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, June 29, 2018

First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner Will Remain Until Replacement Named by Governor

....According to this email that was sent to the leaders of the 4-County First Judicial Circuit.  There had been a dust-up between Dr. Minayard's office and the several of the Counties in the 4-County District (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton) about salaries in her office (including her salary reported to be in excess of a Half Million Dollars yearly) and whether or not the records requested from the medical examiner by Okaloosa County had to be released.  Her office sued all four counties over these issues...my take, for what it's worth--the records requested should be made public, because her office is funded by public dollars.



Thursday, June 28, 2018

What if it Would Have Been a Town Center Instead? Part II

What would happen to Pensacola and Escambia County if the NFCU expansion and associated $250 Million annual payroll and $3.4 Billion annual economic impact, started in an Escambia County Commerce Park called the Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park, were suddenly taken away and replaced with a "town center instead?" How would that have worked out for Escambia County?

Imagine the gut-wrenching feeling you would have if you always, consistently, played the same 6 lottery numbers weekly-- and never won.  Year after year, decade after decade, if you stuck it out and played the same numbers, $2 Dollars a week, hoping against hope that one day you might win. Heck, forget about the $2.00 you were wasting all those years, you probably just rationalized the expenditure as "entertainment" because between the drawings you would spend hours just fantasizing and daydreaming about all the fun things you would do with the winnings if you won.. Those imaginary daydreams kept you so entertained, the $2.00 was like a guilty pleasure almost, like eating a dove bar or an expensive cup of coffee at Starbucks.  But think about this:  Imagine how sick you would feel, how absolutely and totally wrecked you would be inside (potentially suicidal possibly),- if you went on an out-of-town trip, forgot to buy your ticket before you left--AND  BOOM!!YOUR NUMBERS CAME IN WITHOUT YOU! Just imagine how that would feel!  How long would it take to get over that one?  Would you ever get over that?

I'm guessing that's kind of how our community would feel if there was some super high-tech way some naysayers had at their disposal, perhaps a time machine,  to go backwards in time to keep leaders in the early 2000's from making a commerce park in Beulah called Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park.  You see, as I explained in part I, NFCU has grown exponentially in that park and beyond, on the way to providing 10,000 good-paying jobs here locally--yet there are still some in the community that believe that Navy Federal Credit Union coming to Escambia County was a terrible thing.  They wish it had never happened--some go so far as to say they think it wrecked their community.?!? Now, I have said publicly and on a very frequent basis I cannot have a rational conversation with anyone who believes this--as this opinion/outlook is simply so outlandishly myopic and psychopathic when juxtaposed with the MASSIVE, positive benefit NFCU brings to our region--that it is incomprehensible.

So just imagine if these naysayers could actually turn back the hands of time and sabotage what has since transpired in Pensacola over the last 16 years--making it so that  Navy Federal Credit Union never even made it here and instead grew their campus in Tidewater, Virginia (the runner-up location that eventually lost out to Pensacola). Imagine if Pensacola was not the recipient of the estimated $250 Million Annual payroll and $3.4 Billion in regional economic impact NFCU's eventual 10,000 jobs would bring to Escambia County and Pensacola? Imagine if you were a community leader with vision that worked to bring this tremendous outcome to Pensacola and you had to watch the naysayers blow it up and instead create a park, a retail mall, fast-food restaurants, cobblestone streets, an art district, an amphitheater, and a "town center" to the Bell-Heritage Oaks site--instead of bringing NFCU here in 2003?  Would that not drive you crazy???  Would you not do everything in

What If It Would Have Been a Town Center Instead? Part I

The 11-parcel, 68 acre Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park sold out to one tenant and was/is a smashing success


That's the question I have asked myself.  It is a question I have asked of others.

As we come closer to acquisition of the OLF 8 Property in Beulah, a look back at the history of one property decision deserves a second look with the benefit of hindsight.

In the early 2000s, a small parcel of land, approximately 68 acres, was acquired by the county from the Matt Langley Bell foundation.  The property was situated in Beulah off of 9-Mile Road next to the Matt Langley Bell 4-H property.  In a joint project with the State, County, and the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce--the decision was made to carve this small parcel into several smaller, individual parcels and market them as a part of the Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park.  I'm told there were a few loud, vocal opponents of this plan that did not want this to happen.  There were better uses for this property, according to these early naysayers.  Luckily for our region--these critical, negative voices were not  taken seriously and the park was constructed despite the objections from a few local residents....

