Jeremy's Notebook

Honest Abe’s IP and the Rest of It

March 1, 2013

honest abeThe weirdest moment in last night’s Pensacola City Council meeting? That was probably when “the last living descendent of Abraham Lincoln” presented a young Boy Scout with a decorative plate to hang on the wall.

The most surreal moment? That was undoubtedly when City Administrator Bill Reynolds revealed that Public Information Officer Derek Cosson had indeed conducted a sort of guerilla-propaganda campaign out of the seventh floor of Pensacola City Hall.

“We took a hard look at that and determined, yes, in fact, it was an employee that made those particular posts,” Reynolds told council members.

Last week, Independent News publisher Rick Outzen raised concerns about numerous, politically-slanted comments being logged to his blog from an IP address at city hall. The comments were made under various names and consistently boosted Mayor Ashton Hayward while bashing entities such as the city council and Pensacola Police. The IP address associated with all of the comments was the same as Cosson’s, as well as anyone else using city hall’s wi-fi.

Cosson denied logging the comments. On Monday, city council members indicated they wanted to dig into the issue, requesting technical information they thought might reveal the source of the blog comments.

During the council’s Thursday night meeting, Reynolds beat them to the punch. He said Cosson had been met with and that a letter of reprimand had been placed in his file.

“Frankly, the punishment that was dealt out would have been much greater,” Reynolds said, before explaining to council that Cosson had acted at the behest of a superior.

The administrator did not elaborate on who had directed Cosson to conduct such activity, other than to say it was an employee no longer with the city. He also noted that this fact put the PIO in a “difficult” position.

“Regardless, it was in error,” Reynolds said. “He recognizes that.”

The administrator said that the city would be enacting a policy which would not allow such activity.

On the Bus

Also last night, the city council formalized an earlier decision to dedicate the city’s portion of a 4-cent gas tax recently passed by the Escambia County Commission to fund the Escambia County Area Transit system. When initially passed, county officials indicated the tax would be a dedicated funding source for the mass transit system; the city administration, however, was apparently considering using its portion of the tax to fund economic development efforts at the Pensacola International Airport.

During its Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, the council voted 8-1 to fund mass transit with the gas tax. This was despite Reynolds relaying that the city was currently in discussions with the county over the issue—he said a proposed interlocal agreement would be forthcoming.

Prior to discussing the gas tax last night, Council President P.C. Wu asked Reynolds if an interlocal had been hammered out.

“It is clear council believes that having the facts in front of them is not warranted,” the administrator said. “At this point, I think the damage has been done.”

Council members stressed that their decision to fund ECAT should not be read as a comment on the city’s aspirations of luring a Singapore-based aerospace company to the airport in hopes of generating jobs—the so-called ‘Project Stallion.’ Councilman Larry B. Johnson said that he had been contacted by a constituent that said the move would send a direct, negative message to the aerospace company.

“That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Johnson said. “I hope the aerospace company, if they’re listening tonight, knows that we want this.”

Johnson, as well as other council members, said that a vibrant mass transit system is valuable when trying to attract companies interested in relocating.

“I think they look at many things in a community,” he said. “I think mass transit is probably an issue they look at, too.”

Similar to Monday night, the public gallery was filled with ECAT supporters and employees. The self-described descendant of Abraham Lincoln—who refused to offer his name—said the former U.S. president would be proud of the decision to dedicate the gas tax to mass transit.

In a vote mirroring Monday’s COW vote—8-1, with Wu dissenting—the council formalized the decision to fund ECAT. An interlocal between the city and county must eventually spell out the specifics of the arrangement.

Figuring Out Zimmerman

The city council also discussed the city’s now-terminated relationship with the Tallahassee-based marketing firm the Zimmerman Agency. Councilman Charles Bare requested that the relationship be placed on a future COW agenda for further discussion.

“I just think we ought to have an opportunity to discuss this in our public forum,” Bare said.

Reynolds alluded to Zimmerman’s troubles in Okaloosa County—where the firm is wrapped up in an investigation into the spending of public dollars—and connected that to the city’s decision to scrap the agency’s contract.

