Guidelines

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








Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Anger, Concern Continues to Erupt over the NFCU 9-Mile Road Overpass, Part III

Anger over Navy Federal Credit Union's $70 Million Dollar Overpass continues to overflow..

"I certainly understand your position, and appreciate that you want residents involved - as they should be.  I think this mainly has been a public relations fiasco, [emphasis added] could have been handled much better...the item popped up on the agenda with a "preferred" option that did not involve the public at all.  More written background on the agenda item could have helped to explain the process, and what this move will mean."  ---Concerned District 1 Resident


"We understand that the current plan is only a concept, but we have the following concerns/observations:
  1. Our project is not Future Development, it is currently under construction.
  1. The current plan does not allow for west bound exit from Navy Federal or RNC at the proposed intersection. West bound traffic from RNC would need access through the Navy Federal Campus to access Nine Mile Road.
  1. There is an existing ECUA/International Paper 48” effluent pipe just east of the Navy Federal/RNC shared property line that we avoided building over in our design. The current concept plan appears include an lane over the 48” pipe.

We request any action taken by the BOCC include assurance that Navy Federal/FDOT/Escambia County include the RNC development in their analysis and design. Your attention to this matter is appreciated." ---- Concerned Area Developer, District 1


"I have been following this issue since it first became public a week or so ago. I am surprised that something of this magnitude would be acted upon so fast.....basically devoid of public input. I know as well as anybody we need improvements in traffic in that area but I am concerned that the Beulah Interchange effort could suffer as result of focusing on another large project.....one that does not solve long term traffic needs.  I strongly urge you to allow appropriate time to allow for public input AND insist that nothing be done that will slow down the Beulah Interchange process. A slowdown of the Beulah Interchange will have serious negative impacts on the Sector Plan and the developers revised MOU that was submitted to county staff last week.  These issues should be addressed together as part of an overall plan and not individually."---Concerned Escambia County Developer


"An earlier proposal to create an additional I-10 exit was defeated by FDOT yet would have been ideal for Navy Federal Employees and for the residents of Nature Trail.  I do not view the proposal to be a reasonable option and I question whether it is also premature decision?  It will, unfortunately, give commuters a great view of our neighborhood.  In addition, the recently constructed sound wall on Nine Mile will be worthless.  Ultimately this will have a negative impact to our quiet community and property values.   The existing construction of four lanes on Nine Mile Road (according to the pre-construction study) is able to handle 10,000 vehicles which would be sufficient. 
So why this flyover option?"  ---Concerned Beulah Resident

"I own property in the Sector Plan area and I am very concerned about  the design of the Navy Federal overpass proposal, it being acted upon so quickly and its potential negative impact on the Beulah Interchange.  I urge you to grant 90 days to allow for the proper study and debate.  Thank you for your consideration"  Concerned District 5 Resident


Anger Erupts over Navy Federal Credit Union's 9-Mile Road Overpass, Part II

Anger and concern is building over the proposed NFCU Overpass project for 9-Mile Road in Beulah--why is this being rushed?

"I worked my way up from XXXXXXXXX to XXXXXXXX in the XXXXX and retired in 1985. In 2010, XXXXXXX and I bought our final retirement home in Nature Trail, a modest patio home. There were two other houses on our street which backs up to Nine Mile Road. I’m thankful that Navy Fed relocated to Pensacola, bringing a lot of jobs with it. My part of the payment for it has become the four-laning of Nine Mile and now a cement wall in place of the trees that used to stand behind our home. There’s not [a lot] of Nature left in the Trail these days. Sir, not everyone in Nature Trail has a lot of money, living in expensive homes. We bought here for the security and what used to be the peace. Please don’t allow commute times to trump what we worked so hard, so long for. I know there are many other voices, probably all with legitimate issues. Please keep the little guys in mind in the discussions. Tallahassee and Wash DC are distant in their priorities as well as geographically. I’m looking to you, sir, as my local voice." Concerned District 1 Resident

"Why is new infrastructure being planned before the effects of the widening [of 9-mile road] project are determined (or even completed?)  Concerned District 1 Resident  

"Most reasonable people understand there is no solution to the Beulah problem until the new interchange opens and takes some of the traffic off that 9 Mile Road bottleneck between NFCU and the existing interchange." Concerned District 5 Residents

"I believe that we all need to flood the chambers tommrrow night if your for it or against it it our community we need to let the BOCC hear from us!" District 1 Resident

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Anger Erupts over Navy Federal Credit Union's 9-Mile Road Overpass.....Part I

Angry Beulah Residents are now enraged over this NFCU Overpass--and some are saying they regret  moving here over this proposed initiative and the way it is being steamrolled over them...This is not the way projects should be developed!


"The proposed extension to Nine Mile either over or under for Navy Federal needs to go to the North side sooner, where there are no homes impacted.  The existing proposal has Federal Way coming across Nature Trail property and behind Salt Grass, impacting our quality of life.  The raised Nine Mile (25’) impacts those homes backing up to Nine Mile.  Surely we are a smart enough people that we can come up with a different solution.  The way it is now, DOT and whomever will just TAKE Nature Trails property across the street from the existing exit/entrance on Federal Way to NFCU.  This is something that residents of Nature Trail voted down last year.  We do not want to give up that buffer.  Now, if NFCU or the County wants to buy my home at “fair market value”, great.  Either way, we will be moving as soon as we can to get away from this mess.  We moved into our home Dec 2013…heard about the widening of Nine Mile a few months after that and then heard about the expansion of NFCU.  IF we’d have been informed that these “improvements” were going to happen, we have purchased a home elsewhere."  ---District 1 Constituent

"I just moved here with my husband three months ago...had I known about this issue and that now there is going to be an overpass built on 9-mile road, and even more construction--we would have never bought this house.  Who can I call, who can I write?  I will write the Governor and our state senators because this is not right!"  ---Angry new District 1 Constituent and Beulah Resident

