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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

On WCOA this Morning...

I will appear on the radio this morning on WCOA to discuss issues dealing with the County to include our budget, Jack Brown's contract, Wedgewood, and my impending chairmanship of the Escambia BCC.

I always appreciate the opportunity to come on the radio.

Listen to the show here (part 1) and here (Part 2)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Blue Penny Plan

I've put together a plan, just a discussion starter, for potentially addressing our current Budget issue with the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Tomorrow morning I will present this plan to my peers on the board and to staff and the public.

The plan will require cooperation, coordination, and a will to move forward together.

The plan will require a lift from our legislative delegation, which will require the BCC and the ECSO to cooperate toward making this happen.

I look forward to discussing this--but I'm not married to the language, I don't have a pride of authorship mentality about it, and there are and will be ample opportunities to adjust percentages and dollar amounts in this plan based upon discussions between staff, the BCC and the ECSO going forward.

------But if we work together we can put together a pay scale augmentation fund for ECSO--over and above a stabilized base budget with yearly adjustments,  of up to $7 Million over 5 years, $10 Million over 7 years.

Here's the thing:

I'd much rather work together with ECSO rather  than maintaining an adversarial relationship with them, so I offer this as a start to a better working relationship, an olive branch.

See the PowerPoint presentation I will bring to tomorrow morning's meeting  here

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

AG Bondi to Sheriff Morgan: LET funds CAN be used to Fund School Resource Officers

Rushing to proclaim victory prematurely can be precarious....and embarrassing 

In what I can only describe as a strong and unambiguous validation for a steadfast  position I have taken regarding allowable uses for Law Enforcement Trust Funds--Attorney General Pam Bondi has now communicated to the Sheriff, via an advisory opinion, that LET funds CAN be used to fund School Resource Officers.

I'm somewhat perplexed as to why the ECSO Facebook page is proclaiming this Florida AGO ruling
a victory for their previously held (and flawed) understanding of allowable uses of  these funds.....  This AG opinion rebukes their position.  This ruling is devastating to their flawed assertions that SRO's salaries and benefits "cannot" be funded via the LETF.

So why does this matter?

This is important because the costs for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office portion of the total Escambia County School Board SRO program (School District pays the other half) run about $630,000.00 yearly.  This entire amount, the sheriff's half, has been funded from his general fund personnel budget historically.  What I know as a former 10 year school board member is the Escambia County School District's portion has historically been funded by a Safe Schools allocation from the State that totals about $1.2 Million yearly.  The School district uses roughly $630,000 of that state allocation yearly to fund its half of the  ECSO SRO program, and about $225,000 to fund the Pensacola Police Department (PPD) SRO program. The balance of roughly $300,000 yearly is used in other ways by the school district.   I do not believe any portion of the school district's safe schools allocation is used or has ever been used to fund the ECSO's $630,000 portion. 

So today's revelation about what the statute allows, and what Attorney General Bondi has now put in writing, is that LET funds can be utilized to fund  SROs for those portions of the year (roughly 9 months out of 12 or 75% of the year) when these officers are in the schools working.

A quick review of the previous years' contracts with the school board illustrates that 75% (9 of 12 months worth of this SRO funding) or as much as $470,000.00 yearly could have been funded by the Law Enforcement Trust (forfeiture) fund for the Sheriff's half of this program--even as the program recurs yearly--without violating Florida Law.

So looking once more at where/how the LET funds were actually spent (below) over the last ten years...... could easily ask this question:  How much general fund money could the Escambia County Sheriff's Office have saved if LET funds had been used to fund allowable, legal pro-rated SRO costs over the last 10 years instead of billboards, TV commercials, radio ads, and other such spending?  How much general fund money would that have freed-up for more pressing ECSO budgetary needs (pay-scale augmentation, retention bonuses, sign-on bonuses, etc. etc.) over the last ten years?  This is the question that needs to be asked and answered before people start spiking the football as if they have actually "won."

It makes me think of  the infamous story about how the press and others rushed to proclaim victory, prematurely, when in fact they were wrong.  Meanwhile Harry Truman used their own paper against them for one of the most iconic moments in American Political History. Dewey Defeats Truman...

Going Back to Tally Part III: Important Initiatives Move Forward!

