Pensacola

Councilmen propose changes

April 17, 2013

Councilman Charles Bare is proposing several changes to the city’s park ordinance.

The email from Councilman Bare:

I am proposing to the parks ordinances for the City of Pensacola.

Key changes include:

1) Prohibiting smoking outside of motor vehicles on park property.
2) Setting maximum speed limit of 15 mph on park property.
3) Providing more comprehensive traffic and parking regulations which create civil citation authority for offenses such as parking on the grass or in no parking areas.
4) Replacing the former Director of Legislative Services with Director of Neighborhood Services.

See the changes: parkord

Fellow Councilman Larry Johnson wants the council to discuss eliminating Bare’s council seat and the other at-large seat held by Megan Pratt. The move would reduce the city council to seven seats. Earlier this year, Mayor Ashton Hayward had met with his followers at 5 1/2 Bar and asked them to work on two items–eliminate at-large council seats and reduce the size of the CMPA board trustees.

Johnson’s proposal appears to be in line with the mayor’s wishes. I don’t believe that the councilman was at the bar meeting but I’m certain mutual friends shared the mayor’s desires.

The original charter draft had only seven seats, but Charter Commission chair Crystal Spencer and the other commission members bended to the objections from the city council and retained the two at-large seats.

Here is Councilman Johnson’s press release:

Pensacola City Councilman Larry B. Johnson announced today that he would introduce an ordinance amending the City Charter to reduce the size of the City Council from nine to seven members, eliminating the Council’s two at-large seats. Johnson plans to introduce the measure at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

“Nine council members is simply too many for a city our size,” said Johnson, noting that Pensacola is the only city in Florida with a population under 100,000 whose city council has more than 7 members. “We need to spend less time talking and more time conducting the people’s business. I hear this all the time from my constituents. We need a city council that’s more manageable and more efficient.”

The Charter Review Commission originally proposed eliminating the two at-large seats when it presented the new charter to the City Council in 2009. Johnson’s proposal would phase out the two at-large seats as term expire or are vacated. The current terms for the at-large seats expire in 2014 and 2016. Eliminating the salaries and discretionary funds of two City Council members would save taxpayers approximately $48,000.

The City Charter, adopted by voters in 2009, provides the City Council with the ability to propose amendments to the Charter by ordinance. If approved by the City Council on two readings, the amendment would then be placed on a city-wide referendum.

City Population (2010) City Council Size
North Miami Beach 41,523 7
Coral Gables 46,780 5
Bradenton 49,546 5
Pensacola 51,923 9
Sarasota 52,488 5
Homestead 60,512 7
Fort Myers 62,298 6

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  • Leroy Carter April 18, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I for one like the at large seats. If you can’t get anything out of your district council person you can always go to the at large. I agree the council is to large but it should be redistricted to maybe 5 districts and w at large. Is this Johnsons way to do the mayor dirty work and get rid of Pratt and Bear?

  • Steve Fulford April 17, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    If Johnson is serious, is he willing to suggest adopting Stafford’s plan and opening the resulting realigned seat up for general election 2014?

  • CJ Lewis April 17, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Realigning and resizing? Does that mean create nine single-member Pensacola City Council districts? Egads. Our bloated Council is the second largest in Florida with nine (9) members. Being #2 out of 410 is not something to brag about. What we really need is a City Council of five single-member districts. That was the smart recommendation of Charter Review Commission member Natalie Prim. Let us first get it down to seven for 2014 and then work on getting it down to five by 2016.

    More importantly, someone has to figure out how to force the City, by lawsuit if necessary, to redistrict the existing seven single-member districts so that they are not gerrymandered to protect the incumbents. The Districting Commission quickly rejected a districting plan prepared by Supervisor of Elections David Stafford using only the districting criteria prescribed in the voter-approved Charter. Stafford was the one honest person in the room, along with North Hill resident Dottie Dubuisson who openly took the District Commission to task for its misconduct.

    Chairwoman DeeDee Ritchie insisted the Districting Commission had to “give respect to the incumbents.” She said so, loud enough for the court reporter to hear. Districting Commission member Diane Mack said the people of Pensacola would not tolerate too much change. Not true. However, on the downside, in a non-gerrymandered plan, Mack’s Pineglades neighborhood would have moved from District 2 to District 5 Mack can see from her doorstep just over on the other side of 9th Avenue. Oh my! As if he were Carnac the Magician, Derek Cosson predicted exactly what Mack did.

    The City Council incumbents worked extra hard in 2011 to make sure that nothing changed for them even though the City had lost 7.7% of its population (4,332) between 2000 and 2010. Our loss was probably Pace’s gain. Districting Commission members were also eager to ensure that they remained in their same election districts. Thirty-four blocks worth of African-American families were cleverly reassigned from District 7 to redesign and remanufacture District 6 as if orchestrated by a political architect. The key actor was Ritchie appointed to the Districting Commission by District 6 Councilman Brian Spencer. What a coincidence. At some point in the process, Ritchie presumably moved to Gulf Breeze to live with her new husband.

    Very unexplainably, the Districting Commission’s legal advisor City Attorney Messer, the one person you would have thought would have known the law and read the Charter, told the Districting Commission, “Good job.” On October 7, 2011, I wrote a detailed letter the Council ignored. All the Council members knew the score when they voted 9-0 on October 13 to approve the gerrymandered districting plan. Much later, I briefed in detail City Clerk Burnett over the telephone. Everyone knew then or knows now and no one seems to care. It is as if this is “business as usual” in City Hall.

    On the upside, all of the damning evidence against the Council and Districting Commission is contained in verbatim meeting transcripts prepared by certified court reporter Linda Crowe. The City Clerk will freely send the transcripts to inquisitive citizens. Everyone on the 2011-2012 Council received the transcripts, minus the last one deliberately withheld from them – because it showed that the Districting Commission never actually voted to send the districting plan to the Council after the completion of its almost four (4) minute long Public Hearing. Ritchie also failed to brief the districting plan to the public as published on the meeting agenda. Councilman John Jerralds was present for the Public Hearing saying and doing nothing.

  • Charles Bare April 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    I am certainly open to changing the charter. I think it is great that a fellow council member is considering amending the charter. I have a series of amendments that I will propose if the council appears ready to do so.

  • Charles Bare April 17, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    There was a typo in my list of overview of the changes. It would actually change the leisure services director to neighborhood services. I put in legislative by mistake.

  • Steve Fulford April 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    I would think realigning and resizing the current city council seats by two would achieve nearly the same effect.

  • Melinda April 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Rick I thought you supported reducing the council??

    • Rick Outzen April 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      I do.