Pensacola, Florida
Monday September 24th 2018

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Outtakes—The Next Mayor’s Plans

By Rick Outzen

Pensacola’s next mayor will be Grover Robinson or Brian Spencer. They have about two months to convince us which of them is the best one for the job. The candidates need to remember the strong mayor government depends on ideas and platforms, not pretty mailers.

Robinson and Spencer need to address:

City Hall Organization: The structure of city government has been in a constant state of flux. Mayor Hayward started with a cabinet-style leadership, but that was abandoned by 2014. His second term greatly suffered because of it. Departments have been combined, and department heads reclassified to avoid city council approval. Turnover has been nearly constant in the mayor’s office. The Human Resources manual was “inactivated” last May, and employees have no independent appeal process. How will this change?

Communication: The only town hall meetings held since December 2013 have been those conducted by Councilwomen Sherri Myers and Jewel Cannada-Wynn. Social media has become the one-way communication means of the Hayward administration. The City website has been redesigned at least three times since 2011. Its information often has been found to be outdated. Interviews have been limited to primarily emailed questions. A multi-faceted communication system is a key to transparency.

Enterprise Management: Pensacola has four major enterprises—Pensacola Energy, Pensacola International Airport, Port of Pensacola and Sanitation Services. What are the candidates’ plans for these operations? The City could not balance its budget without the $8 million it receives annually from Pensacola Energy. The maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) campus at the airport could change the face of the city over the next five years, but the port is struggling. No city operation has been studied more and had fewer lasting results than the Port of Pensacola. As for Sanitation Services, is it time for the city to consider selling the operation to ECUA or a private company?

West Pensacola Redevelopment: The area west of Palafox Street has gone through a housing renaissance. As more people move to the Tanyard and West Pensacola, the demand for better infrastructure, public safety and other quality of life improvements will increase. The private sector has spearheaded most of the growth, but it may have exceeded the services offered on that side of town. The proposed Community Development Corporation might provide guidance, but the mayor and city council need to be a part of the process. What’s needed?  Sidewalks, street lighting, parks, police protection, grocery store and a higher performing elementary school are on our list. The next mayor needs to give us his ideas and timetable.

Conflicts of Interest: Both candidates are successful business people. We need to know how they will separate themselves from their business interests and partners.