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.








Wednesday, June 28, 2017

3 hours, 19 Minutes, and 10 Seconds.....

Marcus May was arrested and jailed in Pensacola this morning.  He spent 3 hours, 19 minutes, and 10 seconds in custody before posting bail....


Marcus May, the owner of multiple charter schools nationwide and former executive of Newpoint Partners, was jailed today in Pensacola and slapped with a $600,000.00 bond.

Local News outlets did not cover this story but this station out of Tampa did.

I worked very closely with the whistleblower that worked for May locally that blew the lid off of this story two and a half years ago.  I'm very happy that May will face justice for what he did.

I am equally happy to hear that the circumstances that led to May getting away with how he pulled this alleged fraud off locally are now being looked at in earnest.  they should be, and I have been talking about this for some time now.  The local board had a role to play in preventing this scheme from going on for so long--if only we had been told and not deliberatley misled, perhaps these issues would have come to light sooner....

Others are taking note and talking about this as well.  How could the warnings and the reports have been ignored?  How?

How could reports of nefarious conduct be kept from the local school board while this charter operated locally?  How?

I am looking forward to seeing these questions answered.  I'm looking forward to learning why this particular charter school was given a pass and why employees were prevented from telling the school board about all these problems.  I hope justice is carried out on that front as well.

Coffee With the Commissioner 6-28-2017

Wednesday, June 28th 2017 District 1 Coffee with the Commissioner Event.

Today we held our monthly Coffee with the Commissioner event at Denny's on Mobile Highway.  We had a nice group of citizens that stopped by to discuss various issues going on in the district.

This morning's discussion focused on the budget, the beach tax issue, neighborhood safety, rebuilding the jail, road and sidewalk issues, and the OLF 8 OLF X land swap.  We also talked quite a bit about the funding being pulled for two important road projects in District one.

I was even asked by one attendee about this past Sunday's editorial where I was mentioned in relation to the Newpoint scandal.  I explained my part in that issue to the assembled group.  They seemed very interested in that issue.

I was somewhat surprised that nobody talked about or brought up the

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Beulah Road Mobile Highway Intersection Light and Improvement Project De-funded!



This weekend I have been busy.  I've been making calls and writing emails. I've talked to some of the most powerful elected and appointed officials in the state;  I'm concerned because a VERY important project that was just at the cusp of commencement is being back-burnered.

The $2 Million in State Funding for the Beulah Road/Mobile Highway Intersection Project has been re-allocated to different projects in Escambia County.

This isn't just any old project--this is a tremendously important transportation safety project for Beulah in District 1.  So to those residents in Beulah that want to help with something that is of tremendous importance--help me get this project back on track.  I'm asking for your help.

The project  to add a traffic light and intersection improvements at Mobile Highway at Beulah Road has been discussed for many years as the number of crashes has grown geometrically, along with serious injury crashes like this one.

My predecessor on the BCC Wilson Robertson has worked hard to make this happen;  I have pressed for this.  The residents wanted this--and it has been presented to the residents in Beulah at a series of public meetings just last summer.  It was coming, it was funded in the FY 18 Work plan--meaning a contract for this project was going to be let sometime in August or September, and construction could have begun as early as this coming November.

That is all changed now.  see the below email from Thursday evening....

So in order to get this project funded and back on track, I'm going to work very closely with my counterparts on the Board, interested District 1 constituents, the road staff, administrator Brown, as well as with our local delegation of lawmakers--several of whom I have spoken to this weekend.

This is too important to just let go.  A brand new middle school is coming to Beulah, massive growth is happening here, this intersection is only going to get busier and busier--and these improvements were desperately needed because this intersection is DANGEROUS!


New Jail Project: County is Now Down to Two Short-Listed Firms....



The recent email Commissioners received, above, tells the tale.  We are now down to just two (2) shortlisted firms that will compete for the jail rebuild contract.

Archer Western has pulled out of the solicitation via this letter dated June 16th.

So the board will be reviewing the presentations of the last two remaining firms in contention to be awarded this huge contract in a series of day-long workshops to be held on August 8-9 2017.

