Guidelines

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.








Friday, December 16, 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pay Stipends to Bidders?

 
At today's Committee of the Whole meeting the idea of paying stipends to bidders was brought for our consideration.  After reading the backup materials that I received only 2 days prior to this meeting, I was amazed that such a thing was actually being considered.
 
I reached out to several area professionals with extensive contracting/building experience in both the public and private sector in an attempt to see what these experts thought of this idea.  The consensus was that this practice is not common, and most of the folks I spoke with had never been paid a stipend for preparing and submitting a bid.
 
"It's a cost of doing business, period" said one Engineer I spoke with that spent 27 years in the Navy in acquisitions and contracting all over the world.
 
"I've never heard of this before" said a developer friend I called.
 
Another expert I have known for many years and who currently works out of state told me "I've heard of this, and for design-build projects that are not well-defined by the customer and that require a significant amount of design and staff time--this is not necessarily out of line."  He continued "but not offering the stipend is not going to chase away the top-line firms, they will be there and they will submit because they want the work."
 
So after staff presented their materials, I spoke up right away and explained that I could not support this, and that I would not support this.  I explained that as a school board member in a district that has done extensive building over the last decade, we have never offered stipends for bidders, ever.
 
And having worked for four different companies over the last 12 years at NAS Pensacola in a variety of facilities related positions---I have never seen this sort of a stipend program out here at the base, even during hurricane Ivan reconstruction where the base did hundreds of millions of dollars in construction projects to address the immense damage from that storm.  
 
With all of this as the backdrop, I dug in my heels and unequivocally stated I wouldn't support stipends for the unsuccessful bidders competing for our jail rebuild project.
 
Although one commissioner did say he could support this concept "at the low end of the contemplated amount"---three other commissioners joined me and expressed that they would not support this--for a variety of very good reasons.
 
Escambia County will not be paying stipends for our unsuccessful bidders.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tremendous Concerns over Proposed Bay Bridge Design


At the TPO meeting this morning the big item of concern was the plan for the replacement of the Pensacola Bay Bridge.  The plan to stage the construction with one side being utilized for travel both directions was panned by many in attendance.  The issue is that the width of the travel lanes are going to be even more narrow on the bridge during construction than are the lanes currently--and the current lane widths barely allow access by fire/emergency vehicles now.

Everyone, so far as I could tell, agrees that the eventual finished product will be amazing, but for the two year period where we will have to rely on just one side of the bridge span to accommodate traffic in both directions--this plan still needs work.  The police chief of Gulf Breeze, the Gulf Breeze mayor, the deputy fire chief of Gulf Breeze, Escambia County Emergency Management Director, and others spoke out with dire warnings about this plan going forward.  "We do 2,900 trips a year on the bridge as is" said one ambulance driver who spoke.  He continued "We barely have enough room to maneuver our vehicles as it is right now, and sometimes we clip the mirrors of other vehicles....with even more narrow lanes, we are going to have problems."

Another concern:  That drivers that glance over at the new construction happening on the bay will increase the number of rear-end collisions on the existing bridge.  "I think we're all guilty of rubber necking and looking at stuff that is going on around us when we should be watching the road--I know I am" said the Gulf Breeze police chief.  "This will make that situation even more concerning"

My sense is that the contractor that is doing this design build project will come back after the new year, to February's TPO meeting, with a new phasing strategy based upon the concerns voiced today--as it is abundantly clear from purely a safety perspective the current plan is a non-starter.....

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Smashing Sour Grapes



It's no secret that failed 2010 Mayoral candidate Diane Mack was in the tank for one of my opponents in my recent campaign for County Commissioner in District 1.  In February, she wrote this piece in the PNJ.  During the campaign over the last 11 months, Diane Mack was a consistent facebook "like" to many of my opponent's posts on her campaign page.  Who cares, though? I didn't, I just went about my campaign doing what I do---campaigning hard and crushing elections.

Didn't matter what Diane Mack said, thought, or did--- I won the primary and general election by a large margin.

Here's the thing-----It really is not about two of my opponents in this last election being male or female--it is about who the voters select.  The voters selected me.  I'm sure Diane is distraught about the national elections as well, where her superstar Hillary Clinton was beaten by Donald Trump---despite Barrack Obama campaigning harder for her than any sitting President in American History ever campaigned for his successor....really embarrassing for him....

But back to local politics...

Just today----- along comes this piece of tripe in today's PNJ by Diane Mack....  Where she takes a shot at me by saying   "In this year in which we witnessed the defeat of a woman who was the most qualified of four candidates for a vacant Escambia County Commission seat (District 1) the community has been given an uncommon opportunity"  Here is what I have to say to Diane about her

Monday, November 21, 2016

On 1370 WCOA's Good Morning Pensacola Today




From who I am and where I'm from, to my time on the school board and how I found myself in that job for 10 years, to what I think of politics locally, to hot topics like building the new jail,  beach traffic and economic development and the OLF 8 land swap--the conversation this morning was wide ranging.  I appreciated the opportunity to offer my opinions on all these topics.

You can listen to the entire interview    part I  here
                                                               part II here

Monday, November 14, 2016

Market-Driven, Private Sector Approach to Managing Beach Tolls, Traffic

When I heard about the recent move to automate all lanes going out to Pensacola Beach, I was somewhat concerned.  I believe this will drastically reduce revenue.  I know it will.  A large portion of the revenue generated will now be re-directed to Sun Pass, and these recurring fees and costs will result in steep revenue declines going forward, as much as $500,000 yearly compared to what we currently collect.  How will we replace that revenue?  I’m not inclined to support new taxes on citizens, or the imposition of new fees for consumers who choose to go to the beach, simply to cover a self-inflicted revenue loss created by a bad decision.  I’m a small-government, fiscal conservative and I want less government, less regulation, less taxes, smarter decisions and more prudent governance.

Government is not like a business in the sense that government’s job is not to maximize profit but rather to generate revenue sufficient to provide needed services to citizens. Services cost money and revenues must be raised --and government should strive to be efficient like successful private sector, for-profit entities are.

Movie theaters offer discounts for matinees, restaurants offer early-bird dinner specials, and bars have happy hours.  All of these promotions attempt to increase revenue in off-peak periods.

