Our View: Consolidation Vote Should Be Delayed At Least Two Years

February 22, 2010

Tonight, Escambia County’s legislative delegation will likely decide whether or not to send a plan created by the Escambia County Consolidation Study Commission to the Legislature and ultimately to the voters in November of this year.

The vote that should be made by the five members of the legislative delegation is very clear. The plan should be delayed at least two years before being presented to the voters — if it is not killed. Period.

The City of Pensacola recently enacted a new charter form of government; their Charter commissioner took a full 19 months to draft a final proposal.  The Escambia consolidation plan was rushed through in just a few months amid allegations that the committee’s chair and others were conducting business and make decisions via email and out of the sunshine.

Committee Chairman Ken Bell argues in a published viewpoint that his body followed the mandate of the Legislature in forming their final draft. To a lawyer, perhaps. To an Escambia County citizen with walking around sense, no way.

Bell argues that the proposal was presented to the Town of Century, the City of Pensacola and Escambia County by their January 15 deadline. He is correct. But he fails, repeatedly, to mention that it was presented to three governing bodies hours before the deadline. The elected leaders of our county had zero time to review the proposal, question the proposal or provide input into a plan that each of the three bodies has publicly opposed as presented.

readplan.jpgThe spirit of the legislative mandate creating the consolidation study commission was for a group of citizens representing a cross-section of Escambia County to develop a plan and allow the three governmental entities the chance to offer input on the final draft. That did not happen. Century, Pensacola and Escambia County had no opportunity to offer any input whatsoever after the final draft was created.

Century backed out of any support for the plan prior to the consolidation committee’s first meeting. The consolidation committee did present a cursory November status update to the council as required by the Legislature — via the Escambia County Farm Bureau’s member on the committee. The Town of Century’s committee member was unable to update the body that appointed him due to health issues.  No Ken Bell, no heavy hitters from Escambia All for One, none of the show that consolidation committee made for Escambia County and Pensacola. Just the Farm Bureau’s representative reading a set of talking points created by someone else. Sorry Century, that was the best you could get from the committee.

The City of Pensacola failed to endorse the plan. Escambia County, acting wisely on a recommendation of Commissioner  Wilson Robertson, who asked for the process to be delayed two years. We concur.

The entire process was rushed faster than a kid’s science project the day before it was due. Business appears to have been conducted behind through private emails.

There was zero opportunity for Century, Pensacola or Escambia County to have any input into the plan. There was not the first public meeting after the final draft was approved for public input. The total number of Escambia County’s 300,000 residents that were able to debate the final plan? Zero. That’s not good business.

10mile.jpgAnd the commission failed to follow the legislative mandate that meetings be held throughout Escambia County. Bell applauds his committee and subcommittee for hold 85 public meetings throughout Escambia County. How many were held north of Ten Mile Road, Mr. Bell? One. That’s right. One meeting out of 85 was held north of 10 Mile Road. Look at the map. There were 84 of 85 meetings held south of the red line, and one in Century represented by the red rectangle. How is that holding meetings throughout Escambia County as mandated by the Legislature?

The committee, with almost every member living or working in the City of Pensacola, apparently forgot that this consolidation plan was about ALL of Escambia County, not just Pensacola.

It is clear that Chairman Ken Bell and the Escambia County Consolidation Study Commission did not follow the clear instructions of the Legislature. Therefore, it is clear that the members of the legislative delegation — Clay Ford, Greg Evers, Dave Murzin, Durrell Peaden and Don Gaetz — should fail to present the plan presented. The delegation has only two options — kill the consolidation issue altogether, or send it back for two years of work THROUGHOUT Escambia County where the people have input into the final plan.

Today’s issue is not about your support for or against consolidation. Regardless of your viewpoint or ours about consolidation, today’s issue is about a plan being shoved down the throats of 300,000 by 30 people that are not representative of our population. Even consolidation supporters are against the methodology used to create the plan.

How can five members of a legislative delegation and a 25 member committee that did not play by the rules create a new government for 300,000 people? To allow it would be a travesty of the American democratic system.


14 Responses to “Our View: Consolidation Vote Should Be Delayed At Least Two Years”

  1. David Huie Green on February 23rd, 2010 5:34 pm

    “But he fails, repeatedly, to mention that it was presented to three governing bodies hours before the deadline.”

    They did their job as required if they made deadline, as far as time frame is concerned anyway.

    “Century, Pensacola and Escambia County had no opportunity to offer any input whatsoever after the final draft was created.”

    If it were subject to revision after the final draft, wouldn’t it be an intermediate draft?

    I forget, weren’t there earlier drafts which essentially called for the final version? I can’t say because I stopped around page 20, figured I could read further if needed. Turns out it wasn’t needed.

    “How many were held north of Ten Mile Road, Mr. Bell? One. That’s right. One meeting out of 85 was held north of 10 Mile Road. ”

    That certainly made me feel better. I knew I missed all the north end meetings but it turned out I only missed that one and you covered it for us. I suspect they noted the poor turn-out and misread it to be apathy when it was antipathy. (don’t care versus agin’ to those who pretend to not know the words) It’s a natural mistake.

