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, April 21, 2017

OLF 8 Project: Encouraging News Presented to BCC


At yesterday's BCC public forum, Congressman Matt Gaetz updated the commissioners on a number of important issues facing the panhandle.

One of significant interest to me was the OLF8/OLFX land swap project with the U.S. Navy.

This project has run over budget, and the whole initiative was teetering on implosion due to a number of factors I've discussed in depth on multiple entries on this blog.

But, just when many were about to throw in the towel on this project, Congressman Gaetz reported that a high-level Admiral from the Navy will be coming to Pensacola to meet with the congressman, the county, retired Admiral Robert Kelly, developer Jim Cronley, and other interested persons regarding this land swap.

"The Navy is willing to offer some concessions in order to make this project happen" Congressman Gaetz told the commission yesterday.

This was very welcome news and we are thankful that the congressman has set this up, and we are thankful that the Navy is willing to come to the table and work with us to get this project done---a project that will benefit both the county and the Navy!

This is encouraging!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Nobody is Going to Like This.......



Nobody is going to like the ordinance the BCC passed tonight regarding open containers of alcohol on the Quietwater Beach Boardwalk.

I didn't like the initial motion which was to continue an ordinance banning open containers of alcohol on the boardwalk for an additional (2) two years time.  I voiced my opposition and so did two of my colleagues.

I've given my reasons for opposing this ban at two previous meetings and here on this blog as well;  in a nutshell, the premise for making the restriction was purportedly to give a year under the ordinance to collect data showing this would be beneficial.  The data shows this ban increased crime--but nobody wanted to seriously dig into that.....

The motion was then restated and modified to a (1) one year continuance of the ban at Quietwater beach.

With that motion hanging out there and no clear consensus, the discussion turned to a further modification of the proposed ordinance which stated the ban would be in place for one year and only in force from 6:00AM to 10:00PM at the boardwalk--in an effort to keep the ban in place in order to keep the atmosphere on the boardwalk "family friendly" during the daytime and early evening hours.

 From 10:00 PM-6:00AM 7 days a week, the ordinance will not apply and open containers of alcohol

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Bergosh Bulletin" for April


The County has produced my first message for the constituents video for April.  In it we will be discussing the various ways I plan on being an accessible, approachable County Commissioner.

District 1 Roundtable 4-3-2017



The first of two yearly one-stop meetings in District 1 was held last night in the cafeteria of West Florida High School.  We were fortunate to have representation from the BCC, ECUA, ECSD, ECSD, Property Appraiser's Office, Tax Collector's Office, and Supervisor of Elections office.

The folks that attended were able to hear a brief presentation from officers of each entity, and then speak one-on-one with each entity's representative.

The half-dozen or so members of the public that sought out the BCC table had significant issues to discuss:




--One individual wanted the county to assume formal control of a roadway that abuts his property
--One individual wanted code enforcement to look into multiple issues in his neighborhood
--One couple wanted us to look into flooding, noise complaints, and arsenic contamination in their neighborhood
--A World War II veteran who attended wanted to share some thoughts on the trash on the roadways of Escambia County--and he wanted to know what we would do about it
--One person wanted to discuss her continuing concerns about lowering the lot-width requirement in the LDR zoned properties out in Beulah.

When we do our next District 1 Round-table event in October, we will schedule it on a Tuesday night and we will hold the event in the southern part of District 1. 
Many thanks to all the citizens, elected officials, and staff members that participated in this meeting!  Also, a big shout out goes to the WFHS Student Government Association for their assistance with setting up and breaking down the tables and chairs for the meeting.  Much Appreciated!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Interesting topics and big votes....


Next Thursday's BCC meeting(s) will be interesting....There will be several big topics discussed and several important votes taken.

Add to this the fact that we will be one commissioner short (Doug Underhill will be away on temporary assignment with the Navy)--and the votes take on an additional, interesting dimension.

A 2-2 tie on any item means such item does not pass.

I discussed these issues as this morning's guest on Good Morning Pensacola.  (you can listen here (part 1)  and here (part 2).

So we have many topics we will be voting on this Thursday, three of which will be especially interesting:

# 1    Will the BCC allow the open container alcohol ban at the beach boardwalk sunset----or will the ban be extended for a year?

# 2    Will the BCC vote to "vacate" Rawson Lane, thereby allowing PCC to close that road off in order to build a large additional dorm facility?

# 3   Will the BCC agree with the planning board and allow for the change in Low-Density

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Does a Careful Examination of the Beach Crime Data Analysis Reveal?

The crime that is spiking most significantly since this alcohol-ban has been enacted at Quietwater beach boardwalk is also the most dangerous crime, the one most likely--statistically--to lead to a citizen fatality.......


Looking at the data gleaned from crime reports for a one-year period since the open container ban at Quietwater beach boardwalk was enacted last year does not provide evidence that this ordinance "lowered crime." 

 Disturbingly--when the average number of crimes in each category of infraction from the three years prior to the alcohol ban is averaged, and then compared to one year's data post-alcohol ban--the average crime category increases outpaced the decreases by more than 30% points!

Some categories of crimes are down if a 1-year snapshot is taken--but many are way up. Seeing an additional 66 DUI incidents unfold since the open container ban was enacted is much more alarming to me than seeing "AFFRAY-RIOT" incidents decrease from an average of 3.6 per year down to 1.  That change is insignificant, in my estimation, when compared to the dramatic increases in the DUIs at the beach since we banned open-carry on the boardwalk.

