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.








Friday, February 16, 2018

Absurd Political Grandstanding, Ridiculous Political Theater

When speaking in gibberish and supporting meaningless, ridiculous folly--Austin Powers (here above in disguise with better teeth) likes to say "Groovy Baby!!" But I doubt even Austin Powers would push this ACLU resolution...

Sometimes politics is absurd.  Take, for example, the "direct file" resolution I voted against but that the Board just voted to approve dealing with criminal justice reform for juveniles.

We have no business in this matter, we're attempting to operate outside of our arena, this is not an issue we have power to change, yet we were given a resolution to support that essentially pits us against the State Attorney; essentially, this resolution tells our legislators that they need to fix a non-existent issue and simultaneously tells our local State Attorney "you need more oversight, we don't trust you, we don't want you to have individual discretion in sending violent, abusive, and DANGEROUS 16 and 17 year old perpetrators to face justice in the adult system."

Why would we want to punch our own prosecutor in the face?  It is reckless stupidity for no good reason, so far as I'm concerned.  It is counterproductive.  Let Judges do what they do, and let prosecutors do what they do, and stay out of their way.

Although approved on a 3-2 vote last night (despite my NO vote and significant disagreement), this resolution will go to Tallahassee.

And from there, if I had to make a good guess, it will go from our legislative delegations' desks,   right into the trash heap or paper shredder;  Do not pass go, do not collect $200 dollars, right to the rubbish heap. 

The legislature is NOT going to pass this ACLU supported Democrats sponsored SB 936.  (It's not moving in committee, has been referred to rules, and does not even have a companion bill in the house so far as I can tell.) Does anyone believe Richard Corcoran would EVER allow this to go through the House??!!??

So we burn our political capital with our delegation by engaging in this feckless Kabuki theater, sending them this resolution purporting to be a "solution" not supported by judges, conservatives, or the State Attorneyto a problem that the legislature has already stated does no exist in their opinion.??

We ignore the reality of the records of the last 20 Direct Files in our county, so we can feel good, slap ourselves on the back, and curry favor with and pander to a group of  folks on the extreme left of the political spectrum, although we live in a conservative county?

What an absurd, ridiculous thing to do.  Borderline embarrassing.....I hope this is/was a one-off.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

On 1370WCOA This Morning



Although the intention was to discuss transportation issues and the Direct File proclamation the BCC will be considering today--in light of the tragedy in Parkland, Florida overnight, the discussion this morning primarily revolved around school safety and the gun control debate.  Interesting conversation on a tragic day for America.....

Listen to the interview here


Affirmed: Escambia's TPO Members Prioritize Beulah Interchange as Area's #1 Priority Project



I've said all along that the Beulah Beltway/Beulah Interchange is the area's #1 priority.  Other commissioners have echoed this sentiment.

Yesterday at the TPO meeting in Gulf Breeze, several important issues were discussed and members voted on several important issues.  But most importantly--several members of the TPO  spoke up and stated that the Beulah Interchange is still the area's #1 priority--this was affirmed.  FDOT also spoke of the importance of the second exit on I-10 for Beulah.

When the subject of the Navy Federal Credit Union,  9-Mile Road Overpass came up, there were several speakers.  A host of NFCU employees spoke out in favor of the overpass.  Some speakers expressed concern about the way the project was rushed through--one speaker characterizing the whole episode as a "Public Relations Disaster" for NFCU. I agree it was a black eye for NFCU, and a demonstration of "hard-power" that was unnecessary.

However, recognizing the tremendous political weight behind moving forward with this overpass concept-- and knowing it would pass no matter what--it should not be surprising that I voted with the rest of the group to make the vote unanimous.

My reasoning for voting to move this forward was threefold:

1-Once the project hits the LRTP and Cost-Feasible lists, it will move forward to a PD&E phase where other practical alternatives must be considered and resident input will be taken into account.

2-there is no doubt that some independent, non-county funding will be coming along with this push to move this project

3--most importantly--This project will not leap-frog any other projects on the work plan--it was placed on the bottom.  Also, this NFCU overpass project will neither detract from the funding and momentum toward completing the Beulah Interchange at Beulah Road and I-10--because this interchange is truly a regional project, it will alleviate traffic gridlock in Beulah, and it is once again affirmed that this is the most important project for Escambia County's future going forward.

