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, 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.