PROJECT TUCKER

At about the same time as the Bell-Heritage Oaks Commerce Park was being developed, an economic development effort was launched to lure about 500 jobs to this newly constructed commerce park in Beulah.  The company was huge, a worldwide leader in their industry--so secrecy was an absolute necessity.  After about 18 months of negotiations back and forth, all the pieces came together, and Project Tucker was publicly identified as a 500 person call-center contingent from Navy Federal Credit Union's (NFCU) HQ in Vienna, Virginia. Although NFCU had branches worldwide--this  represented the first time this company had explored the possibility of expanding their administrative/office/support  footprint outside of Virginia.   The competition was tough, but eventually Pensacola won the jobs and the investment from Navy Federal Credit Union (over another site in Virginia) due to a number of factors to include the area's available workforce, the low wages of the area, and a very generous package of incentives offered to NFCU.  According to many sources intimately familiar with the negotiations with whom I have spoken--the incentives package is what sealed the deal and won this initial investment from NFCU for Pensacola.  Initially, NFCU purchased one parcel in the park, roughly 18 acres, for about $20K an acre.  Then subsequently NFCU bought another.  Eventually, NFCU would acquire all the parcels in the park.  Finally, seeing the great potential in Pensacola, NFCU purchased the Langley Bell 4-H property and began an ambitious growth and building cycle that would ultimately lead to several giant buildings being constructed and  thousands of additional jobs coming to Pensacola.

FAST FORWARD TO 2018

As of June of 2018, I am told NFCU's local workforce is up to roughly 6400 persons, with a plan to go to 10,000.  Several new buildings are going up, and hundreds of millions of dollars in capital expenditures have been injected into the Escambia County economy from this private-sector growth--benefiting not just Pensacola, not just Escambia County, not just Florida--but our entire region.  The growth has been rapid and there have been issues (infrastructure not sufficient for the growth)--but things are coming together and the necessary infrastructure is being built/planned/programmed to accommodate the growth.  All in all this past 16 year history between NFCU and Escambia County has been nothing short of a miracle for our area--an amazing Grand Slam Home Run for our area.  Most everyone recognizes this.  Most everyone does.

THE NAYSAYERS 

Even with the spectacular growth of the NFCU footprint locally, even with thousands of new jobs being imported to our community (a text-book, case study, poster-child for economic development success)--there are still naysayers who do not recognize this success.  I met dozens of them on the campaign trail as I went door to door in Beulah.  Luckily, and thankfully, however--the number of naysayers and cynics about NFCU on a percentage basis is very small.  Most, like me, recognize the tremendous boost NFCU has given our region.  But the number of cynics is not an insignificant number either.  There a a lot of them.  The reasoning they give for not liking NFCU is simple--they liked the open fields and bucolic nature of Beulah prior to the growth; they bemoan the traffic and the

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Vicious Dogs: Email from a Concerned Resident

How should residents react when dangerous animals are loose in their neighborhoods and the problem is chronic? 

I'll preface this post with a disclaimer:  I am a lifelong pet owner and dog lover-- and I am also a supporter of good public policy on animal control.  I support pet spaying/neutering, adoptions, and also I support the move to a "no-kill" animal shelter.

As a political candidate in multiple elections, I walked to thousands of doors in Escambia County and I can report that a huge percentage of the houses I visited over the years had at least one dog on the premise--and I met a lot of them.  The scary scenario was when dogs were loose, and I had a couple of incidents where I had dogs come after me.  Luckily-it all ended well and I was able to get to safety.  But it is an unnerving sight to see a fence door wide open (or with sections missing) with a prominent "Beware of Dog" sign affixed to it.....I've seen that situation many times as well.  It is especially scary when you hear loud barking or growling from these houses--it is sobering.

Full Disclosure:  I am a lifelong pet owner and dog lover


About three years ago, I was minding my own business at my house and my Goldendoodle Rocky was on the front porch.  Suddenly he was attacked by two vicious Rhodesian Ridge back dogs that were loose in the neighborhood.  I quickly grabbed my pistol and (probably foolishly) opened the door to try and save Rocky.  Luckily for everyone--I did not have to kill the other dogs, and Rocky was not badly injured as I was able to get him separated and put inside.  It was unnerving.  The two dogs were subsequently captured by County Animal control, I met the owner who apologized profusely (the dogs escaped from her back yard), and eventually these dogs came home and were re-united with their owner.  But not all such incidents have happy endings......as illustrated in an email I received recently.

 The below email from a citizen is  rational, balanced, yet concerned.  He has legitimate points.