Back to Back to Back Radio Interviews...2-14-2018



In the lead up to the all-important vote on the NFCU 9-Mile Road overpass at yesterday's TPO meeting, I was interviewed on 1370WCOA, AM1620, and WPNN AM790.

The discussions were focused mainly on the TPO's vote to move forward a solution for easing traffic on 9-Mile Road--which subsequently passed at the TPO meeting in Gulf Breeze.

Additionally, the Hope Scholarship was discussed, as was the proclamation the board will be voting upon to urge an end to "direct filing" some youth directly into the adult criminal justice system.

The interviews can be heard here (1370 WCOA Interview) and here (AM1620 interview)

The WPNN Interview will be aired on Thursday morning, February 15th, at 6:00AM and 7:00 AM

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Direct File of Juveniles in Escambia County, Part II: What are the Crimes Committed that Lead to This?

As I described in part I-there is a movement afoot to have the Board of County Commissioners step out of our lanes and support a proclamation urging the legislature to end the practice of "direct filing" certain youth offenders into the adult criminal court system.

The BCC will vote this proclamation up or down tomorrow night.

I have met with some community members that are urging us to support the proclamation against direct filing.

The city council recently voted 6-1 to support an end to direct filing.

I have done some significant research into this issue and have requested information from staff about the specific types of crimes committed by the last 20 Escambia County youth that have been direct filed to the adult system.

This isn't a 14 year old shoplifting an apple from Publix, this isn't two 15 year olds getting caught smoking weed, and These aren't 13 year olds stealing bikes from school..  Nope, these youth, the ones that are actually direct filed, have committed (allegedly) some very serious crimes.  In the photos below, you will see the last 20 youth direct filed into the Escambia County Jail, their ages and charges. (Although not required to do so, I have redacted their names.)  These are serious charges, and this does not include any previous offenses these individuals may have committed....





Direct File of Juveniles in Escambia County, Part I

On average, fewer than 20 juveniles per year are sent to Escambia County's Jail (from staff records request)


Tomorrow at the regular Board of County Commissioner's meeting, we have been asked to consider supporting a proclamation advocating an end to the practice of "Direct Filing" in Escambia County.

Direct Filing occurs when the State Attorney decides that a crime committed by a juvenile rises to the level that the perpetrator should  be sent directly to the adult criminal justice system.

There are guidelines that outline the type (s) of crime committed, along with the age of the perpetrator, that lead to a direct file to the adult system.

Some local civil rights/criminal justice activists believe the County Commission should send a proclamation to the legislature urging an end to this practice.

I have received multiple form-letter emails like this one:


"February 14, 2018

Jeff Bergosh
Escambia County Commissioner, District 1 FL


 Jeff Bergosh:

I am writing to thank you for considering a resolution that would affirm the county's support of treating children as children and keeping them out of the adult criminal justice system whenever possible. On Feb. 8th,  the Pensacola City Council voted "YES" to passing important reform to make our juvenile justice system more equitable, and I'm asking that you do the same on Feb. 15th.

Please follow the Pensacola City Councils’s lead and vote to end direct file.  Unlike the adult system, the juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate, and children are required to receive education services and remain close to their families. Children who remain in the juvenile court system are less likely to re-offend in the future, which keeps our communities safer and results in better outcomes for our youth. But it is bad for public safety and children's well-being to confine youth in adult jails, where they are far more likely to be physically and sexually assaulted or to commit suicide.

Our judicial district transfers more children to adult courts than any other in the state. It's time to make a change.

I hope you will vote "YES" on Feb. 15th on a direct-file resolution and support safer communities and better protections for our children.

Sincerely,



XXXXX  XXXXXXX"


Since this is coming tomorrow, I have spent some time looking into the issue and asking questions and I look forward to discussing this issue tomorrow with my peers.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Three Important Aspects Conveniently, Conspicuously Absent from PNJ Editorial on NFCU's 9-Mile Road Overpass...

One does not need a windsock to see which way the winds are blowing as it relates to the NFCU 9-Mile Road overpass project...

