News Politics

Hayward leads and raises bar at airport, criticizes opponents for strong-arming council

October 7, 2013

ashton hayward
“I led. I raised the bar. The rest is up to our City Council,” said Mayor Ashton Hayward in his recent newsletter.

The mayor is referring to his request that the Pensacola City Council award the Airport Food and Beverage Concession to the St. Louis, Mo.-based OHM Concessions Group.

That recommendation hit a roadblock at the last council meeting when locals protested the selection process and argued that local brands better marketed Pensacola to travelers. The council voted to postpone the vote until its Oct. 10 regular meeting.

Mayor Hayward wrote that he was compelled to defend his decision in his newsletter.

“Sound bites have become the new news,” he wrote about the citizens flashing “Vote Local” signs at the meeting . “A catchy little slogan can distort the truth on an issue. When information goes unchallenged, a sound bite becomes a substitution for the truth.”

And for the first time the mayor actually went after the media for using the “sound bites” to sell papers and attract listeners and viewers. He said the photograph of citizen holding a “Vote Local” sign “made for a dramatic picture in the PNJ.”

Hayward defended the proposal process, He chastised the Creative Group—The Fish House, Varona’s, Bagelheads and Pensacola Bay Brewery—for not filing a protest when they were notified that OHM—Chick-fil-A, Einsten Bros. Bagels, Surf City Squeeze and Corona Beach House—was being recommended for the contract.

He said, “Creative did not adhere to the protest process. Creative did not file a protest. Instead, they ambushed the City Council meeting last week.”

The mayor explained why he pulled the vote from the Oct. 10 meeting, an action our paper had question since it was the city council that had voted to add it to meeting. According to Hayward, he had the right to pull the item since it was his recommendation.

“Quite a few of our City Council members were out of town attending an economic development conference earlier in the week,” he stated. “Council members are still gathering data and asking questions. I want to make sure they have the time they need to get their questions answered.”

He defended the process and accused a few people (unnamed but he appears to be referring to Collier Merrill and Robert de Varona) of pressuring the council.

“It is a terrible idea to disregard our objective business processes in response to a few influential people politically strong-arming our elected officials,” the mayor stated. “We must give businesses wanting to bring jobs to our community every assurance they are competing on a fair playing field.”

He added, “I promised Pensacola I would raise the bar. I brought a contract – it delivers national, quality brands to Pensacola International Airport, a million dollars more in revenue, 100 local jobs, and a minimum purchase of $600,000 annually from local vendors.”

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