At the end of the day, though, the responsibility for  these issues lies squarely at the feet of the
owner (s) of such animals. And I do not support "outlawing" certain breeds based upon anecdotal evidence, statistics, or other data that is not scientifically valid.  But animals that are aggressive must be contained and segregated from the general public--and when that does not happen there MUST be meaningful action taken immediately.  If that does not occur, all bets are off and bad things can happen, as described here:


"XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,
 I want to start off by saying that my family has two dogs (XXXXX and XXXXXX) and my email is in no way an attempt to degrade other pet owners or discount the home security that comes with owning larger breeds.  With that said, we have lived @ XXXXXXXXX. for about 5 years now and overall enjoy our neighborhood.  In that time, I have personally witnessed two different animal attacks involving pit bulls and have heard of several others from neighbors. 

The first attack I witnessed started out by the owner of the pit bulls forgetting to latch the gate.  The two dogs were roaming the neighborhood and ended up attacking a smaller dog.  The owner of the smaller dog ended the attack by shooting and killing both of the pit bulls.  

The second attack happened yesterday afternoon. I am not sure how this one started but another neighbor and I responded to the owner of the victim (cat) when she was hysterical over her pet 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

So What is Going to Be Discussed at the Joint BCC/SRIA Meeting next Month?

There will be several topics of great interest discussed at next month's BCC/SRIA joint meeting....


I was asked today, by a member of the media, what sort of topics would be discussed at the joint BCC/SRIA meeting next month....

I replied that the agenda is not yet compiled, and I have no idea what topics my counterparts might bring--but that I will be bringing the following 4 items for discussion:

--Toll Booth (full automation and price reduction to ease congestion at toll plaza)

--Beach Parking (Addition of some paid, premium parking to make up revenue from toll reduction with the goal of achieving a revenue-neutral outcome from the adjustments)

--Lease Renewals (Working toward equity between and among lease holders)

--Roundabouts (Do residents believe these are necessary and do residents want these?)

I anticipate these topics will elicit some robust debate/discussion......

Modernizing the Beulah Fire Service Part II

The Board of County Commissioners and the Beulah Volunteer Fighters, Inc., are close to reaching a deal for the purchase of the Beulah fire station and property--which is step one in a multi-year plan to modernize the Beulah Fire Service


The Escambia Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously last Thursday to pay the Beulah Volunteer Firefighters, Inc., $300,000.00 for their building and 6 acres of property on 9-Mile Road in Beulah.

These Volunteer Firefighters purchased the property and built the facility that is being acquired by the county--- and they have a long history of tremendous service to this community.

Because they are a registered non-profit corporation, the money they realize from the sale of this property and building must be used for a public purpose.  I'm not privy to what the actual plan is for these funds, but I have heard that there is a plan to establish a scholarship fund to assist future first responders who wish to pursue a career in this field.
Due to the layout of the Beulah property--the addition to the current 
facility will likely be constructed behind the existing bay

The plan going forward is to modernize the truck bay, and then subsequently to add a modern addition behind the existing bay structure.  The addition will have a large and comfortable meeting space, showers/lockers, a large kitchen and bunk facilities--all of which are amenities the existing facility lacks.  Additionally, I am working to ensure that this station will in the very near future have a ladder/bucket truck so that any emergency at the new Navy Federal Credit Union campus can be addressed by the Beulah fire department.

I have been told the Beulah Firefighters had a meeting last night and agreed to the purchase price, in principal.  The stipulations from the perspective of the firefighters, according to one individual at the meeting with whom I have spoken, are two-fold.  They want the facility modernized, and they want to ensure the facility is not moved to a different location but stays where it is currently.

I do believe we will be able to broker an agreement to move forward on this, to everyone's satisfaction, so that the growing Beulah area will have a modernized fire service, fully capable of handling any emergency in our growing area.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Modernizing the Beulah Fire Service

On Thursday the BCC will vote to approve a purchase contract for the property and facility at the Beulah Fire Station as step one in modernizing that facility.


Tomorrow's agenda of the Board of County Commissioners contains an action item for the purchase of the Beulah Fire Station and associated property from the Beulah Volunteer Fire Department.  This is step one in modernizing this aging and inadequate facility so that we can maintain a robust fire service presence in this growing portion of the county.  And it is my vision and my preference that the Volunteers maintain control of this station via a use agreement once we acquire this property.  I also support, if necessary, the establishment of a "day crew" of paid firefighters to man this station during the daytime hours--if this is found to be beneficial and needed after consultations with the volunteers.

To do this, we need to purchase this property, acquire some additional adjacent property, and then modernize the existing bay and facility while adding on a brand new addition containing shower facilities, a kitchen, meeting spaces, and bunk facilities.  This has been a plan for some time, however in early 2016 the purchase fell through.

