Over the past four months, you’ve heard the chamber say this when talking about the economy: Reopen, Recover, Reimagine. While we’ve reopened, the recovery is ongoing and the reimagine is being discussed. Our Economic Recovery Task Force has done a great job providing the chamber with thoughts and ideas on what’s to come. One of the major events just ahead of us is an election, an election that has not received much attention due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On the line is the State House District 4 Seat, the County Commission District 5 Seat (there are others, but this is our district), Okaloosa County School Superintendent, and Destin City Council (not until November). The primary is Aug. 18, and several seats will be decided then. When you go to the polls, we ask that you vote for pro-business, pro-quality growth, pro-citizen candidates. The chamber cannot and will not endorse any candidate for any seat. But we do encourage you to do your research and learn who is pro-business. Coming out of a downed economy, we need elected officials who support the business community.
Also ahead of us in November are four constitutional amendments, and for those who live in Destin City Limits, a charter change concerning building heights. One of the constitutional amendments is a mandatory $15 per hour minimum wage. The Destin Chamber is opposed to this.
There are several reasons why we oppose it. 1) This is an issue that can be and should be handled legislatively, if the Florida Legislature wanted to pursue this. The Constitution is no place for this mandate. 2) Coming out of a terrible economic downturn, this is one of the worst things that could happen to the business community. Small and large businesses alike do not need another expensive mandate. 3) If passed, businesses will either have to decrease expenses or raise prices to be able to afford the rate increase. 4) Servers and bartenders in our restaurants actually stand to lose money because of the taxing structure and mandates on tipped employees. 5) As businesses look to decrease expenses, many full-time employees will be shifted to part-time so the business does not have to pay benefits to those employees. That means there will be more working people who lose benefits, such as health, dental and vision insurance. The loss of those benefits could cause greater problems down the road. OR the businesses will become more automated with self-service checkouts and kiosks for ordering, which will eliminate jobs and causing unemployment to increase. Loss of income from reduced hours will also be a negative. 6) If you know the organization who acquired the signatures to put this on the ballot, you’d know they are not doing this because they think the increased wage is positive. They’re doing it for voter turnout, trying to influence the election with an issue they don’t really care about. There are many other reasons to oppose this amendment, but I only have limited space to write. We encourage you to vote NO on this issue.
Destin City Council has passed a City Charter Amendment to be on the ballot as well. This amendment would place in the city’s charter a limitation on building heights to six stories or 75 feet. Anyone who wishes to have a building higher than that would have to wait for the next election, and the voters would decide whether to allow the building to be higher than 75 feet. This is a nefarious attempt to not only control development, but to stop it completely. It is also ludicrous that this be put into the City Charter. This, just like the minimum wage, is a legislative issue for council to decide. By the council putting this in the city charter, it takes councilmembers off the hook from having to make a decision about a development, and that is wrong. It doesn’t belong in the charter.
The mindset of city council that development only means condos and/or residential units has to change. It can mean many other things. If city council wants to make a decision on quality development, something we all should desire and work toward, they should build parking garages in the Harbor District. This was promised to the businesses there years ago when those businesses agreed to allow the city to build the boardwalk along the harbor. Parking garages would relieve the traffic on Harbor Boulevard, especially in the summer. Parking garages are the only piece of public infrastructure that pay for themselves. It really is a no-brainer.
The Destin Chamber opposes the amendment to the City Charter that would restrict building heights and ask citizens to vote on any building higher than six stories or 75 feet. We encourage you to vote NO on this issue.
Thank you for your continued support of the Destin Chamber. You have continued to renew your memberships. You’ve continued to compliment your chamber on what we have been providing you during this pandemic. You’ve stayed with us, and we will continue to stay with you. After all, that’s how we’ll build this world-class community one business at a time. And it’s how we will stay #ChamberStrong!