I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Say YES to Reduce Politics in Education!

Voters can reduce political influences in our public school system by voting YES on November 6th for Escambia County Schools to move to an appointed superintendent model.  In 1967 this very same question failed county-wide by the margin of ONE (1) vote.  Imagine where we might be 51 years later if that vote had passed?

People are sick and tired of politics.  Every day, in the news, infused in our life…politics.

On TV, online, on the radio—everywhere.  

It’s almost a dirty word because we’re all so sick of it.

Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to take politics out of every aspect of our lives—most people understand this reality.

But “politics” has no place in educating our children!

And there’s ONE thing each of us can do on November 6th to minimize the political nature of our education system locally.

Vote YES for an appointed superintendent at the end of your ballot. 

Vote YES to empower your Elected Board of Education to engage a professional committee to find the very best educational specialist--from a nationwide search--to administer Escambia’s schools.

Vote YES to make our top schools administrator a professional position--NOT a political one!

Because Escambia’s children deserve a professional, non-political administrator focused on student achievement –NOT a politician driven by political pressure, donor whims, fear of negative media, and the ever-present election-cycle calendar.

Say YES to allow your school board to set the performance standards, enforce policy, and supervise the administrator.
Leave the politics to our elected board of education, where it should rest.  Make your voice be heard through their elections.

After all, every two years county voters have a crack at multiple members of the elected board of education.

Under our current, antiquated system,  the elected board and the elected superintendent can shrug their respective shoulders, and play the blame game back and forth ad nauseum… "It’s because of Tallahassee and their lack of funding…” or “We need more [fill in blank] …”

It becomes cyclical Kabuki theater that allows all concerned to avoid responsibility—and a politically
 comfortable status quo is maintained in perpetuity to the detriment of our students while the same politicians are elected over and over and over and nothing changes.

We must do better though--our students' collective futures demand no less!

Under the modern, well-accepted appointed superintendent model--the board can immediately remove the superintendent  if performance targets are not met or if board policy is not dutifully and faithfully more waiting 4 long years until the next election.  No more politics of the election calendar stifling and stymieing decision making.

Skeptics of this change need only ask themselves these simple questions:

If you found yourself in the terribly unfortunate circumstance of being diagnosed with a life-altering medical condition, and you could seek out the best treatment available in the world, would you self-limit your treatment options to only the doctors and only the hospitals located in Escambia County Florida? 

If you were on the board of directors of a large corporation and you needed a new CEO to improve poor performance—or else your company would face insolvency--would you self- limit your CEO search ONLY to current company employees and ONLY in the geographical area in which your company was incorporated?

If you were a trustee of a top Division I College, and a decision was made to hire the best coach for your school's struggling football team from “out of the state”—would you really think that idea was bad?

The answer to each question above is NO—and you know it. 

So, let’s change Escambia’s educational paradigm locally and appoint the BEST professional school administrator like 48 of 50 U.S. states already do in 2018.

Let’s elect solid, passionate school board members and mandate that they hire the BEST administrator to run the schools like more than 99% of our nation’s 15,000 school systems already do in 2018.

Under an appointed model:

-Qualified local applicants for the Superintendent position are allowed and encouraged.

-Voters are given MAXIMUM power over the performance of the system by demanding their school board member(s) perform—otherwise they may be voted-out of office via two-year staggered elections.

-Your voice and your vote are NOT lost—they are intensified and magnified.

On November 6th ---we can improve Escambia’s public-school governance model.

But it depends on you.

Please put students, parents, and teachers ahead of politics.

Please vote YES for Escambia Schools at the end of your ballot on November 6th.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Project Titan: Moving Forward to the Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding

I was honored to speak at the ST Engineering Aerospace MRO facility grand opening in June.  We will soon be building three additional hangars at the airport and adding another 1,325 good paying jobs for Escambia County!

Project Titan, the effort to massively expand the ST Engineering Aerospace Maintenance, Renovation, and Overhaul (MRO) facility in Pensacola, is moving forward.

A ceremonial signing event will occur on Saturday, October 27th, in Singapore, memorializing this transformational project.

Escambia County has committed $10 Million to this effort ($18 Million total if the county's previous investment in ST Engineering's first facility is added).  Once completed, this project will massively, positively impact our county in many ways.  This power point document gives a great breakdown of the project and the benefits it will bring to our community.

I have been asked to provide a comment on this project, on the occasion of the signing of this historic agreement.  My statement is below:

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Electing vs. Appointing our Superintendent of Schools Part I

"We don't need to hire no administrator or no professional staff round here--you only need to vote for me --I'm qualified--I got this--trust me!"  Boss Hogg, Sole Commissioner, Hazzard County Georgia

Should citizens elect, or should the school board appoint, the Superintendent of Escambia County's Public Schools?

This question will be coming on the November ballot for local citizens in Escambia County to decide.

I have long been a supporter of the more modern, efficient, and functional system of having the elected board of education hire the administrator of the schools---as  more than 99% or the rest of our nation's schools already do.

But push back is strong to this concept locally. Or, as Yoda might say "Much resistance to this good idea there is....."

