Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Outtakes—Not My First Rodeo

In 2001, this newspaper took tremendous criticism when it questioned the actions of Escambia County Commissioner W. D. Childers. We reported the late night meetings where millions of dollars were spent on questionable land deals and venison lunches at Childers’ campaign office.

In April 2002, Childers and three other commissioners were booked into Escambia County Jail on 27 charges, which included bribery, racketeering, and violating the state’s Sunshine Law. Childers was later convicted of two charges of bribery and unlawful compensation.

Escambia County Sheriff Ron McNesby did his best to shut down this paper.  We were criticized for being negative and not reporting all the good news of his agency. Our paper was dropped off his press release list. We weren’t invited to press conferences.

And then people began to die in his jail, three in less than 10 months.  We refused to sit silent, and the threats intensified.

When his supporters chastised me, I said, “When he stops killing people, I will stop writing about it.”

In 2008, McNesby lost the Republican primary by 14 percentage points.

Now we have Mayor Ashton Hayward in the spotlight. Since he took office, downtown Pensacola has gone through a renaissance, and we’ve reported on all of it.

However, over the past year, city government has clearly had problems. The miscues have piled up. Over the past month, there was a new one popping up almost every day.

Inweekly has reported them, and once again the rich and powerful aren’t happy. The mayor hired two people with no experience in municipal government, paid them huge salaries and turned over control of the city. If the city was being run well, then their lack of experience wouldn’t matter, but we all know that hasn’t been the case.

The mayor is given a $20-million proposal that would have made the entrepreneur capital of the state, maybe the nation. He knows the developers, Quint and Rishy Studer, have the money and have built several impressive projects in downtown Pensacola. He and his leadership team failed to walk the project through the process to make sure it happened.

Then his handpicked administrators come under fire for their qualifications and intimidation tactics, and he doesn’t defend them. Instead, we get letters and emails from the rich and powerful.

This isn’t my first rodeo. The public is never as stupid as politicians and their supporters think. The truth will win in the end.