Presser Notes: Green-ish, Teen-ish & Vaccine-ish

Presser Notes: Green-ish, Teen-ish & Vaccine-ish
by Jeremy Morrison

Reflecting on Pensacola City Council’s decision last week to commit to producing at least 30 percent of the city’s power via renewable energy by 2030, Mayor Grover Robinson said Monday that he thought the goal was “accomplishable.”

But what exactly does the mayor think is accomplishable?

“I think you’re going to see the city, at least on its operational stuff, focus much more on the end goal, which is what I think we really want, is the reduction of greenhouse gasses,” Robinson explained during his weekly presser.

This is not a new position for the mayor. He has historically demurred when asked about the prospect of a renewable-energy goal, which was recommended by the city’s climate change task force. Even as the council prepared to approve a 30 percent goal last week, he advised they switch tracks instead of focusing on reducing the city’s carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

When asked about the 2030 goal Monday, the mayor substituted an emphasis on greenhouse gas emissions for the council’s renewable energy intent. He pointed to Sustainability Coordinator Mark Jackson’s ongoing effort to ascertain the current particulars regarding the city’s carbon footprint — essentially conducting a greenhouse gas inventory for city operations, facilities and vehicles — and absorbed the council’s renewable energy goal into that context.

“Mark feels very good that we can make, certainly by 2030, those kinds of inroads into our greenhouse gasses and significantly limiting what we’re doing,” Robinson said. “He would have preferred that we focus a goal on greenhouse gases rather than renewable energy.”

Jackson spoke during the city council meeting last week as well, giving them a heads-up on a report he’s set to deliver sometime in May and also advising they focus on greenhouse gas reduction. But local environmentalist Christian Wagley, who sat on Robinson’s mayoral transition team, also spoke to the council, telling members that communities across the country tend to approach the issue from a renewable-energy angle.

The mayor maintained his stance on Monday, saying that the city would maintain its focus on greenhouse gas reduction and “look to do as much renewable energy as we can.” He contended
constructing municipal solar installations would be too costly.

One way the city could check its renewable-energy box, Mayor Robinson suggested, is to purchase that variety of power from Gulf Power: “If we just simply wanted to do the goal we could easily work with Gulf Power right now, they could put in all the solar panels. We’d pay for nothing, and it’d be an easy point to do. I don’t think that’s totally what Christian and his group wants. I think they want to find ways that we also work with the mom-and-pop solar industry.”

Ultimately, the mayor said he believes focusing on greenhouse gas emissions instead of renewable energy represents “a better way to go.”

“So, I’m confident Mark knows what he’s doing and can get us to where we want to go, and so that’s very much what we’ll be thinking about as we go forward,” Robinson said. “And I do think that Mark feels good that we can make the 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, if not more.”

Civics Class

The Pensacola Youth Council has been going just over a month now, with the inaugural group convening following spring break.

“Very impressed with who’s on there and the students that are in there and on what they’re doing,” Mayor Robinson said of his meeting with the group. “We had good discussions; they asked good questions. It was like sitting down here in a Monday morning interview.”

Robinson acknowledged that this first go at a youth council carried COVID-related challenges — all the meetings were conducted virtually. He’d like to see the youth council become a recurring exercise.

“I would love to see us go forward into year two. I told them, ‘You’ll always be the first group. We’ll probably learn, and we’ll make it better, but you’ll always be the first, and I think that will be something that distinguishes you always.’ But, we’re learning. I look forward to when we can do it yearlong without as much COVID protocol so that it’s more in-person.”

On May 12, youth council members will attend a city council meeting and report on their experience.

Unmasking

The city’s mask order is no more, having expired April 22.

“So, it is no longer in effect,” Mayor Robinson said Monday. “However, the city of Pensacola still encourages residents and visitors to follow CDC guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

In reality, this has been the case all along, or at least since the fall when Gov. Ron DeSantis informed local governments around the state that they could not enact localized safety measure requirements when addressing the coronavirus pandemic. While the city’s mask order remained in place, it was not enforceable beyond municipal properties.

While the order has now officially expired, Robinson said that city employees would be required to continue wearing a mask while inside city facilities. Members of the public will be encouraged to do the same.

“The biggest thing we can do at this particular time is get vaccinated; that is the most important part,” Mayor Robinson said, encouraging people to get the COVID vaccine. “We hope to reach 175,000 adults, 18 and over, vaccinated in Escambia County by the end of May. That is our goal.”

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1 thought on “Presser Notes: Green-ish, Teen-ish & Vaccine-ish

  1. An easy way to reduce energy usage is to reduce vehicle usage. I just cannot believe how city employees use vehicles to include idling for long periods. I was at Sam’s Club one afternoon and there was a city vehicle in the parking lot idling. No one was in it. Inside, I saw the driver who I knew as a department head. He was still there shopping when I left an hour later to include my having had lunch. Another time, I went to Walmart on a Sunday and a lady drove up in a city vehicle. Inside, she went grocery shopping. I have no idea if she was the city employee or her husband or boyfriend. Another time, in the afternoon, just after the 2016 tornado, I stopped at an estate sale on Dunmire Street. A city vehicle marked parks & recreation department was parked out front. Inside I saw a department head shopping for old tools. He was still there when I left 45 minutes later with some books. I recall also when Police Chief Simmons made a case for changing the PPD’s patrol from 8-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts. To be clear, the cops were worn out enough as it was because patrol duty was low priority and some shifts had as few as 7-8 officers covering the entire city. It was shocking. I had officers tell me that they didn’t respond too very actively to calls in the middle of the night because they knew their potential backup was pretty far away. Then, I recall Simmons asking for an increase in the PPD’s fuels & lubricant budget. That made no sense. I also recall Mayor Hayward being pulled over driving 50+ miles an hour in a city vehicle on Bayou enroute to pick up his wife at the airport. Why was he driving a city vehicle on personal business and why 50+ mph in a residential neighborhood? Anyways, he got Simmons on the his cell phone who told the cop to let Hayward go and off he went. The one thing you rarely see in a city neighborhood is a PPD vehicle. If you go to Pace, you see them parked in the driveway of every subdivision. I have seen them turn into Navarre neighborhoods. So, an easy place to start saving energy (and money) is to look at vehicle costs. The city is spending $1+ million this year to buy new PPD vehicles to patrol a city that covers less than 24 total square miles. By comparison, it is only spending $235,000 for Energy Conservation & Efficiency Improvements. The solution is to end the assignment of all full-time vehicles except for PPD officers who are city residents. If a PPD officer is a city resident, also up their salary $12,000 a year with a $1,000 tax free housing allowance mindful that their neighbors will be taking up some of their time telling them what is going on in the neighborhood. We don’t need to wait until 2030 or 2040 to save energy. We can do it anytime Mayor Robinson decides to do it or the City Council decides to adopt an ordinance directing how something shall be done like vehicle assignment and usage.

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