, killing 11 workers and spewing 134 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Escambia County Commission Chairman Grover Robinson says it’s been a long time coming. The settlement, first announced last July, includes $5.5 billion in civil Clean Water Act penalties and billions more for other claims by the five Gulf States and local governments. The money, including $69 million for Escambia County, is to be paid out over a 16-year period.