I don’t disagree that a traffic solution for 9-mile road is desperately needed. Everyone knows this. And everyone also knows that NFCU is the greatest thing to happen in DECADES for the Pensacola area and Escambia in terms of economic development and jobs diversification.  And now that the vote has happened at the BCC, the process to construct this solution will invariably move forward through the TPO and into the design and PD&E phase.  However, I do find it interesting that three important issues were left out of this editorial.  

Number 1—the current project to double the capacity of 9-mile road by going from a 2-lane to a 4-lane road (the project that has been under construction out here for the past two years) will be completed next year.  This, in and of itself, will be massively beneficial at easing congestion in the near term in this area.  

Number 2-The Beulah interchange project is moving rapidly and has the potential to be completed before this overpass is completed (the southbound portion of the interchange at a minimum)—and the Beulah interchange, if not “back-burnered” will spread the Beulah-area traffic load between two I-10 freeway exits whereas this NFCU overpass simply funnels all Beulah and NFCU traffic into one exit—which I do not believe is the optimal solution.  

And finally, number 3- I notice the price-tag for this 9- Mile Road, NFCU overpass is also conspicuously left out of the discussion in this editorial—but a $70 Million-dollar project ought to be scrutinized heavily—particularly if it will leap-frog (or has the potential preempt) many other very necessary and worthwhile regional projects on the TPO list.  These were three important data-points conveniently absent from the editorial.  

Now, I can read the tea leaves, I don't need a windsock to tell me which way the hurricane-force winds are blowing, I know there is huge gravity behind this project, and I know it will be funded and will move forward regardless what my constituents or anyone else thinks...

But I want to ---and I will ---set the record straight right here, right now on two things.  

First--the number one project for the region is the Beulah interchange, and whatever happens with this NFCU overpass, it is not more important than the Beulah interchange --which is truly a regional project.  

Secondly-- my no vote on this issue was neither anti-NFCU nor anti-solution.  I agree we need a solution, but I simply wanted time to hear from constituents that live in the area that will be impacted by whatever solution we eventually implement.  I do not think it was unreasonable to request a brief delay of less than 30 days so that more input could be gathered from District 1 constituents—most whom I heard from did not support this overpass.  We all know the way that very reasonable request was handled at the meeting-- and so for principle’s sake I voted NO.  

But now we move forward and I recognize the need to move forward.  My goal from here on out is to be actively engaged with the community during the PD&E phases to ensure this project is the least onerous on residents, most efficient for the commuters, and the most beneficial for the significant taxpayer dollars that will be invested to build this overpass.  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Sheriff Says NO to BCC LETF Request for Drug Patches....

Sheriff Morgan to the Commissioners "I will not entertain any requests initiated by EBOCC or its staff for LET funds unless and until the commission's $250,000.00 discretionary fund is completely exhausted"


In a brief , terse one-page letter we received from Sheriff Morgan this week, The Corrections Office of the BCC was denied a request for $5,000.00 from the County Law Enforcement Trust Fund (LETF) for drug patches for inmates given probation.

In a recent BCC meeting, it was suggested that this request be made of the sheriff, as there is no doubt this would be an allowable expenditure as it is a 100%  a drug abuse prevention and safe neighborhood item.  But this modest, inexpensive request was summarily denied in the letter (below)

Knowing this request would likely be rejected, I went ahead and funded $5,000 toward these patches from my discretionary funds last month, and I will spend more if necessary for this worthwhile program that helps the judges and helps inmates stay out of our jail and stay clean and sober.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Big Day in Tallahassee Today, Part II

Stirring testimony from many concerned parents and students led to an overwhelming victory for HB1 as it passed by a wide margin out of committee today.  I was honored to speak in favor of this fantastic legislation.


In addition to meeting and speaking with legislators on many areas of continuing concern for the county, I also had the opportunity to speak before the House Education Committee this morning...

Several INCREDIBLY important initiatives are moving forward today in the wake of that committee's meeting.

Make no mistake about it, these initiatives improve schools, make better, more productive citizens, and eventually these education initiatives have a tremendous impact on counties and communities.

It is for this reason that I spoke today, as a parent and an individual, on the breakthrough legislation introduced this session by Representative Byron Donalds of Naples.

