Pensacola, Florida
Thursday November 27th 2014

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Outtakes 3/29/12

Note: Publisher Rick Outzen is taking a break from his column this week. Muckraker Walker Holmes has agreed to fill in for him.

MAYOR LOSING MOJO? Everybody loves Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward. Nobody works a room better. He’s a natural salesman, especially when he’s selling Pensacola.

His first year had some bumps, but he steadily checked off item after item on his “20 Solutions for 2011” list.  Mayor Hayward approved community centers, disparity studies and appointed advisories to tackle pensions and the port. Hayward proved that he deserved to be named the IN’s 2012 Most Powerful Person in Northwest Florida.

Then 2012—what we call “Day Two”—arrived and the honeymoon was over. The energy of the frenzied first year was replaced with the realization that running the city requires a slow, methodical approach to dealing with the mundane details that turn grand plans and pronouncements into realities.

Some people may fill up on appetizers, but Pensacola will eventually ask, “Where’s the entrée?”

Not all issues can be resolved with an advisory committee, smiling photo op or press release. Some issues require legwork, knocking on doors and explanations that can be easily understood and conveyed.

One such issue was the proposal to open the east end of Government Street to Ninth Avenue at cost of $77,800. The project included a sidewalk on the west side of South 9th Avenue that would be extended south and connected to existing sidewalks linking Bayfront Parkway and Admiral Mason Park.

The mayor and his staff considered it a relatively easy council vote. District 6 City Councilman Brain Spencer, who represents the area, told the daily newspaper that he had talked to property owners who were in favor of the project. The slam-dunk got blocked when a neighborhood uprising frightened the city council into running away from the idea faster than Larry Johnson from a marriage proposal.

Anything impacting a neighborhood requires special attention, door-to-door attention. City councils don’t like surprises, especially vocal, angry mobs. Mayor Hayward and his team failed to take the very basic political steps necessary to ensure the proposal passed with minimal opposition.

Mayor Hayward may have had the best intentions for opening Government Street. His staff failed to communicate what they were. No idea wins unanimous support in Pensacola, but he needed to align himself better with the residents and businesses impacted by the change.

So the mayor’s mojo took a blow. It’s not fatal, unless these lessons aren’t learned.