I was in Tallahassee for political purposes in 1985 (Left picture) in 2007 (center-with Sen. Gaetz and Gov. Crist for the Merit Pay Bill signing ceremony) and yesterday to push for appointed superintendents of school statewide.  I've been going to to Tallahassee for Decades...

I took a day off of work yesterday in order to do something important:  I went to Tallahassee to testify about some important statewide issues that are going through the process to be placed on the ballot in 2018 as Constitutional Amendments.  Listen to the interview I gave to AM1620 on this topic here.

As I discussed here and here--going to Tallahassee is something I have done frequently over the years--beginning way, way back in 1985 when I was still in High School!  And because important proposals were to be voted on yesterday in the Education Sub-Committee of the CRC---- yes, I wanted to be there to speak.

Four main issues were discussed:  Class Size, Appointed vs Elected Superintendents, School Board Term Limits, and ending School Board Salaries.

I hold strong opinions on all of these issues.

---I support easing the class size mandate (or doing away with it altogether if feasible) to the extent we are able to do so because I have been unable to see data that points to any measurable increase in student achievement due exclusively to smaller class sizes.  Meanwhile, having this cap exacerbates our teacher shortage, limits our ability to increase teacher pay, and creates a situation where funding required to meet the law is not fully provided (unfunded mandate)--incentivizing some large districts to intentionally violate the cap with no significant penalties assessed (which has happened).  In the words of one panelist at yesterday's meeting "I would rather have a large class size with one amazingly talented teacher than a small class size with a marginal teacher"  I agree.

--I do not support eliminating school board salaries--I lived that job and those positions should be paid in my opinion.  (this measure did not pass out of committee)

-- I strongly support the amendment proposal to make all superintendents of schools, statewide, appointed rather than elected.  This arcane, anachronistic throwback model of school district governance and operation  is well past due for a change.  Of the nation's 15,500 or so public school districts------99.4% have figured this out and have moved to the correct structure:  Elect members of the board of education, and allow the board to hire the most qualified, highly-skilled and educated superintendent they can get from a nationwide pool.  (note:  this proposal passed favorably out of the meeting by a 6-2 vote, with Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart voting in support of this amendment proposal.)  We also learned yesterday that the bottom 10 districts if Florida, in terms of performance, have elected rather than appointed superintendents of schools.  Time for a change, time for us to enter the 21st century on this issue.  As Bruce Buffer would scream----It's time.

--I support term limits for elected school board members--did not speak to the proposal but waived in support. (this proposal passed unanimously)

Watch the videos of the entire proceeding  on the Florida Channel here and here.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Going Back to Tally Part II: Encouraging the Commission to End the Election of School Superintendents

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has finalized the list of 103 items for consideration, for addition to the 2018 ballot.  All of these items will not make the ballot.  Several are similar.  Any that make it to the ballot require 60% voter approval for successful passage and subsequent addition to the Florida constitution.

#33 on the list is proposed amendment to make school superintendents appointed, rather than elected.

Currently, 99.4% of the 15,500 or so public school districts in the United States have moved to this model--with very good reason.

I've documented my tremendous support for appointed superintendents based upon many logical reasons--many of which I have delineated here on this blog.   To summarize the most important reason is simple.  The position of Superintendent -when elected-- undermines the elected board's ability to properly govern, allows for any 18 year old resident of a county to run for and win such a position, and injects too much politics into the job.  This is why the vast majority of the rest of the world has moved away from electing the school superintendent, and this is why Florida must do the same!

As a ten year school board member in a district that elects its chief operating officer for schools and its board of directors--I saw first hand how dysfunctional and dangerous this arrangement can be.

In my experience:

--legitimate information that I had a right to see and requested was kept from me and withheld from my view and analysis by a deliberate act of the elected superintendent of schools that I worked with--he did not want me to know how badly the weak teacher evaluation tool was pencil whipped by several schools and school principals--he didn't want a headline!