 " my wife [and I]are against this project, to [at] least not taking 60 days to study this project.   Many of those owners will be in the meeting room for Thursday’s BCC Meeting.  Many of them have written their representatives.  Our neighbors along Nine Mile Rd and across all of Beulah also have a vested interest in whether this project, that significantly improves the commutes for NFCU employees who come here and leave here but one time, five days a week but does not do much for the residents.  The residents who drive this road daily who have learned to work around the impact of these NFCU employees on Nine Mile Rd, trying to be good neighbors. This is a 25 ft. high elevated roadway, although some in leadership positions have tried to sell this as an underpass, that will alleviate any benefit that the 15 ft. high Sound Walls provide.  This is a $72,000,000 project that is being fast tracked, steamrolled, through the process without any studies, public meetings or any of the normal process items.  All to benefit NFCU, but have a very large financial impact on the residents

WCOA Radio Interview This Morning: NFCU overpass, ECFR Firing, Bed Tax


Lot's of discussion this morning on WCOA:

--The Navy Federal Credit Union Overpass at 9-Mile Road--and the anger it is generating among residents in the district, and how this sudden initiative has been pushed through to this week's agenda

--The breaking news on ECFR Chief's dismissal

--Discussion of the allowable uses of Bed Tax revenue--in light of the Sunday editorial

Listen to the podcast HERE

Monday, January 29, 2018

What a Great Day at Escambia's Animal Shelter!

                      Watch the brief highlight video from the event and the ribbon cutting above

From MyEscambia.com

"The Escambia County Animal Shelter hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday, Jan. 29 for a shelter reopening after extensive shelter renovations. The renovations are part of a grant valued at $75,000 from GreaterGood.org's Rescue Rebuild, a volunteer program that works to rebuild, repair and renovate animal shelters and rescues in need. The grant was applied for by Friends of the Escambia County Animal Shelter, and the Escambia Shelter project was selected from 150 project submittals.
Volunteers began renovations Saturday, Jan. 20 and worked through Monday, Jan. 29. Over 400 volunteers participated throughout the course of the project. The renovations included complete demolition and reconstruction of the lobby, front counter, tile flooring, cat rooms and waiting area, along with the addition of a "catio" for outdoor cat play and the installation of sun sails over the dog play yards. 

Escambia County Animal Services Manager John Robinson said the renovations will focus on increasing adoptability while making the animals’ time at the shelter more comfortable and enjoyable.
"You see the changes on the outside of the building, but the amazing thing is that it’s not just cosmetic"

What is District 1 Saying about getting Steamrolled, Part III

....The angry comments and negative reactions continue to pour in.....We Do Not Want This NFCU Overpass!  Is What I am Hearing from angry residents and constituents in Beulah


"Your Idea putting a back road on to Frank Reader is the same Idea I had and then if they could speed up the new Exit off Beulah Road onto I-10 that makes the most sense the cheapest and fastest way of solving the problem . Beulah Resident, District 1 Constituent"

"The core issue here is the traffic problem will continue to get worse as long as the state and others remain hell-bent on cramming all the current and future Navy Federal/Beulah traffic into the 9 Mile Road interchange, mainly the eastbound lane onto I-10. The new "flyover" concept on 9 Mile Road may help. But the new Beulah Interchange is the most viable, long-term solution for Navy Federal employees and all the rest of us."  District 5 Resident and Property Owner

........"We believe this to be an important issue, and would like to see the proposed Flyover "not pass"  Beulah Resident, District 1 Constituent

"I’m totally confused. We need a public meeting to clarify what is going on with the original widening project and this proposed overpass before any decisions are made."  Beulah Resident and District 1 Constituent.

."..I'm upset because this will be taxpayer money spent on a proposal that primarily benefits one private entity, one private business.  It is too expensive and I believe the other interchange option, with a back road to that exit out of Navy Federal Credit Union should be considered!" Beulah Resident, District 1 constituent

"As a resident of one of the communities on 9 Mile Road I want to adamantly state that I am opposed to the proposed “fly-over” that is under discussion at this time.   The alternative solution of an interchange for Belauh Road appears to be the most logical approach for long term traffic management"  Beulah Resident and Property Owner

"Thank you for your consideration of my viewpoint on this matter. I believe it is an important issue, and would like to see the proposed Flyover fail " District 1 Resident and property owner"

..."Thank you for standing up for the homeowners on 9-Mile Road--there are a lot of us that DO NOT WANT THIS, DO NOT SUPPORT THIS!" Beulah resident and property owner 


"I believe it is an important issue, and would like to see the proposed Flyover fail.  Instead, it should be replaced by an alternate solution that is less invasive and esthetically more pleasing." Beulah Property Owner, District 1 Constituent

   

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What are District 1 Constituents Saying about Being Steamrolled, Part II

District 1 Residents are not happy about a proposal to add a 25' High Overpass to 9-Mile Road in Beulah to help the egress of NFCU employees in the afternoons after shift change.....NOT HAPPY.....Here is what they are saying....


I have received numerous emails, phone calls, and I have even been stopped in public this weekend over the potential overpass that is being considered for District 1 on 9-Mile Road.  The email inbox has blown up!!---and residents are NOT HAPPY about this being Ram-Rodded through!  here are some snippets of what I am hearing....