Now that we are down to two firms, the board's options are being narrowed significantly.

These two presentations will be important....

What Do You Do When You Are Trapped Under Ice?


Imagine being trapped under ice?  No, I'm not talking about the Punk-Rock band or the Metallica song--but actually being personally trapped under the ice in a flowing river?  First thing you would have to be is smart or you would be dead.

You would have to be focused on getting downriver to where you could see an opening.  If you could hold your breath long enough to get there, you could come up for air, pull yourself out of the river, and potentially survive.

But what if you were indecisive, upset about being trapped under ice and wanting to swim backwards, against the current, to get out where you fell in?  Would that be smart?  I don't think so.  Once you are trapped under ice, you would have to think quickly and act quickly to make the smartest possible decisions or death would be inevitable.  There would be no time for idle thoughts, abulia, or inaction, such as stopping your swim to contemplate how you found yourself trapped under ice...

"They told me the ice was thick enough to hold my weight--how could they do that?"

"I should not have fallen through the ice, I do not accept that I did, I refuse to accept this situation"

"I'm going to get that person who told me the ice was thick enough!"

etc. etc.

Here is the thing:  In this scenario, you are where you are, and the only thing you can do is make it to the next opening down river.  You can't go back in time and make the situation not occur.  You are not Stephen Hawking, you do not own a time-machine, you are not Superman (who could fly around the

Going to Jail

Friday Evening I toured Escambia County's Jail with staff

Friday evening I went to Jail.  Others in our community at 5:30PM on a Friday were going to happy hour, heading home to the family for dinner, a movie, or a date with their significant other--and I went to jail.

I went to the jail to tour it with staff that included Tamrya Jarvis, Director of Corrections, Selena Barnes, Jail Commander, Bill Cross, Court Liaison,  and several other staff members.  I appreciated the staff's willingness to take me on a tour of that facility and to highlight some of the issues of overcrowding that the jail faces.

Several of the pods had cells with three inmates, when the cells are designed to accomodate two inmates.  In these cells, the third inmate sleeps on a mattress on the floor.  Many of the inmates were in rooms without bars on bunk-bed style racks.  In one such room, the staff asked before we proceeded in  "Do you want to go in here, the inmates are out and about?"  I initially hesitated, because the shirt I was wearing is embroidered with "Jeff Bergosh, District 1"--and I wondered to myself how many of the inmates in the jail may have been put there by my brother, Judge Gary Bergosh?   Would this be trouble, would they mistake me for him or recognize my name?  "Several of the Judges have toured the facility--Judge Bergosh has taken the tour" said Karin, a counselor on staff

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Verify What I have Said--I welcome this

If you are watching a redwood fall in the woods, yet the emperor says "Watch this tree fall silently-- it shall make no sound"-who will you believe, your ears or the emperor?

This morning on facebook, a person posted this comment under the PNJ editorial calling for an independent investigation of Newpoint.

"Just because Bergosh claims it happened doesn't make it so."   to which I replied:

XXXXXXXX you are correct so that is why I believe the FEDs need to look at it. And also, just because the emperor says the redwood that is falling in front of you in the woods makes no sound does not make his statement true. Do you understand? But I know a little of what it is I am speaking of. I don't wear a tinfoil hat, spend weekends hunting for Bigfoot in the woods and weeknights on my roof looking for UFO's.... Just because I say the district had to repay the FEDs $250,000 in school lunch overages recently doesn't make it so--go check to make sure I am telling the truth. Just because I say the district had to recently repay the FEDs $500,000 for badly and embarrassingly mishandling student loans and grants, doesn't make it true, I encourage you to go look and find out for yourself. I'm telling you this happened, these things happened but by all means just because I say it doesn't mean it happened, right? Just because I say the district swept bullying incidents under the rug and did not comply with the Jeffrey Johnston stand up for all Children Act, doesn't make it so--but I would encourage you to look into that because it has happened repeatedly and the FEDs might be interested in knowing about this--could this be a civil rights violation? You need to check on this XXXXX. And finally, XXXXXXXXXX--just because I say that in the office of the School Board's Attorney two-plus years ago just as this Newpoint story broke, the attorney and I both were told by a high ranking administrator, and I quote "Yes we were told not to tell the Board about the problems at Newpoint---I won't have to testify to that will I?" to which the attorney responded, "Yes, you may have to." Yes, by all means just because I say that happened does not mean it did, why don't you go ask her for yourself? Here is her phone number 850-469-6275. While you are at it, ask her for the redacted electronic files she has that I gave her because now she is the custodian of those records and because the district is not investigating newpoint any more these are legitimate public records that you should request XXXXXXX. There where other astonishing things happening and nobody was telling the board--by all means I am saying it, but you are right, just because Bergosh claims it happened doesn't mean you will believe it. After all, you are not willing to ask are you, and you believe the crashing smashing sound of the redwood hitting the ground in front of you was not a sound because the emperor told you it wasn't.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Would You Have Done With This Information....?