Why don’t we use some smart, market driven initiatives to help ease beach traffic issues while simultaneously building off-season use of the beach by citizens?  I think there are some things that can be done right away to create a win-win scenario—without going to a fully automated, Sun Pass system.

The toll by plate collection process will be cumbersome and I believe will result in further revenue declines (e.g.  Where will the fee be sent for island visitors driving rental cars?) What percentage of the toll by plate notices and bills will we realistically collect?  50%, 40% or less?

How about we do something better:

I’d like to look at reducing the toll to $.50 cents,  re-installing automated baskets,  thereby substantially reducing employee costs currently incurred by utilizing human toll collectors.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Foot in School District, One Foot in County Government.....


I have one more School Board meeting to go this coming Tuesday, November 15th, and then one week later, on Monday November 21st at 12:00 Midnight my time on the School Board will end and my time as a County Commissioner will begin.  So I am in between both jobs now, in a very unique position hving one foot in the school district and one foot in County Government.

Leaving the School Board will be bittersweet:  I have one child left in the schools, two nephews in the schools, and many friends intimately involved in the schools, either as employees or volunteers that work closely with the district.  So while I am leaving my service as a school board member in just a few days, I will always have fond memories of my time here and I will always keep one eye on what is happening with our local public schools ---as I feel the public schools as we know them are in deep distresss.  I believe they will be changing drastically in the years going forward due to numerous issues and problems that are not being properly addressed. We need to be more fiscally responsible with certain spending items that we fund.  We spend HUGE amounts of taxpayer dollars on high-priced seminars--and nobody bats an eye.  We need to be more frugal.   We need to enforce discipline strictly and demolish the politically-correct approach to discipline that has infested our schools from the top-down to the detriment of good teachers, good students, and good families (this is what is driving our significant enrollment declines).  We must eliminate as many locally required tests as possible--we test too much and people are sick and tired of this.  We must eliminate social promotion that still runs rampant in our district (especially between middle school and 9th grade and acutely among over-age students), and get back to enforcing rigorous academic standards that have meaning and giving grades that are earned.  If we give away advancement and promotion for those who do not meet the standards, we are simply awarding participation trophies, and NOT doing anybody any favors.   And we have to look at district enrollment as a key metric instead of fecklessly trying to ignore and/or explain away this real problem of enrollment decline while simultaneously not measuring it as a function of our strategic plan.  Our neighboring district to the east is EXPLODING in school population and we are declining....why?  We need to look at and measure teacher churn site by site, to see where teachers are under significant stress---and we need to increase  pay for teachers who work in schools that serve communities marked by significant levels of social dysfunction. What is going on with the IB program and other issues at Workman MS?, what is happening at O.J Semmes ES?  I hear stories about the iCare program at Brentwood ES

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

16 Months Part IV: The Finish Line....


Sixteen months and 1 day ago I announced my intention to leave the school board and run for a position on the Escambia County Commission.  Today is zero hour, we've reached the finish line.

While I am very excited about the challenges that lie ahead, I am also amazed at the way time flies...  Walking to nearly 9,000 homes personally in this campaign and meeting all kinds of people in all kinds of places--I have developed an even stronger appreciation for our community.  We are a community of good people that care deeply about our neighborhoods.

I was humbled to receive the nod in the August primary election, and I feel very confident about my chances to win tonight's contest.

Looking forward, we have big challenges in the county that we must confront:  OLF 8, rebuilding the jail, figuring out how to fix gridlocked traffic on the beach, and addressing numerous infrastructure challenges county-wide--not to mention setting budgets that never seem large enough to handle the needs that exist.  I look forward to helping solve these issues with my fellow commissioners and the county staff starting on November 22nd..

Looking backward, our schools face tremendous challenges as well, many of which are self-inflicted, many of which are not our fault and come to us from the community we serve.  While we have done some great things of which I am very proud over the last ten years--  I lament the fact that I have not been able to move the needle more significantly on some other very important things, including:

1.  Strict and equally applied enforcement of discipline policies, and curbing bullying and abusive behavior by students against other students and staff that persists.
2.  Reducing the amount of district-driven standardized testing.
3.  Reducing the massive and overly burdensome "box-checking" and other mandates foisted on classroom teachers from the district administration.
4.  Seriously discussing and dealing with declining enrollments in our system.
5.  Seriously discussing and addressing Staff Churn ( and bargaining location pay for teachers in schools with high levels of social dysfunction)
6.  Moving into the 21st Century and modernizing our District's Structure to include Appointing our Superintendent of Schools like 99.4% of our nation's public school districts already do.

But hopefully these items can be addressed effectively by future boards going forward.

There will always be challenges to address whether we are talking about County or City or School District Bureaucracy,  I simply want to do the best I can for taxpayers and citizens wherever I end up, and this is what I have tried to do over the last 10 years as a school board member.

Now that I have reached the finish line, and if I am elected tonight, this is what I will continue to do as a County Commissioner.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Voting NO


From time to time as a school board member I vote against recommendations.  I do this when I do not believe voting yes is the appropriate course of action.

-When staff wanted to fire a basketball coach for reasons other than those stated in the board’s backup, knowing this would spur litigation and despite the fact that this coach wanted to quit---yes I voted NO.

-When students are treated in disparate fashion based upon race with respect to disciplinary recommendations—so we can balance numbers--, I vote NO

-When schools do not follow board policy on bullying and harassment, I speak out forcefully and take action and often vote NO on recommendations.

-When our district conducted a disastrously bad investigation into disbarring a supplier, I voted NO

-When we decided to spend an exorbitant amount of money building middle school in a 
neighborhood where we desperately need another elementary school, and not a middle school, Yes, I voted NO.

There are many more examples I could point to, including a recent one at last Tuesday’s regular meeting.

At this meeting an agenda item was presented for our approval.   Now, this expenditure was not coming from our general fund—it was money we were (are) receiving from a state grant.  Yes, this is grant money, but it is still taxpayer money.

