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.








Sunday, May 28, 2017

What is the Real Reason Why Special Interests HATE HB 7069?

Special interests hate HB 7069 for many reasons, primarily over school choice, charter expansion, and capital
millage revenue sharing---not the way special needs scholarship funding was added to the bill......


Newspaper Editorial Boards Statewide are using their collective bully-platforms to demonize a very good piece of legislation that is pro-student and pro-parent.  They desperately want Governor Scott to veto this bill.  They are putting on a full court press, including editorials like this one..

But very few of the folks that are so enraged by this bill actually bothered to read it before slamming it. Forget the faux -age about how various aspects of the bill became cobbled together into one train bill at the end of the session...Here is a news flash: This is common, and it is funny that nobody seems to complain when such bills contain provisions that are widely accepted. Nope. But when a bill ends up with many provisions that upset the status quo, suddenly this practice is an abomination! 

  The gnashing of teeth this produces when legislation that is profound and parent/student-centric comes through at the end of a session is ridiculous and incredible. But the fact of the matter is that this is often how the sausage is made and if you don't like it don't look into the butcher shop window in Tallahassee. 

 So the fact that the bill increases funding for Garder Scholarships for special needs students by $30 Million really makes these special interests angry? Really? or is it something else? 

 Being somewhat cynical and a bit of a skeptic myself-I believe the real animus comes from other aspects of the bill that really make the special interests angry. School Choice gets expanded, yes this is good. If a school is a failure for years and years on end, this bill contains a mechanism to insert competition from established high performing charters. 

This bill also expands Virtual School access--which is good for students and parents.

 Teacher Bonuses: Best and brightest awards for high-performing teachers and administrators, as well as all teachers statewide that are high-performing--yes the guardians of the status-quo HATE this and 7069 provides for these bonuses for the next three years to keep the most talented school employees in our schools. Unions hate this-- They want all things equal and ANY bonus will never be "fair." 

testing reform is included in the bill, and this is something every parent I ever spoke with in my 10 years on the local school board desperately wanted.

But the great, big granddaddy of it all, the real reason for the hatred of this bill, is that it forces equity in the distribution of capital funding for ALL public schools...right now Public Charter schools in most cases do not receive any of this locally generated funding.  This bill forces local districts to share revenue with locally established PUBLIC charter schools.  Yes, sadly (as is often the case with these issues) it comes down to money.... 
Follow the money trail to find out the real reasons why unions, liberals, and other special interest guardians
of the status-quo
in education hate SB 7069.........

So yes, this bill does so many good things but at the same time it upsets the apple cart, and this is the real reason it is hated. The idea that it is "the way" the Gardiner Scholarship increases were put in the bill -- (the red-herring straw man used by the media to focus the hatred on this bill from those who do not think deeply and do their own independent research) the idea that THIS is what is ginning up the hatred of the bill around the state--- is absolutely ludicrous. Dig deeper,  read the facts,  and don't buy into the propaganda.....

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tent City Redux?



Over the last several months the BCC has wrestled with the reality that we are burning through cash housing our inmates out of town with no real workable plan to bring the inmates back.

--We looked at Berrydale in Santa Rosa County--not an option apparently.

--We were presented an ambitious plan to double-bunk the prisoners....Several of my counterparts shot that down.  (I supported the idea if it could be done safely--it would have saved us $4.6 Million next year...)

--We were going to cancel a state lease at the juvenile detention facility and take that facility over...that plan fell apart due to politics.

We have to do something now.  The status quo on this issue must end and we must stop the hemorrhaging. 

So yesterday during the meeting I re-stated my firm belief that a tent-city to house overflow inmates on a transitory basis should be looked at seriously again.  It is legal to do it, we have land, so why not?!?   My rationale, which I again reiterated at the meeting, is that if cots and tents are good enough for our soldiers in Afghanistan--this is good enough for prisoners in Pensacola, Florida!



  To my amazement--my counterpart from District 2 chimed in to support such an idea.