Ask the school board attorney to give you the redacted public records in this case that I provided to her two years ago--they are readily available-- in order to verify the link in this email is accurate.  Her email address is dwaters@escambia.k12.fl.us  


On March 25th 2015, a week after Governor Rick Scott came to Pensacola and was allowed to present a huge taxpayer funded bonus check to Newpoint Schools for Academic Excellence--I heard from a whistle-blower that had an incredible story to tell of grade falsification, cheating on tests, student safety issues, and other various financial problems at Newpointof which I was unaware.  Shockingly--these issues had been going on for more than a year.  More shocking--an inside employee of Newpoint had tried in vain for a year or more to get somebody, anybody, in the school district to step in and investigate these issues!  The Escambia County School Board had specific rights, responsibilities, and obligations under the contract with Newpoint--yet because we as a board were purposely kept in the dark--the board's rights were foreclosed upon by proxy; we could not exercise these provisions because we were not made aware of the problems.  This led to more than a year of issues languishing at this school with no formal investigation by the school district's investigator--and during that time student safety was jeopardized and cheating on tests and grade falsification was occurring.

I was a school board member that had heard nothing but great things for a full year prior to this regarding Newpoint during the board's quarterly charter school workshops.  Typically if a charter had issues-board members were told immediately and such schools, if they were struggling, were quickly brought before the board (Ruby J. Gainer School,  Life Skills Center, A.A. Dixon Charter School of Excellence) and the whole story would typically be worked out immediately and very publicly.  Charter schools in this district are held on an extremely short leash.  This was different, though.

The allegations I received in a text message back and forth with this whistle-blower early on blew me away.  So to anybody who would ask "Why go to the state attorney?"  I would say this--if you got a text message download--------- like the one I got here   ---------  What would you have done with this information?

**** I encourage anyone and everyone that is skeptical about this file I've linked here to verify the truth of this document.  This can be done by calling the School Board attorney's office 850-469-6362 or 850-469-6275 and asking for my redacted records regarding Newpoint schools. Because I am no longer a school board member, because I am no longer affiliated in any way with the Escambia County School District--the District is now the custodian of my records from my time there....  The records are readily available--and the board's attorney should immediately turn all of these over to you or anyone who askes because this investigation is not being conducted by them (school district) and the voluminous documents, emails, photographs, etc. I gave them are a public record.  Request the documents electronically because they are in a .pdf file that can easily be sent via electronic mail. There should not be a charge for this.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Newpoint-Day of Reckoning

"how long would Newpoint have been allowed to keep this charade going on--allegedly jeopardizing student safety, cheating on grades, cheating to earn bonus money from taxpayers, stealing money from students---if not for the whistle-blower coming forward?" 


Everyone is gleeful over the announcement yesterday that owner of Newpoint Partners Marcus May will face criminal charges.  He allegedly misused public funds for a variety of reasons and there has been a thorough investigation into this which has led to these charges.  I'm thankful he will face justice.

