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, March 30, 2018

Form over Substance

Cheer squads and Pom-Pom girls and boys root for their team right or wrong, winning or losing, no matter what.  Often they don't even know the score or what a first down is........The real question is this:  Do cheerleaders ignore reality and  put form over substance?

So there are still those out there that remain confused.  They are either confused or they are being deliberately naive, disingenuous and intentionally blind to what is an obvious fact.  Or maybe they are just being cheerleaders for their hero.  I don't know.

So let me spell it out for everyone right here.

On March 9th, the BCC and authorized representatives of the ECSO met in a mediation session.  The culmination of that marathon, 9-hour mediation was a written mediation settlement agreement.

The agreement specified the framework of the deal, which is important to note.  This is the SUBSTANCE of the agreement.  The salient, substantive parts of this signed, written agreement are as follows:

--ECSO will receive $1 Million additional in April for the budget for this year (FY2018),  
--ECSO will receive $2.6 Million more for FY 2019 (total to include All Benefits and ALL raises-totaling $60,339,867)
--ECSO will receive $2.6 Million more for FY 2020 (total to include All Benefits-and ALL raises totaling $62,939,867)
--ECSO will receive $2.9 Million more for FY 2021 (total to include  All Benefits And All raises-totaling $65,839,867)

Additional terms for ECSO:  50% of LETF will be spent to offset the SRO program-- when possible (which frees up additional Sheriff General Fund Dollars for salaries, raises, etc.)

Additional terms for BCC:

$125,000 of Commissioners Discretionary Funds (50%) yearly beginning in April 2018 shall be utilized to help fund this agreement during the term of the agreement.

Outside agencies in the General Fund shall not receive more than $734,374.00 yearly from the BCC during the term of this agreement.

The county's final version of the inter local agreement, based solely upon the mediation settlement agreement, has been delivered, and it is here for any and all to inspect.  None of the salient terms and agreed-upon dollar figures (THE SUBSTANCE) from the mediation settlement agreement have been changed--and the only language added was standard, boiler-plate legalese that is common to agreements such as this. This is the FORM of the document--and it has no impact on the SUBSTANCE of the agreement per se.  Capeche?

The reason I'm told the ECSO has balked is because they wanted to ADD language into the interlocal after the BCC affirmed the signed mediation settlement document on 3-15-2018.  This language that ECSO demanded be added to the interlocal was not simply FORM;  This language that ECSO demanded be added would have dramatically  changed the SUBSTANCE of the agreement--adding additional costs to the BCC over and above agreed-upon amounts as per the signed settlement agreement.

So to those who are inaccurately espousing that the BCC "added language"---don't be disingenuous.  Don't be a tool.  Look at the facts if you are capable of comprehending them and stop obfuscating the

A Historic Look at Budgets over Time--BCC compared to ECSO: Who Has Had it Worse?

There have been lots of discussions recently about budgets.  Budgets for the Escambia County Sheriff's Office and budgets for the Escambia Board of County Commissioners.

 The BCC and ECSO recently agreed to a 3 1/2 -year, $9.1 Million dollar settlement--and we are working to implement that agreement even though the ECSO has unilaterally balked at it after agreeing in writing to it back on March 9th.

But because there have been lots of discussions about budgets--I asked for some specific budget documents from staff-- I asked staff for data that will clearly illustrate why this $9.1 Million dollar settlement is generous, fair, and represents (if implemented) a 4.39% year over year increase for the ECSO year over year for four years.

Everyone I have talked to was relieved that the nightmare budget battle was finally coming to an end.  Better yet--this deal would extend for several years so everyone could plan and there would be no more fighting, bickering, posturing, and name-calling year after year.

But now that the ECSO are furiously trying to back out of the deal and walk away from their written agreement, some people are talking about the "fairness" of the budgets over time, over the last 11 years.  So lets talk about that.

Who has had it worse over the past 11 years in terms of year over year budget growth?    Take a look at this chart, below.

Start with the Sheriff's Budget (adjusted to remove detention and jail budgeted funds so an accurate comparison can be made) In 2007, the Sheriff's adjusted budget was $47,586,312.  If the budget deal is implemented (adding $1 Million additionally to the ECSO budget for 2017-2018) the total 2018 ECSO budget will be $57,739,867--an increase of $10,153,555 over the 2007 budget--or annualized to roughly a 1.6% increase yearly over this period of time.

Contrast this with the County's Adopted Budget over the same time period:  In 2007, it was $458,839,188.  Fast forward 11 years to 2017-2018 budget, and we are at $455,840,072--not even where we were 11 years ago!  Annualized, it represents .00653 below where we were in 2007 --a negative number even after 11 years!

