In a recent interview with Pensacola Magazine, Pensacola city council president Charles Bare asserted that city council members like himself deserve to park for free in downtown Pensacola.
“There are very few benefits the council members get,” Bare said, “and it would be nice that if we went to visit someone at a business or attend an event, we could park and not get a ticket.”
It would be nice if all of us could park and not get a ticket — but that’s not what Bare had in mind. He’s looking for a perk befitting his lofty status as a city councilman. Unfortunately, Bare’s tone-deaf remark is just the latest lowlight in an embarrassing start to his time as the council’s president.
Bare, now in his fourth year in office, has never been a particularly effective council member. It’s not unusual for him to be on the losing side of council votes, often in a minority of one. But in the weeks and months preceding the council’s selection of its next president, there was a sense that Bare might have grown into a little statesmanship. Last September, Bare stepped up and tried to lead the council, offering a food trucks ordinance of his own amid the council’s crippling dysfunction on the issue.
Surely, when council members voted in November to select Bare as their president, they were hoping for more of that.
Unfortunately, Bare’s first two months on the job have been a cavalcade of bad ideas and inexplicable priorities. He’s proposed completely deregulating the taxi industry, removing even the most basic protections for citizens; in a bizarre reversal, he’s proposed banning food trucks from city streets altogether; and, in perhaps his most baffling move, has sought to get rid of metal detectors at City Hall.
In December, Bare emailed Mayor Ashton Hayward about his desire to stop using metal detectors before city council meetings. “I would like to cease the security screenings for citizens attending the city council meetings,” he wrote. “I don’t believe that it is necessary and would like to discuss with you in advance of today’s meeting if possible.”
Perhaps Bare missed it, but the 2010 incident in which an armed gunman shot up a Bay County School Board meeting — just 100 miles to the east of Pensacola — is a sharp reminder of why metal detectors are a good idea. Fortunately, Mayor Ashton Hayward’s office takes the matter seriously. “The mayor is ultimately responsible for the security of everyone in City Hall,” said city administrator Eric Olson on December 9. “There are no plans to stop the screenings, and in fact, I think recent events indicate the need for all of us to be more vigilant.” Olson said a recent police assessment of the building’s security actually pointed to a need for increased measures.
In response, Bare called the use of security screenings “a tactic to inconvenience people coming into council meetings.” We’re not even sure what to say to that one.
Unfortunately, if Bare’s emails are any indicator, he hasn’t gotten his priorities in order. He’s also hoping to tackle the hot-button issue of regulating golf carts, pedicabs, and segways — now there’s something folks are clamoring for.
For someone who occupies arguably the second most powerful position in city government, Bare’s first two months as council president reveal a man who is shockingly out of touch with most Pensacolians.
Like some of his fellow council members, we’d held out some hope that, with three years of experience under his belt, Bare would find in himself the qualities we value in any government leader: statesmanship, vision, and the capacity to lead. Instead, we’ve gotten a set of mystifying legislative priorities and ego-driven comments about free parking perks that leave the rest of us scratching our heads.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers perhaps said it best last week, when discussing Bare’s baffling proposal to keep food trucks off city streets: “Councilman Bare … thanks for nothing.”