Be Optimistic, Pensacola. After all, we are the upside of Florida

October 24, 2013


Mayor Ashton Hayward wants us to be optimistic.

“Now is the time to use the positive momentum of our successes to push forward – reach upward” are the words he used to open his State of the City address.

His address was well produced, done on a scale that one might expect for much larger city. It was in the Saenger Theater and opened with a video of Peter Rubardt of the Pensacola Symphony, Dr. Ken Ford of IHMC and Quint Studer talking about what a great place is to work, live and play and that closed with Debbie Calder thanking Mayor Hayward for his efforts.

The lights stayed off when the mayor walked on to the stage and began his speech, standing under a spotlight and before a clear plexiglass podium surrounded with “swave” banners.

Mayor Hayward said that economic development would be his top priority. That effort has eight components, according to the mayor:

• Supporting job creation and job creators in our targeted industries,
• Ensuring we get back our share of the tax dollars we send to Tallahassee and Washington,
• Promoting workforce education in our targeted industries,
• Pushing transparent streamlined business processes,
• Maximizing existing city assets and exploiting Pensacola International Airport as an Economic Development engine,
• Reducing crime, and
• Taking our shared prosperity West.

“If we work together and focus our efforts across these dimensions, we will create a city where everyone has an opportunity to be successful,” said Hayward. “Everyone will have optimism. “

Hayward spoke of using a regional approach to attracting targeted businesses and thanked Navy Federal Credit Union for the jobs that the company has brought to Escambia County. “Thank you for the optimism you create in our community.”

He talked about the relationships that he has developed in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. and claimed to have obtained over $40 million of state and federal dollars for the city.

Hayward said the he would focus on workforce education. “I pledge to push Workforce Education forward by collaborating with businesses, The Chamber, Community- County and State agencies- and Educational Facilities to implement training that puts our citizens to work. I pledge to support Workforce Education and to work diligently to recruit employers and jobs in these targeted industries.”

At the press conference after he address, he gave few details  on what the role of city government would be in this area.

Hayward also talked about entrepreneurs and thanked Quint and Rishy Studer “for choosing to make Pensacola your home.”

He gave a not-too-subtle reference to his current fight over the airport food services contract: “Our government’s business processes must present a level playing field and must be blind to favoritism, sentiment, and status. We must protect and honor the level playing field our processes establish. There is optimism in fairness.”

He said that he was working to increasing non- airline revenues. “Remember, every dollar we make at the airport is a dollar less Pensacola International Airport has to charge airlines, who then charge the customer. There is a dollar for dollar relationship.”

Hayward appeared ready to get back to some of the issues that got him elected in 2010. It was the west side of Pensacola that put him office. In the next two months, the city will open community centers in Woodland Heights and Legion Field.

“In addition to this investment, we will awaken The Westside Redevelopment Plan,” he told the audience of about 100 people. “More landscaping, sidewalks, street lights, and traffic calmers will be added to the West Side.”

Hayward said that he plans to make the west side neighborhoods safer. He praised the efforts of Police Chief Chip Simmons and the joint gun task force formed by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office for recovering over 350 illegal guns and making 175 arrests.

“We will not allow crime to keep our community hostage. This is not an insurmountable problem. It can be overcome. We need to be cautious about negativity. Negativity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don’t want to sweep the crime conversation under the carpet, but our community needs to hear more about the successful people living and working on our West Side. “

He said that he will be instituting a round table to address violence. At the press conference, he said he plans to walk the neighborhoods with Commissioner Lumon May and “engage in open and frank dialogue and look for ideas and strategies that can create a clear direction for the future.”

He ended his 20-minute address: “We will move forward with respect for each other and a shared vision of prosperity and safety for all our citizens. Optimism will take us upward. Goodnight and God bless Pensacola.”


While our August poll showed that more than  31 percent of city voters believe that the city is on the wrong track and another 25 percent aren’t sure which direction the city is headed, I believe that most people are optimistic about the future of Pensacola, but they aren’t so sure about their city government. The public trust has been damaged by the mayor’s miscues this year–The Zimmerman Agency contract, YMCA debacle, State Attorney’s Investigation, etc.

People are getting tired of rhetoric and want to see more action.

His standing in the African-American community isn’t as strong as it was three years ago. The optimism on the west side has turned to skepticism, once again. If he follows through with the commitments he made in his speech, he could win them back to his camp.

Time will tell.





