What worked well?
Pensacola Mayor’s Office: Mayor Ashton Hayward has no problem having strong leaders around him. Besides newly-minted City Attorney Jim Messer, Hayward has hired Bill Reynolds as city administrator and John Asmar as chief of staff. The team has worked well in changing the culture of City Hall and ridding the administration of dead weight that held the city back for over a decade.
Pensacola Bay Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: Despite losing its director and being accused of not giving enough funds to minority promoters, we had a record year for tourism. The extra BP funds made the difference and showed what could happen if more bed tax dollars went directly to advertising, rather than operating the civic center.
Community Involvement in Public Education: Superintendent Malcolm Thomas wanted to close A.A. Dixon Charter School for Excellence and Lincoln Park Elementary. Parents and community leaders rose to the defense of both, prompting Thomas to reconsider his positions.
Escambia County Government: Though county government seems to be on the verge of an implosion at times, the board meetings have been productive. County Administrator Randy Oliver has a handle on the bureaucracy and the 2011-12 budget was approved without a tax hike.
What didn’t work well?
Pensacola City Council: The Gang of Nine whines, demeans city staff and talks endlessly … maybe it is a true representation of Pensacola. Occupy Pensacola appears to be more focused and unified than the city council. Sadly, those holding office have not shown any capacity for change, so don’t expect anything to improve in 2012.
Maritime Park: The wrong stadium seats were ordered. The man who worked the hardest to make the park a reality, Quint Studer, was accused of reneging on a $2-million pledge that later was determined to be unfounded. And the EBO committee meetings make the city council seem civil.
School District Land Sales: Brownsville Middle School still remains vacant. Mayor Hayward tried to get Superintendent Thomas to do something other than squat on these properties that are hurting property values in his city. Thomas tried to win the support of business leaders for his approach and heard no applause.
Mainstream Media: There were huge turnovers in the newsrooms of WEAR-TV and the Pensacola News Journal. Gone are Mark O’Brien, Reggie Dogan, Kris Wernowsky, Sean Dugas, Greg Neumann and Dan Thomas. A lot of institutional knowledge of how politics work in this community was lost, which just means more for us.