Grover’s Midweek Q&A: COVID, the bridge & the homeless

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson addressed a collection of items Wednesday during his Facebook Live Q&A session, among them the ongoing repairs to the bay bridge and funding for homeless services, but he opened the forum by paying respects to local attorney and philanthropist Fred Levin, who passed away Tuesday.

“Mr. Levin has been an icon,” Mayor Robinson said, noting the attorney’s involvement in notable legal cases involving tobacco companies and the 2010 BP oil spill, as well as his contributions to the local community. “Certainly, Pensacola lost a great figure in our community’s history.”

Also prior to ticking off a list of announcements and responding to questions from the public, the mayor also called attention to his choice of tie, which was green and blue — the colors representative of both the Pensacola Police Department and also the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

Robinson said he and Interim Chief Kevin Christman would be visiting with ECSO Wednesday in order to discuss the two entities working relationship.

“To look at ways we can work a better relationship between the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and the Pensacola Police Department,” the mayor said, adding that he looked forward to meeting with Tommi Lyter, the PPD’s former chief who stepped down last month to take a job with his former boss, newly-elected Sheriff Chip Simmons, also a former PPD chief.

‘All We Can Do …’

Running down the latest COVID numbers, Mayor Robinson said Wednesday that the local coronavirus trend continued to hover is worrisome territory, but that there is little more that can be done.

“All we can do at this point and time are the things that we’ve been doing,” he said, reiterating the importance of wearing a mask in public and practicing basic social-distancing, hand-washing safety measures.

Currently, COVID hospitalizations are at 263. That’s down a few from last week, but not by much.

Mayor Robinson said that during his regular meeting with local hospital officials, that the healthcare community seemed “a little more confident and comfortable” now that its rank were receiving the vaccine. The general public, however, will need to be patient, as individuals 65 and older are currently lining up for a limited supply of vaccine.

“Just know the vaccine is out there,” Robinson assured. “We’re getting more supply everyday.”

While vaccine distribution is being handled by the health department, hospitals and, now, some private locations, such as Publix, the mayor said that the city was communicating that any of its properties were also available. Also, there have been offers originating from the private sector.

“In fact, I got a call from Quint Studer offering the stadium,” Robinson said, referring to the Blue Wahoos baseball stadium at Community Maritime Park.

Bridge On Track

Mayor Robinson reported that the Florida Department of Transportation is telling him that the Pensacola Bay Bridge should be back on line by spring as expected. The freshly unveiled bridge was knocked out by construction barges during last fall’s Hurricane Sally.

“They fully expect to have the bridge back up and open by March,” Robinson said.

The mayor also addressed the mounting lawsuits against Skanska, the company who owned the barges that broke lose during the hurricane and washed up throughout the area. He mentioned specifically a string of businesses along Gregory Street that have claimed a loss of business due to the bridge outage.

“I’ve gotta a lot of people asking, ‘what is the city going to do?’” the mayor said. “It’s not so much ‘what are we going to do?” but there are things that we did do.”

Robinson explained that the city had no official role to play in lawsuits against Skanska, as FDOT, not the city, oversees the company’s contract, but that anyone seeking damages would be interested to know that the city had declared a state of emergency on ahead of Sally on Sept. 14. The city was the first jurisdiction to make such a declaration, the mayor noted, and he felt like it had provided people with adequate lead time to enact necessary safety protocols.

“There was certainly enough time in that state of emergency for these preparations to have taken place,” he said. “We wished that Skanska had been responsible enough to do that.”

Money For Homeless

Following his Facebook appearance, Mayor Robinson was headed to a meeting with the Pensacola City Council. He spoke during the online forum a bit about the request that he would be making for council to dedicate $200,000 towards addressing the needs of the homeless.

Primarily, the city is looking to develop a day center where homeless individuals could access services. The need for such a facility, the mayor said Wednesday, was all the more dire following a rough run last year.

“Between COVID and Hurricane Sally, it has knocked almost all of our shelters out,” Robinson said, adding that an additional day-use center had already been identified as a priority need: “The number one thing that came out of that summit in 2019 was a day center.”

While $200,000 is a start, it won’ t go too far. The city is looking to Escambia County to partner on this effort. Mayor Robinson nodded to Tallahassee, where the city has a multi-phased program to address the needs of the homeless, with offering ranging from a day center to a village of tiny homes.

“The major contributor was Leon County,” Mayor Robinson pointed out.


2 thoughts on “Grover’s Midweek Q&A: COVID, the bridge & the homeless

  1. CJ, your should take your anger out on the republican Governor, aka trump Jr.,,He/ Gov, passed a rule denying Mayors from doing anything, of course, Escambia Commissioners went along with their good friend the Gov, only Mr. May, wanted to pass legislation making it mandatory to wear mask, and stop all the gin joints, and restaurants from having as many people in side spreading the virus..or no, Mr. Underhill, being a good friend with the Gov and other carpet baggers, no way were they going to stop the money train….Money rules, so what if you get sick and die.

  2. By his lack of leadership, Grover Robinson is certainly doing his part to keep up the high rate of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in the City of Pensacola. The numbers will be better revealed when someone breaks them out by municipality vice zip code. Robinson’s Republican Party refusal to enforce the city’s mask ordinance is willful neglect of duty. Yesterday around noon, I was in the Walmart “Super Spreader” store on Creighton Road in the city. I was pleased to see a really big sign at the entrance now telling everyone that local or state orders required them to wear masks. I saw a Pensacola Police Department SUV parked at the entrance. Walking into the western store entrance, I saw a PPD officer talking to a Walmart associate but as I grabbed a cart I saw him leave the store and return to his SUV where he was still sitting 15 minutes later when I left. Walking into the store, I immediately saw the store manager talking to someone. People without masks walked right past her and she said nothing. I was in the store no more than 15 minutes to pick up two items in different parts of the store. In just that short period of time, I counted 13 people not wearing masks. In one case, a mother was wearing a mask but not her husband/boyfriend and not their two children. Interestingly, I did sense that more people than usual were giving COVID-19 deniers without masks the evil eye. However, what are you supposed to do when the Walmart store manager, store associates and even the PPD officer working off-duty for Walmart will not enforce the city’s mask ordinance. Further, this being Escambia County, you have to assume that everyone you see may be a convicted felon armed with a handgun. Asking someone to put on a mask is asking for trouble. As more people get vaccinated, even more people will not wear a mask in the false belief that they are immune. The vaccines are not 100% effective and even if you have been vaccinated, and your body can fight off the disease, you still may be able to spread the virus, a new twist medical researchers are now studying. It dawned on me today that the knocking out of the bridge may be a blessing in disguise for people who live in the City of Gulf Breeze now very, very isolated. When the data is someday available, it will be interesting to see how Gulf Breeze faired in the crisis versus Pensacola. Gulf Breeze has the advantage of having a Leadership Mayor. Pensacola has a Facebook Mayor.

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