Like most politicians, Brian Spencer isn’t big on straight talk. Asked about how stance on the Port of Pensacola, he talks about “transitioning” the Port and throws around buzzwords like “mixed use” while sharing historic photos of the Port on Instagram.
But make no mistake: If Brian Spencer is elected mayor, he will close our 275-year-old port, and Pensacola will lose that economic potential forever.
You see, Spencer doesn’t care about the jobs that the Port supports, either directly through stevedores and other port workers, or indirectly, like those at our GE plant who make wind turbines that are exported from the Port. Those aren’t Brian Spencer’s people.
“…a shameful display of our city’s diminished sense of self worth.”Brian Spencer on the Port of Pensacola, 2007
No, Spencer’s people are the wealthy elite; the folks who want downtown Pensacola to look less like a regional center of commerce and more like Seaside or 30A. When Spencer’s people look at the Port, they don’t see commerce or jobs — they see condos and upscale boutiques and waterfront restaurants.
Instead of being upfront about that, though, Spencer pretends that there’s some chance he’d support the port as mayor, recently calling himself “an advocate for clean maritime industry.”
The truth is that Brian Spencer has been trying to close the Port of Pensacola for more than two decades. Way back in 1999, the Pensacola News Journal called Spencer “a longtime port opponent” in a story about a “private study” of “alternative uses of the Port” which Spencer had commissioned. In 2003, Spencer sued the city — unsuccessfully — to stop the Port from moving forward with a new tenant. And in 2007, Spencer called the Port a “shameful display of our city’s diminished sense of self-worth.”
Closing the Port would cost Pensacola more than just jobs. We’d lose grant opportunities: Port grants helped pay for the Pensacola Fire Department’s fire boat and a fire training simulator, for the internal fiberoptic network that connects City Hall to the Port and community centers, and much more.
Reasonable people can disagree about the Port of Pensacola and its future. But we should expect and demand honesty from public officials and candidates. If Brian Spencer wants to close the Port — and he does — he should say so.