Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Murphy's Econ Dev Summit: Panel Gets Q's - Public Q's Vetted, Illegal Notice, Econ Dev Chief Shunned

Part I: prelude

The complete Lake City Reporter Currents Jan. - Feb. 2018 cover. The LCR refused to  post this issue of Currents on it's website. It did not give an explanation for the omission.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On tap tonight, County Chairman Tim Murphy's so called Economic Development Summit is scheduled to begin a 6 pm at Florida Gateway College's Media Center. This is a Columbia County 5 organized special meeting, which required 7 days advance notice in the Newspaper. Nobody tells the County 5 what to do: there was no advertisement.


County 5 Chairman Tim Murphy, who previously appointed himself as Chair of the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB), began publically speaking about having a "Summit" during the February 7, 2018 EDAB meeting. Mr. Murphy told the board, "Once I get started it's hard to stop."

A little while later he said, "I'm goin' to be seekin' information from you guys on this Summit we're gonna' call it. I want everybody's input. Help me kind of form this thing... This here gotta' give us all public wise some guidance with that... I'm gonna' have a sit down, Dennille and a couple of the people in the community that's gonna' kinda' help me organize this thing through conjunction with the Chamber and the College." (excerpt edited for length)

Again, during the March 2018 EDAB meeting Mr. Murphy spoke about his Summit, making a point to say that it would tentatively be scheduled for the third week of April "if it didn't conflict with another county issue at hand."

Columbia County's Phillips (left) and Nash duringa Suwannee Valley Transit Authority meeting. They ignore the needs of Columbia County's residents.  See: SVTA: Columbia County Commissioners Nash & Phillips Put Columbia Cnty Residents Last  – Again

This courteous gesture is something completely ignored by his brethren, Commissioners Nash and Phillips.

Mr. Murphy told the committee: "I think that economic development has come a long ways in the last five years, but there's always room for [improvement]... I want to get public input at this summit from every walk of life. I think we can be a lot more successful if we target industry and capitalize on it. I'm not sayin' we don't go after a hundred pounds or nothin' along them lines... It's probably gonna' be a three hour meeting of nothin' but a lot of suggestions and ideas. I was just wantin' to get ya alls input. You're gonna' have an opportunity to speak freely when you're there."

The EDAB is a long standing committee of businessmen who have volunteered for at least a decade to make recommendations on Columbia County Economic Development.

According to emails sent out by the Chamber of Commerce, none of the EDAB members have been invited to be on the panel. The Chamber President is Mike McKee, the public relations head of FGC.

Beth Kirkland tries to bring Columbia County to the "Next Level."

Mr. Murphy continued, "We're not goin' come up with legislation or nothin' like that, but I think we're gonna' get a better approach -- what lane we want -- you know -- if we pick two or three we're gonna' focus on them and stay hard core on that and try and not let the little things side track us... I don't think we've looked at this long range."

This is not true. The state of Florida gave Columbia County $40,000 to develop a long range strategic plan. Another Economic Development Master Plan For Columbia County: Paid For By The Taxpayers

Two years later the Strategic Plan was updated by the EDAB when it was led by Commissioner Nash: Econ Dev Strategic Plan Committee Meets: More Interested in Massaging the Truth Than Telling It

During the April EDAB meeting Mr. Murphy told the Board, "I met with Mike McKee and Dennille [Chamber Director Dennille Decker] to try and set this summit up at the college... I'm lookin' for a roundhouse discussion -- which way we need to be headed towards economic development."

Your reporter asked the purpose of the summit.

The great dog and pony show gets underwayMr. Murphy explained, "My whole thing is get the city on line with us, and us online with the city, and us online with the state.... Years ago we had a big sit down at the college (The Great Columbia County Dog and Pony Show) ... It's time to get the public involved... I want people to start hashin' out ideas and give Glenn firm direction."

Hand Picked Panel Gets the Questions

The Chamber's Ms. Decker and Mr. McKee gave Chairman Murphy assistance in contacting proposed panel members. None of them were EDAB members. According to County Manager Ben Scott, he had been left out of the loop on the Summit until last Wednesday.

The nongovernmental (excepting Nick Patel) handpicked panel members are: Weyerhaeuser's Greg Galpin, Re/Max's Missy Zechner, O'Neal Roofing's Chum O'Neal, and Hotel Owner and TDC member, Nick Patel.

The Questions

The handpicked group felt insecure about being asked questions on the blind. Ms. Decker forwarded them along:

1)   What should economic development in Columbia County look like in the next five years? Should there be an emphasis on manufacturing, logistics, industrial, etc?

2)   What do you feel are Columbia County’s selling points when it comes to recruiting economic development?

3)   What are our weaknesses that prevent economic development from happening in Columbia County?

4)   We have identified five locations that we feel are primed for economic growth. Those locations are: Bell Road, I-75 and Ellisville, I- 75 and SR 47, Lake City Airport, North Florida Intermodal Park. What is needed for these sites to become shovel ready or are they currently? Are there other locations that need to be included in this list?

5)   Do you consider expansion of existing high paying industry as part of our ongoing economic development strategy? Why or why not?

The Public: Meet Prior Restraint
Inappropriate Material

So far, the Columbia County public is to be treated like children.

Public citizens in order to ask a question will have to write them down and have them double vetted and read by the College's Mike McKee.

According to Ms. Decker, the College says it is afraid that a Columbia County public citizen questioner might violate an FCC rule, as the college does not have a delay.

Public meetings are broadcast live all the time without time delay, including local government, the Florida legislature and the U.S. government. One would be hard pressed to remember any scandals that caused such harm as to change the course of history.

It would appear that this excuse is being used to censor and vet its public citizens, something that it does not do at its own meeting, where the public asks its own questions.

As this is purportedly a county meeting, it is not clear why the county's own rules do not apply.

Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter

As of last Wednesday morning, according emails by Ms. Decker, the County's Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter was not invited to attend the meeting or be a panel member.

That has changed, and Mr. Hunter has been invited by Chairman Murphy to sit in the audience to be on hand to answer questions on which the panel is stumped.


The Observer asked College President Barrett for his comments regarding prior restraint and the vetting of the public's questions. He said he would be in touch. He said that vetting rules are not the policy of the College Board.

Columbia County Florida: the legend continues.

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