The meeting opened with public comment from two food service employees from Baltimore Washington International Airport speaking out about conditions under Creative Food Group, a company that manages airport restaurant operations.
The BWI employees stated under CFG, they have experienced a drop in wages, loss of benefits, and have co-workers who have been intimidated by managers after speaking with union representatives. CFG is bidding for a 10-year food and beverage contract at Pensacola International Airport, a process currently on hold as the mayor and council take time to further study the options.
Of the scheduled agenda items, the largest turnout of supporters and most impassioned comments to the council were those in favor of the proposed Domestic Partnership Registry. Eighteen members of the public ranging from clergy, attorneys, local business leaders, and both LGBT and heterosexual Pensacolians whose lives the registry would affect addressed the council, urging them to consider voting for the ordinance that, upon filing the required paperwork, provides rights to two unmarried, cohabitating people related to healthcare facility visitation, participation in a dependent’s education, and funeral/burial decisions, among others.
The ordinance passed 7-1, with only Jewel Cannada-Wynn dissenting. P.C. Wu was not in attendance. Each council member who voted in favor made comments prior to the vote, the most applause garnered by those from Gerald Wingate. Having previously argued against the ordinance, Wingate stated, “I always used religion as the basis, but I feel this was beautiful tonight—I’ve been convinced that it’s something that would benefit the people of the community and I’m willing to support it.”
Real estate discussions followed the DPR decision, with the council voting 6-2 to authorize the mayor to negotiate a listing agreement for the lease of city-owned property at the port, airport, and Community Maritime Park with CBRE, Inc. (CB Richard Ellis). Bare and Myers cast dissenting votes, expressing concern about the lack of competition for the listing agreement and language of the recommendation.
“We have not given opportunity for our local brokers and other brokers, nationwide brokers to engage,” Bare stated, following with concerns that the recommendation didn’t explicitly state that the council would give final approval of leases, something City Administrator Colleen Castille assured was required by the council’s policies. Myers’ statements echoed Bare’s concern, “We do have a lot of other properties that we need to sell, so I do hope that the mayor will bring forth a plan to market those properties but that it will be more inclusive of our local realtors.”
The council also began discussing possible regulations to govern operation of the growing number of food trucks and carts in the city. Ultimately, the council voted to hold a workshop within 90 days to discuss the subject. Councilmember Andy Terhaar presented a draft ordinance for Pensacola modeled after Tallahassee’s policies related to food trucks and mobile vending units, stating he intended it to be a basis for discussion. The workshop, date to be determined, will welcome both owners of brick-and-mortar restaurants as well as food trucks. “We need more discussion,” said Bare, who proposed the workshop, “We need to make sure that all of our restaurants and vendors can talk to us.”