The Pensacola Branch NAACP’s Economic Development Committee sponsored a BP Oil Spill RESTORE Act dialogue on Saturday May 18th at the Truth for Youth Belmont Cultural Center. The meeting was focused on a request by the Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee for the NAACP to obtain community input on existing community disparities and how the Return on Investment (ROI) Criteria should include support for ranking proposals to address those community issues. The Pensacola Branch NAACP’s Economic Development Committee is committed to a community involved process ensuring structured, transparent, objective, and inclusive decision making on projects to be funded.
The RESTORE Act was signed by President Obama in July 2012 and describes how the projected award of $15 to $20 Billion dollars to Gulf Coast states is to be used to fund projects for coastal recovery. The Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee will recommend projects to the County Commission after they manage a civic engagement process of community input. The Escambia County funding level will be in the amount of $160 Million if BP’s federal fine is $15 Billion, and $212 million if the fine amounts to $20 Billion. Bentina Terry, Gulf Power executive and the City of Pensacola’s representative on the Restore Advisory Committee, serves as the Chair of the nine member volunteer group. Escambia County Commissioner Lumon May appointed former City of Pensacola City Manager, Al Coby to the advisory committee.
Tony McCray, the local NAACP’s branch Economic Development Chair reported input from thirty attendees. He stated that the representation included the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Escambia County Community Action Program, and the Pensacola-Escambia Human Relations Commission. McCray noted that several business owners were present that provide workforce development services represented by Soft Skills Training Institute, and Avant Training, Inc. Youth development non-profits, technology firms, and entertainment consultants, also provided input. Additionally, McCray thanked the Black-owned media companies, the Pensacola Voice, and the Thornton Review for being in attendance to cover the event.
McCray described the disparities that were identified, generally, as the poverty rate, high unemployment, increase in crime, youth development, food deserts, health issues, education and training needs, heritage preservation, Black tourism, financial literacy, public-private joint ventures, and inner-city revitalization. Dr. John Veasley, Pensacola Branch NAACP’s President stated that the community input will be posted on the local civil rights organization’s Facebook site. The tentative date for the next meeting is June 8th and will be announced here in the Pensacola Voice.