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.








Sunday, April 29, 2018

So How the Heck Do these Transportation Projects Happen Anyway?


These 9 Questions are not only applicable to transportation projects:  I think I'll start asking these of EVERYONE who approaches me for funding of any sort for any project.  Thanks TPO for this!

That's what I learned a lot more about in an intense deep-dive this weekend in Orlando.

Money doesn't just fall out of the sky to fund these projects, after all.  We all know this but it is extremely helpful to have experts tell you exactly how the process (supposedly) works.

And there are some tremendously intricate laws that govern these expenditures, how they get funded, the politics of the process, who pays what, who truly has the power,  and most importantly--how long it takes to get these things done.

That's what I spent my whole weekend learning about in Orlando.  And I am not saying I am now officially an expert. But I was given a TON of information in a SHORT weekend seminar--and most dangerously--I was given links to the data sources and contact information for FLC staff that are standing by to help.

The greatest part of this is that I now have enough knowledge to know exactly what I did not know before, where to get the information I need, and contact information for the officials and professionals that live and breathe this issue 24-7, 365.  And, again,  these folks want to help us going forward.



So it was  INCREDIBLY beneficial for me (and for my constituents in Escambia County) to be able to attend this conference:  I met fellow TPO and  MPO members from around the state, found out WHO to call for real answers, and what we need to do to move legitimately needed and necessary projects forward in Escambia County. 

I'm looking forward, now more than ever, to becoming the chairman of the TPO later this  summer--now I feel like I have the additional information I need to be as effective as I can possibly be in this new position for the people that pay my salary.

Stay tuned and look out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Settlement

The Board of County Commissioners voted Thursday morning, April 26th, unanimously, to approve this settlement with the ECSO for the budget appeal filed by Sheriff Morgan last year.  The slides below go through the salient aspects of this four-year  deal.






I'm proud of the team that negotiated this deal, and I look forward to working cooperatively with the Sheriff's Office going forward to implement it.

Pensacola Humane Society Debuts the Mobile Adoption Vehicle--the "Humane Express"

The Humane Express allows the Pensacola Humane Society the ability to take shelter pets "on the road" to community events--to help more of these animals find good homes!

The Humane Society of Pensacola unveiled their "mobile adoption vehicle"  today at the Pensacola Yacht Club.

The vehicle allows the Humane Society to take up to 21 animals to large community events, giving these pets additional exposure to the public.  The vehicle has all the  necessary amenities to keep the animals healthy and happy during trips, and the vehicle even has a back seating area for families that want to adopt to be able to fill out the paperwork to adopt an animal on the spot!

"We're very excited about what this vehicle will allow us to do locally, and we're very grateful to the ladies of IMPACT 100 that awarded us with a grant to help purchase this vehicle" said Humane Society Executive Director Jennifer Bitner.

After giving me  a tour of the vehicle and a description of its capabilities, Bitner said the vehicle will make its official, operational debut at the "Paws on Palafox" event happening this Saturday.

Coffee with the Commissioner 4-25-2018



We held our monthly coffee with the commissioner today at the Hardee's restaurant on Wilde Lake at Pine Forest.  The lion's share of the discussion today was focused on traffic issues with some brief discussions about flooding issues on Rebel Road and the budget.

We also had a brief discussion about the jail, and when I said that the County is having a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the jail's construction, this produced a somewhat awkwardly  humorous reaction from one person at the table.  "Is that really a good idea, a groundbreaking for the jail" he stated?   I guess that idea does seem somewhat different...

But then we quickly went into the traffic issues...

Two of the participants had good ideas as it pertains to NFCU's 9-Mile road traffic.  One participant brought a clipping from a PNJ "letter to the editor" that suggested NFCU utilize a park and ride plan to have their employees park at a remote location and ride shuttles to the Beulah campus.

Another participant in this morning's coffee has a spouse that works at NFCU.  According to this person, an entire department of NFCU is going to be relocating over to Milton--which will mean a longer commute for her spouse.  "They are doing this because of the traffic" she stated.  "They need to do a park and ride with a lot near the campus"

I like the idea of a park and ride, however that is not something I can dictate-that would have to be something NFCU takes up.

I enjoyed the conversations and I look forward to next month's event!

