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.

Monday, July 30, 2018

PAC's ARE TERRIBLE!!!! (Unless They Are Supporting Our Guy!)

According to some finger wagging groups, PACs are bad if they support candidates they don't like.  Or if they are funded by people they don't like.  But do the finger waggers hold their own favorite candidates to this same standard?  (Answer: NO)

Two years ago I was in the thick of the campaign, a really tough one, with two determined opponents.

I worked hard, they worked hard.  I was fortunate that I enjoyed a lot of support due to my work on the school board and due to the fact that I went to 8,634 homes door to door.  That helped a lot.

I was also fortunate in that a group of businessmen that supported my campaign independently set up and funded a PAC (Political Action Committee) to support my campaign and that PAC did some advertising that really helped me in my election.  I was happy that  this PAC only did positive, upbeat ads and I saw not one negative ad from the PAC that supported me.  And I won my election handily.

But negative campaigning is not illegal, and it is very common.

Look no further than the Governor's race and the Senate Race.  One negative ad after another, one by one.  In politics, it is part of it.

Which is why it was especially interesting to hear another local candidate, one that spoke forcefully against PACs during my election two years ago, now apparently has a PAC supporting his own campaign.  Wow!?!  Well, well, well.  It's funny how things change-- and I guess back then, PACs = BAD.  But now, when polls are not looking so hot, PACs= GOOD?!?  (another thing I learned during my election was that these polls done by auto-dialer are actually SPOT-ON when taken over time and averaged-out!)  It will be interesting to watch as the next series of polls come out--it will be interesting to watch what they show.  I also saw, in my election,  that trends, over time, were vitally important to watch (e.g. is a lead widening, significantly in the stretch?)

I ran 6 of these polls during my last race and they were accurate.

I think there will be some sleepless nights for some in the next few weeks, because yes, Gravis polls I did are and were "Spot-On!"

So I wonder if the PNJ will do a story or another cartoon on this interesting turn of events?

Remember, according to the PNJ and Escambia Citizens Watch (who attacked me viciously because there was a PAC that supported me)

PAC's ARE TERRIBLE!!!!! (Unless They Are Supporting Our Guy!)  

Probably not going to get another newspaper article.  Escambia Citizen's Watch will probably now do a 180 and support PACs.  How funny.

Luckily, there was recently a cartoon drawn blasting one local PAC.  Now that both candidates in that race officially have PAC's supporting their campaigns--I think it's time for some.........Drumroll.........Marlette Manipulation.

This cartoon has been altered to reflect the reality of the situation as it relates to PACs in at least one local race

As I've done multiple times previously--I take a cartoon drawn for one purpose, and I use it for a different one.  It is all in good fun.  It's all just a parody  :)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Dog-Fighting over Decibels

Fritz Flying field in Beulah, home of the NorthWest Florida Modeler's RC flying club since 2004

The term dogfight refers to aerial combat between two aviators.  Full Disclosure: I'm using extreme hyperbole here when I describe the ongoing strife between a handful of neighbors in Nature Trail and the NW Florida Modeler's RC Airplane flying club over noise levels as a "dogfight"--obviously nobody is engaged in combat, nobody is dying.  Not being literal here....

But lately, there has been tension.  And it is reaching a boiling point. Yet to their joint credit--members of the RC club and the  handful of Nature Trail residents that are upset have engaged in dialogue and have tried to reach a compromise.

They even reached a tentative, informal, "back of a bar napkin" written agreement in April of 2016--which until very recently has maintained the peace between the opposing sides.  I believe this is due,
"Written agreement" between two Nature Trail residents
and the president of the NorthWest Florida modelers
RC Flying Club.

in part, to the fact that activities at this field until recently had been halted due to a bridge on the property over 11-Mile creek being washed out and unusable until it was repaired recently by the county.  Now that the bridge has been repaired, activities at the field have resumed full speed and the neighbors are upset.

The NW Florida Modeler's club has utilized a small air strip located in Beulah off of Jamesville lane for various model flying events for the last 14 years (construction of residential housing in Nature Trail began several years after the RC club began flying their aircraft at Fritz Field).  The area is large, open, and conducive to this type of activity.  I went out to the field yesterday, I took pictures of the area and I took readings of the sound levels at the corner of the property adjacent to Nature Trail.

The loudest reading I picked up, at the edge of the property County's property line was 73 decibels.  (I estimate the distance from the edge of the field's property line to the first of the houses in Nature Trail to be 100 150 yards.)  The average reading I picked up, even as the planes were flying, was 60 decibels.

I spoke to a representative of the club yesterday at the property.  "We're good people out here, we are trying to be respectful of the neighbors--but they are trying to shut us down and that's not right."

A resident I spoke with from Nature Trail, one of the residents that has reached out to work with the club in the hopes of working a compromise, contacted me Saturday and Sunday to let me know that the club was not living up to the agreement about starting times for flying.

