DUELING VISIONS FOR DESTIN
With the Nov. 6 general election just days away, two competing visions for the future have emerged — and those visions extend all the way down to Destin.
The Log asked local restaurateur Charles Morgan, a proud Democrat, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, former GOP presidental candidate Mike Huckabee and Jerry Mallory of the Okaloosa Democrats to share their thoughts on what the local landscape would look like under the leadership of a re-elected President Barack Obama or challenger Mitt Romney. Each man was given the opposite party to analyze.
Log: Paint your own picture of what the local community would look like under a Romney presidency. Morgan: I’m a Democrat. I can’t help that anymore than I can change the color of my eyes or hair, or the fact that I’m short and sort of pudgy.
My father took me into a polling booth when I was 6 years old and John Kennedy was about to be elected president. He closed the curtain and explained to me that as an American, voting was sacred. No one had to know who you voted for. It was a private matter. When that curtain closed and it was dark, he let me know that there was no one in that booth except for God and us. And God, he said, was a Democrat.
I’ll be voting for President Obama. I don’t think Gov. Romney is as bad as some people say; and I don’t think President Obama is as good as some of his supporters think. I know one thing. My youngest daughter entered college this fall. We’ve been fighting a war in Afghanistan since she was in kindergarten. I hope one of the candidates will bring our brave troops home.
It’s curious to me that on a local, state, and national level, the Republican Party seems to chant the same mantra. “Less government… Less taxes… Fiscal responsibility.”
In Okaloosa County, for 25 years, I don’t think we have had a single Democrat elected to office. There has been no gridlock facing our Republican leaders. They’ve had a clear, unobstructed path to achieve their goals. We’ve had 25 years for Republicans to show us how a government works with less of everything except for a heavy dose of fiscal responsibility.
I’m for all of those things. But Republicans either need to come up with some new talking points, or show that they are serious when they talk about smaller government and sound financial policy. Their performance has been, at best, unimpressive. At its worst, it’s been embarrassing.
Regardless of who leads this country for the next four years, we’ll be okay in Destin. My friend Kelly Windes is our new representative on the county commission. His leadership will mean more to our area than the administration of Gov. Romney or President Obama.
The Log then moved on to specifics, asking about the local fishing industry and fishing regulations The fishing industry, which is far more important in Destin than in South Walton, will be forced to adapt to constantly changing regulations. You need to be a marine biologist/mathematician/lawyer/lobbyist to survive the bureaucracy that controls our fisheries. I don’t think either candidate for president will dramatically change the level of frustration our charter and commercial fishermen face. The most successful aspects of our industry in Destin seem to be the tourist boats that take people on boat rides and the smaller bay boats that take people trout and red fishing in Choctawhatchee Bay.
The local real estate market Residential and commercial real estate markets are affected by the national economy. Take your pick on who will restore our economy in a fundamentally sound manner. I’m picking Obama. But I could be wrong. However, our local markets are far more sensitive to our local leaders and the policies they develop as to the success of our area in terms of real estate values.
Traffic along Hwy. 98 and the 30A corridor I have no idea how a President Romney would affect traffic along Hwy. 98. I do know that almost all progressive, modern cities in the world are doing everything to limit our reliance on automobiles. Cities in the U.S. are deliberately making it expensive and difficult to drive within their environs. Our local leaders should make dramatic steps to encourage pedestrian and bicycle paths through our area.
Local small business community Our local businesses face a set of challenges that will never be addressed by the president of the United States. Again, the vibrancy of Destin’s business community depends on our local leaders. Unfortunately, in many aspects the horse is out of the barn in Destin. The abundance of excess retail, office, and residential real estate creates problems. The abundance of garish T-shirt shops, chain restaurants, strip centers, and retail outlets, has created a Myrtle Beach/Panama City look that is not conducive to higher income vacationers.
Local environment — from beach restoration to our coastal dune lakes In regards to the local environment and parks, Democrats usually show more concern regarding everything from inshore oil drilling to protection of federal lands. Beach restoration has been a remarkably controversial issue considering that a relative handful of opponents continue to thwart restoration efforts. The biggest threat to our beaches, however, is storms. Neither candidate for president has any control over the formation or paths of hurricanes.
MATT GAETZ'S TAKE:
Log: Paint your own picture of what the local community would look like under an Obama presidency. Gaetz: The most substantial threat that a second Obama term poses to Northwest Florida is a weakened economy and a weakened military mission. As a result of President Obama's failures in leadership, our military is at risk of massive cuts without regard to the impact on our nation's security or developing weapons systems. It is often said that when the Pentagon gets a cold, Northwest Florida gets the flu. If President Obama persists with an anti-military agenda, our community could see billions of dollars in private sector defense contracting capital relocate to places like California and Virginia, leaving countless Northwest Floridians unemployed. The economy of our community hangs in the balance this November. I hope that Florida and the nation make the right choice.
