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.








Thursday, July 19, 2018

Port of Pensacola Economic Development Initiative: Rock em' Sock em' Robots

Supporters and Opponents of the potential Incoa Performance Minerals, Inc. Port of Pensacola economic development proposal are sending out opposing emails delineating their respective opinions and concerns....


In a series of emails the commissioners have recently received, It appears that battle lines are being drawn over the potential deal with Incoa, Inc. to bring roughly 70 jobs to the port, paying an average salary of $60K yearly, along with  a $100 Million Dollar capital investment commitment.

It will be interesting to watch this discussion.  It would be fantastic if a compromise could be reached on this to keep the company and also some sort of a mixed use of the port as well.  We will see how it evolves....

From an email sent out in support of this deal:


"I believe the City Council will vote today to investigate a lease with Incoa at the port of 
Pensacola. As Director of First Place Partners, a private-sector economic development 
support organization made up of more than 45 local companies, I support this lease for 
several reasons:
— We need good paying jobs in Pensacola.  Our average per capital income is $39,582 - much
 lower than the state average of $46,858.  This lease brings 77 jobs averaging more than
 $60,000. 
— The city of Pensacola needs the revenue. Facing the largest proposed budget in the city’s
 history, this project means almost $1 million a year to help taxpayers. 

I’m sure you are aware that one in four children in Escambia County live in poverty. We lag
 behind in many economic categories.  Good jobs are so important to our working families
 - more important than building condos for rich people.  


Thanks for your consideration,"


The folks who are leery of this deal, however, have many concerns.  From their email: 


"Our concerns leaving the discussion is that this proposal has the potential to be noisy, dust producing and a huge operation and my questions are as follows: 
Has due diligence been performed on the principals involved in this venture?
Will anyone involved with a financial stake call Pensacola their home and move their family here?.
What prevents any of the current players from selling their interest and moving away? 
Are these companies shell companies with no recourse if commitments are not met?
Our initial research shows foreign entities with Limited Liability status that are not required to show owner’s names and may not be subject to suit in the US if things go awry.
INCOA Performance Minerals is registered in Delaware as a foreign limited liability company with a mailing address in Salt Lake City Utah. 
The trademark INCAL (we believe this is the product name) is listed under Whitehaven Partners LTD with a Utah address and shows up as a corporation registered in the Cayman Islands.
YouTube videos of Calcium Carbonate Processing facilities show these to be noisy, dust producing and huge scale enterprises. 
What traffic studies have been discussed as to moving the processed calcium carbonate through our downtown neighborhoods?
Has thought been given to requirements to soundproof these warehouses and silos that this company intends to occupy? 
Obviously, we are all coming in at the 11th hour but the concern is about the future welfare of our beautiful city."



County Road Prison Welding Program Stats: Successful for Some



The Board of County Commissioners and the Escambia County School District will be renewing the partnership to provide skills training for prisoners at the road camp.  At a yearly cost of roughly $70,000.00 per year--prisoners are offered training in welding by a certified instructor.  Upon successful completion of a welding program--jobs are available.

But what are the metrics?  How many complete, how many go on to work in the field, and how many re-offend and end up back in the criminal justice system?

These are important questions, and the answer as it relates to the most recent class of graduates has been provided by jail commander Selina Barnes:


"As of today, in reference to the participants that were enrolled in the welding program at the County Road Prison for the 2016-2017 school year, the totals are below.

34 enrolled in the program
4 were removed for various reasons which left 30 in the program

According to Mr. XXXXXXXX…….as of today (from the school year program above and the 30 participants), 12 have contacted him and are currently working in the field
10 no contact has been made from the participants
8 have been re-arrested"


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Great News For Area Fishermen!



I received the below email today from Robert Turpin, the BCC's  Director of Marine Services.


"Skanska [the contractor that is building the new 3-Mile bridge] deployed approx. 150 concrete piling cut-off pieces (approx. 800 tons) in Escambia Near-Shore East Artificial Reef Site at 30 Deg 17.750'N; 087 Deg 13.500'W (approx. 4.5nmi ESE of Pensacola Pass). Water depth at the site is 45 feet."


This is great news for area fishermen...now they know exactly where to go for this new structure which will become habitat for all sorts of fish species in the years to come.

Thanks to Skanska and hats off to everyone from the county and state that was involved in making this happen!

Here are the pictures, below, of the piles being taken out and dropped.




Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pensacola Beach and the BCC: Reasonable Topics for Discussion



Tonight's joint meeting of the Escambia Board of County Commissioners and the Santa Rosa Island Authority is a meeting where, hopefully, reasonable topics can be discussed rationally and reasonably.  I called this meeting so some important, pressing issues could be discussed and also so  that a sense of where individual Commissioners and Authority Members are on these issues can be known.  Leases and renewals, Roundabouts, parking, and the toll booth---Are these reasonable topics for discussion?

I certainly believe they are and I look forward to the dialogue.

1.  Leases and lease renewals:  there are disparities and inequities among and between lease holders on the beach.  Some leaseholders pay taxes on the land and the improvements and lease fees, some pay tax on the improvements and not on the land (but they pay nominal lease fees and a beach fire MSBU), recently an entire condo complex of 93 units renewed their leases (lease fees) for essentially $280 dollars per year per unit--which is significantly, dramatically below market value.  The taxpayers were not treated well at all in that instance.  So what is reasonable here?  I think it is reasonable for the BCC to set some rules for renewals going forward so the taxpayers are treated fairly as these leases come in for renewal.  These $150 yearly leases were designed to incentivize beach development--and that has now happened.  Now it is time for market rate lease fees on new renewals, and  I will suggest that we require a few things of those interested in renewing their leases going forward....