"Before work of this significance were to happen, is it not incumbent on the board of Commissioners to inform the people who will be effected by such a significant change to their environment?
 A clearer explanation as to how this would work would greatly appreciated. We are a Community of 659 families." Beulah Resident and District 1 Constituent

"The proposed fly over is the most ludicrous and destructive idea to our development..The recently constructed sound wall on Nine Mile will be worthless.  As this may assist Navy Federal Employees, this will not help with traffic getting on to   I-10.  This will eventually have a negative effect on our quiet community and property values..The proposed additional I-10 exit that was defeated by FDOT would have been ideal for Navy Federal Employees and the residents..I am sorry that the "morale" of NFCU employees may be affected, but this fly over will destroy our property values and that is more important than their minor discomfort"  Beulah Resident and District 1 Constituent

"I hereby would like to submit my  strong, official objection to an overpass proposal to add an overpass/underpass to 9 mile road anywhere alongside Nature Trail Residential boundaries.  This option was never discussed when I reviewed my options for purchasing a home in Pensacola or Nature Trail.  If this option is chosen, I would probably choose to move and  not  continue to refer other incoming Navy , Navy Federal or anyone that asks me to recommend this area to include anyone in the  Beulah are  to consider moving to this location.  I believe this option would cause too much noise as well as cause a decrease in property values as well as desirability of this as a relocation site.  My husband and I enjoy this location which we chose as our enduring retirement home."  Beulah Resident and District 1 Constituent  

"...we need to study this further, and also, give the current road-building efforts a chance to be implemented. Having a four lane road and better traffic light timing on 9 Mile along this area could substantially improve the
traffic problems. Also, I think the combining of this issue with the Beulah Rd project already in the plans and funded, would be a much better solution.  Of course, if there were any possibility of further pursuing the original
solution of adding an I-10 exit at the back of Navy Federal, getting the federal gov't to make an exception, that would be the best thing of all!!"

What are District 1 Residents Saying about Being Steamrolled?? Part I

District 1 Residents are not happy about a proposal to add a 25' High Overpass to 9-Mile Road in Beulah to help the egress of NFCU employees in the afternoons after shift change.....NOT HAPPY.....Here is what they are saying....

I have received numerous emails, phone calls, and I have even been stopped in public this weekend over the potential overpass that is being considered for District 1 on 9-Mile Road.  The email inbox has blown up!!---and residents are NOT HAPPY about this being Ram-Rodded through!  here are some snippets of what I am hearing....


"I am primarily concerned about the noise level and unsightly 25’ high ramp that will be visible from our quiet gated community.  [Hurlbert Field built a similar flyover.]  This works well for traffic flow, it gives them a great view of the neighborhood, however, they had more acreage to work with.]   The recently constructed sound wall on Nine Mile will be worthless.  As this may assist Navy Federal Employees, this will not help with traffic getting on to   I-10.  This will eventually have a negative effect on our quiet community and property values."  -Beulah Resident, District 1 Constituent

"This seems to be a total run round of the residents of Nature Trail and other sub divisions in the area" Beulah Resident, District 1 Constituent

"We are primarily concerned about the noise level and unsightly 25’ high ramp that will be visible from our quiet gated community.  [Hurlburt Field, AFB, Ft. Walton, FL built a similar flyover, which works well for traffic flow; however, they had more roadway acreage to work with].  The recently constructed FDOT sound wall on Nine Mile will be worthless.  The flyover may assist Navy Federal Employees to access/exit their property but will in no way ease traffic attempting to gain entry to Interstate 10 (I-10), a route widely used by many.  The flyover will eventually have a negative effect on our quiet community..."Beulah Resident, District 1 Constituent

"While I empathize with the daily commute issues of employees at Navy Federal Credit Union, I fail to understand why the residents of the Greater Beulah area should be permanently penalized just so that NFCU workers can exit their parking lots in 30 minutes or less - only to sit bumper to bumper eastbound as traffic backs up at the lights on Nine Mile Road at I-10, Pine Forest, and Hwy 29.
 I realize that the area is growing and desperately needs infrastructure improvements BUT I am unequivocally opposed to a $70 Million dollar, 25-foot high overpass less than 100 feet outside my neighborhood..." Beulah Resident, District 1 Constituent 

   

Saturday, January 27, 2018

"It Will Be an Overpass,Like the One at Hurlburt Field"

The overpass at Hurlburt, pictured above, is similar to what is being proposed for 9-Mile Rd. at Navy Federal Way.  It will require 16' of clearance from the surface of Navy Federal Way to the bottom of the overpass structure above it, the 9-Mile Road Overpass-- according to Engineers from FDOT with whom I spoke late yesterday afternoon.

"It Will Be an Overpass,Like the One at Hurlburt Field"...These were the words spoken to me late yesterday afternoon by the PE from FDOT that is intimately familiar with the NFCU, 9-Mile road overpass initiative Mr. Jared Perdue.   This is the PE that is one of the leads at District 3 FDOT in Chipley.

There has been noise out there that this will be an underpass, a tunnel dug under 9-mile road.  That is nonsensical rubbish-it will be an overpass like Hurlburt according to the expert.  This, again, comes from the gentleman from FDOT that walked the halls this past week at the BCC offices and in Tallahassee.  This is the guy who is most familiar with this project.

Now, some of the confusion might have come from the way the latest diagram lists Navy Federal Way as an (Underpass)--but I called and had that cleared up yesterday.  Whoever got the brief and did not comprehend that should probably go back and re-review his notes because it was made very clear to me during my "brief yesterday"

It will be an Overpass, 25 feet high, just like the one pictured above that was recently completed on HWY 98 at Hurlburt Field.

Not a tunnel, not an underpass....

Friday, January 26, 2018

"Let Them Eat Cake!"

I never said NO to any proposal to help alleviate traffic in Beulah and I have been a DIEHARD NFCU supporter--but the rush to build an overpass on 9-Mile road is ALIENATING many District 1 Residents......

It is understandably disappointing for NFCU to have been denied the back exit out of their campus by Federal Bureaucrats.  I’m as disappointed as they are because I hate it for their employees that wait 30 minutes to leave in the afternoons, and I hate it for Beulah residents like me that get stuck in tremendous traffic multiple times daily due to all the NFCU traffic coming down 9-mile road trying to get on and off the interstate at exit 5.  

Traffic is a nightmare and nobody adequately prepared our infrastructure for this prior to permitting all this growth.  We all know this but meanwhile we can’t refuse to accept the situation we are facing right now.  So yes, the back exit was important.  It was prudent.  Most importantly—this would have pulled a significant amount of traffic north and away from 9-mile road and exit 5—which would have been good for everybody.  The back exit was the most common-sense, economical fix had it been accomplished…. but it was not accomplished. 