But as a former school board member who was intimately involved in the matter as it unfolded--I am disappointed over this case for two big reasons:

1.  This misuse of funds was known for more than a year before the Escambia County School Board was ever told.  The whistle-blower who gave me the documentation and the phone records in late March of 2015 was exasperated over the district's inaction in the wake of all the problems at Newpoint.  The whistle-blower herself had told the superintendent and members of his staff about the grade-fixing, state standardized test cheating,  and student safety issues at Newpoint a full year before she contacted me.  Students had contacted the district office about money being stolen.  Parents had lodged complaints.  But the board was not told any of this.  The whistle-blower was an insider-an employee of Newpoint--, she knew there was wrongdoing but nothing was being done, and nobody was listening to her.  She begged the superintendent's office to do something about Newpoint with multiple calls to that office in 2014.  Nothing was done, but more importantly--staff deliberately withheld these complaints from the school board. Although we held quarterly charter school reviews at our workshops---NONE of this information was given during these sessions.  Several employees confided in me that they were told NOT to tell the board about the problems at Newpoint.  As a result, Newpoint received state bonus money from Governor Rick Scott at a celebration ceremony in March of 2015.  This was an embarrassment that was the impetus for the insider to contact me.  I'm glad she did.  But this all could have been prevented if the School Board had known about the problems.

2.  When the investigation was finally launched- and I went with the school board attorney and the whistle-blower and testified under oath about what I was told and what staff had told me---apparently these important items were never investigated.  This continues to leave me very suspicious about how this investigation was conducted.  The school district's investigator (a former employee of the state attorney's office) --who reports directly to the superintendent of schools -- was allowed wide berth to participate in this investigation with the state attorney's office.  In fact, I'm told he conducted several of the interviews in this investigation and participated in many for the State Attorney's office.  Why was this allowed to happen?  Was this not a blatant conflict of interest?  This, in my opinion, is the fox being allowed to watch the henhouse.  One particularly high-placed employee of the school

Monday, June 19, 2017

On WCOA This Morning



The subjects are ECAT, The ECAT/ATU Lawsuit against the commissioners, Achieve Escambia, OLF8/OLFX Land Swap, The jail, and other relevant topics.

I always enjoy being invited to join Don and Jim on Good Morning Pensacola.

Part 1 can be heard here.

Part II can be heard here

Friday, June 16, 2017

Achieve Escambia Visits the BCC


Achieve Escambia is a local group working for positive changes in our community to foster greater achievement from “Cradle to Career” for Escambia County youth.  I listened with great interest as Jennifer McFerrin gave the BCC a presentation/update about this group at this past Thursday’s Committee of the whole.  When it was appropriate, I asked questions and chimed in with my view as a 10-year member of the local school board.  

I was cut-off at one point by my colleague Grover Robinson, and another counterpart disagreed with much of what I said.  But the fact of the matter is that much of what we are doing is not working and I strongly believe that we need to take a different approach. Once again we are loaded down with 5 “F” Elementary schools and a raft of “D” schools throughout our local public school district.  The point I desperately tried to make was that we must stop dumping money into the same programs over and over that do not work.  

We must stop demoralizing and beating up the teachers that are working themselves into early graves giving all they have in order to help students that have abysmal home-lives.  We must, in my opinion, take a different approach.  

Focus on Families.  Remove discipline nightmare students.  Apply for a school of hope grant for a public charter boarding school to help the students in our community that live in extreme social dysfunction. Eliminate social promotion. Focus on rigorous academic programs for reading in grades 1-3.  These are the priorities.  Because if we can get to the students who want to learn—we can make a difference.  But first we must have some difficult conversations…..

Social Dysfunction and Poor Choices Destroy Communities and Socially–Dysfunctional Communities Create Low-Performing Public School Districts

Whether we’re talking about facilitating neighborhood trash clean-ups, enabling neighborhood property improvements via low cost loans and grants, setting up summer work programs for community youth, building sidewalks and parks, or giving all students county library cards--a local government can do things to help make communities better.  Our County spends millions of dollars every year providing services that enhance our community.  But this, in and of itself, does not make a great community.

