Jeremy's Notebook

Pretty Pictures and a Game of Charades

July 22, 2013

city councilA couple of hours into today’s city of Pensacola budget workshop, Councilwoman Megan Pratt took an opportunity to express a “sense of futility” with the budgetary process.

“I was tempted not even to show up,” Pratt told her fellow council members.

The councilwoman contended that the council’s input on Mayor Ashton Hayward’s proposed budget is of little consequence. She also said she was disappointed that the council chose last week not to place any limitations on the mayor’s authority to move money around in the budget.

“I think we’ve ceded over our oversight of the city budget,” Pratt said, adding that the workshop presentations would amount to “a lot of slides and graphs” representing matters that council has little say in. “This is all just pretty pictures here today.”

The councilwoman referenced last year’s discussion on funds dedicated to the Zimmerman Agency marketing contract—which had commenced prior to any budget discussion on the matter—and also noted that the mayor’s stated 2014 goal of addressing the Blount School property, without attaching any funds to the mission, was “a weird way to set goals.”

Pratt said she decided to attend this week’s workshops out of respect for the department heads who worked to put their budgets together, but told council she would not be offering any input.

“Like a good game of charades, I’ll sit in silence,” she said.

Thus far, council has been briefed on the budgets from Pensacola Energy and the Port of Pensacola, as well as Sanitation Services, Fleet Management and Code Enforcement. After lunch, members will hear about the Fire, Police and Pensacola International Airport budgets.

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  • CJ Lewis July 23, 2013 at 7:00 am

    I watched Monday’s budget presentations. The city’s Executive Branch is setting the bar even lower this year. The so-called “briefings” were unprofessional, almost slapstick, just like last year, and the year before. With one exception, you could almost see the moving puppet strings extending up through the ceiling to the Office of the Mayor. It would have been just as effective to present the information in the form of comic books. During my last three years in the Marines, I prepared, defended and executed three annual budgets, many times bigger than the city budget, in the form of Congressional Justification Books. Budgets were a serious matter. No single document better describes the priorities of an organization. I would have fired anyone on my staff who dared to brief me, my boss, his boss or anyone else in such an amateur, ad hoc, off-the-cuff fashion. Monday was bad political theatre.

    Mayor Ashton Hayward – required by law “to attend all meetings of the City Council” was nowhere to be seen, at the most important meetings of the year. He needs to cancel his manicure and show up today. The Council’s adoption of the annual budget is its most important duty. The Council in its constitutional role as the Governing Body of the City signals the priorities of the city in the annual budget document. We are learning that Public Safety is even less important this year than last year. Hayward’s personal Council President P.C. Wu believes that the job of a Police Officer or Firefighter is equivalent to that of a Clerk or Press Secretary. (Hayward needs to learn to speak for himself.) Public Safety is not part of some twisted “Zero Sum Game” as described by Wu. For Fiscal Year 2014, city taxes and fees are to go up; city services are to go down. If he could get away with it, Hayward has told Council members that he would like to raise property taxes further beyond burdening us with a new Library MSTU.

    At the heart of the problem is Hayward’s twisted distortion of the phase “the executive powers of the City.” These are administrative authorities adopted by the Council in the form of ordinances, resolutions and policies adopted by the Council. The Council can amend, to include expand or contract, the executive powers of the City at any time. Hayward does not exercise “the executive powers of Mayor J. Ashton Hayward III.” On September 9, 2010, the Council broadly amended the Code of Ordinances to conform it to the new Charter effective January 1, 2010. All references in the Code to “City Manager” were changed to “Mayor” reflecting that the new Mayor assumed the duties of the old City Manager. The Council amended the executive powers of the City in 2010. It can and should do again.

    The Charter is not to blame for the confusion, although it is admittedly badly written; the Charter Review Commission refused to submit a mandatory Final Report to explain and justify their recommendations, the Charter was never subject to an independent legal review let alone carefully proofread. On June 21, 2010, City Attorney Rusty Wells captured the essence of the problem advising the Council, “The Charter Review Commission did not prepare an accompanying report and so there is virtually no legislative history that would inform us of how a particular phrase or provision should be specifically applied.”

    What we do have are a few snippets from the Charter Review Commission Chairwoman Crystal Spencer in the form of observations made in various letters to the Council or documents presented to the public. Spencer explained to the Council – “the intent [of the Charter] was to create a balance of power within a Mayor-Council form of government (not ‘strong’ mayor form of government).” [Pensacola has, in theory, what the Model City Charter calls a “standard” Mayor-Council form of government with shared powers and authorities.] Spencer reassured the public: Q: “What is the role of City Council with new charter? A: Council’s role remains much the same as it does with the current charter.” Wu constantly insinuates that Spencer is a liar. Wu, whose political castration is self-inflicted, perhaps reflecting his naturally submissive nature, needs to break down and read the Charter for the first time. He might like it.

    As for the “Blount School” deal, it is part of Hayward’s effort to shore up uncertain 2014 reelection support with Lumon May, in addition to putting his brother LuTimothy on the city payroll in a patronage “do-little” job. Lumon owns a house right across the street from the Blount School site, used as the home of his tax-exempt Southern Youth Sports Association. The home was also used as one of Hayward’s two campaign headquarters in 2010, as it presumably will be again in 2014 festooned with Hayward campaign signs and banners.

  • Ames July 22, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    She took the opportunity to get some political grandstanding into the discussion, didn’t she? She could have offered some solutions to the choking debt resulting from the Council’s agreements regarding the CMPA. Oh, nevermind. It’s the new logo that scorched the books.

  • The Rock says July 22, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Sure wish this guy would have led one of the early council workshops after the new charter was passed……

  • jeeperman July 22, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Ding, Ding, Ding
    Winner winner, give that gal a chicken dinner.