The average decibel reading from my
visit yesterday to the corner of the
Fritz Field property, was 60 dB

"They are violating the rules.  They began flying before 9:00 AM Saturday and the airplanes are already flying at 8:15 today [Sunday]"...  "Two days in a row they fly before 9:00 AM.  The club just does what they want and nothing happens."

I called the club president this morning to ask him about why they started flying before 9:00 AM today, Sunday.  Initially, I got no answer.  Later in the morning I did get a call back from the President who said that he would talk to the club about why they started earlier than 9:00AM.  "When we made that deal we did it under duress" he stated.  "We had to give in on every demand because we thought the County was going to shut us down if we didn't give in to all of these demands..."

My intention going forward, because I believe a solution can be brokered that allows both parties to amicably coexist, is to have our Administrator and also our Director of Parks and recreation sit down with these two residents and the club members representatives to hammer-out an enforceable agreement that is fair and reasonable.

I think this can be accomplished.

That's what I'm going to do.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Comment of the Night

Imagine this:  Someone that works for Navy Federal Credit Union saying they would NOT support a similar firm coming to OLF 8 to bring thousands of jobs and that they would in fact WORK AND VOTE AGAINST THIS! (I can't make this stuff up....)

Toward the end of the Beulah Town hall Meeting that was held last night--several folks waited behind to speak with me directly.

Several were very complimentary--which I appreciated.

Several were vocal opponents of mine going back several years when these same folks supported my opponent in the election, the opponent who wound-up finishing in last place.

"Asinine" was the word one woman showed me the definition for as she had it up on her cell phone and approached me at the podium.  "Why did you not read that word, it isn't a cuss word" she queried?  I told her I didn't feel it was appropriate--but we discussed her concerns.

Next a frequent and vituperative critic came up. (Ironically, this individual is critical of growth and has sharply criticized the growth in Beulah--yet this same person works for Navy Federal Credit Union)  "You are dead-set on a commerce park---but why?  she asked.  "I want to bring more jobs" was my response.  Then I asked her a hypothetical question----to which I received the COMMENT OF THE NIGHT.

"XXXXXXX  imagine if, hypothetically, we were able to lure another large financial services firm to our park at OLF 8--perhaps something like USAA.  What if they were going to bring over 6,000 good paying jobs to our area and develop OLF 8 like Navy Federal Credit Union developed their McDonnel campus next door--wouldn't that be a great win for the community?"  I asked.

With a smirk on her face, she answered as she turned walked away  "No, we would vote against 
that!  It's the number of people--we don't want more PEOPLE out here even if it was USAA!"

I know this is the mindset of some out in Beulah that wish the 4-H club and cow pastures were still the view along 9-Mile Road --but this comment seemed astonishingly selfish and amazingly myopic.

Like I have said--I can't have a rational conversation with someone who looks at Navy Federal Credit Union, and all they have brought to our area, and says "I wish they would have never come here!"

Likewise, I cannot have a logical discussion with someone who, knowing firsthand how beneficial NFCU is to the community, would fight against a similar institution bringing good jobs to our area.

I have to believe this misguided, self-centered, and negative opinion is not the sentiment of most of this area's population.

Luckily, I do believe this individual is in the extreme minority in this opinion given the facts that are known about what a grand slam home run NFCU has been for our community.

Take-Away's from the Town Hall

117 People attended our town hall meeting last night in Beulah

We had a very well attended Town Hall Meetinglast night in Beulah.  There were 117 people in attendance. These attendees filled out more than 50 comment/question cards.

All questions submitted were answered by myself, staff,  and/or were  forwarded for staff to research and then send a detailed response directly to the constituent that asked the question. .

The PNJ did a piece in today's electronic edition that captured the basic essence of the meeting....

The facebook live video can be seen here

Some folks were frustrated by the format--these folks apparently wanted to be able to take the microphone and speak--however to do that would have created a four-hour meeting and would have all but assured that all the comments and questions would not have been answered.

I like the comment card format and will more than likely using this format going forward to conserve time and maintain order/decorum in these meetings.

As it was, we all understood what the issues of the crowd were.  Some were unhappy with the idea of a commerce park at OLF 8, many are unhappy about developers not paying for infrastructure as they develop, many are upset with the roadways in the district being insufficient to handle the growth, some are concerned about the roadway and speed limit in front of the new Beulah Middle School, and many wanted to ask about zoning changes that are in the pipeline about which they are concerned.

All in all a very good meeting.  Big thanks to all the staff that attended and to Beulah Elementary School for hosting.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A Request I'm Struggling to Fulfill....

I've received a request to remove this monument from a local roadway...but what will the victim's family think if this is done?

I don't know the full story--but obviously it was a tragic outcome that led to the creation of the roadside monument pictured above.  I've seen these on highways and roadways across the country--typically marking the spot where somebody's loved one has perished.