Anyway, the backup presented was opaque;  it listed amounts and brief summaries of the monies that would be sent to three different companies for “Professional Development” and “Coaching.”  Not given in the backup were some important issues I wanted outlined.  “How many hours is this coach from this company going to spend here?”  “How can we know this is effective, how do we measure the effectiveness of this coaching?”  I got no good answers, except that it would be one coach, for roughly 60 hours on several occasions, training about 40 district “leaders.”  For this part of the expenditure ($31,500.00), this equates to $525 dollars per hour for “coaching.”  

Sorry, I think this is exorbitant, and I cannot support spending this much.

$525 per hour for one employee of this company to do small group coaching on “personality traits” and how to be better leaders.  Are you kidding me?? 

  No way, no how, ever!

We’ve tried coaching leaders at struggling schools in the past with high-dollar programs and this hasn’t worked.

I wanted to explore a more cost effective approach, having employees in our professional learning department find training online in order to tailor a program to teach our employees utilizing open-source materials, MOOCs, and/or other free and readily available materials.  I wanted to do this instead of hiring expensive private “coaches” at $525.00 per hour.

I lost the vote 4-1.

I was told by several folks “its grant money, if we don’t use it, someone else will!”

Here’s my problem with that line of thinking: 

Okay, did we negotiate the very best price for this coaching, did we?  Or, did we just send a request for a proposal and accept the contractor’s rate?  I believe we lost our focus on demanding maximum value out of this purchase, the board was not provided with each contract with each of these firms that delineates exactly what the deliverables will be and how the costs were calculated.  It’s like the mentality is this “It’s grant money, so let’s spend it, and the state approved it so it is acceptable!”

I reject that.

Somewhere, at some time, a General at a base somewhere said NO, I’m not paying $600 for a toilet seat that I can get at Home Depot for $29.99.  And most certainly there was probably a purchasing agent that said to him “Sir, these are very good toilet seats and the DoD has approved the requisition and all of the bases are buying these, so are we sure we want to reject these—I mean we have money from the Pentagon specifically earmarked to use for replacing these toilet seats and it won’t come from our post operating fund---are we sure we want to say no??”



Thankfully that General did reject this.  And then Packard Commission was formed.  And then purchasing was scrutinized, and things got more affordable (although still priced above market in many respects) than they were in years past.  One general saying no could eliminate all the $600 toilet seats in the DoD---then the taxpayers save money---see how that works?

Every public official that has any part in acquisitions and budgeting should be forced to watch the film “The Pentagon Wars” to see how outside influences can run costs into the stratosphere. 
President Eisenhower warned us all about the military industrial complex, and his fears were legitimate.  And what he feared, came to pass.

A lot of this is applicable to today’s education industry.

In today’s world, with our educational expenditures exploding and at levels per pupil that are the highest in the world, I think we need to beware of the Educratic-Industrial Complex!  Between people that grift off of the taxpayers selling seminars, conventions, and pedagogy courses to public entities and school districts—to the testing companies that are driving costs up while changing the way we teach---to the public sector organized labor unions that drive up costs in education---we need to have another Eisenhoweresque moment.  

BEWARE THE EDUCRATIC-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!

We spend too much and receive too little in return, and nobody bats an eye.  Instead, we turn to policymakers and others and say we are “underfunded.”  We’re not underfunded, we’re inefficient and wasteful.   Unfortunately there appears to be little appetite in changing this mindset.



This is a First!

The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1395 AFL-CIO endorses Jeff Bergosh for Escambia County Commission, District 1. 10-18-2016

I was recently notified that I had received the endorsement of local 1395 AFL-CIO  for my upcoming election for County Commissioner, District 1.

This is a first.

I have never been endorsed by a union in any election in which I was a participant. 
I’ve interviewed for these sorts of things but my opponents always seemed to receive the endorsement or no endorsement would be given in my races.

I interviewed with the teacher’s union three times--- and never received their endorsement--- but I always won my races.

 In my recent primary election, one of my opponents was endorsed by the police union, and that candidate didn’t do well. ( All three candidates interviewed and when it was my turn I explained my campaign, I discussed my platform, had a great interview, but I predicted to them that they would not endorse my campaign—and they didn’t.   Their eventual selection that they endorsed and gave a campaign check to came in third place.  In politics third place is not good)

My other opponent in this last primary election was endorsed by the fire fighters union, and several other unions as well if I remember right from his mail piece---and that candidate came in second place.  The fire-fighter’s union never even called or interviewed me before they made their

Monday, October 3, 2016

Half Measures

"No Half Measures"....Mike Ehrmantraut

I was asked by the New American Press/Education Today magazine to answer a questionnaire about my opinion of the state of public education today---both  locally and nationally.  Here are the questions and answers that I provided in response.

11.       What are some the main concerns do you see in the Education system in Escambia County and the nation as a whole?

Apathy at all levels is the big issue.  From the households that have checked out of participating/partnering with their child’s school, to the bureaucrats that run the schools and embrace the status quo because that is the path of least resistance, to the politicians that ram ridiculous mandates down local school districts’ throats with no regard for the consequences—apathy at all levels is killing schools, churning out good teachers, and slowly destroying our public education system right before our eyes.  I’m particularly concerned with the teachers and the students.  Hiring and retaining  good teachers is going to be a harder and harder job going forward as we do not pay them well enough to deal with all of the issues they must bear in many of our schools.  And the good students that want to learn, regardless of their race or family income level or zip code, are going to be the ones that pay the biggest price if this situation is not properly addressed.  Half measures are no longer cutting it.

22.      What improvements would you suggest in Education for Escambia County?

Addressing discipline in strict fashion is critical.  When we offer up feckless solutions to chronic misbehavior, bullying, and abusive conduct by some students—we are simultaneously driving good teachers, good parents, and good families to the exits—and this is part of the reason why, in my opinion and based upon what I have been told by many parents, our enrollments are declining while other nearby district, homeschool, and private school enrollments are skyrocketing.  Every hundred students we lose equates to about $800,000 in lost revenue for our district.  Declining enrollment is a devastating problem and is one metric that cannot be explained away by politicians—it is probably

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sixteen Months Part 3

"Shark-fin" Billboard on the campaign mobile

Running for office is an unusual experience—that’s probably why more people don’t do it.  It has its ups and downs, and it takes a lot of effort to be successful.  It takes a lot of effort even for those who are not successful.  It is a huge sacrifice for a candidate and his/her family.  Suddenly everything revolves around the race once one is an announced candidate.  It is stressful, it is lonely at times, and it is all-consuming.

