Judge and CMPA Board aren’t the problem

Today PNJ columnist Mark O’Brien writes: “Judge Lacey Collier may do fine in the court of law, but he lacks the patience and temperament to run an inexperienced, nonprofit group of volunteers trying to build a maritime park with $40 million of taxpayer money”

The problem with the Community Maritime Park isn’t the CMPA board or its chairman, Judge Lacey Collier.

Pensacola has a city manager form of government. The professional staff runs the City. Citizens serve on the council and as mayor. They set policy. Volunteers serve on advisories and make recommendations.

There is no citizen board in the City of which I am aware that is completely autonomous – except maybe the pension boards. City staff reviews everything and then sends to the city council with recommendations. City staff – under the City manager – are the executive branch – the doers.

One of the main arguments against a strong mayor is that a professional staff can do a better job.

Well, the senior professional staff hasn’t done a good job on the CMP. City managers Tom Bonfield and Al Coby, City Attorneys John Fleming and Rusty Wells and Finance Director Dick Barker have let this flounder.

Instead of full senior staff attention to the CMP, we’ve gotten loaned manager, Ed Spears – a good leader but without much authority.

The CMPA board was set up to run the CMP by then-City Manager Tom Bonfield and the Pensacola City Council. Now four years later, the City wants it back. The senior city staff should have been more involved from the day after the referendum passed.

No, the blame for the long delays on the CMPA agreements and financing shouldn’t be placed on the CMPA board, but on the well-paid senior city staff.