I received the following request:

"Attached is the picture of the memorial that is in the XXXXXXXXXXX median.
While I am sympathetic for the family and their loss, I don’t think this memorial needs to remain in the median any longer.
The display has been up for longer than a year. It is not logical to think that we can
have memorials all along the roadside at every point of human life lost. I have talked with several other residents, and we all agree that we would like to have the memorial removed.
Thanks for your attention to this matter."

My Response:

"Thanks for the picture.  I am struggling a bit with this one simply due to the fact that obviously someone’s loved one was killed here and I want to be respectful of that side of this equation as well (e.g. what will the relatives think if suddenly this is removed?)  I am having staff research what our typical response is to removal requests for such memorials, and I will be back in touch once I learn how these are typically handled.

I hope you recognize the delicate balancing act at play here."

Marbles in Jars

Moving the marbles from a full jar to an empty jar over time can represent many things, more than just the finite number of years of life a person has...

As I was thinking about some upcoming decisions I will be making as it pertains to my job as a County Commissioner, I thought of a parable I once heard about marbles in jars and how that relates to years of life.  I also thought about how this metaphor could represent decision making as an elected official, a county commissioner.


As this well-known parable goes, an elderly man stands before a table with two jars.  One Jar is nearly empty and one is almost full.  The man is content, he is smiling.  "As I look back on my life, I have a sense of satisfaction that grows with each year." the man states.  "Looking at my life as marbles in these jars,  I started out with one empty jar and one jar with 80 marbles."  "When I turned 30, I had already been through a lot.  I was married, had children, finished my degree, and I began my career.  Life was good and it was in forward motion --I had my whole life ahead of me--so I started out and I moved 30 marbles from the full jar over to the empty one."  "Every year since," he continued  "on my birthday, I've taken one marble from the full jar and moved it over to the empty one.  As the years have passed, and the decades have gone by, the once empty jar is becoming full, and the once full jar is nearly empty."  Smiling broadly, he continues.. " None of us will live forever, so this reminds me visually--these jars remind me--- of my own mortality. This helps me make decisions about time and what is really important in life and what I should spend my time doing" the man reflected.   "And it would be easy to become depressed about this--but I'm not.  I'm grateful for the life I have had, the family and friends I have had, the experiences I've shared, the places I've been--- and because of my faith in God--what the future holds for me once my time here comes to a close."

That parable, as I heard it, struck me on several levels.  Not only does it give me pause for thought about how short life is and how a person should consider decisions carefully--particularly as it relates to spending time with family and deciding what is important--but also as it relates to decision making in my job....


In discussing tough votes and tough decisions I have made while serving as both a School Board Member and as a County Commissioner--someone I respect and that I was speaking candidly with recently, a former elected official, said wryly   "What you'll find is that some people you know and some people that like you and that you have assisted in your duties and decisions will be there for you steadfastly."  "10 issues, 15 issues, even 20 different issues--as long as you are able to help them--they are with you and they are loyal"  "But on that 21st issue, that really tricky one, that super-tough issue-- if you are not able to

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

District 1 Town-Hall Meeting Tomorrow Night 5:30 PM at Beulah Elementary School, 6201 Helms Road, Pensacola, FL 32526

On WCOA This Morning Discussing Beach Traffic and Thursday's Townhall

I'll be on AM 1370 WCOA this morning, discussing the following topics:

--Beach Traffic


--Beach Toll Booth

--Paid Parking

--Beulah Fire Department

--District 1 Townhall

You can listen to the audio here  

The Intelligent, Cost-Neutral Way to Decrease Beach Traffic Gridlock

Now that the concept of traffic circles on Pensacola Beach is dead on arrival--are there other revenue-neutral ideas that can be implemented to help address beach gridlock?  Answer:  YES 

It is not about getting more revenue out of the beach as was inaccurately portrayed in the PNJ last week.

It's not about "making people pay" for parking--per se

A plan that I discussed at the joint BCC/SRIA meeting last week and also yesterday on Channel 3 is about trying to take steps to address beach traffic congestion in an intelligent, thoughtful manner.

Now that the $25 Million dollar roundabouts are dead and they are not going to be constructed---we can do nothing about the traffic gridlock out at the beach or we can be proactive and do something that reduces traffic while maintaining our revenue stream.

I’m looking for the way to maintain a revenue-neutral position while helping the congestion that is bottle-necked at the toll-booth.  Whether it is eliminating the toll, or reducing the Sun Pass toll to $.50 cents and keeping one, far right lane a cash lane only (at $1.00) combined with the addition of some paid parking at Casino Beach—there are different levers that can be adjusted up and down, back and forth, to find the sweet-spot from a revenue perspective as it pertains to a toll/parking fee mix.

And my plan is to leave roughly 30-40% of Casino Beach as “free parking” while the front 60-70% pay an hourly, premium market rate.  The other areas of the beach would maintain free-parking status. 

