When it begins airing this summer, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward’s upcoming television show will be missing – Mayor Ashton Hayward.
The Mayor announced Wednesday that the program on BLAB-TV, would be produced. But he’s backing away from the project amid blowback from the community.
Some had complained that Hayward was using the show – and its $23,000 cost in taxpayer money -- for his re-election campaign. Hayward fired back in his online newsletter, saying his critics – quote – “have tried to paint this as a political effort, but they’re the ones playing politics.” -- End quote.
“You know there’s no secret, the Mayor’s running for re-election,” said Hayward. “And instead of having the perception that this was about the mayor, this was never about the mayor. It was about highlighting the great people in Pensacola and letting our citizens know about all the great projects.”
One of the main critics of spending the money for the program is City Councilman Charles Bare – who along with Donna Clark is challenging Hayward in the August 26 primary.
“The Mayor talks about wanting to highlight the things that our employees are doing,” Bare said. “But on the same token, the news on the (city) webpage is all about the Mayor. The last five news releases have all been about things the Mayor’s done.”
In a written statement issued Wednesday, the Mayor said reports that he would host, or “star” in the program were erroneous. Instead, he says it will serve as an addition of sorts to the more than 20 town hall meetings his administration has conducted since 2011.
The Pensacola Independent News reports that the City of Pensacola had an opportunity to place a show on the county’s ECTV public access channel, but Hayward declined to do so. The Mayor denied any knowledge of such an action. A similar deal was discussed with WUWF-TV, but never came to fruition.
The IN also spoke with County Attorney Alison Rogers about ECTV. She said any commissioner on the ballot is prohibited from appearing within 90 days of an election. The lone exceptions are televised commission meetings.
Meanwhile, Councilman Charles Bare said earlier in the week – when the show was announced – that he would bring up the issue at Thursday night’s regular City Council meeting. Even with Hayward’s withdrawal, Bare’s sticking with that plan.
While Bare says the money going toward the show could be better spent elsewhere, he’s quick to add that he doesn’t believe any campaign laws have been violated.
The 30-minute show – as yet unnamed – is scheduled to premiere on Tuesday, July 29. Each episode will rerun nine times over a two week period until the next episode airs.