--No master lease renewals? (lease renewals with individual property occupants only--not with master lease holders that charge sub lessees a margin over their cost)--is this reasonable?
--Individual leases to be renewed?  Should individual renewal leases carry either new language stipulating they become a perpetually renewing lease (that requires payment of ad valorem taxes on land and improvements and no lease fees) OR language delineating these individually as  99-year leases with a current, market rate lease fee on land payable yearly to SRIA (in an amount not less than what ad valorem tax on such land would be) and ad valorem taxes payable on improvements--and no lease fees to SRIA.?  Would this be reasonable?
--All leases to be recorded with the clerk.  Is this reasonable-- It is not happening now but I think it is reasonable to expect this going forward.
--Any other stipulations that make sense and are reasonable to guide the actual renegotiation of these leases?

2.  Parking--should we consider carving out some prime parking spots at the casino beach lot (perhaps 50% of the lot) for premium paid parking?  (with 50% of  casino beach and lots outside the beach core remaining "free parking")  How much more parking should we build and where?

3.  Toll Booth--should we make it fully automated, in stages over a two year period?  Should we reduce the cost to $.50 cents and make up the difference with the parking fees?  Should we remove the toll altogether and make 75% of the casino beach lot a paid lot to achieve the same revenue as the toll booth would have generated if we remove the tolls altogether?

4.  Roundabouts--do the residents want these--or would making the toll booth automated or removing the toll booth altogether alleviate the traffic to the point where roundabouts become unnecessary?  Do residents actually want the roundabouts?  Is this reasonable to ask?

I look forward to some interesting and hopefully reasonable conversations at tonight's meeting.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Escambia County Corrections and Jail Medical Receive a Clean State Audit



I received the following email from Jail Commander Selina Barnes as a result of the yearly compliance audit that was conducted Friday morning at our County Correctional facilities:


"Please see the attached FMJS Medical Compliance inspection for this year. In compliance with the FMJS requirement 2.7, the report is to be sent to the BOCC as well as the FMJS Chairman James Aguiar. There were no serious or notable violations found during this inspections at the Main Jail, Work Release or County Road Prison."


from the report:

"An inspection was conducted of the Escambia County Correctional Facility’s Medical 
 Department on July 13, 2018 at 0900 hours, with the following inspectors:  Tonya Rainey, LPN Leon County Detention Facility...I am pleased to announce no Serious Violations or Notable Violations were found.The Medical Departments at all locations werefound to be neat, orderly and meeting the requirements of the Florida Model Jail Standard"




Thursday, July 12, 2018

How Could We?

Some people bang away at the keyboard on online sites and facebook pages like woody woodpecker talking about how they will be fiscally conservative.  I prefer the direct approach--actually proposing and supporting cuts :)

As I see this morning's article in the PNJ about Tuesday and Wednesday's budget meetings, I could not help but ask myself this rhetorical question:

How could we?  How could we glide through this year where there is enough in the kitty to get us by with very little pain knowing full well next year we start out a minimum of $5 Million short?

How could we not set aside some money from this year in anticipation of next year's fiscal cliff from which we will fall?

How could we not make deeper cuts to outside agencies? (the ones that are not mandated to be funded by the state, and the ones that have significant budgets already and who would survive without our funding).

How could we tell our employees that we will continue to fund all agencies at requested levels with only modest, meager trimmings here and there, while also telling these same employees we won't necessarily be able to provide raises next year and more than likely they will absorb increases in benefits costs next year?

How could we tell property owners the BCC may raise tax rates (I'll NEVER SUPPORT THIS) but we are still funding outside agencies?

Some people talk a lot about being fiscally conservative....online like woody the woodpecker on a keyboard, at some public gatherings, etc.  talk talk talk.  Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, though.

It is for this reason that I took action and proposed cuts at the meetings this week.  There was very little appetite for this from my peers--and this is disappointing.

The good news is I'm not done proposing cuts, and when the time comes for the final vote on these budgets, I will propose more cuts.  We will see what happens at that time.  If we only tweak at the margins on the budget this year, shame on us because we can't act as if we don't see what's coming next year, we know better.  Arliss Howard's character Cowboy said it best when he state emphatically: "we can't refuse to accept the situation!"

He is right, we can't "refuse to accept the situation" for comfort's sake......How could we?

Answer:  I won't, but I'm just one vote on the board....and unless I die in the meantime, I'll be here next year whereas perhaps three that are involved in this year's budget might not be.  So no, I'm not going to take the easy route and eat the cake and cookies and throw the broccoli and eggplant in the trash till next year.  Nope.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On 1370 WCOA Today...



I was a guest this morning on 1370 WCOA's "Good Morning Pensacola" radio show with Don Parker and Alex Gavin.

The primary topics of discussion were the budget and growth in the NW section of District 1.  I discussed my rationale for the creation of a NW District 1 Advisory Committee, and the makeup of this committee.  We also briefly discussed next week's joint meeting of the BCC and the SRIA and topics of discussion for that meeting.

We had a discussion about the property tax exemption which will go up next year and cost the county's general fund roughly $5 Million.  I explained my philosophy on the process and my reasoning for wanting to make cuts this year ahead of next year's shortfall.

You can listen to the interview here

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

On AM 1620 FM 92.3 This Morning


I was the guest this morning on AM 1620 FM 92.3 - Pensacola Morning News.

The singular subject was the board's budget meetings this week.
I'm bringing my budget axe to this week's BCC budget hearings...

For my part I simply stated that I will be bringing recommendations for cuts to the budget to prepare for next year's budget shortfall we will experience due to the all but assured passage of Amendment 1 which will cost us $5 Million from our general fund.