And I would never suggest ugly meters—no way.  There are kiosks that can accept

Sunday, July 22, 2018

New North-South Route between Mobile Hwy and 9-Mile Road West of I-10 a Possibility

A large mixed-use development planned for NW District 1 has the potential to create a public/private partnership to improve roadways and drainage issues for the entire area

Congestion in the NW portion of District 1 is an issue with which all of us that live here contend on a daily basis.  I have been looking for a way to create another North/South connector road between 9-Mile Road and Mobile Hwy West of  I-10 ever since I have been on the BCC--because due to the growth of this area this is desperately needed.  We looked at a number of roads and routes--yet none of these (Jamesville Lane, 8-Mile Creek) were feasible due to high costs and/or various other factors (wetlands, bridge over 11-Mile creek, no land owned, etc.)  With most of the previously investigated potential routes, the costs for building such a road would have fallen squarely, 100%, on the taxpayers.

Recently, I have been in talks with county staff and a private development company regarding this issue.

Pathstone, a large, mixed use development planned just East of Beulah on 9-Mile Road, has expressed interest in partnering with the county to develop a road through their property connecting to Klondike road--which would help this area by also providing another North-South connector road between 9-Mile road and Mobile Highway, west of I-10.  The benefits to the county and the taxpayers is the fact that under this scenario--the costs are split between the private sector and the county for a portion of this new roadway.  For the developer, this new roadway through provides more access to both their residential and commercial tenants. For residents that have complained to me over and over about the problems on Wilde Lake and Klondike--this sort of a partnership will allow for improvements to these roadways all the way to Pine Forest Road/Exit 7 on the I-10.

Currently, many residents who are opposing a zoning change on Klondike Road south of Wilde Lake have cited deficient roadway infrastructure and insufficient drainage as a major issue that they want

Saturday, July 21, 2018

NW District 1 Master Plan: The 50,000 Foot Level First

The Northwest portion of D1 (above) is growing rapidly.  I will soon recommend and request that a portion of my discretionary D1 LOST funding be utilized to develop a Master Plan for this entire area.  This plan will incorporate citizen-input and it will be designed to mesh with whatever is planned for the yet-to-be developed OLF 8 property.

As we in North West District 1 move closer and closer to establishing a committee to address the rapid growth of our area, one of the first things I will ask this committee to look at (once they are confirmed by the full BCC) is a Master Plan for the entire NW District 1 area (precincts 43, 5, and 68--depicted in the map above).

This entire area is growing rapidly--and as the growth occurs, there will be growing pains.  There will be great things and great businesses opening up that make our lives in this area better and create jobs for our citizens--but there will also be familiar problems (traffic-drainage) that will make this growth more challenging.

This is why I believe a committee is important going forward.

With respect to the master plan-I know there has already been significant work done by a group of individuals in this area, and I appreciate these efforts and I will not let these previous efforts go to waste;  I believe the previous work will be combined with new work to create a plan that meshes with the needs of the entire area while simultaneously addressing the challenges that the growth of the area has presented and may present in the future. 

I have set aside money from my discretionary LOST funding for D1 to pay for this NW District 1 Master Plan--- and as it pertains to OLF 8 and the development that ultimately occurs at that site once we acquire that site-- the ultimate objective for the NW D1 Master Plan will be for it to mesh with whatever is developed at OLF 8.  This will be accomplished by having the planner make multiple assumptions for what the development at OLF 8 may eventually become (Commerce park, Commerce Park with Mixed Use Retail along the frontage,  Mixed-use retail/residential, Open

Friday, July 20, 2018

When Naysayers are Wrong, Part I

Naysayers have been all around us since the beginning of time.  They are often wrong......

Naysayers are part of life.  From the beginning of time and throughout history there were and are to this day naysayers.  The thing about Naysayers is they are sometimes right in their position, sometimes.   But just as often they are wrong.

History tends to sort out the truth and whether or not the Naysayers were right or wrong on a particular topic.  One thing I'll say about naysayers....if the predictions turn out to be right, they have a lot more credibility than if they were/are wrong all the time...

Take, for example, the first explorers who set out to find the new world in the 1400's.  Naysayers of the time said they would fail.  Worse yet, naysayers back then said these early explorers would fall off the end of the earth because "the earth was flat..... "  We all know what happened there.

Closer to home and on a more personal note, there were naysayers in my last election--one of whom in particular predicted I would "lose spectacularly!"  Of course, those naysayers and the one in particular were all absolutely 100% wrong;  I actually won my primary election putting their hand-selected candidate in last place before going on to win my general election race with nearly 70% of the vote over my Democrat opponent. (I actually won with the highest margin of victory of any local Republican candidate on the slate, on a percentage basis,  up against a Democrat opponent in the 2016 General Election).  So yes, those naysayers got that one about as wrong as humanly possible.  What a hoot!

About the same time as the naysayers were predicting, inaccurately, my political demise--one naysayer was also loudly predicting that a highly successful, local economic development initiative that I strongly supported at that time(and still support) was going to fail.  Here is what this naysayer said, verbatim, about the VT MAE (now ST Engineering Aerospace) airport MRO project back in 2016....