Who knows, maybe the next plan we hear about will happen, maybe we will do a tent-city!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Coffee With the Commissioner 5-24-2017

We held our May "Coffee with the Commissioner" event this morning at Hardee's on Wilde Lake in Pensacola.  We had a great turnout and several important topics were discussed.  My thanks to all the citizens who attended, the folks at Hardee's for letting us use their space, Captain Dale Tharp from the Sheriff's office, and to Administrator Jack Brown for attending and answering constituent questions.





Good News on the OLF8 OLFX Land Swap



The Board of County Commissioners received a very important letter this week from Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar, Commander, Navy Region Southeast regarding the OLF 8  / OLF X   land swap deal. 

This project has been in the works for many, many years and is a very important economic development project for District 1 and Escambia County.  It was the #1 rated economic development project from the restore act committee.

Over the last several years, however,  the project's costs have continuously escalated and the requirements for the OLF X landing field in Santa Rosa County have continued to grow.  Because this project's costs have continued to escalate, Escambia County had faced the very realistic possibility of having to walk away from this deal.

Last month, the County threw out a "Hail Mary" pass and contacted Matt Gaetz who committed to help facilitate the completion of this land swap deal.  Additionally, Administrator Jack Brown wrote to the Navy on behalf of the commissioners in an attempt to keep the project on track.  In his letter, he asked for some concessions from the Navy to keep the costs from escalating further.

This week we have received the Navy's response, from Admiral Bolivar.  From the letter:

"After thorough review, evaluation, and consideration of the requirements for Navy helicopter outlying landing fields in the Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field Training Complex, and with the concurrence of CNATRA's and higher headquarters, we have determined several items may be deferred from the initial stated requirements.."

Although reluctant to put a price on the concessions, Administrator Jack Brown stated that "an initial look at what has been offered points to potentially $1-2 Million dollars the County will save on improvements to OLF X in Santa Rosa County."

Because this is such a huge project for District 1 and all of Escambia County--and as the District 1 representative on the BCC-I applaud the efforts of the County Staff and the Navy to help reduce the costs associated with this project.  Hopefully this concession will allow us to keep moving forward with this very worthwhile project!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What does the Data Mean?!?

These are not the droids you're looking for.....
 
This morning I was flipping through the radio dial and heard the tail-end of an interview about the alcohol ordinance on Pensacola Beach's Quietwater Beach Boardwalk.  This revised ordinance-- that I voted against --sought to continue an open-container prohibition on the boardwalk.  The sloppily concocted revision inadvertently allowed open containers in the parking lot and on sidewalks--an unintended consequence--so this ordinance is once again on the agenda for this week.  A couple of things stated during this morning's  interview that were incorrect grabbed my attention....

First off--it was stated that the revised ordinance that was enacted last month did not/does not go into effect until June 1st.  This is incorrect.  According to our attorney, once the board voted upon the revised ordinance, and once that ordinance was transmitted to and received by the Department of State in Tallahassee--it went into effect right then-at that moment.  It has been in force for about two-three weeks now and it will be in force until the next revision is voted upon by the BCC and received by Tallahassee---which will not happen before this weekend's Memorial Day festivities at the beach.  That's number 1.

The second inaccurate statement that was made in this interview was that "One Commissioner (me) was purposely misrepresenting the crime data."  This is untrue.  I am not misrepresenting anything. When this matter was first brought back to the BCC when several local business owners and another commissioner did not want the ordinance to sunset, crime stats were provided as back up to us to help us in our decision making process.

A very topical and cursory glance at two years' worth of data showed that several categories of crimes not only did not go down--- indeed, several categories went up since enactment of the open container ban on the boardwalk.

Several went up significantly.

Now, when the discussion was first had at the agenda review, this initial data was touted by one podium speaker and two commissioners as "proof" that the ban was making the boardwalk safer.  Specifically, these individuals touted "fewer fights and affrays" from the data provided by the Sheriff's office  as proof that the ban was/is working...and that the ordinance should not sunset but rather should be extended.

So I immediately requested several more years' worth of data so a better, more valid analysis could be made. 

Once I received this data, I performed an analysis and I shared these results with my counterparts at meetings and also on this blog here and here. 

Apparently, it is perfectly acceptable to look at one category of crime that appears to have decreased slightly and marginally since the ban (affray)--and it is scientifically sound to say this infraction's decrease is attributable to the ban on open containers being enforced on the boardwalk. 

