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WASTE WATCH: Controversy over new commercial promoting Pensacola

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 02:34 PM CDT
PENSACOLA -- A political shakedown may be in the works for Escambia County. This, just after the latest run-in with the Chamber of Commerce.

A tourism commercial cost the county 270-thousand dollars.
As Channel 3's Christina Leavenworth tells us.

It all came as a shock to county commissioners and they say something is going to change.

Commissioners say the money was allocated to the Tourism Administration and Convention Committee, and they trusted them to spend it frugally, never expecting them to spend more than 250-thousand dollars on an ad. Now they say they may need to change the political structure in Escambia County.

You may have seen this "Visit Pensacola" commercial pop up on your TV. The final price tag: 270-thousand dollars. The money is coming from Visit Pensacola's approved marketing budget; a budget funded by Escambia County tax dollars. But when county commissioners saw this bill, they felt blindsided!

Gene Valentino, County Commissioner: "We didn't know it until after the fact it and that adds insult to injury. Every time we turn around the county commissioner is being blamed else something else we didn't know about either...."

That's not all. Visit Pensacola is also spending more than 490-thousand dollars to run the ad in other cities. The chamber says the cost is part of competing with other beach destinations, but the county is reconsidering the way money is spent.

Valentino: "We did that allocation to go through to TDC, we did not micromanage that allocation we relied on the effective use of those dollars...."

They aren't the only ones who feel insulted. The commercial was shot by a Nashville production firm. Local directors feel they could have done the job, and for much less.
Mike cotton has 50 years of production experience, and says he could have produced a similar commercial for less than 20,000 dollars.

Mike Cotton: "You have so many talented people in the comm and they are going we don't have a chance, they are going who is calling these shots...."

Now he and other locals in the production world are creating a political group to make sure their voice is heard.

Valentino: "The mission will be to try and keep production money local when we film local, its simple."

As far as the county is concerned, Commissioner Gene Valentino says enough is enough, and something is going to change.

 Valentino: "It's not very effective right now, is it?"

The Commission is going to look at the tourism and economic development money and figure out if it is in the right hands.

Valentino: "Everything is going to change because I'm not pleased with the way its going now, we cant keep taking shots on issues as if we are victims of stuff we aren't directly aware of. So you are going to see some leadership, step up, lead follow or get out of the way..."

Valentino says they will discuss the future of tourism and economic development in their July Committee of the Whole meeting.
Wednesday, the chamber is meeting to discuss why the ad cost so much. The production company still hasn't been paid.

WASTE WATCH: Controversy over new commercial promoting Pensacola


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