I hear people talking about making cuts, I see people online talking about making cuts.  As I said in the interview, I'm not just talking about it or woodpeckering online facebook sites exclaiming what a "super fiscal conservative" I am. 

Actions speak louder than words, and I'm coming to the meetings this week with my budget cutting "Axe."  We will see if the self-proclaimed super-duper conservatives will join me in actually making necessary budget cuts----- or if they simply want to talk about it.....we shall see this week.

Listen to the interview here   starting at 4:40 of the interview is where I talk about cuts...

Thursday, July 5, 2018

First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner's Office Audit: 6 Findings and Recommendations



......Pages 25-28 of the audit detail the findings and recommendations of the auditor for the 4 counties of the First Judicial Circuit as it pertains to the Medical Examiner's Office.





First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner's Office Audit: Revenue

Page 55 of the 171 page audit of the First Judicial Circuit's Medical Examiner's Office illustrates where the income comes from for the specified period of the audit.  This income provides the resources that apparently allow for our ME to make, according to the audit, $673,000.00 yearly as a publicly funded employee...


Two Questions about Education, Community, and Vision...



I was asked recently to answer two rather straightforward questions for a college student locally as a part of a homework assignment.  As I gave my answers, I wondered how the average citizen would answer these same questions?  I wondered how my peers on the BCC would answer them?  I'm sure the answers would be all over the map because there really are no "right" or "wrong" answers--alot of this is ideological and subjective.  I do believe education is critical though--and I think most would agree on that point.  And I do believe there is a direct correlation between a community's level of education (on average) and the community's quality of life (e.g. a highly educated, highly skilled community will enjoy a community with better schools, better amenities, and better jobs than a community that has a lower level of educational attainment)

Here are the questions and answers I gave....


  1. What is your vision for the future of Escambia County?
My vision for Escambia County is fairly straightforward.  I want to help create and foster the conditions that allow for the private sector to create employment opportunities that are varied and well-paying.  Traditionally our area has been a two-legged stool, with Military Jobs and Tourism-related jobs.  Beyond this, we have had lots of low-wage service sector jobs.  So the big vision is jobs diversification that makes us less dependent upon the DoD and the Beach related tourist seasons (which the 2010 oil spill illustrated was very vulnerable to damage if conditions at the beach ever faced an environmental issue).  We are now seeing some significant jobs growth in the private sector in manufacturing, aircraft service and repair, and back office support (NFCU).  I believe it is essential for the County to take a leadership role in economic development which brings this jobs diversification, which in turn raises the entire regional GDP.  When the entire region improves economically, this provides the revenue the County needs to fund other essential functions like public safety and infrastructure as well as quality of life initiatives.  If the private sector flourishes, this “rising tide raises all boats” and all the functions of government can do well and tax rates on property owners can be held steady and not raised while the functions of government are fully funded and the quality of life for all citizens becomes gradually elevated.
  1. How is higher education helping prepare students for this vision?
Higher education is a critical component in a successful community.  In order to fill the essential and high-wage jobs that drive an economy—an educated, highly skilled workforce is required.  As we transition toward a more information-centered and applied-science workforce, advanced degrees and/or advanced technical competency is required.  These skills are largely the product of a student’s diligent efforts at attaining an advanced degree or certification in a college or career center.  The more of these students that are employed, with their concomitant high salaries, the better the quality of life for the community.  With high income areas comes better neighborhoods, less crime, more public services available, and better schools.  With higher income demographics, the private sector sees the need and satisfies the demand for a higher quality of goods and services, and this pushes out lower-end retail (check cashing, pawn shops, payday loans) and brings in a higher caliber of businesses (high-end automotive, fine dining, research and engineering firms) All of this also leads to housing being built by the private sector that is high end, single family and less multi-family and low-income housing.  All of this positive change occurs because of the presence of a highly skilled, educated workforce.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Medical Examiner's $673K Annual Compensation--Real Fireworks for July 4th

A recent audit of the 1st Judicial Circuit's Medical Examiners Office has revealed some explosive issues, to include personal yearly compensation of nearly $700K for the ME--a public employee for all intents and purposes.  Is this salary too high?!?


At 4:25 yesterday afternoon I received a 171 page audit report on the First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner's Office.  Afternoon data dump, right before the July 4th Holiday....

I did not read the report until today, July 4th.  It is interestingly coincidental that there will be numerous fireworks displays all over the area today.  This report I have received and now read is explosive, probably more-so than any of the area fireworks displays we will all witness later today.

One of the most striking aspects of the report deals with the income and compensation paid personally to the Medical Examiner:  Earlier this year, in an effort to get to the bottom of some lingering questions about the ME's budget, Okaloosa County leaders made numerous requests for information.  Initially, these requests were not fulfilled.  Eventually, enough financial information was given such that this 171 page audit could be completed.

In between that time and now, the ME has filed a lawsuit against the four counties in the First Judicial Circuit--over the records requests.  My personal belief is that because her office is funded with public dollars, all records requested should be released and are subject to the open records laws (of course with any HIPPA related information redacted)

According to the audit, 6 areas of concern are noted.  One of the most important ones deals with compensation of the ME, and how her total compensation breaks down yearly according to the report and how this compensation is paid -- partially through a staffing company, partially through shareholder distributions from a company "Gulf Coast Autopsy Physicians" - a for-profit corporation of which Dr. Minyard is the "sole shareholder and owner" according to the audit.  from page 13 of this audit, describing her compensation:



"During the audit period, Dr. Minyard's average annual compensation totaled $673,129.26 which includes a yearly average of $19,661.76 in County/district paid 401K contributions and health insurance premiums as well as $15,038.89 in County/district paid ancillary costs...the information listed..does not include Dr. Minyard's claim on the cash assets held by GCAP at the end of the audit period which totaled $459,706.60"

There are many more troubling findings in this report, to include potential ethics issues related to the employment of relatives, the potentially improper collection of various fees, and also several practices by the ME's office that are inconsistent with Escambia County ordinances/resolutions.  I will dive much deeper into this report in follow-on posts. Stay tuned!

