What Is Blueprint? The intergovernmental agency finds itself in public crosshairs after controversial votes on stadium projects
Tallahassee resident Whitfield Leland recently asked a question: What is Blueprint? “Is OEV [the Office of Economic Vitality] supposed to build stadiums? I mean if that's the case, cool. If that's not the case, explain to us what it is or direct staff to put workshops to really make it where we understand so we ain't up here out here in the community bashing each other for something that we don't understand or how the process works.”
The question has been raised by local residents in recent weeks following a controversial vote by the intergovernmental agency that granted Florida State University millions of dollars for stadium improvements and repairs. Not everyone is convinced that money is being spent wisely, or in accordance with Blueprint’s mission.
Blueprint was initially created in 1989 through a voter referendum. It’s funded through a once-cent sales tax surcharge. Voters re-authorized Blueprint in 2000 and again in 2014. The board is made up of all city and county commissioners. And it has two functions: Infrastructure and Economic Development. Blueprint’s director, Autumn Calder says the money for funding those programs is also divided.
“The sales tax funds that come in through our Blueprint program are divided into different pots. So, 66% of the sales tax goes into the Infrastructure program where I work and 12% of the sales tax funds go into the Office of Economic Vitality program. 10% goes to the city of Tallahassee, another 10% goes to Leon County and another 2% goes to a project that’s implemented by Leon County called the Life program.”
Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier says a lot of the confusion could be from the city and county not explaining Blueprint well enough.
“I have tried, even in the last year, to shine a light on that and actually got a motion passed to hold separate economic development and infrastructure meetings to address this very concern," she said.
The board recently voted to give Florida State University $20 million for Doak Campbell Stadium repairs. Florida A&M University had previously received $10 million from Blueprint, and Tallahassee Community College got $1 million. Dozier voted no on all of those projects.
A slew of public comments during the recent FSU vote questioned whether that money is in alignment with Blueprint’s mission.
“If Blueprint funds such a controversial and unpopular project as this, you could end up killing the golden goose,” said local resident Randy Dinker.
“Voters may get disgusted and stop voting for funding and that would be a real pity because Blueprint has been such an asset to this community. But if this is what Blueprint’s going to be in the future, I personally will not vote for it again and I’ve spoken to some of the original members of the Blueprint committee and they say they won’t either.”
Dinker said the project isn’t what she voted for when Blueprint came up for renewal in 2014, and she’s not certain she would vote for it again.
That sentiment worries Tallahassee Commissioner Jack Porter. She says the amount of negative public response to the FSU vote could impact Blueprint the next time it comes up for renewal.
“The original mission of blueprint was to provide funding for major infrastructure projects that would benefit all of Tallahassee and all of Leon County. So, I don't think in the mind of the voters that included renovations to a stadium.”
In its more than 30-year existence, Blueprint has funded more than hundred of millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure and economic development projects—like the expansion of Capital Circle, and Cascades Park.
“The Blueprint program is a really exciting investment in ourselves to position this community, to improve our sense of place and achieve those broader community goals such as protecting the environment and reducing traffic," said Calder.
During the same meeting commissioners approved funding for Doak Campbell Stadium, they also approved a park on Orange Ave and funding for the animal service center.