Looking at the county's general fund--the outlook is only slightly better:  In 2007 the county's general

A Citizen Complaint about lack of Diversity in Fire Chief Selection....And the County's Response

A citizen has complained about the lack of diversity in the finalists for the next Escambia County Fire Chief position.  Administrator Jack Brown responded with a thorough and honest email.

The BCC received a lengthy complaint email about the process by which we are selecting our next Fire Chief--with a particularly scathing criticism about the lack of diversity in the finalist pool (all white men) and in the selection committee (no black members of the selection committee).

I think diversity is great-and America is a diverse country and that is good.  But I also believe strongly that the most qualified candidate should get the position--regardless of race--particularly for highly specialized skill positions.

Administrator Jack Brown provided a written response to this complaint.  The response was thorough, accurate, and honest.  Here is the response:

Dear Ms. DeWeese,

I hope you are well. Thanks for your inquiry.  I am always open to suggestions on how we can improve our process. Like you, I want Escambia County to be a model community where quality of life is for all not just some.

In seeking qualified and diverse applicants for the position of Fire Chief, we advertised with the following for the dates provided.:

·         Florida Fire Chief Association 2/1/2018 – 3/1/2018 (as part of this advertising package, it was additionally advertised on ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, Job2Careers, the New York Times and more).

·         International Association of Fire Chiefs 2/1/2018 – 3/1/2018

·         International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services 2/2/2018 – 3/1/2018

·         Employ Florida 2/1/2018 – 3/4/2018

·         Government Jobs 2/1/2018 – 3/4/2018

1.       What was the Demographic makeup of the committee? 3 white male, and one white female. I reached out to try to find both an African American Fire Chief and a Female Fire Chief to serve on the selection committee but didn’t receive phone calls back.  I thought about having the new Fire Chief or the female African American Battalion Fire Chief from the City on the Committee, but since we had applicants from the City Fire  

On WPNN This Morning Discussing the Latest on the Budget for ECSO

I was a guest this morning on WPNN's  "Quinlan and Nolan" morning radio show.

The discussion was centered on the latest developments with respect to the BCC and ECSO's signed mediation agreement.  The signed and bargained agreement is not being honored by the Sheriff, and as a result the BCC legal office has filed a written Motion to Enforce the agreement with the Governor's Administration Commission.

Interesting discussion--you can listen to it here

Thursday, March 29, 2018

County Files Motion to Enforce Mediation Agreement Today

The Escambia Board of County Commissioners have filed a Motion to Enforce Mediation Settlement Agreement with the Governor’s Administrative Commission today......

Read the full motion here   

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Beulah Interchange/Beulah Connector Road Veto: Good News from Staff

In the wake of last week's veto of $1 Million Dollars for the Beulah Connector Road Project by Governor Scott--many people have had questions about what this means for the project going forward.  Staff has prepared a lengthy email detailing where we are with this project, and most importantly, what the veto does to the timeline.  Luckily-this veto does not affect our timeline for this project.  This project is moving forward.  From the email:

"Staff has had a few conversations with FDOT District 3 Staff since the Governor's veto of the $1M design phase request for the Beulah Interchange Connector Project (aka Beulah Beltway), more specifically regarding the Governor's statement about "circumventing the Transportation Work Program," and wanted to provide you an email hopefully providing some clarity and briefly detailing the project's history. 

It appears that there may be some confusion as to which project had the funding veto, and the confusion may be do to the similarity in project titles (Beulah Interchange (FDOT project) and Beulah Interchange Connector Project (County project)). It was the Beulah Interchange Connector Project that had the $1M funding request vetoed, not the Beulah Interchange. 

Maybe referring to the Beulah Interchange Connector Project as the US29 Connector, which is how it is titled in the Florida-Alabama Transportation Planning Organization (FL-AL TPO) Project Priorities, moving forward would provide a clear differentiation between the two. So, at least for the remainder of this email, I will refer to the Beulah Interchange Connector Project as the US29 Connector Project.

As for the Governor's comment, below is a statement I received from District 3 Work Programming Staff:

"The Beulah Interchange Connector was one of about 22 projects listed in the Governor’s announcement/press release as being vetoed “because these projects circumvent the Transportation Work Program evaluation process.” 

Through my conversations with Department Staff, I take it that the Governor made a "general" statement about the multiple vetoed projects, and that it was not intended to be a specific statement towards the US29 Connector Project individually. 

As for the project status and history, please see the below:

  • The original idea of an "Outer Beltway" from Beulah to Milton via US90 with connection to US29 dates back to at least 2005, and was included in the FL-AL TPO 2025 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).

    • It appears that the Outer Beltway was originally "segmented" into 4 different "projects;" I-10 at Beulah Road Interchange, US90 Connector to US29 Connector, US29 to SR87 Connector, and SR87 Connector to US90.

