David Waggonner gave the Pensacola area lot to chew on.
How much of his philosophy of stormwater management in a greener, less environmentally intrusive manner we ultimately will swallow remains to be seen.
But you can’t say the case hasn’t been made.
Waggonner is an architect by trade who is the guru behind the Greater New Orleans Water Urban Plan. He spoke several times last week in the area to civic leaders, elected officials and interested citizens about his experience in flood management in the Crescent City and elsewhere.
Waggoner’s philosophy suggests embracing the power water has in shaping the topography and development of coastal cities. He was a measured, quiet speaker.
He tied the overall modern philosophy of More! Faster! Now! to the love of concrete, pumps and asphalt as a go-to water management plan.
Waggonner, who toured our area with an 18th century map of the city at hand, would rather see stormwater treated where it falls, allowed to percolate through the ground in rain gardens, water-centric public parks, landscaping and other features.
It is a view of the interaction between man and nature that will resonate with lovers of the good Earth and the environmentally minded folks who call Northwest Florida home. And happily, there are lot of those folks here.
But for other folks, folks with aspirations of a political nature, Waggonner offered a carrot as well.
Speaking to the audience Friday at the Pensacola Bay Center, Waggonner had about 100 citizens in attendance.
He also had the Escambia County Commissioners and Pensacola City Councilmembers, County Administrator Jack Brown and Mayor Ashton Hayward all as a captive audience.
And as he spoke, he played the card that no ambitious elected person can resist: “Speaking as the son of a politician…” began the man whose father was Joe D. Waggonner, a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Bossier Parish, La., who served from 1961 to 1979.
“Florida knows about water pretty well,” he said. “I think that’s innate here.”
Where he comes from, he said, too many folks still have to use their whole brain just to grasp the concept that you can’t fight the water forever. Floridians seem to be ahead of Louisianans on that score.
Waggonner said that if the science about the way sea levels will rise bears out, coastal communities like ours will be on the front line of those changes.
“The leadership role Northwest Florida should play is significant,” Waggonner said. “If you here get knowledge about this, think about the leadership position you’d have.”
So maybe you aren’t moved by the argument that water ultimately will go where it wants to go, no matter how many pumping stations we build and how much asphalt we lay.
Maybe the practical and philosophical merits of “green” design are not what spin your wheels.
Maybe you think talking about stormwater is a one-way ticket to Snoozeville.
If it is power that you seek, if it is influence that you crave, let that part of Waggonner’s argument wash over your pert ears.
Because one day, Don Gaetz will no longer be president of the Florida Senate. And when he isn’t, thanks to term limits, elected officials from around here will be churned-and-burned through the halls of Tallahassee with nary a second glance.
We lack the population and the money that our brothers and sisters in Central and South Florida command.
So if we can develop an expertise in something besides being the poorest large county in the state, we can make our voice worth listening to.
That would be the kind of thing you could take to the bank -- and the ballot box.