House Bill 1, the Hope Scholarship, was up in committee today.  This bill provides a dedicated funding source for vouchers to allow victims of bullying to move out of schools where the bullying continues unabated.  Many passionate speakers addressed the committee on this law..  Children, parents, victims of bullying that was never addressed in traditional public schools now want the ability to transfer out of dysfunctional schools where bullying is permitted to continue.  Young victims and parents cried as they gave their testimony.  It was moving.

The educrats, the status quo guardians also spoke. Unions, PTA's, school administators They hate this proposal, and bemoaned the loss of revenue for their "public" schools.

I spoke up too.  I spoke passionately and URGED the committee to pass this legislation to make it law.  Laws are on the books and have been for years, and they are not followed at the local level--this was the thrust of my testimony as a parent and former school board member.  I support public schools, but I simply do not believe they will follow laws like the Jeffrey Johnston stand up for all students act.  That law is on the books ten years now and it is not being followed.  The only thing that will get the "Establishment's" attention is giving parents the choice to leave dysfunctional dangerous public schools.

We have had time to fix this, but bureaucrats and other feckless administrators put political correctness and "lower discipline" referral numbers ahead of following the bullying laws with fidelity.  Essentially, they have coddled the bullies, and kicked the victims, metaphorically, to the curb with their collective inaction which became the genesis for H.B. 1.  HB 1 passed overwhelmingly out of committee today--and there is a strong likelihood that this law passes out of the full House today.  I certainly hope it does.

Victim students deserve this, as do those in positions of power and trust who allowed this epidemic to grow unchecked.  Congratulations to those educrats--they brought this on themselves, congratulations!

Big Day in Tallahassee Today, Part I


Today is a big day in Tallahassee.  Members of the Florida Association of Counties, commissioners from around the state, are coming to Tallahassee to speak with our representatives about several areas of concern, most notably the ongoing attempts by the legislature to erode local control of counties and cities.

While erosion of local control is a real concern, several recent attempts at this have been blunted by FAC.  Proposal 95 from the Constitution Revision Commission has been beaten back and did not emerge from the committee process.  Several other proposals did emerge and will be challenged going forward.

A recent law passed by the legislature allowing cell phone co-locating on county owned property for next to no compensation continues to anger locally elected officials statewide.

This year, a pair of new bills being pushed by the legislature (SB1400 HB773) are aimed at limiting what types of regulations counties and cities can implement and enact on housing that is frequently rented to visitors on sites like air BNB and VRBO.  The crux of this proposed legislation is that it ties the hands of local leaders by NOT allowing any locally generated regulations be aimed at these short term rentals specifically;  the law, if enacted, would make counties and cities tailor any law for short term rentals to apply equally to ALL other housing units in a jurisdiction's boundaries.

New initiatives aimed at improving cyber-security for County Elections supervisors are being watched closely by FAC--as everyone supports enhanced security.  The problem becomes the funding of these new ideas.   If new measures are mandated by the state without an ongoing funding mechanism to support these measures--this  could translate into another unfunded mandate for counties around the state.  The good news that came from our morning session was that the equipment and the first year's operational costs are supposedly going to be funded by the state.  After the first year, it was mentioned that the yearly maintenance costs for this cyber security system may be minimal ($650-$1,200 Monthly).

Another big push from FAC members today will be on the issue of affordable housing.  With Hurricanes Irma and Maria wrecking havoc this year, there is a movement afoot in the house to make 100% of the SHIP funds available exclusively for hurricane recovery--meaning the entire panhandle would receive none of these funds this year.  (Last year Escambia County received $1.3 Million in SHIP funding) The Governor's proposal funds Hurricane recovery and traditional SHIP funding roughly equally, and the Senate's budget fully funds both traditional and hurricane recovery usages for affordable housing monies.  FAC urges the legislature to senate's version.