      • Out of this, two actual projects have proceeded to date: 1) US29 Connector Project and 2) Beulah Interchange

  • The US29 Connector was eventually added as a FL-AL TPO Project Priority to both the Strategic Intermodal System (SIS) and Non-SIS Lists 

    • Currently #4 on the SIS List (titled US29 Connector), and #13 on the Non-SIS List (titled US29 Connector) 

  • The I-10 at Beulah Road project, mentioned above, was eventually added as a FL-AL TPO Project Priority to the SIS List

    • Currently #2 on the SIS List (titled Beulah Interchange) 

  • The Department has a current contract with Parson's Transportation Group for the Beulah Interchange Project for the Interchange Justification Report (IJR), and expects completion of the IJR in FY 2019/20.

On 1370 WCOA Discussing the Sheriff's Budget Mediation and OLF 8

I was a guest on 1370 WCOA this morning speaking about the recent budget mediation debacle and also about the latest contract to complete the work for acquiring OLF 8 in Beulah.

Good interview, great to be invited to speak on the issues!

Listen to the Podcast of the show here

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Haggling over that Brand New Truck.....

What would you think of a dealership that, after haggling back and forth over price with you and agreeing to a $50,000.00 "out the door" deal for your new truck--tried to change the price back to $54,999.99 at document signing???

The Dealership wants the absolute top-dollar for the shiny brand new truck.

The customer realizes the value of the truck, likes the product, does his research, does his homework, figures out what a fair price is, and he goes to the dealership--because he needs a new truck.

The buyer arrives on the lot and spots the brand-new, fire-engine red full-sized pickup he wants.  Shortly thereafter, a salesman arrives.

The buyer takes a test drive, looks the truck up and down, and looks at the sticker knowing he cannot and will not pay that full retail cost of $55,000.00--because that price is an inflated price and other dealerships have sold similar trucks for around $50,000.00.

"Are you willing to make a deal on this truck--are you the decider on the price?"  the buyer asks.

"Absolutely--make me an offer!"  says the salesman.

"I'll give you $45,000.00  total today--in cash, out the door" says the buyer.

"Okay, I'll see if I can go that low, I'll go run some numbers with the sales manager" The salesman states.  A few minutes later, the salesman returns, and he looks the buyer in the eyes and says "We can't go $45,000.00--but we can make a deal at $50,000.00."

"Out the door?" asks the buyer

"Out the door" states the salesman

"You've got a deal--$50,000.00 out the door!" says the buyer.  As the salesman and the buyer exchange a firm handshake and look each other in the eye, the buyer says "I'm going home to get the cash, my wife will have to approve this but she wants this truck more than I do, so you have a deal!"  Excitedly the buyer heads home to get the $50K.  On the way out the door, he calls out to the salesman "Get it prepped and gassed I'll be back in half an hour!"

Upon his return, with his wife and a shoebox full of $100.00 dollar bills totalling $50,000.00 in tow--the salesman ushers the couple into a cramped cubicle....

"Here's the $50k, where do I sign?" asks the buyer.

"Okay, well about that deal.........our finance guy has been out for awhile, and the manager has overruled my deal--you see, we need to charge you for tag, title, fees, underbody rust protection, gap insurance, roadside assistance and also the dealer prep fees"

"Okay--I get that" says the buyer--"Subtract that out of the total and balance the deal at $50,000.00--because we made a deal--$50,000.00 cash out the door---we shook on that!"

"I'm sorry sir, the manager told me to tell you NO" said the salesman looking down, not making eye-contact.... "but here is some good news--once we add in the items I've been told MUST be added back, your new total price is only.....$54,999.99"  Now, do you want to start re-negotiating, I can go get my manager, we can take all that cash and work out some new terms for the difference......"

"Wow--are you serious?!?"  Says the buyer.  "I don't want to re-negotiate, I want this truck for the price you and I agreed on and shook on--because that is the honorable way to negotiate!"

"I'm sorry sir,  the manager won't let me honor our deal" says the salesman looking straight down at the floor.  "I'm really sorry..."

"You ARE SORRY, and Your dealership IS SORRY!" says the buyer

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sheriff Is Refusing to Honor the Signed Mediation Agreement

The Sheriff has unilaterally stated he will not abide by the terms of a signed mediation agreement

Sheriff Morgan today on Facebook stated that he is unilaterally refusing to honor the mediation agreement reached on March 9th, ratified by the BCC on March 15th.

The agreement that was signed by authorized representatives of the BCC and ECSO stipulated that the contents of the agreement would be memorialized into an interlocal agreement to be signed by the Board of County Commission Chairman.

This is where, apparently, the train has come off the tracks.  The County attorney has sent over a bare-bones, straightforward interlocal agreement that strictly adheres to the mediation agreement.