However, apparently, it is unacceptable to look at the other categories of crimes that have skyrocketed since the ban was enacted (DUI's, Battery on LEOs, non-family disturbances, substance abuse, under 21year old DUI's, miscellaneous crimes, etc. etc.) and draw any connection whatsoever to the alcohol ban at the boardwalk.

Here's the thing, you can't have it both ways.  We either look at all the data or we look at none of it.  I'm not going to suffer fools and stand by as "some" data is cherry picked and paraded around to

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Devastating Financial Impact Locally of the Shortened Red Snapper Season

This year's recreational Red Snapper Season in Federal Waters is down to
just 3 days, compared to 9 days last year....

The Red Snapper season in Federal Waters this year has been slashed down to just 3 days for 2017.  This is down from 9 days last year and many more days in previous years.

Charter for hire and commercial fishing vessels are not being subjected to such draconian restrictions, however. 

Some business owners intimately familiar with this industry have expressed significant frustration over this Federal over-reach of power that is limiting recreational anglers' rights--and potentially hitting our economy in the pocket book.

"This is going to have a big impact on my business, as much as $75,000.00 dollars!" one exasperated business owner stated to me as we discussed this issue recently.  "Cutting it down to 3 days is going to have a massive impact on the entire economy as well" he continued.  "When we look at the number of reef permits, and assume they will fish twice this season, the value of the dollars spent can be calculated if we conservatively assume a party of 4 going out to the reefs to fish spend $200.00 on Gas, $50 on bait, $50 on food, $100 on drinks and miscellaneous items per day.  If we assume $400.00 per trip per day multiplied by the number of permits, we will arrive at a figure of $2.3 Million per day!"  He then went on to describe that depending upon what multiplier one uses, the value of this money in the economy as it turns over multiple times could be as much as $12Million daily.  "Take $12 million time 6 days less this year for our recreational fishermen, and the

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Open Containers of Alcohol on Quietwater Beach Part III--Nobody is Happy with the Ordinance Revision



Our newly enacted, amended open-container ordinance for Quietwater Beach  is coming back to the BCC for additional modification next week.

Last month, the board nearly voted to continue the ban on open containers on the boardwalk for an additional two years--despite presentation of data that showed many categories of crime had increased since the ban was enacted.

When it became apparent a two year continuation would have failed by a 3-2 margin, the board made a fumbling, sloppy attempt at an on-the-fly compromise position:  Alcohol would once again be permitted on the boardwalk, but only from 10PM to 6:00AM.  I didn't support this for numerous reasons which I have expressed to the media, on this blog, and also at the meeting.  The compromise passed 4-1 with me voting NO.

...the very next day we started hearing about the unintended consequences of what we had done from our attorney and from the Sheriff's office;  we had crafted the ordinance such that it was vague and ambiguous about the legality of open containers on sidewalks and parking lots beach-wide.  Now we had to go fix our newly enacted rule because we violated one of the tenets of good governance by making things worse, not better, with our actions.

This is why it is dangerous to try to legislate on the dais, on the fly.  The go-cart one tries to assemble while travelling down the hill often crashes, just like rules rushed through fail.  Here's why:

1.  It is an undisputed, known fact of reality that the ban did not reduce, but rather exacerbated the most dangerous criminal offenses like DUIs and Battery on LEO's, so the ordinance should have  sunsetted and a redoubled effort at enforcement should have been made specifically targeting transgressors rather than all of us.

2.  When the amended motion was made, I knew it was fatally flawed because there is a tremendous difference between day drinkers and night time hooligan partiers;  the open container hours on the boardwalk should have been during the day from, say, 10:00AM to 6:00PM--with a prohibition if absolutely necessary taking place from 6:00PM to 10:00AM.  I (and many others) feel the ordinance got these hours backwards because the Geico Owl and everybody else that knows

Saturday, May 13, 2017

On WCOA --Talking Rawson Lane, Panhandling, and Alcohol on the Beach



I was invited yesterday morning to appear on WCOA's "Good Morning Pensacola" with Jim Sanborn and Don Parker.  We had a really good chat about a lot of interesting topics to include the vacation of Rawson Lane, the open container ordinance at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, panhandling and the homeless, and several other topics.  I always appreciate the opportunity to come on the radio with these guys!

