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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Walton County Terminates Escambia County Inmate Housing Agreement

Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson sent the Escambia BCC a letter today terminating our
prisoner housing agreement....
Could this make a tent city even more likely in Escambia, even sooner than anyone thought?

With a very generic, one-page letter delivered to commissioners late this afternoon with no forewarning, Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson has given Escambia County 30 days’ notice that our inmates will no longer be housed Walton County, in his jail, After July 1st.  The letter points to a meeting of the Escambia BCC on May 25th where jail capacity and other issues were presented to the BCC by staff.  According to the letter, Sheriff Adkinson took issue with much of the data presented at that meeting; this appears to be the impetus for this sudden termination of the agreement.

This is devastatingly terrible news for Escambia County, as we currently have nearly 300 inmates in Walton County—at a cost per inmate per day of $53.00-- which is much less than we have been able to pay housing our own inmates here.  But worse than this-- we don’t currently have space available to accept this massive influx, and the board nixed double bunking and eschewed the idea of taking back a facility we lease back to the state to house juveniles.  Berrydale is out as an option as is the cramming of these inmates into our existing jail.  So options to house our inmates are running low.  One thing is for sure, though:  we are going to be getting all of our prisoners back in the next 30 days….. From the letter:

“It had been our hope to partner with you to provide a level of overflow capacity and advanced programs for inmates that could reduce overall costs.  Unfortunately, I believe that exploration of this opportunity is no longer viable, nor is it in the best interest of Walton County…On May 25th 2017 we were taken aback by the presentation to the [Escambia] Board.  That presentation’s veracity is central to my concern that the [Escambia] Board is not fully aware of operational issues at the jail and represents a deliberate indifference.   feel I have no other option than to exercise our right to terminate our agreement.”

As has been discussed several times including quite recently—will this unfortunate turn of events be the mother of invention that necessitates that we look seriously at a tent city to temporarily house our inmates?

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

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....