The ECSO has rejected this straightforward interlocal and is attempting to go beyond what was bargained.  This is being done in an attempt to get more money that what was agreed-to in the mediation agreement--and their proposed language would result in the County being subject to additional monetary exposure over and above what was bargained in good faith on March 9th. 

This is unacceptable.

If there are only format issues, these can be overcome and I stand ready to work to get these resolved. I repeat,  If it is just happy to glad, format issues--I would say send your version ECSO and we will consider it--SO LONG AS IT STAYS WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK AND COST BOUNDARIES OF THE SIGNED MEDIATION AGREEMENT.

Unfortunately, however, it is not a format issue, or a language issue....It appears as if this is nothing more than an attempt to expand further, financially, what was agreed upon on March 9th---after the fact and after the BCC affirmed the signed mediation agreement and the concomitant budget concessions that were implicitly defined in the March 9th document.

What a disappointment...I sincerely hope the Sheriff will reconsider this bad decision he has apparently made to unilaterally back out of the signed mediation deal.

Instead, Sheriff Morgan should abide by what was negotiated in good faith by the BCC and ECSO in the mediation session; he should sign the interlocal agreement that has been sent to his office memorializing the signed agreement that was reached on March 9th.
The BCC currently has no special meetings planned or scheduled to address this matter further.

Here is the Current Status of the Mediation Agreement between the BCC and ECSO

This entire weekend people have been calling me and asking me "What is the status of the agreement with the ECSO"

Channel three called on Saturday and Sunday.  I stated what I know, which is still all I know today outside of rumors, innuendo, and media speculation based upon snippets of an alleged memo from Eric Haines.  What I know on the timeline and status of this matter is as follows:

On Friday, March 9th, I participated in an all day mediation with other BCC reps and Chief Deputy Haines and Gerry Champaign from ECSO.

The end of that process culminated in a signed mediation agreement that day, on Friday, March 9th 2018.  That session ended with nobody asking the mediator to come back, no mention of any additional problems or concerns.

Saturday 3-10-18 came and went, no questions, comments, concerns from ECSO, and no request for the mediator to come back, no mention of any additional problems or concerns.

Sunday 3-11-18 came and went, no questions, comments, concerns from ECSO, and no request for the mediator to come back, no mention of any additional problems or concerns.

Monday 3-12-18 came and went, no questions, comments, concerns from ECSO, and no request for the mediator to come back, no mention of any additional problems or concerns.

Tuesday 3-13-2018 came and went, no questions, comments, concerns from ECSO, and no request for the mediator to come back, no mention of any additional problems or concerns.

Wednesday 3-14-2018 came and went, no questions, comments, concerns from ECSO, and no request for the mediator to come back, no mention of any additional problems or concerns.

Thursday 3-15-2018  The BCC votes to affirm the negotiated, signed mediation agreement via a very heated, contentious 3-2 vote.  A press release is written, media announces the breakthrough, no questions, comments, concerns from ECSO, No press release from ECSO, no videos, no nothing. and no request for the mediator to come back, no mention of any additional problems or concerns.

Friday 3-16-2018  BCC attorneys and staff draft an interlocal agreement based strictly upon the agreed upon and signed mediation settlement agreement and send it to Sheriff Morgan's attorney, where to the best of my knowledge it is given to the sheriff and sits on his desk awaiting his signature and action.  (Late Friday afternoon I requested and received confirmation that the Interlocal was sent to Gerry Champaign, General Counsel for ECSO)  Late Friday afternoon, I also was told there were some concerns being expressed by the ECSO--however I went into the weekend with no indication the ECSO would not honor the written, signed mediation agreement.  Nor was I EVER Told that the Sheriff had unilaterally decided to not honor this agreement.

Saturday--I was told by Ch. 3 reporter Jamarlo Phillips that a memo had been circulated within the ECSO stating "mediation has failed" to which I replied that information is not accurate.  "Mediation succeeded, see the written agreement" I told him.  I then continued "The signed mediation agreement is a fair compromise and so far as I know right now we are moving forward, and I believe any statement at this point on this issue needs to come first from the sheriff"

On Sunday--I was called by Jamarlo Phillips and again he stated that a memo had been circulated within the ECSO stating "mediation has failed"  He asked if I wanted to appear on camera and give a statement, to which I said no thank you.  I told him "any statement at this point on this issue needs to come first from the sheriff"

So here we are at 5:00 AM Monday Morning--and the media has run reports inaccurately stating mediation "failed." Mediation did not fail, it succeeded as designed, the interlocal agreement is now on the Sheriff's desk, awaiting his action.  That is the status as of right now, to the best of my knowledge.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

What Prices are Large-Acre Properties in Beulah near OLF 8 Commanding over the Last 18 Months?

TRUE STORY: although the last 3 large-acre parcels in the area have sold for an average of $65,000.00 per acre--there are still some persons inaccurately espousing the flawed notion that OLF 8, a 636 acre site in the heart of Beulah, is only worth about $7,500.00 per acre...

