Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
That’s the story of Pensacola in Tallahassee, as exemplified by Gov. Rick Scott’s contention in Tuesday’s State of the State address that “the stories of opportunity in Florida stretch from east to west -- from Key West to Panama City.”
Of course there’s a little more of Florida west of Panama City. I know the governor is a busy man, but he must know that.
He’s been to Navy Federal Credit Union’s sprawling campus in Beulah to tout that company’s investment in Florida. He’s been to The Fish House for eats and greets. He carried Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in his 2010 election campaign. He visits us when he needs a friendly crowd to stand in front of for the cameras.
Why, if he had been here just last week, we could have shown him a thing or two.
He could have seen the tar mats that washed ashore from the 2010 BP oil spill. Maybe he didn’t want to see those 1,360 pounds of submerged oil that had to be dug up off our shores and hauled away. Most of us who live here wish we could un-see it, too.
We have wished that since shortly after Memorial Day weekend of 2010, when those great, black blotches began showing up onshore.
If he had been here last week, he might have seen a community that declined the easy money that would have come with allowing CMT’s reality-ish show “Party Down South” to film here. With a per capita income of $32,797 a year, we need all the investment we can get.
But not, we decided last week, at any price.
If he had been here last week, he might have seen one of our Mardi Gras celebrations, or the Renaissance Fair. Because folks in this part of Florida love a good time. Two weeks ago, he might have caught a Pensacon panel. And seen some of the 11,000 people who crowded into the convention and brought an estimated $1.4 million into our local economy in the slow season.
Maybe not Panama City money, but plenty good in these parts.
He had been here last week, he might have learned about Offshore Inland expanding operations at the Port of Pensacola, or plans to bring ST AErospace to town, bringing skilled jobs with a good salary that he says Florida needs more of.
The kind of jobs even folks in Panama City might be interested in.
He also might have heard folks at a public meeting about the ST Aerospace project talk about the deep need in this community for jobs that pay more than waiting tables or selling T-shirts and shot glasses to tourists.
Over here in the Other Florida we know a lot about trying to make ends meet on jobs like that.
Plenty of us live on tips.
If he had been here two weeks ago, he might have been seen our fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders taking the writing portion of their state standardized educational assessment tests. A lot rides on those tests -- as he may have heard.
More than a few teachers I know have said they’ve felt like they haven’t had the appropriate staff development time they need to fully grasp the new standards and convey them to our children.
Had he been here last week, he might have seen a town hall meeting about the fate of Warrington Middle School, a school that brings into sharp relief the toll that generational poverty, diminished economic opportunities, institutional neglect and lack of parental and civic involvement have on a community -- and its children.
Had he been here last week he would have see that the Western Gate to the Sunshine State is an area in transition. We are making progress -- with a growing downtown, a slowly emerging tech sector, an economy that is trying to diversify from a portfolio that was too long dependent on military, government and service-industry jobs.
But we still have challenges. Sixty-three percent of Escambia County’s school children are on free- and reduced-price lunch. Escambia County has the 10th highest incidence of child abuse in the state. Our population growth is slower than the rest of the state’s.
We deserve to be in the conversation in Tallahassee. And clearly after the State of the State address, we’re going to need to raise our voices to be heard.