Get ready for the fireworks, figuratively and literally.  Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Large N.W. Dist. 1 Mixed-Use Development Allows for Potential Public-Private Cooperation



There will be a massive new development in the Northwest portion of District 1 over the next several years.  This mixed use development (according to the conceptual drawings I have seen) will have something for everyone: Restaurants, Shops, Retail,  Medical office, Townhomes, Condos, and Single family residences and amenities for residents of the development.  From the drawings I have seen--it appears as though this will be a pedestrian/bike friendly, walkable development that will mesh well with the currently-under-construction sidewalk and bikepath along the southern portion of 9-Mile Road.

The location for "Pathstone" (this development)  is along the southern portion of 9-Mile Road, East of 11-Mile Creek and running down along Exit 5 of I-10 and down and over to Klondike Road (as depicted above)

There are discussions of accessibility for this parcel from the south via Klondike Road, and the north via a traffic-light at 9-Mile road and the entrance of this development.  There are talks underway between myself, the county staff, and these developers to formalize the route of the road that would go through this property and help the area (and this development) by essentially adding another north-south connector between 9-Mile road and Mobile Highway.  This is looking like a very strong possibility and a win-win for the community and for the developer.

The appealing aspects of this development are numerous:  Finally--more than just Tom Thumb gas station food and delivery pizza as food options for Beulah Residents.  Additionally, I'm told numerous nationally-recognized full-service restaurants have expressed interest in locating in this area. Development of this area and the concomitant drainage and infrastructure improvements will allow for better traffic movement through this already congested area.

Between this development, the Dawson Group mixed-use development planned adjacent to the west, and the residences at Nature Creek going in just north of this development on the north side of 9-mile road--the area around Navy Federal Credit Union is quickly becoming a private-sector funded amenity for the community.  Add to this a walking/biking trail all the way around OLF 8, a recreation park at OLF 8, and several commercial parcels along 9-mile road on the southern part of the OLF 8 parcel--if the board approves these amenities as a part of the plan for OLF 8--and we are quickly coming to a point where we will go from no retail options (except Tom Thumb or Dollar General) and no restaurant options--to a cornucopia of excellent dining/retail/and entertainment options.

Friday, June 29, 2018

First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner Will Remain Until Replacement Named by Governor

....According to this email that was sent to the leaders of the 4-County First Judicial Circuit.  There had been a dust-up between Dr. Minayard's office and the several of the Counties in the 4-County District (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton) about salaries in her office (including her salary reported to be in excess of a Half Million Dollars yearly) and whether or not the records requested from the medical examiner by Okaloosa County had to be released.  Her office sued all four counties over these issues...my take, for what it's worth--the records requested should be made public, because her office is funded by public dollars.



Thursday, June 28, 2018

What if it Would Have Been a Town Center Instead? Part II

What would happen to Pensacola and Escambia County if the NFCU expansion and associated $250 Million annual payroll and $3.4 Billion annual economic impact, started in an Escambia County Commerce Park called the Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park, were suddenly taken away and replaced with a "town center instead?" How would that have worked out for Escambia County?

Imagine the gut-wrenching feeling you would have if you always, consistently, played the same 6 lottery numbers weekly-- and never won.  Year after year, decade after decade, if you stuck it out and played the same numbers, $2 Dollars a week, hoping against hope that one day you might win. Heck, forget about the $2.00 you were wasting all those years, you probably just rationalized the expenditure as "entertainment" because between the drawings you would spend hours just fantasizing and daydreaming about all the fun things you would do with the winnings if you won.. Those imaginary daydreams kept you so entertained, the $2.00 was like a guilty pleasure almost, like eating a dove bar or an expensive cup of coffee at Starbucks.  But think about this:  Imagine how sick you would feel, how absolutely and totally wrecked you would be inside (potentially suicidal possibly),- if you went on an out-of-town trip, forgot to buy your ticket before you left--AND  BOOM!!YOUR NUMBERS CAME IN WITHOUT YOU! Just imagine how that would feel!  How long would it take to get over that one?  Would you ever get over that?

I'm guessing that's kind of how our community would feel if there was some super high-tech way some naysayers had at their disposal, perhaps a time machine,  to go backwards in time to keep leaders in the early 2000's from making a commerce park in Beulah called Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park.  You see, as I explained in part I, NFCU has grown exponentially in that park and beyond, on the way to providing 10,000 good-paying jobs here locally--yet there are still some in the community that believe that Navy Federal Credit Union coming to Escambia County was a terrible thing.  They wish it had never happened--some go so far as to say they think it wrecked their community.?!? Now, I have said publicly and on a very frequent basis I cannot have a rational conversation with anyone who believes this--as this opinion/outlook is simply so outlandishly myopic and psychopathic when juxtaposed with the MASSIVE, positive benefit NFCU brings to our region--that it is incomprehensible.

