I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Escambia County Going with the Committee Approach to Naming the Repacement Bridge---Wisely

The Escambia BCC voted 3-2 today to move the naming of the replacement 3-Mile Bridge to a citizen's committee... a good decision for all!

Today the Escambia BCC voted by a 3-2 margin to go with a committee approach to the idea of renaming the 3-Mile Bridge over Pensacola Bay that currently carries the official designation of the "Philip D. Beall Sr. Memorial Bridge."

A local citizen's group had come in with a request that we adopt their plan to rename the structure for a local war hero-- with no additional consideration-- and to the detriment of the Beall family--as to do this would strip the Beall name from the bridge.

Nobody is saying, outright, NO WAY!

Folks are just asking that we consider alternatives.

Can we compromise and do a dual designation that honors both families?  How about we find a way to honor General Chappie James without stripping an honor away from the Beall family?

How about we name the airport at Pensacola for Chappie and keep the bridge named for Beall?

Taking a step back and listenting to stakeholders for a decision of this magnitude is smart, and I commend the board for not kowtowing to the loudest voices in the room and holding fast today with a vote to impanel a committee of concerned citizens to help us with this decision.

This was the wise, measured, and rational way to proceed on this issue!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Let's Name Pensacola's Airport for Chappie James!

General Daniel R. "Chappie" James was our nation's first Black 4-Star General and he was a decorated combat veteran aviator. He was also a native of Pensacola. We should think big and  name our city's airport in his honor!"

There may be disagreement over the naming of the Three Mile Bridge for Chappie James (as this would require a current designation be stripped from the bridge and a family that gave much to our community)--but there is absolutely NO disagreement with the fact that General Daniel R. "Chappie" James, the nation's first Black 4-star General, a Pensacola Native, and a decorated Combat Veteran of the Korean and Vietnam War--deserves to be honored in a profound way.

I have made it clear I do not favor honoring one man and his family by tearing down a designation and a memorial to another family.

And I do not buy the nascent and dishonorable arguments blooming and festering about one man being a bigot.

I believe that is ridiculous and it is also a really, really slippery slope to start picking and choosing which historical figures remain "worthy" of memorials based upon today's standards, norms, culture,  and laws.

So let's all agree that Chappie deserves to be honored in a big way--much bigger than a bridge plaque.

Let's think big and name our airport in Pensacola after Chappie James.

He was an aviator, what better symbol could we use to express our thanks to this man and his family for his service to our nation than to name our airport after him?  And doing this means we don't have to disregard and tear down the Beall family's monument on the bridge.  Let's change Pensacola's airport name, and give Chappie the memorial he deserves!

Right now, the name of the airport is "Pensacola International Airport."

How about this, though:

"General Daniel R. 'Chappie' James International Airport at Pensacola."

The static display and the statue could be installed, and an entire section of the airport could be dedicated to the memory of this great American.  Hundreds of thousands of visitors yearly would learn about this man, which is a lot more that would ever stop long enough to see his name on a plaque on a bridge leading to the beach.

Come on Pensacola---let's do something we can ALL agree upon and let's do the memorial to General James the right way.

"General Daniel R. 'Chappie' James International Airport at Pensacola."

A Family's Good Name is an Issue Bigger Than ANY Bridge Part II: Who Are "The Monument Police"

Some are saying having a bridge carry the name Philip D. Beall Sr.(pictured above) is simply unacceptable. So who will be the area's monument police that will use today's standards to tear down monuments and rip down memorial designations from men that lived 50, 100, 150, 200, or 300 years ago?  Will we demand all local memorials, roadway designations, statues and monuments to President Andrew Jackson  also be abolished?   

Who will be our area's "monument police?"

As we work through the initiative that some citizens have been pushing to take the Philip D Beall designation from the bridge that bears his name in Pensacola--some have even stooped to the lowest of levels and started to attack the man's character (and by implication, his family's good name) as an added reason to take the designation from him and his family.

They are asking the legislature to submit a bill to remove the Beall name from the bridge and add a different name.

This is very unfortunate.