The most dangerous crime, the one that leads to one-third of the nation's traffic deaths yearly (10,000 on average nationwide) ---DUI--- has SPIKED since the enactment of this ordinance:
--up 132% beach-wide post-open container ban! (average 50 incidents per year, 2013-2015, jumped to 116 incidents in 2016 post alcohol ban)
--up  75%  at Quietwater beach alone!

This number alone is very disturbing to me because I have three kids that drive.  They are young. They go to the beach frequently.  I know that God forbid something tragic happens to them (or any young driver in our community)--more than likely it would be a traffic collision, and nationwide a third of these are alcohol related.

The crime that is spiking most significantly since this ban has been enacted is also the most dangerous crime, the one most likely--statistically--to lead to a citizen fatality! 

Why are DUI's spiking?  Why are Batteries up 21%, why are Batteries against LEOs up 34%, why are family disturbances up 81%, why are non-family disturbances up, why are miscellaneous crimes up 180% and DUI's up 132%--all of these beach-wide since our open container ban at Quietwater beach was enacted?  Why?

I know why. 

When we severely curtail a certain activity in one area, it spreads to other areas. When you take the service and monitoring of alcoholic beverage service to the public out of supervised areas where operators have strict rules on service and liability--increases in some bad behaviors will happen!   When you squeeze a balloon full of water on one side, it explodes on the other.

This isn't just an opinion;  I have worked in the food and beverage industry for 25 years, I've bartended for 18 years, worked in nightclubs, and I have owned four sports bars and a restaurant.  I

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why Rebuild the Jail?



Over the next several months, various proposals will be put together in anticipation of Escambia County building a brand-new, state-of-the art jail.
The cost is estimated to be $100-$150 Million dollars.
This facility will replace our current facility, which was badly damaged in an April, 2014 flood and subsequent natural gas explosion.
Obviously, we need a place to house our inmates; just today our inmate count is 1,484 in custody (875 in our main jail, 262 at our work release facility, 61 at the road camp, and 286 in Walton County.)
But is rebuilding the jail the best way forward?  A look at some figures provided by County Staff paints an interesting picture…
From the staff:
Right now Walton County is taking our excess inmates for less than $50 dollars per day.  In FY2013 the per-inmate cost of the Sheriff’s office running the jail was $60.39.  In FY 2014, the Sheriff requested a budget for the jail that equaled $80.61 per inmate.  When the BCC took back the jail and prior to the 2014 explosion, we were spending $65.00 per inmate.  Now, with some inmates here and some in Walton County—we are spending $72.77 daily.
When I asked why the costs were escalating even given the fact that Walton County is providing services at far less costs than we were able to do it and the number of inmates was/is increasing (which in theory should lower the per inmate, per day costs)-I was told it is/was because we have not reduced our fixed costs,; we have not reduced staffing despite many inmates being housed out
 

More Beach Crime Data

After receiving additional crime data specific to Quietwater beach and then separate criminal information about the Pensacola Beach "commercial core" area as a whole, I was able to conduct a more detailed analysis of what the statistics look like graphically over time. 

The data provided by the sheriff's office is limited to a four year look, with the first three years (2013-2015) being three years' worth of data that was compiled prior to enactment of the open container ban at Quietwater beach. 

The 2016 data is for the period after the alcohol ban on the boardwalk was enacted. 

As I stated in previous blog posts on this matter--I'm not a fan of limiting citizens' rights, particularly on a county-owned specialty center that upon which, under Florida statutes, open containers of alcohol are allowed and subject to regulation by the county. 

As I have stated at the meetings and also on blog posts, I need to see compelling data that supports continuing this prohibition before I will support extending this ordinance.  Otherwise, in my estimation, it should sunset and efforts should be concentrated on enforcing existing ordinances and punishing those who violate law--instead of throwing a huge wet-blanket ordinance over EVERY citizen (the vast majority of whom obey the law) by prohibiting open containers on our specialty center, the Quietwater beach boardwalk.

Our neighbor to the East, Destin, has a specialty center that permits open containers.  The South Harbor Festive Marketplace is a HUGE success over in Destin.  How is it that they can manage their specialty center and allow open containers while maintaining a friendly atmosphere---but we can't?

Regardless, that question is a rhetorical one.  The data, which is what should matter, does not point to this ordinance as the panacea that is lowering crime.  Several important categories have shown huge percentage increases since enactment of the open container ordinance.  Notably--DUIs are up 132% beach-wide and 75% at Quietwater beach alone since enactment of this ordinance.  Battery and Disturbance (family and non-family) infractions are way up as well since this ordinance was enacted.  Careful consideration must be given the important decision that is coming up on this matter, as we should not rush to continue this prohibition if this exacerbates the instances of criminal activity on the beach...

The data that I have illuminated in figures 1 and 2 below, created by averaging the infractions in the three-year, pre-open container ordinance and comparing this average in every crime category to the 2016 data (post ordinance) numbers and then calculating the change in each category--shows some alarming trends.....

Figure 1: a four year analysis of crime statistics from the Pensacola Beach commercial core  (data provided by Escambia Sheriff's Office)


Figure 2: a four year analysis of crime statistics from Escambia County's Quietwater Beach specialty center (data provided by Escambia Sheriff's Office)

Friday, March 24, 2017

What Will Automation Do to Mass Transit?


 
In Helsinki, Finland, self-driving public transport busses are being tested
At a recent County Commission meeting, several bus drivers from ECAT appeared before the board and implored the board to improve pay and benefits.  One commenter went through the pay scale meticulously and the rates of pay were low.  Shockingly low.
So what is the solution to the problem of low pay for bus drivers?
An easy solution would be to raise taxes and increase driver pay, changing the employment status of bus drivers from what they currently are-- contractor employees working for a third-party company—to making them regular county employees with pension plans and higher pay. 
This is what the union wants; this is what the drivers want.  If I was a driver, this is what I would want, too!