Our local public school district provides all students access to educational 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Governor Scott Signs HB 7069 Into Law Today!

Governor Rick Scott Signs HB 7069 Into Law.  June 15, 2017. (Photo from Shawn R. Frost)

This afternoon Governor Rick Scott Signed HB 7069 into law.

This historic bill puts students and parents first and is set to shatter the status quo in education around the state.  The special interests, unions, Superintendents, The Florida School Boards Association, the PTA and other groups strongly opposed HB 7069.  These and other groups had put on a full court press lately to urge Governor Scott to veto this bill.

As a proponent of Education Reform and a staunch School Choice supporter---I strongly supported this bill and I am glad it will now be the law of the land.  The conservative Florida Coalition of School Board Members, a group I co-founded and served as President of in Florida in 2014, strongly supported this bill this session and worked tirelessly to make this bill a law.  My hat's off to them and the Florida House and Senate for all of their hard work on this.

Here are some of the great things this Law will do for Florida students, families, and teachers, principals, and communities:

--Continues Best and Brightest Teacher Bonuses

--Implements Best and Brightest Bonuses for Some Principals (Title 1 schools)

--Requires Elementary Schools to Provide Recess for 20 minutes daily

--Allows a pencil and paper test alternative for standardized test administration grades 3-6

--Eliminates Algebra 2 EOC Exam

--Additional $30 Million in special needs student scholarships (Gardner Scholarships)

--Expands access to Virtual Schools for all Florida students and families.

--Provides support and intervention strategies for early readers identified as having a substantial reading deficiency.

--Forces Districts to limit standardized testing to only the last 4 weeks of the school year--allowing more school days and class time to be open for instruction

--Compels Districts to share capital millage funds with public charter schools

--Allows high-performing charter schools to compete against chronically failing traditional schools with $140 Million allocated for Charter Schools of Hope initiative.

Read more about this bill at the FCSBM website, here.

The bill does all of this and much more.  Of course the special interests hated it, of course they wanted it vetoed.  It challenges the status quo and forces accountability and competition in public education---two things that are needed desperately.

The status quo in education, the special interests, the unions, and the grifters got stuffed today.  Parents and Students First!


I think what we will witness next, I'm sorry to say, is a deliberate effort to stymie the implementation of this law.  I hate to say that, but sadly I believe that is what we will witness next.  I certainly hope this is not the case....

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Getting ECAT on Track Part II: This is What Might Prevent The County from Taking ECAT in-House.....

The transit union and Escambia County are now playing a high-stakes game of Chicken.  If nobody blinks then ECAT riders lose....

So with all the recent drama surrounding ECAT ---and the future of mass transit in Escambia County seemingly on the brink—I was hopeful after our last meeting on the subject that the Board could look seriously at bargaining with the drivers in an attempt to get a realistic work agreement with them which could lead  us, possibly, to bringing them back in-house.  

After all, the agreement we have with First Transit is ridiculous…..They get their payment and overhead and fees, they are “made whole” –then THEY get to go and bargain with the union (and the County has no say in these negotiations, thank you very much)—and then the County foots the bill for whatever gets negotiated.  We pick up the tab, the union and drivers win, First Transit wins, and the taxpayers who expect fiscal responsibility lose...  

Ridiculous, right?  

That’s what I said at the meeting and right here on this blog.  There would have to be lots of concessions from the drivers on overtime, holiday pay, the pay scale and how quickly new hires reach the top of it, health insurance subsidies, etc. etc.  There would have to be some significant changes before this Commissioner, Jeff Bergosh, would ever vote to bring these drivers in house.  But after the last meeting, and after discussions about getting a better collective bargaining agreement were had—I felt somewhat confident that we could at least start the process.

But then came this letter from the Union’s Lawyer.  No dice.  Union protections will remain no matter what, end of discussion.

Along with the letter came a lot of history that explains the strange nature of this evolved agreement that all but assures that the county MUST have a third party run transit locally.

