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Friday, June 24, 2016


One of the issues no one wants to talk about in Escambia County is poverty.  The amount of poverty in Escambia County affects a wide variety of public policy issues--funding and resources for the school district; the need for psychological health services for adults and children; the lack of health and dental care for many adults and children; hunger and the fact that 61,256 people were on the federal SNAP program in 2013; the availability of jobs paying a living wage; and, criminal behaviors.

In 2012, the Partnership for a Healthy Community, issued its third assessment on health outcomes (indicators) in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.  On pdf page 7 the Partnership reported:  "The results are most problematic for Escambia County, which, among Florida's 67 counties, ranks 18th in total population, but 24th in per capita income, and 63rd in government expenditures for health services.  Overall, for Escambia County, slightly less than 34% of the 234 indicators compare favorably to peer [similar counties] and state rates, while 47% are unfavorable to both. Over 15% of the indicators compared unfavorably to peer, but favorable to the state. The remaining 5% were favorable to peer, but unfavorable to the state."

In February 2013, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce issued a report, Capturing Opportunity: The Greater Pensacola Area Economic Development Strategy 2013-2018, laying out on page 4 its vision for the future:  "But becoming a stand-out economic development performer requires more. The region must diversify through growth of administrative offices, tech companies, higher education, medical care, aircraft maintenance and repair, cyber security, and the active retiree population. Successful economic development affects every local resident. Full employment, economic security, home ownership, the ability to fund quality education, fire and police protection, roads and parks, the increased vibrancy of downtown Pensacola – in sum, a good quality of life – all require a growing economy, good jobs, and a growing tax base."

On page 6, the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce noted that jobs in the area were well behind the national average in terms of pay stating that "wages average 79% of the U.S. average for jobs in Escambia County and only 68% for jobs in Santa Rosa County."  The Pensacola Chamber of Commerce indicated that poverty rates were rising and the most vibrant part of the workforce, those aged 20-34 years of age, were projected to decline over the next twenty years as they took their skills and energy elsewhere.

The Pensacola Chamber of Commerce's report emphasized building new development sites and improving the work skills of residents.  Even with a government-business partnership for economic growth, there is the need for government to be a partner, the need for government to use tax dollars wisely, and to get the most bang for the buck from each tax dollar.  Republicans and Democrats ought to see that the only way to reduce poverty in Escambia County, is first to address the need, and then use all the resources we have in the county--our representatives in state government, local elected officials, and local businesses--to create and execute a strategic plan.

Ray Guillory is taking that first step in raising the issue of poverty and the need to address it.  Public-private partnerships to build infrastructure and improve lives has been ongoing since the eighteenth century.  Even the late Paul Weyrich and his director of cultural conservatism, William S. Lind, wrote in their book (page 110), The Next Conservatism, that the "next conservatism should accept this precedent.  Its agenda should include providing adequate national and local infrastructure.  Our economy cannot flourish without it."  On page 112, they argued that "Economic security requires that people be able to get good paying jobs, which means manufacturing jobs."  On page 120, Weyrich and Lind suggested a "family wage is a wage that pays a head of household enough to give his family a middle-class standard of living with his wife staying home to take care of their children."  One can disagree with their prescription for wives to stay at home, but even very strong conservatives understand the necessity of providing families--however you define this unit--with a "family wage" or a "living wage."  The idea that families should have a "family wage" that allows them to live a middle-class life is a radical departure from Republican Party orthodoxy that the free market should determine wages, and, if those wages are too low for families to survive, well, too bad.

Ray Guillory is the only candidate running who understands that the only way to get people out of poverty is to provide them a solid education, to have well-paying local jobs creating clean energy and clean products, and to have state and local governments providing the infrastructure to attract or locally create those companies that provide these jobs.  Running around screaming about small government and low taxes is not going to solve the problem of poverty in Escambia County.  And it really does not help when national, state, and local candidates claim or are quiet about how foreigners ("Others") are stealing our jobs, or, claiming that government spending is really spending for undesirable people.  No, the poor in Escambia County are white and Black.  Those 60,000 people in Escambia County receiving federal assistance to combat hunger are not all Black.  There are a lot of white adults and children going to bed hungry.  Efforts to divide the poor are really efforts to keep white and Black folks poor.  Only Ray Guillory understands that we have to lift everybody out of poverty and stop playing the age-old game of divide-and-conquer.

Ray Guillory, Democratic candidate for Florida House District 2, gave a powerpoint presentation on June 28, 2016, at the main library on Spring Street, before an audience drawn from the Panhandle Democratic African American Women's Caucus, part of the network of the DAAWC headed by Leslie Wimes.  Guillory emphasized that both Republicans and Democrats need to talk about poverty in Escambia County and funding services that a large part of the community--Republican and Democrat, white and Black and brown--need to improve lives and the quality of our communities.

Small government and low taxes is fine.  But, is children going to bed hungry acceptable?  Is it acceptable that many children receive their only two meals of the day at school?  Is it acceptable that we expect children to learn at school when their families may be struggling to pay the light bill?  Is it acceptable that children in some neighborhoods can play where streets have sidewalks and overhead lights, while other children have to walk along roads with no sidewalks and no streetlights?  Is it acceptable that single mothers or fathers want to work but child care costs make work prohibitively expensive?  Is it acceptable that Escambia County does not have enough resources to provide health care, dental care, and mental health care?  Is it acceptable that the bulk of the jobs created inside Escambia County are low-wage jobs that do not provide a living wage for a family of four?  Is it acceptable that large employers come to Escambia County bringing thousands of jobs with them but hire very few residents of Escambia County?  Is it acceptable that these large employers receive millions of dollars in tax breaks or subsidies, but have no requirement to hire a percentage of Escambia County residents?

These are all troubling questions.  The potential answer, that most voters either do not care or think that not caring is acceptable is even more troubling.  Presented below is Ray Guillory's presentation as it was filmed and his slides.

Ray Guillory,candidate, Florida House District 2

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