Panama City Commission shoots down second attempt to add referendum on Beach Drive project

PANAMA CITY − Local officials have denied a second attempt by Mayor Michael Rohan to let voters help decide the future of a controversial roadway improvement project.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Panama City commissioners voted 3-2 against adding a referendum on ballots in the General Election in November to help guide the their decision on the pending West Beach Drive Multi-Use Sidewalk Project.

The goal of the project is to add a multi-use path on the south side of the road that not only would make the area more accessible to pedestrians, but also connect the Panama City and St. Andrews marinas.

Panama City Commissioners on Tuesday shot down a second attempt by Mayor Michael Rohan to add a referendum in an upcoming election about the West Beach Drive Multi-Use Sidewalk Project.
Panama City Commissioners on Tuesday shot down a second attempt by Mayor Michael Rohan to add a referendum in an upcoming election about the West Beach Drive Multi-Use Sidewalk Project.

"Where I am right now is ... do we want to do the (referendum) in November, or do we want to do it in August," Rohan said.

It should be noted that Rohan has changed his stance on the referendum since the commission's last meeting on May 14, when he initially brought up the topic. During that meeting, he was only in favor of the referendum if it appeared in the Primary Election.

He held this opinion even after commissioners Janice Lucas, Brian Grainger and Josh Street, as well as City Manager Jonathan Hayes, all said they thought November is the best time. Their reasoning was that since it is a general election, rather than a primary election, voter turnout will be higher, so more residents would get to weigh in on project.

Lucas was the first official to make a motion about the referendum in the May 14 meeting. She proposed that it appear in the General Election. That motion failed with herself and Commissioner Josh Street voting yes, and Rohan, Grainger and Commissioner Jenna Haligas voting no. Since that motion would have needed only a 3-2 vote to pass, Rohan was a deciding vote in its failure.

After that motion failed, Rohan passed the gavel to Haligas and made another motion for the referendum to appear in the Primary Election. It did not go to a vote for a lack of a second.

On Tuesday, Street said it doesn't make sense for Rohan to want to revisit the topic after he already was given the opportunity to add the referendum to ballots in the November election and voted no.

"We had the support," Street said. "We visited this last meeting. You voted no on it. As far as I'm concerned, it's done. I'm not going to continue to be pulled into and out of ... whatever political dynamic is brewing around this. The issue was at hand. There was support to do it. It was chosen not to do it. As far as I'm concerned, the issue is dead."

Rohan's first attempt: Panama City will not poll voters in upcoming elections about West Beach Drive project

Following the commission's discussion Tuesday, Lucas made a new motion for the referendum to appear in the General Election. It failed with Haligas, Street and Grainger voting no, and Rohan and Lucas voting yes.

"Mr. Mayor, I would just like to go on the record saying you had the support (last meeting) to do it in November," Lucas said. "The November referendum is one that I will support."

This article originally appeared on The News Herald: PC shoots down second attempt to add referendum on Beach Drive project