Pensacola, Florida
Friday December 15th 2017

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Outtakes—To Be Heard

By Rick Outzen

My primary beef with Mayor Ashton Hayward and his administration are their excessive secrecy and fear of holding town halls.

Some have called the 2016 president election the “do you hear me now?” election. Voters were tired of their elected officials only paying lip service to their issues while doing what they wanted with tax dollars. The electorate was frustrated by the cookie-cutter candidates from each party, mouthing whatever it took to win votes.

Candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders appealed to many. Senator Sanders couldn’t overcome and defeat Hillary Clinton’s political machine in the one-on-one primary, but Trump steadily distanced himself in the crowded Republican field. Once he won a few primaries, the billionaire never looked back.

Since the November election, I have seen both with the newspaper and on my radio show, “Pensacola Speaks,” locals want to be heard by their city and county officials. The Escambia Board of County Commissioners has held town halls in the past six months on topics ranging from Olive Road improvements, beach traffic, and concrete crushing plants. The commissioners actively seek out, in person, their constituents’ opinions.

Mayor Ashton Hayward? Not so much.

The sad thing is Mayor Hayward once had a vibrant town hall program. He called it, “Taking City Hall to the Citizens.” In his 2012 budget message, Mayor Hayward wrote about how he had restored public trust.

“Most importantly, during the past six months, I have made engagement of the citizens a top priority, through my ‘Taking City Hall to the Citizens’ town hall meetings,” he wrote. The mayor explained the value of the meetings.

“As a result of these monthly neighborhood meetings, where relevant departmental staff join me in listening to, and addressing the issues of our citizens directly, we have cleaned up overgrown lots, changed police patrol routes, improved lighting and sidewalks, and communicated with thousands of citizens who the City of Pensacola is working for to make their lives and neighborhoods safer, cleaner, and more inviting.”

Hayward discontinued his town hall meetings four years ago and has held no “Taking City Hall to the Citizens” town halls in his second term. None. Zero. Zilch.

Inweekly believes Pensacola residents have issues they want to voice. We will hold an “Inweekly Listening Tour” town hall to give the public a chance to be heard.

The first meeting will be on Thursday, June 1 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, located at 625 North D St. We have no idea if a dozen or six dozen will attend, but we want to hear from you. The comments will be sent to the mayor and city council.

Please come and be heard.