So YES-- everyone now knows that despite a 2-year effort by NFCU, the county, the Governor, the State legislative delegation, our congressman, our senators, and others in tremendously high positions of power—federal bureaucrats have won-the deep state wins; they said, emphatically, NO to the back exit out of 9-mile road through the welcome center and that is the final word. 

Suddenly, however, in the vacuum created by this tremendous rejection, a new plan is rapidly forming to address ostensibly the same issue—getting NFCU employees out of their campus in less than 30 minutes.  This new initiative, at a very high cost, is the $70 Million overpass above 9-Mile road at Navy Federal Way.  This project will be expensive and will take 4-6 years to complete—if the stars align, funding is made readily available, and all the construction goes without a hitch whatsoever.  (A similar project at Hurlburt Field took 15 years from start to finish)

There was a strong, almost aggressive push to add this item to our last BCC meeting on January 18th, but I pulled it from the agenda because I wanted more time to vet the project.  I wanted to hold a town hall meeting or two with nearby constituents (the ones that are at their wits end with the construction and traffic on 9-mile road already, the ones that must endure another 5 years of construction and congestion on 9-mile road), I wanted more time to contact and discuss this initiative with other nearby developers that were/are unaware of this project and its potential impacts on their properties.  Most importantly I intended to have an independent traffic engineering analysis conducted on what is proposed here.  

I’m concerned about a 25’ high overpass towering over the back yards of $500,000.00 houses in Nature Trail.  I’m concerned about access limitations to 9-Mile road this project might foist on 3 other nearby developments.  I’m concerned about all of Beulah being shoe-horned into one onramp at

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Do Drug Patches Work? Read the Handwritten Testimonial for Yourself Below....

As I discussed in a previous blog post--we have a funding problem right now pertaining to drug patches for certain individuals that find themselves cross-ways with the justice system locally.

According to one source that is intimately familiar with this issue--there are times when some offenders with significant drug problems are placed on these drug patches and as a condition of their continuing probation.

Recently, it was brought to my attention that funding for a number of these offenders was drying up-- and as a consequence some of these folks on probation might end up back in our jail at a much greater cost to the taxpayer per day than what the cost to keep them out of jail and on drug patches would be.

I have asked staff to look into funding options--because all the judges should have this option available--It saves the county money.

I know a request for funding has been made to the sheriff --from the LETF.  Regardless of how that request is handled, I will be making a $5,000.00 purchase from my discretionary fund for the procurement  and use of these patches locally--because, again,  these patches save the county money!  More importantly--these patches help offenders stay off drugs in many cases.  Read the recent, firsthand testimonial to this below......



Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Small Business "Crawl" With Congressman Matt Gaetz in Pensacola

Jim Sweida, president of Blue Morning Gallery in Pensacola (brown jacket) takes a moment to discuss his business with Rep. Matt Gaetz, myself, and representatives of various Internet companies on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 in Pensacola


Today was interesting.  The event was a "small-business crawl" through several different downtown Pensacola businesses.  In attendance, Representative Matt Gaetz, officials from Amazon, Google, Facebook, the Internet Association (trade group based in Washington DC), numerous members of the local press, the Chamber of Commerce, and myself.

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks with Bluejay's Bakery owner
Justine Gudmundson-McCain 
We started out with a visit to  Bluejay's Bakery on Palafox.  The owner, Justine Gudmundson-McCain, was behind the counter busily preparing for the day ahead. Suddenly there were 20 people with cameras in the small lobby space of her bakery.  The discussion that ensued was led by Rep. Gaetz-and it centered on the internet, and specifically how Bluejay's uses the internet locally to grow
their business.  According to the owner, Justine, she uses Facebook and quite a bit of Instagram to drive customers to her location--primarily using posts that are not paid advertisements but that feature tasty creations from her bakery.  She also stated that she utilizes the internet to grow her core niche in the market which is Wedding Cakes and specialty baked goods. She is also not opposed to sending certain baked goods out across the country.  "I sent some items to family over the holidays, to Ohio and North Carolina-primarily to see how it would hold up" she stated. When asked how that turned out, she said "The items I sent to Ohio arrived in great shape...the North Carolina items, not so much.." On our way out, we were treated to freshly baked muffins!

Armored Frog owner Joe Sinkovich talks internet marketing
for his high-end furniture manufacturing company
Next up on the tour was Armored Frog in downtown Pensacola.  This business specializes in high-
end, custom designed furniture.  "If it were not for the internet, we wouldn't be here today" stated Founder and CEO Joe Sinkovich when asked about how the power of the internet  boosts his business.  He provided a summary of his social media sites' metrics to Rep. Gaetz, complete with a report of all the internet activity, email marketing, email opens, returning visits, volume, etc.  "Your email open percentage is 30%--I'd kill for those numbers!" Rep. Gaetz exclaimed after viewing the Armored Frog's internet marketing stats.  According to Sinkovich, the biggest challenge is getting exposure of his brand to the high-end furniture purchaser.  "We're not a name that people equate with our product-but we are working on that and the internet is an important part of our strategy."  When I asked him about shipping the furniture--and being high-end would it require assembly?-he quipped "No, no assembly, it comes ready to use.  We send them in crates, some so large they have actually been used as tree-houses!"  Sinkovich is interested in expanding his furniture kiosks across the country and he is using the internet to push this initiative.

We next entered Blue Morning Gallery.  This is an art cooperative, run and funded by the artists who's work is displayed and sold in the store.  President of the gallery, Jim Sweida, gave the attendees a brief history of the gallery:  "We have been here for 20 years--we've been here longer than most any of the other businesses on Palafox" he stated with pride.  Sweida, a photographer and one of the

Monday, January 22, 2018

Laws and Regulatory Language Can be Changed, Amended, or Modified--If we Have the Will to Do It!



