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Monday April 21st 2014

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Roger Scott Tennis uproar

Donna Suskind, publisher of the local tennis publication First Serve Magazine, is challenging the City of Pensacola’s management of its Roger Scott Tennis Center (Roger Scott Tennis, A Victim of Good Ol’ Boy Politics?).

Suskind charges that Center director, Bruce Caton – brother of former City Attorney Don Caton – has a sweetheart deal with the City:

“Bruce Caton currently holds the city-paid position of Tennis Director with the City of Pensacola. He is also the owner and operator of Bruce Caton Tennis, a privately owned company that pays the City of Pensacola $180 per month for use of the facility to run its instructional programs. We could not locate any record of a contract or agreement between the City and Bruce Caton Tennis.”

According to Suskin, Caton has had the same exclusivity arrangement for over 15 years. His company has 9 tennis pros that charge lessons at $50 per hour.

“Bruce Caton is also paid by the city as Tennis Director to recruit for the larger state and national tournaments that were promised after the expansion in order to bring in revenue for our city. While Roger Scott currently holds some sort of tournament just about every weekend, they are not receiving any revenues from these local tournaments and they also do not affect the income brought in during the weekdays by Bruce Caton Tennis.”

Suskind has taken some criticism for her article and posted this comment on her website this weekend:

“Ignorance does not justify oppression. It only makes it possible.”

Social oppression occurs when people of authority seek to surpress the truth. This country was founded on truth and freedom of expression. When did it become unpopular to tell the truth? When did we decide to hide from information that, while uncomfortable, may provide us with the opportunity to review, analyze, and make hard decisions that are good for the whole? When did a select group of individuals…the same individuals that show up time and again…become the true representation of this community’s tennis voice? When did asking hard questions become an open invitation for personal attack? While I understand that many people have accused me of personally attacking Bruce Caton Tennis, when did our city leaders…Roger Scott’s leader…become off limits to political review…financial review? Is it not our obligation as citizens – taxpayers – to question our leaders – to stay awake and vigilant as citizens? It is, after all, our money, our energy that pays for this facility and again on the courts.

I am the publisher of First Serve Magazine. I have come from a long line of publishers who have grappled with First Amendment rights and the backlash of small minded people. I will not stay in the shadows talking only of things that are about “playing nice”. It is my job to present tennis Pensacola with all it’s wonderful successes, challenging issues, educational opportunities, etc. If that means that I lose some readers, I will be forever sorry for that. And, I will continue to have the courage of my convictions. Pensacola Junior Tennis took a hit with the loss of Scott Robinson, an example of the power wielded by this situation. Children were hurt and parents were unhappy. That is something worth standing up for. Of all the issues presented in the article, this issue was the one closest to my heart – other parents’ hearts. To me, this was unfair oppression.

I do not offer this response as defense. I offer it in hopes that everyone will remember that we all make choices. There were choices to be made all along the way…by our leaders, by Bruce Caton Tennis, by attorneys, by commissions and parks and recreation leaders, by me, by this committee, and, ultimately, by the taxpayers. If we cannot police our own community, what will ultimately happen to this facility and tennis in general? Critical conversations are necessary and change is inevitable. Always there is pressure to oppress the truth when it appears personal or uncomfortable. It is not my desire to alienate and I have been saddened by the vicious response and heartened by those who are willing to go through the uncomfortable places to a place of rational review; and, hopefully, change that benefits us all.

Thank you for listening.”