"VT MAE is a huge failure.  It is an attempt to capture crumbs off someone elses [SIC] table because we lack the leadership to figure out our own vision for our community.  Has anyone articulated why

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Port of Pensacola Economic Development Initiative: Rock em' Sock em' Robots

Supporters and Opponents of the potential Incoa Performance Minerals, Inc. Port of Pensacola economic development proposal are sending out opposing emails delineating their respective opinions and concerns....

In a series of emails the commissioners have recently received, It appears that battle lines are being drawn over the potential deal with Incoa, Inc. to bring roughly 70 jobs to the port, paying an average salary of $60K yearly, along with  a $100 Million Dollar capital investment commitment.

It will be interesting to watch this discussion.  It would be fantastic if a compromise could be reached on this to keep the company and also some sort of a mixed use of the port as well.  We will see how it evolves....

From an email sent out in support of this deal:

"I believe the City Council will vote today to investigate a lease with Incoa at the port of 
Pensacola. As Director of First Place Partners, a private-sector economic development 
support organization made up of more than 45 local companies, I support this lease for 
several reasons:
— We need good paying jobs in Pensacola.  Our average per capital income is $39,582 - much
 lower than the state average of $46,858.  This lease brings 77 jobs averaging more than
— The city of Pensacola needs the revenue. Facing the largest proposed budget in the city’s
 history, this project means almost $1 million a year to help taxpayers. 

I’m sure you are aware that one in four children in Escambia County live in poverty. We lag
 behind in many economic categories.  Good jobs are so important to our working families
 - more important than building condos for rich people.  

Thanks for your consideration,"

The folks who are leery of this deal, however, have many concerns.  From their email: 

"Our concerns leaving the discussion is that this proposal has the potential to be noisy, dust producing and a huge operation and my questions are as follows: 
Has due diligence been performed on the principals involved in this venture?
Will anyone involved with a financial stake call Pensacola their home and move their family here?.
What prevents any of the current players from selling their interest and moving away? 
Are these companies shell companies with no recourse if commitments are not met?
Our initial research shows foreign entities with Limited Liability status that are not required to show owner’s names and may not be subject to suit in the US if things go awry.
INCOA Performance Minerals is registered in Delaware as a foreign limited liability company with a mailing address in Salt Lake City Utah. 
The trademark INCAL (we believe this is the product name) is listed under Whitehaven Partners LTD with a Utah address and shows up as a corporation registered in the Cayman Islands.
YouTube videos of Calcium Carbonate Processing facilities show these to be noisy, dust producing and huge scale enterprises. 
What traffic studies have been discussed as to moving the processed calcium carbonate through our downtown neighborhoods?
Has thought been given to requirements to soundproof these warehouses and silos that this company intends to occupy? 
Obviously, we are all coming in at the 11th hour but the concern is about the future welfare of our beautiful city."

County Road Prison Welding Program Stats: Successful for Some

The Board of County Commissioners and the Escambia County School District will be renewing the partnership to provide skills training for prisoners at the road camp.  At a yearly cost of roughly $70,000.00 per year--prisoners are offered training in welding by a certified instructor.  Upon successful completion of a welding program--jobs are available.

But what are the metrics?  How many complete, how many go on to work in the field, and how many re-offend and end up back in the criminal justice system?

These are important questions, and the answer as it relates to the most recent class of graduates has been provided by jail commander Selina Barnes:

"As of today, in reference to the participants that were enrolled in the welding program at the County Road Prison for the 2016-2017 school year, the totals are below.

34 enrolled in the program
4 were removed for various reasons which left 30 in the program

According to Mr. XXXXXXXX…….as of today (from the school year program above and the 30 participants), 12 have contacted him and are currently working in the field
10 no contact has been made from the participants
8 have been re-arrested"

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Great News For Area Fishermen!

I received the below email today from Robert Turpin, the BCC's  Director of Marine Services.

"Skanska [the contractor that is building the new 3-Mile bridge] deployed approx. 150 concrete piling cut-off pieces (approx. 800 tons) in Escambia Near-Shore East Artificial Reef Site at 30 Deg 17.750'N; 087 Deg 13.500'W (approx. 4.5nmi ESE of Pensacola Pass). Water depth at the site is 45 feet."

This is great news for area they know exactly where to go for this new structure which will become habitat for all sorts of fish species in the years to come.

Thanks to Skanska and hats off to everyone from the county and state that was involved in making this happen!

Here are the pictures, below, of the piles being taken out and dropped.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Pensacola Beach and the BCC: Reasonable Topics for Discussion

Tonight's joint meeting of the Escambia Board of County Commissioners and the Santa Rosa Island Authority is a meeting where, hopefully, reasonable topics can be discussed rationally and reasonably.  I called this meeting so some important, pressing issues could be discussed and also so  that a sense of where individual Commissioners and Authority Members are on these issues can be known.  Leases and renewals, Roundabouts, parking, and the toll booth---Are these reasonable topics for discussion?

