HATE POLITICS Pensacola has become defined by its hates. Most communities have a driven passion to improve their quality of life. Sadly, that gene appears to have been nearly eliminated from Pensacola’s landscape.
Recently, I met with a man with a worthwhile project. He was distraught because everywhere he turned someone objected to another person or group being involved. He was completely baffled by how grudges block so many initiatives.
The Maritime Park took seven years to complete because former City Councilman Marty Donovan and his Save Our City pals wouldn’t listen to the citizens. Even after the referendum for the park passed in 2006, they continued to undermine the project, demonize park advocate Quint Studer and threaten more referendums on the park.
Meanwhile, families left the city in droves. Poverty and crime rose inside the city. The disparities between the east and west sides of Pensacola grew even greater. None of this mattered. The park and Studer had to be stopped. Fortunately, they did not prevail.
The hate runs deep in the African-American community too. Political races rarely focus on the positives of the candidates. Though generations of black college graduates have left for brighter prospects in Orlando, Atlanta and other cities, the older African-American leaders refuse to mentor and support young leaders. I don’t think that there is a civil rights group in Pensacola that has a leader under 50 years old.
A political rally for an African-American candidate is more likely to be filled with attacks on the opponents than praise for the candidate holding the rally. Those with the least accomplishments are always the first to shout someone has been “bought out by the white man.”
The Pensacola City Council has become embroiled in hate politics. Anyone appearing before the city’s legislative body must negotiate through a landmine of personal whims and hates. In most cities, councils can look beyond past hurts and see the greater good—not so here.
Pen Air Federal Credit Union moving to downtown Pensacola should have been celebrated. The recommendation should have be on the consent agenda so that the council could have joined Mayor Ashton Hayward in sending a message that Pensacola wants businesses and jobs. Instead, it became an opportunity to bash and embarrass the building’s owner and the mayor’s staff.
Pensacola is on the verge of a renaissance, but only if it can curb its impulse to hate and channel that energy into finding ways to cooperate to improve the quality of life for all its citizens.
I pray it can.