--Important information that was known to the elected superintendent and his senior staff about some nefarious conduct occurring at a district charter school (including cheating on standardized tests and grade inflation to fraudulently earn a  higher school grade and state bonus money) was deliberately withheld from the board for over a year according to senior staff that reported this to me subsequent to a whistle-blower revelation. (superintendent did not want a messy headline in the lead up to his re-election announcement)

--All 5 board members disagreed, unanimously, with the initiative to convert School Deans to 2nd Asst. Principals (to handle paperwork instead of discipline) at our two largest Middle Schools.  Superintendent did this conversion anyway---over our objections.  He said we didn't understand why this was necessary and had to happen

--On multiple occasions, I submitted items to be added to a school board agenda--and the superintendent deliberately did not add these items to the agenda for discussion/consideration by the board.  Often, he did not want a headline or the board to discuss something for which he already had a firm position.

There are many other--too numerous to list--reasons why the elected school superintendent model is a relic of the past that must be changed.  I will testify about this on Monday;  I'll testify about why I feel it is essential that this item be one that is put on the ballot for statewide consideration so that Florida can move its public education system 100% into the 21st century, along with the rest of the nation.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Going Back to Tally....Part I: Testifying

The Florida Capitol Building, Tallahassee Florida

The other day I was listening to talk radio and the intro to the 1987 LL Cool J rap song "Going back to Cali" was playing.  I remembered that song from a very good yet extremely depressing movie of that year, Less than Zero.

And then I thought about an upcoming trip I'm taking to Tallahassee---I'm not going back to Cali--I'm going back to Tally!  But I'm going to Tallahassee for a very important reason.

I've been there many times, the first time of significance was when I attended Florida Boy's State in 1985 and met then Governor Bob Graham and learned a lot about civics, politics, and elections.  That was a great experience.
I had the honor and privilege of attending Florida Boy's
State in the Summer of 1985

My next big trip to Tallahassee was not until 22 years later, in 2007, when as an elected school board member I was strongly supporting teacher Merit Pay and was present with Governor Charlie Crist and Senator Don Gaetz for the signing ceremony upon the passage of that legislation.

Merit Award Plan signing ceremony in 
Tallahassee, Florida
March, 2007.  Sen Gaetz, Gov. Crist, 

and Escambia School Board
Member Jeff Bergosh (background)
(footnote--only 9 of  67 counties [Escambia was one of the 9] ever successfully implemented that plan, the MAP, in year one.  by year 2, the unions killed it and statewide merit pay for teachers essentially ended in Florida until 2015 and the Best and Brightest Teacher Bonuses came to the forefront.  Don't worry though--Unions and status quo defenders are working in the courts to kill this now,  too.....)

While a school board member, I attended many meetings and lobbying sessions in Tallahassee, several of which were productive, many of which were not.  But along the way I met legislators and made connections.

In 2014 and 2015--when school choice was under fierce attack by liberals, Democrats, and status quo educrats--I made many trips to Tallahassee  (and other parts of the state as well).  Luckily for all the kids stuck in failing school attendance zones throughout the state--the suits seeking to end tax credit scholarships at that time were all eventually defeated.

But an important by-product of that attack on choice was the formation of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members and the passage of HB 7029 in 2016--which included language that I helped craft ending the monopoly on school board advocacy associations enjoyed comfortably for many years by the Florida School Boards Association.  I'm very proud of what we accomplished in Tallahassee, me and school board members and legislators from around the state working together to dismantle an unfair monopoly by allowing school board members choice in advocacy (or the ability not to fund their portion of "yearly dues" to an organization that ideologically was/is not supported by such individual school board members).  2015 was huge.

Fast Forward to the end of 2017 and I once again find myself going back to Tally.  This time, I am no longer a school board member but now a County Commissioner.

This time, the reason I'm going back to Tally is to advocate for some specific constitutional amendment proposals.

The constitution revision commission (a group assembled and convened only once every several decades in Florida) has finalized a list of 103 potential constitutional amendments for addition to the 2018 Ballot.  (A very brief yet very informative guide to the CRC is here.)  Several of these potential amendments  have my particular interest due to both my current job and to my past experience as an elected school board member.

So I'm going back to Tally to give my testimony about the ABSOLUTE NECESSITY that we push forward many of these proposals---in particular the one that will end the arcane, throwback practice of electing superintendents in the state of Florida.  This practice is such an anachronism and it is so damaging that it must end ----and if I can play a small part in pushing  this forward to the voters--- I'm ready willing and able to do so.  And I will.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Public Records Law: It's no Joke--Just ask Martin County.....