But there are a lot of things to like as well.

One of the things I like about campaigning for office is the fact that it takes creative thinking.  It takes intelligent strategy combined with experience, a message, and hopefully a good bit of money.  And creativity is important.  Designing a mailer, designing a palm card, deciding what to put on a 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Nine Mile Road Multilane Projects Begin This Month

The project was discussed at a recent DOT meeting held at Plainview Baptist Church.  The project to 4-lane Nine Mile Road from Beulah road to Pine Forest Road will commence this month and will run through 2019.  The project will include bike path and sidewalk, with sound barriers and improved signalization.  For more information you can check DOT's social sites here

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sixteen Months Part 2

District 1 School Board Candidate Kevin Adams and I in the fall of 2015, Campaigning in the southern part of District 1, door to door
Beginning a campaign more than a year away from the election date takes a lot of planning, stamina, and energy.  On July 7th, 2015, I pre-filed to run for the county commission seat that would be decided 16 months later, on November 8th, 2016.  16 months.  To run an election like this with multiple worthy opponents required discipline and determination.  Here is how we have run the campaign thus far...

WHO THE PLAYERS IN THIS ELECTION MIGHT BE...

I knew Jesse Casey was running, and I suspected that Karen Sindel would run.  I also heard about a deputy sheriff and a local architect that had considered running.  I knew the players and the potential candidates so  felt I had a good shot at winning, and the more participants the better--as I had a little name recognition that would play to my advantage going forward.  So, after putting in for the position, I started going door to door, every weekend and after work in the afternoons.  Door to Door is powerful.

THE TEAM

I teamed up with two friends that were running along side me in District 1 for two different offices; Kevin Adams decided to run for my school board seat, and our good friend Jim Faxlanger decided to run for the ECUA board seat.  So, although it was unconventional, we decided to team up for the campaign, to leverage our resources and create a force multiplier.  So after we all met our petition requirements, we began to move through the neighborhoods and streets in District 1-together.  Our initial strategy we coined as "Carpet-Bombing."  We would go to every house in a neighborhood,

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sixteen Months Part I


August 2015, Fish House Campaign Kickoff Fundraiser
On July 7, 2015 I pre-filed to run for the position of County Commissioner, District 1.  I did this knowing it would be a long and grueling campaign, a race that would last no less than 16 months...

August 2016, The Southpaw Grill, Primary election night victory celebration.
So now that I'm a good fourteen months into this evolution, and now that the primary election is behind me and the General Election is just 60 short days away, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what it is like to run for office, to run a 16 month long campaign to win a seat on the Escambia County Commission.  I've walked to 8,627 houses personally, written more than 900 personal letters, raised over $50,000.00 in campaign contributions, and experienced some of the most memorable situations in my life thus far--all in pursuit of a victory on November 8th,  So over the next 60 days leading up to the General Election I

The Nature Trail Paradigm: Self Sequestration

Nature Trail is a giant subdivision that sits in Beulah right across the street from Navy Federal Credit Union and the Navy property known as OLF8.  I love this subdivision and my family owned property in Nature Trail until very recently.  I live right next door to this development and I have many friends and acquaintances that live in Nature Trail.

Lots of things are happening in Beulah, from the expansion of Navy Federal Credit Union, to the expansion of  9 Mile road to become a 4-lane road, to the new freeway interchange off of Beulah road, to a new Middle School being constructed right down the road, to model airplane flyers operating their RC planes overhead, to sound barrier walls being constructed right outside of Nature Trail, to a large open field being prepared for development right across the street,  to a myriad of other issues that will affect the residents of this massive, exclusive subdivision.

These are taxpayers that live in Nature Trail, some of whom have invested more than $500K in their homes!

 So during last year's primary election campaign  (that I won last Tuesday)--- I sent 6 different mail pieces to the residents of Nature Trail----more than to any other group of constituents anywhere else in District 1.  Why?---because I could not come and meet these residents face to face.

I tried at one point in the campaign and was turned away at the gate.  "No Soliciting of any kind!"

Meanwhile, I walked to 8,627 other residences throughout Beulah and the rest of District 1 because candidates are welcomed in other neighborhoods throughout Beulah and  District 1--yet they are precluded from canvassing in Nature Trail.

Now--I get it, nobody likes having people come to the door to try to sell them vacuum sweepers or pressure washing services--I get that.  But I'm just trying to meet voters, I'm not selling magazine subscriptions, frozen steaks,  Tupperware sets, or wooden ships like a scene out of Napoleon Dynamite!

I'm just trying to meet voters, because I feel like if I'm going to ask someone to vote for me, I ought to make an effort to try and come meet them in their neighborhoods.

What perplexes me  most about all of this is that this very large group of property owners----apparently by choice--- is missing out on meeting the very candidates that will eventually be representing their interests on the Board of County Commissioners!

At Tuesday's BCC special meeting on OLF8--multiple Nature Trail Homeowners showed up and none of them appeared to have a complete understanding about all the happenings around them in Beulah----several almost seemed "frustrated" about not having a complete understanding of what is going on around them.  One resident got up and stated that he wanted a "Master Planned Community" for the entire County!

Whaaaaaatttt?  I thought to myself.....

So on a lark I decided to personally call Nature Trail yesterday to see about getting a "candidate forum" set up--- so that Nature Trail residents could, if they so choose,  hear from the last two remaining candidates for County Commission in this election. I assumed these residents might want to know our stances on all of the issues coming to a head in Beulah---right outside the front entrance of their subdivision----before the election happens on November 8th!

There are now only  two candidates left in the race to represent them, the Nature Trail residents and the rest of Beulah and District 1, on the County Commission.  One might think the residents would want to hear from Jeff Bergosh and Audra Carter----one of us will be their next commissioner!