Whether we are talking about what is allowed in terms of spending bed-tax revenues, how public sector advocacy associations are funded with public dollars, or what regulations control access/egress to public highway rest areas----Sometimes when we are trying to get things done we run into a regulatory or legislative brick wall.  That's when, if the issue is important enough, logical enough, and supported enough-- you work to have the particularly troubling rule, regulation, or law amended, modified, revised, or repealed.  

Because laws and regulatory language can be changed, amended, or modified.

Let's explore three examples/Issues/problems that have been solved or that could have been solved if appropriate language changes were sought or were achieved.  Accessing public rest areas, extracting a percentage of bed tax revenue for public safety, and changing the law regarding how public organization dues are funded.  Let's look at all three.

BLOWING UP A FLORIDA TAXPAYER FUNDED MONOPOLY

I was involved personally in a very relevant example of this over the span of two years from 2014-2016.  Florida law at that time did not permit individual school board members from pulling their individual share of high-priced dues membership money from the then "only" professional organization for school board members, the Florida School Boards Association.  The dues ran about $22,000.00 per year per 5 member school board, a price that many of us felt was exorbitant.  For a number of good reasons, with persistence, lots of hard work, and the formation of a coalition for change-- the relevant statutes were changed two years later in 2016 to allow individual board members to fund their choice of support organizations individually and/or to withhold the money altogether to re-direct these resources back to the classrooms of local districts.  Nobody gave us a shot of getting this changed, but a small group of us worked hard, spent lots of time in Tallahassee, and we got it accomplished and blew up a publicly funded monopoly, thereby injecting consumer choice into what was up to  that time an 85 year monopoly within this niche advocacy business.

CHANGING BED TAX ALLOWABLE USE LAW

Another law was being modified in that same 2016 timeframe over in Tallahassee--having to do with a different issue--focused on allowable uses of the tourist development tax for counties and municipalities.

Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay Counties to our east each have a significant tourist and spring break footprint in their respective counties yearly--and this tourism industry was costing the citizens of these counties an inordinate share of their financial resources for the public safety necessary to support these visitors and tourists.  So a group of lawmakers, led by Rep. Brad Drake, sought to

Friday, January 19, 2018

What Could the New Beulah/9-Mile Road/NFCU Traffic Solution Look Like?



The project to add an outlet for NFCU personnel to exit their premises in the afternoon via an access point through the welcome center is dead.  This is extremely disappointing because that option was the smartest, most economical, most practical, and could have been done quickly.  But Federal bureaucrats killed that idea. 

The next initiative to address this issue and overall congestion on 9-mile road, the one that is gaining steam right now,  is an elevated overpass on 9-Mile Road concept.

This will allow NFCU employees to exit via two dedicated left-turn lanes coming out of Navy Federal Way under 9-mile road headed eastbound, while simultaneously allowing the free flow of traffic on 9-mile road east and west above.

The first several conceptual drawings I saw of this plan did not take into account the access to 9-Mile road from several adjacent developments on the north and south side of 9-Mile road.

This latest drawing does a better job of taking  these other property owners' interests into account, and appears to be something that could work.

While my initial concerns about this plan were significant and several are still valid ($68 Million Dollar Cost, 4-6 years to complete, continued disruption to existing traffic on 9-Mile road for Beulah  residents, noise above the sound barriers for residents along the south side of 9-Mile road in Nature Trail)--this latest drawing is a significant improvement over previous renditions.

I still believe we need to ensure that before we go full speed ahead with this, all affected area

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Federal Officials Have Said "NO!" to the Back Exit through the Welcome Center for NFCU Employees

On a conference call today with 15 officials from the Federal Highway Administration, Office of the Secretary of  Transportation, Florida Department of Transportation, Escambia County, Representatives from Congressman Matt Gaetz's office, and Navy Federal Credit Union personnel--Federal Authorities said, emphatically, that the back exit through the Florida Welcome Center is not,  never has been, and never would be considered as a means of easing traffic for Beulah, 9-Mile Road, and NFCU employees.

I appreciated the opportunity to be on this call, and I appreciated the candor expressed by the participants.  I think a lot of confusion is and was created by the "Option 1" of the four OST options floated as potential solutions to NFCU's traffic issues in Beulah.  A lot of the reasoning for the back exit not being allowed was also expressed in the below email I received on the 17th.  Apparently----the back exit out of the visitor's center was never, ever going to be considered no matter what.  I only wonder why, if it was never, ever going to be seriously considered, Navy Federal and the County were made to jump through so many hoops in the hope of having this back exit at the Welcome Center approved?  I mean, why all the work toward this if the real answer always was simply "You can request to build a brand new Interchange adjacent to the welcome center west of exit 5 with a new overpass and brand new collector and distributor lanes on the north and the south of Interstate 10 between the Visitor's Center and Exit 5, complete with brand new east and westbound access to the interstate"  I mean--if that really was what was being presented, that was a non-solution from go.

We are already well on the way to constructing a new Interchange at Beulah Road--everyone knows that and that is the most important project in District 1 right now. ( And the County for that matter).  I think it is for this reason that in these documents the County and NFCU enacted---the solution was never characterized as a brand new "interchange" --the solution was characterized as a brand new  "Access Point."  Be that as it may--if this is indeed the final word, we must now take a step back and re evaluate the remaining options and be very deliberate in our due-diligence going forward.  A knee-jerk rush to a new potential solution for expediency's sake could be very problematic, and therefore I am going to study any new proposal upside down and backward, front to back, head to toe, to ensure it passes the smell test and that it is equitable to all nearby neighbors and developers impacted, and that it makes fiscal sense in light of the taxpayer dollars that are being invested right now with  the 4-lane project on 9-Mile Road and the Beulah Interchange project that is well underway just 2 miles West of this area....

For now, based upon the conference call and the below email--it does indeed appear as if the back exit through the welcome center is dead.


On 1370 WCOA This Morning..



Many topics of interest will be discussed...