You can read it all here— and I encourage you to because it is enlightening---but here’s the cliff notes:

Any company that wins the bid to run our transit system (we only had one respond in the last RFP we put out)—or even the County if we chose to bring the operation in house—is required to honor this 30-year old agreement which has tremendously onerous provisions that are much too favorable to union members (my opinion).  That’s right—no employee of the transit system “shall suffer any worsening of his

OLFX/OLF8 Special Meeting Monday


A special meeting has been scheduled for Monday, June 19th at 3:30 PM in the Board's Chambers.  The subject of the meeting is the continuing quest to bring our OLF8/OLFX land-swap with the Navy in for a landing.

The project has been in the works for decades, was the #1 Ranked Economic Development project from the Restore Act Committee, and has the potential to create as many as 4000 good paying jobs for Escambia County.

The deal almost died, however, because of cost escalations that continued to pile up for a variety of reasons.  Last month Congressman Matt Gaetz intervened to bring the parties back together with the goal of having the Navy give some concessions on the requirements to  lower costs.  That effort was successful and this meeting Monday will be a follow-on to see what else can be done to keep this effort moving forward and reduce costs further.

The public is invited and encouraged to attend this meeting.

For additional information on the overall project, check out this post and this one.

Town Hall Meeting 6-13-2017

District 1 Town Hall was held on June 13th 2017 at Jim Bailey Middle School 


Our latest District 1 town hall was held on Tuesday, June 13th at Jim Bailey Middle School.

We had a modest group of about a dozen on hand to hear about the latest issues coming before the County and District 1.  Before I took questions from the group, I gave updates on the OLFX/OLF8 land swap, the Jail Issues, Economic Development, ECAT, and the Bay Center.

Once I began taking questions, many of the folks in the audience were concerned with public transportation --ECAT--so quite a bit of the discussion centered on that.  We also discussed the local roadways with several in attendance wanting to see Sorrento Road go to a 4-lane road-particularly because a brand new elementary school is being planned for Sorrento Road which will exacerbate existing traffic.

Staff was present, and they weighed in on issues of jail capacity, road projects, nuisance pest removal, and a new smartphone APP (AskMyEscambia) that the county is bringing online next month that will help citizens report issues to the County and track these issues in real time.

I also fielded questions about the Bay Center, and I reiterated my position that we need to keep it until the replacement Bay Center is built and opened up--so that we do not lose the current community benefit and entertainment venue the Bay Center provides.  Asked point blank what I thought about "tearing down the Bay Center"--I responded by saying this action without a replacement built and ready to go is/was IDIOTIC.

Our CMR staff was present and the meeting was taped.  As soon as it goes live I will link it to this post.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

America's Distrust of the Media, Part I

In the original version of this cartoon, our President was portrayed as a rat demanding loyalty.  a more apropos rendition is the rat being the biased, partisan media trusted less and less by the American people


Trust in the American mainstream media is the lowest it has been since Gallup began tracking this metric in 1972.  Today, only about 1/3 of Americans trust the mainstream media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.”  This number continues to fall with good reason.  America is polarized and everyone is a partisan, and the media is now taking sides and by a massive proportion the 4th Estate aligns with the left.  

The evidence of this is on display with nightly attacks on the President of the United States by the media who are bent on his destruction.  The media is so focused on a non-story that they have worked themselves into a rabid feeding frenzy—desperately searching for the monster under the bed that is not there.  With reckless abandon, they keep reporting half-truths and innuendos that are flat out false, and “straight news” reporters are now editorializing during evening broadcasts.  Russia, Trump, Russia, Trump, Collusion, Russia, Trump, Russia, Trump, meddling, meddling, Russia.  It is mind-numbing and more importantly—it is undermining our country.  

