Efforts by two Pensacola City Council members to further amend the five-year-old City Charter ended Thursday night.
Councilman Charles Bare’s effort to amend the City Charter and strip the mayor of the power to organize the city government failed on a 2-5 vote, with just Bare and Councilwoman Sherri Myers voting in favor.
Bare had sought a March referendum on the issue, calling the current arrangement a “recipe for tyranny.” Both Bare and Myers said they felt it was important that citizens have the opportunity to vote on the proposal. “I think that this is probably one of the most important issues that we need to allow the citizens to weigh in on,” said Myers. “I think it will bring stability, predictability, and accountability to the government.”
Referring to a large crowd that had filled the Council Chambers earlier in the evening to speak on a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, Mayor Ashton Hayward said, “When you care about an issue you show up in droves and you pack this chamber … there’s not a bunch of citizens out here tonight wanting to change this charter.”
Closing out the debate, Council President Andy Terhaar said, “I have not had a single person tell me this was a good idea. I’ve had lots of people tell me it was a bad idea.”
Before the vote was taken, Bare did indicate that if it failed, he might continue to pursue the amendment through the citizen petition method outlined in the charter, which requires signed petitions by 10% of registered voters in the city.
Proposed charter amendment workshop dies for lack of second
Later in the meeting, Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn’s proposal to hold a charter amendment workshop died without a vote after Councilwoman Myers withdrew her second.
Cannada-Wynn had asked that the Council schedule a February 2016 workshop “to discuss possible charter amendments for the 2016 election cycle,” including a potential amendment that would require Council approval of City Administrator appointments. Currently, the City Administrator is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the mayor.
Council punts on food truck, anti-discrimination ordinance
Two other hot-button issues on Thursday’s agenda — food trucks and a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance — are on hold after Council members chose to delay action until October and November, respectively.
After more than an hour of debate and a convoluted series of motions, Council members decided to continue a public hearing on food trucks to its October meeting in order to properly format an ordinance.
Much of the debate, during which numerous food truck proponents as well as brick-and-mortar restaurant owners spoke, centered on the concept of a “buffer zone,” which would prevent food trucks from parking within a certain distance of existing restaurants. A proposed ordinance, recommended by the city’s Planning Board, includes a 200-foot buffer zone, which Councilman Bare called “ridiculous,” explaining that he felt it was inappropriate for the council to interfere with the free market. Councilman P.C. Wu disagreed, speaking in favor of excluding Palafox Place, where many downtown restaurants are located and parking is limited.
Another hour of debate was devoted to a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance, with a large group present in the chamber wearing red in support of the effort. Despite pleas from a dozen speakers to move the ordinance forward, Council members referred the issue to a workshop next month amid concerns that the legislation and its impacts needed further scrutiny.