Once we get the property, if we can come to terms with the Beulah Volunteer Firefighters, Inc. (non-profit corporation that owns this property) I will move quickly to get the ball rolling on the plan to modernize this facility.  Because of the fact that this property is a conglomeration of properties, a portion of which was donated by ECUA--the county is the ideal purchaser of this land.  If another purchaser (a private person) were to pursue this land, the portion of the ECUA donated property would revert back to the County or ECUA--not the new "purchaser."  If the county acquires the property, I'm told we would acquire the entire parcel through the closing process and ECUA would back out.  This makes this parcel ideal for the county, and much less attractive on the open market to an individual buyer.

So my intent is to approve the purchase contract tonight, and hopefully the volunteers will accept the offer and we can move forward with the next phases of this plan--modernizing the facility and adding a bucket truck so that our station has the equipment necessary to handle any potential issues at the new, large building being constructed on the NFCU campus.

If, by chance, the deal cannot be closed with the volunteers, if a much higher-than (market) price is required--then we will perhaps have to look at construction of a new fire facility somewhere else in a central area of Beulah--perhaps over on our soon to be acquired property OLF 8--which in some respects would be closer to the concentrated areas of growth in Beulah and perhaps a better location for a new, modern fire service facility and would not require us to "purchase" the land needed. But Make no mistake--my first choice and option is to leave the station right where it is and to fix it up and modernize it where it stands. It would also be my intention to have the volunteers sign a use agreement and run this new facility if they so choose, as well.

Bottom line:  I respect and support the volunteer firefighters and I want to equip them in an equitable manner so they can continue to serve our growing community--and it is time for this facility to be modernized.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Another Vision for Triumph Field House Proposal Downtown

A new, scaled down Triumph ask for a field house concept utilizing the existing Pensacola Civic Center site will be discussed by the BCC on 7-5-2018 


I have been sent a revised proposal for consideration by the board on the Triumph Gulf Coast Field House proposal.

At the last meeting when this discussion was held, the board was not unified on any single plan in any single location.  The general sense I had was there was support for the field house only, and only at a downtown location.

I discussed (here and here) the possibility of just moving forward independently with repairs to our existing facility, the Civic Center, in order to move this item off our plates and to get another 20 years out of our existing facility.

But this new proposal is intriguing, so it will be discussed at our first meeting in July.

A new $35 Million Dollar field house complex ($10 Million of which would be requested from Triumph), with parking, commercial, and restaurant spaces--within the footprint of the existing Civic Center property.  Would this sort of a project win support from the board?  We will have an answer July 5th--because this will be discussed.  Lots of questions, but this is intriguing.

Constituent Request (s) and My Answer: Let the People Weigh-In and Vote

I have been asked to add the ballot measure language to this Thursday's BCC agenda, which I am inclined to do, so we can vote yes or no, up or down, as to whether or not we will go through the process to add this question to the ballot...


For the last 6 months we have been lobbied to add a referendum to our ballot regarding Pensacola Beach-specifically the question about public or private ownership of the beach.  Our meetings have been flooded with requests that we let the people weigh-in on this request at the ballot box.  I have met with this group individually in my office, and I have heard them speak at the meeting (s).  Last Wednesday, I received this email....




This, below, is the language that we will discuss this Thursday.  I have no idea the appetite my counterparts will have for this--but at least we will have it on the table for, hopefully, an up or down vote one way or the other on the question of whether or not we want to add this to the ballot and let the citizens weigh-in on this topic.




On WCOA this Morning Discussing OLF 8

OLF 8 Was the singular topic discussed between Jeff Bergosh and Don Parker on this morning's "Good Morning Pensacola" Radio show on 1370 WCOA


The singular topic of discussion:  OLF 8 and the past, present, and future potential uses for this property for the benefit of all citizens.

Listen to the podcast here

Friday, June 15, 2018

Joint Meeting BCC/SRIA Scheduled

There are lots of issues to hammer-out, lots of issues to be discussed.   It's time for a joint meeting of the Escambia County Commission and the Santa Rosa Island Authority.  It will happen next month...


Here's Why......

People have asked me.."Why do a committee for the Northwest portion of your district---why is this necessary?"

LOOK AT THE MAP BELOW

The map below, showing the explosive growth this area has experienced from 2010 to present is a huge part of the reason.  We are already behind the curve and playing catch up.  I can't wait to work with this new committee, established by a 4-1 vote of the Board of County Commissioners, to find creative ideas to adapt to this growth for the betterment of every citizen that not only lives here --but also the ones that travel in this area on a regular basis.....




