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Maryland Case May Determine Fate of Cross

Jim Little

Pensacola News Journal USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

The fate of Pensacola’s Bayview Park cross may come down to how federal judges in Atlanta interpret a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a century-old cross in Maryland.

Attorneys for both sides of the Pensacola cross lawsuit filed new legal arguments in federal court Friday, making their cases for why the cross should stay or go based on the new high court ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 decision in June that a 40-foot cross erected in 1919 as a World War I memorial on public land in Maryland did not violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The court noted the Bladensburg cross had been standing for a century and served a secular purpose.

Shortly after that ruling, the high court kicked the Pensacola cross case back down to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, instructing the appeals court to rehear the case in light of the Maryland case.

The fate of Pensacola’s Bayview Park cross will come down to how federal judges in Atlanta interpret a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a century-old cross in Maryland. GREGG PACHKOWSKI/PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL

Attorneys with the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation argue the ruling in that case — 

also known as the American Legion case — does not apply to Pensacola’s cross. In their legal brief, they argue the purpose of Pensacola’s cross has always been religious and removing it is the only neutral thing the city can do.

“While there was ample evidence in American Legion that the public embraced the Bladensburg Cross as a secular war memorial, no such evidence exists here,” AHA attorneys wrote. “The City, and community members all plainly view this Cross as an expression of Christian faith.”

However, attorneys for the city argue the Bladensburg case means the appeals court must rule in favor of the city because Pensacola’s cross has stood in one form or another since1941and has become part of the city’s history and culture.

“Today, the City allows the cross to remain standing, along with over 170 other displays in Pensacola’s parks, not only to commemorate the City’s history and culture but also to avoid sending a message of ‘hostility toward religion,’ ” the city’s attorneys wrote in their brief.

The American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the city of Pensacola in 2016 on behalf of four Pensacola residents who wanted the cross to be removed.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in June 2017 that the Bavyiew Park cross violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause and had to be removed.

The city appealed the case with representation from the Becket Fund law firm, but the appeals court said it was bound to uphold the lower court’s ruling because of the Supreme Court’s previous rulings.

No hearing has been set for the case.

Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.

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City Selects Matt Coughlin as Deputy Airport Director

City Selects Matt Coughlin as Deputy Airport Director

The City of Pensacola has selected Matt Coughlin as the Deputy Airport Director for Pensacola International Airport, with a start date of Monday, Sept. 9. In his new role, Coughlin will be responsible for assisting the Airport Director with airport operations, including finance, economic development, terminal operations and more.

Coughlin joins the City of Pensacola from Escambia County, Florida, where he most recently served as the Interim County Administrator and Assistant County Administrator. A native of Greenfield, Massachusetts, Coughlin holds a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Western New England University, a Master of Science in management from the Naval Post Graduate School and a Master of Science in national resource strategy from the National Defense University.

Coughlin, who worked as the Assistant Director at Pensacola International Airport from 2014-2017, said he’s excited to rejoin the City of Pensacola.

“I’m very appreciative to the mayor, very appreciative of the city, the mayor’s staff, and the airport director for considering me for the position,” Coughlin said. “There’s obviously a lot of potential for the airport – they’re on the cusp of a lot of growth and development over the next several years, and I’m excited to be a part of that.”

Pensacola International Airport continues to break passenger records each month, with a record 226,042 passengers in July 2019 and fiscal year to date passenger traffic up 17.34 percent.

“There’s a huge amount of opportunity over there for the city, and not just the city, but the local area and all of the citizens,” Coughlin said. I look forward to trying to assist in providing a great asset to all of them.”

Along with assisting Airport Director Dan Flynn with overall airport operations, Coughlin’s job duties will include participating in major economic development projects at the airport, preparing and maintaining technical and administrative operating records and reports, and assisting with contract negotiations.

Coughlin will also act as a liaison with the Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration, along with other federal, state and local agencies.

