Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday October 21st 2014

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The Buzz 6/26/14

National HIV Testing Day National HIV Testing Day is Friday, June 27. As an annual campaign, National HIV Testing Day’s purpose is to encourage people of all ages to “Take the Test, Take Control.” Locally, HIVevolution, a project of OASIS, is hoping to encourage those who don’t know their status to take advantage of free testing programs on Friday as “a great tool for prevention.”

“Getting tested is the first step to finding out if you have HIV. If you have HIV, getting medical care and taking medicines regularly helps you live a longer, healthier life and also lowers the chances of passing HIV on to others,” stated Kimberly Brill, Outreach Coordinator for HIVevolution. “We would like to encourage people to come and get tested June 27, and then keep a regular biannual testing maintenance schedule.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV, and one in six of those are unaware of their infection; approximately 1 in 4 new HIV infections is among those ages 13 to 24. Testing and knowing one’s status is the first step in what Brill advised is a multi-faceted approach to ending the spread of HIV.

“We must keep HIV positive clients adhering to medication, encourage people to use prevention and promote getting tested to know their status. With educating people on this approach we will see the end of HIV in our lifetime,” Brill said.

HIVevolution is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for “free, fast and confidential testing.” Testing is offered at HIVevolution’s offices at 113 North Palafox St.*, and results are available within 20 minutes. Call 429-7551 with questions or to schedule an appointment, though appointments are not required.

For information about other local free HIV testing locations and HIV/AIDS in general visit: hivtest.cdc.gov.

*On Tuesday, July 1, HIVevolution’s offices will relocate to 25 Wright Street. All other contact information will remain the same.

Wish Granted On Monday, June 16, the Pensacola City held a workshop to discuss possible amendments to the city charter for the 2014 election cycle. Lynn Tipton and Ken Smalls from the Florida League of Cities (FLC) were on hand to help facilitate the discussion.

Individual council members were asked to share with Council Executive Lila Cox aspects of the city charter that might be amended. This was done ahead of the workshop to allow FLC and Cox an opportunity to research the issues and options prior to the workshop. The workshop agenda included 19 items to be covered during a two-hour span. Because it was a workshop the council could not take any formal action.

The council did discuss reducing its number from seven to five members. Tipton said Pensacola council was the second largest when it had 10 council members. Jacksonville has the largest with 11 members. The leaders also discussed whether the five districts should be single-member or at-large.

“I look at size of city and look at size of county,” Councilman Charles Bare said. “If we chopped ours down to five, we would have about 7,500 voters per district.”

Councilwoman Megan Pratt wasn’t convinced the reduction was a good one.  “We come from nine different lives,” she said. “Reducing size of council reduces number of voices that goes into improving the city.”

Councilmen Larry Johnson liked reducing the size of the council but he wanted to keep the single-member districts. He said, “I think we should come from a district and be voted on by that district.”

The topic of the council having the power to hire its own staff was discussed, which is particularly poignant since Mayor Ashton Hayward fired the council executive three days later and replaced Cox with former City Attorney Rusty Wells.

Tipton pointed out that the language from both the Tampa and Jacksonville charters gives the council the ability to hire and oversee staff.

Pensacola City Council President Jewel Cannada-Wynn said, “I don’t want it left up to the executive branch whether or not we have staff. Who’s in control of council staff? We do not want staff to be put into the middle of political shenanigans. Their role is to be liaison between the executive and the legislative branch. I think we would clear up things in the future. We need people to do grunt work.”

However Pratt expressed skepticism that the citizens would pass a charter amendment for the council to have its own support staff.

“Council staff is one of the main questions people have asked me a lot,” she said. “Is this going to increase the bureaucracy of government? They are going to see this as growing government. The likelihood of passing is low. No. 1 thing we need is staff for council. It’s critical to our effectiveness.”

Pratt blamed the mayor’s interpretation of the charter as preventing council from having its own staff to boss around. “Other attorneys would read it differently,” she said. “We’re listed as an office of the city. Does the mayor supervise us? Another attorney who read this (the charter) would see it as giving the council ability to have staff—staff who know they don’t have to serve two masters.”

She added, “If we had legal support we could find a way to have council staff. It has been a frustration for a long time.”

Ironically when Hayward announced the termination of Cox and immediate hiring of Wells, he said that he did it to give the council legal help.

“Several City Council members have expressed a desire for more staff support, especially staff familiar with our Charter, ordinances and other legal issues,” said Mayor Hayward. “Rusty’s decades of legal experience, deep understanding of municipal operations, and familiarity with our city make him an ideal candidate to serve as our new Council Executive.”

The old saying is “Be careful for what you ask for, you just might get it.”