Three months ago, Mayor Grover Robinson tasked a dozen community leaders to review 11 areas of city governance and provide recommendations for both immediate and long-term goals that will help his transition into the mayor’s office.
The transition team delivered its 84-page report on Monday, March 4. Over 900 citizens provided input during the process.
In his letter to the citizens that accompanied the report, Mayor Robinson wrote, “With this report, I believe the city has more than a simple list of suggestions but a true strategic plan that will allow my administration to make each and every part of our community better. Towards that end, I look forward to working with you over the next four years. Thank you again for the opportunity to serve.”
In the report, Transition Team chair Quint Studer admitted he had his doubts about the process but came to appreciate why the mayor wanted the transition team.
“After completing the transition team process, I now see what the mayor understood when he initiated this process; namely that the transition team exercise would create a robust community conversation and result in an influx of innovative and fresh ideas for making our community better and stronger,” he wrote in the report. “As a candidate, Mayor Robinson pledged to be more engaged in the community—this transition exercise is evidence that he is making good on that pledge.”
Studer shared in the report’s summary four observations based on objective data:
1. Headed in Right Direction: “The first Mason Dixon Quality of Life Study for the City of Pensacola was completed in 2007. This recurring survey began annually asking the question, is Pensacola moving in the right direction? In that first year of polling, 26 percent of city residents answered affirmatively. The survey has been done every year since 2007. And In 2018, 60 percent of residents who responded indicated the city is moving in the right direction. Perhaps the most important indicator of the overall health of a community—especially a small- to mid-market city—is do people want to live there; i.e., population trends. Since the 2010 census, the City of Pensacola has increased from 51,800 to 54,600 residents, a 5 percent improvement. Similarly, Escambia County has grown from 298,000 residents to 321,000, an increase of 7 percent.”
2. Improved Tax Base: “Financial metrics provide another important benchmark of a community’s vibrancy. In a matter of seven years, city-assessed property values increased from $4.6 billion to $5.3 billion, a 19 percent improvement (2010 to 2017). Escambia County taxable sales grew from $2.69 billion to $3.63 billion (2017), a 34.9 percent increase. Another critical factor to consider is the property values within the designated Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) areas. From 2010 to 2017, CRA property values grew from $675 million to $918 million in 2017, a 36 percent increase. Furthermore, investment in the CRA areas over the last six years has increased 69 percent.”
3. Bright Future of Jobs: “In addition, the city is moving forward with several economic development projects, including the transformational “Project Titan” at the Pensacola Airport. When fully built, Project Titan will create over 1,375 new high-wage jobs in the coveted aerospace sector. Pensacola’s downtown continues to be a bright spot for the community and the entire region.”
4. Experts Hired to Plan Next Phase: “Two other very exciting projects on the horizon are the SCAPE project aimed at creating a better and more accessible waterfront for Pensacola and the West Main Master plan, which will provide a road map on the best way to develop some major property within the city. Both projects are utilizing well-known experts, and the majority of the cost is coming from the private sector. In many ways, the redevelopment of Pensacola’s ample public waterfront spaces from the Bay Bridge to the West Side is one of the biggest opportunities for improvement. Fortunately, these are challenges and opportunities that play into Mayor Robinson’s unique skill set developed from his personal experience in real estate and in 12 years as a county commissioner. His experience can pay huge dividends for our community as it moves forward.”
He added, “The above data points demonstrate continued forward movement in improving quality of life for residents of the city as well as all residents of Escambia County. This report aims to make recommendations and propose action steps which are geared towards building on the community’s existing momentum and finding ways to make Pensacola even better.”
The full report is available at transitionpensacola.com. Here are the recommendations:
CHAIRMAN: QUINT STUDER, STUDER COMMUNITY INSTITUTE
Create a mission, vision, values and an employee code of ethics for the City of Pensacola.
Conduct and follow a strategic plan for the City of Pensacola.
Modernize and publicize a city organizational structure.
Create a city dashboard with measurable goals across all departments.
Conduct an employee engagement survey with all city employees.