20 for 20: The Pensacola Civic Center part II



So in part I--- I explained this is not a takeoff of the popular 30 for 30 show about championship prize fighters that earn more than $100 Million Dollars and then go bankrupt....This is about getting another 20 years out of our community's only facility for big events and entertainment, the Pensacola Civic Center.  I believe we can save money and get another 20 years out of our existing structure, add revenue enhancing features as well as energy savings featured--which done in conjunction could slash hundreds of thousands of dollars yearly from the operating loss (which this facility and most just like it will always carry)   NOTE:  This list and estimate is a preliminary number and these estimates are very, very general and provided by SMG based upon similar recent work at similar venues nationwide.  In other words, this list would need to be scrubbed and new, current pricing would need to be sought in order to get the most accurate pricing for these upgrades...



20 for 20: The Pensacola Civic Center part I

If we can't decide to try and get grant money to replace the civic center, how about we repair it and try to get 20 more years out of our existing facility?


This post is not some cheap imitation of the ESPN sports show about the millionaire football players that buy houses for their moms and siblings, make ridiculous business decisions like buying donut shops for their cousins, lose all their money, then "win the superbowl and drive off in a Hyundai"... Nope, this post is about the Pensacola Civic Center's future and not about poor money management among some NBA players....

Knowing that the proposal to build a Civic Center Replacement was going to face extreme difficulty, I have been looking at other options and discussing other alternatives with staff and facilities personnel intimately associated with the Civic Center.  Although I supported the concept of an arena, fieldhouse, and events center--yesterday's committee of the whole exposed the fact that support for various aspects of that plan are all over the map.  Support among influential hoteliers and other community leaders appears to be waning as well.  So I began to look at the alternative.  Can kicking cannot be considered a serious option any longer.

My questions were pretty simple:  How much would it cost to get 20 more years out of the civic center?  I'm told structurally, the "Bones are Good".  It looks like to get 20 years, we would have to spend about $20 Million. (see detailed cost estimate in part II)  20 for 20.

The money part, according to staff I spoke with, could be pretty straightforward:  If we chose to do so, we could bond the $20 Million against future revenue realized via our bed tax collections,  and do the enhancements and renovations today and pay back the bond over 20 years and the payback

Thursday, June 14, 2018

District 1 Town Hall Announced---Thursday July 26th, 2018 5:30 PM


We will soon have our next town hall meeting for citizens in District 1.  All are welcome to attend...


.....The topics for the Town Hall will be:


  1. The Master Plan for Northwest District 1
  2. Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee
  3. Restore Act/Triumph
  4. Update on OLF8 acquisition and Master Plan
  5. Beulah Fire House Renovation and Expansion
  6. Library in District 1
  7. Update on Transportation Projects of Interest


In addition to these topics, I will also be discussing my soon to be announced "Escambia Youth Commission" Initiative that was discussed at the joint School Board/BCC meeting from earlier in the year.

As is always the case with my monthly coffee events and with my Town Hall meetings--the County will advertise this event such that ALL County Commissioners from all districts may attend if they so choose.

I will take and answer questions from the audience and this event is free and open to all.

It will be held in the cafeteria of Beulah Elementary School 6201 Helms Road, Pensacola, FL 32526, beginning at 5:30 PM.  If you have any questions or comments, please call 850-595-4910 or email them to District1@myescambia.com

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Political Economy of GPS Ankle Monitors and Drug Patches

Does the release of jail inmates via bail and GPS Ankle Monitors really save the county money?


There has been a push at the BCC to provide alternatives for Judges to utilize, if they so choose, to sending people to our Jail.  For those Judges that want to control actions/locations of offenders but who are also cognizant of the costs of incarceration locally, we have a county program to pay for GPS ankle monitors and/or drug patches.  The program was grant-funded, but the funds from the grant recently dried up.

According to one Judge with whom I spoke that wanted to put a person on a GPS ankle monitor and drug patch--he was told that "There is no more money available for this"

"That's ridiculous" I told him.  "I'll fund it myself if necessary--out of my discretionary funds if need be."

So I asked the question of relevant staff.  I mean, if the average cost of incarceration is $72 daily but an ankle monitor and drug patch combo is only roughly $10 dollars per day--is it not a no-brainer to fund the patches and GPS monitors to save money at the jail?

Apparently, the answer is not so simple.

