Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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Outtakes—Let’s Communicate Again

By Rick Outzen

Pensacola City Hall has trouble communicating with its residents. That’s not just my opinion.  For the second consecutive year, citizens have given the city’s communications low grades, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by UWF’s Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development.

Apparently Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t cutting it with the majority of city residents. City Administrator Eric Olson spoke on the problem at the February city council meeting.

“We’re going to be looking really hard at that seeing what other ways we can communicate with the residents in order to find out what information they feel they’re missing and then to provide it in ways that they like to access,” he said,

The solution is to meet with the citizens like the Hayward administration regularly did two years ago. The mayor held 23 town hall meetings during his first three years in office. The public forums were labeled “Taking City Hall to the Citizens” town hall meetings, and the city ’s press releases boasted they were “an ongoing part of Mayor Hayward’s pledge to promote a ‘citizens first’ culture at City Hall.”

The last “Taking City Hall to the Citizens” town hall meeting was held Dec. 16, 2013 in the Fellowship Hall at the McIlwain House on East Blount Street.

Today, City Hall is no longer “taken” to the citizens, and it has become nearly impossible for citizens to visit city leaders. In Washington, D.C., the public can freely walk the halls of the Russell Senate Office Building and knock on the door of any senator’s office, once they get past the security screening at the entrance. Not so, in Pensacola City Hall.

Maybe Pensacola is more dangerous than Washington, but the restrictions have gotten out of hand. At its last meeting, the City Council passed a resolution requiring the mayor to allow access to all floors of the city hall government building, without escort, to its members.

Civil rights leader Ellison Bennett told Inweekly, “Right now, when a person goes to City Hall, you feel like you’re trying to get into the White House because of the rude security. They don’t make you feel welcome.”

Citizens are left on the outside of the government that is supposed to serve them. They have only the monthly council meetings where they can publicly address their elected officials for three minutes, and the mayor may not be in attendance.

If the Hayward administration wants to improve communications, reinitiate the “Taking City Hall to the Citizens” town hall meetings and reopen City Hall.