....There have been three large-acre site sales (30 Acres +)in the immediate vicinity (within 1 mile) of the OLF 8 site in Beulah over the last 18 Months.  This is not surprising to me, because I have watched this area explode over the last 14 years as a resident of Beulah right across from OLF 8.

 Prices are going up like a rocket and properties are moving.

In spite of this fact, there has nevertheless been some noise put out recently by some individuals that "OLF 8 is only worth $4.75 Million."  Amazingly, some people actually believe this nonsense.

This misinformation is apparently based upon a badly flawed appraisal from nearly 6 years ago...and this opinion obviously disregards recent, actual sales data.  This opinion also fails to look at a more recent, yet still obsolete, appraisal from two years ago....

That latest appraisal of OLF 8 from May of 2016 shows a value of $17.8 Million for the 636 Acre OLF 8 site.  That's a lot more than $4.75 Million!

But wait--- it gets better....

In the two years since the creation of that  May 2016 appraisal showing that OLF 8 is worth nearly $18 Million--there have been a number of large-acre site sales in Beulah, within a one-mile radius of OLF 8.  And guess what?--the prices are skyrocketing.

Take a look at the facts that you can independently verify at the Escambia Property Appraiser's Website

--November 2016--35.02 Acre Site in Beulah purchased by the Residences at Nature Creek LLC for $2.5 Million ($71,400 per acre)

--June 2017--52 Acre Site in Beulah purchased by HAD Land Development Group Partners I LLC for $4.0Million ($76,923 per acre)

--September 2017--174 Acre Site in Beulah purchased by Pathstone FL 2017 LLC for $8.25 Million ($47,413 per acre) 

So are we all to suspend our belief in the free-market economy, forget Adam Smith and the invisible hand 101, forget Commercial Real Estate 101, --just because someone says this property is only worth $4.75 Million?? Apparently, there are some that would answer the hypothetical above in the affirmative....

But here is reality:

We are seeing that the private market has signaled large-acre sites on 9-mile road in Beulah are worth about $65,000 per acre now in this market--based upon recent "actual" sales.

Taking this actual sales data and multiplying it by the size of the cleared, mostly high and dry acreage of OLF 8--we get a gross value of  $41,340,000.

So how does anyone with any sophistication whatsoever not see this?  It is simple arithmetic based upon real sales data from recent real transactions.

But if we set this real data aside and instead choose to believe that the 636 acre site is, indeed, only worth  $7,468.55 per acre ($4.75 Million Divided by 636)--then what is the explanation for three private market firms paying more than $40,000.00 more than value, per acre, for the land they recently purchased--land that in several cases was not even cleared??

Answer:  The private market would not support these prices if this real estate was not worth this valuation at this moment in time.  

So I'd simply ask anyone who will countenance the ridiculous notion that the 636 acre site in Beulah in Spring of 2018 is only worth $4.75 Million this simple question:   If you are truly, objectively trying to argue, in light of the facts, that this site is only worth $4.75 Million-- on what DATA do you base this opinion and more importantly how in the world  could you  be so very badly wrong if you have even a basic understanding of economics and the private real estate market?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What's The Value of OLF 8 in Beulah?

If the hypnotist tells you the value of a property is $4.75 Million, but the appraisal says the same property is worth $18Million, who are you going to believe, the hypnotist or your lyin' eyes?

Now that the vote at the BCC has been made and by a 4-1 margin, phase II construction will be commencing at OLF X in Santa Rosa County, we are now entering the final stretch toward acquiring, finally, the property in Beulah known as OLF8.

Now, there are still many disgruntled naysayers that are out and about--trying to somehow portray this land swap as a sham, a scam, a "bad deal" and/or an outright ripoff for the taxpayer.  There are even people that know better spouting off saying this land is only worth  $4.75 Million.  This is an outright lie.  The property just as it sits was appraised several years back for nearly $18 Million (see the summary appraisal in the two pictures below).  The values out here have done nothing but go straight up since this appraisal was conducted--so what is the OLF8 really worth today?  Let's just say it is worth more than $18 Million--that is a given, and that is more than we will have expended to get title to this land.

So, to the taxpayers and to my constituents in District 1 I say this:  I would not have done the deal the way the BCC did it--and I admit it was sloppy and choppy. I came into office as this project was well underway.    But---this property is worth more in just cash value alone as it sits, than what we will end up spending to acquire it.  Just look at the appraisal below from several years back.  Once we acquire it later this year, we will very shortly thereafter be awarded a massive restore act grant nearly equal to the amount we have spent to acquire this land, and this grant will pay the costs to develop this property.  And once the property is developed and infrastructure is put in (at no additional cost to the County's General Fund or LOST fund) and a master plan is completed--what will the value of OLF8 be then, at that time, as an improved 636 acre site?  (Hint, a LOT MORE than what the appraisal from several years ago lists)

So please be informed--  don't listen to partisans that have personal vendettas against this deal and massive axes to grind against community leaders who worked to support this deal.  The naysayers would have you look at the actual appraisal I'm publishing below, juxtaposed with what THEY SAY OLF8 is worth, and ask you point blank "Who are you gonna believe---me or your lying eyes!"