1..Forest Creek Apartment Purchase with FEMA grant money

2. Communications to the public in times of emergency (like yesterday's weather event)

3.  Eminent Domain in Cantonment

4.  Water issue at the jail yesterday and how it was solved

5.  What is happening with the back exit (through the welcome center) proposal for easing NFCU traffic on 9 mile road.

You can hear the interview in its entirety here

Monday, January 15, 2018

Getting to the Best Solution Part III: What's a Hobson's Choice?

"You can pick any horse in the barn, as long as you select this one" Thomas Hobson (1544-1631)

A Hobson's choice is a false choice.  It is an illusion of choice with only one real choice being offered.

The term Hobson's choice is derived from the legend of  stable owner Thomas Hobson of Cambridge, England, from the 16th century.

Hobson was known far and wide as the stable owner that had 40 stalls; he had a large selection of horses from which purchasers could compare and choose.

Once prospective buyers came to Hobson's stable, however, the "choice" was actually limited to the horse in the stall nearest the door to the stable.  "You can choose between any horse in the stable, so long as you select this one!" Hobson would exclaim.  So the  assortment of possible choices really, in actuality, never existed.  Thus the term "Hobson's choice" was born.

So when I am looking at a list of potential solutions for rapid deployment to address acute and pressing traffic issues locally on 9-mile road that have been listed as FEDERAL DOT options for local selection and implementation--I see a sort of Hobson's Choice scenario developing.  Here are the four options (and my interpretation of what they really mean):

  1. Navy Federal Credit Union would donate Navy Federal Drive to become a public road.  Connect this road with a new I-10 interstate access.  This option may require a collector/distributor lane with the eastbound traffic from the welcome center and the Nine Mile Road interchange. (translation--no egress out of the welcome center will ever be permitted by the feds ever, no matter what, we do not have a decider at the federal level who will look at this as a rational option--no matter what.  Although this option kind of sounds like that, and this option is intentionally, vaguely worded to kind of sound like it might allow a back exit out of the welcome center---- this is not that. No way, never. This is actually a no to the back exit out of the welcome center and a "yes" to a 9-10 year project to build a brand new I-10 interchange between the visitors center and exit 5, complete with a new westbound access, overpass over the freeway, and service access roads on both sides of the freeway, east and west, and oh, by the way, this would be incredibly expensive and would jeopardize the most important project in Escambia County right now, the Beulah Interchange at I-10 at Isaccs Lane.  Not a realistic option)

  1. Constructing a new roadway between the West End of the NFCU facility and Frank Reeder Road, and constructing a new interchange with I-10 at the Beulah Road area. The construction of the new roadway will provide NFCU access to the new I-10 interchange through Frank Reeder Road and Beulah Road.  This will provide NFCU access to the west, north, west and east in the area.(translation--you can build a brand new interchange where you are already planning to build one in the next 7 years--but you can't just do a temporary eastbound onramp only for now-- to help alleviate the congestion for NFCU employees trying to get out--nope the full interchange would have to be built simultaneously....so no, this is not really an option to help us in the short run...)

  1. Constructing a left exit flyover from Navy Federal Way onto Nine Mile Road to improve access from NFCU to the Nine Mile Road and I-10 existing interchange.(translation-at a cost of nearly $70 Million dollars,  a minimum of 48 months of ADDITIONAL planning and construction,  more traffic delays and congestion for years to come at the critical 1/2 mile west of 9-mile road leading to the I-10 exit 5 onramp,  tremendous challenges to south of 9-mile road property developers desperately seeking access points on 9-mile road, and to residential neighbors [Nature Trail] that will now be looking at a 25' high overpass over their recently constructed 15' noise barrier walls---this is the Hobson's Choice. 

Getting to the Best Solution Part II: Could Yes really mean NO?



I am working to find the very best solution to an acute traffic issue that is building in my district.

Folks have worked very hard to help ameliorate the traffic caused by the rapid growth in Beulah and by the growth of the workforce at Navy Federal Credit Union's rapidly-expanding campus in Beulah.

The four lane project for 9-mile road is well underway, with completion expected in mid 2019.

The Beulah beltway project is moving forward, but this option is 7-10 years away.

Meanwhile, we are grateful for the growth, we are very fortunate for NFCU coming here and bringing jobs, and we understand that a moderate amount of traffic is to be expected when so much is going on in one constrained geographic area.

It is for this reason that I am especially disappointed to hear that a common-sense, low-cost, and quick-turnaround [relatively speaking] measure to provide egress out of the Florida welcome center for NFCU's afternoon shift change, a project that I was told had been blessed at Federal DOT as one of four local projects to help with traffic, has now been scuttled.

Federal officials with which I have spoken have pointed to Florida Department of Transportation as

Getting to the Best Solution, Part I: Who Said "NO?"



Sometimes getting to the best solution to a complex problem is agonizing and tedious.  Sometimes it is excruciating and exasperating.  We are dealing with just such a complex issue, a traffic issue, right now in District 1.

When I heard late last month that suddenly the common-sense initiative to allow egress out of Navy Federal Credit Union's north end property, via a new access to I-10 through the Florida welcome center, was rejected--I naturally wanted to know why.  Several people intimately familiar with this project told me point blank:  It's the FEDS.  It is Federal Highway.

So late last month I wrote this blog post that subsequently made its way onto another site and a  TV story came out and a newspaper article about this issue was published in the PNJ on January 4th.  The statement was simple--we need a decider, at the Federal Level, who can look at this issue and make the smart call to alleviate the tremendous traffic issue currently happening in my district affecting residents of Beulah and employees of Navy Federal Credit Union.  And the PNJ article said the FEDS had approved of the back exit plan!

But now I have learned something interesting...Someone has once again said no--even though I now have proof The FEDS said Yes!  So now I ask---Who said NO?!?