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  • granite October 24, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Sorry cj missed it on your comment

  • granite October 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    CJ she rents across the street from the mayor

  • CJ Lewis October 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Perhaps a good start in the direction of a better or at least a more realistic future might be if the new City Administrator Colleen Castile (a resident of Tallahassee) rented a place on the West Side as her weekday Monday-Friday hangout. Lumon May could set her up in one of his places. A week-to-week lease would be prudent given Hayward’s penchant for firing people by hissy fit. On the upside, Castille might get a more realistic view of the city inspecting foxholes in the trenches than the one she gets at Jackson’s Steakhouse, sailing with Brian Spencer or living across the street from Hayward House on Bayou Texar.

    All of the city’s department directors (to include the ones dressed up as stand-alone division administrators to circumvent the Charter’s Section 4.01.(a)(7) constitutional requirement for Council approval of their appointment into office), are direct reports to Castille not Hayward, to include Police Chief Simmons and the non-existent Fire Chief. Having a “hands-off” Mayor is a chief flaw in a Mayor-Council Charter, only the City Administrator vested with the administrative authority to “be in charge of the daily operations of the City.” In sharp contrast, in Hialeah – a city of 230,000 and the city supposedly used as a primary model for us, the Mayor runs the daily operations of the City government himself without a City Administrator to do it for him.

    Commissioner Grover Robinson hit the nail on the head in May when he expressed frustration that he did not know who was in charge of the city government. We know what Robinson meant because he said it in a very deliberate manner and context. He is not alone in his puzzlement. Hayward doesn’t provide details because he doesn’t know the details, reportedly the chief reason he avoids Council meetings preferring to arrive late and leave early if forced by circumstances to be present in body but not full presence of mind for a particular agenda item. When frustrated by his own ineptness, Hayward vents steam in his office throwing “stuff” and using vulgarities, bad form for anyone in a leadership position. Witnesses have seen it, heard it and told others in and out of city government to include me.

    As a general rule, when Hayward speaks, he utters nonsensical gibberish speaking in riddles, stretching the truth and telling outright lies whether claiming to have reduced the annual budget top-line by “nearly $30 million,” consolidating departments that still exist in fact but cleverly rebranded as “divisions” or asserting that the staffing of the Airport Rescue & Fire Fighting Facility must be reduced to lessen the tax burden on city taxpayers – sheer fiction. Being optimistic is a plus if you have a plan and know what you are doing but not if you bounce from one self-made crisis to the next detached from reality and the consequences of your actions.

    I ran into former Mayor Mike Wiggins last week at the memorial service for Charles Bare’s father Colonel Merle Bare, USAF (Ret). Council President P.C. Wu and former Councilwoman Diane Mack were also present. Mike trounced me good in the 2008 mayoral election during which we grew to like and respect each other. With respect to character and integrity, you could not find any two people more polar opposites than Wiggins and Hayward. Wiggins is a statesman who treats people with respect. In stark contrast, Hayward is a punk who stabs people in the back, always eager to shift the blame for his own failures to others. In City Hall, the question is not if you are going to be fired but when.

    I have never played the online game SimCity but imagine a good upgrade would provide a means to inject the record of accomplishment or failure of prospective mayors along with their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) temperament, Wiggins likely an ENFP (“The Inspirer”) and Hayward an ESFP (“The Performer”). You could inject the temperaments for Donna Clark, Gene Valentino, Mark Taylor and anyone else who gets into the mayoral race. If past performance is the best predictor of future performance, Hayward must be praying that no one in the big media, as contrasted with the alternative media now giving him no slack, lifts up his political skirt to fact check his claims of greatness.

  • Sherri Myers October 24, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I found this statement most interesting, “I passed those savings on to citizens by cutting the property tax millage rate by 5½ percent.” I didn’t know the Mayor had the authority to cut property taxes. I believe only city council has that authority. I voted against a decrease in the tax millage rate because I knew the Mayor was going to propose an increase in the Pensacola Energy rate that would greatly impact low and moderate income people. I believed lowering the property tax that benefits primarily upper income individuals was just a way to soften the public up for an increase in the gas rate. I noticed the Mayor didn’t take credit for that proposal that was passed by council. I voted against increasing the gas rate.

  • EPenn October 24, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Um…What are the “targeted industries” and what about other industries that aren’t “targeted”? He plans to ignore those?

    Oh, and apparently he still hates the port even though the state wants it to succeed, and has turned a profit even though it has been neglected by the city at every opportunity.