Sadly, there are folks that are not checking the facts, believing things that are not true.  It is really fascinating to watch how easily some  people become captivated by the smooth talkers who have managed to perfect the art of manipulating people like miniature Gumby dolls.

But on this issue--please--open your eyes for just a moment, do not fall victim to the Jedi mind trick, and look at the appraisal below. Don't allow yourselves to be manipulated--

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Board of County Commissioners and ECSO agree on Mediation Agreement

This morning the Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 to support a mediation agreement that was negotiated last Friday with representatives of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

There was a spirited debate, nobody was 100% happy with the agreement--but when the question was put to a vote, the Board voted 3-2 to move this agreement forward.  Lumon May and Steven Barry voted no on this agreement.

Next up, the attorneys for both agencies will reduce this agreement to a written interlocal agreement which will need to be signed by the sheriff and voted forward affirmatively by the BCC.

This is a big step forward.

See the agreement below:

Alcohol Ordinance at Pensacola Beach....

I was a guest this morning on Quinlan and Nolan radio show on AM790 WPNN.

The singular topic of discussion was the open-container alcohol ordinance at Pensacola Beach.

Last year's discussion was contentious, and this year I had hoped that a decision on continuing or sunsetting the ordinance would be made on objective, rather than subjective data.

A survey was going to be taken, but last week the board decided to scuttle that idea--in large part based upon the questions and more specifically because the proposed survey questions appeared to be leading questions that would potentially bias the survey.

We discussed this in detail, you can hear the interview here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

BCC and Escambia School Board Hold Joint Meeting

Members of the Board of County Commission and the School Board held a joint meeting on Tuesday. L to R Malcolm Thomas, Grover Robinson, Patty Hightower, Steven Barry, Bill Slayton, Doug Underhill, Gerald Boone, Lee Hansen, Lumon May, Kevin Adams, Jeff Bergosh, Jack Brown

Tuesday evening from 5:00-7:30 the Escambia Board of County Commissioners and the Escambia County School Board held a joint meeting.

Multiple subjects of interest were discussed, including safe walking to school around the county, and the need for more sidewalks.

Much of the discussion focused on the new Beulah Middle School--and the fact that access to that school will be challenging for students who walk due to the lack of sidewalks in the area.  Access coming out of Allegheny Road directly across the street from Beulah Middle School was also a hot-button discussion--as the current FDOT plan calls for that entrance to be a "right-turn only"--which the residents do not want.

We also discussed the graduation rate and the school board gave a presentation delineating the progress made with on-time, four year graduation (currently at 79.5% for 4 year graduation with a standard diploma).  This is a large improvement from the 2008 school year when the on-time, 4-year graduation rate was about 60%.

I once again brought the concept of a SEED style public charter boarding school--but there was no appetite for that here locally-mainly due to the astronomical ongoing costs per student.  But with Triumph grants available-I did think that perhaps this would have been a good funding source for start-up of a school locally.  No support for this from the school board, though.

I had a discussion about the feasibility of bringing a Law School and a Medical School to Pensacola, so that instead of exporting our students and their spending to places like Tallahassee and Mobile--we might keep them (and their expenditures for tuition, housing, food, etc.) here in the greater Pensacola area.  Folks seemed receptive, but not overly so..

My final discussion point was on establishing an Escambia Youth Commission like ones in Fulton County, GA, Seattle Washington, and San Diego California.  Quite surprisingly--this idea was met with much support--even from the members of the school board.  I look forward to working with members of the staff, and the school district, with establishing this new group over the next few months.

The video of the entire meeting can be found here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

BCC-ECSO Budget Impasse 2017-2018...Is There a Potential Breakthrough Coming Thursday?

UPDATE 3-15-2018--BCC Endorses Mediated Settlement with ECSO

There was an hours-long back and forth mediation held between representatives of the BCC and the ECSO this past Friday morning, afternoon, and early evening.

Obviously any specifics that came from that meeting are subject to a confidentiality agreement that all participants (myself included) signed.

But I will report this:  I am told my counterparts on the BCC have each been briefed about these discussions, and subsequent to these talks on Friday-another executive session (shade meeting) has been scheduled for this Thursday morning at 8:30 right before our morning's agenda review session.

My prediction is that we may have a big announcement this Thursday at some point--so stay tuned!