So I attempted to reach the Homeowner's Association representative at a downtown phone number I got from the Nature Trail sales office, and I could not get him on the phone.  I could not get him to return my call, either.  His secretary took a message, and then called back herself 10 minutes later to tell me that politicians are "not permitted in the (common area) Lodge."  When I asked her why, she was somewhat short with me and said "What you are not hearing and understanding is that the covenants do not

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Comments on the OLF8 Beulah Project at BCC Meeting 9-6-2016


Here were my comments during the public forum section of last night's special BCC meeting on the subject of the OLF8/OLFX land swap with the Navy, and the impacts on Beulah of the contemplated development of OLF8 into a commerce park.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

OLF, Beulah, and Master Plans......Part II


A few people are talking about a master plan for Beulah, a few people.  But of the hundreds and hundreds I have met throughout Beulah over the last year as I campaigned door to door, I must say not one mentioned as their priority creating a "Master Planned Community" for all of Beulah.  Not one.  I heard a lot of  people concerned about unsafe roads, speeders in their neighborhoods, leash laws not being enforced, traffic on 9 mile road, concerns about unsafe intersections (Beulah and Mobile Highway, Millview Road and Mobile Highway, Klondike and Mobile Highway), and concerns about unsafe, narrow roads with no shoulders (Beulah Road, 8-Mile Creek Road, Klondike Road, Wilde Lake Blvd).  But nobody uttered the phrase "Master Plan" as even a part of their concerns about Beulah.  As a matter of fact, as a 12 year resident of Beulah, I hadn't ever heard anyone talk about making Beulah a "Master Planned Community".  This almost seems like a solution looking for a problem.....  This is just not something I have heard, as the only candidate in the race for county commission that is a full-time resident of Beulah.  So,  with this small group of vocal proponents of a Master Plan speaking up recently, I thought it might be prudent to discuss the differences between a Master Planned Community for Beulah, and the $635K Master Plan proposed as Phase I of the Restore Act project for OLF8. 

We can do either or both, a "Master Plan for OLF8" and a "Master Planned Community"---but this is a POLITICAL decision that must take the views and wishes of the entire community of Beulah into account, and it must not be rushed through for political expediency like a square peg being driven into a round hole.  So lets talk about what each of these concepts entails, with an emphasis for what is contemplated for OLF8....

There is a difference between a MATER PLANNED COMMUNITY and the OLF-8 MASTER PLAN under consideration in the RESTORE application.

Two different approaches.

A MASTER PLANNED COMMUNITY (Disney’s Celebration, FL, Texas' The Woodlands, Del-Webb properties in the Desert Southwest.) has a very strict program; where every area within the planning limits is pre-determined for a specific purpose. Beulah residents may (or may not) desire to have government bureaucrats imposing strict facility types, designs and precise land use requirements and control over their private property.

In the OLF 8MASTER PLAN considered in the RESTORE application, instead of bureaucratic governmental imposition, the approach involves considerations for streamlined and effective government investments – while maximizing flexibility for private land owners in the area.  The Beulah home owners I met with on their porches over the last year did not indicate to me that they wanted additional layers of bureaucracy thrown over their property-rights like a giant governmental wet blanket.  My sense is that the majority of Beulah residents I spoke with want infrastructure in place before additional development takes place.  The good news:  The project to 4-lane  9 Mile road is beginning from Mobile Hwy to Pine Forest.  The new interchange from Beulah Road to the interstate is planned and programmed.  These two projects will do much to alleviate the consternation over traffic congestion expressed by many Beulah residents I have spoken with.  So what is it, beyond these traffic issues,  that Beulah residents really want?

LETS TALK FIRST ABOUT THE OLF MASTER PLAN CONTEMPLATED IN THE RESTORE ACT APPLICATION:

The purpose of a RESTORE application was to convince the committee to approve a grant for Master Planning. It is a promotional document. It is not comprehensive (thus the need for a Master Plan); but it alludes to some of the strategies for providing a well-integrated and cost effective planning product – and project. As such, there could be any number of considerations with such a master plan. But in the application, there are two areas of programming focus with regional implications that are promoted:

            A) Community Economic, Physical and Programmatic Synergies.
            B) Regional Infrastructural and Environmental Considerations.

In the case of (B); the primary challenges are transportation, storm water and environmental protection. Other infrastructure (water, sewer, gas, power, communications, etc.); are currently under development with the various providers as part of the NFCU project. Those extensions would be a more routine consideration.  So the application tends to focus on the big considerations and lifts.

A1: Develop background information and input. Public information, studies, master planning, etc. (not done at Ellyson).

A2: Develop background information regarding process and timeline. Ensure that public Master Planning funds are not invested until the correct time. (Don’t waste public money).

A3:  Develop clear synergies with other programs, including state and local economic Plans and Programs, for example:

How We Are Crushing Teachers......

I've been contacted by several current and former teachers about a new job requirement that has been added to the already massive work-load these employees are dealing with at one of our extra hour elementary schools.  This new job duty is an online program called "Plan Book."  From what I have been told, the problem is that teachers who have been teaching for years and years with great track records are being required to electronically submit their detailed lesson plans following a highly structured formula, every week.  I'm told that the process to do this is excruciatingly time consuming.  Compounding matters is the fact that the online portal where these plans have to be submitted is down frequently.  From one frustrated teacher..

"With the hostile environment we have been subjected to and the crazy amount of paperwork and not being able to do what we need to in our classroom for the students we are given, I’ve decided to look for a job outside in either XXXXXXXXXXXX or in the XXXXXXXXXX. It’s not worth my integrity or sanity. I have spent countless hours in tears over the frustration and confusion. I’ve watched students who are not ready be forced into transitioning.
In the XXXXXXXXX I’ve been in this county, I’ve come to realize there are few people who are advocates of teachers. I consider the most important part of my job the safety and education of kids. I’m no longer in a position to provide that second part, because I have no voice. I am so sad, but apparently, not alone. A new hire resigned this past Friday to take a job in XXXXXXXXXXX. There are many of my fellow teachers who are feeling as I do, and some who are making the same effort to leave that I am. I would have never anticipated this. However, as it was put to me when you are between a rock and a hard place, what do you do? I. "

another frustrated teacher wrote:

Tons of us have cried every day, working 12 hour days and then going up on weekends to get things done. I am trying to work at home right now after leaving school and plan book is down.

another frustrated teacher wrote:

" I cry going in and I cry when I leave.
I cry most of the afternoon and I've cried both weekends since school started. This is the most miserable I've ever been in my life. There is nothing fun, fulfilling, or remotely satisfying about my job."