The polling numbers I have seen from last July point to this being quite a challenge.

A recent Facebook video segment on this topic with community leader Quint Studer drew lots of angry, outspoken opponents to this plan.  (anecdotally, the "Likes" tally broke down on that post as follows: 61 thumbs up, 12 angry faces, two hearts, 1 LOL, 1 WOW, and 1 Sad)

So the folks opposed are obviously more vocal and energized in their opposition than those who are supportive of ending the antiquated system locally and moving to a modern, efficient appointment model.  But we got a lot of thumbs up "likes"--way more than the negative responses....

And I will say this:  I have also been able to turn several "No Way!" opinions into "Wow-- I did not know thats".  So in order to pass this, to bring it over the line, it takes one on one conversations with folks.

Because this is NOT an issue, framed by supporters of continuing the status quo, of "Giving up your vote!!"

This is not that.

Because the voters vote for the ones who are in charge, and the ones who are in charge bring in and staff the positions.

As an example--we recently hired a brand new Fire Chief for the County's Fire Service.  Should the board have NOT put out a nationwide call for qualified applicants?  Should we have simply put that position on the ballot and let the citizens choose, or let the 250 local firefighters hold an election to choose a "local" to be the next chief?  If we did that, would we get the BEST fire chief out there?

What about principals of schools?  Why not hold elections among parents and staff of particular schools to fill the principal jobs at such schools?  Would that result in us bringing in the best school

Beach Access Discussion That Was Postponed.....

The below pictured options will be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.  Our Committee of the Whole meeting that was scheduled yesterday was canceled due to Hurricane Michael.

But once we get this meeting rescheduled, the below options will be discussed.  One option that appears to be the least expensive and the easiest to permit would be option 1(A) Clustered, which would provide 24 parking  spots at our soon to be opened beach access at Perdido Key. 

My personal preference is option 1(B) Expanded, below, because it gives us nearly 40 parking spaces at an effective cost per space that is nearly $1,500.00 per space less than option 1(A).

Can't wait to have this discussion, can't wait to give staff the guidance they need to #OpenOurBeach!

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Burger King and a Bunch of Ugly Buildings!

The Board of County Commissioners will discuss several topics at tomorrow's Committee of the Whole Meeting.  Two that are of particular interest to me are the Beach Access issue and the issue of finalizing the language for master planning OLF 8 in Beulah.

We have talked a lot about OLF 8 on this blog.  It is important-- and however that property is developed-- there will be impacts on nearby residents like me (I live right across the street, where I've owned a home for nearly 15 years).

It has been astonishing to watch how--as we have come closer and closer to acquiring this property--opinion about using this property to generate jobs has been pushed further and further from the forefront.  It's almost as if, in some strange way, these these items are inversely proportional.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a well-known community leader that lives in Beulah.  This individual has had a stellar career, and he is actively involved in business development.  So I asked him his opinion about why, suddenly, everyone is running away from the original plan of building good jobs with this property.

"Where are the renderings, where are the drawings" he said.  "I support whatever happens out there, but I want to see what we're talking about---right now all I have heard is it will be a Burger King and a bunch of Ugly Buildings."

"You know I'd never support that, right, because I live right across the street like you do?" I told him

He went on to discuss the fact that he wears multiple hats and his opinion on the project hasn't really changed but he has to be careful about what he says publicly about the project.  I get that, to a point.

But I also think there comes a point when something that was proposed and submitted as one thing is being pulled in opposite directions due to some strong special interests that want something different--something has to give.  At some point, if we whittle that RFP down to the point where the planner is told "Do whatever you want--do not focus on creating jobs at all" --then we will get a plan that resembles nothing close to what was initially proposed.  And at that point, our $30 Million Dollar Triumph grant will evanesce and that money will go to some other community in the panhandle.

Maybe that's what the special interests wanted all along......

For my part and my vote, and I have not wavered, I want to recoup as much of the county's LOST funds as possible by re-zoning (HCLI) the frontage acreage on 9-Mile Road--as suggested in our Brantley Appraisal. I do not support any more residential construction in the area or on this property (there are 1,200 condos, apartments, and homes currently under construction within walking distance from NFCU already--and our infrastructure can't take much more!)--however I will look at what our planner comes up with if this is what he/she honestly, independently believes is needed.   I do want to see some restaurants developed there for the community, an urgent care facility, and perhaps a postal annex store. I'd like to set aside space for future use for a second elementary school that Beulah desperately needs.  I want a world-class biking, hiking, walking trail all around this property for use by citizens, and a regional park with amenities for residents. We could use some of the triumph money to make a regional stormwater basin and we could enhance Frank Reeder Road to Beulah Road on the North side of this OLF 8 property if we can secure our Triumph grant money.   Also, set back from the road, in the interior of the parcel, I want to see us set aside space for us to create a minimum of 700 more good jobs so that we can stay in the running for as much as $30 Million from Triumph Gulf Coast--this is a fair compromise that gives everyone something from this property, and this is what I support.  This is what I will say at tomorrow's meeting, because it will not be, and never was going to be, just a "Burger King and a bunch of Ugly Buildings"

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fallen Redwood.........Something Not Revealed is NOT Something UnKnown

If the redwood falls in the forest and nobody is shown the video--trust me it still made a loud, crashing, and violent noise as it fell...... 