Prior to his time with the city and county, Coughlin had a successful 24-year career as a Naval officer and aviator. His final tour was as Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s base commanding officer from 2011 to 2014. While there, he was well-known for his community involvement and support while successfully fulfilling a mission that included overseeing a workforce of more than 3,000 personnel, managing an infrastructure that encompasses over 13,000 acres of property and 4,500 nautical square miles of airspace and airfields that equated to 14 percent of all Naval flight hours flown worldwide. Additionally, NAS Whiting Field volunteered more than 60,000 hours in the local community under his leadership.

“With Matt’s extensive knowledge of airport operations and aviation, I know he will be great asset to the City of Pensacola and Pensacola International Airport,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “We are excited to have him on our team as we continue to see growth at one of the city’s most valuable economic drivers, and we look forward to seeing his contributions to the airport’s development.”

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Labor Day Holiday Closures, Sanitation Collection Schedule Changes

Labor Day Holiday Closures, Sanitation Collection Schedule Changes

The following City of Pensacola offices and facilities will be closed Monday, Sept. 2 for the Labor Day holiday:

Exceptions:

Sanitation Service Changes

All City Sanitation customers who normally receive service on Mondays and Tuesdays will experience a change of schedule, which applies to garbage, recycling and yard waste pickup. This applies only to City of Pensacola sanitation customers.

  • Customers who normally receive service on Mondays will receive service on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
  • Customers who normally receive service on Tuesdays will receive service on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
  • All other customers will receive service on their normal pickup day.

For more information or general questions please email pio@cityofpensacola.com and follow @cityofpensacola on Twitter. You can also sign up for email or text notifications about everything that’s happening with your City government through Notify Me.

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A New Episode of Our City News Show Is Available to Watch

A New Episode of Our City News Show Is Available to Watch

Great news for people who like to buy and sell items online — the lobby of the Pensacola Police Department has been designated as an official Safe Trade Spot. On this episode of our City News Show, Tonya Vaden and John Scanlon host from PPD to talk about the new partnership. They also recap the Mayor’s State of the City address to the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and give us a rundown of upcoming events.

VISIT OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL TO WATCH THIS WEEK’S SHOW

For more information or general questions, email pio@cityofpensacola.com. To stay informed about what’s happening with City of Pensacola government, sign up for email or text notifications through Notify Me or follow @CityofPensacola on social media.

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Pensacola Honored as Strongest Town, PPD Designated Safe Trade Spot & More!

Pensacola Recognized as America’s Strongest Town

Pensacola was recognized Tuesday, Aug. 20 for being voted America’s Strongest Town earlier this year, celebrating progress the city has made toward being financially strong and resilient.

Strong Towns founder Chuck Marohn visited the Rex Theatre in downtown Pensacola to celebrate Pensacola’s victory and give a free Strong Towns presentation to a packed audience as part of CivicCon.

Mayor Grover Robinson accepted the award Tuesday evening on behalf of the city, along with other elected officials and local leaders.

Pensacola beat out 16 other towns for the honor in April, winning with 58 percent of the vote against Portsmouth, New Hampshire in the final round. The first Strong Towns champion from the South, Pensacola joined a pantheon of winners that includes Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Traverse City, Michigan, and most recently, 2018’s champion, Muskegon, Michigan.

From the Strong Towns winner announcement: “Pensacola impressed us from the start with a Round One application that emphasized its remarkable turnaround in the past decade. The city is growing in population, it is dramatically expanding its local economy and tax base, and it’s doing it largely by focusing on the city’s heart and soul: its historic downtown, which was first built in the 18th century.”

Read more about why Pensacola was selected as the 2019 Strongest Town on the Strong Towns website.


PPD Headquarters Designated as an Official Community MeetUp Spot for Safe Online Transactions

The City of Pensacola has teamed up with OfferUp and Safe Trade Spots to designate the Pensacola Police Department as an official Community MeetUp Spot.

Buyers and sellers can use the lobby of the Pensacola Police Department, which has an officer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as an Internet Purchase Exchange Location. The Pensacola Police Department is located at 711 N. Hayne St.