“As council is aware, this is a larger issue here, in regards to investigations by law enforcement agencies,” the administrator said. “The city reserves the right to take action based on those investigations and I’ll leave it at that.”

Crime Summit

The increase in violent crime was another topic of discussion during last night’s council meeting. The council decided to schedule a special meeting devoted entirely to discussing the issue.

“I think this issue is an ideal issue to have a special workshop,” said Councilwoman Megan Pratt. “This issue is too big to cram into the small box of a Monday.”

Several members of the public implored the council to address the issue. One man said the city’s economic development efforts would not be successful until the area’s “big violent problems” were addressed.

“If you bring your money here,” Wendell Savage said, addressing potential visitors and business-prospects, “somebody’s gonna rob’em for that money and kill’em.”

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  • Michael Lowery March 3, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Pensacola Insider – I appreciate your comments and respectfully disagree. Own up your comment by posting your actual name. I would love to educate citizens and you why Mass Transit is so important to our community. The other day I took a member of the Mass Transit Advisory Committee on a tour of ECAT and we rode the bus system. This member had the opportunity to see how many people ride and how many are going to work and school. To say it is an social welfare progam is not a comment I respect or appreciate. We transport elderly who worked all their lives and now need to use Mass Transit for doctor appointments and shopping. We transport ADA citizens who are going to their jobs. Every Mass Transit system in this country is a public service and does not make a profit. But does it help the local economy – of course it does. I live and breath it everyday and see people going to their jobs on our buses. So yes there are some riding the bus on State assistance. But to make the transit system seem like a burden to our community is shameful. Councilman Bare took the time out and rode the system. He talked to folks on the bus asking them where they were going. He took the time to research other transit systems throughout the country. I was amazed how he studied the benefits versus the problems. So in closing – we need more leaders – he lead the fight for people. The other Council members also understand and stood up for what is right. Tell me who your are and I’d be happy to give you a tour of the system and ride the buses. I’d encourage you to talk to the people who ride. Don’t just assume – educate yourself first hand. I promise you, you’ll enjoy the experience and meet alot of great fellow citizens.

  • Soapbox March 3, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Bingo Pensacola Insider. It seems that any time someone wants to push a pet cause they wrap it up as an economic development initiative. That is one reason this community does such a horrible job at economic development – hardly anyone really understands what it is. I am sure the executives of the proposed project knocked Pensacola off of their short list when Valentino politicized the simple mention of directing city gas tax funds for an incentive. Truth is that he is more concerned about being front and center at the press conference and abhors the thought of having to share the podium with the Mayor. One key to economic development is the ability to keep information confidential until the deal is sealed. Valentino is incapable of doing so and as such does more harm than good to local economic development efforts. He can’t wait to contact Radio 1620 when he gets a nugget of juicy information. If he was truly interested in insuring that the gas tax was directed to the intended use he should have encouraged the commission to direct staff to draft the interlocal agreement that would memorialize the use of the tax. That is basic Government 101. Instead our Council gets caught up in the drama initiated by Valentino and fueled by Hayward Haters Bare and Myers and the ECAT mob. Reactive government at its worst. Like Reynolds said – council had no interest in the facts. Why would any company in their right mind step into this politically dysfunctional cesspool? The only constructive discussion that took place at the last council meeting was that regarding the crime problem. The rest was the usual blabber. Put Myers on the clock – she has replaced Jerralds as the jawbone of the Council. Looks like she and Bare are going to be at the losing end of many 7-2 votes. The citizens need to demand leadership and good government although the current kangaroo court situation provides lots of fodder for the blog and hilarious entertainment value. The calliope is overheating!

  • SAM March 3, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Here’s a couple of my opinions.

    1. Eight members of the city council were shortsighted in not contributing a portion of the “newest” gas tax to economic development.

    2. The mayor and his office poorly handled the gas tax issue with respect to the council.

    But here’s a fact, whether you think using the city’s portion of the newest gas tax for ECAT is a good idea or not, whether you think ECAT is well managed or not. ALL modes of transportation are subsidized, including trains, airports, highways, roads, ports, bridges, tunnels, city streets, and even sidewalks.