Tales from the Criminal Justice System Locally, Part 1



The criminal justice system has been the subject of several conversations lately at meetings of the Escambia County Commission.  We play a small role locally; we run the jail and have the road camp.  We also have a corrections department that supervises prisoners in our jail, and we have county probation officers that supervise released offenders from the county court.
But the lion’s share of the criminal justice “system” takes place in the community and involves others--the courts, the sheriff’s office, and those involved in the system (judges, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, victims, and the accused)
So we have topically discussed ways we can help the system.  Some commissioners believe that generational poverty combined with diminished employment opportunities for some in the area is the biggest issue contributing to the high crime rate.  Others think that engaging the youth of the community is a key-and I don’t disagree with this.  But more important than engaging the community or anything else for that matter, I believe that focusing on rebuilding families is a must; strong families make strong communities.  And those that minimize the drug problem locally and its impact on violent crime are na├»ve—there is a huge drug problem locally that generates lots of crime, lots of violence, and lots of murders.  I know this first hand as a 10 year school board member who has seen lots of classified files on students who found themselves involved in drugs and crimes—many of whom were expelled from school for these transgressions.  I know the violence that goes part and parcel with the illegal drug trade because I talk to people intimately familiar with the system and the cases.  Drugs and the drug trade go hand in hand with violence, and many that deal in drugs locally end up dead.  Others end up in the criminal justice system.
So how do we make the system better--how do we as County Commissioners help stop the carnage? 
This question will be a tough one to answer.  But even strong families with parents that have good jobs sometimes have children that end up in the system, as is the case of the following individual that I’m going to describe.  Here is a story from the criminal justice system locally that describes the violence associated with the illegal drug trade in Escambia County.
Recently, a story involving one man from a middle class family made news.  Now, this individual at age 35 had racked up dozens of charges and he had been incarcerated prior to his latest arrest—despite the fact that his father had a good job as a department head with a local

Monday, March 13, 2017

What Does an Analysis of the Crime Statistics from the Beach Show?

In the wake of the implementation of an open-container ordinance at Pensacola Beach's Quietwater Beach Boardwalk,
Miscellaneous crimes have increased 250%, Obstructing Justice incidents have doubled, and very dangerous DUI infractions are up 73% since open containers of alcohol were banned on the boardwalk.

Since the enactment of an open container prohibition on Pensacola's boardwalk, several crime categories have spiked at Quietwater beach:  Alcohol offenses except DUI are up 85%, Substance abuse complaints are up 200%, and retail petit theft complaints are up 167%

As we are lobbied to keep the current ordinance in effect, we are told that crime at the beach is way down.  I asked for and received the statistics and I've been able to analyze the data that was provided.

Since the open container ban on the boardwalk was enacted, some crimes are down--but here is the key...Many crimes are up in the wake of the change, most notably the number of DUI arrests are way up.

So, just as I assumed, the data on the crime shows a mixed bag, with some infractions going down, and some going up. 

This fact, combined with the fact that a one year look does not a trend establish, leads me to believe that we need to concentrate on enforcement, let the ordinance sunset, and keep our focus on punishing transgressors not punishing everyone for the misdeeds of a small minority of folks who act up in public.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jelly Doughnut Discipline, Redux: Open Containers of Alcohol on Quietwater Beach Boardwalk

Punishing the innocent many for the actions of the guilty one or few = Jelly Doughnut Discipline

Eight years ago I dealt with Jelly Doughnut Discipline serving as a School Board Member.  What is Jelly Doughnut Discipline?  It is a political maneuver, typically for convenience, expediency, or to appease a certain constituency characterized by the punishing of many for the sins of the few or the one.  Myself and some others have coined this term from a scene in the 1987 war movie "Full Metal Jacket."  In that scene, Private Pyle brings a Jelly Doughnut from the Mess Hall into the Barracks in violation of the rules.  Instead of punishing the transgressor, Private Pyle,  Sgt. Hartman allows Pyle to eat the doughnut while the rest of the squad "pays the price" by doing push ups.  Instead of punishing the one, Hartman punishes the many.  Jelly Doughnut Discipline.

Now in my new life as a County Commissioner here in Escambia County, I see the concept of Jelly Doughnut Discipline reappearing.  Specifically, the ordinance limiting open container consumption of alcohol on the County's Pensacola Beach Boardwalk which was supposed to sunset in June is being considered for renewal.  We are told that because of some rambunctious often criminal behavior by some folks that utilize this facility---everyone will be punished by not being able to enjoy an adult beverage here anymore.  My understanding:  the ordinance enacted last year was to be temporary.  Data would be analyzed before making the measure permanent.  Up until the meeting yesterday--I still hadn't received data--only anecdotal presentations from the hoteliers representatives and law enforcement.

A couple of facts:  The Quietwater Beach Boardwalk is a specialty center owned by Escambia

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Take Aways from the Joint Meeting between BCC and ECSD



The Escambia County Commission and the Escambia County School Board held their first joint-meeting since 2010 on Tuesday.  The meeting was productive and generated some good discussion on multiple subjects of mutual interest.  The meeting was covered by the PNJ and also by WEAR.

My takeaways:

1.  These meetings need to occur more frequently--when I am chairman next year I will suggest we do these joint meetings annually.

2.  Discussions of combating pockets of poverty are more productive when all the stakeholders are aligning their efforts mutually--and numerous good ideas about collaboration were discussed at this meeting directed at addressing this problem.