So just imagine if these naysayers could actually turn back the hands of time and sabotage what has since transpired in Pensacola over the last 16 years--making it so that  Navy Federal Credit Union never even made it here and instead grew their campus in Tidewater, Virginia (the runner-up location that eventually lost out to Pensacola). Imagine if Pensacola was not the recipient of the estimated $250 Million Annual payroll and $3.4 Billion in regional economic impact NFCU's eventual 10,000 jobs would bring to Escambia County and Pensacola? Imagine if you were a community leader with vision that worked to bring this tremendous outcome to Pensacola and you had to watch the naysayers blow it up and instead create a park, a retail mall, fast-food restaurants, cobblestone streets, an art district, an amphitheater, and a "town center" to the Bell-Heritage Oaks site--instead of bringing NFCU here in 2003?  Would that not drive you crazy???  Would you not do everything in

What If It Would Have Been a Town Center Instead? Part I

The 11-parcel, 68 acre Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park sold out to one tenant and was/is a smashing success


That's the question I have asked myself.  It is a question I have asked of others.

As we come closer to acquisition of the OLF 8 Property in Beulah, a look back at the history of one property decision deserves a second look with the benefit of hindsight.

In the early 2000s, a small parcel of land, approximately 68 acres, was acquired by the county from the Matt Langley Bell foundation.  The property was situated in Beulah off of 9-Mile Road next to the Matt Langley Bell 4-H property.  In a joint project with the State, County, and the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce--the decision was made to carve this small parcel into several smaller, individual parcels and market them as a part of the Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park.  I'm told there were a few loud, vocal opponents of this plan that did not want this to happen.  There were better uses for this property, according to these early naysayers.  Luckily for our region--these critical, negative voices were not  taken seriously and the park was constructed despite the objections from a few local residents....

PROJECT TUCKER

At about the same time as the Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park was being developed, an economic development effort was launched to lure about 500 jobs to this newly constructed commerce park in Beulah.  The company was huge, a worldwide leader in their industry--so secrecy was an absolute necessity.  After about 18 months of negotiations back and forth, all the pieces came together, and Project Tucker was publicly identified as a 500 person call-center contingent from Navy Federal Credit Union's (NFCU) HQ in Vienna, Virginia. Although NFCU had branches worldwide--this  represented the first time this company had explored the possibility of expanding their administrative/office/support  footprint outside of Virginia.   The competition was tough, but eventually Pensacola won the jobs and the investment from Navy Federal Credit Union (over another site in Virginia) due to a number of factors to include the area's available workforce, the low wages of the area, and a very generous package of incentives offered to NFCU.  According to many sources intimately familiar with the negotiations with whom I have spoken--the incentives package is what sealed the deal and won this initial investment from NFCU for Pensacola.  Initially, NFCU purchased one parcel in the park, roughly 18 acres, for about $20K an acre.  Then subsequently NFCU bought another.  Eventually, NFCU would acquire all the parcels in the park.  Finally, seeing the great potential in Pensacola, NFCU purchased the Langley Bell 4-H property and began an ambitious growth and building cycle that would ultimately lead to several giant buildings being constructed and  thousands of additional jobs coming to Pensacola.

FAST FORWARD TO 2018

As of June of 2018, I am told NFCU's local workforce is up to roughly 6400 persons, with a plan to go to 10,000.  Several new buildings are going up, and hundreds of millions of dollars in capital expenditures have been injected into the Escambia County economy from this private-sector growth--benefiting not just Pensacola, not just Escambia County, not just Florida--but our entire region.  The growth has been rapid and there have been issues (infrastructure not sufficient for the growth)--but things are coming together and the necessary infrastructure is being built/planned/programmed to accommodate the growth.  All in all this past 16 year history between NFCU and Escambia County has been nothing short of a miracle for our area--an amazing Grand Slam Home Run for our area.  Most everyone recognizes this.  Most everyone does.

THE NAYSAYERS 

Even with the spectacular growth of the NFCU footprint locally, even with thousands of new jobs being imported to our community (a text-book, case study, poster-child for economic development success)--there are still naysayers who do not recognize this success.  I met dozens of them on the campaign trail as I went door to door in Beulah.  Luckily, and thankfully, however--the number of naysayers and cynics about NFCU on a percentage basis is very small.  Most, like me, recognize the tremendous boost NFCU has given our region.  But the number of cynics is not an insignificant number either.  There a a lot of them.  The reasoning they give for not liking NFCU is simple--they liked the open fields and bucolic nature of Beulah prior to the growth; they bemoan the traffic and the

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Vicious Dogs: Email from a Concerned Resident

How should residents react when dangerous animals are loose in their neighborhoods and the problem is chronic? 

I'll preface this post with a disclaimer:  I am a lifelong pet owner and dog lover-- and I am also a supporter of good public policy on animal control.  I support pet spaying/neutering, adoptions, and also I support the move to a "no-kill" animal shelter.

As a political candidate in multiple elections, I walked to thousands of doors in Escambia County and I can report that a huge percentage of the houses I visited over the years had at least one dog on the premise--and I met a lot of them.  The scary scenario was when dogs were loose, and I had a couple of incidents where I had dogs come after me.  Luckily-it all ended well and I was able to get to safety.  But it is an unnerving sight to see a fence door wide open (or with sections missing) with a prominent "Beware of Dog" sign affixed to it.....I've seen that situation many times as well.  It is especially scary when you hear loud barking or growling from these houses--it is sobering.

Full Disclosure:  I am a lifelong pet owner and dog lover


About three years ago, I was minding my own business at my house and my Goldendoodle Rocky was on the front porch.  Suddenly he was attacked by two vicious Rhodesian Ridge back dogs that were loose in the neighborhood.  I quickly grabbed my pistol and (probably foolishly) opened the door to try and save Rocky.  Luckily for everyone--I did not have to kill the other dogs, and Rocky was not badly injured as I was able to get him separated and put inside.  It was unnerving.  The two dogs were subsequently captured by County Animal control, I met the owner who apologized profusely (the dogs escaped from her back yard), and eventually these dogs came home and were re-united with their owner.  But not all such incidents have happy endings......as illustrated in an email I received recently.

