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.

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.