There are often huge monetary costs  associated with failure to comply with Florida's Open Record's Law.  Martin County just had to pay $371,800.00 in legal fees to partially settle a violation of the open records law...

People can be flip about requests.  Private citizens, in most instances, don't have to produce documents or anything else upon request by another private citizen unless there is a court order or a subpoena.

But public officials do not have the luxury of saying no.  Furthermore, they do not have the option of specifying arbitrary procedures after a request is made of them.  Heck, my understanding of the Florida public records law leads me to believe that a public official has to respond to a request to produce a document even if the request is made verbally.  If the request is made in writing and is not honored--there will be problems....

If a request is made of a public official and not fulfilled, there are penalties that can be enforced, to include monetary penalties and/or jail in some cases (look at the case of former Escambia County School Board Member Vanette Webb)

So I take any request made of me with deadly seriousness;  as a school board member I had to respond to many, many requests.  I filled them all, each and every one of them, as quickly and as thoroughly as humanly possible.  Thus far as a county commissioner I have responded to three records requests, and I complied quickly and thoroughly to each one.

Others locally are not as forthcoming and actually say no, or try to put conditions on how they will accept and when they will accept requests for information, or from whom they will accept requests...  They do so at their own peril, is all I will say....

Because I understand the law even though some that should, apparently do not understand the law

A Visit to the Pit

A view from the shooting stations at the bottom of the pit off of Longleaf Drive, facing Northwest November 19,2017

After a series of complaints by neighbors regarding bullets being found in and around their property (s)--I wrote a series of blog entries that were picked up and reported on by local media.

Folks were finding bullets and bullet holes in their fences, cars, and in the bottom of their pools.

But where were/are the bullets coming from and who is firing the shots?

This is the million dollar question that has yet to be fully answered.

What we do know is that there is some target shooting happening at the old borrow pit owned by Eager Beaver. Primarily it is the owner of the property, his friends, family, and some members of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

Yesterday afternoon, the owner of the pit, H.C. Jacques, texted me and asked if I wanted to come out to the pit and see the layout and what has been going on.  My answer was yes and so yesterday I made a visit to the pit.

A view to the targets from the 100 yard rifle stations at the pit  November 19, 2017

After opening the gate, driving through, and then re-closing it behind me, I drove down the paved road about a quarter of a mile to a clearing at the bottom of the pit.  A trailer was on my left, a large warehouse type structure was on my right, and several vehicles were parked directly ahead of me.  I pulled over, parked and was greeted in short order by Mr. Jacques, a military veteran, small business owner, and shooting enthusiast.  After we shook hands and said hello, we got down to the matter at hand that concerns both he and I.

"I get it, I know the neighbors are concerned and I get that.  But we are not the source of the bullets that are being found in the neighborhoods up on Wymart" Mr. Jacques stated flatly.  "We are safe down here, we know how to properly handle our weapons and we are focused on safety." he continued. "We are also at least 20 feet down in a pit, below the level of the houses--and we are shooting down on the targets--so how could it be our bullets hitting these structures?" he asked. "I'm told that the bullet hole in the car from the news was from a .45--and nobody down here shoots a .45 except me.  And I also heard that what was found in the pool was shell casings--not bullets--which means someone was firing their guns up there--that is the only way casings would be there" He continued.

As we walked down further into the pit, he showed me where they conduct their target practice.  "There is where we shoot.  that table there is 100 yards (from the target), the one back behind us is 200 yards, and the one back there up on that knoll is 400 yards.  But that is where we are shooting, that direction."

"What is beyond that target area, that berm where you have the targets?"  I asked him.  "11 acres of woods." was Jacques' reply.

Aerial View of the shooting area from Google Earth (targets as depicted larger than actual so they can be seen on map)

On my left was a series of berms, and as we walked over that direction-- I asked if those were ever used for practice.  "Sometimes we set up targets over there, but we haven't lately.  That area is for pistols, 9MM.  But we don't use that area anymore"  he stated.

As we walked back toward the main rifle target berm, he pointed out some spent 9MM casings as well as shotgun shell casings.  "We do some trap-shooting down here as well sometimes, but that type of shot is not going out of our property" He continued.

