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.

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, for God's sake,  don't listen to partisans that have personal vendettas against this deal and community leaders who worked to support this deal.  These slick talkers 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 groupies, cheerleaders, and pom-pom girls and boys who believe every word the slick talking haters spew.  It is really fascinating to watch how easily some become captivated by the smooth talkers who have managed to perfect the art of manipulating simpletons like miniature Gumby dolls.  But on this issue, please, for Christ's sake, put down the POM POMs for a moment, forget what the hypnotist is telling you and look at the appraisal below. Don't allow yourselves to be manipulated--don't be the poster children for Stockholm Syndrome--it makes you look ridiculously foolish.  :)

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!