Crime, Chickens and the Press

In one of its most fluid meetings in months, the Pensacola City Council seemed to sail unencumbered through its Thursday night engagement. The board tended to its chicken and urban farming ordinance, sections of the city’s green building code and a Complete Streets resolution.

The council also heard from Police Chief Chip Simmons on a string of recent violent crimes.

“Specifically, we have had four shootings in a three day period,” Simmons said.

The police chief told the council that the region was experiencing a burst in gun play. He  relayed details of recent drive-by and the fact that the department had beefed up its street presence.

“This time we used everyone, because we wanted to stop it and move forward,” he said. “We cannot have them shooting up our neighborhoods.”

Simmons also explained that the police department had recently joined forces with the sheriff’s office, as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies, in an effort to curb violent crime.

Councilman John Jerralds noted that the city could soon need to consider increasing the number of police it employees.

“Unless the criminals move to another city, we’re on the verge of expanding our force to protect our city,” he said.

Also during last night’s meeting, city council members took some time to comment on recent press coverage. Both the Independent News and the Pensacola News Journal had recent articles and editorials on the at-time contentious relationship between council and the mayor’s office.

The council took particular issue with an editorial printed by the PNJ. Councilwoman Sherri Myers disputed its claim of “dithering” and “time wasted.”

“Even though we’re bashed in print media,” Councilman Larry Johnson agreed, “I take these responsibilities very seriously.”

Myers also took issue with the newspaper painting the council’s recent move on backyard chickens and urban farming as a waste of time. The councilwoman said that the council was simply responding to citizen input via the appropriate channels.

Tom Garner, who has been a vocal supporter of the chicken ordinance, also felt the editorial had missed the mark. He addressed the New Journal editorial board during public comment period.

“They may think chickens is a silly issue,” he said. “But this process is not silly. It’s textbook democracy.”