“The Pensacola Police Department has offered their lobby as a safe, secure place for internet purchase exchanges previously,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “This partnership just gives an official designation and is one more resource to limit criminal opportunities.”

“This is one more example of how we can team up with our community to prevent crime,” Pensacola Police Chief Tommi Lyter added. “We are grateful for the opportunity to be a Community MeetUp Spot.”

Read more about the designation in the city’s press release.


Mayor Robinson Gives State of the City Address to Pensacola Business Community

The Greater Pensacola Chamber hosted Mayor Grover Robinson for a State of the City luncheon Tuesday, Aug. 20 at the Pensacola Yacht Club, where Mayor Robinson addressed the local business community about the City of Pensacola’s economy, development and plans for the city’s future as it continues to grow.

The event was the first in a series of “state of” addresses presented by the Greater Pensacola Chamber, which will include updates on the state of the city, state of the military and state of education.

Mayor Robinson highlighted several areas of growth in the city, including residential and commercial permits, ad valorem and sales tax revenue increases each year, along with success at the Port of Pensacola, Pensacola International Airport and Pensacola Energy.

Read more about the State of the City address here.


Join us for the Morris Court Park Ribbon Cutting Aug. 31

The community is invited to join City of Pensacola Parks and Recreation for a ribbon cutting event for the reopening of Morris Court Park on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 10 a.m. Join Mayor Grover Robinson and Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn in celebrating improvements to the park.

Improvements to the park include a new basketball court, walking path, new lighting and landscaping throughout the park and improved parking. In addition, the City of Pensacola added Make Play Smart Early Learning Decals near the playground in partnership with the Studer Community Institute.

Morris Court Park is located at 1401 W. Lloyd St.


City Sanitation and Escambia County Collect 27 Tons of Bulk Waste During Neighborhood Cleanup

City of Pensacola Sanitation Services assisted Escambia County on Wednesday, Aug. 14 with the Brownsville South Neighborhood Cleanup, which collected 234 tires, 20 tons of yard waste and 27 tons of bulk waste.

Thank you to all of the residents who participated so we can help keep their neighborhood clean. Great teamwork by all!


5-2-1-0 Day of Play is Sept. 13

The City of Pensacola has teamed up with the Florida Department of Health and the 5-2-1-0 Healthy

Escambiaprogram for a day of fun activities and learning about healthy lifestyles from community sports and fitness partners and heath organizations.

The best part? Admission is free!

So, what does 5-2-1-0 mean? It is a guide for a child’s healthy lifestyle. Five is the number of fruit and vegetable servings they should eat every day. Two is the maximum number of hours children should spend looking at a screen. One is the minimum number of hours children should be active each day. Zero is the goal for sugar-sweetened drinks.

Learn more on our website at PlayPensacola.com.


INSTAGRAM: Photo of the Week

Be sure to tag us using @cityofpensacola so we see your pic!

Credit: @itsspelledstan_lee

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PPD Designated as an Official Community MeetUp Spot

PPD Designated as an Official Community MeetUp Spot

The City of Pensacola has teamed up with OfferUp and Safe Trade Spots to designate the Pensacola Police Department as an official Community MeetUp Spot.

Buyers and sellers can use the lobby of the Pensacola Police Department, which has an officer 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as an Internet Purchase Exchange Location. The Pensacola Police Department is located at 711 N. Hayne St.

“The Pensacola Police Department has offered their lobby as a safe, secure place for internet purchase exchanges previously,” Mayor Grover Robinson said. “This partnership just gives an official designation and is one more resource to limit criminal opportunities.”

“This is one more example of how we can team up with our community to prevent crime,” Pensacola Police Chief Tommi Lyter added. “We are grateful for the opportunity to be a Community MeetUp Spot.”

When law enforcement agencies designate these areas and post the official Community MeetUp Spot sign, OfferUp showcases the location in their app as a suggested place to complete an in-person transaction.

