Mayoral Q&A: Vaccines and a Parking Garage

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

A couple of days after engaging in a spirited discussion with the Pensacola City Council about the prospects of leasing a couple of parcels at the Maritime Park in exchange for half a parking garage, Mayor Grover Robinson addressed the issue again Wednesday during a Facebook Live Q&A session with the public.

“It will be a significant parking garage, and it should be able to handle all of the needs for that area,” Robinson said, calling the arrangement “a win-win deal.”

In short, the deal on the table involves a 99-year lease, 10 years of property tax breaks, a residential-commercial development and a thousand-space parking garage. Mayor Robinson has said that the parking garage, half of which would be for the accompanying development, with the remainder used by the city, is essential to further developing the properties at Maritime.

“There was always anticipations that there would be what you call structural-vertical parking,” the mayor said.

Questions posed to the mayor during the Facebook session regarded the perceived lack of involvement of the city council in the process of developing Maritime. Robinson said that the lengthy process that has led to this phase in Maritime’s evolution has consistently included the city council’s involvement.

“It was the prior council; obviously, it’s changed,” Robinson noted, acknowledging the hurdles posed by a slate of new city council members seated in November.

Regardless, the mayor reasoned, this process fell to the executive branch anyway.

“The people voted for a system of government that allows the mayor’s office and the executive to negotiate; that’s the whole purpose of this, is a one-person negotiation process,” he said. “It’s the council’s job to approve or disapprove, and they have that opportunity.”

As for the elements of the deal itself, Robinson addressed a couple of issues. First, Robinson said that to realize their desired density of between 375 and 450 residential units, developers may take advantage of workarounds (“Everybody’s so concerned about a density bonus. Well, one of the ways you can get a density bonus is to provide affordable housing.”) and second, that once the parking garage became a city asset, it could be leveraged to fund additional parking structures or other development: “It always gives you capability into the future.”

Vaccine Lowdown

The region continues to see a ramping up of the COVID vaccine rollout. In particular, the Northwest Florida Community Health Clinic has begun conducting walk-in clinics at the Brownsville Community Center and is, as the mayor would explain, “bringing more vaccine to Escambia County in a little bit different way.”

“Community Health is really trying to target those in under-served neighborhoods,” Mayor Robinson said.

Providing some additional insight into these clinics in the Brownsville area during his Facebook session, the mayor explained why the events have been open to individuals falling outside the eligibility scope laid out by the state: the clinic isn’t receiving its doses of vaccine from the state allotment, but rather from the feds.

“Because their allocation is coming from the federal government, they do have a little bit more flexibility,” Robinson said.

Adding that the community clinic would also begin hosting events after 5 p.m., for people unable to go during the day due to work obligations, and encouraged people to try to take advantage of the opportunities when possible.

“The long-term way out of this is vaccines, so we need everybody to do that,” Robinson said.

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1 thought on “Mayoral Q&A: Vaccines and a Parking Garage

  1. Mayor Robinson claims, “The people voted for a system of government that allows the mayor’s office and the executive to negotiate; that’s the whole purpose of this, is a one-person negotiation process,” he said. “It’s the council’s job to approve or disapprove, and they have that opportunity.” A very confused Robinson recently told the same made-up fairy tale of his absolute power to Jennifer Munoz at WEAR TV-3, “He said the city charter gives the executive branch the power to negotiate, but the council will still need to approve the lease.” There is not an ounce of truth in what Robinson says. The word “negotiate” appears nowhere in Pensacola’s constitution the Charter for the City of Pensacola. The issue was never once discussed by the Pensacola Charter Review Commission (CRC) that met between January 2008 and August 2009. If anyone claims otherwise, ask CRC Chairwoman Crystal Spencer. She was there. The City Council also never discussed in 2009 or later that the new Charter transferred the power to negotiate contracts and leases to the Mayor. City Attorney Woolf may be whispering in Robinson’s ear again as she now so often does, reassuring him when frustrated with our republican form of democracy that provides for a balance of power with checks and balances that he has this or that secret, unwritten executive powers given to him by the Charter or unwittingly by the City Council. In truth, all of the municipal powers of the city, except those expressly assigned with particularity to the mayor or another city official, are vested in its governing body the City Council from which the Mayor was “removed” on January 10, 2011. See Section 166.021 Powers, Florida Statutes, too. The new Charter gives the new Mayor many (15) but very narrowly defined executive powers. They are described with great particularity. The Charter imposes some limitations upon the City Council but for the most part its powers remain sweeping and the same as the Florida Legislature submit to specific limitations or preemptions described in state law. The City Council has delegated certain administrative authorities to the Mayor and also to other city officials doing so by adopting ordinances (city laws) and resolutions (city policies). But the City Council can revoke or limit them at any time. Now would be a good time mindful to do so as we witness Robinson’s unnatural impulses to grab power. A great historical document to read, and perhaps Rick’s Blog could post it here for those who have never seen it, is the ten-page “Frequently Asked Questions” document put out by the Believe in Pensacola group prior to the November 2009 Municipal Charter Referendum. This is the key document that describes what city voters thought they were voting for in 2009. A key assertion in the document was and remains, “Council’s role remains much the same as it does with the current charter.” The document makes clear what Ms. Spencer said and I verified by reviewing the 1931 and 2010 Charter’s line-by-line, that the new Mayor has “less” power than the prior City Manager who was 100% accountable and could be fired by the City Council at any moment and for any or no reason. Compare as example now the steady leadership of the Gulf Breeze City Manager with the manic actions of a power mad Robinson. So, to be clear, the people “did not” vote for a system that politically castrated the City Council as Mayor Hayward once asserted and Robinson now claims. If I were on the City Council, I would review the Code of Ordinances and propose an omnibus amendment to dramatically limit this current dangerous mayor’s “delegated” power to spend money, negotiate and approve deals. Century has a Mayor-Council form of government just like Pensacola. In Century, its Charter expressly authorizes the Mayor to spend up to $200 without approval of the Town Council, up to $500 during an emergency. Pensacola’s City Code might authorize the Mayor to spend up to $1,000, up to $5,000 during an emergency declared by the Governor. The City Council could task its Council President, the counterpart to the Board of County Commissioner’s Chairperson, to handle all contract and lease negotiations.

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