Pensacola, Florida
Monday July 22nd 2019


Outtakes—Missing the Mark

By Rick Outzen

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward missed the mark when he vetoed the City Council’s vote to hire a budget analyst, according to a recent poll. However, those who voted for the charter referendum that gave him veto power aren’t ready to go back to the city-manager form of government just yet.

In March, Mayor Hayward vetoed the City Council hiring a budget analyst. In a 2014 charter amendment, the voters approved the creation of the position to help the council independently review the city’s finances. The mayor fought it but failed to sway the public.

When he announced the March veto, Hayward made it clear that he hadn’t changed his mind. He felt the position was an “unnecessary cost to the taxpayers.” The following month, the council unanimously voted to override the mayor’s action.

Political Matrix conducted a telephone survey of the city’s most likely voters over the period of April 25-May 19. The respondents overwhelmingly had not changed their positions about the analyst. Only 28.5 percent agreed with the mayor’s veto.

How could a mayor who was re-elected with over 65-percent of the vote in 2014 miss so badly what the voters wanted?

Two possible explanations come to mind. His lack of town hall meetings and over-reliance on social media and YouTube videos may have put the mayor out of touch. Or he simply failed over the past two and a half years to demonstrate to Pensacola residents why an independent budget analyst wasn’t needed.

On the other hand, the council members apparently had a better handle on the desires of their districts. They understood the 2014 referendum reflected the will of the people, and they had an obligation to enact it.

This Political Matrix study was conducted via Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office supplied the phone numbers. Only households in the city of Pensacola where persons who voted at least three out of the last four elections were called. The numbers were randomized upon implementation of the survey, which collected 411 completed studies. The margin of error was +/- 4.8.

The survey did have a silver lining for Mayor Hayward, who is expected to announce soon he will seek a third term in 2018. The voters aren’t ready to scrap the 2009 city charter that created Pensacola’s strong mayor form of government.

Of the 411 respondents, 57.7 percent voted for the new city charter in 2009. Among them, 56.54 percent said they would vote for the charter again. Those wanting to return to the city-manager system may need to give the new charter more time to sort out its kinks.