Democrats are so furious over their loss in the Presidential election that they are working hand in glove with their ally the mainstream media in an open attempt to destroy a man’s reputation and take him out of office utilizing the power of their collective bully pulpit to pull this off.  It is a slow rolling coup d’├ętat that is taking

Friday, June 9, 2017

Getting ECAT on Track Part I



At the BCC Meeting last night, the most discussed topic occurred at the end of the meeting.  ECAT and in particular the ECCT portion (para-transit).  Last week, we voted to direct staff to send a letter to Tallahassee giving the state 30-day notice of our intention to give this function back to the state to manage.  Fast forward a week and a half, and suddenly we are told the savings we would realize by sending this back to the state add up to less than $40K yearly--we're still on the hook for much of the service responsibility.  So at the meeting the important decision was made to rescind our letter from last Tuesday's special meeting.  Of critical importance to our ability to do this was the assurance from the on-site representative from First Transit who explicitly stated her company would extend service through 30 September and under the terms of the existing agreement, for the para-transit service in Escambia County.

Where things stand now...

So now we have First Transit as our Fixed-Route and Para-Transit provider through the end of September, just a hair over 3 1/2 months.  The Board's direction was to re-solicit the para-transit portion of the contract, while simultaneously beginning the process of bargaining with the ECAT union to see if a workable Collective Bargaining Agreement could be forged in order to bring ECAT drivers in-house.  I suggested that very soon the Board and staff hold an executive/shade meeting for the purposes of bargaining--this way we all are on record with what sort of language a new CBA

Used Car versus New Car

This post is not about the AMC Pacer, the Pontiac Aztek, or any car for that matter.....

Imagine if you had an older model used car that you liked to drive from time to time.   And, from time to time having this car has really helped you enjoy a better quality of life.  Sometimes, you have really relied on this old car….

But because the car is older—it has some issues. People make fun of it because it is older and looks kind of funny.... It doesn’t get the same gas mileage it used to; maintenance is becoming more costly because things are starting to break down.  The paint is fading and the headliner is starting to droop inside the cab-tires and struts need to be replaced and it needs transmission service and a brake job.  But the engine is solid, and the old car still runs “real good” and gets you where you are going when you need to get somewhere!
This post is not about the AMC Pacer, the Pontiac Aztek, or the Chrysler PT Cruiser...


But you really want to get a new car, so you don’t have to worry about the pesky problems of maintenance.  Hey—who doesn’t like a shiny, brand new car complete with that new car smell!??

So you tried selling your old car—but buyers simply were not interested.   And then there is the irritating fact that you still owe a little bit of money on the old car, a few more payments worth…

But you still really want a new car!!

What should you do?

Here’s the thing:  What you can’t do, what defies logic and common sense, is to scrap this car until you have a plan for a new one to replace it with no gap in car ownership.  As much as you would like to wring your hands of this old, ugly car—the fact of the matter is that you still owe money on it, from time to time you really need it, and to not have any car would be devastating to your quality of life.

So the idea of running the old car off the cliff to get rid of it sounds good, it almost sounds cathartic.  But what would that leave you with?  Answer:  nothing.  No car and still a few more payments to make.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Marlette Manipulation Part II: Human Tool Repurposing



A while back I repurposed an Andy Marlette cartoon to make it even funnier than he intended.  At that time it was about the Governor's race between Rick Scott and Alex Sink.  Yesterday's cartoon provides another opportunity to repurpose a Marlette cartoon to actually make it funny.  I call this first one in a series I am planning  "Human Tool Repurposing"  Voila!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

These HS Students Care About Infrastructure




The most boring subject imaginable for a High School student to discuss has to be something like infrastructure, right?  So it comes as a pleasant surprise to receive four well-written letters from four different District 1 High School students, the subject of which is—Infrastructure!

(I’m not going to publish the letters or the name of the students because they are all minors.  I’ll use their first names only as I describe the letters.  Additionally, I am unable to respond to these students individually because the return address they've all used is the school’s address—and it is summer. But rest assured, the issues they have raised with me, I will discuss with staff  J )

Aaron is very concerned about the area around Chemstrand Road.  From Aaron’s letter “sidewalks should be built through this area, on both sides of the road.  I have a friend, named XXXXXXXXX who was struck by a vehicle earlier this year while walking to his bus stop.  He was thrown almost 30 feet, breaking both legs and suffering internal damage to his kidneys, liver, spleen, and pancreas”

Lindsey worries about a road near her home in Beulah. “I’m sure you are well aware, but there is a speeding problem on that part of [Beulah] Road.  Cars speed down that

Monday, June 5, 2017

Angry ECAT Drivers say "FDU!"