Strive to unify the mayor’s office and city council in a working relationship and messaging from city hall.
Invest and budget for training and development of city employees.
PILLAR LEADER: CONNIE BOOKMAN, PATHWAYS FOR CHANGE
Make a dedicated investment in training and development of first responders.
Complete a comprehensive compensation, equipment and staff level study.
Create a committee to address panhandling with a solution by June 15.
PILLAR LEADER: BRIAN WYER, GULF COAST MINORITY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Adopt the covenant for the community.
Increase awareness of the city’s “One-Stop Development” meeting that currently takes place.
Clearly define the functions of the city’s Economic Development department.
Create an objective measurement protocol for Economic Development.
Create monthly startup fairs for local businesses.
PILLAR LEADER: MICHELLE SALZMAN, ESCAMBIA COUNTY PTA
Create an Education Leadership Council for the city, county & school district.
Clearer communication about education on city platforms.
Create a mentor program for city employees.
Create a more accessible, consistent and affordable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for nonprofits to the various community centers.
PILLAR LEADER: CHRISTIAN WAGLEY, GULF RESTORATION NETWORK
Plant more street trees, specifically targeting the city’s west side.
Create form-based standards for key commercial areas to create more environmentally-friendly spaces.
Complete a greenhouse gas inventory of city operations.
Set an aggressive renewable energy goal for Pensacola.
Form an additional crew to clean stormwater inlets.
PILLAR LEADER: BRUCE VREDENBURG, HANCOCK WHITNEY BANK
Engage open discussion about the budget with city council, city employees and citizens.
Create a succession plan for seasoned city finance employees.
Establish goal setting and measurement throughout the organization.
Evaluate city assets and create a capital improvement plan.
Consider a referendum to permanently maintain the local option sales tax.
Create a citizen’s review committee of the Urban Core CRA District.
PILLAR LEADER: KRISTIE TOBIAS, HURON HEALTHCARE
Accountability: Create city-wide mission, vision and values that drive a more deliberate culture. Create standards of behavior that align with the mission, vision and values.
Collaborative Communication: Implement quarterly leadership and employee forums.
Engagement: Implement an annual employee engagement survey and provide a leadership academy for emerging, new and seasoned leaders.
Performance Management: Create a consistent disciplinary process and implement the Korn Ferry Hay compensation analysis.
Reward and Recognition: Expand recognition programs to be more department specific, institute incentives through performance-based bonuses and review current benefit plan against competitive options.
PILLAR LEADER: DAVID PEADEN, HOME BUILDERS ASSOCIATION OF WEST FLORIDA
Implement a user-friendly software program.
Streamline inconsistencies in the land development code.
Implement tracking system and upgraded tech for inspection services.
Evaluation of current city boards and term limits.
PILLAR LEADER: JULIE SHEPPARD, FLORIDA INSTITUTE FOR HUMAN AND MACHINE COGNITION
Independence and adequate staffing/funding for our city’s legal needs.
The City Attorney’s Office should provide legal counsel to executive mayor, city council, city boards and commissions, city departments and city enterprises.
The Office of the City Attorney should provide appropriate representation for the city in all legal proceedings and should supervise and manage all outside counsel and any special counsel which may be utilized for their specific knowledge and expertise.
PILLAR LEADER: REV. DR. ISAAC WILLIAMS, GREATER TRUE VINE BAPTIST CHURCH
Create an office/department for neighborhoods.
Open key community centers on weekends.
Increase police presence in neighborhoods.
Improve neighborhood infrastructure (flooding/lighting/reduce speeding).
TRAFFIC & WALKABILITY
PILLAR LEADER: DREW BUCHANAN, THE PULSE
Adopt complete streets.
Improve user experience of parking.
Create a position solely responsible for bike/pedestrian safety.
Formulate the Pensacola Bicycle Blueprint.
Make walkability and livability a regional effort.
PILLAR LEADER: SENA MADDISON, FLORIDAWEST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ALLIANCE
Separate and create two clear, defined roles for Public Information and Public Affairs.
Trust our city department leaders to share expertise.
Mandatory public records training for city staff.