Mayor Ashton Hayward issued the first veto of his term yesterday afternoon. Before heading out to a town hall meeting in the evening, he sat down for a few minutes to discuss his decision.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Hayward defended his veto.
During last week’s budget hearing, the Pensacola City Council removed $220,000 from marketing budgets and transferred the money into its own coffers for the stated purpose of hiring council staff. The mayor vetoed that budget amendment, arguing that the marketing effort was necessary to advertise the city to the outside world.
“My whole mantra’s been economic development and growing our city,” Hayward said.
This year, the city contracted with the Zimmerman Agency, a Tallahassee firm, to handle its marketing needs. The firm’s contract lasts for three years, with the city having budgeted a total of $1.2 million for advertising purposes in the 2013 budget.
The marketing money is found throughout the city budget. Some of it is located in the budgets of the city’s enterprise arms—the airport, the port and Pensacola Energy—and some is located in the MIS and the mayor’s budget. City council targeted the marketing money located in MIS and the mayor’s budget—$120,000 and $50,000 respectively—and took issue with the city’s marketing efforts beyond the enterprise agencies.
“We need the whole package,” Hayward said. “We need all we can get.”
The Zimmerman Agency has already presented the city with a new brand and logo. It has also arranged for the mayor to speak with national media outlets and produced media ads.
“I think it’s a little late in the game to be changing direction,” Hayward said.
The city council also removed $120,000 from the mayor’s professional services budget. While Councilman Larry B. Johnson, who offered up the motion to remove the money, has said the intent was not to target the mayor’s chief of staff—a position that is funded out of that budget—Hayward feels the move was squarely aimed at John Asmar.
“Of course,” the mayor said.
Some members of council—particularly Johnson—have voiced concerns about the chief of staff in recent months. Prior to the budget hearing, Councilwoman Sherri Myers suggested a possible solution for the board’s concerns about Asmar might be to defund his position in the budget.
This second amendment to the budget was passed by a strong 7-1 vote, with Councilman P.C. Wu dissenting and Councilman Ronald Townsend absent. The $120,000 was transferred into a police training fund.
The mayor did not veto the $120,000 amendment to the proposed 2013 budget. In a statement, he noted that he “took issue” with the change.
“I’m gonna basically look at all the facts on that before responding,” Hayward said, later adding, “there’s just some things hanging out there that I want to do my homework on.”
The mayor also said that the police had not requested the funds—“Chip never said, ‘Ashton, I need $120,000’”—and that Johnson had not mentioned the move in his earlier budget requests. In the earlier statement, it was noted that money could be moved from other areas of the budget back into professional services if necessary.
Hayward said that he didn’t feel all seven council members that voted for the transfer viewed it as a statement about his chief of staff. He said that some council members may not have understood the implications of their vote.
“You know, when things happen that fast maybe people don’t digest it,” Hayward said.
The city council will now have five days to respond to the mayor’s veto of its amendment. It will take a majority of council—six votes—to overturn the veto.