Chamber Advocacy Update – December 9, 2015


The Greater Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce has been actively engaged in this issue going back to 2013.  We have hosted forums for the business community to provide their input and perspectives on the ordinance, we have had Chamber leadership sit on a community panel staffed by the City and recently participated in the volunteer forums hosted by CONA.

This is a complicated issue.  There are appropriate concerns on the part of neighborhoods, business and even law enforcement that all need to be adequately weighed and considered.  The most recent forums have taken place without the key component of law enforcement and issues regarding maximum sound limits, exempted districts and a variance process for existing business like The Moon haven’t been fully resolved.

The Chamber appreciates the years of commitment the City of Tallahassee has shown to create a mixed use urban community through the Comprehensive Plan and the Multimodal Transportation District. We would not want to see these efforts setback by rushing to adopt an ordinance that has not been completely vetted.

At this time, we recommend that the City delay the adoption of the Noise Ordinance.  We recommend reconvening the City’s original community panel to discuss the next steps and to continue what has been a very productive collaboration on a complex issue.  We think it more important to get the issue resolved correctly than quickly.


The December 9th City Commission agenda contains an important item – the City’s budget closeout.  During budget conversations over the summer with city staff, particularly assistant city manager, now manager Rick Fernandez, the chamber repeatedly urged a review of current expenditures and programs before pursuing a tax hike.  While not in charge at the time, city manager Fernandez said that he would make this kind of review a priority under his administration.

Fernandez now in charge seems to be making good on that pledge after only recently being installed as City Manager.

The City’s general fund ended the year with a surplus that resulted from lower than projected expenses and better than expected results.  And importantly, no unscheduled transfers from the general fund to any of the enterprise funds were necessary.  These surpluses will be returned to the citizens in the form of reduced utility rates.  According to the agenda item, staff recommends that Solid Waste rates be reduced by 5%, and that electric and natural gas rates be reduced to reflect the lower trend in domestic energy prices.  A typical residential customer would see a decrease of about 3% in electric costs and a 3.7% decrease in natural gas costs.  These reductions represent approximately $11 million in annualized savings to customers.


We at the Greater Tallahassee Area Chamber of Commerce would like to congratulate Rick Fernandez on becoming the City’s City Manager.  His appointment became effective November 21, 2015.  Fernandez has been a leader at City Hall for nearly 30 years. He served as city auditor from 1988 until 1998, when Favors Thompson made him assistant city manager over utilities, a position he’s held ever since.  The 61-year-old became the heir apparent to replace Anita Favors Thompson in April, when the commission crowned him city manager in waiting.


Last month Leon County hosted a job fair for more than 300 junior and senior high school students seeking opportunities for skilled jobs not requiring a four year degree.  Armed with statistics that show 10,000 new jobs could be created in Leon and surrounding counties over the next seven years, Leon County set about creating the fair to make sure there’s a workforce prepared to fill those positions.

Spurred by Leon County Commission Chairman Mary Ann Lindley, county staff and a network of partners, including the Economic Development Council,  the “Leon Works Expo” saw tremendous from not only students but also more than 90 employers.  Among the participating businesses were those in the following fields: home-health, veterinary services, electricians, plumbers, draftsmen and computer network architects.

Thanks should go out to Commissioner Lindley, Leon County staff and all the other partners for creating these opportunities.