Eight days ago, Federal Judge Roger Vinson ruled that the white cross that towers over the eastern end of Pensacola’s Bayview Park was unconstitutional and needed to be removed within 30 days.
Mayor Ashton Hayward has issued no statements on what he plans to do. He’s traveled to Paris and Miami. He appeared at a Monday press conference with Gov. Rick Scott, and he spoke last night at a charity event involving the Blue Angel Foundation. But nothing on the future of the cross.
Our poll shows that three out of four Pensacola voters want the cross to remain at the park. Very few people polled had no opinion on the ruling.
District 4 County Commissioner Grover Robinson hasn’t been quiet. In a viewpoint published in the Pensacola News Journal and on NorthEscambia.Com, Robinson urges Hayward to keep the cross. He wrote, “If we truly believe in tolerance and diversity, then the cross should stay. Otherwise, are we really as open and tolerant and supportive of freedom as we say? I support the cross staying and I hope Pensacola will find a way to ensure it does for we are better when we respect than when we remove.”
The cross is in Commissioner Robinson’s district, and he has been rumored to be a candidate for Pensacola mayor in 2018.
Hayward’s dilemma is that while 76.2% of his most likely voters agree with Robinson, they are split on what the specific course of action the two-term mayor should take.
Our poll revealed that 42.8% want Mayor Hayward to appeal the ruling. He has already spent over $80K on the lawsuit. Another 33.4% want him to lease the property on which the cross is erected to a non-profit, an option mentioned in Judge Vinson’s ruling.
Hayward’s key voting block – Millennials – are split on the issue: Appeal 32% Lease 32%. His age group – Gen X – favors leasing the land (39.3%) over appealing the ruling (35.7%), but the gap is within the poll’s 4% margin of error.
The City’s most reliable voters, who rarely miss an election, heavily favor appealing. The over-65 crowd had 46.2% say appeal while 30.5% wanted Mayor Hayward to lease the site.