While I was talking with Mr. Jacques, he received a phone call from a member of the Sheriff's Office Swat Team.  They spoke for a moment and then the call ended.  "They came in 4th place in an

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bullets over Bellview

First and foremost--I have been an NRA supporter for years, I am a conservative, 2nd Amendment supporter.  I also own guns.

Secondly--I strongly support law enforcement, and I always have (despite how some folks lately want to inaccurately portray me.... Just read this editorial I wrote two and a half  years ago and you will see where I stood on law enforcement then and where I still am today)

With this out of the way--my number one concern is safety.  Number one.  That's why I have been trying to find out who has been firing live ammunition in an abandoned borrow pit near Longleaf Drive.

I have had a rash of phone calls from concerned residents in the Bellview area, particularly the residents that live off of Wymart Road, complaining of bullets raining down on their property.

One resident called just yesterday and said last Saturday there was so much firing she called 911 because bullets were whizzing through her trees in her front yard.  "I'm afraid to let my kids out of the house!" she exclaimed.  She says she has called 911 about the problem and nothing is being done.  This past Saturday, she claims the responding officer said "Nothing can be done about this--the swat team is down there practicing"

Another resident has found a bullet hole in his car, another resident had a bullet lodged in the side of his house, and another resident has fished 3 bullets out of his backyard pool.  Channel 3 did a feature story on this yesterday. 

So with the revelation that in addition to airsoft and paintball guns being fired in the pit-- 9MM pistols and AR15s are also being fired down there--I am concerned.  I have also confirmed with the owner of the pit that  he and some Sheriff's Office personnel are using this location for shooting

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On WCOA This Moring

I always appreciate the opportunity to come on the radio to discuss topics of interest with the listeners of AM 1370 WCOA.

Today's topics on "Good Morning Pensacola" included the following:

--Massive traffic gridlock in Beulah during construction on Mobile Highway--what caused it, what can be done to ameliorate this problem

--Weapons being fired near Wymart Road near West Florida High School--with bullets turning up in the bottom of pools, in people's cars, etc.   Who is doing this shooting?

--Our Budget situation, and can/will the Governor force the BCC to raise tax rates to pay Sheriff Morgan's budget demand?

--Our recent sign ordinance discussion, and issues surrounding the degree to which a recent supreme court ruling has limited our ability to regulate signs locally

--Priorities going forward as I assume the chairmanship on November 30th.
                   --efficiency of time in meetings
                   --civility in our process

--The ruling allowing Sean's Outpost to continue to operate in the Satoshi Forest area

hear the entire interview here

I always enjoy being asked to come on the radio, and I appreciate WCOA for having me on the show on a regular basis

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Could it be a Lucky's Market?

Could Pensacola's Ever-man Foods be facing new competition from an established, Organic Foods Grocer setting up shop out in Beulah?

As the community of Beulah in District 1 continues to grow, I have wondered about what chain grocery store is looking to open in Beulah. I know something is coming based upon the information I posted last month.  I've spoken to folks I know that are familiar with Winn Dixie, and so far as I understand it, they are not opening a new store in the Pensacola Area.  With two stores apiece on Nine Mile Road already, it is doubtful that either Publix or WalMart will open a third store on the same road. Everman foods recently expanded their downtown store--I doubt they are considering opening another one.  Barnes has closed down, and Greer's supermarket opened a new location earlier this year down on Bauer Road--not sure if they are looking for another store close to the Alabama border (I guess they could be, but I doubt they would be building a new facility vice leasing an already constructed facility.).

I'm not familiar with any other grocery stores looking to open a new location.

So who is coming out to Beulah?  What Grocery Store?

After I posted that a new grocery store was coming to Beulah, complete with several outparcels that may include additional restaurant options for our community (I live here too!)--this generated much discussion on the Facebook "Beulah Scoop site"  So, I decided to ask some questions of some other folks I know and to look on the internet for additional clues. 

