Masters of the Universe?

The daily newspaper called this morning about a second public request made last night by Councilwoman DeWeese, who copied them on the request but not the Independent News.

The councilwoman apparently is now asking for all communications between Chief of Staff John Asmar and our paper in an attempt to find out what our paper may be writing and its possible influence. I’m not sure if she has withdrawn the other request or if there are others in the pipeline.

During a commercial break on the Ed Schultz Radio Show, Mike Papantonio told me that I should be flattered that DeWeese believes that our paper is so influential on city, county and state levels. She has gotten me thinking about what we have influenced over the last dozen years. Are we really that influential?

  • We advocated for the ECUA to relocate the Main Street Sewage Plant as early as 2001. We took on the old ECUA director and board members. We were the first to report on how Hurricane Ivan hit that plant –which became a basis for the federal government to help fund that project.
  • We fought for a strong-mayor form of government just as long. I publicly debated the opponents to the new charter.
  • After Hurricane Ivan, we exposed the insurance companies trying to rip off victims – which brought state and national attention to the problem.
  • We were the first to challenge the Save Our City crowd and aggressively fight for the Community Maritime Park. We helped the referendum win approval.
  • We challenged Sheriff McNesby over taser abuse and deaths in the jail —which later became the basis for a DOJ investigation.
  • We fought for new voices on the Pensacola City Council –including Larry Johnson and Deweese. They fought long-time incumbents and we worked to help them win.
  • During the BP oil spill, our coverage brought national and international attention to the crisis and its impact on our community. We refused any BP ads because we wanted to stand with our neighbors. We aggressively pushed for our elected officials to not drink the BP “kool-aid.”

Maybe we do have some influence….but we’ve had our failures.

  • We pushed for the local option sales tax to help pay for health care for the poor and uninsured. It failed.
  • We pushed for a county charter. Again we got our butts kicked.
  • We pushed for Malcolm Thomas to sell Brownsville Middle School. He refused.
  • We worked with DeWeese on Pensacola Promise – only to see it die and later be resurrected by the Studers in a different format.
  • We fought the city council taking half million dollars from the west side youth and giving it to Roger Scott. We lost that vote.
  • We fought the city council expanding industrial leases at the port because we feared it would tie up the city for decades. We lost and it has.
  • We worked for David Morgan and Lumon May in 2008. Morgan won, May narrowly lost.
  • We wanted Crist for the U.S. Senate and Alex Sink for Governor. We didn’t do well there either.

So I guess we aren’t Masters of the Universe….but we will continue fighting for this community.

When journalists from other countries visit our city through the Gulf Coast Diplomacy Council, they talk to our staff about government censorship and oppression. They talk about how government officials imprison journalists and try to hunt down their sources. Their governments don’t believe in a free press and I greatly admire what these reporters do.

The last visitors bluntly told me that I would be dead if I was publishing in their country. The First Amendment is critical to our democracy. Government employees should have a right to communicate with the media without fear of reprisal from council members.