Another view of Monday’s meeting

We asked one of our college interns/free lancers to attend the Monday meeting on consolidation to offer up what she saw and heard. Some of this didn’t make the PNJ report:

About 150 people attended this meeting held in the WSRE building of PJC Monday.

A panel of four members sat on stage. The panel consisted of Senator Don Gaetz, Representative Greg Evans, Representative Clay Ford, and Representative Dave Murzin.

Speakers from the crowd were called up by name, according to who signed up to speak first.

Time was a huge constraint and many people were rushed off the podium without their points being elaborated on.

Wilson Robertson, Escambia County Commissioner: “We have never defeated the idea or said we were against a consolidated government. I don’t even know if we need to be here. If the local body pulls it’s weight, we don’t need to pass a bill. Also, I think what Rick Outzen, publisher of Independent News said speaks volumes.” He then quoted the editorial article on the subject. Robertson reads, “’This particular document needs more input.’ That’s all I’m saying. This document is absolutely NOT satisfactory. You wanted our support- you lost all local support for this bill. Rick Outzen, although I haven’t had time to read the whole article, I agree with what he’s saying. This bill is not ready to be passed in 2010.”

Freddie McCall, Mayor or Century Florida: “We didn’t have any time to weigh the pros and cons- it was rushed.” As was his speech.

David Morgan, Sheriff of Escambia County: “I am personally invested in this community. Not just because I’m the sheriff but because of my family and all the things and time we have invested here. We are for functional consolidation for this county- but the process was flawed from the beginning. It will streamline our government and support economic growth.”

Derek Cosson, Progressive Pensacola: “Conceptually, I am onboard for consolidation. As often is the case, the devil is in the details.” Cosson also discussed several emails in which Scott Remington said he needed to get certain people “under control.” “The current plan leaves many questions unanswered. Delaying the referendum until 2012 will give the community the time it needs to review it. If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. “

Jonathon Tisdale, resident of Cantonment: “I’m here to represent the average citizen. Now we have five county commissioners, under this referendum our voice will drop from %20 to %11. Our voice will be diminished. People want to push the outer-lying areas to the side- we don’t want that. In a study on Jacksonville conducted by FSU over a 30 -year period, they found no link between economic growth and government consolidation. That’s what we all want-economic growth.

John Peacock, an Escambia County resident: “Taxes are going higher, services are going down. Single member districts don’t work. If not this, then what? I haven’t heard any elected officials offering up any other way to fix our government or our economy.”

Janet Lander, Attorney at Law, former Escambia County Attorney -helped draft the final document: “I urge you to allow the public to decide whether or not consolidation is a good idea. Nine more months should be plenty of time to debate and way the pros and cons.”

The first applause of the evening was heard after Mrs. Lander’s brief and direct speech.

Jason Crawford, Escambia County resident: “We want to see our community improve. I work in the city limits, I live in the city limits, I spend a lot of time out in the county. I believe this plan is good for the city. We’ve got to get a competitive edge. By having a competitive edge we could have a better job market.”

Jesse Rigby, Attorney: “I hope you don’t leave here tonight thinking the current system works fine. We are limping along.

Grover Robinson, chairman of Escambia County Commission: “I think it should be the people who decide.

“If the plan isn’t worthy, the voters will defeat it,” Gaetz said in response to Robinson. “If the people want two more years, or 10 more years, the people can vote ‘no’ and send it back.”

With only four people on the panel, the vote was tied. Senator Durell Peadon was unable to attend the meeting because of a conflicting meeting in Tallahassee.

The consolidation bill will not be going to Legislation for a decision. The actual deadline for filing the bill is 5 p.m. on Friday, so there is still a chance that it could be passed on to Legislation