According to Congressman Matt Gaetz's office--four specific options have been cleared by Federal Department of Transportation for implementation locally by the Florida Department of Transportation to address this issue.  His office has communicated to me that they do not want to be seen as favoring one solution over others--but rather wanted to help accommodate the locally chosen solution of the four by obtaining clearance from FED DOT, in advance, of any one or more of the following four options which are all still approved at the FED DOT level as of January 2018 per an email of which I am now in receipt.  The current, Federally approved (OST, DOT) list of potential solutions are the following:


1.     Navy Federal Credit Union would donate Navy Federal Drive to become a public road.  Connect this road with a new I-10 interstate access.  This option may require a collector/distributor lane with the eastbound traffic from the welcome center and the Nine Mile Road interchange.

2.     Constructing a new roadway between the West End of the NFCU facility and Frank Reeder Road, and constructing a new interchange with I-10 at the Beulah Road area. The construction of the new roadway will provide NFCU access to the new I-10 interchange through Frank Reeder Road and Beulah Road.  This will provide NFCU access to the west, north, west and east in the area.
3.     Constructing a left exit flyover from Navy Federal Way onto Nine Mile Road to improve access from NFCU to the Nine Mile Road and I-10 existing interchange.
4.     Intersection operational improvements along Nine Mile Road (i.e. signal timing, roundabouts, turn lanes) and making general improvements to the on and off ramps at the Nine Mile Road and I-10 existing interchange to meet vehicular demand.




Obviously--option 1 is the least disruptive (to current 9-mile road traffic), most fiscally sound, most expeditious, and most practical approach to solving the issue and disbursing traffic between two exits.

Friday, January 12, 2018

LETF Approval Process Going forward--Problem Solved and Case Closed

Between what the sheriff's office unilaterally did with making requests directly on our BCC agenda, and what the commissioners discussed and accepted yesterday at the COW--it looks as if a new and workable LETF process has been born!

At Thursday's Committee of the Whole meeting, a brief discussion on the Law Enforcement Trust Fund approval/disbursement process was placed on the agenda by administrator Jack Brown.

The brief discussion focused on the process:  Administrator Brown stated that the way the sheriff submitted his requests for the last regular meeting could be folded into the new process going forward, and this met with support from the majority of the  commissioners.  I know I certainly support this method because it more closely comports with the statutes and it allows us to vote on expenditures before they are made--not after the fact as has been the previous method.

Commissioner Robinson advocated for us submitting an application to the Sheriff for LET funds to be utilized to offset School Resource Officer program costs--which would save money from the Sheriff's general fund budget.  This also appeared to meet with support from a majority of the board.  (Although I think the likelihood of the Sheriff approving this is not high...if he chose to do this--he could do this already without anyone asking)

Commissioner May wanted to see us submit requests to the Sheriff for BCC identified youth development programs--and this met with unanimous support from the BCC.

We also decided to have the corrections department submit an application to the sheriff for funding for Drug Patches to be worn by offenders who are sentenced to wear these by judges in our circuit.
(Funding has been running low for these effective, cost-saving devices)

So, to summarize, it appears as though the Sheriff's change in process combined with what commissioners have decided = problem solved and case closed on this matter--as the process will apparently go forward as follows:

The Sheriff ,via his CFO Henrique Dias, will place any requests for LETF disbursal (that his internal ECSO process has already green-lighted) on the BCC agenda of their choice for our consideration

A Visit to the Panhandle From our Friends and Neighbors to the North

Canadian Consul General for Florida Ms. Susan Harper visited Elected Officials, Business Leaders, and Economic Development personnel in Pensacola on Wednesday Evening


Yesterday evening a dinner at Skopelo's was arranged for local elected officials, business leaders, economic development professionals, and special guests from Canada.

Consul General for Miami Susan Harper, together with Mr. Laurent Morel-a-l'Huissier, an attache from the Miami office made the trip up north to the Florida panhandle; Ms. Harper, the highest ranking Canadian Diplomat in Florida, and Mr. a-l'Huisseir, her business and politics officer, joined this group for dinner and a chat about several interesting topics.

Welcoming Ms. Harper to Escambia County were Mayor Ashton Hayward, Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole, Scott Luth from Florida West, and myself.  We each were given the opportunity to address the assembled group and to welcome Ms. Harper.

Ms. Harper has a long and celebrated career in the Canadian Foreign Service, her biography is an impressive read.  She began the evening's discussion session over dinner, after introductions of all the attendees were made, with a general overview of the relationship between Canada and Florida.

Canada and Florida enjoy a relationship that is flourishing--with nearly 300 businesses in the state that are owned by Canadians or subsidiaries of  Canadian companies.  Florida and Canada do nearly $8 Billion a year in trade-much of it tourism and real estate purchases and transactions between Canadian "Snow Birds" and Florida residents.  And Canada currently has 70 Canadian Military personnel (10 percent of all Canadian Military in the U.S.) at duty stations throughout  Florida.  Ms. Harper has the job of working to assist Canadians in Florida with issues they run across while here, and an ancillary duty of the Consul General is to assist with forming trade relationships between Floridians and Canadians.  This particular trip to the Florida panhandle was just such a trade discussion session.

The primary topic of the evening was NAFTA.  The conversation among the business leaders and Ms. Harper centered on this trade agreement that has been discussed in the media recently--with some discussion by President Trump of renegotiating the deal.  (NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was initiated by President George H.W. Bush and eventually passed and implemented by President Bill Clinton in 1994.)  The conversation at the table was about the effect of NAFTA on business.  Several attendees shared that the initial impact on rural communities in the south was extremely negative-with many communities losing jobs.  Several manufacturers in the room expressed support for the agreement as it has opened markets for their products and increased sales.  Generally, most of the attendees agreed that once the long view was taken, there was no doubt that overall NAFTA has been good for business.

All sides agreed, however, that the negativity associated with NAFTA appears to be directed at and

Monday, January 8, 2018

Funding for Drug Patches

Drug patches are deemed an effective deterrent to relapses by offenders.  How will we ensure the funding for these patches remains stable?


Drug patches keep folks on probation off of drugs--they work.