I have met with Rep. White, and I'll meet with Rep. Ingram and Senator Broxson while I am here to advocate for these positions listed above and most importantly I'll lobby these gentlemen to please preserve and respect local control, because government closest to the people governs best!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

FDOT Announces a Public Hearing for February 20th RE: 9-Mile Road 4-Lane Project in Beulah--



From FDOT today:

RE:    State Road (S.R.) 10 (Nine Mile Road/U.S. 90) Multilane Reconstruction from S.R. 10A (U.S. 90) to County Road (C.R.) 99 (Beulah Road), Escambia County
Financial Project Identification Number:  218605-5-32-01

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will hold a public hearing concerning proposed access management modifications on the above-referenced project from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. CST Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at Smyrna Baptist Church, 7000 Pensacola Boulevard, Pensacola. The hearing will begin with an informal open house at 5:30 p.m., followed by a formal presentation and public comment period at 6 p.m. 

The intent of this project is to increase capacity, improve safety, and accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  Improvements include widening the 1.8-mile section of Nine Mile Road from a two to four-lane rural roadway with a 40-foot grassed median, buffered bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and drainage upgrades. There are proposed operational improvements at Allegheny Avenue and the Fire Station.   Tower Ridge Road will also be realigned with Nine Mile Road as part of the project. Right-of-way is needed for this project.  Construction is not currently funded in the FDOT Five Year Work Program.  

Additional project information is available and can be viewed hereThe handout will also be available at the hearing.  Maps, drawings, and other information will be on display.  FDOT representatives will be available to discuss proposed improvements, answer questions, and receive comments. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Public participation is solicited without regard to race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, or family status. Persons who require special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act or persons who require translation services (free of charge) should contact Sandra Lamb, P.E., FDOT Project Manager, toll-free at (866) 855-7275 at least seven days prior to the meeting.

Should you have any questions regarding the project or this hearing, please contact Sandra Lamb at the number above or via email at Sandra.Lamb@atkinsglobal.com.  You may also contact Ian Satter, District Three Public Information Director, toll-free at (888) 638-0250, extension 1205, or by email at ian.satter@dot.state.fl.us.


On WPNN Radio--Discussing the Way Forward on Nine Mile Road









I'm a guest on Tom Quinlan's morning radio program this morning and the singular topic of discussion is the 9-Mile road vote last Thursday and what that means going forward for residents and commuters in the Beulah area that are affected by this traffic.




Good interview this morning--looking forward and not looking in the rear-view mirror.

Catch the brief interview here!




Saturday, February 3, 2018

Trash on the Streets Will Be Addressed at the Next Regular BCC Meeting (or Sooner!)


I remember this commercial (above) as a young child in the early 1970's.  "Iron Eyes Cody" was the Native American in the commercial (also an actor), crying a single tear over the way Americans litter our environment.  This commercial is more relevant now than ever before, especially now as I am very recently inundated with complaints about trash being all over the roads of District 1 and the west side of Escambia county.  I will be bringing an agenda item for the next regular BCC meeting to discuss this problem and to offer potential ideas/solutions to address this situation.  Litterbugs will always (unfortunately) do what they do--but the variable that determines the level of litter all over our roadway is the removal (or lack thereof) of the relatively constant flow of garbage being thrown on the roads. I know that county staff is very responsive to these acute incidents when citizen reports are made.  But we need to try to be more pro-active rather than reactive.   Have regularly scheduled removal efforts declined (or have they been reduced)?  I will be bringing an agenda item to the next BCC meeting in two weeks to discuss strategies to address this growing problem.

Read some of the constituent complaints below:

"Let me start by thanking you for all you have done for the Avondale neighborhood, and the relationship we have established since your election. My friends and neighbors have a growing concern about the trash on the roadways. I personally go out with my yard tractor and cart to pick up around my area. However, I too am concerned about the trash collecting along the roads. My friends and neighbors have individually launched complaints, and say they have had no luck with their complaints. That is why I am appealing to you on a personal basis to see what can be done to alleviate this situation. As you will see, if you take the time to read just a few of the complaints our folks have raised, your constituents are more than a little upset, and these are also the folks that vote in the county elections. They feel their votes are just as important as those who benefit from the improvements along 9 Mile road or use the bridge on Fairfield and Patricia. Just as on suggestion, why can't the county use county jail folks to clean up the roads? I know they have been used in the past to trim trees and clean up the parks. Being familiar with the law enforcement community, and knowing a few