Levin's letter: Fact, fiction or somewhere in between?

  • August 18, 2015
  • /   Reggie Dogan
  • /   community-dashboard

Fred Levin on the Daily Brew Monday, August 17, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute)

In an open letter to the Pensacola News Journal and InWeekly, Pensacola trial attorney Fred Levin took umbrage with the local print media for their “negative coverage” of Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward III.

Levin, a longtime friend, supporter and former business associate of Hayward, laid out a laundry list of achievements that the City of Pensacola has accomplished under the mayor’s watch.

“If one read the PNJ for the last several weeks and the Independent News for the past several years, you would be shocked to know anything positive was happening,” Levin wrote. “The only thing I can think of is the two newspapers must have been so involved in searching the public records, blogs and gossip against the Mayor looking for negative that the positive has been ignored.”

Levin credits Hayward for the progress Pensacola has seen in recent years, pointing out a double-digit reduction in crime, the influx of businesses and millions of dollars cut from the city budget.

“The changes that have taken place in our city under our new strong Mayor is the envy of cities throughout this country,” Levin said.

Over the past few years, the City of Pensacola has moved the needle up in some areas, but is the mayor totally or even partly the reason for it?

Are Levin’s claims fact, fiction or fair to middling?

Let’s take a look and see …

“Did the media know that Palafox Street had been named one of the 2013 Top Ten Great Streets in America by the American Planning Association?”

“Among the handful of streets in the U.S. to be shaped by 250 years of British, Spanish, and American influence is Palafox Street, the gateway to Pensacola,” according to American Planning Association, an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.

It is impossible — and misleading — to credit Pensacola’s downtown rejuvenation to one person or a single entity. A host of variables went into downtown improvements, including vibrant, innovative businesses, an appealing bar and restaurant scene, efforts of the Downtown Improvement Board and creative ideas such as the Palafox Market. While Hayward came to the helm as downtown began to flourish, he cannot claim full credit for its revival and success. Fair to middling

 “Under the Mayor, the ad valorem property tax has been reduced by 5.5 percent.

 The mayor can’t reduce the millage rate, that’s the City Council’s job. But Hayward promised a tax cut in 2010 and he convinced the council to approve it as part of the 2012 budget. Levin can slap the mayor a high-five, but he should keep it on the down low. Fair to middling.

There has been a double digit crime reduction, including residential burglaries down 40 percent and violent crimes down almost 20 percent.”

 While it’s true that Pensacola’s crime rate has gone down a bit in recent years, the rate has been higher since the mayor took office in 2011 than the 2010 rate, peaking in 2012 with a rate of 6737.5.

Crime dropped 14.6 percent in 2013, but it was still higher than the 2010 rate, according to statistics provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In 2014, crime rate figures showed a 3 percent drop in violent crime, an 18 percent decline in nonviolent crime and a 16 percent reduction overall compared to the first six months of 2013.

Last year Pensacola was listed as No. 6 among the nation’s 10 most dangerous small cities.

“Pensacola is the first of four cities in Florida that made our top 10 most dangerous places, which also means it’s the most dangerous of the bunch,” the Movoto Real Estate Blog reported.

Using data from the FBI’s 2012 uniform crime report, the latest available in 2014, the blog measured seven distinct crimes using the total reported incidents of each, including murder, rape and assault.

Too many factors go into calculating the crime rate of a city, and it’s nearly impossible to determine what influence the mayor’s policies have on it. Fiction

“The Mayor negotiated UPS to come to Pensacola International Airport, which included many additional jobs. He was able to convince Southwest Airlines to come to Pensacola Airport. Also, there is a memorandum of understanding with ST Aerospace bringing 300+ jobs to Pensacola.”

In 2012, Southwest, in acquiring Air Tran, said it would continue operating in 22 airports served by AirTran, including Pensacola, phasing in the Southwest brand over the next two years.

Technically, Southwest came to Pensacola. But there was little convincing needed from the mayor since the airlines merged with existing AirTran to provide service at Pensacola International Airport. Fiction

Groundbreaking for VT MAE’s ninth hangar is scheduled for January 2016 for the 19-acre Pensacola site. VT MAE, a part of ST Aerospace, is expected to bring 500 jobs when fully operational, and there’s discussion about an expansion that would double the size of the Pensacola footprint. Fact

“In regard to minority participation, he has appointed the first African American Police Chief and the first African American City Attorney in the history of Pensacola. He has opened two new neighborhood resource centers in the historically neglected neighborhoods of Woodlands Heights and Legion Field, which was a 6 million dollar investment.”

On March 6, Mayor Hayward nominated Lysia Bowling to serve as city attorney, becoming the first African American in that position in Pensacola. Four months later, the Pensacola City Council on July 16 unanimously appointed David Alexander III chief of police, making him the first black police chief in the department's 194-year history. Fact

The Woodlands Heights Community Resource Center’s grand opening in December 2013 marked the first of two new centers to open in Pensacola. In July 2014, the city unveiled the Theophalis May Neighborhood Resource Center at Legion Field in downtown Pensacola. They both were built using Local Option Sales Tax dollars and in neighborhoods that serve a predominately African American community. Fact

In criticism of the local newspapers’ coverage of the events leading to the resignation of Tamara Fountain, the city’s COO, Levin mentioned that Studer Community Institute’s CEO Randy Hammer said something nice about her.

“This was so even though Randy Hammer, a former publisher of the Pensacola News Journal and the General Manager of BLAB TV, stated the COO seemed to be growing into her job as the day to day manager of City Hall.”

For the record, Hammer was the executive editor at PNJ and currently is the CEO of Studer Communications and Studer Community Institute.

Your items have been added to the shopping cart. The shopping cart modal has opened and here you can review items in your cart before going to checkout