I certainly believe they are and I look forward to the dialogue.

1.  Leases and lease renewals:  there are disparities and inequities among and between lease holders on the beach.  Some leaseholders pay taxes on the land and the improvements and lease fees, some pay tax on the improvements and not on the land (but they pay nominal lease fees and a beach fire MSBU), recently an entire condo complex of 93 units renewed their leases (lease fees) for essentially $280 dollars per year per unit--which is significantly, dramatically below market value.  The taxpayers were not treated well at all in that instance.  So what is reasonable here?  I think it is reasonable for the BCC to set some rules for renewals going forward so the taxpayers are treated fairly as these leases come in for renewal.  These $150 yearly leases were designed to incentivize beach development--and that has now happened.  Now it is time for market rate lease fees on new renewals, and  I will suggest that we require a few things of those interested in renewing their leases going forward....

--No master lease renewals? (lease renewals with individual property occupants only--not with master lease holders that charge sub lessees a margin over their cost)--is this reasonable?
--Individual leases to be renewed?  Should individual renewal leases carry either new language stipulating they become a perpetually renewing lease (that requires payment of ad valorem taxes on land and improvements and no lease fees) OR language delineating these individually as  99-year leases with a current, market rate lease fee on land payable yearly to SRIA (in an amount not less than what ad valorem tax on such land would be) and ad valorem taxes payable on improvements--and no lease fees to SRIA.?  Would this be reasonable?
--All leases to be recorded with the clerk.  Is this reasonable-- It is not happening now but I think it is reasonable to expect this going forward.
--Any other stipulations that make sense and are reasonable to guide the actual renegotiation of these leases?

2.  Parking--should we consider carving out some prime parking spots at the casino beach lot (perhaps 50% of the lot) for premium paid parking?  (with 50% of  casino beach and lots outside the beach core remaining "free parking")  How much more parking should we build and where?

3.  Toll Booth--should we make it fully automated, in stages over a two year period?  Should we reduce the cost to $.50 cents and make up the difference with the parking fees?  Should we remove the toll altogether and make 75% of the casino beach lot a paid lot to achieve the same revenue as the toll booth would have generated if we remove the tolls altogether?

4.  Roundabouts--do the residents want these--or would making the toll booth automated or removing the toll booth altogether alleviate the traffic to the point where roundabouts become unnecessary?  Do residents actually want the roundabouts?  Is this reasonable to ask?

I look forward to some interesting and hopefully reasonable conversations at tonight's meeting.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Escambia County Corrections and Jail Medical Receive a Clean State Audit

I received the following email from Jail Commander Selina Barnes as a result of the yearly compliance audit that was conducted Friday morning at our County Correctional facilities:

"Please see the attached FMJS Medical Compliance inspection for this year. In compliance with the FMJS requirement 2.7, the report is to be sent to the BOCC as well as the FMJS Chairman James Aguiar. There were no serious or notable violations found during this inspections at the Main Jail, Work Release or County Road Prison."

from the report:

"An inspection was conducted of the Escambia County Correctional Facility’s Medical 
 Department on July 13, 2018 at 0900 hours, with the following inspectors:  Tonya Rainey, LPN Leon County Detention Facility...I am pleased to announce no Serious Violations or Notable Violations were found.The Medical Departments at all locations werefound to be neat, orderly and meeting the requirements of the Florida Model Jail Standard"

Thursday, July 12, 2018

How Could We?

Some people bang away at the keyboard on online sites and facebook pages like woody woodpecker talking about how they will be fiscally conservative.  I prefer the direct approach--actually proposing and supporting cuts :)

As I see this morning's article in the PNJ about Tuesday and Wednesday's budget meetings, I could not help but ask myself this rhetorical question:

How could we?  How could we glide through this year where there is enough in the kitty to get us by with very little pain knowing full well next year we start out a minimum of $5 Million short?

How could we not set aside some money from this year in anticipation of next year's fiscal cliff from which we will fall?

How could we not make deeper cuts to outside agencies? (the ones that are not mandated to be funded by the state, and the ones that have significant budgets already and who would survive without our funding).

How could we tell our employees that we will continue to fund all agencies at requested levels with only modest, meager trimmings here and there, while also telling these same employees we won't necessarily be able to provide raises next year and more than likely they will absorb increases in benefits costs next year?

How could we tell property owners the BCC may raise tax rates (I'll NEVER SUPPORT THIS) but we are still funding outside agencies?

Some people talk a lot about being fiscally like woody the woodpecker on a keyboard, at some public gatherings, etc.  talk talk talk.  Talk is cheap, actions speak louder than words, though.

It is for this reason that I took action and proposed cuts at the meetings this week.  There was very little appetite for this from my peers--and this is disappointing.

The good news is I'm not done proposing cuts, and when the time comes for the final vote on these budgets, I will propose more cuts.  We will see what happens at that time.  If we only tweak at the margins on the budget this year, shame on us because we can't act as if we don't see what's coming next year, we know better.  Arliss Howard's character Cowboy said it best when he state emphatically: "we can't refuse to accept the situation!"

