Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Outtakes—Playing with the Big Boys

By Rick Outzen

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward may be the only strong mayor in the state of Florida who doesn’t give a State of the City address to summarize the accomplishments of the past year and outlines his vision for the future. The mayors of Florida’s major cities do it.

On March 24, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado gave his State of the City address, in which he touted the city’s phenomenal growth—a 22 percent increase in construction activity with 7,274 building permits issued and 99,000 construction plans reviewed. He praised how the city’s staff worked tirelessly to rid neighborhoods of the deadly Zika virus.

A little more than a week later, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn gave his address. He said he wanted his city to be more inclusive, especially for families with autistic children. He announced his “Autism Friendly Tampa” initiative.

On July 21, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer laid out his vision for how Orlando will become a cutting-edge city and a better place to live in unity and cooperation. He remembered the Pulse tragedy and the unifying effect it had on Orlando. Mayor Dyer focused on the importance of balancing economic growth with the needs of residents, especially the need for affordable housing.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry didn’t give a State of the City address this summer. Instead, he addressed his city council in July to outline his $1.2 billion budget. He described how the budget would add 100 more law enforcement officers and $130 million for infrastructure.

Mayor Hayward discontinued State of the City addresses in October 2013. His first two addresses were done in City Council Chambers as he delivered the budget for the next year. His last address was a multimedia presentation in the Saenger Theatre followed by a press conference.

The State of the City addresses weren’t easy for the mayor. His staff and political strategists took days drafting his words. He spent hours practicing the speeches, and he didn’t always look comfortable giving them. However, the addresses gave the voters his assessment of his administration and his plans for the next year.

Mayor Hayward touts the new optimism that he has brought to the City of Pensacola. He claims he has made the rest of Florida pay attention to us.

Well, if Pensacola wants to play with the big boys—Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, then its mayor needs to give an annual State of the City address. The mayors of those cities don’t rely solely on social media and press releases to communicate with their constituents.

Mayor, please face the voters and tell them, in person, where they’ve been and more importantly where you want to take them.