I will admit there are times I miss having a radio show. My three years hosting “Pensacola Speaks” on WCOA and 18 months helping to launch NewsRadio 1620 with my “IN in Your Head Radio” gave me an opportunity to interview local, state and national newsmakers.
Now I’m considered too controversial for radio – even though my ratings were always solid.
Yesterday, I interviewed Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson about the city staff’s recommendation to remove the Confederate monument, the News Journal’s Sunday editorial and Rep. Matt Gaetz’s swipe at his leadership.
Inweekly: What are you feelings about the report, and what do you think are the best options?
Mayor Grover Robinson: “I’ve said this for years, you and I have talked about this many times. I think that, as Southerners, I would love to find a way that we could respectfully display our history.
“Part of that really requires us doing a better job of telling all the stories in our own community. I think if we had been doing that, we wouldn’t have put ourselves so far behind, but I think what came out of the evaluation is that for us to properly, at this point, go just to tell everybody’s story, it’s going to take us a significant amount of money that we simply don’t have.
“At this particular time, we’re not telling the story equitably, with what’s there now—an unequitable telling, which has created difficulty and, I guess, looking for a better word, sort of discontent with the way that’s being done. “
The Push for ‘Equitable Telling of Who We Are’
Mayor Robinson: “Our whole goal and commitment has been trying to be equitable in what we’re doing. I think we have to represent all of the city of Pensacola. We’ve certainly made an effort to do it, we’re still in the process of doing some of those things.”
“I think at the end of the day, it’s too little too late, as I said on the radio this morning. Other than Sherri Myers, I don’t know anybody in the last 30 years that has tried to really figure out a way to tell the story of all sides in our history.
“Because of that, I think at this particular time, it puts us in a position where the current monument in the current park is just inconsistent with an equitable telling of who we are. Therefore, based on prices and what was looked at, the only thing, really, that the city can do is move to remove and try to provide something that is more inclusive, more equitable, more consistent with who we are as a total community.”
News Journal’s Mea Culpa
Inweekly: We’ve also discussed that one of the issues that happened back when the County Commission was debating the Confederate flag was the News Journal came out wanting to keep the flag, at least Earle Bowden did. Over the weekend, the News Journal sort of apologized for its past. What are your thoughts on the New Journal’s editorial on Sunday?
Mayor Robinson: “That’s great, but you and I have talked about this several times. I was perfectly content to walk away where we were [removing the Confederate flag from the Pensacola Bay Center in December 2014].
“We are the City of Five Flags, so what I tried to do is create something that brought back the five flags and get it based on what the city did. Like I said before, I would have been happy if someone come to me that night in December of 2014 and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you just use the state flag?’ I would have used it then, that idea had not come to us. We weren’t able to think about it.
“Again, how do we tell a story that is a fairly rich story, has a lot of diversity in it? I just don’t think we’ve done as good a job of telling that whole story. I think this is one of the things that puts us at odds.
“I’ve gotten a lot of emails from people who are mad about the monument coming down, but they’re also mad about us allowing a Black Lives Matter mural. I try to respond back to them that I don’t understand the consistency of their thoughts.
“If somebody was to say, ‘Hey, you need to allow both, or you need to take down both,’ I would see that as consistent argument. But “I want what I want, and I don’t want anybody else to have what I have,” I find is inconsistent. I think we as a community, have got to do a better job of that. It’s certainly my hope that we could do more of inclusive in having everything, but I absolutely understand that at the end of the day, what we have is not equitable. It’s not a fair discussion of what that is.
“It’s a cause that’s going to be, as I talked to Andrew MaKay this morning about—it’s going to be $2 million, $2.5 million to put something for all the various other groups we have. We simply don’t have enough money to put into our past.
“We need to be thinking about our future, and perhaps, how do we create things in our future that are really shared and used by all of us. I do think the city as a whole, the last 30 years, the increased infrastructure that it just put into it has been more in use.
“When you look at the community centers we’ve done, other things that we’ve done, I think our new spending has been equitable and is trying to create that. The challenge is dealing with the legacy of what our past has been, and that’s difficult to do.
Equitable City Services
Mayor Robinson: “You know how much it pains me. You and I have had these discussions, and I don’t take this lightly. My family has a long history here and I don’t like removing history in any sense. But I think we have to critically look at ourselves and say, ‘Have we done a fair job of being equitable?’
“You and I have talked about this several times, and I’ve tried to do that. The things we’re doing with the Middle Passage marker and some of the other things that we’re doing, what we allowed with the Black Lives Matter mural. I think these were attempts to tell a more complete and inclusive story, but unfortunately, I just don’t think we’re there. So much of our history has been told one way, it’s made it very difficult for us to balance.
“When I look at what we’ve spent infrastructure spending over the last 30 years, I think we’re moving in a better way that more equitably applies everything through the city. I think there are a lot of things the city has done very well.
“I don’t want to say the city has done everything poorly. I think dealing with our past and some of the things that we’ve made in our past, and when the city has not been as equitable in its discussion of its past, those are just challenges that are for us, and it’s put us in this location.
“If perhaps we’d spent more time figuring out how to do that in a better way, we might not be here. But at this particular time, I don’t see how we can justify that much money to go tell our past, when we really need to be focused on what we’re doing in our future. “
Matt Gaetz’s Tweet
Inweekly: One last question. Matt Gaetz (GOP Congressman, Fort Walton Beach) went on Twitter yesterday and posted, ” Pensacola has been long known as the ‘City of Five Flags.’ How many of them will survive this time of mob cancel culture & political weakness?”
Mayor Robinson: “We still have five flags flying downstairs, so it hasn’t changed us. Last time I checked, there’s still five of them flying. I don’t know, maybe I’ll have to go down there, maybe Matt’s right, maybe we took a couple of them down, but I thought there were five still flying.”