The interviews with mayoral candidates Mike Wiggins and Ashton Hayward went on for over two hours. We didn’t have the space to include all of each interview in the newspaper. Here is the remaining portion of the interview with Mike Wiggins that was done on Thursday, Oct. 28:
IN: On Parks & Recreation, the key word I heard was “all.” There is a disparity as you look across our community in where our parks are located. The black community was not built with the same park system as east of Ninth Avenue.
We are making some headway on that and it’s happened on my watch. A improvements to the Cobb Center, almost a million bucks. We’ve improved Legion Field. We are going to a lot of things to facilities, that quite frankly been neglected.
IN: On the neighborhood side, we have the same challenges.
In the this campaign, I have literally I walked everywhere from Scenic Heights to Morris Court. I’ve knocked on doors and met people all these neighborhoods. You can mark this down as a benchmark: I will address the needs of all the people, not just a few.
INL You’ve been on the council 16 years. Why is it now that you addressing this and not earlier?
Quite frankly, we have addressed it. We created a west side CRA. We have a West Side plan.
IN: But it’s been sitting on a shelf .
I know that, but if you look at the revenue projections it was to have, and you will have to check on this for me, by 2013-2014 close to a quarter million dollars for improvements. It’s negative. And, no, I’m not trying to pass the buck, but real estate has declined so we are sitting there with a negative CRA and no funds to do what we want to do–signage, sidewalks, everything that we normally do in a CRA, like downtown – which is one of the most successful in the state.
IN: Now where do we go from here? What can we do to get things kicked off?
We start on A Street. We don’t have any CRA funds, but maybe we can use some of the neighborhood initiative monies, maybe get some of the neighborhood association so matching funds to work A Street. That is one small step we can do.
In Forgotten Cities report, there is a whole laundry list of tasks. You need to get together groups, set goals and, quite frankly, you set achievable goals. It’s not a zero sum game where take funds away from one and give to another. You have positive projects that you can do….even to point of making it fun.
IN: But you’re looking at area that the council spent seven years developing a west side plan. You already went to these citizens once and you haven’t delivered. How do you get buy-in when they haven’t seen the fruits of all their efforts?
I understand that. The plan is very aggressive. It’s very far-reaching. We’ve got to look at the funding.
IN: Well, let’s take another example, a year and half ago $500,000 of local option sales taxes was take out of soccer fields for the west side and put into restrooms at Roger Scott Tennis Center. Maybe the soccer fields weren’t needed, but the funds were never brought back into the west side community.
You are right, but we do have sitting in the LOST budget a million and half for a Woodlands Community Center and a million and half for Ron Townsend’s district. Well, that’s not enough to do either one. We can pool the money and do one of them or we can hope –I hate to use that word–that the market will come back and sales tax revenues will go up and create enough of surplus to do both.
You take a westside library. It’s very important for two reason, 1) The citizens deserve it and 2) the storefront we have over there is doing unbelievably well.
This going to be where we will have to be creative. People want these things done. A strong mayor is going to have to make happen, because people are going to hold my feet to the fire. You going to hold my feet to the fire.
I can’t make the west side a very prosperous neighborhood overnight, but we can set some achievable goals and let’s move forward.
I believe as mayor and put together the coalitions to make it work. I’ve got the experience. I know the players. I know the neighborhoods. I know the staff. I can do it and I’m not convinced my opponent can.
IN: You have the experience. Why hasn’t it happened yet?
The form of government has put this in the hands of city staff. All I can do is make recommendations. Even though I have been much more active and involved mayor than anyone else in this form of government, I think I can it happen in the new form of government.
IN: You were an at-large council member. You did represent all those people. Why didn’t you push harder before?
I did push harder before, but there wasn’t the revenue to make it happen. We weren’t as creative as we should have been. Knowing that the revenue isn’t going to be there, we are going to have to work on small victories and take some small steps. It’s time to begin the process and when the market turns back, we can be more aggressive.
IN: Diane Mack on her blog says that you will implement the Port of Pensacola plan that the city council has adopted, but that’s not exactly what you say in your pledge to the voters, is it?
Yes, you can say we have a plan, but does the new strong mayor embrace it? I do believe in opening the north end of the port to possible multi-use, but I’m not ready to pull that trigger because I don’t want to get in competition with development at the maritime park.
I was against CEMEX. However, I do support maritime uses at the port. I’ve met with Offshore Inland that may be coming forward with some proposals to expand the lease. Immigration rules with Russia have been loosened and Mike Pate will be able to expand his business.
People need to know that I support maritime uses at the port and I’m not ready to cut up for condominiums. However, we do have space for multi-use, too.
IN: The city strategy on the Donovan/Nobles petition seemed to issue the letter by Rusty Wells and then remain silent. Why didn’t you comment publicly on the petition?
Anybody that ever asked me I would tell them that I was against it. I thought I was pretty clear.
IN: There wasn’t anything in the paper.
Nobody asked me. I thought the petition drive was totally out of order. It was way after the fact. If they group wanted to the project, they should have six to eight months before. We had already made arrangements for the new market tax credits. We had already started the project. Why in the world should we have a petition drive at the last minute? I very, very happy that it was not successful.
IN: You have been criticized for your votes on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Tell us about those votes.
I did vote against the name change. I told the folks at Mt. Zion that I wished that I had that vote back. We do have the Eastside CRA. I hope to get some more improvements to MLK so that its similar to south of Cervantes. I very enthusiastically supported changing the name of the two northern blocks. What a lot of people don’t know is that in the matter of weeks after the Alcaniz vote I brought up changing those two blocks. The council didn’t want to address that and it died. I didn’t have any support for a motion. I should have pursued it a little harder.
Part of the problem was not all of the street was in the city and we had to wait for the county to extend it.