There is a saying we have all heard.....  If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?

Obviously the answer is simple:  Of course that redwood made a loud, crashing sound as it fell....

But if nobody wants to know about it, and nobody was there to hear it, and nobody is shown the video-- it is easy to sell folks on the idea that it made no sound---- right?.

Answer:  NO

I purposely, late last Friday on a holiday weekend, submitted paperwork to run for re-election to  my current office on the board of county commissioners.  I love my job and I thank God daily for his blessing bestowed upon me that has allowed me to serve my neighbors in District 1 first on the school board and now on the county commission.

But I also do have one eye on our local schools. I worry about the direction we are going.....

Just two weeks ago, a poll was conducted regarding the position of school superintendent for our local public schools.  I did not request this poll, nor did I pay for it.

I did not publish the results once I got them two weeks ago, BUT neither  did anyone else.

I'm publishing them right now though.  Right here, right now, below.


Lack of Follow-Through on Board Action and Votes Part I: Two Issues, Separate but Uncannily Similar

When the Board of County Commissioners makes a vote, the action behind that vote should be respected, and the action should be taken as quickly as possible.  That is the way a normal board functions.

Even if the vote is fractured, once the vote is taken, the vote is the vote.  That's the way our representative form of government works in our Constitutional Republic.

Look no further than the Kavanaugh confirmation from just yesterday.  A fractured, broken U.S. Senate took a vote, a nomination barely passed, and yet Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in a mere two hours later.  Say what you want about the brokenness of DC--but once that decision was made, it was consummated at light-speed.

Because that's the way it should work--even if you are a politician on the losing end of a tough vote...

And I know what it feels like to be on the bottom of a losing vote.  It's no fun.

When I was on the school board for many years, I was on the bottom of a lot of votes.  For example--I voted against our brand new middle school being built in Beulah, because I knew we didn't need it  (we have excess capacity district-wide at the middle school level and a decreasing overall enrollment-trend in Escambia's public schools), and we needed another elementary school in Beulah, not a middle school.

I also knew this would result in busing students from way outside of Beulah into Beulah--and I supported (and still support) neighborhood schools, not social engineering and busing of students from miles and miles away to meet enrollment demographic targets.   I lost that vote, and that middle school was built.  And everything I predicted would happen, did happen. C'est la vie.....

But at least that action went forward.  A vote was taken and the action moved forward.

Because in order to function, once the vote is taken --board action must be respected and enacted forthwith!

Now that I am on the Board of County Commissioners,  I see issues where previous board votes, action, and direction are not being honored but rather they are being delayed, watered-down, and/or drastically modified after critical votes have been taken.

Obviously, the board can change course if they so choose.  This is a given and it comes with its own set of problems (i.e. if the board changes course abruptly, on multiple fronts, at multiple times--the board could appear to be wishy-washy, indecisive,  or even feckless) This is not good.....

Two issues I can think of (both of which were voted on and funded multiple times before I even joined the board) that illustrate this phenomenon are the public beach access at Perdido Key and the Jobs Creation Project at OLF 8.

Perdido Key Beach Mouse Habitat and Public Beach Access ---property was purchased in 2013 for $3.1 Million dollars with the purpose of creating protected beach mouse habitat  AND for providing Public Beach access.  To  date, the board's vote on that matter has not been followed;  we

Friday, October 5, 2018

Marlette Manipulation 6.0: Reptilicus Ridiculous....

Andy Marlette from the PNJ has a cartoon out today that I believe is based upon a story from last week where a snake was rescued at Pensacola Beach.  Initially, it could not be identified.  Eventually, it was identified as a rattlesnake.

So today, he published a cartoon with a play on that story and I was featured on it as well, with some unflattering descriptions. Within one week's time, I'm lampooned as two separate animals.

I'm just trying to cut through the BS and get a public beach access opened, and for that I'm featured in a cartoon?!?

  I think there are better ways to do this cartoon if we want to talk about snakes, so I went ahead and re-did his cartoon to make it much more apropos.

Who can identify the real beach snakes of Escambia County?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What Do Other Medical Examiners Around the State Make?

We've been paying our Medical Examiner nearly 3-times what the average Medical Examiner in Florida makes.....this is ending

This evening the BCC will vote on a stop-gap spending plan to fund our Medical Examiner (ME) for an additional 60 days.

This stems from some recent tension between the counties of the First Judicial Circuit and the the ME's office over pay for our Medical Examiner, which a recent audit revealed was nearly $800,000.00 per year under our previous arrangement.

Last week, the ME threatened to abruptly shut down operations over this pay issue.  So we are working a temporary solution until we complete the circuitous process to bring a new ME aboard--which requires the Governor to approve based upon some statutory requirements.

We're being asked to fund a little over $60,000.00 dollars tonight (which equates to two months' worth of payment toward our 46% share of the ME's Circuit-wide salary budget [nearly $900K] under the previous salary arrangement)

Okaloosa County voted Tuesday NOT to do this.