Failure to deal appropriately with destructive and disruptive students at some schools, combined with these new demands for 40 page written lesson plans to be submitted into an online system that is frequently down, combined with the other onerous documentation mandates placed on our teachers--- is totally crushing our teachers.  I will be asking a lot of questions about this at the next workshop.  I hope something can be done to ease up on this.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

OLF8, Beulah, and Master Plans.....Part I


BACKGROUND

We are blessed to live in a wonderful, vibrant community.  We are also blessed in that we have a group of several dozen men and women in our community that have done very well for themselves in business.  We’re blessed because many of these men and women want to give back to make Pensacola and Escambia County better.  They give back to our community in many ways that enrich our lives and make our community and Pensacola better.  We should be thankful for these men and women.  I won’t name them, I’d leave someone out and that would not be good, but anyone who pays attention to local news can work out many of these names on their own with very little effort.

GOOD MEN, GOOD INTENTIONS, AND OLF 8

I have served on the Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee for a decade, and in that time I have met many great members of the military and the business community who have served on this board.  The common thread of this committee is that all at the table understand the tremendous value the military brings to the panhandle of Florida in general, and to Pensacola and Escambia County in particular.  It is with this mindset that when the Navy approached the Chamber of Commerce about a potential land swap that could allow Escambia County to take possession of OLF8 in Beulah, many of these great community leaders stepped up to the plate.  They knew two things.  1.) This deal could greatly benefit military aviation training, potentially making Whiting Field “BRAC proof” (BRAC is an acronym for the onerous Base Realignment and Closure process that occasionally takes place, moving military components or shutting them down completely) keeping this training and all of its related jobs here in the two county area instead of transferring to Alabama, Texas, or the West Coast.  2.) This deal could give the county much needed and in-demand space for large-scale, high tech manufacturing.  So this group of leaders, including a retired Admiral, several members of the staff of the Chamber, Commercial Real Estate Developers, and others began working on the feasibility of such a swap.

OLF8 COMMERCE PARK, INDECISION, LEADERDSHIP FAILURES, AND DEVASTATING COST OVERRUNS…

With the devastating aftermath of the BP Oil Spill, settlement monies awarded from this event will help to restore our environment as well as restoring our economy locally.  With the rankings of projects under multiple broad areas, the OLF8 project ranked number 1 under economic development.  The group of community leaders that had helped to foster this deal, including the Admiral, have recently been shown the door.  After all of the hard work put in and the time and resources spent in helping the chamber and the county bring this project to the finish line, this committee of citizens was recently told their services “were no longer needed.”  Now, the entire deal is fraught with cost overruns, the Navy is in the cat-bird seat requiring enhancements to the OLFX site in Santa Rosa County that were never part of the original deal.  If the Admiral and others had still been involved in these late-stage, last minute discussions, many that are very familiar with this entire process believe these additional demands could have been negotiated away to keep the project within budget.  But some individuals with an incomplete understanding of the whole project demanded that this group, the group of citizens and leaders that brought the county to the dance on this deal, be thrown out of the dancehall just as the band began to play.  Now the project is over budget by more than a million dollars, and we don’t have the deal done yet.  Other issues are not resolved with OLFX, issues many do not even realize exist.  The smartest guy in the room hasn’t a clue about some of these issues that are now putting the entire plan in peril because when you fire the team that got you to the table, you lose ALL of their corporate knowledge on the subject as well as their personal relationships developed with the players.  This turn of events has been devastating for the entire deal and for the taxpayers. Meanwhile, some people bloviate about how terrible this deal is, yet these same people vote “YES” for every vote taken on this project that comes before them.  Spock from Star Trek would call this “fascinating.”

ESCAMBIA’S TRACK RECORD WITH COMMERCE PARKS

If it were a baseball prospect in the major leagues, it would be batting .750 and going for a record setting contract of astronomical value….as Forest Gump might say “GAZILLIONS!” Yes, Escambia is batting .750 on its commerce parks.  Let’s look it over:  Heritage Oaks, sold out, an incredible

Fire Service Protection In Escambia County: Paid or Volunteer, What are the Options?



I have visited with fire personnel from several stations in Escambia County.  Volunteer, career paid, and one that is transitioning to a paid staff.  My feeling on the subject, driven by conversations with firefighters I know and supplemented by research, is that we should foster a better relationship between volunteer and career firefighters in Escambia County.  If we support and fund the volunteer recruiting efforts, I see no reason why we cannot maintain the volunteer houses we currently have.  If we give equivalent levels of resources to the volunteers, this would be a good starting point.  According to a volunteer firefighter from Beulah that I know well, 69% of America is covered by volunteer fire service protection.  And, these volunteers have the same certifications as their paid counterparts.  With Escambia County being a county that has both high density and low density rural areas, I believe that fire service protection here, and the way it is structured and operated, could be a model for other similar counties around the country.  Respect the volunteers, help them staff the volunteer stations on the times and shifts when they are not available (because they are working day jobs), and sustain them with adequate levels of funding for facilities, equipment, and recruiting and training.  Then, help the leadership of the paid and the career units foster a better working relationship.  All of these things can be done, so far as I can tell, without raising tax rates or dumping more MSBU's on local property owners. We all want the fire truck to come when we need it, and if the system is working why change it.  As a fiscal conservative I want the find the most cost-effective, efficient system for providing this protection.  The volunteers want to volunteer, they want to give back, they just want to be supported and funded appropriately---so they can continue to do what they do effectively.  Who would be against this?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Beulah Middle School: Inside Look at Plans, Designs, and Timelines

Artist rendering of what Beulah Middle School front entrance will look like upon completion


Beulah Middle School is in the planning stages right now as we speak, drawings have been completed, the land was purchased, and soon construction will begin..

Many residents of Beulah have asked me about this school.  Many are wondering what the school will look like, when it will open, and how this school will be designed?  At a workshop not long ago, these topics were discussed and drawings and other data was provided to the board.

