Saturday, October 31, 2009

Believe in Pensacola! Vote Yes on the Charter

Believe in Pensacola supporters are out in the community daily, educating voters and connecting with neighbors. We waved at various locations this past weekend in the heart of many districts around our city. Some citizens were hearing about the charter for the first time, most were excited with thumbs up and smiles from their cars. We only had one NO from a handsome couple in a red convertible.
This week ballots will be mailed to the voters in the City of Pensacola asking whether we should adopt a new charter or remain under our current form of government. While I respect the opinions of those that are comfortable with the status quo, I feel that the proposed charter will make for a better city, a more accountable leadership and provide citizens with more influence in the City's operations.
The most important change being, that under the new charter, voters will have a vote for the leader of our city, the decision maker and Chief Executive Officer. I encourage voters to grant themselves the right to elect the chief executive of their own city. You do not have that right today and you do not have a vote.

When I ran for office I promised the citizen's of District 3 I would promote term limits and a Mayor-Council form of government, both of which have been included in the proposed charter. I had long discussions with many of my neighbors and the citizens of District 3 during last year's campaign and the most asked question was who is responsible for our city's successes and failures? Who is ultimately accountable?
While our council-manager system has served us well to maintain basic services and provide infrastructure it has run it's course with regard to growth, innovation, and prosperity for Pensacola. The council-manager system is no longer effective in the highly politicized environment we find ourselves in. The problem is that the Mayor is just one of ten council members without the clout to get things done, even though the public expects more from the holder of our city's top elected post. The mayor has ceremonial duties, but not a lot of authority under the council-manager system. The mayor is not able to drive success. I have seen, during the past 10 months in office, that under the council-manager system the responsibility for problems and successes is a moving target, depending on which council members vote for a particular issue. Also, under our current form of government, decisive leadership by the mayor and city manager is extremely difficult because ,with 10 council members, each of us constantly wants the full and undivided attention of the city manager.
Here are some experiences from a mayor that has served under both forms of government and has a unique perspective of the system because he was mayor for one term under the council-manager system and then became the city's first strong mayor.
"The mayor was expected to lead the city under the old form, yet the mayor only chaired the council meeting and was but one vote," Patterson said. "The executive form created a very clear line of priority throughout the entire city operation. It is the difference between night and day. There is now a clarity of purpose and a commitment to supply the resources that the purpose requires."
I find history always helps explain the purpose and intention of our current structure:
"City manager government evolved as a reaction to corruption in the early 1900s. It's intent was to take politics out of city administration. A city manager would be a nonpolitical appointed chief executive who exercised the same checks and balances on the city council and would stand up to that body. This was a very noble concept with a fundamental design flaw: The city manager works for the council and is an at-will employee. City managers are political and have to be to keep their job. Government is a 50-50 relationship. Half is about structure and the other half is about the people in office at that time. For example: The presidency is an institution with authority granted by the Constitution that exists regardless of who holds the office. Today, corruption is mitigated with ethics rules, campaign finance laws and other effective tools".
from Jim Boren We have sunshine laws in place that mitigate corruption.
Pensacola has an opportunity to establish a system that will continue beyond the personalities of today and the highly contentious issues that we face within our current processes.
Also, the concern raised about Pensacola not being large enough to warrant a mayor-council form of government. I see this as the very way of thinking that keeps the City of Pensacola as small as it has been for decades now. It would be like parents not sending their kids to college because we weren't sure what their careers might be...Let's allow Pensacola to grow and thrive with new ways of creating our successes, with one voice and a plan that will be executed.

Now to answer my very 1st question from so many citizens. Under mayor-council government the Mayor is accountable to voters for Pensacola's successes and failures and the Mayor is ultimately accountable to each voter for the actions he or she takes.

Remember the difference: a strong mayor answers to voters. A city manager does not.

Voters hold the keys to accountability.

Let's have one voice for prosperity, a Strong Leader.

Believe in Pensacola and Vote YES for the new Charter!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Picture Perfect!!!

Parks Calendar Photo Contest

Calling all shutterbugs to create a 2010 calendar!! The Pensacola Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring a photo contest. This contest is open to all photographers (amateur or professional) for photos of parks within the city limits. With over 90 parks, there is sure to be a winning image, see our complete list of parks and their locations.
All photos must be submitted on CD in high resolution digital format (8 inches x 10 inches @ 300 dpi) with accompanying hard copy print. Thirteen winners will receive a framed copy of their photo as well as recognition in the Pensacola Parks 2010 calendar. Contest begins, Friday October 30th and ends Monday, November 30th. All submissions must be submitted to Kathy Condon (City Hall 4th floor) by 5:00pm Monday, November 30th. For a complete list of contest rules, visit www.playpensacola.com or call 436-5670.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Trade with Cuba?

In years past, the Pensacola City Council had made efforts to establish a working relationship with Cuba to further our efforts for trade relations. “The Port of Pensacola once did a thriving trade with Cuba, and still ships frozen food there under a food-related Cuban exemption to the embargo. A Cuba with more money to spend means more business for the Port.” (Courtesy of PNJ) There has been some discussion on Council this year about reviving our efforts and working on our trade relationship again.

"Change is in the air" regarding the decades-old embargo that has stifled interaction between the United States and Cuba, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia said Tuesday.
V. Manuel Rocha, who is senior adviser on international business at Foley & Lardner LLP, said it's not realistic to predict how many more years the embargo will remain in place.
But he said there are changes occurring in both the U.S. and Cuba that favor the U.S. eventually lifting the embargo that dates back to the 1950s.
Rocha said it wouldn't necessarily be better for U.S. businesses if Cuba were to change its communist government. He said the current leadership of Cuba wants to ensure a "successor" form of government so future leaders maintain a connection with the revolution that brought the Communist Party to power.
He said that scenario would be comparable to how the U.S. has dealt with Communist Party-led China and Vietnam, whose top tradingpartners are the U.S.
He said the other alternative for Cuba would entail a tumultuous "transition" from the Communist Party to another form of government. He compared that possibility to the turmoil that occurred after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
"There are more McDonald's in 'successor' China than in 'transition' Russia because of the stability" in China, he said.
Cuba's top trading partner for exports is China, accounting for about 28 percent of Cuban products shipped abroad, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook. Canada is second with about 25 percent of Cuba's exports followed by Spain at about 7 percent, Netherlands at 5 percent and Iran at 4 percent.
Cuba gets 32 percent of its imports from Venezuela, 11.8 percent from China, 10.6 percent from Spain, about 7 percent from Canada and 6.6 percent from the U.S. The imports from the U.S. are for certain goods exempted from the embargo.
Rocha said Jacksonville officials should be planning for more future trade with Cuba and identify what products the city wants to target for shipment through Jacksonville's port, and then make contact with those manufacturers. He said the cities that establish those relationships in advance will be able to capitalize on increased trade.
"You don't necessarily have to take big steps," he said.