Bailey: current charter hurts city

Former CRA director says city charter limits problem solving
By: Michael Rutschky

The Pensacola City Charter inhibits the city’s people and government from successfully working together to solve tough problems, Pensacola architect David Bailey told the Charter Review Commission at their meeting on Wednesday. Bailey referred to a section of the charter, which states that the city council can only interact with the members of the city staff through the city manager. This rule creates a bottleneck that prevents the council from effectively dealing with major problems such as generational poverty and housing issues.

“The structure of the city government does not lend itself to leadership on the part of the elected officials,” said Bailey.

Bailey said that during his five years as the director of the Pensacola community redevelopment agency his working relationship with the city council was inhibited to the point of being meaningless. According to Bailey, there were members of the council who never met with him at his office during his time on the staff.

Commission Member Natalie Prim explained that the rule was in place to keep staff members from going around the city manager.

“It doesn’t mean that they can’t discuss, or that they can’t present or grieve, or hear what they have to say,” said Prim, “I think it’s just to keep order in the house and not let it get out of hand.”

Bailey responded by suggesting that the language of the charter provide an individual with the responsibility to keep that problem in check rather than using “soft” language that prevents the separate departments from communicating.

“The problems that I dealt with were not tidy problems,” said Bailey, “don’t let the desire to have very tidy structure prevent us, when we’re in the trenches, from solving problems.”

Pensacola’s government was also compared to that of big cities that exhibit a more progressive form of government, such as Jacksonville, Fla. and Austin, Texas. Bailey used the example of the mayor of Austin, Will Wynn, sitting down with members of the pubic to draft a budget. Bailey told the review commission that Pensacola’s political boundaries do not reflect the significance of the city within the state of Florida or the United States, and that it should be more progressive.