Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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The Buzz 9/21/17

Hayward Two-Step The Pensacola City Council did not vote to schedule a special meeting on the possible relocation of the Confederate memorial that is on city property. Instead, they only discussed whether to hold a special meeting if someone brought them a plan.

So they didn’t meet to schedule a meeting as Inweekly reported previously. They met to discuss whether they would meet to schedule a meeting when someone asked for a meeting.

In August, Mayor Ashton Hayward said that he wanted the “Our Confederate Dead” removed from Lee Square. Within hours of his statement, Councilman Larry Johnson followed with his endorsement of the mayor’s position.

The mayor later said he would follow council policy and ask the city council to review the matter. Council President Brian Spencer announced he would place on the  Sept. 14 agenda, a discussion of whether the council wanted to schedule a public meeting on the issue.

Mayor Hayward, President Spencer and Councilman Johnson were not in attendance for discussion at the Sept. 14 meeting. The discussion item morphed into something even less decisive.

Council Executive Don Kraher told the council, “There’s no real need for a vote, just a census to say when an item comes forward and the council is presented with an action item that they would like to then schedule a special meeting to gather input from the public.”

Councilwoman Sherri Myers wasn’t in the mood for the political shenanigans. She said that she had requested in August the mayor’s plans for removal of the statue, the costs associated with the removal and how he planned to pay for it. Myers also wanted to know if he would attend public meetings on the issue.

“I haven’t heard one word from him,” said Myers.

For her, it was ridiculous to have a discussion on something that would already happen under council rules.  She said, “My position is this—if somebody brings forth a plan, and it comes before the city council, I think there should be public input on this issue. That’s under our rules and procedures.”

Praise for Scott State Rep. Clay Ingram praised the efforts of Gov. Rick Scott and his staff before and after Hurricane Irma hit Florida.

“They’ve been tremendous in relaying information and making sure that districts have resources that they need,” said Ingram on 1370 WCOA’s “Pensacola’s Speaks.”" I want everybody to know that. They’ve gone beyond what we could’ve expected as far as leadership goes.”

The News Service of Florida reported Florida has preliminarily outlined more than $273 million in Hurricane Irma costs for federal reimbursement, with the money primarily used for storm preparation and debris removal. The property and economic impact to the state could total in the billions.

On Sept. 13, President Donald Trump approved Gov. Rick Scott’s request for an emergency declaration, which authorized the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts, including equipment and resources. The order also provides 75 percent federal funding for debris removal and emergency-protective measures.

Rep. Ingram chairs the House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee. He said the state’s recovery could dominate the 2018 Legislative Session.

“The next challenge is going to be looking at this and realizing that it’s going to be probably years for the rebuilding process,” he said. “We all remember Ivan here. You just Imagine Ivans all along the Western coast of the Gulf, hitting the Keys and coming up the Florida peninsula.”

He continued, “If we have miles and miles and miles and miles of road that have to be repaired, of major arteries that have to be repaired, you’re getting into the years, and multiple years, of rebuilding.”

The state representative said that one positive from the storm has been the spirit of cooperation among lawmakers and the governor’s office.

“There’s been no squabble with regard to separation of powers or with regard to party affiliation,” said Ingram. “It’s been very, very refreshing to just have people focus on helping each other, helping their districts, and making sure that people that are in need have what they need to survive and recover.”

He added, “You shouldn’t have to have a natural disaster, a disaster of any sort, to have that kind of cooperation happen. But, it was refreshing that we can do that.”

Sheriff and His Ask County Commissioner Grover Robinson told Inweekly publisher Rick Outzen on “Pensacola Speaks” that he believes the county can give Sheriff David Morgan more money for raises but not all the money the sheriff has requested.

“We don’t have all that money,” said Robinson. “But at the end of the day, I think there’s a solution. It may not be everything, and the sheriff is certainly welcome to go to Tallahassee and ask for it. If Governor Scott wants to tell the people of Escambia County that they’ve got to pay more money than … then he’s certainly welcome to do that.”

He added, “My job is to try to measure and be the best steward we can with the dollars we have.”

The commissioner defended his fiscal stewardship. He pointed out the FY 2007 budget, which was approved before he was first elected, had $151 million in debt and totaled $452 million. The proposed budget for FY 2018 is only $3 million more, and the debt is $161 million, which includes $90 million borrowed for the new jail.

Recent news may have helped Robinson come up with more money for the Sheriff’s Office. The commissioners learned last week that the county will have a $1.5 million savings from its workmen’s comp carrier.

“Those guys were guys I’d gotten to know through Florida Association of Counties, and I’d asked them to come in and talk to our people and see if we could fit that process and see what we could do, and I’m glad we were able to get the savings,” said Robinson.

He disagreed with Commissioner Doug Underhill’s proposal to fund Sheriff Morgan’s request by taking the dollars away from FloridaWest, United Way of Escambia County and other outside agencies because those funds “really go to some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Commissioner Robinson said he was working with Assistant County Administrator Amy Lovoy on a proposal to deal with Sheriff Morgan’s request. He plans to present it at the second budget hearing on Sept. 26.

Quote of the Week “It’s possible to work together for the greater good, so that was refreshing.” – Rep. Clay Ingram on the cooperation at the state level after Hurricane Irma.

