Council members comment on budget message

We had reporter Jeremy Morrison track down the few council members who missed the State of the City address. He posted this story this morning:

Missing Man Formation
by Jeremy Morrison

Several Pensacola City Council Members were absent for Mayor Ashton Hayward’s first State of the City address Monday. The address — during which Hayward explained his vision for the city via a proposed budget and reorganization in local government — is considered a big deal, the first address from a strong mayor in decades.

The City Council’s response Monday to the Mayor’s plan was fairly optimistic. After a day to catch up on Hayward’s proposals, IN caught up with the absent Council members to get their take.

“I totally support it,” said Councilman Larry Johnson.

Johnson explained that he was ducking into Pensacola between out-of-town trips. He hasn’t yet had the chance to review the proposed budget in detail.
“Hopefully, when I get down to Orlando,” he said Tuesday, “I can take a look at it.”

Council Vice President P.C. Wu also expressed support for the Mayor’s proposed plan. He said he appreciated the big ideas being thrown onto the table.

“I commend the Mayor for having the meeting to begin with,” Wu said.

The reorganization — involving the creation of several cabinet-level positions — is a “good idea,” according to Wu. He’s also a fan of the proposed drop in property taxes.

Wu said he understood aspects of the plan involving fee hikes — such as a proposed increase in sanitation rates — would better enable city entities to be self sufficient, but didn’t like the idea of saddling taxpayers with any additional burden.

“The other side of that coin is that people are hurting financially,” Wu explained.

Fellow councilman John Jerralds said he had yet to digest the proposals, but would be meeting with the Mayor this week to discuss the new budget.

“I’m still looking at it,” Jerralds said, adding that he was open to exploring the Mayor’s vision. “I do believe we have to take a look at it and give it a chance.”
Jerralds acknowledged that there would be some amount of “growing pains” during this transitional process, but noted that Pensacola seemed primed for change.

“I think this will give us a fresh start,” he said. “That’s what the citizens voted for.”

City Council President Maren DeWeese was also elsewhere during the Mayor’s address. She responded to a request for a statement by referencing imagery used in IN’s account of Hayward’s address.

“I believe in Unicorns,” DeWeese responded.