3.  The library card for all Escambia Students was/is a solid idea

4.  The utilization of ECAT by students to attend choice school programs is solid.

5.  The discussions about providing safe walking routes to school were good, I will work hard to help facilitate this because I know we are a "car-rider" county because in many instances there are not safe/walkable routes to school.

6.  The discussions about HIV/AIDs infections in Escambia County and how to better align our mutual efforts in combating this epidemic were good--not sure what the outcome or change in this arena will be.  Conversations about what the high-risk behaviors are that lead to these infections are difficult and rife with concerns about "political correctness."

7.  Kevin Adams had a very interesting concept about forming a safe-neighborhood task force that I strongly support.

8.  My discussion of a SEED-style boarding school ginned up lots of conversation---mostly positive.  Bill Slayton is opposed and said we need to keep working on Pre-K for 3,000 students per year and not try to do "too many things at once."  Doug Underhill said in no way would he ever support this concept because he stated that "no matter what, the parent child bond should never be broken!--even if the parent is a crackhead"  I disagreed with both Slayton and Underhill.  Slayton obviously feels we can only do one thing at a time and he obviously agrees with many that pre-k is the panacea that will fix everything academically. It is not.  The Vanderbilt Peabody and 2012 HHS Head-start Impact studies show otherwise; when we look at academic achievement sustainment at grades one and two and we measure the study group against the control group-- the Tennessee pre-k students show no greater achievement than do the control group of students who did not attend pre-school....Bill Slayton obviously has not read these studies....  I stated at the meeting that I could not disagree more with Underhill's assessment-that I believe that in some circumstances leaving a child in dysfunctional home environment is DANGEROUS.  Children are routinely separated from bad parents by the courts, when such children are abandoned, abused, and neglected.  It's called the termination of parental rights and it saves kids.  Guess Doug doesn't believe in that either.  I couldn't disagree with him more.

Watch the entire video here

Upcoming Meetings and Events for District 1

District 1 will be hosting several meetings over the next month, and the public is encouraged to stop by and weigh in on topics of interest to you and your community!

1.  Coffee with the Commissioner:

Tuesday, March 21st 6:30AM-7:30AM  Denny's 4625 Mobile Highway Pensacola

2.  District 1 Round Table with ECUA, School Board, Sheriff's Office, Tax Collector, Supervisor of Elections, and Property Appraiser's office:

Monday, April 3rd 6:00PM-8:00PM  West Florida High School Cafeteria 2400 Longleaf Drive, Pensacola.

3. District 1 Town Hall:

Monday, April 24th 6:00PM-7:30PM  Bellview Middle School Cafeteria, 6021 Mobile Hwy Pensacola.

On WCOA's "Difference Makers" Show



I was a guest on the Quint and Rishy Studer sponsored program "Difference Makers" yesterday morning on AM 1370 WCOA.  I enjoyed the chat with Don Parker, and appreciated the invitation to appear on the show.

We talked a lot about what my take aways from 10 years on the school board are, the Newpoint debacle, local school enrollment issues,  and also charter schools. 

We then transitioned into how I became a County Commissioner and some of the challenges facing the BCC (Jail, OLF 8, Infrastructure) and also some of the initiatives I intend to pursue in this office. 

All in all a fun show.

You can listen to a replay of the show here (part I) and here (part II)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tomorrow's Invocation at the BCC Meeting......

Andre Ryland was invited to bring a secular prayer but he has proclaimed that he will also bring a Satanic
prayer at tomorrow night's meeting of the BCC

.....Yes, tomorrow's pre-meeting prayer was supposed to be a secular greeting by Andre Ryland of the Humanists.  I received an email yesterday explaining that the invocation that Mr. Ryland will give will  "include The Satanic Temple West Florida's invocation"

In today's PNJ, this invocation switcheroo is headline news.

Wouldn't it be nice if the politics could be taken out of what is meant to be a solemn moment of the public meeting? 

Wouldn't it be nice if those that believe in nothing would find a different means of garnering attention other than creating spectacles at public meetings? 

The purpose of the pre-meeting prayer is to encourage and bless the thoughtful deliberation by the assembled legislative body--it is for the board!  It is NOT  for attention grabbing by those who wish to self-promote.

This nation and this community is overwhelmingly Christian--nothing Ryland or anyone else says will change this.  This nation was founded on Christian principles by men who were overwhelmingly Christian--this is a known fact of reality.

With all of this said, I respect my peer commissioner's ability and right to invite whomever he wishes to bring the invocation at the meeting, just as he and the others respect my right to do the same. 

Obviously, I will always reserve the right to politely exit the room if I feel that, for personal reasons, the pre-meeting prayer as scheduled becomes divisive, disruptive, and/or disingenuous;

I won't indulge nor will I countenance a pre-meeting prayer that is hijacked for an alternative cause and that in no way resembles a blessing upon the board.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

NACo Legislative Conference Washington DC 2017


I was fortunate to be able to travel to Washington DC this past weekend to attend the NACo (National Association of Counties) Legislative Conference.  Like my previous experience attending School Board conferences, I found the opportunity to meet peers from around the nation to be very interesting and informative.  NACo advocates for counties on broad areas that primarily relate to financial considerations for counties.  Although much of what NACo is advocating for makes great sense--I personally don't agree with all of their positions.  Some of the interesting break out sessions I attended dealt with the Opioid epidemic, addressing unfunded federal mandates, protecting US Counties' ability to issue tax-exempt municipal bonds to fund infrastructure projects, dealing with homelessness, and criminal justice reform. 