BACKGROUND
Original Concept plan, aerial overlay 2-15-2015

Beulah middle school will be built to help accommodate the growth the NW section of Escambia County is currently experiencing.  This facility will help Ransom Middle School, in Cantonment, with their over-capacity issues.  Woodham Middle school will be re-purposed to become the new West Florida High School after the 2017-2018 school year, and Brown Barge Middle School will move to the current WFHS campus in 2018-2019 timeframe.  At that point, in the 2018-2019 school year, the attendance boundaries for all the middle schools in Escambia County will be redrawn,  and over-crowded schools will be alleviated.   Beulah Middle School will come online to accept as many as 1,200 students and will be key to managing our county's growth in the NW Corridor.

ABOUT BEULAH MIDDLE SCHOOL

At just over 100,000 square feet, this middle school will be two-story, and will have all of the amenities a new, state-of-the-art facility should have.  Music room, classrooms, gymnasium, Media Center,  running track, outdoor athletic fields, multi-purpose room (cafetorium) and other amenities will be present on the campus.  The site work on the property (the old coastal airport on 9 Mile Road) will begin this October, with full-scale construction commencing in the first quarter of 2017.

Refined site plan rendering,  from 2016, with building shifted east, track shifted west
It is contemplated that the school will be open for the 2018-2019 school year, and once it is online

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Senator Don Gaetz Receives the FCSBM Fighting for Kids Award: Reasonable Accountability


Left to Right Judge Gary Bergosh, Senate President (2012-2014) Don Gaetz, FCSBM Immediate Past President Jeff Bergosh, FCSBM CEO Shawn Frost, and Escambia County School Board District 1 Candidate Kevin Adams 


Senator Don Gaetz was honored tonight in Pensacola by the conservative, non-partisan Florida Coalition of School Board Members.

His work in the Senate for the last 10 years has has been legendary, and his record of support for public education and education reform has been rock-solid.  The 2016 session brought several profound education related bills, and many were passed with the key leadership and effort of Senator Gaetz.

From FCSBM

"For his bold and vigorous support of rigorous alternative assessments, Senator Don Gaetz has been awarded the Fighting for Kids Award:  Core Value- Reasonable Accountability.  SB 1360, Which Senator Gaetz sponsored, would have allowed districts to choose either the Florida Standards Assessment or select from a menu of nationally recognized, rigorous alternative assessments in its place.  We salute Senator Gaetz for beginning the conversation about needed reforms to preserve Florida's groundbreaking accountability system.  Congratulations on your many legislative successes this session, especially those engrossed HB7029.  Thank you for treating us as partners and for living by the FCSBM motto of being Relentlessly Dedicated to Student Success"

President Gaetz took time to participate in a subsequent round table discussion with a small group of local education stakeholders.  The discussions were very enlightening, and he took time to discuss in detail his take on the most important education-related legislation that passed in 2016, while also describing the reasons why SB 1360 could not get through the House in 2016.  Gaetz expressed optimism about next session and the leadership that will be in place in 2017.

One of the lighter moments of the evening came when Gaetz spoke of his time on the Okaloosa County School Board, describing the fact that he was often on the bottom of 4-1 and 3-2 votes.  "I'm still very close friends with the school board members with which I served-even though we didn't always see things eye to eye" Gaetz pointed out.

The group thanked Senator Gaetz for his service and for all he has done for education in the state of Florida.  When asked about what he plans to do now that his time in public service is coming to a close, Gaetz said "It's been quite awhile since my Wife and I had a vacation, so we will be taking one after this election ends--we have someone close to us that is running quite a race right now as I'm sure you all are aware."

Read more about the Florida Coalition of School Board Members here,  and read about all of the other 2016 Legislative Award recipients here

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Get to Know Jeff Bergosh--Check out District 1 County Commissioner Candidate's Media, Radio Interviews, and Debate Footage




Listen to the Jeff Bergosh interview on WCOA's "Good Morning Pensacola" by Don Parker, Jim Sanborn, and Bryan Newkirk.  from
7-20-2016

Listen to part 1 here
Listen to part 2 here

Listen to the Jeff Bergosh interview on  1330 WEBY with Mike Mashburn
8-2-2016

Listen to part 1 here
Listen to part 2 here

Listen to the brief  Jeff Bergosh Interview with Andrew McKay on AM1620 from August 4th

here


Watch the District 1 County Commissioner's Debate from 8-4-2016  at WSRE's Rally 2016 site,
here  (Scroll to the bottom video on this page, the Escambia County Elections video, and the first 20 minutes is the County Commissioner's forum)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Ugly Truth about Low Performing Schools....


Here is the ugly truth about low performing schools in parts of Escambia County….


We have a community problem and this is dragging down the performance of our local public schools.

I will say it again.  We have a community problem that is dragging down the performance of our local public schools.

Everybody knows it, nobody discusses it in depth, and we do not have the economic resources to extinguish this fire completely. We use half-measures and extreme political correctness to dance around touchy subjects.  This approach is getting us nowhere.

Think about this---What if someone made this comment to you straight-faced: “Doctors and Hospitals in Pensacola must be terrible, as we have the highest levels of obesity, smoking, early mortality, and disability claimants of just about any community in Florida. We need to fix these deficient Hospitals in Pensacola because Doctors and Hospitals in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Cambridge, Massachusetts are so much better!  Minneapolis and Cambridge have the healthiest populations in the country, year over year, so this illustrates the fact their Hospitals and Doctors are much more professional and better trained than our Doctors here!  Our doctors need to be more professional like those doctors up north so our community will be healthier!”

What about this one:

“These Cops around here are terrible!  Look at how high the crime rate is here compared to Beverly Hills.  I wish these cops around here had the same skill, training and professionalism as those cops in Beverly Hills, so we could have a peaceful, safe, low-crime community like Beverly Hills!”

Ridiculous, right?

Of course it is.

And it is just as ridiculous to hear rubes and simpletons claim we in Escambia County public education are abysmal failures, because we’re not as high-performing as Santa Rosa County or St. Johns County, or some other high performing district.

Judging all teachers and an entire school system by the outcomes and outputs of small dysfunctional populations they serve is no more ridiculous than the two previous examples about cops and doctors.  We need students and parents to buy-in!  Education requires participation.

Here are the real problems….

