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Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey defends his support for FSU stadium funding ahead of a critical vote

Exterior shot of Doak Campbell Stadium.
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media
Exterior shot of Doak Campbell Stadium.

As a vote over whether to use local government money to fund stadium repairs at Florida State University approaches, Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey is on the defensive. A local progressive blog site recently reported Dailey has received more than $23,000 since December from some members of the FSU Boosters organization, the school’s board of trustees, and others associated with the institution. Dailey argues those donations are being mischaracterized and have no bearing on his support for the project.

Our Tallahassee’s reporton Dailey’s campaign contributions triggered this response from the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee, as first reported by Florida Politics:

“In light of recent news, the Leon County Democratic Executive Committee resolves that all campaign contributions to elected officials and voting members of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency or any public commission from persons currently or formerly affiliated with Florida State University leadership or leadership of its affiliates, including but not limited to the FSU Alumni Association, FSU Foundation, and Seminole Boosters, Inc. as well as anyone who may benefit from the decisions of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency be returned or rejected in effort to maintain public trust.”

The statement does not name the mayor directly. Dailey has been a vocal supporter of using $20 million in Blueprint money to fund repairs to Doak Campbell stadium.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday following a city commission workshop, Dailey maintained his support for the funding and labeled criticism of the donations as “voter suppression.” He also noted he is not the only locally elected official who has received campaign donations from FSU supporters, noting Tallahassee is a college town.

“Define ‘financially benefit’,” Dailey said. “If I own a restaurant on Gaines Street, I financially benefit. The truth is, we hope the entire community financially benefits by this vote moving forward. That’s what economic development is all about.”

Dailey said he has not yet spoken to the local Democratic party and says no one from the party has spoken to him.

Some local insiders say the Blueprint controversy misses broader issues—ones of governance and stewardship.

Blueprintis the Tallahassee-Leon County intergovernmental agency that was created in 1989 through a voter referendum and 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.

The 2000s version of Blueprint was, by several accounts, successful. It had a pre-planned list of projects that voters could see get done. Based on that success, voters reauthorized it in 2014 with a list for infrastructure projects. There is no such list of projects for the 12% of revenue that goes toward economic development.

Some say that lack of a list on the economic development side is effectively a blank check that has become a problem--as evidenced by the decisions to fund stadium repairs for Florida A&M University, athletic facility enhancements for Tallahassee Community College, and now, Florida State University.

Stadiums, say critics, were never part of, and should not be—Blueprint projects. However, preceding votes for FAMU and TCC opened the door for FSU’s ask.

Dailey is not the only local government official backing Blueprint. There have been several votes on the project along the way with City Commissioners Diane Williams-Cox and Curtis Richardson supporting FSU’s stadium funding. County Commissioners Nick Maddox, Bill Proctor, Jimbo Jackson and Carolyn Cummings have also supported FSU’s plan.

In May, County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, along with City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter voted against funding FSU’s request.

In September, the “no” votes were Dozier, County Commissioner Brian Welch, Porter and Matlow.

In December, the most recent vote, County Commissioner Rick Minor joined Welch, Porter, Matlow and Dozier in voting against funding for FSU.

The final vote on the FSU stadium funding is slated for Feb. 24th.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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