Instead, Okaloosa County agreed to fund its pro-rata share of a reduced salary level of $450,000.00 total circuit-wide.  Okaloosa's two month share under this proposal is just under $20,000 dollars.

Tonight I plan to follow suit with Okaloosa County and move we fund just two months' worth of our share (46%) of the same $450,000  salary level--$34,500.00 (over and above our 2-month share of the fixed costs.)

If we fully fund the percentage based on the previous salary level, in essence we will be subsidizing Okaloosa County; they would be receiving the same services at a much lower cost--which I do not support.

The 20 Judicial Circuits in Florida
The Medical Examiner, under the current structure makes nearly $800,000.00 yearly, which is too high for a public servant making a public wage.  This salary is DOUBLE the salary of the President of the United States, and 5 times what our Superintendent of Schools makes.  It is 4 times what our State Attorney and our County Administrator make.  It is too much.

Public employees should make a public wage, not private sector wages.  When someone from the private sector comes to work for the public sector, the wage is lower (e.g. Lawyers that make multi-million dollar salaries in private practice make just over $200,000.00 to serve as Federal Judges, The Governor who made Millions yearly in the private sector makes just $140,000 yearly in salary as the Governor of the state.)

This is public service, paid for by taxpayers.

And, as illustrated below, the average Medical Examiner statewide makes but a third ($285K) of what our ME has been making in salary.  This is going to change, we have to fix this, and I believe we will.

The average ME in the state makes about $285,000.00 yearly.  Ours up here in the panhandle makes nearly $800,000.00 per year...

Traveling Car Sales Drawing Scrutiny from Established Local Dealerships

I've been told there are travelling car salesmen setting up temporary, fly-by-night car "lots" at University and Cordova Malls, undercutting local dealerships and dumping "lemons" in our community to unsuspecting buyers.  Time for the BCC to look into an ordinance on this like every other Florida County already does....

I received an interesting call today from a local car dealer.

Apparently, there are groups of car salesmen from out of state and from South Florida coming up to Pensacola and opening temporary, short-term car sales operations in our local mall parking lots.

"Jeff, these groups are coming up here and dumping cars on our citizens and skipping town" he said, somewhat exasperated.

"Many of these cars are defective, and once these folks leave town, the buyers get stuck with these cars.  I have seen this, cars with bent frames and cars damaged in the floods." he continued.  "Locals bring this in to our dealership, and we often have to give them the bad news--the car is a salvage and not repairable"

In our conversation, he told me most, if not all, other counties in our state do not permit these sorts of fly by night sales.  He said he would send me additional information and I told him I would support some regulations to curb these sorts of practices, if such ordinances are not in contravention to state law.

I did not know this was an issue, glad I got the call.  If we need to put a stop to this, I'll bring an ordinance to do so very quickly. 

We don't want lemons being dumped in Escambia County!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What Will OLF 8 Master Planner Come Up With?

What will this big field look like, what will be built here on this property.....we will soon hire a planner to help us with this...

This Thursday, the Escambia Board of County Commissioners will be voting on a staff-developed RFP for hiring a firm to master plan OLF 8.

The draft of the RFP criteria is pictured below.

I'm primarily interested in the economic component and achieving highest and best use for the taxpayers.  I'm also going to lobby for inclusion of our current Triumph Application as a part of the RFP so the planner knows we are in the running for $30 Million if we can simply create a minimum of an additional 700 good jobs with this property.

Should be a good discussion Thursday, glad we are moving this forward.


Monday, October 1, 2018

On WCOA this morning

I'll be on WCOA later this morning discussing public beach access and the recent issues surrounding the salary dispute between the Medical Examiner's Office and the four counties of the First Judicial Circuit.

Listen to the podcast here.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Seafarer Files Part II: Marlette Manipulation 5.0

This cartoon has been manipulated to reflect the reality of the situation with respect to attempts to block Escambia Beach Access #4.  The people want it opened, though, and it will be opened.  That is what is going to happen.... 

Today's cartoon in the PNJ by Andy Marlette provides me another opportunity to make a funny cartoon even funnier, and more relevant at the same time.  I've manipulated a lot of his cartoons over the years.  Today's offering shows a cat representing commissioner Doug Underhill swinging an axe at a mouse, represented by me.  The mouse, sporting a chainsaw, is simultaneously attempting to slash the cat.  In the background sits an idled beach mouse just watching the action.