In researching some grocery companies that are currently expanding in Florida, I came across Lucky's  Market.  They are a grocery chain founded by two chef's in Colorado back in 2003.  They have an interesting website that lists a lot about their philosophy and culture.  They are focused on organic foods that are "good."  from their website  " "If you don’t want to eat things like pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones, you shouldn’t have to. Natural and organic food shouldn’t be priced out of your reach"

This company opened a brand new store in Panama City just last month, and a recent Tampa Bay Tribune article indicated Lucky's is looking to open 6 more stores in Florida over the next 18 months--although Pensacola was not listed as one of the locations in this article.  But I also know sometimes locations can be added or deleted as these location decisions are finalized.

Could this company, Lucky's Market,  have an eye on Beulah for their next location?  With Navy

Who is Shooting Live Ammunition at the Pits Near Houses on Wymart Road?

A silver sedan, a Blue Dual-Axle Full-Size Pickup truck, and 3 Sheriff's Office Vehicles were parked in front of the Pit last Monday as residents heard many volleys of loud gunfire from a pit off of Longleaf drive (photo courtesy of  a resident)

At a recent meeting of the Lake Francis Neighborhood Watch I attended--the residents there all wanted one answer from me:  Who is shooting live ammunition so close to neighbors and houses on Wymart Road?

This Silver sedan was parked in front of the pit on Monday, November 6th.  (Photo courtesy of a resident)

I told them I would look into this matter and try to figure it out.  Since that time I have spoken to several residents that have found bullets on their property after hearing shots fired at the pit.  One resident found a bullet in his car, and he turned it over to the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.  Another resident told me he has found multiple bullets in his backyard pool.  "They look like 9 MM and 223 rounds.  I collected them from the bottom of my pool, I called the sheriff's office and I turned them in to a deputy" this resident told me.  "If these bullets are coming down in my pool--what's to say they won't hit me or someone else in the neighborhood?" he questioned as we spoke over the phone.

Another nearby resident I spoke with says he has heard loud shots coming from the pit for a while now.  "One night, I heard what sounded like automatic weapons being fired down there--that or a bump stock on a rifle--but it was rapid fire!"  he continued  "I've heard explosions down there too, really loud ones.  I had a recording of this gunfire on my phone for a while, but I accidentally deleted it recently when I was trying to free up space on my phone."  he told me.

I have followed up with code enforcement staff, and they do not have any information on any permitted shooting ranges in this area.  An internet and Facebook search turned up an organization called "Beaver Bayou Battleground" that runs an air-soft gun game in this location from time to time.  They have some interesting drone footage of the events and the course online.  But residents with which I spoke are convinced what they are hearing is not air-soft or paintball guns.  "Absolutely not a paintball gun--nope those are real guns being fired down there!" said a neighbor I spoke with about this.

I have been contacted by the sheriff's office and I have forwarded them pictures of several vehicles that a resident sent to me from this past week. There was a silver sedan, a Blue Full-Sized Pickup Truck, and three sheriff's office vehicles there.  All of these vehicles were parked at the entrance to the pit just this past Monday--a day where lots of shooting was happening.

Yesterday, I received the following text from a concerned resident  "Sorry to text on Saturday but shooting in the pit continues."

I hope that together we are on the verge of solving the mystery of who is un-safely firing weapons down in this pit--I hope we solve this before an innocent bystander is hit by one of these bullets!  With many residents now expressing concern, with several schools very close to this location, we certainly do not need a tragic, preventable gun accident to injure or kill someone.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

My Thoughts on Assuming the Chairmanship

As I prepare to assume the chairmanship of the Board of County Commissioners, I want to reflect on my thoughts on this transition and the year ahead of us.

This past year has been one of the best years of my life, I love this job, and I remain humbled by your support and confidence.  I will try to do the best I can to earn your continued support-but if you disagree with me on something—call me!  Let’s talk, let’s meet & I’ll listen!

Last year we struggled with many challenges as a community, and we have persevered.  Many of the challenges remain, and there will be many more to come no doubt.  But as a board, I see great potential in our combined ability to lead and solve many of these complex problems going forward. 

The greatest single challenge that lies ahead is our budget.  We’re under severe pressure for a number of reasons, and maintaining fiscally conservative stewardship of your money will be our number one priority.  With an expanded homestead exemption waiting in the wings (which will cost the county roughly $5 Million in lost revenue) we’ll start out with even less recurring revenue.  Because I believe we must live within our means, I won’t support raising the millage rate on Escambia County Property owners—which means we must increase our tax base with intelligent, business-friendly decisions that foster growth.