Philip D. Beall Sr. was a State Senator that did many great things for our area.  His son, Philip D. Beall, Jr., also served in the Florida Senate for 16 years after he returned from service in WW II.  He also did many great things for our area as well.  He had a brother that served in WWII in the Pacific Theater.  This brother, Kirke Monroe Beall, went on to serve as a local Circuit Court Judge. He did many great things for our area as well.

From the 1930s through the 1960s and beyond--this family gave a lot to our area.

But according to some that want to see a new name on the replacement bridge that currently honors the Beall family's Patriarch--the name MUST change because in the opinion of this small minority of folks--"Beall was a racist."  To me this is disgusting and insulting and ignores historical realities that cannot be downplayed.

The impetus for this negative characterization being heaped upon Senator Beall apparently stems from legislation that was sponsored in the Florida Legislature in 1935 and adopted unanimously and signed into law by the Governor that sought to control and solidify Democratic control over areas of the state by disallowing Republican voters (primarily Black voters at this time in our history) from voting in primary elections.

This was wrong, no doubt. Under today's standards it would not be tolerated and anyone that tried such tactics would rightly be imprisoned.  But a thorough examination of the context illustrates that this was a party-politics issue--not a blatantly, exclusively racist issue.  But let me be clear:  our historic treatment of minorities in the South was abhorrent.  It was abysmal. I wasn't alive until 1968 and if I was alive then--I would not have supported it! This said--it was the way things were at that particular time.  Our history is ugly.

But nope, we apparently cannot look at it that way.  Nope, it was racism! and so now, suddenly, after all these years, the Beall's are no longer "worthy" of the memorial designation on the bridge. Nope, some self-anointed "monument police" have spoken.  They have decreed that this is no longer tenable.  The name must be changed NOW because this man was, according to these accusers, a bigot!

But wait just a minute.   Who is it among all men that is without any fault?  Who?  Answer: none of us.  Only God is without fault.

So who will be the area's monument police that will use today's standards to tear down monuments and rip down memorial designations from men that lived 50, 100, 150, or 200 years ago?  Will we

demand all local memorials, roadway designations, statues and monuments to President Andrew Jackson be abolished?  After all, even though he was a beloved figure in history, a former governor of the Florida territory and our nation's 7th President---he and his son owned hundreds of slaves in his lifetime at his properties in Tennessee and Mississippi-- and he ordered the forcible removal of the Cherokee Indians from the southeast to Oklahoma--and thousands of Native Americans died as a result.  What will the monument police say about "Old Hickory?"  Will these monument police immediately forego the use of the U.S. $20 Dollar Bill that features Andrew Jackson?

Andrew Jackson owned slaves and mistreated Native Americans in his lifetime.  Will the
same self-anointed "monument police" that are demanding Senator Beall's
memorial be taken away demand all of the local memorials to President Jackson
come down as well?


Will he be exempted from the demands for monument and memorial removals by the same monument police that want Philip D. Beall's name removed from the Bridge that carries his name?

If so, why?  And if not, why not?

I want to understand the distinctions.  Is it based upon position of power achieved? Notoriety?  Or is it based upon the severity of the injustices purportedly committed upon minorities?  I want to know and I only ask because if we are giving Jackson a pass, but not Beall, this is illogical and hypocritical.  Jackson did far, far, worse to Indians and Blacks than did most anyone--he did way worse by orders of magnitude than did Florida State Senate President Philip D. Beall Sr.

Will the monument police have different standards based upon different historical periods, and-if so- who among the monument police will set such standards?  I'm very interested in this.

Next let's talk about Don Tristan De Luna, Sen. Robert Byrd, Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  I want to hear what the monument police have to say about all the monuments, hundreds of them around the nation,  to all of these historic men who each had their own unique historical issues with race and unequal treatment of races--and/or worse.

I would like a cogent, reasoned response from the monument police on this question: --do we have to tear down all remnants of any memorial or monument to any prominent historical figures if there is any speck of racial issues with such a figure's history--regardless of the implications of the particular period in history in which such historic figures lived?  Is that what the monument police want?

This is an incredibly steep and slippery slope and it is a very dangerous thing to do, tearing down monuments, statues, memorials, and family legacies.

For my part, I won't partake.

I know all too well that we are all flawed, none of us is perfect, history is exactly what it was (not what we want to redefine it to be) and if we start down this path it does not end well.