This is a direct play on the marginal characters from the Simpson's series, Itchy and Scratchy.  from wikipedia:

"The Itchy & Scratchy Show is a show within a show that appears occasionally in episodes of The Simpsons. They appear in the form of 12-60 second cartoons that are filled with gratuitous violence, usually initiated by Itchy the mouse against Scratchy the cat; Itchy is almost always the victor.[5] Itchy & Scratchy airs as a segment on The Krusty the ClownShow, and also aired on its brief replacements, Mr Burn's Cavalcade of Whimsy and Gabbo.[6]"

But "Itchy and Scratchy" is nothing more than a violent, updated play on the old Tom and Jerry Cartoon series from the 1940's and 1950's.  Interestingly, as I remember the old cartoons, none of Tom's (the cat in Tom and Jerry) sadistic plots against Jerry (the mouse in the cartoon) ever succeed.  As I remember it, the Tom was just a goofy, angry, vindictive bully, always trying to hatch a new way to try and injure Jerry.  The Wikipedia write-up describing Tom is funny:

"The plots of each short usually center on Tom's numerous attempts to capture Jerry and the mayhem and destruction that follows. Tom rarely succeeds in catching Jerry, mainly because of Jerry's cleverness, cunning abilities, and luck..The cartoons are known for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised in theatrical animation such as Tom using everything from axes, hammers, firearms, firecrackers, explosives, traps and poison to kill Jerry. On the other hand, Jerry's methods of retaliation are far more violent due to their frequent success, including slicing Tom in half, decapitating him, shutting his head or fingers in a window or a door, stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron or a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, getting him electrocuted, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, letting a tree or electric pole drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, tying him to a firework and setting it off, and so on.[2] Because of this, Tom and Jerry has often been criticized as excessively violent..Tom is no match for Jerry's wits. Jerry also possesses surprising strength for his size, approximately the equivalent of Tom's, lifting items such as anvils with relative ease and withstanding considerable impacts. Although cats typically chase mice to eat them, it is quite rare for Tom to actually try to eat Jerry. Most of his attempts are just to torment or humiliate Jerry, sometimes in revenge, and sometimes to obtain a reward from a human for catching Jerry. By the final "fade-out" of each cartoon, Jerry usually emerges triumphant, while Tom is shown as the loser."

  Marlette's cartoon play of art imitating life on Itchy and Scratchy, imitating Tom and Jerry, is below.

Although it is funny--like many of Marlette's cartoons it simply misses the mark or could be funnier and even better.  The one I manipulated above at the top of this piece hits the mark.

The beach is currently off limits to visitors with signs mounted and a locked gate.  A paper trail is now established showing this has been an ongoing effort, to  actively try to prevent public access at this site by attempting to sell this site away along with the public's right to access it.  This fact was uncovered via a public records release of emails and contracts from 2017 illustrating this--- despite protestations and denials of this from  2018.  And this video denial from from 2018

The key to the entire issue is simple and is not funny..we, you and I the taxpayer, own this 300' of Gulf-Front Beach property since we bought it in 2013.  It was purchased in part for public beach access.

But this beach was never opened and there are some special interests that DO NOT WANT it to be opened to you and I the taxpayers who bought it.

Meanwhile----- the people do want it opened, the BCC has voted to make this accessible to the public, the staff is bringing plans for us to consider, and at the end of the day--just as I said at the end of the last meeting--we will #OpenOurBeach.

No, it's not some "Tom and Jerry" histrionics:  No, it is not "politics".  It's just ridiculous reindeer games and delay tactics that sadly resulted in a comfortable status quo for nearby condo owners that allowed them to use our beach while the rest of us were/are locked out.

That is ending, because what really matters is that we do what we voted to do, it's about doing what we said we would do with this property.   And we are going to do this.

Watch and see. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Seafarer Files Part I: Anything But Public Access

Nearby condo owners in 2017 were interested in buying our 300' gulf front property, having us restore the dunes and remove pedestrian and car accessibility; for this, they would pay less than what we paid for the same property four years earlier (in 2013) and these same nearby condo owners would then be able to use this beach at will--but Escambia taxpayers would not have been given access to this beach!

Thank God it didn't happen!

Earlier this week a batch of emails was published on the Escambia Citizen's Watch site that dealt with the Property that Escambia County Owns on Perdido Key next to the Crab Trap Restaurant.

This particular piece of property was purchased in 2013 for the express purpose of providing Perdido Key Beach Mouse habitat.........and PUBLIC BEACH access.

This particular property has generated a lot of heated discussion lately, as the sense I have had is that there was/is a coordinated effort afoot to block the public from accessing this beach.

But this property belongs to the public, the taxpayers.  I have said it over and over and over and over.....

like a broken record.  We will  #OpenOurBeach

Because beach access is precious in Florida.  And it is becoming even more scarce.

And the comfortable status quo of nearby condos being the only ones able to currently access our beach easily is an untenable situation which the board is going to rectify in short order when we #OpenOurBeach

Meanwhile, just last year, I joined my counterparts in voting to purchase more beach property at Perdido Key--but unfortunately we were out-bid for that parcel.

Apparently, though, at the same time we were all trying to get more beach access at Perdido Key for citizens---a push was being made behind the scenes to divest the taxpayers of the very  beach property the taxpayers purchased in 2013 to provide MORE access to the people with.

Sounds crazy right?!?  It sounds crazy to me.

Had I known of or been privy to the contract contained within these documents, I would have ripped that document up and thrown it in the trash.  I would NEVER vote to sell that to private condo owners in 2017 (at less than what we paid for it in 2013 price wise)

Thankfully, attorney Stephen G. West (see his email of concern below) with the county shot this whole idea down in the early stages of this plan being concocted......

