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Sunday April 20th 2014

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Outtakes—Hayward Sidestep

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward’s missteps are never his fault. The blame is often placed instead on his staff, former city managers or the Pensacola City Council.

Last year, he and his former city administrator, Bill Reynolds, pushed three ordinances to prevent another Occupy Pensacola encampment on city hall property and rid downtown Pensacola of homeless people. The pleas from citizens and this newspaper that they were essentially outlawing homelessness went unheeded.

The Pensacola City Council approved the ordinances in May 2013. The council wanted to show that they were team players and went along with Hayward’s vision. Only councilmembers Sherri Myers, Charles Bare, and Gerald Wingate dissented.

Then Winter Storm Leon hit two weeks ago, and the homeless risked arrest if they covered themselves in the sub-30 degree weather. Rev. Nathan Monk, Myers and others began pushing the mayor to change his position and asked the city council to revise the laws. The ordinances recommended by Hayward and pushed by Reynolds were putting lives at risk.

Councilwoman Myers proposed new ordinances. Rev. Monk created an online petition, which garnered over 9,000 signatures as of press time for this paper. Hayward was getting the kind of attention he abhors.

The mayor’s communication director, Tamara Fountain, and his former press secretary, Derek Cosson, met with Monk to see if they could get him to drop the matter.  Myers’ proposals would be on the Thursday, Feb. 13 council agenda. Fountain and Cosson told the minister that that only people in “your camp” would be showing up, according to Monk.

They questioned his data. They argued that there were enough shelters for every adult male in the city. When the minister asked what shelters were within the city limits, they couldn’t name one. Monk left thinking the mayor’s office had no intention to change its laws.

The next day Hayward issued a statement that “after prayer and reflection,” he would support the ordinance on the agenda that would allow the homeless to cover themselves. He didn’t mention that the bad ordinances were his idea. He didn’t credit Myers for her proposals.

In fact, the mayor distanced himself from the current homeless laws.

“Last year, in an effort to protect the aesthetics, public health and safety of our community,” Hayward said, “the City Council adopted an ordinance, which prohibits camping on public property.”

It was the “bad” city council, his favorite foil, which was responsible for the mess, not him. Despite city documents and meeting videos to the contrary, Hayward wanted to place all blame on the council, rather than accept that his laws were misguided and had unintended consequences.

So sad, so immature, so not “strong.”