Listen to the interview here (part 1) and here (part 2)

What's Escambia County's Credit Rating?



Escambia County is about to Bond $83Million dollars to help re-build our jail.  This requires that investors know what our financial condition is, and this is based upon a specific "rating" from a rating agency.  Moody's investors service examined our books, met with our personnel, and has issued their rating of Escambia County.  Moody's has rated the bonds at Aa3 while affirming the county's Aa2 issuer rating.

What does this mean?  You can read detailed information about this ratings system here if you are so inclined.  We are strong financially, and in a good position to borrow offering low risk to the investors who purchase the bonds.

You can read Moody's complete report on Escambia County here.  This report has a lot of interesting data about the County and the way we have managed debt historically. 

From the Report:


Credit Strengths
  
» Rebounding tax base with proximity to military bases

» Solid debt service coverage with low outstanding debt
 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Rawson Lane Part III: What Does the Traffic Study Show?




The entire Rawson Lane study can be read and analyzed by anyone who choses to look.  It is located here.

Some take aways from the document:


 
Question--"Will travel times for diverted trips be greatly increased for emergency services

(fire and medical)?"
 
Answer--"Because the first responder station (assigned to Rawson Lane – Fire Station 3

Brent) is located north of Airport Boulevard (SR 750) on W Street travel times for

emergency services should not be impacted."


Question-- Will travel times for diverted trips be greatly increased for former cut through

traffic?
 
Answer--"According to the results of the travel time study of diverted trips for former cut-through

traffic should increase for the most popular NE-SW route at PM Peak hour.

This increase is largely due to the length of the alternative route and signal delays

that could be expected at PM peak hour. However, during the AM peak hour for

the NE-SW route and AM and PM peak hours for the NW-SE route travel times

slightly decrease when using the alternative routes [EMPHASIS ADDED]."


Question--Will overall residential neighborhood traffic levels and traffic on Rawson Lane,

increase or decrease post-closure?
 
Answer--"Because of the closure, cut-through traffic will no longer be able to use Rawson

Lane as a north/south route, and traffic levels should improve the level of service[EMPHASIS ADDED].

Intersection analysis indicated that the southbound approach at the Airport

Boulevard (SR 750)/Rawson Lane intersection is expected to improve from a LOS F

to LOS E under future traffic conditions. The northbound left-and-through

movement at the Airport Boulevard (SR 750)/Rawson Lane intersection is expected

to operate at LOS E during the PM peak hour. This movement is currently operating

at LOS F."
 
  
 
 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What if PCC Wasn't Located in Pensacola?

What if PCC wasn't located in Pensacola?  What if they decided to leave?

So because we didn't have the full complement of Commissioners on the dais this past Thursday-the vote to vacate Rawson Lane was put off again.  I stated that we should vote, we had a quorum, and there are lots of items on the agenda that we did vote on---so why the delay?  The rationale, which may have some merit, was that the issue is one of great importance and therefore some commissioners wished to wait until all commissioners are present--this way we can all be on the record.  

But this is inconvenient for those who made arrangements to come and speak at the meeting only to have the rug once again pulled out from under them.

So we are scheduled to vote AGAIN on this matter Monday, May 22nd at 5:30.  We'll see what happens, hopefully the can doesn't get kicked down the road again...every time we postpone, it is just prolonging the anxiety for folks on both sides of the issue; it's like purposely ripping a scab off a wound over and over-- wondering why the cut never heals.  Things don't heal, things don't get back to normal if one continues to pick at the scab.

So PCC once again was pummeled at the meeting by the angry speakers who did come to the meeting.  Several were dignified in their opposition, but several were rude, obnoxious, and frankly out of line.  Some made personal attacks on the commissioners individually--which should not be tolerated.  Several speakers said we would be voted out if we agree with this vacation.  Nothing is more low-class, aggressive, and offensive than listening to people that disagree on one (1) issue

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fan Mail.....