He is right, we can't "refuse to accept the situation" for comfort's sake......How could we?

Answer:  I won't, but I'm just one vote on the board....and unless I die in the meantime, I'll be here next year whereas perhaps three that are involved in this year's budget might not be.  So no, I'm not going to take the easy route and eat the cake and cookies and throw the broccoli and eggplant in the trash till next year.  Nope.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On 1370 WCOA Today...

I was a guest this morning on 1370 WCOA's "Good Morning Pensacola" radio show with Don Parker and Alex Gavin.

The primary topics of discussion were the budget and growth in the NW section of District 1.  I discussed my rationale for the creation of a NW District 1 Advisory Committee, and the makeup of this committee.  We also briefly discussed next week's joint meeting of the BCC and the SRIA and topics of discussion for that meeting.

We had a discussion about the property tax exemption which will go up next year and cost the county's general fund roughly $5 Million.  I explained my philosophy on the process and my reasoning for wanting to make cuts this year ahead of next year's shortfall.

You can listen to the interview here

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

On AM 1620 FM 92.3 This Morning

I was the guest this morning on AM 1620 FM 92.3 - Pensacola Morning News.

The singular subject was the board's budget meetings this week.
I'm bringing my budget axe to this week's BCC budget hearings...

For my part I simply stated that I will be bringing recommendations for cuts to the budget to prepare for next year's budget shortfall we will experience due to the all but assured passage of Amendment 1 which will cost us $5 Million from our general fund.

I hear people talking about making cuts, I see people online talking about making cuts.  As I said in the interview, I'm not just talking about it or woodpeckering online facebook sites exclaiming what a "super fiscal conservative" I am. 

Actions speak louder than words, and I'm coming to the meetings this week with my budget cutting "Axe."  We will see if the self-proclaimed super-duper conservatives will join me in actually making necessary budget cuts----- or if they simply want to talk about it.....we shall see this week.

Listen to the interview here   starting at 4:40 of the interview is where I talk about cuts...

Thursday, July 5, 2018

First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner's Office Audit: 6 Findings and Recommendations

......Pages 25-28 of the audit detail the findings and recommendations of the auditor for the 4 counties of the First Judicial Circuit as it pertains to the Medical Examiner's Office.

First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner's Office Audit: Revenue

Page 55 of the 171 page audit of the First Judicial Circuit's Medical Examiner's Office illustrates where the income comes from for the specified period of the audit.  This income provides the resources that apparently allow for our ME to make, according to the audit, $673,000.00 yearly as a publicly funded employee...

Two Questions about Education, Community, and Vision...

I was asked recently to answer two rather straightforward questions for a college student locally as a part of a homework assignment.  As I gave my answers, I wondered how the average citizen would answer these same questions?  I wondered how my peers on the BCC would answer them?  I'm sure the answers would be all over the map because there really are no "right" or "wrong" answers--alot of this is ideological and subjective.  I do believe education is critical though--and I think most would agree on that point.  And I do believe there is a direct correlation between a community's level of education (on average) and the community's quality of life (e.g. a highly educated, highly skilled community will enjoy a community with better schools, better amenities, and better jobs than a community that has a lower level of educational attainment)

Here are the questions and answers I gave....

  1. What is your vision for the future of Escambia County?
My vision for Escambia County is fairly straightforward.  I want to help create and foster the conditions that allow for the private sector to create employment opportunities that are varied and well-paying.  Traditionally our area has been a two-legged stool, with Military Jobs and Tourism-related jobs.  Beyond this, we have had lots of low-wage service sector jobs.  So the big vision is jobs diversification that makes us less dependent upon the DoD and the Beach related tourist seasons (which the 2010 oil spill illustrated was very vulnerable to damage if conditions at the beach ever faced an environmental issue).  We are now seeing some significant jobs growth in the private sector in manufacturing, aircraft service and repair, and back office support (NFCU).  I believe it is essential for the County to take a leadership role in economic development which brings this jobs diversification, which in turn raises the entire regional GDP.  When the entire region improves economically, this provides the revenue the County needs to fund other essential functions like public safety and infrastructure as well as quality of life initiatives.  If the private sector flourishes, this “rising tide raises all boats” and all the functions of government can do well and tax rates on property owners can be held steady and not raised while the functions of government are fully funded and the quality of life for all citizens becomes gradually elevated.
  1. How is higher education helping prepare students for this vision?
Higher education is a critical component in a successful community.  In order to fill the essential and high-wage jobs that drive an economy—an educated, highly skilled workforce is required.  As we transition toward a more information-centered and applied-science workforce, advanced degrees and/or advanced technical competency is required.  These skills are largely the product of a student’s diligent efforts at attaining an advanced degree or certification in a college or career center.  The more of these students that are employed, with their concomitant high salaries, the better the quality of life for the community.  With high income areas comes better neighborhoods, less crime, more public services available, and better schools.  With higher income demographics, the private sector sees the need and satisfies the demand for a higher quality of goods and services, and this pushes out lower-end retail (check cashing, pawn shops, payday loans) and brings in a higher caliber of businesses (high-end automotive, fine dining, research and engineering firms) All of this also leads to housing being built by the private sector that is high end, single family and less multi-family and low-income housing.  All of this positive change occurs because of the presence of a highly skilled, educated workforce.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Medical Examiner's $673K Annual Compensation--Real Fireworks for July 4th