Panhandling: Strike Three On Sept. 14, the Pensacola City Council voted to repeal an ordinance–sponsored by Mayor Ashton Hayward and Council President Brian Spencer and passed in April–that prohibited individuals from asking for donations in downtown Pensacola. The vote was 5-0. Mayor Hayward and President Spencer didn’t attend the meeting. Councilman Larry Johnson also was absent for the vote.

The ACLU of Florida had filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance prior to its going into effect, arguing that the law violates the free speech and due process rights of those impacted by the law.

“We warned the city that we would sue if they attempted to implement this unconstitutional ordinance, they did it anyway, we sued–and now, thankfully, they’re backing down,” said
ACLU of Florida staff attorney Jacqueline Azis in a press release.

She added, “We are glad that the city council has walked back this wrong-headed ordinance, and we hope that this serves as an object lesson for other Florida cities about the fact that the Constitution protects everyone–including those who are least fortunate in our communities.”

The ordinance had originally been proposed by the Downtown Improvement Board and was drafted by City Attorney Lysia Bowling who assured the council that it would stand up to court challenges. Mayor Hayward told the council members and others supporting the ban that he would fight for it in court, which is why the council approved the ordinance.

This was the third unsuccessful attempt by Mayor Hayward to enact ordinances to deal with the homeless and panhandling in downtown Pensacola since 2012. The ACLU of Florida withdrew its lawsuit after the vote.

Civic Conversation The Studer Community Institute launches its latest initiative, CivicCon, on Sept. 26.

“We asked Christian Wagley to go out and find the top eight or 10 urban planners in the United States and ask them to come to Pensacola over the next 10 months,” said Quint Studer. “Civicon stands for ‘Civic Conversations.’”

The first speaker will be Chuck Marohn, founder of Strong Towns and the top choice on the Institute’s short list of speakers. His topic is “Is Pensacola a Strong City?”

“Chuck really challenges cities,” said Studer. “He says, you know, in the early days, cities grew slowly and incrementally, because they didn’t have the dollars to grow quicker. Well with cities being able to bond things and get in such debt, they will get excited because they can get cash. But then they build things but then they can’t sustain them. And then that gets them into trouble.”

One such city is Lafayette, La. that, according to Studer, “had a lot of cash, did a lot of things, but then their tax dollars can’t support what they built.”

He believes that no other city in the country has brought in the top urban planners and have them talk about growth and development every six weeks.

Studer said, “We’ve been very fortunate that the Pensacola News journal’s partnering with Studer Community Institute on this to really bring it out and get the people’s attention. It ties perfectly into the Studer Community’s mission to improve quality of life.”

CivicCon will be held on Sept. 26 at the Pensacola Little Theatre, 400 S. Jefferson St. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation begins at 6 p.m. For more details, visit studeri.org.

Another Lawsuit Withdrawn Mike Lowery, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395, authorized the union’s attorneys to withdrew its First Amendment lawsuit against the Escambia Board of County Commissioners after the commissioners passed a resolution that reaffirmed citizens could exercise their First Amendment rights at the Rosa Parks Transit Complex.

On his Facebook page, Lowery wrote, “I’m satisfied that we achieved a First Amendment victory!!!”

In June, the union had filed a federal lawsuit in federal court against the Escambia Board of County Commissioners that alleged Commission Chairman Doug Underhill violated its members’ free speech rights when he instructed ECAT management to “discipline or discharge” any workers distributing flyers supporting the transportation system and urging riders to fight against Underhill’s proposal to eliminate ECAT. Underhill denied the allegation.

Clean Energy Fest Seeks Vendors 350 Pensacola seeks vendors for the Third Annual Clean Energy Fest, which brings renewable energy and fun to downtown Pensacola on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event celebrates a clean energy future through art, food, live music, and dynamic people showcasing solar, wind, and people-power for the 21st century. The event is part of the 2017 Pensacola Foo Foo Festival, and will be held at the UWF Historic Trust’s Museum Plaza at 120 Church St.

The Fest is the area’s only outdoor event focused on energy conservation and renewable energy, and brings thousands of attendees interested in environmental issues and clean energy.  Displays include electric cars and a newly-built tiny house constructed by students at Pensacola State College. For more information about vendor and sponsor opportunities, please email 350pensacola@gmail.com or call 687-9968.

Mark Your Calendar On Sept. 22, Homeless Veterans Stand Down from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Salvation Army, 1501 N. Q St. For more details, visit gcvacflalms.org.

On Sept. 23, Institute for Women in Politics of Northwest Florida hosts full-day campaign workshop presented by The Leadership Institute of Arlington, Va. The event, “Where the Votes Are (And How to Get Them)” is from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at Pensacola International Airport Conference Facility, Second Floor, 2430 Airport Blvd. For more details, visit wpflorida.org.

On Sept. 26, join County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh for “Coffee with the Commissioner,” from 6:30-7:30 a.m. at Denny’s, 4625 Mobile Highway. For more information, contact District 1 Aide Debbie Kenney at 595-4910 or district1@myescambia.com.

On Sept. 26, Second Public Hearing on Escambia County’s FY 2018 budget. The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in commission chambers in Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building, 221 S. Palafox.

On Sept. 28, Women for Responsible Legislation hold their monthly meeting from 11:15 a.m.-1 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St. The guest speaker is Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan. The meeting is open to the public.