This organization, NACo, will hold a large conference in Ohio in July of this year, and many more subjects of interest will be discussed at this conference.  NACo's brief policy positions can be found here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Town Hall and Coffee with the Commissioner Recap

District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh Hosted the first of 6 yearly
town-hall meetings on Tuesday, February 21st at Windy Hill Baptist Church in Beulah
 
We had a very nice turnout for the first of a series of District 1 town-hall meetings last night.  I want to thank all of the citizens, staff, and special guests that came to the meeting and participated.  I want to give a special thank you to the County's Public Relations staff for bringing all of the necessary equipment for a successful event (podium, microphones, audio and video recording equipment).  A special thank you goes out to Pastor Ricky Skaggs of Windy Hill Baptist Church for allowing us the use of his facility 
 
Prior to the Town Hall meeting, WCOA radio interviewed me on Good Morning Pensacola, and this interview can be heard here (part 1) and here (part 2). 
 
This morning, we had a group of about a dozen citizens stop by the first of our monthly "Coffee with the Commissioner" events at Hardees on Pine Forest Road.  The conversations were very good and the citizens at the coffee were concerned with safe neighborhoods and how the county can support the nurturing of neighborhood watch programs.  We also had 5 citizens total that strongly supported the County vacating Rawson Lane so Pensacola Christian College could expand their campus.  We also discussed drainage issues and we were given a thorough explanation of the various types of retention ponds in Escambia County by County Administrator Jack Brown, who stopped in to greet the citizens.
 
District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh listens to Citizens at his
Coffee with the Commissioner event 2-21-2017
 

District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh speaks to Citizens at his
Coffee with the Commissioner event 2-21-2017

 County Administrator Jack Brown (left) speaks  to Citizens about retention ponds 
at the District 1 Coffee with the Commissioner event, 2-21-2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Objective Facility Assessments Will Help Enable Intelligent Construction Decisions

from the discussions that ensued at last night's BCC meeting, the casual observer might think our fire station at Myrtle Grove is a shack that should be condemned....

The fact of the matter is we don't know what we don't know.  There are 8 stations the County does not own that volunteer firefighters own that have various levels of facility deficiencies.  So when the discussion last night about Myrtle Grove turned to "Let's build a brand new station, and nothing short of that will suffice"  I attempted to inject a bit of fiscal restraint, common sense, and intelligence into the issue.  First of all, the mold remediation should have happened months ago--although I understand some of the politics behind this not happening as quickly as it should have.  I'm glad the board voted 4-1 last night to go ahead and fix this mold issue expeditiously--which will allow the paid crew to return to the facility to help the volunteer crew that has still been running calls out of the station. Looking forward,  I'm going to push for standard facility condition assessments to be conducted on all of these 8 fire houses, which hopefully will lead to a ranking from worst to best, 1 to 8, which will allow rational rather than emotional decision making on which facilities need to be rebuilt first.  We should not be parochial in our facility planning and building decisions; it ought not be about what district a facility is located in, or which community wants something.  When it comes to public safety and facilities for first responders-- lets be intelligent and rational and build where we need to build and renovate where we need to renovate. 

Millions Uncollected...

for FY 2016-2017, Escambia County was stiffed for $2.2Million in unpaid Ambulance Ride Bills....

One of the items that was discussed at yesterday's BCC meeting was the write-down of $2.2Million Dollars in bad debts.  The debt is not being forgiven, according to our back-up documentation and reiterated by staff, but this debt has already gone through primary and secondary collections processes, and now for accounting purposes this is being removed from the books.  According to staff, this will go to a debt collector, and the forecast is that we "may" collect $40,000-80,000 of this $2.2Million.  At the meeting, staff and a couple of  commissioners stated that although this is a large amount, our percentage of overall collection of fees for the EMS department is about 65%--which is among the best percentages in the state.  I have to question this big of a loss, I'm going to look into how other counties do this--maybe someone has a better method of going after those that do not pay?  If  nothing else--this is a huge eye-opener.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Fire Service Facilities

Should the paid fire crews take every fire call and leave the volunteers at the stations to run medical calls?
This Thursday's County Commission meeting will have an important discussion about a fire service facility in Escambia County that desperately needs mold remediation and some other repairs. 

This meeting topic, how to fix the Myrtle Grove fire station, is just one conversation of many that need to be taking place in the months to come, in my opinion. 

While Myrtle Grove's facility deficiencies are unique to Myrtle Grove---seven other fire houses in the county (that like Myrtle Grove are not owned by the county) have various issues that will need to be addressed at some time in the near future.

So what is the best way to address these facility problems, knowing the county won't spend money on facilities the county doesn't own?

One option, the expensive one, is to buy these facilities outright from the volunteer fire departments that own them currently.  Next, such facilities could be demolished and new fire houses built at a cost to taxpayers of around $2-$3Million dollars each.  This is the option I favor the least....

A better option, in my opinion, is to allow the volunteer departments to keep ownership of their property and facilities, with the county coming in to remediate these facilities' deficiencies in exchange for  long term use agreement (s) for the county to use these stations. 

This option is less expensive, and I believe it will also serve to compel the career staffs that will in some cases be operating out of these locations to better cooperate and interact with the volunteer staffs that also operate out of these stations.

What do I mean by this?

Right now, the volunteer firefighter numbers are dwindling.  Many I have spoken with have shared with me that they worry they will be "forced out" when career crews come to man their stations.

Volunteer firefighters have the same certifications and training as their career counterparts--yet these personnel cost a fraction of what career firefighters cost in terms of salaries, benefits, and pension costs. 

I'm told one 12 man paid, career crew costs taxpayers $1Million dollars per year. 

So we should be treating the volunteers very well, we should thank them for their willingness to serve, right?  Unfortunately, in some instances this is not happening.