The Log then moved on to specifics, asking about the local fishing industry and fishing regulations During the last four years, the Obama administration has done economic violence to the fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico. The next four years would be no different. Fishing seasons have been shortened and bag limits reduced despite any rational relationship to fishery stocks, which are on the rise for key species like red snapper. Even when the State of Florida has stood with our fishermen by extending fishing seasons, the Obama Administration has threatened the federal fishing licenses of those who would take advantage of longer recreational fishing seasons in state waters. The Obama administration has a record of caring more about its image with radical environmentalists than it does about the jobs of those who make a living fishing the Gulf of Mexico.
The local real estate market The real estate economy is often a symptom of the economy as a whole. The Obama administration has hurt the economy by driving investment out of our country. How can we sell more homes or grow businesses if the Obama administration continues to force Americans to pay the highest corporate tax rates in the world? Commercial real estate will particularly suffer if local businesses go out of business following crippling taxes associated with Obamacare.
Traffic along Hwy. 98 and the 30A corridor Under the Obama administration, America saw our first credit downgrade in history. Since virtually ever transportation project in America is funded either through bonds or some other form of debt, harm to our credit directly impacts our ability to enhance infrastructure. As debt becomes more and more expensive through higher interest rates, ambitious transportation projects such as Highway 98 restructuring will become even more unlikely to occur in a second Obama term.
Local small business community Local businesses need the "Three C's" to grow: cash, customers and credit. Cash from local businesses will be depleted to pay the enormous costs associated with Obamacare. With national unemployment hovering around 8 percent, fewer Americans are vacationing in areas like Destin. This depletes the customer base. Finally, the Obama administration’s punitive regulation on local banks has limited the credit that local small businesses need to grow. Several of our local community banks are already under "cease and desist" orders from the Obama Administration to stop making commercial loans. This dangerous trend would continue in a second Obama term.
Local environment — from beach restoration to our coastal dune lakes The Florida Panhandle enjoys some of the most stunning coastlines in America. Fortunately, Congressman Jeff Miller has passed legislation ensuring that our beaches are included in the National Seashore program — even if the military were to deem some costal areas non-essential to military missions at area bases. For the foreseeable future, our coastlines appear secure.
JERRY MALLORY'S TAKE
No Democrat can speak for all Democrats, unlike the GOP whose elected members vote as the party directs and say what they are told to say.
Democrats see two presidential candidates offering two different paths for the American people. History will report that President Barack
Obama’s current path is moving America forward. His successful policies have directly benefited Northwest Florida.
Our tourism and fishing industries depend on a clean, healthy physical environment. We all want to swim in waters that will not make us sick and catch fish in waters that produce healthy marine life. President Obama has made protecting our environment a top priority and will continue to cut pollution and advance public health, protecting our community and natural resources while creating jobs, preserving habitats, and ensuring that future generations can enjoy our nation’s outdoor heritage.
The military and its supporting industries are vital to our economy. However, in our current fiscal environment, tough budgetary decisions must be taken within the defense budget. The president is committed to getting rid of Cold War, Reagan-era systems and invest in cutting-edge technologies while maintaining a versatile set of capabilities required now and in the coming 21st century. The military and aero-space industries are already geared up to work under these new requirements.
The real estate market in our area is showing signs of recovery. President Obama is committed to continue those actions that stabilized a housing market in crisis, helping families stay in their homes while cracking down on fraudulent mortgage lenders.
Gov. Romney is primarily being advised by staffers of the Bush Administration offering the same failed policies that created the worst financial and economic mess in U.S. history. Under the continued leadership of president Obama our local economy will continue to move forward by creating an economy that will last and be built from the middle out.
Jerry Mallory is chair of the Democratic Executive Committee
MIKE HUCKABEE'S TAKE
If President Obama is reelected, we'll be in for a very rough ride.
The heavy-handed rules of Dodd-Frank make it difficult for local banks to loan money to home buyers and business owners. The decisions are not able to be made by prudent local bankers, but by a federal matrix that was designed to rein in big national banks at the expense of community banks.
The defense cuts which will come from sequestration and/or from Obama's plans to gut the defense budget will have an apocalyptic impact on the Panhandle which has a strong and proud military foundation. It won't just be the direct cuts to the military installations themselves, but to the various contractors and the local businesses whose customer base is largely military.
The impact on tourism will be significant and the rising cost of gasoline causes increases in travel and food, nixing or cutting short vacations and leisure travel. And the radical views of the Obama Administration toward fishing could have a devastating impact on the very valuable fishing industry. If Obama succeeds in raising taxes as he plans, it will result in large numbers of layoffs in the retail and service sector, two critical components of the local economy.
With Romney, we will not have the fear of tax hikes, and his energy policies would likely open up opportunities for more exploration in oil and gas resulting in lower fuel costs. He will not allow the military to be gutted, and will put a priority on services to veterans.
I believe that his approach to allow more regulation decisions to be made at the state and local level will bring common sense and more opportunities for housing starts and purchases. I also believe he will keep his promise to respect the sanctity of human life, something Obama has not and will not do.
Mike Huckabee is past Arkansas governor, former GOP presidential candidate, FOX News radio and TV host and a South Walton resident.