Under the present charter, Pensacola voters have very little power. A voter can not impact the direction, programs or initiatives of Pensacola government, without the consent of the city manager and his staff. A Pensacola voter can elect only four council members –his/her district, two at-large and the mayor. To get any budget item or ordinance passed, it takes six votes. To remove the city manager it takes six votes. A Pensacola voter and his/her neighbors are virtually powerless in controlling their government. The power is with an unelected staff.
In Tallahassee–the example used by Don Caton– the voters elect all four council members and the mayor. The voters control their government. In Gulf Breeze, every two years the mayor and two of the four council members are elected. The citizens can change their government at the ballot box if they are unhappy.
In Pensacola, the ballot box only has a slight impact, the staff-which is controlled by unelected person and who is nearly impossible to remove-decides how the city is governed. Want a new library? Can’t happen unless staff supports it—council earmarked the money in 1999 still nothing was built. Want Pensacola Promise? Can’t even get on the agenda. Want curbside recycling? ECUA enacted it faster than the City of Pensacola.
The new charter won’t change the council—-the present council would never consent to allowing the voters to vote on reducing the number of its members. However, it lets the voters decide who will be in charge of the city. It gives the voters the power to impact the direction of Pensacola. Something that voters have in other cities, even those with manager-council systems.