"We're treated like second class citizens" one veteran volunteer shared with me.  "When the new career guys arrived, they started taking all the fire calls, leaving us at the station to do medical

Friday, February 10, 2017

Plumbing Issue Erupts between City and local Plumbers Association

Many private sector plumbers locally have
said they think this situation stinks!

The issue between the private sector plumbers of Escambia County and the City of Pensacola has played out quietly behind closed doors, on limited social media outlets, and in the email inboxes of elected officials locally via wave after wave of emails.......  It has been relatively low key thus far.

I think this is about to change.

Now a very well respected and high-profile attorney locally has weighed in on the side of the plumbers.  Many of us received a copy of the letter this attorney sent to the city yesterday.

The issue is simple:  Should the public sector (Pensacola Energy) unfairly compete with the private sector with respect to installations of gas appliances in homes in the county?  The private sector can't compete with the prices the public sector is offering, and the local plumbers are losing work.

According to a local plumbing contractor I spoke with, the difference in price can be substantial.

"If I do a home installation of a tankless gas water heater in a house--the costs can exceed $1700 dollars.  If Pensacola Energy does it, they do it for the cost of the appliance.  I can't compete with that price because I have overhead to pay.   It's not fair." said this plumber.

The issue was on the agenda for the County and the City to discuss at the recent joint meeting, however at the last minute the City unilaterally pulled the item from the agenda.

The County sent a letter to the city requesting specific answers about this practice.  In response, the city declined to answer but offered to facilitate individual, one-on-one meetings with each commissioner to "explain" the practice.

The recent animosity between plumbers and Pensacola Energy might
be on the verge of rupturing like a broken water line...


Because long ago I read and I fully understand Blackford v School Board of Orange County --I do not participate in scheduled, one-after another,  one-issue staff/board meetings.  Such meetings serve to circumvent the open meeting law--so I don't do them.

So with no forward progress, It appears as if the plumbers are going the legal route...... 

From the letter:

"....activities by Pensacola Energy violate several federal and state laws, including without limitation:

  (1) Sherman "Antitrust" Act, 15 U.S.C. 1-7
  (2) Florida's Antitrust Act; Fla. Stat.  523.15 et. seq.
  (3) Fla. Stat.  501.201 et seq......

....By publically endorsing select members of the "plumber partners" cartel, the City of Pensacola is

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Alarming Statistics on HIV/AIDS Infections in Escambia County

The Black Community Locally, According to WUWF, is over-represented with cases of HIV/AIDS.  According to WebMD, the highest risk behaviors that lead to such infections are unprotected male homosexual sex, unprotected sex with multiple partners, and intravenous drug abuse.
 
Overshadowed by the conclusion of the interstate murder spree of Billy Boyette  yesterday, as well as Tornados wrecking areas West of us--was a very interesting and heartbreaking story on WUWF about HIV/AIDS infection rates locally.

February is Black History Month, and February 7th is Black HIV/AIDS awareness day.

In this very alarming radio piece--some sobering statistics were given:

In the four-county area (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton Counties)--just over 2,000 persons are currently infected with HIV/AIDS.  Of this total, 65% of these cases are in Escambia County.

Sadly, the Black community is over-represented in this category of persons afflicted with HIV--in fact the guest on the show stated "It is still an epidemic" in the Black community.

Blacks make up just 15% of Florida's population--yet Blacks account for 50% of the AIDS Infections statewide, according to this program.

Escambia County's Black Population is about 23%--yet Blacks account for more than 50% of the HIV/AIDS cases in Escambia County according to the WUWF piece.

Interestingly, not much was discussed during the program as to the "why" Blacks appear to be overrepresented in this category.  The guest on the show stated that many people purposely do not get tested for HIV/AIDS because they "Don't want to know their status."  Many agencies offer free and confidential screening for this disease--yet those at high risk continue to avoid being tested.

So why this overrepresentation that acutely affects the Black Community?  Could the reason be the

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Why Not a Tent City for Some Prisoners?

If it is humane for Soldiers and Marines to sleep on cots in tents
as these men defend our freedoms overseas, how is it inhumane for
prisoners who break law to sleep on cots in tents?

Escambia County is rebuilding the jail that exploded in the massive flood of April,  2014. 

The costs are going to be astronomical.

I'm told it could top  $135 Million.

"Why must it cost so much?" has been my continuing question.

Now I'm hearing that the number of inmates our new jail is being designed to accommodate is a number that is less than the number of prisoners we're holding right now! (many of our inmates are being housed in other jurisdictions due to our current jail issue)

So my question, in addition to why the costs MUST be so high, is this:  Why can't we build a compliant jail and also build in capacity for a tent-city outside facility for certain prisoners--to help accommodate what will be a large number of inmates locally?

Now, I'm not saying every prisoner should be housed in a tent city style outdoor, uncomfortable jail.

But many should be, in my opinion. 

And before bleeding-heart types start talking about how "cruel" this would be--remember that right now as we speak there are United States Army personnel sleeping in similar accommodations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other areas around the world. 

Anyone who would call a tent city detention facility cruel and unusual needs to rationally explain to

Closing Rawson Lane

Many constituents have emailed and called expressing support for the closure of Rawson Lane in Pensacola...

Rawson Lane is a small street that cuts through the campus of Pensacola Christian College in Central Pensacola.  It begins at Brent Lane and ends at Airport Boulevard.  It’s a small street but it’s also a hot potato.

I’ve toured the area, met with the PCC staff, looked at the traffic analyses, and heard from constituents and residents on this issue.

