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Business support of candidates is not conspiracy — it’s democracy | Opinion

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

Every year thousands of FSU, FAMU and TCC graduates walk across the stage at the Tucker Civic Center, receive a diploma, and leave town for bigger cities. Grow Tallahassee represents the young start-ups, business owners and professionals who buck the trend and stay, who see Tallahassee as more than a sleepy old town.

Our group believes in Tallahassee’s potential for growth and development, to retain talent and become an economic powerhouse. This is the ideal we advocate for.

Growth in Tallahassee can only occur when we have honest discussions about what that looks like and how it affects our community. After the recent FBI investigations and scandals, it has become easier to label developers or corporate businesses as corrupt “fat cats” than to have a fact-based discussion on the benefits of a given project. In this environment, a commissioner seeking to have an informed discussion on development risks political blowback and accusations of being “on the take.” This does a disservice to the Tallahassee residents who benefit most from development.

Development creates jobs, stimulates the economy, and through tax incentives provides a reinvestment of public dollars. Tallahassee needs these things more than ever. In the wake of a global pandemic, Tallahassee faces rising unemployment, around 30% loss of revenue to local governments, and a decrease in sales tax revenues, which we utilize for public infrastructure investments.

In addition to advocating for much needed development, Grow Tallahassee supports candidates that understand the need for growth and have the experience to balance progressive growth with the preservation of Tallahassee’s unique character.

Engaged voters who believe in a candidate often volunteer their time to campaigns, waving signs, knocking on doors, staffing phone banks, and devoting countless hours to the candidate they feel will best represent them. After all, the ability to support a political candidate or ideal you believe in is central to our golden right to free speech.

We follow this principle and encourage those who want to see growth to get engaged, whether they are meeting with a local official to advocate for progressive growth, speaking at a public meeting or volunteering for a candidate who supports their ideals. We also encourage our members to consider an equally important democratic process: contributing monetarily to the candidates who support growth in Tallahassee.

Often political donations are seen as a dirty part of an election cycle. There is a recurring narrative that these dollars come with strings attached, and that these contributions corrupt the politicians who receive them. As with development, it is easier to dismiss these contributions as something more sinister than everyday voters contributing to candidates they believe in.

When multiple developers and business owners come together and exercise their constitutional right to support a given candidate through political donations — as we have seen in this election cycle — it is an indication of the strength of that candidate’s platform, rather than a sign of corruption.

We want to have honest, fact-based discussions about growth in Tallahassee and we will unapologetically continue to support the ideals and people who have Tallahassee’s best interests at heart. For those who disagree, we welcome constructive debate. For those who want to see Tallahassee excel and reach its potential, we encourage you to get involved, vote for pro-growth candidates, and join us in our local democratic process.

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