A Family's Good Name is An Issue Bigger than ANY Bridge, Part I: Who are the Beall's?

The official designation of Pensacola's 3-mile bridge is the Philip D Beall Sr. Memorial Bridge.  This designation will carry over to the replacement bridge scheduled for completion in 2021, absent any legislative action to prevent this


Philip D. Beall Jr. served honorably
 as a bombardier in the US Army Air
Corps in WWII and as a
Florida Senator for 16 years upon
his return home from the war
There is a silent tug of war brewing in Pensacola that is now bubbling over into the court of public opinion that threatens the legacy and memorial one family has cherished for decades.  This family, The Beall family, worries their name and their family and all the sacrifices they've made will soon be wiped out and erased.  

Worse than this, the family fears their ancestors will be targeted and attacked unfairly. 

They are heartbroken at the thought.

As I have had the pleasure of hearing more about this family over the past several months by speaking with them and learning more about them and what they have done for the community, I have once again rediscovered my love for and fascination of history. 

But history is a tricky thing.  Who retells a tale and under what context a story is told can frame an actual event in multiple ways…  Sadly, I believe some historical manipulation is happening as it pertains to one local family which is slowly transitioning into the politics of personal destruction.  I am hopeful, however, that a look at the sum-total of this one family’s contributions to our community will not be erased because of historical incidents being taken out of context and viewed through the lens of America circa 2019.


Senator Philip D Beall Sr. and his wife Hildur
The Pensacola three-mile bridge that connects Gulf Breeze, Florida with Pensacola, Florida,  has a state designation—it is officially known as the “Philip Dane Beall, Sr. Memorial Bridge.”  Philip D Beall Sr. was a Pensacola native and a Florida state Senator who served as Senate President in 1943 when he died in office.  His sons, Philip D Beall Jr and Kirke Beall both served honorably in WWII.  Philip D. Beall Jr. was shot down over Germany in WWII and spent two years in a German POW camp.  His father died in 1943 not knowing his son’s fate, and the younger Beall was imprisoned and unaware, until his release, that his father had died.  In 1962 the Florida legislature named the bridge between Gulf Breeze and Pensacola for Philip D Beall—in honor of the man’s legacy.  Interestingly—most locals do not know this and instead affectionately refer to the bridge as the “Three Mile Bridge.”  This structure is currently being replaced with a $500 Million-dollar span that will be open to traffic, fully, in 2021.  According to FDOT-once the replacement bridge is completed and absent any legislative action, the replacement bridge will carry the same official designation “Philip D Beall Sr. Memorial Bridge.”
Sen. Beall's sons served in WWII hon-
orably as Beall Sr. served as President
of the Florida Senate.  Pictured above
is Senator Beall's son Kirke Beall, a
US Navy WWII veteran of the Pacific

A group of local citizens is trying to have the Beall designation removed so that the new bridge, the replacement bridge, can be renamed the “General Daniel R. ‘Chappie’ James” memorial bridge.  Gen. James was a decorated combat veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, a native Pensacolian, and the nation’s first Black 4-Star General.  His legacy is honorable, and he and his family currently have 13 memorials nationwide—including a state building named for him right here in Pensacola.  The folks that want to name the bridge for James have organized and they have petitioned the four local legislative bodies (Santa Rosa County Commission, Escambia County Commission, Gulf Breeze City Council, and Pensacola City Council.)  Santa Rosa County and Pensacola have both already voted in favor of making this change in designation.  The legislative delegation will run a bill in Tallahassee to make this change if the four governing bodies vote proactively to do this. 


The Beall family, meanwhile, waits in limbo.  They don’t want to see their family’s one and only memorial get torn away.  

They do not want their family’s name to be stained.  

This family would like nothing more than to keep the designation or at a minimum to have both men honored by sharing this designation jointly. 

My simple question is this:  Why is the idea of a compromise, a joint designation, such an unacceptable proposition?

After all, a family’s name and a family’s legacy is an issue bigger than any Bridge.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

What is the TRUTH and the Latest Status on our Efforts to #OpenOurBeach?

