Less than a week after controversy surrounding Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz surfaced, the questions are swirling around Northwest Florida as to his future and the business of the U.S. House 1st District of Florida.
During his weekly news conference at City Hall, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson was asked about the investigation of Gaetz’ alleged relationship with at least one teenage girl, among other allegations, and how that could throw a wrench into Pensacola’s dealings with the federal government.
“[Of] a lot of questions I’ve been asked about Matt Gaetz, I haven’t been asked that one yet,” said the mayor. “Obviously, Matt was very significantly influential with the last administration, so some of those things have in this [Biden] administration. We’ve worked with him on some of the things that we’ve been trying to initiate; we don’t always agree with Matt, but that’s typical of everything.”
Gaetz has not been charged with any crime. The mayor is taking a wait-and-see posture as the case unfolds.
“I think probably the more significant issue happened with the change in administration,” Robinson said. “I think that was where probably Matt had significantly better influence with the prior administration than with the current one, but we’ll certainly go from there.”
Meanwhile, the business of government – local, state and federal – continues on. Robinson says they’re checking to see when he and other city officials can get back up to Washington.
“We really do have several agencies we’d like to talk with about some different things and initiatives that we’re working with – hopefully by the end of the summer,” the mayor said. “Obviously, with it being on pretty much shutdown, you can’t go to Tallahassee – it’s hard to see people over there – so it’s been an interesting last 12 months.”
The city, says Robinson, will keep plugging away on the various projects that are under the federal funding umbrella. He believes that with the change to the Biden administration, they’ve done relatively well with getting emergency funding in the pandemic and elsewhere.
“We didn’t get all the funding that we asked for, so we are a little bit deficient in some of our facilities,” said the mayor. “So we have that plan, we have some other plans. We obviously made it very clear; we’ve been talking about the homeless, we have some money designated for that [when] we bring it to [the city] council.
Unlike money provided by the federal CARES Act, this next round of funding can help municipalities coping with the loss of local revenues due to the coronavirus.
“In some ways we’ve done fairly well, but there are other places in sort of ‘niche’ revenues – even Local Option Sales Tax – where we were down and project down for the next couple of years,” said Robinson. “So we will be able to use some of that to recapture shortfalls that we thought we would have had. We hope to have that as soon as we sort of have a game plan as to what we’re going to get and get that to council.”
To that end, the mayor said they’ve been thinking about and driving plans that they want to do.
One week after Grover Robinson announced he will not seek a second term as mayor, one of the $64 questions about his political future is – if Matt Gaetz resigns or is removed from office, would he consider a run for that House seat?
“It’s one of those things that’s come up before, and it just hadn’t been what I wanted to do,” said the mayor with a chuckle. “I feel very passionate about local politics, and what happens here locally in Pensacola, Escambia County and Northwest Florida. I feel like I’ve made a difference in those areas, and those are the areas where I really wanted to participate.”
Prior to his election to mayor in 2018, Robinson served three terms on the Escambia County Commission, representing District 4.
If Matt Gaetz remains in office for the 2022 election cycle, he has at least one primary challenger at this point. Greg Merk, who finished third in last August’s Republican primary with nine and a half percent of the vote, filed last week for another challenge of Gaetz who collected 81% of the vote en route to the GOP nomination.