ECAT bus operators began circulating flyers to the transit passengers on their buses today.

The message is pretty straightforward:    FDU!

But what does FDU mean?  According to the flyer, below, this means "Fight Doug Underhill!"

 

The drivers are more than likely reacting to a very long and protracted discussion last Tuesday evening where the BCC discussed the ECAT contract renewal. 

The discussion was focused and all of the commissioners expressed significant concern with the inefficiency and excessive costs of this transit operation.  We voted to send the ECCT service back to the state, and we kicked the can on taking any official action on the First Transit contract for the fixed route service.

Commissioner Underhill did mention some specific issues with ECAT that troubled him greatly----but so did the rest of us.  I know I was pointed in my criticism of the structure of the ECAT system- at the meeting and on this blog. Commissioner Barry expressed frustration about the contract with First Transit as well.

So this new development and this distribution of flyers  has led to many persons contacting our office today...According to my aide Debbie Kenney, we have received at least 22 messages as of 4:00PM --- all of them expressing support for ECAT.

We had at least one message on the voicemail box that was polite yet extremely pointed.

But why use the acronym FDU in this flyer?  I'm concerned that this acronym might be altered to
mean something else that is much less polite toward the BCC in general and towards Commissioner Underhill in particular.  If an acronym against one particular commissioner absolutely must be used--a tactic which I absolutely do not support, by the way--Then the union should use one that is less likely to be misinterpreted--otherwise--just imagine what might come next......

 S-T-F-U?   Start-To-Fight-Underhill?



Friday, June 2, 2017

On WCOA twice this Week



On Tuesday right before our special meeting on Beach Traffic, the Beach Open Container Ordinance, and the ECAT contract--I was the guest on Rick Outzen's Pensacola Speaks.  We discussed the positive developments surrounding the OLF 8 project, ECAT, the jail as well as other county issues.  You can hear the interview here

And then on Friday Morning, I was called to fill in for District 4 Commissioner Grover Robinson who did not make it to the studio to do his morning interview.  I was happy to fill in and we discussed the emergent issue with the Walton County Sheriff terminating our inmate housing agreement, as well as the ECAT debacle from Tuesday night.  You can hear this interview here 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What is the Future of Mass Transit in Escambia County?



Mass transit in Escambia County is about to run into a roadblock.  Maybe it will only be a detour.  Could it become an Autobahn though?

One thing is for sure, the current system is untenable and there will be changes coming.

WHERE THINGS STAND NOW

At Tuesday’s special meeting of the BCC, the issue of transportation employees merging into the county to become county employees was discussed at length. 

The goal for the union and the drivers was to bring Escambia County Community Transportation (ECCT) and ECAT under the umbrella of the county.  This, had it been done, would have allowed for enhanced pay and benefits for the ECCT drivers who currently do not enjoy high salaries, paid sick days, or benefits that are affordable given their low pay.  ECCT drivers provide transportation for disabled and elderly citizens that have no other workable transportation options. 

ECAT employees, by contrast, enjoy good salaries, excellent benefits, and these employees work subject to a collective bargaining agreement that is extremely worker friendly.  Both classes of employees currently operate under management contracts Escambia County has in place with First Transit of Ohio.  ECCT’s contract runs out at the end of June, ECAT’s contract runs through September 30th.

So at last Tuesday’s meeting, the BCC decided to return the functions of ECCT back to the state via this notification of termination of services letter.  This course of action was approved by a 4-1 vote.  I had hoped we could work out a 1-year bridge contract with First Transit to do a less hurried hand-off of this important service back to Tallahassee, however only two of us on the Dais supported that.  Therefore, beginning July 1st, the Community Transportation function will revert back to the state of Florida to manage.  (Note, this is and has historically been a state-run service that Escambia County had recently taken on—however with costs approaching $2.8Million for this service alone-