The actual savings realized when a prisoner (one of 1500 or so) is removed from our jail is not actually $72 daily---it is more like $3.00 daily-for the cost of food.  This is because the jail's hard, fixed costs are high in order to service a population so high--and no appreciable reduction in total fixed costs will be realized by releasing a single prisoner (except in cases where the prisoner requires high-dollar medicines or medical treatments).  It would take several hundred fewer to realistically reduce fixed costs, close a pod, reduce staffing, etc.

So in the big picture, reducing one prisoner saves very little money for the jail, but actually costs the county money out of a different fund for the patches, ankle monitors, and electronic surveillance.  And there is not currently a system that compels payment for these services by the released prisoners, nor is there currently a means-test or similar method in place to ensure those that can afford to pay for the monitoring actually pay.

According to one staffer with whom I spoke:  "The grant [for GPS and patches] was for the purpose of providing funding for the patches to reduce our jail population." she continued "But the program did not reduce the jail population--our population actually remained consistent and we spent a lot

Monday, June 11, 2018

Mikey---He Likes It!


When Mikey grew up he realized he had been duped...Quiche actually tastes delicious and it is a healthier breakfast food than sugar/cinnamon coated carbs.....But Mikey liked it, the way the sugar-cereal tasted.

I remember the commercial from the 1970's where they gave a boy a bowl of cereal, and it was supposedly a test.  Would Mikey like the "Life" Cereal?  The talking point was that he would HATE it because Life cereal is/was allegedly "Nutritious."   Of course it was a funny shtick.--of course he was going to love it--whole milk over straight carbs covered in sugar and cinnamon.  Who wouldn't love that?

The real test would have been to set the bowl of Life next to a plate of Quiche.  Quiche, with eggs, cheese and spinach--it is delicious and healthy.  Protein, low-carb, and delicious.  Mikey--given the choice between quiche and a huge bowl of Life would throw the quiche across the room like a Frisbee and gobble down the cereal like Pac Man eating the dots...woka woka woka woka woka... 

Heck, it might as well be a choice between a steaming plate of Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Eggplant  OR a bowl filled with Ice Cream, birthday cake, and chocolate bars.  What would Mikey pick?

I see a parallel between this funny choice, above, and the much more serious and important choice about what to do with OLF 8 once we acquire it later this year.

The easy path would be to take the land, build a beautiful clock tower, cobblestone city circle, add in lots of retail stores, a giant park, a nature preserve, lots of buffer zone acreage for NFCU, and an additional 100 acres for NFCU so they could build more parking for their employees, as well as an NFCU employee-only recreation center.  If we hit the easy button, we could sell off  the remaining

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Here Is What I DON'T Support!


developers have circulated a rendering illustrating their desire to use about half of the OLF 8 site for a hotel, and apartments and multi-family residential properties.  I don't support building apartments, condo's, multi-family homes, and a hotel on this site...we have ENOUGH of these already under construction in Beulah




A developer has put together his "vision" for the OLF 8 site.  It has now been circulated on social media.  More residential properties and a hotel.  More call center and low-paying office and retail office jobs, and no high-tech, clean and high paying jobs with a future.  I do not support this vision.  Here is what I told him, via an email, below.





Friday, June 8, 2018

This is What Leadership Looks Like



As I toured the amazing ST Engineering Aerospace hangar today at the Pensacola International Airport as a part of the opening ceremonies – I was struck by a thought…..This is what leadership looks like.

More than just the sheer size of this hangar—173,000 square feet—capable of holding four (4) Boing 757 Jets at the same time—was the reality of what it took to get this project accomplished for the citizens of Escambia County and Pensacola.
It took leadership. 

Leadership to push forward with an intelligent plan to partner with the largest Maintenance, Renovation, and Overhaul (MRO) company in the world to bring this amazing hangar and 400 good paying jobs to our community.

Leadership to put together a public/private financing package and incentive deal.
And leadership to push through the critics.


Because along the way there were naysayers.  There were those that scoffed and the total price of $46 Million.  There were naysayers that excoriated the BCC for fronting the $8Million for the County and City share of the deal.  There were armchair quarterbacks that criticized the Governor, the Mayor and everyone else associated with this project.

“This isn’t the job of the government!” some would say loudly

“This is a scam!”

“This won’t work, there won’t be any jobs!”

Some people are just content with the status quo.  Some people are not leaders.




But without leaders, we don’t get deals like this one done.  So to all the leaders that worked to make this deal a reality, my hat’s off to you.

And somewhere in our community, we will now have families that are currently working 2 or 3 part-time jobs to make ends meet have the opportunity to work one job that pays well and offers a path upward with a worldwide leader in the industry.

So as I was fortunate and humbled to be able to speak today at this opening ceremony—I felt compelled to say it to everyone there.  For every deal like this one that crosses the finish line, dozens like it never happen—because of a lack of leadership!