Many have expressed the opinion that this road should be vacated by the county, then subsequently signed over to PCC.  “After all, PCC owns the property on BOTH sides of Rawson Lane; PCC should get this road so that their campus could be safer and so the school could build another large dormitory facility that they desperately need to sustain their growth”—some have communicated to me.
On the other side of the equation-a few have told me they feel the county should keep Rawson Lane.
“Taxpayers paid for the road and I want to have the ability to use that road to get to the hospital quickly if I need to” one elderly resident wrote.
Another  nearby resident stated “I use that road when the train stops on the tracks—and I don’t want to lose that ability!”
Another  resident called my office to relate the following message to me: “I voted for you, I live in your district and I use Rawson Lane all the time.  If you vote to vacate Rawson Lane, I won’t vote for you again!”**
One call I received was especially troubling:   “Jeff, the school is pressuring faculty and students to

Monday, February 6, 2017

Where Have the LOST Monies Been Spent? A 10 Year Look

I requested the information on behalf of a constituent and received the following chart back from staff.  It is interesting to look at the breakdown;  District 1 trails only District 4 as the district that has received the least amount of LOST funding over the last 10 years so far as I can tell.....

Complex Problems, Creative Solutions

Imagine if you had a neighbor that ran a generator morning, noon, and night because his power was shut off and he could not afford to reconnect it.  Imagine if nobody addressed this continuing nuisance of noise next door?
Everyone knows that after a storm or if the power is out for an extended period--the sounds of generators will ring out throughout the suburban neighborhoods of Escambia County Florida. 

As power is restored, one by one, the generators get turned off and these very useful machines get stored away in the garages of Pensacola until the next storm or power outage.

At least that's the way it typically is.....

In one District 1 neighborhood, though, a generator runs constantly--24/7, 365 days a year.

"The occupant had his power cut off long ago, and so they just run the generator for power" said one resident I spoke with about this issue.  He continued "I'm told they (occupants of the house) can't afford to pay the fees and back charges, so they are not going to have the power turned back on--they just run their generator."

As I toured the area recently, I parked three houses away from the house that is running the generator.  The moment I stepped out of the car I heard the distinctive, droning, continuous sound of the gas powered generator.  It was loud.

Imagine if you had a neighbor that did this in your neighborhood---and the sound never ended?  It would get old very quickly.

Imagine if it continued, unabated, for month after month after month...

Luckily for us all, our current noise ordinance covers such noises in residential neighborhoods.  Sec. 42-65 (l) states that "between the hours of 10:00P.M. and 7:00 A.M. the operation of..any internal combustion engine, the operation of which causes noise due to the explosion of operating gases or fluids, provided that the noise is unreasonably loud and can be heard across the property line from which it emanates..[is] declared to be a per se violation of this article"

Now that it is understood that the current, existing ordinances cover this nuisance issue, the next step is to ensure that the ordinance is being enforced as appropriate.  This is the step we are at right now on this particular matter, we shall see how this goes but hopefully this matter will be resolved lawfully in short order.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Small Government, Pro-Business Conservative


I am a small-government, pro-business Conservative.  I've personally owned many small businesses here and on the West Coast as well.  I've dealt with red tape and overly aggressive regulations that smother small business.  I get what they go through, and that's why  I support hard-working, taxpaying and rule obeying businesses because such businesses are the backbone of our great nation.

Last night we were tasked with voting up or down on a permit to allow an existing, decades old business that has been lawfully operating in District 1 the ability to continue to operate.  At stake were 15 full-time jobs and a locally operated successful business that was bending over backwards to cooperate with changing regulations thrown in its  path by the County.

After hearing from a handful of persons opposed and some that supported the business--and after doing my own independent research in this neighborhood---it was obvious to me that this operation was conducting its business lawfully and was also striving to be extremely conscientious and deferential to the nearby neighbors.  I replied to the one email I received today in objection to this business' permit with the following response.....


XXXXXXX,

Thank you for the email of concern. 
 
I hope you realize that I take these matters very seriously, and I listened intently to every speaker and I also independently researched this matter by going to several neighbors and also to the business location as well. 

I think Mr.  XXXXXXXX is a good neighbor who has conducted himself and his business with a great deal of respect for his neighbors as he has simultaneously tried to remain in compliance with all of the changing regulations the County has thrown his way.  After all of the testimony, including hearing that he has never had one complaint filed against him or his business and that atmospheric tests for silica dust conducted by the state DEP indicated there was none present in samples taken in the area-I felt strongly that it would have been wholly inappropriate to essentially put him out of business by denying his permit.

I am a small government, pro-business conservative and I support small businesses in general and this small business in particular, an entity  that has been in existence for decades locally; Mr. XXXXXXXX  has conducted this very same business legally at this very same location for decades while employing 15 persons full-time—and with all of the evidence presented I feel confident the board made the right decision with the unanimous vote to uphold the DRC findings and to issue this permit.

Sincerely,

 
Jeff Bergosh
District 1 Board Member and Vice-Chairman
Escambia Board of County Commissioners
221 Palafox Place Suite 400
Pensacola, FL 32502
850-595-4910 office
850-377-2209 Voicemail
@jeffbergosh

Monday, January 30, 2017

On Good Morning Pensacola Today, WCOA AM 1370



I will be on WCOA this morning at 6:30 discussing a variety of topics to include upcoming joint meetings, town hall meetings, and District 1 specific meetings, Panhandling, OLF8, and several other hot-button topics.  I'll  also be discussing my upcoming series of  informal coffee with the commissioner meetings as well as District 1 round table meetings and today's BCC City Council Meeting as well as the upcoming BCC/School Board meeting.  Should be a good show, once completed I will link the podcast here (Part I) and here (Part 2).

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Is it Safe to Eat the Fish from Perdio Bay?