I received this handwritten letter yesterday.....I've redacted some of the choice adjectives used by the writer, who did not sign the letter.....I don't think the author was wild about my stance on the open containers of alcohol on the beach ordinance.  The gist of it, I think, is that he does not want to have to watch out for others walking on the boardwalks with drinks so they don't run into him and spill his drink?  I don't know....
 
 


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rawson Lane, Part II: The Economic Value PCC brings to Escambia County

The vote on vacating Rawson Lane to Pensacola Christian College was put off earlier this month.  It will be voted upon this Thursday, it is on the agenda.

Over the last several months, I have been contacted by many constituents that are in strong support of vacating Rawson Lane.  Several citizens that are strongly opposed to this action spoke at our meeting earlier this month.

Arguments could be made to support either position, and there are some consequences to consider if we do vacate this road to the college.  But there are numerous positive benefits that the community as a whole gains from closing the road--most notably a massive construction project that will allow the college to continue its growth and that will grow the jobs base here locally.  Recently, a presentation was sent to commissioners detailing the latest economic impact PCC has on our economy locally.  It is significant.


This vote is about more than a road, in my estimation.  Over the last several months I have been contacted by folks that simply demonstrate a disdain for this organization--which is sad.  At a public meeting on this subject held a few months back at Brentwood Elementary School, one man approached me and said "They don't do anything for the community, they don't deserve the road, all PCC cares about is PCC!"  I recently received a long letter from a close neighbor, a retired attorney, detailing all the reasons this vacation should not be approved by the BCC.  Again, an almost jealous disdain for this school oozed from the pages of that letter.  That gentleman claimed PCC pays "NO" taxes--but that simply is not true.

For my part:  I support the mission of PCC, what they do for youth and their positive impact on the lives of so many.  I am happy to see them grow and succeed and being a Christian man myself--I love that they lead many to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  This matters, this is important.  In fact, if we boil the whole thing down to the essentials of existance on this planet--nothing is more important than this, nothing.  It really bothers me that Christians beat up on this school--it is perplexing and I don't get this.

So to the haters that hate PCC, I say this:  PCC does do impactful things in the community, they offer very reasonable tuition for many that would otherwise be unable to afford private school.  They offer summer programs for area youth that could not otherwise afford such programs, and Camp of the Pines is a first-rate summer camp program that offers area youth an amazing week-long summer camp experience for a dirt-cheap price. Two of my three children attended this camp and my youngest went to PCA for pre-school--which was inexpensive and first-rate in quality.

Some people do some things that appear to be beneficial to a community, and these folks beat their chests about this and self-promote the apparently generous and selfless actions they take and donations they make (while not spotlighting the concomitant personal, ancillary, and tax beneficial consequences such gestures inure to such persons or entities)  This is 0ff-putting.  This is disingenuous.

PCC doesn't do this-- they quietly do things that benefit our community, our country, and the world--they do this in so many ways.  This subtle and subdued approach to philanthropy and good deeds is refreshing, uncommon and admirable.

So this vote is important for many reasons and will generate passionate discourse and emotional testimony from those on both sides of the equation.  I can't wait, I can't wait to vote this issue and move on.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Coffee with the Commissioner 4-27-2017

Citizens and Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh discuss issues
of concern at April's "Coffee With the Commissioner" Event, 4-27-17

This morning, 4-27-2017, we held our third "coffee with the commissioner" event in District 1. 

We appreciated the opportunity to meet with a small group of about a half-dozen citizens, informally, to discuss issues related to their individual concerns in District 1--to include:

--drainage problems on Pond Farm Road

--Traffic Light signalization issues at Dog Track Road and Hwy 98

--traffic congestion on Hwy 98

--Misspelled words on the entrance to the Navy Hospital Marquee at Hwy 98  (Naval, misspelled as "Navel")

--trash on the roadways

--growth management


We also spent some time just talking current events and national political issues. 

I appreciate McDonalds on Blue Angel and Hwy 98 for allowing us to host our meeting at their establishment.

I also want to thank Debby Kenney, my aide, for arranging the site.

