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Wednesday November 26th 2014

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City cannot be broke, it still has checks

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What has happened to the URAC report? People see the bollards closing vehicle traffic on Palafox for events, but those took 10 months to install and a sizeable contribution from the Escambia County Commission.

In February 2012, Mayor Ashton Hayward formed the Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee to create an action plan to guide the redevelopment of downtown Pensacola. He promised that it would not sit on a shelf like so many other studies.

He announced, “The city has planned and studied the redevelopment of our downtown and waterfront for long enough. There are several redevelopment plans just sitting on the shelf collecting the dust. I’m asking this advisory committee to help me formulate an action plan.”

When the report was finished in November 2012, a series of presentations and forums were held. The mayor spoke before PYP and the Greater Pensacola Chamber Board of Directors. URAC chair Brian Hooper made presentations to Pensacola City Council, Downtown Improvement Board, Escambia Commission and several civic clubs.

When I asked Mayor Hayward at his Nov. 5 “Mornings with the Mayor” about the status of the report on the month of its first anniversary, he denied the URAC report was gathering dust on a shelf…although he admitted jokingly that it might be in the trunk of his car.

The mayor said, “Rick, it does come down to dollars. The URAC committee–Brian Hooper did a great job chairing that. We have to make sure that we can pull off those goals–if it’s one at time, two at time. With the money we get, we can put into realization some of the things out of the URAC committee, but it definitely comes down to dollars.”

He insisted that the city is “absolutely” not broke.

However, if the city is in such great financial shape why did it nickel-and-dime the veterans parade and not have its engineers help with the MOT? Why can’t it fund some of the simplest URAC recommendations? Why couldn’t it pay for the bollards without county help? Why the pressure for Wahoos to renegotiate their use agreement?

People aren’t so confident about the city’s finances as the mayor.