A recent audit of the 1st Judicial Circuit's Medical Examiners Office has revealed some explosive issues, to include personal yearly compensation of nearly $700K for the ME--a public employee for all intents and purposes.  Is this salary too high?!?

At 4:25 yesterday afternoon I received a 171 page audit report on the First Judicial Circuit Medical Examiner's Office.  Afternoon data dump, right before the July 4th Holiday....

I did not read the report until today, July 4th.  It is interestingly coincidental that there will be numerous fireworks displays all over the area today.  This report I have received and now read is explosive, probably more-so than any of the area fireworks displays we will all witness later today.

One of the most striking aspects of the report deals with the income and compensation paid personally to the Medical Examiner:  Earlier this year, in an effort to get to the bottom of some lingering questions about the ME's budget, Okaloosa County leaders made numerous requests for information.  Initially, these requests were not fulfilled.  Eventually, enough financial information was given such that this 171 page audit could be completed.

In between that time and now, the ME has filed a lawsuit against the four counties in the First Judicial Circuit--over the records requests.  My personal belief is that because her office is funded with public dollars, all records requested should be released and are subject to the open records laws (of course with any HIPPA related information redacted)

According to the audit, 6 areas of concern are noted.  One of the most important ones deals with compensation of the ME, and how her total compensation breaks down yearly according to the report and how this compensation is paid -- partially through a staffing company, partially through shareholder distributions from a company "Gulf Coast Autopsy Physicians" - a for-profit corporation of which Dr. Minyard is the "sole shareholder and owner" according to the audit.  from page 13 of this audit, describing her compensation:

"During the audit period, Dr. Minyard's average annual compensation totaled $673,129.26 which includes a yearly average of $19,661.76 in County/district paid 401K contributions and health insurance premiums as well as $15,038.89 in County/district paid ancillary costs...the information listed..does not include Dr. Minyard's claim on the cash assets held by GCAP at the end of the audit period which totaled $459,706.60"

There are many more troubling findings in this report, to include potential ethics issues related to the employment of relatives, the potentially improper collection of various fees, and also several practices by the ME's office that are inconsistent with Escambia County ordinances/resolutions.  I will dive much deeper into this report in follow-on posts. Stay tuned!

Get ready for the fireworks, figuratively and literally.  Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Large N.W. Dist. 1 Mixed-Use Development Allows for Potential Public-Private Cooperation

There will be a massive new development in the Northwest portion of District 1 over the next several years.  This mixed use development (according to the conceptual drawings I have seen) will have something for everyone: Restaurants, Shops, Retail,  Medical office, Townhomes, Condos, and Single family residences and amenities for residents of the development.  From the drawings I have seen--it appears as though this will be a pedestrian/bike friendly, walkable development that will mesh well with the currently-under-construction sidewalk and bikepath along the southern portion of 9-Mile Road.

The location for "Pathstone" (this development)  is along the southern portion of 9-Mile Road, East of 11-Mile Creek and running down along Exit 5 of I-10 and down and over to Klondike Road (as depicted above)

There are discussions of accessibility for this parcel from the south via Klondike Road, and the north via a traffic-light at 9-Mile road and the entrance of this development.  There are talks underway between myself, the county staff, and these developers to formalize the route of the road that would go through this property and help the area (and this development) by essentially adding another north-south connector between 9-Mile road and Mobile Highway.  This is looking like a very strong possibility and a win-win for the community and for the developer.

The appealing aspects of this development are numerous:  Finally--more than just Tom Thumb gas station food and delivery pizza as food options for Beulah Residents.  Additionally, I'm told numerous nationally-recognized full-service restaurants have expressed interest in locating in this area. Development of this area and the concomitant drainage and infrastructure improvements will allow for better traffic movement through this already congested area.

Between this development, the Dawson Group mixed-use development planned adjacent to the west, and the residences at Nature Creek going in just north of this development on the north side of 9-mile road--the area around Navy Federal Credit Union is quickly becoming a private-sector funded amenity for the community.  Add to this a walking/biking trail all the way around OLF 8, a recreation park at OLF 8, and several commercial parcels along 9-mile road on the southern part of the OLF 8 parcel--if the board approves these amenities as a part of the plan for OLF 8--and we are quickly coming to a point where we will go from no retail options (except Tom Thumb or Dollar General) and no restaurant options--to a cornucopia of excellent dining/retail/and entertainment options.