We have entire segments of the population that live in absolute, utter dysfunction.  In many areas it becomes multi-generational, the new normal.  We have poverty that is extreme-but that in and of itself is not the driver of the problems.  Poverty exacerbates the dysfunction.  We have people moving every six weeks to out-run landlords, gaming the entitlement system, having children out of wedlock to increase their welfare benefit checks, refusing to work, “shopping” with their EBT cards for “friends” taking $.50 cents on the dollar to buy liquor, cigarettes, or drugs,  Selling drugs for money, selling themselves for money, and mistreating their own children.  Crime rates soar in these communities, and entire neighborhoods fall into blight.  We have children being raised by relatives because BOTH parents are incarcerated; we had 6,000 child abuse reports last year in Escambia County, placing us in the top 5% of complaints state-wide.  We have children being raised in homes where violence is commonplace, caregivers are having intercourse in front of children, doing drugs in

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Who Will Lead the School Board's Prayer at Tuesday's Meeting?

We have discussed the School Board's Invocation protocols many times in School Board meetings.  In light of the recent events at the City Council, I asked my counterpart, District 4 Board Member Patty Hightower, if she would be bringing this same individual this Tuesday for the pre-meeting prayer.  I strongly doubt that any of the other board members would bring him as their guest.  I certainly won't invite him, due to the way he has disrespected two of my previous guests that I have brought to bring the board a pre-meeting prayer.  Why would I ask Patty Hightower this?  Why wouldn't I...after all, she has invited this same person to bring the invocation before, and this person declined, he blew off her invitation. Thankfully.

But Hightower wouldn't answer the question, and of course she is under no obligation to do so.

But the way the exchange at the workshop went, who knows what will happen, who knows who she will bring?  I thought it peculiar and odd that she wouldn't answer the question.  Guess we will see Tuesday night......Hopefully it will be her doing her own version of an invocation, although according to the attorney this is a problem under the law.  Hopefully it will be a non-issue, just another Dr. Seuss reading, a story about geese and the reason they fly in a "V",  a children's poem, maybe even a moment of silence, or gee, maybe a Christian prayer?...hopefully, I really hope it doesn't turn out to be someone in a ridiculous costume like this.......

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Parental Exit Interview for an Escambia County School District High School



The School Board Members, the Superintendent, and the Principals of our district's High Schools all received a letter from a concerned parent last night.  The letter is full of illustrations of dysfunction, but also this letter is positive in that examples of how to fix this dysfunction are offered as well.  This is almost like a parental "exit interview."  It is an interesting read, and will no doubt spark conversations around the district which hopefully will lead to positive changes that will benefit students and parents.  I look forward to discussing the issues in this letter with my counterparts on the school board.




1 July 2016

To:       Escambia School District School Board Members
            Malcolm Thomas, Superintendent
            XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
           
I am writing to you as a “beyond mom” as I no longer have school-aged children. I am writing because I want to share my experiences with you because YOU are my elected officials.  YOU are supposed to be looking out for the families that live in your district.  I want YOU to make the Escambia School District better because I know it can be better. We have some great kids in this area.

My experience with XXXXXXXXXXXXX High School and Escambia School District encompasses 7 years, 4 students (with many classmates/friends), 3 principals, 5 assistant principals, and more teachers than you can imagine. Some of my experiences have been good, and a few have been great. Many have been below average, and unfortunately, some have been absolutely awful. Like most “letters”, I am going to focus on the awful because you need to know. You need to make it better. No child, no parent, no one should have to experience “awful” when it comes to something as important as education.

Regardless of where you go in the community – the grocery, the hair stylist, or the doctor’s office – somebody has a crazy XXXXXXXXXXXXX story and it’s not about unruly children. The stories are most often about how they can’t get in touch with teachers, how the school administrators do not return calls, and how their child isn’t getting the help they need. The stories are about how the parents feel disrespected and their words insignificant. While you constantly talk about the benefits of parent involvement, your actions tell a completely different story. And, this story is just sad.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Satanic Temple wants to Do Our Pre-Meeting Prayer

Here is the email, below,  that I received yesterday.  (It is not my turn in the rotation to bring the guest speaker for the pre-meeting prayer, it will not be my turn for three months. It will be up to Patty Hightower (July) or Bill Slayton (August) to consider this request.  I already have the invocation planned for my slot in September, and my choice in September will be to have a  Christian prayer.)

This is not our first demand from this individual to bring a prayer......If he is invited to bring a "satanic" invocation, (as apparently he will be doing at an upcoming Pensacola City Council Meeting) I will not stay in the room for it, I will walk out until he is through.  I won't, personally,  indulge this in what will be among my last meetings as a sitting School Board Member in Escambia County Florida.....

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX@excite.com via mail.escambia.k12.fl.us 

rs ago)
to GeraldLindamekim.sanbornDonnaricknewsnews
Esteemed School Board Members, 
For those of you still choosing invocation prayer-givers at your meetings, I once again request the opportunity to participate on behalf of The Satanic Temple of West Florida.  For over two years now, I have bee asking.

As you know, there can be no discrimination or censorship in the choosing of these invocations - especially considering you have no written policy regarding this practice.  You each choose who prays, but that does not mean you may exercise censorship.  If you give a forum to one religion at school board meetings, you must give that same opportunity to anyone who asks.  This is not only the conclusion of the Supreme Court (under the Galloway decision, which you cite as justification for school-board led prayer), it is the definition of religious freedom.  

As school board members, you are sworn to uphold that Constitution and I expect you do so or to stop praying.  The establishment clause of the Constitution compels you not to establish any religion as preferable to others.  However, to my knowledge, you have NEVER allowed a prayer from anyone except a Christian or Jew.  In fact, you have no legislative protection for prayer anyway.  So you are doubly derelict.

I would also remind you that your own student handbook policy regarding prayer says that no agent of the school system may lead or otherwise encourage prayer where students are present.  That would apply to your meetings as well.  A moment of silence, however, is allowed - even prescribed in that handbook.

Finally - as avowed Christians - I would remind you of Matthew 6:5-6, in which Jesus prohibits public displays of prayer as the domain of hypocrites.  Remember also Luke 6:31 - do unto others as you would have done to you.


Please respond to my request in writing.  At the very least, I would expect a yes or no and your reasoning for answering so.  



Best Regards,

Davidas, founding member of The Satanic Temple West Florida