Mullet from Perdido Bay is safe to eat according to the experts

....This was the concerned question posed to me by a constituent of District 1 that lives on Perdido Bay and frequently eats the fish caught there.

After all, the International Paper Mill explosion that covered a substantial part of Escambia County in "Black Liquor" is being cleaned up, and much of it will inevitably be washing downstream--- eventually entering Perdido Bay--according to some reports.

So I asked the question about whether or not the fish in Perdido bay would be affected--I asked this of the top environmental personnel in the area, who answered the question as follows:

Chips Kirschenfeld, Director of the Escambia County Natural Resources Department, wrote back to the constituent and said "Thank you for your inquiry into Perdido Bay water quality. The water quality data that we have collected and analyzed shows no concerns for surface waters surrounding IP and including Perdido Bay...to our knowledge, there are no health advisories or concerns with air quality or the consumption of seafood in Perdido Bay."

Escambia County Health Department Director John Lanza also weighed in, stating "Thanks for the questions.  There are no health advisories, concerns with air quality or consumption advisories for Perdido Key associated with the IP Incident."

Friday, January 27, 2017

Steak Dinner



Imagine if you hate broccoli like I do, yet you knew it was going to be a part of a Steak Dinner you were going to enjoy as an invited guest at an acquaintance's house. 

If you love steak and garlic mashed potatoes (like I do), maybe you gag down the broccoli to be polite, washing it down with huge gulps of water, after you demolish the steak and potatoes.   Maybe you leave the broccoli on the plate, covered with you napkin after you devour the steak and potatoes.  Maybe you just move the broccoli around the plate to pretend you ate some of it.....

The thing is--you do something with the broccoli to be polite because you are there for the steak dinner. 

Imagine if the dinner is originally set for 6:00PM-----and then suddenly the time is switched to  8:00AM---to allow more time for savoring the meal....

But then check this out:  Imagine if the host, at the last minute, says that the steak and potatoes will "not be served" at the Steak Dinner, because there could be a health problem associated with serving red meat and potatoes, but that the "Steak Dinner" will still go on, albeit without the Steak or Potatoes, at 8:00AM instead of 6:00PM.

Guess what---- a steaming, heaping plate of pungent broccoli,  served at 8:00AM instead of 6:00 PM is not a "Steak Dinner"--it's a "broccoli breakfast!"

I don't do broccoli breakfasts.....Maybe I'll crash the party and bring steak for everyone, or maybe I'll show up at four hours later and just have dessert.  :)

you never know what I might do.

Town Hall Meetings and Coffee with the Commissioner Dates Announced

District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh Announces Plans for Town Halls
        
           
        
Starting Tuesday, Feb. 21 from 6-7:30 p.m., District 1 County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh will begin hosting community town hall meetings for citizens.  Held in the Beulah Community at Windy Hill Baptist Church located at 9896 Rebel Rd., Bergosh will discuss OLF-8, master planning for Beulah, drainage, growth management, fire service issues, roadway/intersections safety and many other topics of interest with members of the public who attend. 

This is the first of six town hall style meetings planned for the year rotating between various locations throughout District 1.

Commissioner Bergosh emphasizes the importance of the town halls by saying, “I feel very strongly that I need to be out in the community in the evenings and after typical work hours, hearing from constituents, whether District 1 residents or not, about how I can better serve them and address their needs.”

In addition to the town hall meetings, Commissioner Bergosh will also begin an informal monthly “Coffee with the Commissioner” event where he will meet in the mornings before work hours with constituents.  His kickoff event will take place Wednesday, Feb. 22 from 6:30-7:30 a.m. at Hardee’s located at 2500 Wilde Lake Blvd. in Pensacola.

For more information, contact District 1 Aide Debbie Kenney at 850-595-4910 or district1@myescambia.com. For District 1 updates, follow @MyDistrict1  and @jeffbergosh on Twitter, follow Commissioner Bergosh on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CommissionerBergosh/   and follow Jeff Bergosh's blog at http://jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God in Government


America is a nation that was founded on Christian principles and anyone who espouses otherwise simply does not know History and the facts or they are deliberately obfuscating the issue. 
The vast majority of the founding fathers were Christian —and these great men believed strongly in the freedom of Religion and believed that the new nation should not sanction any one church; they specifically did not want a “Church of England” type of monopoly on religion in the new republic they were making.  Of the 55 delegates to attend the Constitutional Convention, 49 were Protestant and 2 were Roman Catholic. (Franklin T Lambert. (2003). The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press) 
The United States Constitution expressly speaks to the importance of the free exercise of Religion in the First Amendment where it is written “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
49 of the 50 state constitutions’ preambles prominently refer to God.  Read them all here
Our currency says “In God we Trust.”
Multiple Supreme Court Decisions uphold the legality and constitutionality of the custom of legislative bodies engaging in pre-meeting prayer.  
Friday’s inauguration of President Trump featured multiple ministers praying to and giving thanks to God.  During his speech, President Trump emphatically stated that “God will protect America!”
We are a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles.
And even though the vast majority of Americans who practice religion are Christian, as a nation we promote respect and tolerance for those who believe and worship differently than the majority of us believe and worship.  This is part of the reason we are the greatest nation in the world.
So even though a small, miniscule yet vocal minority locally complains about prayer in public among public bodies as they proclaim such activity is unconstitutional -- what they say about this issue is misinformed and untrue.
Pre-meeting prayer by the legislative body is legal and constitutional.
We are tolerant and inclusive, whereas these anti-Christiansare neither tolerant nor inclusive.
I suppose most of these intolerant folks have not yet read this decision out of the 4th Circuit.  They should read it.  They won’t like it.