The Community MeetUp Spot program was created in 2016 to help law enforcement partners designate secure transaction sites for buyers and sellers from online marketplaces. Community MeetUp Spots are secure, designated places for buyers and sellers to meet in their local communities. These locations are public, well-lit, and have surveillance around the clock. Joining the Community MeetUp Spot program is free to law enforcement and OfferUp works with local communities to encourage safety education and awareness.

“OfferUp is dedicated to building the simplest and most trustworthy way for people to buy and sell in their communities. Partnering with Pensacola Police Department to bring a Community MeetUp Spot to Pensacola means this community now has a safer place for people to meet that’s public, surveilled, well lit, and monitored,” said Natalie Angelillo, VP of Community at OfferUp. “OfferUp is proud to work with local leaders to build trust in communities throughout the country.”

About OfferUp

OfferUp is on a mission to build the simplest and most trustworthy local buying and selling experience. Their free iOS and Android apps help make selling items as easy as taking a photo and uploading it from a mobile device, making it simple for people to find and shop for great deals in and around their own neighborhoods. As the largest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers in the U.S., OfferUp is bringing millions of people together to discover value right where they are.

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City of Pensacola Mourns the Loss of Councilman Gerald Wingate

City of Pensacola Mourns the Loss of Councilman Gerald Wingate

The City of Pensacola is mourning the loss of Councilman Gerald Wingate, who passed away overnight at the age of 73. Councilman Wingate was elected to represent District 5 in 2012, serving as City Council President from 2017-18 and City Council Vice President from 2016-17.

Mayor Grover Robinson and the City of Pensacola offer their sincere condolences to the family during this difficult time, and City Hall has lowered the flags to half-staff in honor and memory of Councilman Wingate.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Councilman Wingate, who was a devoted public servant, father, husband and community leader,” Mayor Robinson said. “We know his legacy will continue to live on in the city of Pensacola and beyond. Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to grieve their loss.”

Councilman Wingate represented the City Council on the Juvenile Justice Council and the Florida/Alabama Transportation Planning Organization.

A native of Pensacola, Councilman Wingate graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, Pensacola Junior College and the University of West Florida. He served his country for 25 years as an Army Officer and retired from the paper industry with 40 years of management experience. He also worked as a realtor with Main Street Properties.

He is survived by his wife Betsie Wingate and their five children, along with numerous other family members and friends.

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City Spotlight: Pensacola Bay Cruises

City Spotlight: Pensacola Bay Cruises

Pensacola Bay Cruises started up service again at the end of April and in just three months, the National Park Service reports roughly 30,000 tickets have been sold. On this episode of City Spotlight, we catch up with Pensacola Bay Cruises General Manager Joe Asebedo about how service is going.

It’s not too late to take a cruise. The peak season schedule runs until Aug. 15. Visit their website to see the schedule of departure times and to purchase tickets.

Do you know a city employee who you think deserves the spotlight on them? Send us your nomination by emailing pio@cityofpensacola.com.

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State Legislation Limits City Authority Over 5G Communications Facilities

State Legislation Limits City Authority Over 5G Communications Facilities

New state legislation is limiting the ability of municipalities to regulate the deployment of new communications facilities for mobile 5G, which is impacting the City of Pensacola’s authority over city rights of way where these facilities may be installed locally.

Senate Bill 1000 was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 25, 2019, and it includes language that prohibits municipalities and counties from adopting or enforcing certain ordinances, regulations, or requirements related to communications services. The bill also specifies limitations on municipal and county authority to regulate and manage municipal and county roads or rights of way.

The mobile fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless systems are the next upgrade of wireless technology, which wireless carriers say will offer faster speeds, greater capacity and better reliability. Deploying this new technology requires new infrastructure called small cells, which generate less power while collecting and transmitting signals in a short range from one another.

As this new technology is installed, the City of Pensacola will be working within its legal authority to preserve the aesthetic integrity of neighborhoods. However, the city will be required to follow state laws and may not have the ability to prevent these communications facilities from being installed or regulate the location of the facilities.

For more information about SB 1000, visit the Florida Senate website.