 The below email from a citizen is  rational, balanced, yet concerned.  He has legitimate points.

At the end of the day, though, the responsibility for  these issues lies squarely at the feet of the
owner (s) of such animals. And I do not support "outlawing" certain breeds based upon anecdotal evidence, statistics, or other data that is not scientifically valid.  But animals that are aggressive must be contained and segregated from the general public--and when that does not happen there MUST be meaningful action taken immediately.  If that does not occur, all bets are off and bad things can happen, as described here:


"XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,
 I want to start off by saying that my family has two dogs (XXXXX and XXXXXX) and my email is in no way an attempt to degrade other pet owners or discount the home security that comes with owning larger breeds.  With that said, we have lived @ XXXXXXXXX. for about 5 years now and overall enjoy our neighborhood.  In that time, I have personally witnessed two different animal attacks involving pit bulls and have heard of several others from neighbors. 

The first attack I witnessed started out by the owner of the pit bulls forgetting to latch the gate.  The two dogs were roaming the neighborhood and ended up attacking a smaller dog.  The owner of the smaller dog ended the attack by shooting and killing both of the pit bulls.  

The second attack happened yesterday afternoon. I am not sure how this one started but another neighbor and I responded to the owner of the victim (cat) when she was hysterical over her pet 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

So What is Going to Be Discussed at the Joint BCC/SRIA Meeting next Month?

There will be several topics of great interest discussed at next month's BCC/SRIA joint meeting....


I was asked today, by a member of the media, what sort of topics would be discussed at the joint BCC/SRIA meeting next month....

I replied that the agenda is not yet compiled, and I have no idea what topics my counterparts might bring--but that I will be bringing the following 4 items for discussion:

--Toll Booth (full automation and price reduction to ease congestion at toll plaza)

--Beach Parking (Addition of some paid, premium parking to make up revenue from toll reduction with the goal of achieving a revenue-neutral outcome from the adjustments)

--Lease Renewals (Working toward equity between and among lease holders)

--Roundabouts (Do residents believe these are necessary and do residents want these?)

I anticipate these topics will elicit some robust debate/discussion......

Modernizing the Beulah Fire Service Part II

The Board of County Commissioners and the Beulah Volunteer Fighters, Inc., are close to reaching a deal for the purchase of the Beulah fire station and property--which is step one in a multi-year plan to modernize the Beulah Fire Service


The Escambia Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously last Thursday to pay the Beulah Volunteer Firefighters, Inc., $300,000.00 for their building and 6 acres of property on 9-Mile Road in Beulah.

These Volunteer Firefighters purchased the property and built the facility that is being acquired by the county--- and they have a long history of tremendous service to this community.

Because they are a registered non-profit corporation, the money they realize from the sale of this property and building must be used for a public purpose.  I'm not privy to what the actual plan is for these funds, but I have heard that there is a plan to establish a scholarship fund to assist future first responders who wish to pursue a career in this field.
Due to the layout of the Beulah property--the addition to the current 
facility will likely be constructed behind the existing bay

The plan going forward is to modernize the truck bay, and then subsequently to add a modern addition behind the existing bay structure.  The addition will have a large and comfortable meeting space, showers/lockers, a large kitchen and bunk facilities--all of which are amenities the existing facility lacks.  Additionally, I am working to ensure that this station will in the very near future have a ladder/bucket truck so that any emergency at the new Navy Federal Credit Union campus can be addressed by the Beulah fire department.

I have been told the Beulah Firefighters had a meeting last night and agreed to the purchase price, in principal.  The stipulations from the perspective of the firefighters, according to one individual at the meeting with whom I have spoken, are two-fold.  They want the facility modernized, and they want to ensure the facility is not moved to a different location but stays where it is currently.

I do believe we will be able to broker an agreement to move forward on this, to everyone's satisfaction, so that the growing Beulah area will have a modernized fire service, fully capable of handling any emergency in our growing area.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Modernizing the Beulah Fire Service

On Thursday the BCC will vote to approve a purchase contract for the property and facility at the Beulah Fire Station as step one in modernizing that facility.


Tomorrow's agenda of the Board of County Commissioners contains an action item for the purchase of the Beulah Fire Station and associated property from the Beulah Volunteer Fire Department.  This is step one in modernizing this aging and inadequate facility so that we can maintain a robust fire service presence in this growing portion of the county.  And it is my vision and my preference that the Volunteers maintain control of this station via a use agreement once we acquire this property.  I also support, if necessary, the establishment of a "day crew" of paid firefighters to man this station during the daytime hours--if this is found to be beneficial and needed after consultations with the volunteers.

To do this, we need to purchase this property, acquire some additional adjacent property, and then modernize the existing bay and facility while adding on a brand new addition containing shower facilities, a kitchen, meeting spaces, and bunk facilities.  This has been a plan for some time, however in early 2016 the purchase fell through.

Once we get the property, if we can come to terms with the Beulah Volunteer Firefighters, Inc. (non-profit corporation that owns this property) I will move quickly to get the ball rolling on the plan to modernize this facility.  Because of the fact that this property is a conglomeration of properties, a portion of which was donated by ECUA--the county is the ideal purchaser of this land.  If another purchaser (a private person) were to pursue this land, the portion of the ECUA donated property would revert back to the County or ECUA--not the new "purchaser."  If the county acquires the property, I'm told we would acquire the entire parcel through the closing process and ECUA would back out.  This makes this parcel ideal for the county, and much less attractive on the open market to an individual buyer.

