News Journal email pledges to “battle with any city council opposition” to Studer project
By Deborah Nelson
August 3, 2015
An email dated September 10 of last year, from former Pensacola News Journal publisher Terry Horne to Quint Studer, pledges to “battle with any City Council opposition” to an unnamed project. Horne left the News Journal the same month for a job as Publisher of the Salem Statesman Journal in Oregon.
The email, which Panhandle Politico obtained from Pensacola City Council representative Sherri Myers, is posted here: Terry Horne e-mail
Myers says she’s concerned the News Journal is biased towards big-dollar advertisers instead of providing impartial news coverage.
Contemporaneous news reports suggest Horne’s support refers to an “economic development” tax-exemption for Studer’s project to develop the former Pensacola News Journal building site into high-density apartments and other facilities.
Horne’s email was a response to an email from Studer containing a link to the website www.progresspromise.com/blog/a-50-million-renaissance. The link no longer works.
Studer forwarded Horne’s response to Mayor’s Office Chief Operating Officer Tamara Fountain about a half hour later.
The full text of Horne’s response reads:
“Thanks, Quint. PNJ’s editorial board is 100 percent behind this project. We will back the mayor and battle with any city council opposition in getting this project done. It is important to downtown Pensacola – more people means more commerce and more businesses and more energy and better options.”
Panhandle Politico asked News Journal Editor Lisa Nellessen-Lara the following questions:
Is it still News Journal practice to advocate for individuals, businesses and other private interests on government policy issues?
If so, was that a factor behind PNJ’s recent editorial on “transparency” in the Mayor’s office?
If so, which entities are PNJ currently supporting through editorial means?
“It is extremely important to note that our former publisher was referring to our editorial board and the opinions on our opinion page. Those opinions do not influence the work of our journalists who strive to provide an accurate report of the actions of our private and public sector community leaders.
We have consistently advocated on our Opinion page for the best interests of Pensacola and its residents and will continue to support – on our Opinion page – projects and ideas that are in their best interests. Our editorial regarding transparency was just that – a call for our government leaders to be transparent in all of their work, rather than focusing on bits and pieces that would otherwise paint an inaccurate picture of what’s happening in our community.”
PNJ’s recent “transparency” editorial questions Fountain’s qualifications and appointed responsibilities. It follows on the heels of a News Journal regular news story reporting that former Public Information Officer Derek Cosson is now receiving contract pay from the Mayor’s Office, and detailing the pay. The “transparency” editorial also criticizes Cosson’s pay and qualifications.
The editorial appeared shortly after Studer broke off negotiations with the City of Pensacola for three Maritime Park parcel leases.
Studer took issue with a Mayor’s office press release that said the leases had “several issues which have yet to be resolved:
• Lease term — The parties need to agree on the length of the leases.
• Approval of uses — The uses proposed by the Studers are not detailed in the current leases. Any changes to property uses should be approved by the City rather than the CMPA.
• Timeline — The proposed leases give the Studers up to five years to begin construction.
• Parking — Mr. Studer previously indicated that he would seek “non-exclusive” parking spaces. However, the leases refer to these spaces as “reserved.” That language needs to be clear.
• Rent adjustments — The parties need to agree on a structure for periodic rent increases over the term of the lease.”
Meyers characterized the lease terms Studer was seeking as “egregious.”
PNJ’s reference to “transparency” appears to refer to a PNJ call for the Mayor to post “COO Fountain’s resume and work history for all citizens to see” and “Show us Cosson’s qualifications and skill set that makes his work so valuable to taxpayers.”
Fountain’s is the only resume in the City or County PNJ suggested be posted. Cosson is the only other area government contractor PNJ suggested be scrutinized.
A recent Panhandle Politico editorial questioned PNJ’s interest in Cosson’s salary, considering the many questionable taxpayer-sponsored “consultant” handouts and “nonprofit” contracts they’ve ignored through the years, despite in some cases being alerted by area residents.