Unfortunately-the funding for the patches is drying up locally and several judges have asked that we fund the purchase of these patches going forward.

from a judge's recent correspondence 

"I was recently informed that the County would be unable to further fund drug patches for sentenced state probationers. Although I do believe that the patches are very cost effective, based upon observation and defendant testimony, I understand County budget constraints.  The patches help probationers maintain their sobriety, avoiding future incarceration , family break down, and job loss..There is a problem presented with probationers who were already sentenced with the drug patch as a condition, usually a temporary condition.  If the County could find a way to at least fund those already sentenced, which I believe are a half dozen or so, it would be greatly appreciated. Otherwise we will need to amend those sentences to make other provisions."

I even recently received a recording of an offender in court who successfully completed his probation for a cocaine charge--and he wholeheartedly endorsed a continuation of the program.

I have asked for cost details regarding this patch --and if no funding can be secured I am willing to fund the purchase of patches from my discretionary account so that judges continue to have this option in their sentencing tool kit.

from staff :

"the patches Corrections is providing in-house are $39.50 per patch.  The patches are good for 10-14 days (depending on the conditions in which the patch is worn). Our current cost of incarceration (for FY17 taking into account out of county housing) is $71.80/day."

At today's committee of the whole, we will discuss this and potential funding options for this going forward--to include making an application from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund to pay for these patches.

Governor's Office Sends Letter re: Sheriff's Appeal of BCC Budget Allocation

First correspondence from Tallahassee regarding the budget impasse has been received by the BCC


Friday afternoon the BCC, via County Attorney Alison Rogers, received our first written correspondence from Governor Rick Scott's office regarding ECSO's appeal of the BCC's budget allocation  for 2017-2018.

The important takeaways from the letter are that the BCC was correct in that we followed the  procedures in 30.49 Florida Statutes with respect to how we answered the initial appeal.

More importantly --we were correct with respect to how we did not send more information to the Governor in response to the ECSO's unsolicited response to our only response to ECSO's initial appeal. 

The letter from the Governor's office appears to confirm that this unsolicited second submission from ECSO to the Governor does not comport with the process--and both sides are advised to  "..refrain

Friday, January 5, 2018

Who Spilled the Beans?

Unfortunately, it appears as if someone with inside knowledge of a recent Economic Development Negotiation has disclosed confidential information (potentially confidential per 288.075 Fl. statutes) about the company in question....Who spilled the beans?


Who spilled the beans and broke confidentiality as it pertains to "Project Fisher?"

More importantly, why do this?

The item was discussed at length yesterday and last night, and the board thoughtfully considered this item and then subsequently voted for a compromise offer to make to this potential Escambia County Employer.  It is time to move on, and hopefully we can get this company to locate here with the concomitant 35 jobs, capital improvements, and potential future growth.

But now someone (a public official or employee with intimate knowledge) has clouded the future of this entire endeavor by exposing the name of the company to someone else ( a private citizen not subject to the scrutiny of 288.075), who then subsequently posted the name of this company online, along with the flagship product this company manufactures.

The company more than likely watched the lengthy debate last night, and more than likely they'll be made aware of this breach.

I hope this does not affect this potential deal for Escambia County jobs.....but it very well might kill it. (I hope not--because the majority of the BCC supported this endeavor and we support ones that are similar to this!)

Reaching out through economic development initiatives for qualified, targeted industries helps to diversify our employer base and is a sound strategy for importing jobs and dollars into a community.

But confidentiality is crucial to this work---as cities and counties throughout the nation are in an ongoing, intense, pitched battle for these jobs, companies,  and investments.

Confidentiality is vital, and that is why the legislature created section 288.075 to delineate these confidentiality periods and to define what information is to be exempt during negotiations and for how long such information must be protected from eventual release to the public--because eventually, after the negotiations are complete, all of this information becomes a public record.  This section of Florida law also describes the penalties for violations.  Anyone that is proved to have violated this section is subject to sanctions as described in

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

No Opinion Coming from Attorney General's Office on Escambia's LETF Process



This is discouraging....

                We have been waiting with great anticipation for the Attorney General's Office to provide an opinion on several aspects of our local process for distribution of proceeds from the County's Law Enforcement Trust Fund.

                There have been embarrassing articles and cartoons about this subject locally 
               
                We have had citizen complaints about the process that have resulted in the State Attorney's Office weighing in on the process-- and I've been asked by constituents whether or not some recipients of these funds were actually even eligible under 932.7055 Fl. Statutes. 

                We voted to request this opinion from the AG as a board-- because we needed the answer to improve our process and to insure we are acting within the boundaries of the law in light of this letter from the State Attorney's office locally.  We were being proactive.

                So back on October 16th, County Attorney Alison Rogers sent this letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi's office seeking the opinion--with specific questions.

               The questions in the letter were ones many of us had asked;  we were all anticipating that the answer to these questions would help us improve our process for approval of expenditures from this fund.

                In particular, these portions of the request letter to AG were of tremendous significance:


"1)  May the Board of County Commissioners appropriate the total revenue available to the Sheriff for expenditures from the LETF on an annual basis and delegate approval authority for the Sheriff's specific expenditure requests to the COC or must the Board appropriate LETF proceeds for each expenditure?

2)  May the Board of County Commissioners transfer LETF proceeds to the Sheriff's general revenue account as reimbursement for LETF expenditures the Sheriff previously disbursed or must the Board authorize each requested expenditure before the funds are disbursed?

3) Is it within the Board's discretion to scrutinize funding requests from outside agencies that the Sheriff has certified are in compliance with the requirements of the statute when the agency's program bears no apparent relationship to any purpose for which funds may be authorized under the statute?


4)  Is the Sheriff authorized to use LETF proceeds to fund the purchase of advertising media for the purpose of marketing the Sheriff's Office and promoting crime prevention strategies, drug prevention programs, or other law enforcement purposes?"


But instead of receiving an opinion (that many thought would be coming soon given the length of time since the initial request was made) Today we were told that no opinion would be provided.  This email, below, was the explanation.  It is back to square one again.....