So my intent is to approve the purchase contract tonight, and hopefully the volunteers will accept the offer and we can move forward with the next phases of this plan--modernizing the facility and adding a bucket truck so that our station has the equipment necessary to handle any potential issues at the new, large building being constructed on the NFCU campus.

If, by chance, the deal cannot be closed with the volunteers, if a much higher-than (market) price is required--then we will perhaps have to look at construction of a new fire facility somewhere else in a central area of Beulah--perhaps over on our soon to be acquired property OLF 8--which in some respects would be closer to the concentrated areas of growth in Beulah and perhaps a better location for a new, modern fire service facility and would not require us to "purchase" the land needed. But Make no mistake--my first choice and option is to leave the station right where it is and to fix it up and modernize it where it stands. It would also be my intention to have the volunteers sign a use agreement and run this new facility if they so choose, as well.

Bottom line:  I respect and support the volunteer firefighters and I want to equip them in an equitable manner so they can continue to serve our growing community--and it is time for this facility to be modernized.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Another Vision for Triumph Field House Proposal Downtown

A new, scaled down Triumph ask for a field house concept utilizing the existing Pensacola Civic Center site will be discussed by the BCC on 7-5-2018 


I have been sent a revised proposal for consideration by the board on the Triumph Gulf Coast Field House proposal.

At the last meeting when this discussion was held, the board was not unified on any single plan in any single location.  The general sense I had was there was support for the field house only, and only at a downtown location.

I discussed (here and here) the possibility of just moving forward independently with repairs to our existing facility, the Civic Center, in order to move this item off our plates and to get another 20 years out of our existing facility.

But this new proposal is intriguing, so it will be discussed at our first meeting in July.

A new $35 Million Dollar field house complex ($10 Million of which would be requested from Triumph), with parking, commercial, and restaurant spaces--within the footprint of the existing Civic Center property.  Would this sort of a project win support from the board?  We will have an answer July 5th--because this will be discussed.  Lots of questions, but this is intriguing.

Constituent Request (s) and My Answer: Let the People Weigh-In and Vote

I have been asked to add the ballot measure language to this Thursday's BCC agenda, which I am inclined to do, so we can vote yes or no, up or down, as to whether or not we will go through the process to add this question to the ballot...


For the last 6 months we have been lobbied to add a referendum to our ballot regarding Pensacola Beach-specifically the question about public or private ownership of the beach.  Our meetings have been flooded with requests that we let the people weigh-in on this request at the ballot box.  I have met with this group individually in my office, and I have heard them speak at the meeting (s).  Last Wednesday, I received this email....




This, below, is the language that we will discuss this Thursday.  I have no idea the appetite my counterparts will have for this--but at least we will have it on the table for, hopefully, an up or down vote one way or the other on the question of whether or not we want to add this to the ballot and let the citizens weigh-in on this topic.




On WCOA this Morning Discussing OLF 8

OLF 8 Was the singular topic discussed between Jeff Bergosh and Don Parker on this morning's "Good Morning Pensacola" Radio show on 1370 WCOA


The singular topic of discussion:  OLF 8 and the past, present, and future potential uses for this property for the benefit of all citizens.

Listen to the podcast here

Friday, June 15, 2018

Joint Meeting BCC/SRIA Scheduled

There are lots of issues to hammer-out, lots of issues to be discussed.   It's time for a joint meeting of the Escambia County Commission and the Santa Rosa Island Authority.  It will happen next month...


Here's Why......

People have asked me.."Why do a committee for the Northwest portion of your district---why is this necessary?"

LOOK AT THE MAP BELOW

The map below, showing the explosive growth this area has experienced from 2010 to present is a huge part of the reason.  We are already behind the curve and playing catch up.  I can't wait to work with this new committee, established by a 4-1 vote of the Board of County Commissioners, to find creative ideas to adapt to this growth for the betterment of every citizen that not only lives here --but also the ones that travel in this area on a regular basis.....




20 for 20: The Pensacola Civic Center part II



So in part I--- I explained this is not a takeoff of the popular 30 for 30 show about championship prize fighters that earn more than $100 Million Dollars and then go bankrupt....This is about getting another 20 years out of our community's only facility for big events and entertainment, the Pensacola Civic Center.  I believe we can save money and get another 20 years out of our existing structure, add revenue enhancing features as well as energy savings featured--which done in conjunction could slash hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly from the operating loss (which this facility and most just like it will always carry)   NOTE:  This list and estimate is a preliminary number and these estimates are very, very general and provided by SMG based upon similar recent work at similar venues nationwide.  In other words, this list would need to be scrubbed and new, current pricing would need to be sought in order to get the most accurate pricing for these upgrades...



20 for 20: The Pensacola Civic Center part I

If we can't decide to try and get grant money to replace the civic center, how about we repair it and try to get 20 more years out of our existing facility?


This post is not some cheap imitation of the ESPN sports show about the millionaire football players that buy houses for their moms and siblings, make ridiculous business decisions like buying donut shops for their cousins, lose all their money, then "win the superbowl and drive off in a Hyundai"... Nope, this post is about the Pensacola Civic Center's future and not about poor money management among some NBA players....

Knowing that the proposal to build a Civic Center Replacement was going to face extreme difficulty, I have been looking at other options and discussing other alternatives with staff and facilities personnel intimately associated with the Civic Center.  Although I supported the concept of an arena, fieldhouse, and events center--yesterday's committee of the whole exposed the fact that support for various aspects of that plan are all over the map.  Support among influential hoteliers and other community leaders appears to be waning as well.  So I began to look at the alternative.  Can kicking cannot be considered a serious option any longer.