Glad he did, and I'm glad I now know of this effort to keep the public off this beach.  Even more motivation for us to do the right thing now and as quickly as we can, to #OpenOurBeach

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal Comes to Pensacola

Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh, Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal, and Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh at Pensacola Yacht Club, Wednesday September 26, 2018

The Federalist Society of the Emerald Coast welcomed Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal to Pensacola Wednesday evening.

The assembled gathering of about 50 local attorneys, current and former judges, elected officials, and interested citizens welcomed Mr. Agarwal to the Pensacola Yacht Club for a very enlightening, often humorous and personal question and answer session between he and Federalist Society of the Emerald Coast President Gary Bergosh.

When asked about how he came to be in the legal profession, Agarwal recalled the way this happened.  "My parents wanted me to be a doctor, but I wanted to study Philosophy"  he quipped.  he continued "My dad was persistent, he told me that I should get an MD and a PHD, and HE would be alright with that."

After completing his undergraduate studies at Duke University, Agarwal moved to Washington DC.

"I wanted to do something in print journalism, so I applied at every newspaper in the area up there, and didn't get any offers" he mused.

Eventually, he landed a job with CSPAN doing a video series on books, which required he be involved in every part of the process of that series, to include research, reading, writing, production, and even doing live segments on the street with people, asking them which books they currently were reading.

"The only part of me that ever made it on the show was my hand, holding the microphone as I interviewed people" he said with a chuckle.

After three years at CSPAN, Agarwal decided he wanted to go into the law profession.  He applied to, was accepted, and completed his law studies at Georgetown.

He then answered questions about the judges for whom he clerked, to include Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh among several others, and he had interesting stories to tell about each of these men and how the experiences working for these Judges and Justices shaped his early career.

Agarwal also detailed the specifics of what he does as Solicitor General of the State of Florida, including a brief discussion of some of the 30 current cases which he and his staff of just 4 attorneys are working on presently.

"It is a lot of work, and thankfully I have some really talented attorneys in the office who can turn these projects around quickly when necessary." he said, complimenting his staff.

The evening went by quickly, but it was an enlightening conversation.  Those who missed it missed an opportunity to get an inside glimpse into the person behind the position of Solicitor General.

As the session wound down, it was pointed out that Agarwal had never before been to Pensacola.

"I was born in Texas and raised in South Florida--never made it over to Pensacola until now.  But I'll be coming back with my kids and you'll hear us coming, I'll be staying at the Beach" he said with a laugh.

Learn more about Amit Agarwal here.

Learn more about the Federalist Society here.

No Medical Examiner For Escambia County in Just Three Days?

A dispute over pay has led to the abrupt resignation of our area's Medical Examiners Offices which will happen in three days...

This past Summer, fireworks erupted over some financial disputes between the four counties of the First Judicial Circuit (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton) and the Medical Examiner (ME) for this area.

We were actually sued by the ME.

The issue revolved around the payments to the Medical Examiner's Office, fees withheld from the counties by the ME's office, and other financial issues that raised some concerns (notably the high salary of the ME herself, paid by public sources.)

Fast forward to late yesterday afternoon, with the end of the fiscal year upon us, everyone going a million different directions with the Kavanaugh drama playing out in the media---and a couple of HUGE emails are dumped in our lap.

The first one, from the attorney for Dr. Andrea Minyard, casually drops the news that the ME plans to close up shop in four days.  Reading between the lines, it appears this is about compensation for the position.  from the email...

"Although I have been told on multiple occasions that a multi-county contract had been circulated among counsel for the four counties, no contract has been presented to the Medical Examiner. Last week, a letter proposing to pay $400,000 for a minimum of two medical examiners was received by my office. The letter suggests that this is a reasonable number given information that the counties have collected; however, that information was not provided, and we are quite skeptical that any credible information would indicate that this is a reasonable amount for a Board Certified Forensic Pathologist serving as Chief Medical Examiner and one associate medical examiner, much less the two needed in District One. In fact, Dr. Minyard's current associate is paid $200,000, and he is not Board Certified. Thus, it appears that Dr. Minyard will be closing the office of the Medical Examiner at the end of her current contracts." 

State Attorney Bill Eddins immediately responded with an email describing the catastrophic consequences of NOT having a ME for the area.  From Bill Eddins' email:

"As you can see from the email, Dr. Minyard plans to resign at midnight on Sunday, September 30, 2018.This will create turmoil for the criminal justice system.  In addition, there are many other duties of the Medical Examiner’s Office that will not be provided to the general public effective Monday, October 1, 2018.You have the responsibility and authority to provide a Medical Examiner for the First Circuit.  Please make immediate arrangements to do so.  Some of the immediate needs for my office is to have a Medical Examiner available to conduct autopsies where homicide is suspected.  In addition, arrangements need to be made for body removal and body storage awaiting autopsy.  In addition, in my opinion, it is necessary for a Medical Examiner or their staff to be immediately available to respond to homicide scenes.  If no arrangements are made, this service will end on September 30, 2018 at midnight.  Please make immediate arrangements for these duties. Additionally, as a result of Dr. Minyard’s resignation, there will be no staff or facilities available to provide any of the other services customarily provided by the Medical Examiner’s Office.The dispute between the counties and the Medical Examiner’s Office has been ongoing for several months and needs to be resolved.  However, in view of the turmoil, disruption and lack of services that will occur on October 1st, I request that the counties immediately offer to continue payment of the Medical Examiner under the terms and conditions that have been ongoing for many years.  This is the only solution to this problem that I am aware of.  I make this request for the time necessary to resolve the dispute or have an orderly transition to another Medical Examiner." 