Another concern is our jail.  We’ve selected a firm, the plans are set, and this facility should be completed within the next 26 Months.  In addition to finishing our new jail, I am laser focused on finding creative ways to safely reduce our costs associated with running this facility.

Economic development is another important topic that is crucial to our area.  As the Pensacola area continues to diversify her employer base, more jobs will become available, and employment outcomes for residents will continue to improve-- but we must continue to strive for jobs diversification in our area.  Manufacturing, high-tech jobs, and continued maintenance and growth of the small business sector are vital.  We will focus on diversification while simultaneously supporting the final stages of acquiring OLF8 in Beulah to further add to our jobs base.  

Finally, I look forward to making the process of government more efficient and civil. 

Every hour we meet, our staff is idle in the chamber, unable to be in the field doing their jobs. Moreover, when we have marathon meetings that last for 5,6, 7 or more hours—we are alienating a segment of the public that wants to participate.  We should be prepared for meetings in advance of the meetings and utilize only the time necessary to conduct our discussions and deliberations--- and not one minute more. 

Whether it’s a budget disagreement or a controversial decision the board must make—we must be civil and refrain from making principled disagreements on policy and finance into a zero-sum game of absolutes devolving into ad hominem personal attacks.  This must end. The motto I’ll strive to emulate as your chairman will be to praise in public, be critical in private, and treat citizens, fellow elected officials, and every employee with respect and dignityjust as we want to be treated.

As I transition into the chairmanship-- I want Escambia County citizens to know two key things:  I thank you for giving me the honor and the privilege of serving you, and I will work as hard as humanly possible to improve our county in my time here.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

On Good Morning Pensacola Today....

I was the featured guest this morning on AM 1370 WCOA, the Pensacola area's #1 ranked and highest rated morning news program.

I appreciated the opportunity to come on the show this morning with Jim Sanborn and Don Parker to discuss multiple areas of continuing concern for the Board of County Commissioners.  Among the topics discussed this morning:

--Upcoming contract renewal talks between the BCC and administrator Jack Brown

--BCC's purchase of the Forest Creek Apartment Complex due to continuing and worsening drainage issues

--Discussions with ECAT on the future of mass transit in Escambia County

--Ongoing budget issues

--New Jail construction

--School Board and County working for more Vocational/Technical training opportunities

--my upcoming transition to become Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners

You can listen to the full interview   here (part 1)  and here  (part 2).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Pay Compression, Part II: A 3-Year Look at ECSO W-2 Data

Total Compensation as reported on W-2 forms for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office for the last 3 tax years--where is the compression?

After reviewing total compensation figures reported on the W-2 forms for ECSO employees for the last three tax years (summarized in the table above), some interesting data emerges.

--As it relates to "pay compression" that has been indicated as a major issue within the ECSO, the spread between the pay bands above appears to indicate a normal distribution (without compression)-- with what looks like personnel that are near the top of the ranges being longer term employees nearing the end of a career, with a large number of personnel at the bottom of the chart either starting out, or working only part of the years in question, and a significant number of personnel in the middle range of pay--as one would expect to see with any large organization. 

--Over the last three tax years, a growing percentage of employees are entering the above $50K total compensation threshold, growing from just 18% of the employees earning more than $50K in 2014, to more than 26% going over that mark in 2016.  (Average Pensacola-area salary for 2016 is $41,388.00 according to

--On the other end of the spectrum, when we exclude employees that earned less than $19K (which includes a large number of new hires that did not stay on for a variety of reasons) We see that the total percentage of employees that earned total compensation of $49K or less has decreased significantly, from  70% of employees in 2014, to 67% of employees in 2015, to just 57% of employees in 2016.

I am told these W-2 figures indicated above include all compensation (assignment pay, shift differentials, police bonuses, educational attainment pay, longevity, overtime, etc.) however, these figures DO NOT include the compensation earned by deputies that work off-duty assignments.  (these officers receive IRS Form 1099's from private entities that hire deputies)  Therefore, in many instances, the pay for individual officers was actually higher than what is indicated in the chart above because the 1099 information is not available to add in to the totals.