See the meeting notice announcing this closed session of the BCC below....

Regional Leadership Panel Discussion With Congressman Gaetz Happens Today at 1:00PM

Today beginning at 1:00 PM Congressman Matt Gaetz will convene a Western Hemisphere field hearing at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.  The Board of County Commissioners Chairmen from each of the Panhandle Counties are all invited to participate, as are several law enforcement and legal professionals from the region and also from around the nation.  From Congressman Gaetz's office:

"The purpose of this event is to engage in meaningful discussion relating to drug trafficking and terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. Congressman Gaetz would like to specifically examine some of the following topics during the panel discussions:
  • Effective implementation of policy and proper allocation of resources to support drug interdiction efforts and combat terrorism in the Western Hemisphere
  • Collaboration of Venezuelan officials with Hezbollah and Venezuela’s support of terrorism
  • Hezbollah integration with criminal networks in South America
  • Hezbollah fundraising in the South American region
  • The role and resources of Northwest Florida and capabilities to support
  • Operations in the Gulf of Mexico related to transnational organized crime
  • Identifying and targeting major trafficking organizations and corridors for illicit drug exports to the United States
Congressman Gaetz’s goals are to identify main threats, receive recommendations to target those threats, and to develop and execute a plan on how Congress can assist in combating and eliminating those threats."

On WCOA AM 1370 Discussing Big County Issues

I was a guest on AM 1370 WCOA's morning show "Good Morning Pensacola" today discussing quite a few topics of importance.  Among the subjects discussed were the following:

--End of the 2018 legislative session and the school safety bill (unfunded mandate)

--Discussion of several traffic projects in District 1

--Discussion of the progress of the OLF8/OLFX land swap

--Discussion of access to the new Beulah Middle School-cooperation between County, School District, and FDOT

--Joint BCC-School Board meeting coming up Tuesday

--Potential HUGE news announcement this Thursday regarding the BCC/ECSO budget Impasse

Listen to the conversation here

Monday, March 5, 2018

On the Radio Today Discussing School Safety, SRO's, Funding......and Gun Control

I was on  AM 1370 WCOA this morning discussing how to pay for SRO's statewide utilizing forfeiture funds (Law Enforcement Trust Funds) school safety, the Legislature's "School Marshall" plan, arming teachers, bump stocks, and gun control.

Interesting interview and I certainly did not hold back.

Listen to the full interview  HERE

Friday, March 2, 2018

Why Not Let the "Bad Guys" and their Seized Property Help Pay for the "Good Guys?"

We should take the ill-gotten profits from prisoners and law-breakers, lawfully seized by police, and put the first 50% of these monies into school security programs--that's my opinion

Forfeiture funds are public funds once seized.

And under Florida law there are specific uses for which these funds are appropriate.

The very first use in the statute is for school resource officer programs.  But for reasons that are difficult to understand--not one dime of forfeiture funds in Escambia County has ever been used for the SRO program--an allowable use of these funds.

In fact--it almost seems as if every possible use for these funds has been found--except utilization to help schools.  Look at this chart below.  As of 2017--our local LETF is 97% utilized to fund outside organizations and to fund advertising and promotion of the sheriff's office. not one thin dime for schools....

I'm told a recent request from Washington High School for school hardening(entrance gates) from our LET fund was rejected by Sheriff Morgan.  $5,000.00 for drug patches for probationers was also recently, forcefully rejected by the sheriff.

But the Opera, various balls, the little theater, the Alzheimer association, parties, golf tournaments, the heart association, and all kinds of other requests have been approved. Some of these organizations have an opaque connection to allowable uses for these funds, according to 932.7055.

 I have asked hard questions about these expenditures, but overall these expenditures are not second-guessed.

Now, in the midst of Parkland, everyone is looking for funding to increase SRO and security personnel funding for schools.

Why not carve out the first 50% and make it mandatory that this go to the schools?  This is my proposal that I brought to the Escambia BCC, .got approved 4-1, and sent to Gov. Scott and our delegation today

Now is the time for the state leaders to act.  If our medium-small county of  merely 310,000 people can generate a half-million dollars yearly on average in forfeiture funds (see chart above)--how much statewide is being generated?  How much is funding SROs and school hardening?  How much is being spent like Escambia County--on non-profits and other entities with a nebulous connection, at best, to contemplated uses of these funds?

So I brought forth this planOur commission approved it.  I spoke to each of our legislative delegates.  I hope this gains traction.

Because there is no reason why we (Floridians) cannot take the first 50% of this $30 Million Dollars Yearly funding source and use it to make our schools safer.  And for the local sheriff's around the state, there will still be 50% left for you to use as you determine, subject to approval from your respective Board of County Commission.

But meanwhile--why would we not tap this non-taxpayer funded revenue stream first-before raising taxes or taking from some other program?

