A tourism deal worth waiting for

Have I got a deal for you.

You give me millions in taxpayer money, and I promise vaguely to do better than the last guy you gave it to, but I don't really say how.

You aren't exactly thrilled with the guys who have been doing the job of tourism marketing and promotion for the last 25 years -- or maybe you just think it is time for some new blood to get mixed into the way things have always been done.

So you tell me that you are interested, but you need some more details.

I tell you I will be "laser focused" on tourism promotion and promise that everyone from Perdido Key to the Arts, Culture and Entertainment council will have a seat on my new board.

But so far, I'm the only one at the table.  

When you ask me for a business plan, a strategic plan or heck, even an outline and flow chart that gives me some sense of how I will accomplish this, I give you one just a few minutes before you walk into a meeting.

A meeting where I expect you to hand me the pen to the taxpayers' checkbook and the keys to the Pensacola Visitors Information Center, along with its furniture, computers, assets and employees presumably.

Though that part remains a little fuzzy.

Does that sound like a deal you would accept? From Monty Hall or anyone else?

It isn't the first time that hotel owners tried to get all that juicy bed tax money under their thumbs. They were turned back the last time by an Escambia County Commission that wanted just a little more information before they signed off.

And felt a little uncomfortable at the "it's now or never" atmosphere they felt they were being pressed into.

At that time, everyone agreed to do what Pensacola does best -- study the matter until it dies a quiet death.

I don't know that that should be the fate of the proposal this time. If it goes forward it would be nice to see two things addressed by the Escambia County Destination Marketing Organization more emphatically.

One is the full-throated acknowledgement of the public input and scrutiny that follows those bed tax dollars.

That money doesn't belong to the folks who have asserted that because their business interests generate "90 percent" of the bed tax collections in the county, they are entitled to a bigger hand in how those collections are spent.

That is tax money; which means it belongs to the citizens of Escambia County. Whosoever oversees that money must do so in the sunshine of open public meeting and records law, something some of the 90 percenters may view as an inconvenient truth..

And the other is to take diversity among the board's makeup seriously.

And by seriously, I mean designating one of those nine seats on the board you have yet to establish to represent minority interests in local tourism.

Designating that the at-large seat on the board will for the first two years go to a member of the minority community treats the concerns raised by Commission Lumon May like dirt to be brushed off your shoulders.

The minority community won't go away in two years. Neither should its voice on this board.