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Thursday April 24th 2014

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Outtakes:Taking Off the Training Wheels


By Rick Outzen

Whenever this newspaper is critical of an elected official, there is always backlash. Rather than taking responsibility for their actions, politicians often declare victim status and whine about how unfairly they have been treated.

Last year, we had the Pensacola City Council spend hours patting themselves on the back and reassuring themselves that the meanies at the News Journal and this newspaper were treating them unfairly. Editors and reporters and their families and loved ones were attacked in retaliation.

Commissioner Wilson Robertson took 20 minutes at the county’s swearing-in ceremony to jump the daily newspaper, its former government reporter, Jamie Page, and me because of what he considered was biased reporting. His “facts” weren’t true, but it was great theatre.

Now we have Mayor Ashton Hayward and his posse upset over the Independent News’ coverage of him.

“Why is Rick so upset with Hayward?” is what we’re hearing from city staff, council members and others.

The answer is simple. Because he is screwing up. Pretty smiles can only get you so far, especially when people are dying in your city housing projects.

What have we seen out of the mayor’s office since January 1?

The Penzone debacle. The mayor attempts to appoint his favorite city consultant to the county’s RESTORE advisory, gives no reasons why, calls an unlawful special meeting to pressure the council to approve it and gets slapped down.

Missing bollards. The mayor tells the Greater Pensacola Chamber board of directors that he has ordered bollards to close vehicle traffic on Palafox Place during Gallery Nights. The board applauds his leadership. The bollards weren’t ordered.

The Zimmerman Agency. The mayor terminates his handpicked marketing firm. When the city council asks questions, the city administrator declares he has a “binder” with all the shocking facts. The next day we learn there is no binder.

Oliver Report. The mayor’s communications team tries to leverage a report on the finances of the maritime park to force the Pensacola Blue Wahoos to renegotiate its 10-year lease for the stadium. The move blows up in their faces when the team shows cuts the city could make on its own to reduce the losses.

And there’s more. The Port of Pensacola has a tenant shutdown owing the city over $215,000. The Pensacola International Airport may lose AirTran.

It’s time to take off the mayor’s training wheels and see what he and his revamped leadership team can deliver. We will continue to report on his successes and missteps.

I guess that does make us meanies.