Education Department Poised to Fix the Obama Era "School Discipline" Fix

The Trump administration may be scrapping the Obama-era school discipline mandates--and liberals are furious over it..


A friend sent me this article yesterday afternoon from of all sources--the Huffington Post...


The article is about a subject of great interest to me, how Federal Bureaucrats under the previous administration were heavy-handed with local school districts and forced many districts to sign onerous "consent decrees" that tied these districts' hands in many respects as it pertained to discipline of students.

This all stemmed from the false notion of a school pipeline to prison, and it is/was reinforced by a very real phenomenon that occurs nationwide for many years running now.  This is the situation where black and hispanic students are often suspended in numbers that appear to be out of balance with white and asian students when examined on a percentage of the school population basis.  It is like a reverse achievement gap....and this phenomenon is well documented.  The previous administration took this to illustrate that administrators, teachers, and school districts nationwide were systematically "targeting" black and hispanic students for removal from school.  Believe it or not, there are actually people that believe that this nonsensical rubbish, ridiculously stupid notion is actually TRUE--they believe that large swaths of the public school system in the nation is filled with racists.  (ironically, these same snowflakes that believe the nation's schools are full of racists out deliberately targeting black and hispanic students for removal never talk about the underlying behavior(s) which resulted in  the discipline in the first place.  To these true believers, this simply is an irrelevant point...)

But now that there is a new administration in Washington--some of these failed policies are being looked at again, with fresh eyes. There is talk some of these Obama era "guidance documents" will be scrapped.  This would be a great thing, because these policies have been a disaster in practical terms, even as naive proponents have lauded the "lower numbers" of minority suspensions and expulsions.

Here is a newsflash:   Just because a rule is not enforced and a record is not created does not mean that the behavior just got better nationwide--it just means that terrified administrators scrambled to comply, and they told their principals to stop suspending certain students.  Voila, there was the fix.

 Better numbers and lower suspension and expulsion rates of minority students was achieved.....

But when you use heavy handed tactics to sweep a messy reality under the rug and ignore bad behavior to get better numbers, there will be side effects.

Escambia county was threatened with a lawsuit back in 2012, along with several other Florida Districts, because our "numbers" appeared to be too high, our numbers of black students disciplined as a percentage of our schools' populations when compared to white student suspensions and expulsions.

Some districts acquiesced, formally, to the Federal Government, SPLC, and ACLU and signed these consent decrees.  Escambia complied by changing discipline terminology (expulsions became disciplinary reassignment), watering down discipline (especially as it related to minority students) and doing in-school suspensions instead of out-of-school suspensions, and forcing teachers to not write referrals. etc.  The school board was never officially given the draft SPLC/ACLU/DOJ crafted consent decree for action--however I did see a copy of it at the time and I was eager to have a crack at that garbage document if and when it was put on an agenda for board action.

But that document was never brought, and slowly, over time, many of the tenets of that document were simply instituted procedurally without formal board action here in Escambia County. This way, there would not be any unrest in the press or at the board meetings, it would just be instituted and there would be no "bad publicity"

In the wake of that action over the last six years locally, two important things have transpired, two big outcomes...

1.  The number of suspensions and expulsions of minority students has become "lower" in Escambia County.....

But

2.  Behavior of students has actually become worse as fewer misbehaving students faced real consequences for their bad behavior and this has led to high teacher turnover in many schools and a stagnant/declining enrollment for Escambia as compared to our surrounding school districts.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Lillian Highway Repaving and Improvement Project is Moving Forward

Great news from FDOT for East-Central Escambia County, and the Southwest portion of District 1.

A big project is about to commence that has been needed for quite some time!  See full details below.


Request for Censure, Part II

At our most recent public forum meeting, on April 17th, I once again was asked to lead the board in censuring a fellow County Commissioner.

At minute 18:15 of this video, speaker Randy Thompson makes his case that the board should censure Doug Underhill over some comments Underhill made regarding recent marches in support of tightening gun legislation...

At the completion of Thompson's remarks, the board considered his comments and no censure of Doug Underhill occurred. 

It was a good discussion about free speech and also the consequences of free speech, but we as a board were not convinced that we were the ones that needed to act to censure a colleague. 

