I don’t know if Joe Scarborough is up for another run at elected office, but I do know this: He is uniquely suited to tell the larger Republican establishment that it needs to change its tune.
Joe is a son of the South who wears his Alabama fandom proudly. He signed the Contract With America. He had a 95 percent lifetime approval rating from the American Conservative Union.
He can gush with F. Murray Abraham about what a talented filmmaker Wes Anderson is and referee a Twitter debate about the best Elton John Bernie Taupin composition or the cream of the crop of 90s rock.
He is a great messenger for the idea that you can’t just be the party of “No!”
You’ve got to find things to say yes to. And Joe is from Pensacola, where we excel at No, while struggling with the Yes.
We can whip together a Facebook Page, or a change.org petition in an afternoon to tell you what we don’t want. In the last several months everything from the city’s ill-advised “blanket ban” to a Dollar General store on Summit Boulevard to a probation office near North Hill to the film crew for “Party Down South” has been overturned, rejected or run out of town.
Those things are easy to be against.
Sometimes we use No to shun people who aren’t from around here when their ideas about change seem to cut a little too close to home.
We love the tourists and their walking around money, but when it comes to turning those visitors into citizens, we find our population growth flat and our entrepreneurs seeking out other ZIP codes because the bureaucracy is less cumbersome and the atmosphere more welcoming to folks who came from elsewhere.
I’ve said before and I’ll say again, this place doesn’t have to be your hometown for you to want to make it your home.
Back in early 2001, when Joe was our congressman, he told the local newspaper that Pensacola had to start thinking regionally to truly take advantage of the economic opportunities that could help secure our future, to focus on our waterfront and our history as key pieces of our development.
We do finally have a great downtown waterfront development, that only took 10 years and two referendums, one lawsuit against the developer and a state law requiring public bodies to let citizens speak to them at meetings to get there.
We are taking ever greater steps toward marketing our 450 years of history to the cultural heritage tourist, but we still need to do more.
We struggle to collaborate on substantive economic development as evidenced by the fact that one jobs announcement at the Pensacola airport last year spurred press releases from four separate public officials and some sound bites that sounded an awful lot like taking your ball and going home.
We need to respond with the same passion we had for kicking “Party Down South” off our beach to the call for community and parental involvement at Warrington Middle School.
We need the enthusiasm we had for the lifting the blanket ban to be applied to the call to help a city task force come up with meaningful, long-term solutions to the issue of homelessness in our community.
We need the passion stirred by something like Summit Boulevard Dollar General or the DOC probation office to be applied to a serious look at comprehensive updating of zoning and land use guidelines community wide, not just block by block.
Turns out what is good for the GOP writ large is even better for our little slice of paradise by sea.
To progress, we’ve got to work on the yes.