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Morning with the Mayor: Transition, Downtown Parking

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson’s transition team is expected to wrap up its work by the end of this month.

Robinson formed the 12-member transition panel just after his election in November. They’re charged with studying and making recommendations for advancement by the city in areas such as neighborhoods, crime, walkability, economic development, and transparency.

“Much of December was focused on in-house and many of the members were here, doing a lot of work inside the city,” said Robinson. “Once we got into January the real focus was to move outside. I’ve been to several different of the different things they’ve had; several meetings around here trying to understand where we go forward.”

A written report is also due out this month. The Mayor says the plan is to identify a couple of ideas on the master to-do list, which are doable almost immediately.

“And I’ve encouraged them to think big; some of the things, over four years, we can get to,” says Robinson. “There may be some things in there that we don’t get to as a community for 20-30 years. But I still think it’s good to encourage people to move forward with ideas that we may try to figure out how to get there.”

“I’m excited, and can’t wait to see what they come back with.”

Credit downtownpensacola.com
Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board

On another front, there’s the DIB – Downtown Improvement Board – which among other things is in charge of parking in the 39-block area. A high-tech system installed last year proved to be a disaster, leading DIB to take over the operation last September.

“A year ago it was fairly critical, that you can’t roll out a new system; a new pricing structure, and a new everything else – new hours and everything – at one time,” Robinson said. “If you want to roll out a new system, roll out a new system. The change in the system is not as drastic now, because we’ve gotten used to at least dealing with it out.”

New Orleans-based Premium Parking’s system had allowed payment via smartphone, app or text message, along with changes to the parking rules such as extra enforcement time, and a new rate schedule for the Jefferson Street parking garage. Robinson believes one challenge is serving those without smartphones.

“Certainly some of our older citizens, as well as our lower-income citizens don’t [have smartphones], so we’re still working through how do we address that,” said the Mayor. “By and large, I do think moving to a mobile app service is probably the right thing for us to be moving forward to, as long as we provide those other individuals some opportunity to figure out how to get parking.”

Credit Port of Pensacola

Another issue, says Robinson, is how to get the DIB and the Community Redevelopment Agency back under the city’s umbrella, with changes in how they and the city work together.

“We believe they’re a little too far independent; there were things we talked about on the campaign trail,” said Robinson. “There were some people who were very fiercely supportive of autonomous control. I think having appointed people who make decisions without really having to answer to the people does not provide us the best sometimes solutions.”

Once a set system is in place for bringing back the two entities, Robinson says he wants to avoid that system’s political nature. But for now, they have to figure out what is the right system, and how to put it into place. One step towards that is the Mayor’s appointment of three DIB Board members this summer when the current members’ terms expire.

“If I can put forward three people that will be able to at least get a majority of the board, and will be forwarded to hopefully find some solutions that the city and DIB will work much better in tandem,” Robinson said. “And begin to put some things together that will be better for the citizens of Pensacola. I’m convinced of that.”

Mayor Grover Robinson covered a number of other areas in his nearly one-hour briefing – including settlement of a lawsuit against the city by two former Fire Department officials; social programs to combat juvenile crime, and the continuing study of the Port of Pensacola.