Pensacola, Florida
Sunday June 16th 2019

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Outtakes—Looking Ahead

By Rick Outzen

The elections of 2018 have changed the face of our federal, state, county and municipal governments. How those governments evolve next year will have significant impacts on the 2020 election cycle.

The Democrats have resumed control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since the Tea Party rebellion that gave the GOP control in 2011. The House Republicans fought most of President Barack Obama’s agenda but failed to unseat him in 2012. Will Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow Democrats be more successful against President Donald Trump?

While this will be the first time in his political career that he hasn’t been in the majority, I’m not worried about our congressman, Matt Gaetz. I suspect he will relish being part of the vocal minority.

In Ron DeSantis, we have a new governor with no experience in state government. Though he has help from several former lawmakers and experienced bureaucrats that worked for his predecessors, Rick Scott, Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush, he will be learning on the fly, and Trump won’t be able to rescue him.

Gov. Scott slashed taxes and fees during his two terms, which worked in a growing economy. If Florida experiences a recession and state revenues drop, DeSantis and Republican lawmakers won’t be able to impose new fees or increase taxes without a supermajority vote in the Florida Legislature, which could be a recipe for a financial meltdown in Tallahassee.

Escambia County’s District 4, which includes Pensacola Beach and the east side of the city of Pensacola, has had only two commissioners for the past 24 years, Tom Banjanin (1994-2006) and Grover Robinson (2006-2018). Their successor, Robert Bender, sits on a county commission that has had several controversial moments over the past two years and must hire a new county administrator in 2019, which may lead to some heated debates. I suspect Bender will have a calming impact on the board, but time will tell.

The city of Pensacola has new leadership, and Mayor Grover Robinson has already changed the tone of how city officials interact with journalists. He has broken his predecessor’s record for press conferences in his first month. He has fought for public input in city meetings, and he will start monthly town hall meetings in January. Pensacola City Hall has been returned to its citizens.

Mayor Robinson has brought in an experienced manager, Chris Holley, to assess the current state of city operations and to make the process improvements necessary to right the ship. His transition team, chaired by Quint Studer, will offer its recommendations and provide a template for the next four years.

The good news is Inweekly will be on the scene to cover what happens and keep you informed. It should be fun.