In the seventh such forum, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward and company held court at the Tryon Public Library on Langley Avenue. They were there to hear from the people, to answer questions and get a sense of community concerns.
“Truly, these meetings are about you,” Hayward told those gathered in the library’s meeting room. “It’s extremely important to know what you’re thinking and what you can bring to the table. Because no one has all the answers.”
The crowd in attendance was older and appreciative. They offered up a lot of applause. They clapped for the police, for the fire department, for Code Enforcement. They clapped for street lamps.
“The underlying theme here is how good our services are,” Hayward said half way through the meeting.
But there were questions within the audience, too. On hand to help out with the answers was a packed bench of city officials. Police Chief Chip Simmons was there, and Pensacola City Council members John Jerralds, Sherri Myers and Megan Pratt were there too. The heads of the fire department, code enforcement, parks and recreation and other city departments were also in attendance.
Citizens attending the meeting had a myriad of issues to discuss with the city contingent. They had neighbors that partied too late and too loud, they were concerned with drivers speeding through a school zone and pointed to areas that needed cleaning up.
“It’s going to take City Hall and the citizens working together to make our city a more beautiful place,” Jerralds told them.
There were also more specific matters thrown onto the table. One lady complained about an increase in power rates. Hayward assured her the city was on her side.
“Usually, the power company just gets its way,” the Mayor said. “But we’re just not going to sign off on all their fees, just so you know.”
The Port of Pensacola was also discussed.
“Is the Port doing what it should do today?” Hayward posed, explaining that the city is currently exploring possible options for the port.
Others wanted to know why the city was involved in endeavors that could be run by private business. One man rallied around the notion of “free enterprise.”
The Mayor said that he understood the sentiment, but that there were instances when a municipality should handle a particular service. He defended Pensacola’s funding of the Osceola Golf Course, as well as the Saenger Theatre’s renovations. He suggested expanding the city-run gas company Energy Services of Pensacola, or ESP.
“Government does play a role in offering services to the public,” Hayward said. “There’s a happy-medium.”
The panel of city officials were quite responsive to the crowd of about 50 people. The older woman with the late-night parties at the ratty house next door was promised the authorities would be paying her neighbor a visit early the next morning. A man complaining about too few fire hydrants on his street was told the city was on it.
“We know where you’re at,” Al Garza, director of public works told him. “And we’re working our way toward you.”
Another man explained that he had been attempting to build a garage on his property in order to house a pair of antique automobiles. The problem is, he’s having a tough time maneuvering through the city codes. The Mayor told him the city wanted to make all city processes easier, including navigating the building codes.
“We have a new mantra now at City Hall,” he told the man. “There are no problems, only solutions.”
Hayward asked the man what kind of cars he had. The man replied that he owned an old Triumph and an MG.
That seemed to get the attention of just the man he needs to see.
“Sir, you need to talk to me afterwards,” said Bill Weeks, the city’s Inspection Services Administrator. “I have five MGs.”