High-$Dollar contract disputes:  Not just for athletes, actors, news anchors, and entertainers anymore.........

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Quint Studer on Why We Should Appoint rather than Elect our Superintendent of Schools in Escambia County

Nationally-renowned speaker, writer, and entrepreneur Quint Studer-- CEO of Studer Community Institute--joins Escambia County Commission Chairman Jeff Bergosh for a discussion about the need for Escambia County to move from the antiquated model of an “Elected Superintendent of Schools” to the modern, efficient “appointed” Superintendent of Schools model.  This decision will rest in the hands of Escambia County Voters this November—as it will be on the ballot for the people to decide.  And Studer makes a compelling case for modernizing our system via moving to the “Appointed” system like 99.6% of the rest of our nation’s schools.  Watch the brief interview with Quint Studer, above, to hear his thoughts on this pressing topic.

(I have long-supported the appointed model for many reasons, and I have often written about this topic here on this blog...Interestingly, in 1967, Escambia County Voters came up just ONE (1) vote short of going to the appointed superintendent like the rest of the nation does.  Hopefully in 2018 we can get this passed and move our education system, locally, into the 21st Century!)

Monday, September 24, 2018

On WCOA This Morning......Talking Mean-Spirited, Petty, and Small Minded Attacks!

I'll be on WCOA's Good Morning Pensacola later this morning to discuss yesterday's Hatchet Piece Hit Job articles printed against me and several public officials and former candidates that were published in the Sunday edition.

A whole lot of FAKE NEWS.

I look forward to discussing what I felt was an unfair portrayal of the OLF 8 issue in general, and my position on this issue specifically.

Glaring omissions from the discussion on OLF 8, petty, mean, and unwarranted attacks on SOME political donors and SOME political candidates (not others, though), and a total LACK of any mention of the REASON the BCC began the process to acquire this OLF 8  property in the first place ($30 Million in Triumph Grant to help offset expenses and develop the site)--these will be addressed and discussed in this interview!

I went to 8,634 houses in my last election, 800+ in Beulah.  I know people are frustrated and want amenities and traffic infrastructure improved.  I also know these same residents DO NOT WANT any more high-density residential built on the field in Beulah--- because we can't take any more until we get our infrastructure improved.

Listen to this morning's interview, in its entirety, here.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Disagreement DOES NOT Equal an "ATTACK"

Residents I have heard from locally (I live right across the street from OLF 8 in Beulah) do NOT want more high-impact, high-density residential built in Beulah on the helicopter field until the infrastructure catches up.  I agree with these constituents, but the PNJ thinks this constitutes an "attack" on those who feel differently....

Sadly, the PNJ will be running a hatchet piece editorial tomorrow that inaccurately portrays the facts surrounding the OLF 8 project.  Disappointing.  

The theme of it is that I am attacking folks that I disagree with.  This is simply not true.

I attacked nobody in my disagreement and concerns over what is being planned for OLF 8. I have expressed the concerns I have heard from residents and constituents that do not want any more high-density residential development out here until our infrastructure catches up. I can and will correct folks who inaccurately distort my position on this issue--that is not attacking someone. 

Here are the facts: We have a $30 Million dollar triumph request for which we will qualify if we create a minimum of 1000 good wage-paying jobs with this property. I made the motion to sell 100 acres to NFCU for a market price plus the commitment of 300 jobs--so we only need to create a minimum of 700 more to stay in the running for that money! I made the motion to sell this 100 acres to get us closer to our jobs goal.

 Triumph, to date, has not funded any residential projects--so I have stated that I do not feel residential development is appropriate at the site--for this reason and because 1200 apartments, condos, and homes are currently under construction within walking distance from NFCU's campus already. Again--we can't take any more of this high-density residential development until our infrastructure catches up...
Beulah has too much residential construction ongoing, and residents with whom I have spoken have begged me to not approve any more residential construction until our infrastructure catches up.   Because I agree with my neighbors---- this is now considered an attack on those that want more high-density residential?  What?!?

so why do we, the public sector, need to compete with the private sector by facilitating the building of more high density residential on our soon to be acquired, taxpayer paid property? 

Another big concern that I have heard in listening to my constituents is this: while there are really nifty mixed used developments and town center concepts that are put out as examples of what could be built out on OLF 8--many believe these sorts of developments belong in urban areas, not rural, bucolic areas like Beulah. Many, like me, find the CIVICON speakers to be very informative, enlightening, and educational. But not all of those concepts are applicable to a rural, suburban community that is desperately trying to retain the rural charm and character despite the growth that is occurring. 