My questions were pretty simple:  How much would it cost to get 20 more years out of the civic center?  I'm told structurally, the "Bones are Good".  It looks like to get 20 years, we would have to spend about $20 Million. (see detailed cost estimate in part II)  20 for 20.

The money part, according to staff I spoke with, could be pretty straightforward:  If we chose to do so, we could bond the $20 Million against future revenue realized via our bed tax collections,  and do the enhancements and renovations today and pay back the bond over 20 years and the payback

Thursday, June 14, 2018

District 1 Town Hall Announced---Thursday July 26th, 2018 5:30 PM


We will soon have our next town hall meeting for citizens in District 1.  All are welcome to attend...


.....The topics for the Town Hall will be:


  1. The Master Plan for Northwest District 1
  2. Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee
  3. Restore Act/Triumph
  4. Update on OLF8 acquisition and Master Plan
  5. Beulah Fire House Renovation and Expansion
  6. Library in District 1
  7. Update on Transportation Projects of Interest


In addition to these topics, I will also be discussing my soon to be announced "Escambia Youth Commission" Initiative that was discussed at the joint School Board/BCC meeting from earlier in the year.

As is always the case with my monthly coffee events and with my Town Hall meetings--the County will advertise this event such that ALL County Commissioners from all districts may attend if they so choose.

I will take and answer questions from the audience and this event is free and open to all.

It will be held in the cafeteria of Beulah Elementary School 6201 Helms Road, Pensacola, FL 32526, beginning at 5:30 PM.  If you have any questions or comments, please call 850-595-4910 or email them to District1@myescambia.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Political Economy of GPS Ankle Monitors and Drug Patches

Does the release of jail inmates via bail and GPS Ankle Monitors really save the county money?


There has been a push at the BCC to provide alternatives for Judges to utilize, if they so choose, to sending people to our Jail.  For those Judges that want to control actions/locations of offenders but who are also cognizant of the costs of incarceration locally, we have a county program to pay for GPS ankle monitors and/or drug patches.  The program was grant-funded, but the funds from the grant recently dried up.

According to one Judge with whom I spoke that wanted to put a person on a GPS ankle monitor and drug patch--he was told that "There is no more money available for this"

"That's ridiculous" I told him.  "I'll fund it myself if necessary--out of my discretionary funds if need be."

So I asked the question of relevant staff.  I mean, if the average cost of incarceration is $72 daily but an ankle monitor and drug patch combo is only roughly $10 dollars per day--is it not a no-brainer to fund the patches and GPS monitors to save money at the jail?

Apparently, the answer is not so simple.

The actual savings realized when a prisoner (one of 1500 or so) is removed from our jail is not actually $72 daily---it is more like $3.00 daily-for the cost of food.  This is because the jail's hard, fixed costs are high in order to service a population so high--and no appreciable reduction in total fixed costs will be realized by releasing a single prisoner (except in cases where the prisoner requires high-dollar medicines or medical treatments).  It would take several hundred fewer to realistically reduce fixed costs, close a pod, reduce staffing, etc.

So in the big picture, reducing one prisoner saves very little money for the jail, but actually costs the county money out of a different fund for the patches, ankle monitors, and electronic surveillance.  And there is not currently a system that compels payment for these services by the released prisoners, nor is there currently a means-test or similar method in place to ensure those that can afford to pay for the monitoring actually pay.

According to one staffer with whom I spoke:  "The grant [for GPS and patches] was for the purpose of providing funding for the patches to reduce our jail population." she continued "But the program did not reduce the jail population--our population actually remained consistent and we spent a lot

Monday, June 11, 2018

Mikey---He Likes It!


When Mikey grew up he realized he had been duped...Quiche actually tastes delicious and it is a healthier breakfast food than sugar/cinnamon coated carbs.....But Mikey liked it, the way the sugar-cereal tasted.

I remember the commercial from the 1970's where they gave a boy a bowl of cereal, and it was supposedly a test.  Would Mikey like the "Life" Cereal?  The talking point was that he would HATE it because Life cereal is/was allegedly "Nutritious."   Of course it was a funny shtick.--of course he was going to love it--whole milk over straight carbs covered in sugar and cinnamon.  Who wouldn't love that?

The real test would have been to set the bowl of Life next to a plate of Quiche.  Quiche, with eggs, cheese and spinach--it is delicious and healthy.  Protein, low-carb, and delicious.  Mikey--given the choice between quiche and a huge bowl of Life would throw the quiche across the room like a Frisbee and gobble down the cereal like Pac Man eating the dots...woka woka woka woka woka... 

Heck, it might as well be a choice between a steaming plate of Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Eggplant  OR a bowl filled with Ice Cream, birthday cake, and chocolate bars.  What would Mikey pick?

I see a parallel between this funny choice, above, and the much more serious and important choice about what to do with OLF 8 once we acquire it later this year.

The easy path would be to take the land, build a beautiful clock tower, cobblestone city circle, add in lots of retail stores, a giant park, a nature preserve, lots of buffer zone acreage for NFCU, and an additional 100 acres for NFCU so they could build more parking for their employees, as well as an NFCU employee-only recreation center.  If we hit the easy button, we could sell off  the remaining

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Here Is What I DON'T Support!


developers have circulated a rendering illustrating their desire to use about half of the OLF 8 site for a hotel, and apartments and multi-family residential properties.  I don't support building apartments, condo's, multi-family homes, and a hotel on this site...we have ENOUGH of these already under construction in Beulah




A developer has put together his "vision" for the OLF 8 site.  It has now been circulated on social media.  More residential properties and a hotel.  More call center and low-paying office and retail office jobs, and no high-tech, clean and high paying jobs with a future.  I do not support this vision.  Here is what I told him, via an email, below.