There has been some “noise” out there about our continuing efforts at opening public beach access #4 at Perdido Key.  Typical nonsensical noise that is not grounded in reality with respect to an email that was put our last Thursday from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.  So here come the realities….

And as it pertains to Kristi from USFW –the person who sent Thursday’s email--I spoke to her at length on Thursday afternoon and she confirmed what we all know--Escambia County CAN do both habitat conservation AND public access, so long as we follow an approved plan which I also confirmed Thursday, in writing, with Tim Day.

One person is inaccurately portraying this citizen-driven push to #OpenOurBeach as an either/or, binary choice (Mouse Conservation OR Public Access) which it is not.

Yes, the beach access at Perdido Key is moving forward--and for reasons that are unclear, this really, really, really irritates one person in particular. Tim (Day) is working it, an engineer has been hired and engaged to design it, and we have a pot of money from which to fund it, and I believe there will be 4 votes to finish it. And I reiterate--doing this is good for the mouse. What we have been doing, which is nothing, has not been good for the mouse.

Doing what we have been doing (nothing, just maintaining a comfortable status quo that only benefited nearby condo owners who used this publicly funded beach as their own "private beach") has been detrimental to the mice as no fencing prevents beach users from walking from the beach toward Perdido Key Drive, trampling all over the dunes, leaving trash and rubbish in their wake. The only fencing on the property is the fencing that kept you, the taxpayers who bought this property, from accessing this property with your cars. That's why we are going to #OpenOurBeach and have a big party on the beach this summer when we get it done!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Committee Approach to Naming Replacement Bridge a Prudent Way Forward

The committee approach to selection of a memorial namesake for the replacement 3-mile bridge is the prudent, rational, and intelligent way forward that the BCC will pursue.

Today at the committee of the whole, Commissioner Bender added an item to the agenda at the table.

The item was a discussion on the process of determining a name for the replacement bridge under construction over Pensacola Bay.

A citizen's initiative movement has been gaining momentum with the singular focus of having the designation of this replacement bridge changed from the Philip D. Beall Sr. Memorial Bridge, (which the new structure, the replacement structure would carry absent legislative action) to the General Daniel "Chappie" James Bridge.

I have called for a compromise that honors both men.  This idea has been met with significant resistance.

Pensacola has voted to request the legislative delegation move to rename the bridge.

On Monday, the Santa Rosa County Commission voted unanimously to change the designation to honor Chappie James.

The Gulf Breeze city council, at their agenda review session yesterday afternoon, DID NOT add this issue as a discussion item for their meeting next week.

And today, at the BCC's committee of the whole, Commissioner Bender brought forth the idea of slowing the process down and perhaps organizing a committee to study the issue and provide alternatives that may honor our unique heritage and all area veterans that have served the country in the armed forces.  He also stated that he did not want to feel rushed into this decision.

I concurred, as did Commissioner Barry.

So next week we will discuss the formation of a BCC committee to analyze the naming protocols with the intention of having this committee make a recommendation to the BCC for us to consider.

This is a reasonable and rational approach to this issue that I believe will be favorably voted forward next week--because it is a balanced and measured, non "frenzied and harried" way to logically work through this issue so that all sides can be considered.

I look forward to this discussion next week.

You can watch the deliberations and discussions in this video.  Good discussion!

OLF 8 Zoning Decision Request from Staff Was Premature.....

Staff had requested we make a selection today (see above) regarding our newly acquired OLF 8 property in Beulah--the board decided this was premature and instead voted to wait until AFTER the master plan is completed to assign the zoning and future land use designation...

Today we had a very brief discussion about OLF 8.

Staff wanted us to choose a zoning designation and a future land use category from among two choices that would fit the parcel (pictured above).  They wanted a decision on this today.

For my part--I felt such a decision was very, very premature and I stated this at the onset of the meeting and discussion.  

I believe the master planner should be engaged and allowed to do his work to identify the highest and best use for the property and to develop a plan based upon our guidance document----before we "put our thumb on the scale" by pre-determining the zoning and FLU.

My counterparts on the dais agreed, and we wisely decided to wait until AFTER the master plan is complete to assign these designations to the property.

I'm glad we ended the discussion this way and that we did not put the cart before the horse...