Pensacola, Florida
Friday October 19th 2018


Outtakes—Unfinished Business

By Rick Outzen

We had several big news stories in 2017, but three still remained unresolved, though I suspect some wish they would quietly go away before the 2018 elections.

Pelicans G League Team
In early June, we learned Mayor Ashton Hayward traveled to New Orleans to pitch to the NBA New Orleans Pelicans the Pensacola Bay Center as the possible home for its developmental league team.  His presentation had a few problems. The City of Pensacola doesn’t own the Bay Center, and he had done no cost-benefit analysis of bringing the team here.

Most people like the idea. The Escambia Board of County Commissioners agreed to let staff negotiate with city and Pelicans officials, but Inweekly learned from Assistant County Administrator Amy Lovoy that the team has put any deal on hold while it looks at other options.

Meanwhile, Jay Patel is hoping Triumph Gulf Coast will fund a new civic center. SMG, the manager of the Bay Center, made an offer to renovate the current facility but received a lukewarm reception from the BCC.

Confederate Monument
In August, Mayor Hayward said he wanted the “Our Confederate Dead” monument at Lee Square on North Palafox Street to come down and possibly put in a museum where it can be presented in the proper context. Councilman Larry Johnson followed with a statement in support of the mayor and taking down the monument.

Hayward and Johnson received praise and criticism. The mayor refined his position to he would follow the city ordinance regarding historic monuments that called for the relocation of the monument to be presented to the city council and a council vote 30 days later. He had his staff put his position, the transcript of the radio interview, and the ordinance on his Transparent Pensacola page on the city website.

However, Mayor Hayward and Councilman Johnson have yet to put the relocation of the monument on the council agenda. Leadership is more than statements to the press. The public is still waiting for resolution.

Criminal Justice Reform
The FY 2018 budget shows $40.8 million for detention – a $12.5 million jump over FY 2013 when Sheriff David Morgan last ran the county jail.

In August, ACLU of Florida issued 14 recommendations on how the county could make its criminal justice system more cost effective, operate fairly and keep the community safe in its report “Smart Jail for Escambia.” The report found that Escambia County’s incarceration rate is roughly 80-percent higher than the state average.

Escambia County’s Public Safety Coordinating Council formed a subcommittee, chaired by Judge Tom Dannheisser, to review the ACLU report and come back with recommendations. The subcommittee has met twice.

Let’s hope we aren’t still talking about these same issues a year from now.