    Here’s another opinion. ECAT is poorly managed and throwing more money at it isn’t going to improve it one bit. Until ECAT starts operating in a way that is attractive to mainstream urbanites (emphasis on urbanites), it will operate as it has for at least the last two decades, which is a prescription for failure.

  • Insider J. Pensacola March 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Lewis J. Christopher is dead… Long live his heir apparent “Pensacola Insider”!… Hey, let’s play a game called “You Might Be A 7th Floor Employee”. I’ll go first… “If you find yourself posting anonymous blogs making fun of Charles Bare while promoting a mayor’s proposal so wrong headed even BRIAN SPENCER couldn’t support it… Well sir… you just might be, a 7th floor employee!!”

  • Pensacola Insider March 2, 2013 at 11:19 am

    We must have dependable mass transit in our city. But, tell the truth. It is a service provided to the public that is a financial cost center. ECAT costs tax payers money. It must be heavily subsidized. It is not an economic engine. It has zero value in attracting or supporting economic development. We do not have the density or population of a large city like Boston or New York where mass transit is necessary to attract employers. Simple math…ECAT is expensive. That does not mean it is not the right thing to do. ECAT is a social welfare program.

    The Pensacola City Council voted 8 to 1 to use the city’s share of the gas tax money to fund this social welfare program. Do not wrap the use of the city’s share of the gas tax money to fund a social welfare program up as some sort of nod to supporting economic development.

    Councilman Bare headed up this effort. It is ok. Own it. “I am Councilman Charles Bare, and I support diverting money available for economic development to fund social welfare programs.”

  • Michael Lowery March 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Not Abe’s Kin – I think everyone at the Committee of the Whole meeting when most of us first saw this man and then at the Thursday regular business meeting when he appeared again questioned his status of being a relative of our 16th President. Just because he wouldn’t share his name. But I will say he seemed to be a very nice man and when gave a young boy soout the plate it was touching. He talked about how the boy was our future and we needed to protect our children. Plus as the Union advocate for the ECAT gas tax issue, it didn’t upset me at all when he supported our issue.

  • best friends March 2, 2013 at 6:32 am

    actually the weirdest moment of the meeting was when Myers called her BFF CJ Lewis back to the podium after speaking to give him more airtime to push their agenda. PC Wu objected as the request was out of order with Roberts Rules. Myers pressed ahead over the objection of the Council President and Myers and Lewis then engaged in a dialogue.

  • Maverick March 2, 2013 at 3:05 am

    Tune in next week for more on the trials and tribulation in Podunk-cola.

  • Not Abe's Kin March 2, 2013 at 2:11 am

    I don’t think Abe Lincoln has any living descendants. Here’s one summary I found: Of Lincoln’s four sons, only Robert lived to maturity, so any descendants would have to trace their lineage back to him. In 1868 Robert married Mary Harlan and they had three children: Jessie, Abraham (known as Jack), and Mary. Abraham died at the age of 17, before marrying. Mary married Charles B. Isham and bore him one son, Lincoln Isham, who married Leahalma Correa. That marriage was childless, leaving it up to Jessie to continue the Lincoln family line. She eloped to marry Warren W. Beckwith, with whom she had two children, Mary Lincoln Beckwith and Robert Lincoln Beckwith, before divorcing in 1907.

    In 1915 Jessie remarried, to explorer Frank E. Johnson. That marriage, childless, also resulted in divorce in 1925. Undaunted, Jessie then married for a third time, this time to Robert J. Randolph, in 1926. That marriage produced no offspring.

    Mary Lincoln Beckwith, great-granddaughter of President Lincoln, never married. Her brother, Robert Lincoln Beckwith, married twice, to Hazel Holland Wilson and Annemarie Hoffman. He never had any children, and when he died in 1985 the Lincoln line ended. There are no direct living descendants of Abraham Lincoln.

  • joe March 2, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Wayne’s comments are right on re: Asmar. I find it interesting that the frequent poster, never pointedly, Mr. Hawkins has stated an opinion. (Cosson)
    Asmr has probably been insulated from criticism by Ricks blog due to advertiser status, but rick has his limits too.

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