Pensacola, Florida
Saturday May 25th 2019


Outtakes—First Mayoral Presser

By Rick Outzen

On Monday, Mayor Grover Robinson held his first weekly press conference. The unscripted event lasted about 40 minutes with the mayor opening with a few remarks about what had happened since he was sworn in on Tuesday, Nov. 27.

He gave the positives—the impact of the Snowball Derby and the Hanukkah Grand Menorah Lighting ceremony in front of city hall to kick off the Jewish Festival of Lights. The mayor also talked about the sad story of a woman who was found dead in a city park. He believed she died of natural causes but was waiting on the medical examiner’s report.

Mayor Robinson also announced the city staff would be installing a four-way stop at the intersection of Tarragona and Intendencia streets. He believed the project was necessary because of the number of pedestrians trying to cross Tarragona since the opening of the Bear Levin Studer Family YMCA and Southtowne.

Then, the mayor invited the press to ask whatever question they wanted. My first question concerned the expansion of ST Engineering at the Pensacola International Airport and what was the shortfall in funding commitments needed to receive the Triumph Gulf Coast grant for the project.

Mayor Robinson said the shortfall was about $40 million. The Hayward administration had told the Triumph board that the Florida Department of Transportation was contributing an additional $25 million, the federal government $10 million and the governor’s office an additional $5 million.

Unfortunately, Hayward did not lock down those commitments before he left office. We have a new governor, who has yet to name his transportation secretary. However, Robinson said he was optimistic that the city would get the $25 million from FDOT, and Triumph would be satisfied if the city got those funds.

Other questions concerned the status of communications, legal issues, Port of Pensacola, Downtown Improvement Board and downtown parking. Mayor Robinson asked for patience as he, City Administrator Chris Holley and his transition team explore those issues. He admitted that his first week in office had been “like drinking from a fire hose.”

The press conference was rather uneventful but definitely a good start. Mayor Robinson will get better as he gets more pressers under his belt. I remember how much he improved as county commission chairman during the daily press conferences held during the BP oil spill.

For the mayor, the press conference let him share news with all the media without having to repeat himself to several different reporters at separate interviews. All the journalists received equal access and benefited from sharing the workload of questioning the mayor.

The questions from the media will also get better as the administration kicks into gear, and the public will benefit.