News

Uneventful Pensacola City Council meeting

October 11, 2013

By Jesse Farthing

Nearly every item on the Pensacola City Council’s Oct. 10 meeting agenda passed unanimously without debate between council members.

Council members voted to authorize Mayor Hayward to execute an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to replace the 12th Avenue bridge over Bayou Texar, approved a license agreement with the Veteran’s Memorial Park Foundation, approved future land use map amendments and authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency for a petroleum and hazardous materials Brownfields Assessment Grant.

A “brownfield site” is defined as real property that may be contaminated by a pollutant or hazardous substance, and the Brownfields Assessment Grant is given to communities to assess and formulate a cleanup plan for contaminated areas. The EPA agreed to negotiate a grant with the city to formulate assessment plans, and the council voted unanimously to accept.

The only point of debate for the meeting was a proposed policy amendment for the City of Pensacola Environmental Advisory Board, which would call for the EAB to consult and advise the mayor as well as the city council on environmental issues, whereas previously they only reported to the council.

Several other minor changes were listed in the document, which councilwoman Sherri Myers called “terrible,” but the major grief from those who did not want it to pass was the fact that the EAB would now be answering to two masters.

Councilman Charles Bare put forth an amendment removing the mayor and changing some of the other words, but, despite support from Myers, it was voted down 7-2.

Myers then motioned for the document to be sent back to the EAB for another look before a final vote took place, but her motion was voted down as well.

The original policy amendment passed as initially proposed with another 7-2 vote.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

  • joe October 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    I also appreciate Cj’s synopsis of city politics.
    Hopefully someone who can make a difference will elicit his help to clean up some of the shenanigans going on at city hall. why in the world did taxpayers allow that Fortune 500 type building to ever be built to house our public servants, permitting a reversal of attitude?

    Who works for who in this current state of gov’t?

    Yep, its clear the taxpayers exist to fund these Cadillac pension and lifestyle plans for the elite section of govt while the grunt public servants sruggle to survive and the taxpayers are made to feel like we are working for the gov’t elitists.

  • Travis Miller October 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Very nice Op-ed CJ. Very informative.

  • CJ Lewis October 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

    It was hardly an uneventful meeting for anyone who cares about city’s constitution, its voter-approved Charter. Last night saw the weak Council majority ceding even more of its legislative power to the Executive Branch, again.

    The change to the EAB ordinance was at the recommendation of the Council Executive Cox who serves at the pleasure of Mayor Hayward. When pressed by Councilwoman Myers, Cox admitted that it was her doing. Hayward pays Cox $82,500, almost as much as he makes. She does a good job managing Council President P.C. Wu for Hayward. Acting on behalf of Hayward, Cox has worked hard to politically castrate the Council and deny the public an opportunity to participate in its city government. When the next Council cleans house in November 2014, it needs to challenge Hayward’s tortured interpretation of the Charter claiming that he alone can hire and fire the Council’s Staff and its CRA staff.

    In truth, the Charter grants Hayward no express or implied authority. In vain, I previously provided the Council with an explanation for every word in Section 4.01.(a)(1) of the Charter that Hayward abuses claiming to not even be subject to laws adopted by the Council in the Municipal Code. Most Council members could care less. City Attorney Jim Messer’s tortured 2011 memorandum denying the Power of Council to hire Council Staff would not earn a passing grade in a Legal Research & Writing class at a third rate law school with or without Internet access. The memorandum is full of outright lies and distortions.

    We know that the Charter Review Commission (CRC) never intended to prohibit the Council from hiring its own Staff because as late as the May 16, 2009 drafter version of the Charter, Section 5.03.(b) Outside Counsel provided, “Only the Mayor and City Council may employ outside legal Counsel.” On April 1, 2009, the CRC adopted the above language verbatim from Section 4.03(c) of the Hialeah Charter. CRC Chairwoman Spencer said that the Hialeah Charter provided most of the “content” used in our Charter. Spencer only reviewed 13 city charters with county-sized populations of which Hialeah was one. Section 5.03.(b) was removed in the final draft when it was shortened, too much for its own benefit leaving a lot of information gaps made worse when the CRC refused to submit its Final Report to explain and justify its recommendations.

    Obviously, even with the Section 5.03(b) language removed, Hayward believes the Charter implicitly empowers him to employ outside legal counsel. It is a mystery why the Council majority do not believe it has the same implied legislative authority, just like the Florida Legislature. The above issue about “Staff” is important because if the City Council’s boards, authorities and commissions and similarly named advisory and decision-making bodies are to operate properly assisting it in the exercise of its legislative function, the Council needs to contract for expert technical staff so its advisory bodies are not dependent upon or manipulated by Hayward’s staff.

    Councilwoman Pratt, who no longer seems to care about serving on the Council, made the most bizarre statement of the night saying that the Charter is not written in stone. Well, yes it is, to the extent that the elected officials must respect and adhere to the plain language meaning of the words in the Charter approved by the voters. By deliberate design, the Charter gives the Mayor no authority to create a parallel set of boards. The Charter’s Section 5.05 addresses this issue in clear and unambiguous language. Very nonsensically, Councilwoman Myers gushed effusively last night complementing the AWOL Hayward for his masterful job creating his own boards in violation of the Charter.

    Florida Attorney General Advisory Legal Opinion 78-31 should have settled this issue even before the Charter became effective on January 1, 2010. The key part reads in full, “With respect to the power of appointment to municipal boards or agencies, the general rule is that, in the absence of a charter provision authorizing the mayor or some other officer to exercise such power, the council or governing body is the only agency which may exercise the power to appointment.”

    Speaking on behalf of Mayor Hayward, I think it was his Council Executive Cox last night who said that the Mayor needed “operational” advice on environmental matters. He has such advice in the form of an interlocal agreement with the environmental professionals on the Escambia County staff. If Hayward or his Executive Branch staff have an operational question about an environmental issue, the interlocal agreement gives them access to people who can advise them.

    The effect, and the intended purpose, of this change is to dilute further the legislative powers of the Council, powers the Charter has no authority to delegate away to the Executive Branch of City government. As both Councilman Bare and Councilwoman Myers so well explained last night, the Council has ceded de facto control of its Environmental Advisory Board to the Mayor who now has even more ability to cut the Council out of the loop and place a gag on EAB members if he does not want them to discuss an issue with the Council.