Pensacola Politics

Promise is DOA with Entrenched Eight

April 20, 2010

Sadly but as anticipated, eight Pensacola City Council members voted against Pensacola Promise yesterday….more accurately they voted to study it more, which is the much-used tactic by the City Council when it wants to avoid a decision and kill an idea.

The African-American council members – Cannada-Wynn, Townsend and Jerralds – once again voted with staff and against their constituents. The only time the trio has broken ranks recently with City Manager Al Coby is over the lack of diversity in a YouTube video in tourism.

YouTube vs. College ….If you had to guess which issue would have the biggest impact on the future of the entire community, not just the African-American community, which one would you pick? What if I told you Cannada-Wynn and Jerralds were educators would you think college tuition would be win? No, only Larry Johnson supported the work done by DeWeese’s committee.

I have always felt that Pensacola Promise should go before the Pensacola voters and let them decide on whether a college tuition program that would cost only $400,000 annually be established. Remember the City is spending $14 million annually on its pensions and recently the Council wanted to add $200,000 to create its own staff. Money really isn’t the issue – it can be found in the City’s massive budget. A government bureaucracy always has money for what it wants.

The City Council will block any motion for a referendum on Pensacola Promise, too. Don’t be surprised if the Pensacola Promise supporters – a group much larger than any of the council members suspect – launches a petition drive, under the Initiative clause of the new charter, to get Pensacola Promise on either the August primary ballot or the November general ballot.

The Entrenched Eight will be surprised to see Pensacola Promise as a campaign issue. Opponents who take the time to read the reports and learn about the plan will find support when they walk the neighborhoods.

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  • Travis Peterson April 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I haven’t always agreed with C.J. Lewis on city politics, but on this he’s exactly right:

    Council Strategic Goal #5 approved in March reads: “Encourage and facilitate educational opportunities that exceed traditional educational practices through city initiatives and collaboration with the school board, chamber of commerce, and other stakeholders.” DeWeese and Johnson seem to mostly be guilty of having read and understood the council’s own strategic goals.

    I’d have taken the money directly from ESP’s $8,000,000 annual profit. It’s not tax dollars and the dividend belongs to city residents. Not tapping into the ESP marketing budget would eliminate the need to seek permission of the ESP staff. The council would admittedly be challenged to “unwaste” $400,000. However, citizens would probably be glad to point out some pork starting within their own council budget.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • Richard Hawkins April 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Bright Futures currently pays between $54 and $126 per semester hour (there are several levels). UWF charges most students tuition of $140 per semester hour. Plus fees, books etc.

    In other words, for some students Bright Futures pays far less than half of the total cost of going to college.

  • John Zubke April 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I just don’t see the need for scholarships when the state of FL has a bright futures program open to all, a wonderful program.

    Creating supply before demand usually ends badly. This is a cost to tax payers no matter what or where you get the money. That ESP money goes into the budget.

    Again this is redundant, there already exists scholarships by the state, all you need is a decent GPA (I think a B or B+ average) and community service locks you in.

  • C.J. Lewis April 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Not DOA, just “marking time” in the council indecision loop. There’s no good idea that can’t be killed or at least delayed through exhaustive study by the city staff. Council members can then say they were always for it but reluctant to overrule the professional staff, a lot of whom don’t even live in our community to include the city manager.

    I went to most of the Pensacola Promise meetings to observe. I began a skeptic and ended a supporter. It would for the first time align the efforts of the city, chamber, school district, non-profits and churches in developing the next city workforce still in school. Like the Miss America Pageant, it’s a lot more than a “mere” scholarship program.

    Council Strategic Goal #5 approved in March reads: “Encourage and facilitate educational opportunities that exceed traditional educational practices through city initiatives and collaboration with the school board, chamber of commerce, and other stakeholders.” DeWeese and Johnson seem to mostly be guilty of having read and understood the council’s own strategic goals.

    I’d have taken the money directly from ESP’s $8,000,000 annual profit. It’s not tax dollars and the dividend belongs to city residents. Not tapping into the ESP marketing budget would eliminate the need to seek permission of the ESP staff. The council would admittedly be challenged to “unwaste” $400,000. However, citizens would probably be glad to point out some pork starting within their own council budget.

    The Entrenched Eight may “delay and defend” and do nothing until after the election. The simplest solution may be to just go over their heads and incorporate the initiative as one of multiple amendments to improve the city charter. Sufficiently broad verbiage could be drafted to direct the mayor and council to initiate this program by a set time relying only on ESP profits and using no tax dollars. The detailed implementation plan could be executed by ordinance to allow flexibility to adapt and evolve the program.

    The other alternative is to just do nothing as usual. How’s that working out for us? Under the present and past regimes the city government mostly seems to be passively monitoring the gentle decline of the city. In time the city staff may blandly mention with little fanfare that the population has dipped below the 50,000 mark. The PNJ might or might not write about it.

    Or we could try something different that might work better and give it a shot. This initiative alone won’t save the day. But combined with others it could reverse the polarity of the city attracting rather than repelling families and businesses.

  • LL LAIRD April 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Sam: If everything is put to a REFERENDUM, then why do we need to waste tax dollars on you salary??? Why don’t you stand up and say you are either for or against, instead of hiding behind all the save my butt B.S.or maybe you have not check in with Irish mob leader for instructions,,your membership is pending I guess…

  • John Zubke April 20, 2010 at 10:59 am

    With State of FL Bright Futures program, this is not necessary.

    The city of Pensacola should be working to get a strong university presence downtown, a joint venture of UWF, PJC, and George Stone. A campus like this downtown would do wonders for our city. A campus of a couple thousand students and staff would benefit everybody.

    A strong university presence should be the priority, not a Maritime Park with a baseball stadium, which will only hurt our struggling Civic Center.

    I am thinking big, a good location would be the Sewage plant land in conjunction with the Maritime Park, or if we can’t come to an agreement with the port, that land would make a great campus site.

    It troubles me that we have invested so much money in this Maritime Park, that the Park’s financial burden will make a project like this even harder to do.

    Yet the return to the community as whole is far superior, just look at Indianapolis and the joint venture of Indiana University and Purdue University, IUPUI. That campus alone has revitalized the downtown of Indianapolis and made the Hoosier Dome and the Colts a success. Had the campus not been there, the Colts and the Dome would be in the same situation the Jacksonville Jaguars and the city of Jacksonville are in today.

  • Sam Hall April 20, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Rick: How do you feel about having the City Council sending this to referendum in August or November? I raised this as a possibility yesterday, owing that it is a major departure from the role our City Council has performed traditionally.

    Otherwise, the citizen initiative is an option, which may work to the advantage of Pensacola Promise. Positive press accounts from a groundswell of support from the community may help add to the initiative’s success.

    Referenda or initiative, either way, it would make for great discussion when candidates went door-to-door as to how they stood on this innovative program.