For my part I opposed a the idea of censuring my counterpart, because we are not his behavior police.  I stand by that.  He is free to say what he wants, and he will have to bear the consequences of his remarks--but it is a slippery slope to go down if we are to start micromanaging each others' speech at the behest of citizens who request this at our public forum meetings....

This is America, we have free speech.  But even in America with our free speech rights--there are limits.  If the speech reaches a level that is unacceptable, the court of public opinion and more importantly the ballot box tally will right the wrong.  That is the appropriate mechanism to correct behaviors and speech of independently-elected constitutional officers.


                John Denver testifies before congress on the importance of free speech in 1985                                     

In 1985, wives of U.S. Senators attempted to censor the Music Industry because these ladies felt some of the music was offensive.  One of the speakers they brought in, ostensibly to back their position and agree with censorship, was beloved and highly regarded Country-Western artist John Denver.  But something interesting happened at the hearing that day.  A very eloquent John Denver destroyed their arguments and stood steadfastly in opposition to censorship next to Frank Zappa, Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister) and many record company executives.  So impressed was Dee Snider after that hearing, he was quoted saying "I'll Kick the S&#T out of anyone that says anything bad about John Denver"  I'll never forget watching Denver's testimony that day--and it kind of reminds me of this issue. 

John Denver was right then, and I am right now.  In America we don't censor Art, Music, and speech.  Not if we want to keep the liberty we all enjoy...


On AM 790 WPNN This Morning.



I will be a guest on this morning's "Quinlan Report" at 6:05AM and 7:05AM today.

The segment was recorded yesterday for broadcast this morning.

In this interview we discuss multiple topics, to include my thoughts on civics education, gun violence, apathy of the population, school board term limits, and appointed versus elected Superintendents of schools.

Quinlan also asks me point blank if I will be running for Superintendent in 2020 when Malcolm Thomas retires. 

It's a good discussion.......you can listen to it here!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Justice Charles Canady Speaks in Pensacola

Federalist Society of the Emerald Coast President, Judge Gary Bergosh, welcomes Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady to Pensacola

The Federalist Society of the Emerald Coast welcomed Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady to Pensacola Wednesday.

Justice Canady spoke to the nealy 100 attendees at the Pensacola Yacht Club Wednesday on the topic of separation of powers between the branches of government.

More than a dozen judges from the panhandle attended the event, along with several elected officials and dozens of lawyers and other members of the public.

The speech was captivating- and the room was silent as Justice Canady went through a very detailed explanation of his philosophy on separation of powers.  Several works were cited, including multiple Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and legal writings that pre-dated our nation.

After speaking, the Justice entertained questions from the audience--with a humorous disclaimer given before taking questions "I cannot answer questions about any current or former legal case in any court anywhere, I cannot discuss my reasoning in previous cases (you will have to read my dissent in these cases), and I cannot discuss anything political nor can I discuss or answer any questions about any topic that is controversial"  Canady quipped to laughter from the group.



He did answer several questions that he felt he could speak to--including the notion of "judicial review" which the justice stated that he "supports."

The evening ended with handshakes, discussions, introductions, and small groups of individuals speaking and taking photos with the justice.

Learn more about the Federalist Society of the Emerald Coast here.

Request for a Censure

I have been asked to add an item to the next regular board agenda to "censure" Doug Underhill for his comments regarding the recent marches for firearms law changes. 

My response to these request(s) is below.



Friday, April 6, 2018

IMPACT 100 of Pensacola Bay Area Recognized by the BCC




I was honored to present a proclamation of appreciation at the April 5th BCC regular meeting recognizing IMPACT 100 of the Pensacola Bay Area.

IMPACT 100 is a ladies philanthropic organization founded locally in 2003 with just over 200 members.  This year, the membership has swelled to over 1000 ladies in our community.

This organization requires members to pay $1000.00 per member in yearly membership dues--and 100% of this money is given back to worthy nonprofits in the local area. 

To date, IMPACT 100 of the Pensacola Bay Area has given more than $10Million dollars to local nonprofits in the Pensacola area.

IMPACT 100 of Pensacola also has the noteworthy distinction of being the LARGEST IMPACT 100 group in the world...Our IMPACT is the largest and many would argue the best in the country.

We are blessed to live in a very caring and giving community--and we're blessed to have so many that want to help and are willing to do so.

Congratulations and a big thank you to IMPACT 100!