Pensacola Politics

Council’s 1st COW

December 10, 2012

The Pensacola City Council will hold its first meeting today since seating four new members. It’s a full agenda, with topics including the new library tax, the Gulf Breeze-Pensacola natural gas dispute and the matter of council obtaining outside legal council.

It’s a Gas

Earlier this year, the city of Pensacola entered into conflict-resolution talks with the city of Gulf Breeze in an effort to work out differences stemming from the latter municipality’s decision to provide natural gas to Pensacola Beach. Gulf Breeze laid pipes and began servicing the beach, which Pensacola had declined to do despite its franchise rights to the entirety of Escambia County.

The issue became an attorney-slugfest and featured a disastrous three-way meeting between Pensacola, Gulf Breeze and Escambia. Eventually, it was turned over to a third-party mediator.

The council will today consider approving an agreement that transfers Pensacola’s franchise for the beach to Gulf Breeze for $470,000. Both cities, as well as the county, have apparently agreed to the deal.

Another Attorney

On past occasions, members of council have expressed concerns that City Attorney Jim Messer could not be expected to serve the council due to his service to the mayor, who’s administration is at times at odds with council. Messer has expressed the same several times.

To that end, council has begun exploring the possibility of getting its own legal representation.  Today, the council will discuss the methods for soliciting outside legal services—it entails a selection committee.

Library Tax

The council will also discuss the proposed Municipal Service Taxing Unit to fund the West Florida Public Library System. On Nov. 15, the council adopted an ordinance on the first reading to levy a MSTU inside the city limits in conjunction with Escambia County doing the same in the unincorporated areas.

The second reading is set for Dec. 13. While the original ordinance stated that the MSTU would be for five years, the second reading will see that length extended to 10 years in order to be consistent with the county.

The city council meets immediately following the Community Redevelopment Agency, at 3:15 p.m. at Pensacola City Hall.

  • Dog December 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet Dale – wait until Oliver reveals the black hole in the CMPA financial picture – aykarumba

  • Dale Parker December 10, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    CJ, generally I find your comments very well prepared and thought out. In fact, in most cases educational and I agree with many of your opinions.

    With that being said, it is not logical to compare Pensacola to the likes of Tampa or St Petersburg who’s population is 346,037 and their tax base is nearly with an average income of $41,605 and a tax base that dwarfs Pensacola with a The FY2013 total budget is $804.4 million. ( http://www.city-data.com/city/Tampa-Florida.html ) Then you reference St. Petersburg Florida whereas you meet the same thing, population 244,769, mean income 42,210 and their budget is $540,181,00!

    Here you are, he needs an attorney, they need an attorney, the Mayor needs an attorney (Well he really does, just does not have a good one). Why in the heck does the City need so many attorneys. Everyone lawyering up and for what? Heck, maybe each Council member can get an attorney! Well Brian Spenser, Tony Tahaar and PC Wu can share the Mayor’s they are just proxy votes and do not represent their constituents. But the other 2 might need one.

    Right now, the administrative cost of this new Charter is out of control. The Mayor’s office is absolutely out of whack, we have a Mayor, an attorney for the Mayor (who from what I understand farms out work to our previous City Attorney), then we have a Chief of Staff who does the Mayor’s job … it is nuts. All the while the City is broke holding “Doing More with Nothing Meetings”.

    When does all of this out of control spending stop. When do they address the REAL problems like underfunded pension debts. The Mayor claims he has done something, however, in the long run the solutions cost more and we still have a debt issue.

  • RT December 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Setting aside the slings and arrows in the postings, I would argue–for a change of pace–that local government must do something positive in support of the local library system. While I worry about the word “tax” in connection with the support, I hope people are willing to swallow that bitter pill for the greater good of the community.

  • Disclosure December 10, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Lighten up there IRT – I asked a couple of very simple questions – 1 of which you answered. The “let them eat cake” attitude regarding council does not bode well for forward movement on the recommendations.

  • SAM December 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    IRT Disclosure.

    The URAC report largely supports the latest CRA plan. The CRA plan is a “cost++++” wish list. The URAC report puts expectations regarding projects into current terms.

    The CRA plan never discussed anything about an organization’s structure nor organizations’ relationships to one another. The URAC report does.

    “Disclosure”, I think you are looking for incongruities that are not there.

    Regarding similar items, the CRA plan and the URAC report stand alone, yet side-by-side. But, each present things the other does not.

    Either way, the two complement one another.

    Neither are in opposition to the other.

    Finally, the report was for the mayor, not the council. The report was to help the mayor decide what he (or she) will bring to the council (or how he/she will react to the council’s initiatives).

  • rachel terry December 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Henry said, “I wonder who Sherri Myers will be suing after the meeting…”

    Good question.

    Maybe the better question would be, “How long is Alistair MacKenzie willing to carry Sherri pro bono?”

    And perhaps an even better question is, “How long will MacKenzie’s father allow him to spend so much time defending the indefensible and so little time generating revenue for the firm?”

  • downtown don December 10, 2012 at 11:56 am

    should make for good television…maybe WEAR can broadcast live.

  • Henry December 10, 2012 at 11:46 am

    I wonder who Sherri Myers will be suing after the meeting…

  • Disclosure December 10, 2012 at 11:38 am

    At what point will the URAC present it’s report to Council and the CRA? Whatever happened to the update to the CRA plan prepared a few years ago by the outside consultants?

  • CJ Lewis December 10, 2012 at 10:35 am

    The City Council Attorney issue is a long overdue fix. In many Mayor-Council governments, the City Attorney represents the City while the City Council and Mayor have their own separate legal counsel.

    In Tampa, the seven-member Tampa City Council has its own full-time City Council Attorney who is a City employee appointed and dismissed by the City Council. Further, each City Council Member appoints and dismisses a full-time Legislative Aide who serves at their pleasure and is a City employee.

    In St. Petersburg, the Mayor and City Council each have their own Special Assistant City Attorney in addition to the City Attorney.

    Today’s marathon agenda – CRA (84 pages) and Committee of the Whole (343 pages) are the best evidence anyone could find for the City Council bringing back the committee system set aside in January 2011 as an experiment that failed badly.

    When a committee system is brought back, appointments and assignment of leadership positions should be done by City Council seniority eliminating the opportunity for political gamesmanship by a Council President too tightly under the control of the Mayor.

    If two City Council members have the same total number of days in office, e.g. Councilman Johnson and Councilwoman Pratt, they should flip a coin to decide who is senior in rank (#3 or #4 after the Council President and Council Vice-President) for this two year City Council term.

    The committees should meet at a date and time to be determined by the members of the committee avoiding the ugly mess of the old pretend committee system that was a sham. The CRA should also meet at its own date and time.

    Someone should make a motion today to initiate a better committee system starting in January. Decisions will be better and faster with less pain inflicted on City staff and the public.