Councilman Charles Bare submitted three city charter amendments for the Pensacola City Council to discuss and possibly put on the ballot for voters to consider later this year. His action generated an immediate reaction from Mayor Ashton Hayward, who defended the four-year-old charter in his “Upwords” newsletter.
Both Bare and Hayward, along with Donna Clark, have pre-filed for the mayor’s race so we can expect a certain amount of political posturing. Bare is seeking a better definition of the mayor and council’s powers. Hayward said that his achievements prove the city charter is solid and does not need to be amended.
The kink in the mayor’s logic is he and his supporters have already put a charter amendment before the voters. At the bar 5 1/2 last year, Hayward told his supporters that he wanted their help to reduce the size of the council. A month later, Councilman Larry Johnson proposed an amendment to drop the two at-large seats, one of which was held by Bare. The measure was put on the ballot for the Florida House District 2 special election.
The voters passed the amendment overwhelmingly, 5,100-3,439, proving that city residents have no problem with amending the document and that may be the unintended consequence to Hayward’s efforts to get the city council more under control. The mayor showed how easy it was to amend the charter.
While this newspaper has argued for a smaller city council for nearly a decade, we also recognized that cherry-picking clauses in the charter could unravel the entire document. The more thoughtful approach would have been to have a full review of the charter with an open discussion of the sections that may need modification.
Pandora’s Box has been opened and Hayward, Johnson and their cadre are struggling to close it as quickly as possible before Bare’s amendments gain any momentum. The newsletter was part of their strategy. The second part appears to attack Bare and his mayoral campaign.
Johnson went on WCOA on April 17 and predicted Bare would drop out of the mayor’s race. “I don’t think Charles Bare is going to run for mayor,” he said. “If you look at his campaign report for March, he’s collected zero dollars. My prediction for April is that he will collect zero dollars and he will step out of the race.”
Johnson didn’t mention that he had not raised any funds for his re-election. Bare told the Independent News that he fully intends to stay in the race.
Will the proposed amendments get past the entire council and the mayor? Probably not, but they will generate more discussion over how Hayward has used his power.
Pandora’s Box will not be shut.