What Do You Do When Your Friend is Stealing and Abusing Your Prescription Pain Meds?

What would you do if you found out your friend was stealing your prescription pain meds for many months running?

What a difficult situation.  And then to complicate it--nobody does anything about it when it is reported.

What a conundrum.

Here is what I was told by a constituent(names and other information redacted).  Now I'm not a cop and I'm not a psychologist--I'm just a commissioner.  But I have a response for this constituent and below her email is my response.....

"I came to the XXXXXXXXXXXX to file a report @ catching a thief in my car back in December. Yes, I know they can't do anything now but I wanted to at least to give a sworn statement & have it on record because since me coming out on XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, 5 other people have also come forward with similar stories surrounding this person. I was told no,  it was too late to file a report. .  
This has caused me great concern & I'm worried not just for my own safety but the new people in XXXXXXXX who see this person on XXXXXXXXXXXXx & believe XXXXXXX represents us. XXXXXX does present well by XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX & is vocal XXXXXXXXXXXXX. But XXXXXX is staining the values we represent in the XXXXXXXXXXXX& I don't want anyone else to be a victim. 
XXXXXX was my friend & I knew XXXXXXXhad a problem with XXXXXXXX but to see XXXXXX in my vehicle digging through my purse XXXXXXXXXXX devastated me. I had been missing pills from my prescription bottles for months but couldn't figure out who it was or when it could've happened. Every month they kept going missing - first just 5 or 6, then 10-15. I didn't report it right then & there because and only because i was in shock. Our kids were there & I just wanted to get out of there. 
Fast forward 2 months later at XXXXXXXXXX. I'm talking to one of our XXXXXXXXXXX & I confide in him about what had happened. He tells me I'm not the 1st person that this had happened to. So I dug a little more and asked a few more questions to a few more XXXXXXXXX people & got the same answers. I posted a very vague,  but obvious to the victims, description of what happened to me & I got 3 messages privately telling me same stories. 
So at that point I figured XXXXXXXXX has a problem community member that needs to be on watch.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Where Should the 1st 50% Go?

This is a question that I will explore today at the BCC meetings later this morning and this evening with an add-on item I will be bringing for the board's consideration.

With an intense focus on school safety happening statewide in the wake of Parkland--all eyes nationwide are on Florida.  Everyone is watching what happens next.

Governor Scott has put forth some solid proposals that have garnered support from stakeholders around the state.  But the tricky detail is funding.  Where will the continuing funding come from if we are to put a SRO or an armed and trained professional security guard in every Florida school? (There are 3,223 schools statewide)

I strongly support this plan but funding must be considered.  the $400 Million will not cover the costs-not even for this year.

According to Superintendent of Schools Malcolm Thomas, the allocation from the Governor's proposed fund for Escambia County schools will only be an additional $1Million dollars in the safe schools allocation, bringing this to a total of roughly $2.2 Million.  Thomas has stated that this amount is insufficient to even cover half of the schools in Escambia County with Armed security or SROs this year.  so it is an unfunded mandate coming right out of the gate....and if required going forward  but not funded--we could be looking at an unfunded mandate in the out years that would be ultimately absorbed by Counties throughout the state.

To mitigate this to some degree--or to create the beginning of a dedicated, recurring revenue stream to pay for these resource officers--I will be bringing the following proposal to send to our legislative delegation tonight:

Make the first 50% of all Law Enforcement Trust Funds statewide be obligated automatically to pay for SRO's or armed professional security guards in Florida County Schools.  Right now, SROs are an allowable expense for LET funds--however as we see in Escambia County and other places--these funds are often not utilized for SRO's.  Often times these funds are spent supporting non-profits and advertising.  As an example--on tonight's agenda we are being asked to fund the following from Escambia County's LET Fund:

A. AFCEA Blue Angels Pensacola Chapter, in the amount of $25,000;

B. Hadji Shriners, in the amount of $5,000;

C. Panhandle Charitable Open, in the amount of $30,000; (Golf tournament supporting multiple charitable non-profits)

D. Pensacola Mess Hall, in the amount of $5,000;

E. FavorHouse of Northwest Florida, Inc., in the amount of $12,000;

F. Pensacola Little Theatre, Inc., in the amount of $6,000;

G. Christian Surfers, in the amount of $5,000;

H. Pensacola Opera, Inc., in the amount of $5,000; and

I. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, in the amount of $2,000.

Are these really the BEST places to allocate these LET funds?

So why not take the first 50% statewide and ensure, by statute, that we use this source of public funding for the most important cause--protecting schools and children!  If the law is changed, this will happen; it will no longer be a question of if SRO's and/or armed professional security guards at every Florida School will be fully funded--they will be funded or at least the funding for these officers in part will come from a dedicated, recurring source that is not additional taxpayer funds!