Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday August 21st 2019


Outtakes—A True Connection

By Rick Outzen

Since his election, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson has talked quite a bit about connecting with the city’s neighborhoods.

Before he was sworn into office, he told our reporter Jeremy Morrison, “One of the things that came out of the campaign loud and clear is the city must do a better job of working with our neighborhoods.”

He planned to hold neighborhood meetings because he felt connecting more with residents where they live will provide the city with a better roadmap. The mayor said, “I think if you engage your citizens, your citizens will tell you a lot of ways to improve your city.”

However, connecting with a neighborhood is more than telling residents what the city wants to do. It involves listening and realizing your ideas and initiatives might not be what the neighborhood wants. When former Mayor Ashton Hayward started to get pushback, he stopped holding town hall meetings, choosing to “connect” from the safer distance of Instagram.

Fortunately, Mayor Robinson hasn’t shut down meeting with neighborhoods, but he has yet to prove he’s listening to them. The proposed changes to Hitzman Park on Langley Avenue that would add two more regulation soccer fields has received opposition from the Scenic Heights neighborhood.

Youth soccer’s recent growth has put a strain on the city’s parks. Additional fields are needed. The mayor’s response has been that Scenic Heights must acquiesce to the greater needs of the entire city. Or in other words, thank you for your input, but I’m going to do what I need to do.

The mayor can point to several meetings that he, his staff and the YMCA have had with residents since the first of the year as doing a “better job of working with our neighborhoods” but the result is the same as it was under the Hayward administration. The soccer complex apparently will be built.

However, the mayor doesn’t have much support city-wide for his project, according to our recent poll.  Only a third of the 500 likely Pensacola voters surveyed supported adding the additional fields on Langley Avenue, while a third opposed the project and the remaining third was undecided or needed more information.

The districts closest to Hitzman Park had the least support–with only 27.4 percent of District 1 and 26.9 percent of District 2 favoring adding the additional soccer fields.

To be fair, Mayor Robinson inherited this project from his predecessor who paid for engineers to design the soccer complex adjacent to Hitzman Park while hiding it from the Scenic Heights neighborhood. Robinson started off in a hole dig by Hayward.

However, connecting with a neighborhood is more than holding meetings. It requires acting on their input. Otherwise, people will stop listening to city hall.