And last but not least I want to express my appreciation to the Escambia County Sheriff's Office for sending Deputy Chief Eric Haines to this morning's coffee and also to this past Monday's Town Hall meeting at Bellview Middle School.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

District 1 Town Hall Meeting 4-24-2017


Thoughts from the Economic Development Summit



The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners held an economic development summit meeting Tuesday.  After we had brief presentations from Neighborhood services and a discussion about the Brownsville Community Center, we discussed Escambia County and our economic development efforts.

Those who are interested in doing so can watch the video of the meeting here--there was lots of very interesting conversation.

The presentation began with an overview of the demographics of the two-county (Escambia-Santa Rosa) area.  Zach Jenkins, Director of UWF's Haas Center, gave a  presentation that described the median family income, median age, race/ethnicity, and other characteristics of our area as compared to the state and also to the nation.  It was interesting.  of note were the following take-aways:

--employment wise, we have just recently recovered and stabilized our unemployment levels to pre-Great Recession levels

--2,500 new jobs yearly will need to be created in order to keep our unemployment levels at today's rate

--nearly 42,000 persons (out of 500,000 total population in our MSA) are currently not working.

-- a net of roughly 20,000 commuters come to Escambia County to work but live out of Escambia County

--tourist related occupations, while important locally, do not generate much in the way of additional ancillary jobs created when compared to just about every other category of jobs--especially manufacturing and cyber security jobs

--The highest paying segment of jobs, on average, are from the Military and Civilian DoD jobs, followed by the Financial Services Sectors

After Zach gave his presentation, Scott Luth from Florida West gave a presentation on efforts his group is making to increase the jobs base locally.  His focus areas of industry revolve around cultivation of employers who export products, thereby importing new money into the community. 

Areas of focus include the following:

-Manufacturing
-financial and professional services
-information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing
-Offshore Vessel Service and Support
-Aviation Manufacturing and Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
-Defense, Homeland, and Cyber Security

A stirring discussion about employee readiness/preparedness begins at minute 57:05 and continues through minute 71:00 of Items 3 & 6.  In this segment, Luth states that about "90 percent of the issue revolves around employers' concerns about the readiness of the graduates of the schools."  Luth continues "I'm not trying to throw a negative on our schools but I'm told we have to increase that, that level  [ of preparedness] of the students coming out [of the schools locally]."

I spoke about this as well--the emphasis of my comments (67:22) was that we have tremendous social dysfunction, combined with generational dysfunction, mixed with poverty, that is hindering our

Monday, April 24, 2017

Town Hall Meeting Toinght, Coffee With the Commissioner Thursday




---District 1 Town Hall
  • Date: Monday, April 24, 2017 - Monday, April 24, 2017
  • Time: All Day6:00 PM
  • Location:
  • Location: Pensacola
  • Address: 6201 Mobile Hwy.
  • Additional Location Info: Bellview Middle School Cafeteria
  • Contact: Debbie Kenney
  • Email: district1@myescambia.com
  • Phone: 850-595-4910
 
Residents are invited to discuss issues with Commissioner Bergosh at the second of six town hall style meetings planned for the year at various locations throughout District 1. More than one commissioner may attend this event. 
 
 
---April Coffee with the Commissioner – Jeff Bergosh, District 1
  • Date: Thursday, April 27, 2017 - Thursday, April 27, 2017
  • Time: All Day6:30 AM
  • Location:
  • Location: Pensacola, Florida
  • Address: 5 S Blue Angel Pkwy.
  • Additional Location Info: McDonald's Restaurant
  • Contact: Debbie Kenney
  • Email: district1@myescambia.com
  • Phone: 850-595-4910
 
Join District 1 Commissioner Bergosh in this informal setting with no agenda or appointment needed, anytime between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Residents are encouraged to stop by with any comments or concerns they would like to discuss with their District 1 Commissioner in this informal setting with no agenda or appointments needed. More than one commissioner may attend this event. 

On WCOA's Good Morning Pensacola



Topics to include:

-OLF 8/OLF X  Land Swap with the U.S. Navy

-Open Container Ordinance at the Beach

-Pensacola Beach Traffic


Listen live later this morning at 7:35, or listen to the Podcast (s) here (part I) and here (part II)

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.