    “To allow it would be a travesty of the American democratic system.”

    I especially like that statement. Worse things are done in our system than it would have been, but it’s been amusing to read after seeing those who act like not putting it up for a vote would be a travesty despite the fact that the concept has been rejected several times in the past and continuting to insist the people are just too stupid or ignorant to understand might hurt somebody’s feelings.

    We once had a preacher come down from Tennessee in view of a call. He was subprime so I figured we’d never hear from him again.

    I was amazed when the pulpit committee announced we would vote on whether or not to call him as our pastor.

    I asked if they endorsed him–maybe they saw something I missed; it happens a lot..Tthey said they just wanted to let us vote.

    I mentioned he had spoken things which could be proven to be untrue from the pulpit. They didn’t say a thing.

    We put it to a vote. Even a majority of the pulpit committee voting for him would have given him more votes than he got.

    I asked afterward why they presented him for a vote since it was clear most of them didn’t think he was the right one for the calling. The head of the committee told me they just thought since we had spent all that much money bringing him down, we should get to vote on him.

    They meant well.

    David on a dead issue—until it comes back AGAIN

  2. Bob on February 22nd, 2010 9:15 pm

    I’ll bet you, Ken Bell and Mort OSullivan is thinking right now. Boy did we make a mistake,wonder where we went wrong. Where they went wrong was to try to push something over on the people of North Escambia. Guess they never thought about these country folks were armed with William and North Escambia.com.

  3. William on February 22nd, 2010 8:36 pm

    >Is this “Our View” article a new development in the course of NorthEscambia toward editorial commentary or were there previous installments?

    We have done a few editorials before on important issues. We will, of course, continue to provide unbiased news coverage, but we will offer editorials from time to time. That’s what newspapers do.

  4. Sean on February 22nd, 2010 8:34 pm

    Is this “Our View” article a new development in the course of NorthEscambia toward editorial commentary or were there previous installments?

  5. angry on February 22nd, 2010 7:19 pm

    How do we love Escambia Co.? Let us count the ways. Do we really when so many of us have not been involved enough that the ————–people are still able to keep blinders over our eyes. Can we wake up before we are totally enslaved? Thank you William for your great articles.

  6. Me on February 22nd, 2010 6:04 pm

    I will be watching closely to see how this vote goes. I will never vote or support Greg Evers again, for bringing this up in the first place. If the other delegates vote to progress this white elephant, then I will vote against them in the future as well.

  7. anydaynow on February 22nd, 2010 3:05 pm

    Shucks, Bell doesn’t even seem to understand the Sunshine law and he shouldn’t be chairman of anything. Ya’ll are correct about the local politicians, and the only job security they are concerned with is their own. And look at all the taxpayer money they funnel to the Chamber of Commerce with all those $100K + salaries.

  8. Time for change on February 22nd, 2010 1:27 pm

    Little people with little minds. There is too much tax payers money being spent on government leaders. Pensacola is a po dunk city trying to be run as a major metropolitan. There is 9 council members and a mayor for 25 square miles. That approx. $250,000.00 on salary for what? It can be done with 6 for the whole county and the city. Stop trying to save a part time job at the expense of good government.

  9. W.R. on February 22nd, 2010 9:41 am

    No on Consolidation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Name (required) on February 22nd, 2010 9:19 am

    Kill this think now. Squash it like the greasy cockroach that it is! Any who support it ought to be treated the same way at the polls!

  11. S.L.B on February 22nd, 2010 8:55 am

    Just another fine example of crooked government trying to grease their pockets. It just amazes me how most of the politicians take for granted that they are the smart ones that know what’s best for all and the rest of the citizens are what….idiots walking in a circle chasing our tales?

    William, this story was put together just right. It presents the facts while at the same time stating just how we all feel about this issue and about how the government is not following the rules that were designed to be fair and put in place to protect us all. Whatever happened to that thing that we were all made to learn in school, the Preamble?

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America”.

  12. Jeff DeWeese on February 22nd, 2010 8:47 am

    North Escambia is exactly right. But if the delegation doesnt pass this tonight Ill pass out from shock. Peaden will be absent so only 4 left. My call is that Gaetz and Ford vote Yes, Evers i think votes No and Murzin can vote no and at 2-2 they will move it forward.

    Murzin is on the local BLAB show today from 3-4PM. They will be taking calls. Its is on the web at http://www.blabtv.com and the call in number is 432-7768. Call in and voice your discontent.

  13. A Watchman on February 22nd, 2010 6:39 am


  14. Oversight on February 22nd, 2010 6:03 am

    In my view, the plan should end now and it should die a quick death this evening. The former judge and his band of cronies quickly rolled their political paybacks in the play for those who want consolidation. So what will change in two years? Pensacola’s debt will be greater and they’ll still want us (current county residents) to assume it. No on consolidation!