So I told them today “Look around you at this facility and these people—This is what Leadership Looks Like!”

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Yes, This Would Be Like That...


In a blog entry I posted last week, I asked a hypothetical (and real) question.

Everybody knows it was immoral, unethical, and illegal to use a $1.00 Food Stamp Bill to go to a store and buy a $.07 cent pack of kool aid, keeping the $.93 cents, and then repeating the process over and over until you cobbled enough money in change to buy what you really wanted (cigarettes and alcohol) but what you could not purchase with food stamps.  I saw people do this as a bagger when I worked at a local supermarket here in Pensacola in the 1980s.  It was ridiculous but nobody stopped the practice so it continued.....

But what about a county using LOST funding to purchase a property for "economic development" purposes (specifically allowed under statute)--and then subsequently selling such a property and depositing the proceeds not back into the LOST fund (where uses are restricted) but to the general fund instead(which has more flexibility with respect to what can be purchased/how the funds can be utilized)?  Nobody seemed to know for sure.

So I asked the question on Sunday--in writing.   Now we have the answer, (see below).  As I suspected, this shell game scheme  cannot be done.  Proceeds realized from the sale of property acquired with LOST funds must be deposited back into the same LOST fund from which such purchase funding originated.  So to the developer that thinks we should sell the OLF 8 property for "what we have in it and use the money to take care of operating expenses"--as I told you in person Friday, that is not legal.  see below.



Monday, June 4, 2018

OLF 8 Commerce Park and Restore Act Committee

Some folks are upset that the BCC is poised to move forward with the OLF 8 project--the project to create high-paying jobs, the project that was ranked #1 for Economic Development by the Restore Act Committee.


Some folks have selective amnesia or they simply refuse to recognize the history of the decision making process regarding the plan for a commerce park at OLF 8.

Some folks are just against it no matter what the experts say and no matter what the BCC voted for.

Some folks are partisans and closed minded, so they just don't care about the decisions and actions that led to the direction the Board, Restore Act Committee, and Economic Development experts have taken on what should be done with OLF 8.

But these same folks, by and large, are also the ones that hate the fact that Escambia County brought Navy Federal Credit Union out to Beulah.  They hate this and wish they had an "Easy Button" to press to make that whole area the cow pastures again and to send NFCU back to Virginia.  So that is them.

For everyone else, though, here is a brief, consolidated History of how the OLF 8 commerce park project evolved.

2010--Oil spill decimates the economy and environment of the Gulf Coast--exposing a glaring need for jobs diversification (away from simply tourist/retail/support jobs)

2012--Restore Act Committee formed by BCC to take projects in, rank them, provide recommendations to the BCC for funding such projects with proceeds from fines levied against BP by the Federal Restore Act.

March, 2016--Restore Act Committee Racks and Stacks all projects.  Projects are subsequently ranked in silos based upon categories (environment, economic, and infrastructure)

April, 2016-Restore Act Committee Sunsets after making recommendations.  OLF 8 Commerce Park project selected, by this committee (Not Jeff Bergosh, Not Jim Cronley, Not the Tooth Fairy,Not Santa Claus, Not anyone else but by the professionals and experts on the BCC's very own Restore Act Committee) As the NUMBER 1 Economic Development Restore Act Project.

November, 2016--Jeff Bergosh elected to and joins BCC as District 1 member

September, 2017-- BCC votes to move 10 Restore Act Projects forward--to include the OLF 8 Commerce Park concept.

June, 2018--Realizing that the OLF 8 property will be coming to the county, certain developers and individuals (same ones that Hate NFCU and jobs growth)  demand that the BCC not take the Restore Act Grant, ignore the Restore Act Committee, Ignore the experts in business development--and instead use this property, once acquired by the county, for a recreational facility, a town center, a nature park, more condos, townhomes, and apartments, and an ampitheater--with NO AREAS SET ASIDE FOR HIGH-TECH, HIGH WAGE JOBS AND CORPORATE OFFICES--NO MATTER WHAT!!!

It is astonishing to watch these folks in action, as they blatantly ignore the history of how the commerce park project came to be, how it was vetted, and how the project has progressed.  Now, they just want us to leave all the restore act funds on the table, and build more low wage retail jobs and apartments on the site--in direct contravention to what the restore act committee recommended.

For my part, as a resident that lives right across the street and is the elected representative of this district, I'm not ignorring the experts and changing course to mollify a few loud opponents.

I'm voting to move forward.

Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee



I have added the formation of a 9-member Northwest District 1 advisory committee to the agenda for this Thursday.

See the agenda item linked here, read about the rationale for the need for this committee here.

I'm hoping to receive many applicants for this very important committee; there are lots of issues that deserve to have a committee look into and provide recommendations for. 

There are lots of issues of growth in this portion of  District 1 that must be looked at and for which I value the input and research and deliberation of a committee of concerned folks. 

What I am not looking for:

--Single-issue citizens that are focused on only one issue or one area
--Overly-opinionated citizens that are not willing to be open-minded to multiple ideas or concepts
--Citizens that are rigid and unwilling to compromise

Initial areas of research and input to be sought from this committee:

--Development of a Master Plan for this area (precincts 43,5, and 68) that aligns with and complements the Master Plan for the OLF 8 site development
--Working to bring a library to the area
--Where to put the next park/community center
--Identification of the most pressing infrastructure issues (sidewalks, roads, stormwater drainage areas)
--Addition of mass-transit options to the area
--What does it take to bring a post office to the area?
--other issues of significance that arise going forward
--Fire Service in Beulah

For those willing to serve, I anticipate meetings once monthly or once every two months, in the evenings.  If you are interested, please fill out the application.

I will go through each application personally, and I will reach out to those that have expressed interest and those whom I believe will be a good fit for this committee.

This committee will be open to citizens residing in Escambia County.   To apply to serve, please forward this application and a copy of your resume to

District1@myescambia.com

Wouldn't This be Kind of Like That?

Of course it wasn't right and it wasn't  legal for people to purchase $.07 cent Kool Aid packs with $1.00 food stamps in order to cobble together enough change to buy alcohol and cigarettes........

There is now, officially, a movement afoot to pressure the Escambia Board of County Commissioners to "sell" the property in Beulah known as OLF 8 to the "private market" for "development....

Forget the fact that we do not even own it yet.  

Forget the fact that the plan from day one has been to develop that property to create jobs (good paying, high-tech manufacturing and assembly jobs).  

Forget the Restore Act Grant and the Triumph Grant that if pursued and won (The OLF 8 Commerce Park was the #1 Economic Development project as rated by the Restore Act Committee) would exponentially increase the value of that property (by injecting $Millions of dollars into the construction of infrastructure on that land) for the Escambia County taxpayers who have paid the bill to work toward acquiring that property.

Forget all of that.  

Now, all that matters is that this property be sold to the highest bidder so someone can double, triple, or quadruple what they spend for this and build more condos, townhomes, a private park,  single family homes, a giant parking lot, and a large open-space buffer-zone and low-wage service jobs on this site. ( we already have enough town homes and condos and single-family homes being built in Beulah--we have enough.  We also already have enough dead-end, low wage service sector jobs in Escambia County as well---we can do better!)

The logic goes a little something like this (paraphrased below), according to one developer with whom I recently spoke.

“Why don’t you sell the land for what you have in it, and let the private sector develop it, and you can use the proceeds to help with your budget problem over the next several years?”   

But wait a minute--would this even be legal?  I believe, even if we were to countenance the nonsense idea of selling the property outright, once we acquire it, for "what we have in it plus a dollar"--I believe those proceeds would have to go right back into our LOST fund--because that is where the money to acquire that property came from in the first place.  So I asked the question.  And I got a nebulous confirmation back that I am probably right about this.  

I mean, just imagine if counties around the state could sell property acquired by LOST funds and then subsequently dump those funds back into their respective general funds?!?could this not become a shell game that counties around the state could play when financial times get tough by “entering” the private real estate markets locally, purchasing “needed” buildings and property with LOST monies, and then turning around and “declaring surplus” and selling the same properties on the market (regardless of profit or loss—even if the sale price back was $.50 cents on the dollar) to generate desperately needed money for their respective general funds? 

To me this would be a shell game, and I can't imagine it would be legal.  As a matter of fact, it reminds me of what I witnessed back in the 1980's working as a bagger at a locally-owned supermarket chain here in Pensacola.  Parents would send their kids into the store, one at a time, over and over, with $1.00 dollar food stamp bills and they would purchase $.07 cent "kool aid" packs---and they would receive the change back in 
If you buy $.07 cent kool aid packets with $1.00 Bill Food Stamp coupons, you receive $.93 cents in change back in real money currency that can be used to purchase anything---that's why people did it--even though it wasn't right....

regular coin currency.  And they would do this over and over, until eventually the parent would come in and purchase a carton of Doral or Newport Cigarettes and a 12 pack of Bush--- all with loose change.  It was wrong, but it happened.  They