To agree with my constituents that feel this way and to disagree with others that want to build a "mini-city" in Beulah's OLF 8 field to make this area a slick "city" like in Tampa, Atlanta, or Pittsburgh--that is an attack? I disagree. 

Here is the key: The county expended $17.3 million dollars for OLF 8 for the purpose of creating jobs--not for creating a "town of Beulah" or for acquiring land for residential developers. The jobs-generating project for OLF 8 was conceived, voted upon, and financial commitments were made long before I came on this board--I inherited this. Like I supported ST Aerospace at the airport (for jobs) I do continue to support growing of clean jobs out here as well. 

But I also made the motion to engage a professional planner to give us a plan that takes all of these factors into account, keeps us in the running for the $30 Million dollar grant, brings some amenities to the residents out here that we desperately need, and brings us a plan that citizens county wide can benefit from to include nearby residents like me (I live across the street). 

Far from attacking anyone, this is me doing my job and siding with constituents over special interests that want to build a "mini city" out here, with condos, townhomes, and low rent subsidized housing to boot.  

I am not hearing many of my constituents telling me this is their vision for this property--I'm hearing "No More Residential until the infrastructure catches up!"

Friday, September 21, 2018

Come Join us for Our Next Coffee with a Commissioner!

We will be having our next coffee with the commissioner event this coming Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM at the McDonald's Restaurant at Blue Angel Parkway at Hwy 98.

Come by, say hello, and lets talk about what is important to you and your neighbors!




--making our community better

All topics are fair game, all are welcome--- and we hope to see YOU!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

NW District 1 Advisory Committee will Launch Next Thursday

I am looking forward to the launch of our Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee next Thursday at 6:00 PM.

We were supposed to start up and organize this committee earlier this month, on the 10th, however TS Gordon forced us to reschedule our 1st Budget Hearing for that time so our meeting got postponed.

But we will start it this Thursday.  The public is welcome to attend, and I look forward to going to work on several pressing issues in this area.  See the agenda below

3 New Plans will be Discussed to #OpenOurBeach

Last month we decided we would wait until after the primary election to pick up the discussion about opening up our 300' of  Gulf-Front property in Perdido Key for public access.

We were supposed to discuss a "Chevy and Cadillac" option for opening the beach this month.

But staff ran into delays and there were some unexpected issues that came up--namely a requirement that a full-sized fire truck be able to turn completely around within the footprint of the parking area due to the distance from the main road.

So this threw the original designs out the window.

But the BCC will be discussing three new potential options for opening this property up at October's Committee of the Whole.

Two of these three options were developed by staff, and the third one was submitted by a citizen.  Each have certain pluses and minuses.  I like all three but the price tag and number of spaces provided via Option 2 make it my initial favorite choice.  We will see what the full board thinks.  See all three options below

On WCOA today discussing NFCU, Beulah, Jobs, and OLF 8

I appeared this morning on Good Morning Pensacola with Don Parker and Alex Gavin.

The topic was the recent offer from NFCU to create 300 jobs with a hundred acres from OLF 8 if the county will sell it to them at a fair market rate

additional topics of interest in the brief interview included:

   ----current planned developments withing walking distance (100 yards) of the NFCU campus that will have 1100 apartments, townhomes, condos, and mixed use retail

  ----the walkability aspect of these developments due to their proximity to the NFCU campus and the addition of the recently constructed walking/biking sidewalk along 9-Mile road

  ----the value this deal brings us in getting us closer to our minimum of 1000 jobs created with
OLF 8 in order to keep us in the running for our $30 Million Dollar Triumph Grant

Listen to the brief interview here

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

OLF 8 To Produce 300 New Jobs! (And we Don't Even Own It Yet!)

The much-discussed OLF 8 Property in Beulah is poised to create its first new jobs if the BCC follows through with a proposed sale of 100 Acres of this property to Navy Federal Credit Union.

After last week's committee of the whole meeting, where the board voted to sell Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) 100 acres of OLF 8 in Beulah in exchange for new job creation, parking, and recreation facilities-- there was a buzz forming about just how many more jobs this sale could produce.....

Today, commissioners received the below email from Executive Vice- President Debbie Calder detailing NFCU's commitment.

These 300 new jobs will help us meet the BCC's triumph application goal of a minimum of an additional 1000 new, good paying jobs with this property in order to realize grant revenue of as much as $30 Million Dollars to develop this property.

Today was a great first step in that direction!

From the letter:

"I am happy to advise that, if we are able to agree upon mutually acceptable terms and Escambia County conveys approximately 100 acres of the OLF 8 property adjacent to our Heritage Oaks campus to Navy Federal, Navy Federal is willing to create 300 additional jobs on our existing campus..Navy Federal plans to create more parking for our campus, which will enable us to accommodate those additional jobs. Navy Federal also plans to build a recreation area on a portion of the property. Subject to any reasonable conditions that we may require, the recreation area we are proposing could be available for public use when not in use by Navy Federal. The public use of the recreation area would be part of our on-going contribution to the community."

See the letter below: