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, August 31, 2018

An Offer of Tremendous Generosity....

Today I received a hand-delivered letter from representatives of  Quint and Rishy Studer, (see letter, below.)

This is an incredibly generous offer and I believe it will lead to the beginning of the effort to bring a field house type project to Downtown Pensacola. 

My hope is that this initiative can be married with a project to renovate and modernize the Bay Center--as I'm not sure doing one without doing the other simulatneously is the best way forward.

I look forward, however, to having a conversation with my counterparts on the board and with community leaders and the folks from PADP so that together we can come up with the winning project for Pensacola and Escambia County.

Meanwhile--the formal, written offer of land donation for this specified purpose is extremely generous ------and it is very much appreciated!

The Original Leases Look to Be Perpetually Renewing....

I came across two of the very first, original leases for Pensacola Beach entered into between citizens and the Santa Rosa Island Authority in 1949.

They are interesting documents, I will publish them below.

As we move toward standardizing the renewal language of the beach leases going forward, to prevent the taxpayers from being taken to the cleaner like we were with the Beach Club renewal--it is instructive to look at the language utilized in the very first leases.

The language is straightforward and appears to allow for the perpetual renewing of the leases for consecutive 99 year terms (see highlighted portion of these leases below)

In the period after the late 1940s and through today--the language has changed, modifications have been made, and there is now a hodge-podge, mix and match grab-bag of different leases with different stipulations and language in force for Pensacola Beach properties.

This has created issues and led to litigation.  We need to standardize the process and the language going forward to curtail litigation and to make the leases uniform in the future.

Importantly:  If we make the changes I am suggesting, and make the leases perpetually renewable--it appears as though this language will align with the original leases that were made and also with the lease we made with Santa Rosa County for their portion of Santa Rosa Island.

But as I called for earlier, I am all for allowing the TENANT to choose whether or not they want perpetually renewing lease language, which would result in ad-valorem taxes being charged legally to the land portion---or--a lease subject to renegotiation with an initial 99 year term and with a modern, market rate lease fee that has a cost of living escalation clause written-in as well.

It should be their choice--but the language should be standardized for either scenario going forward to avoid the messy confusion and outright inequity between lease holders on the beach currently.

Check out the language in these first series of leases (residential and commercial), below. Is this language tantamount to a conveyance of the land in perpetuity if the lessee so chooses--?


Inside Beulah's New, Ultra-Modern Middle School

Members of the Escambia County School Board and Superintendent Malcolm Thomas prepare to cut the Ribbon at the Grand Opening of Beulah Middle School, 8-30-2018

I was invited to tour the newly opened Beulah Middle School yesterday afternoon for the grand opening ceremony.  Wow-what an amazing place.  This is what the future of a modern school facility!

Students that attend this school will be treated to an ultra-modern, fully equipped school with all the trimmings:  two stories, huge gymnasium and indoor rec area, Ag. sciences center, running track, outdoor basketball courts, ultra modern home economics classes, science laboratories ( complete with eight (8) 3D printers), a robotics lab, business/computer classrooms--and the music department--THREE (3) complete band rooms with risers in the music suite, one dedicated each for chorus, orchestra, and band.

The cafeteria will double as an auditorium and the
gymnasium is incredible

During the ceremony before the tour, the assembled audience of school district officials and other invited guests heard from the architect that designed this beautiful facility, and from the builder that built it.

The facility is energy efficient and was designed to maximize natural lighting.  Additionally, the lighting is all LED, which will result in lower electric costs going forward.  Although most specifics on security were not discussed, some of the security attributes were highlighted.  The school has more CCTV cameras than any other school in the district--200 of them.  They are positioned throughout the schools and many of the classrooms have cameras.  (I found this ironic, as during my tenure on the school board I advocated strongly and on multiple occasions for the installation of cameras in the classrooms of our schools to monitor discipline issues---and this idea was flatly poh-poohed every time I brought it.  But now they are doing it!  Better late than never I guess....)  "We were able to already use one of the classroom cameras to determine who it was that defaced a piece of school property" said Assistant Principal Marietta McCaskill when I asked her about who monitors the feed and if there is a recording of the camera footage.

There are bollards around the entrance to protect from a vehicle attack, and there is reinforced security fencing outside of the classrooms that protects students in the outdoor areas adjacent to the classrooms.  The fencing looks to be INCREDIBLY stout.  at the front entrance, visitors are segregated in an enclosed and access controlled vestibule--preventing any unauthorized entry into the main campus.

Mrs. McCaskill led us on a tour of the entire facility--and I must say it was impressive.  Designed for 1200 students, the current enrollment stands at 829 according to Mrs. McCaskill.  "We are staffed for 649 at the moment, but we will soon be getting two more teachers-and that will be good." she stated.

I appreciated the opportunity to tour this facility--I'm proud to have my name on the plaque.  I'm
excited for the students and families that will be served by this school and I wish the district much success with this school---even though I voted against a middle school being constructed out here when I was on the board as I felt Beulah needed a second elementary school or a K-8 facility to alleviate the MASSIVELY overcrowded Beulah Elementary School.

But I lost that vote and the board moved forward with the middle school.

And the middle school they built is nothing short of amazing!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Correspondence about Public Beach Access

Late last week the County attorney received the below email regarding the county's announced plan last month to bring the board plans (chevy and cadillac) to #OpenOurBeach access at the Perdido Key property located next to the Crab Trap Restaurant.  I received a copy of it this week, mid-week.

It seems a local condominium nearby is EXTREMELY concerned about the beach mice on this county-owned parcel, so they sent us this letter, below.  We are grateful for their concern. (and I know the mice are, too!)

Then, just Tuesday afternoon we received this letter from Tallahassee describing the Governor's Executive order on Public Beach Access.  Interestingly, this letter has a hyperlink that takes the reader directly to an interactive, statewide database that lists beach access hotspots and the complaints from citizens about these areas and lack of public access.  Perdido Key has had a complaint listed.  Interesting stuff, interesting timing, interesting sudden conservation/habitat concern.  Very interesting.....

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Congratulations to the Winners of Tonight's Race for the BCC

Tonight we see the results of the primary election and the makeup of the Board of County Commissioners is going to change for the next two years.

We will have one new member, Robert Bender, who won a plurality of the votes in a tough 6-man race in the Republican primary and who is all but assured a win against a write-in opponent in November. 

I offered my congratulations to him on his victory this evening.

In the District 2  Republican Primary-Doug Underhill emerged victorious in a very tough race against challenger Alan McMillan. 

I offered my congratulations to Doug in a phone call this evening. Next he will face Democrat challenger Scott Trotter in the general election in November.

 I offer my congratulations to all the winners in all the races tonight-- and I look forward to continuing to work with my counterparts on this board--whomever they may be--for the citizens and the taxpayers.

What is Project Titan?

No, it's not that science fiction movie on Netflix.. It is not a scientific mission to Planet Saturn's moon Titan.

It is a massive project to bring more good-quality, high-paying jobs to Escambia County that will be presented by Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward our next upcoming meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.  It will be added onto the written communication portion of our September 6th meeting.

Elected Officials (l to r Senator Doug Broxson, Escambia Commission Chairman Jeff Bergosh, and Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward  Celebrated the Opening of the first ST Engineering Aerospace MRO Hangar in Pensacola on June 8, 2018
Project Titan has been approved by Triumph Gulf Coast to the tune of $56 Million over the next 4 years, and there are multiple entities that may contribute to this project which will more than quadruple ST Engineering Aerospace's operations and employment here in Escambia County!

ST Engineering Aerospace opened their first hangar in Pensacola this past June (that opening was a fantastic day for our community), and they are ramping up toward 400 jobs in that current facility. 

As the worldwide leader in the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Industry--ST Engineering Aerospace has facilities worldwide--but they want to massively expand their footprint here in Pensacola to keep pace with their growing business.  Although their current project here in Pensacola is is about to get much better with Project Titan.

I was honored to speak at the ST Engineering Aerospace grand opening last June

This project, if the city and the county are intelligent and go forward, will add three additional hangars at the Pensacola International Airport, as well as a brand new ST Engineering Aerospace administration facility.

The collective impacts---an additional 1,325 new direct jobs, 3400 indirect jobs, and upon full implementation, an influx of over $2 Million yearly in new ad-valorem revenue for the county as well as nearly $1 Million more in sales tax expenditures locally to support the operation which will flow back to the Board of County Commissioners.

The tentative financing of the $210 Million deal deal breaks down as follows:

Triumph Funds                                   $56 Million
ST Engineering                                  $35 Million
FDOT Funds                                      $50 Million
Governor's Job fund (year 1)             $4 Million
Legislative appropriation 2019          $3 Million
Governor's Job fund (year 2)             $20 Million
City of Pensacola funds                     $8 Million
Escambia County funds                     $12 Million
EDA (Federal funds)                         $17 Million
Additional funding to be identified   $5 Million

The massive positive benefits of this project will be a tremendous economic infusion into our community along with a further diversification of our jobs base.  The most compelling attribute:  we will get all of this financial activity and long term revenue for a very small commitment of local taxpayer funds.  $91 Million, representing 43% of total project budget, is derived from non-taxpayer funding sources!  When we look at just the county's portion of the deal, in order to leverage this $ 210 Million dollar initiative, our investment is a mere 5.7%.

This is a tremendous opportunity for our area, and I hope we will be able to move this forward despite the naysayers that do not believe in economic development.  Economic development is vitally important role of government, no matter who says otherwise.

I'm bullish on the future of Pensacola and Escambia County--Kudos to Mayor Hayward, Governor Scott,  Senator Broxson, and Florida West for helping to put this together!

Read Mayor Hayward's letter here.

Friday, August 24, 2018

We Can Only Spend a Dollar One Time...

We're not magicians, we can't tear a dollar in half and "Shazam" make two dollars out of it.  We can only spend a dollar one time!

There is now suddenly a tremendous push to fully fund the roundabout study and also to fully fund the construction of the roundabouts at Pensacola Beach.

We have talked the issue to death, I'm not crazy about them. 

I don't think they solve the issue of traffic, yet out of deference to my counterpart in D4 I have voted to move forward with the $1.3 Million  engineering study for this project. (funded from D4 discretionary LOST funds.)

Then came our joint meeting with the SRIA.  Nobody wants the roundabouts-everyone wants more parking.  I honestly thought the roundabouts were dead after that meeting--even the ardent, diehard supporter on the board had no idea where the funding ($20 Million) would come from to build these traffic circles.

So at the last meeting we postponed taking action on stopping the study.

Subsequently, a meeting of community leaders has taken place.  There is a push now to bring back the roundabouts.  We'll see what happens, but if we commit the $20 Million for roundabouts, how in the world can we also commit $Millions for bringing home the $56 Million Triumph proposal to support ST Engineering Aerospace's 3 new hangars, an admin facility, and as many as 1700 more jobs to Escambia County?

This IS a binary choice...We can't do both.  We can't spend a dollar twice.

I want to support bringing home $56 Million from Triumph, $Millions more from DOT, and other sources (including Millions more from ST Engineering)--but this will require the city and the county to each put up about $10 Million each.

Interestingly--many of the same players that want the roundabouts--also want the ST Project too!

But we can't do both.  We have to pick one.

For my part--it is a no-brainer, easy decision.  To land more than $100 Million in direct economic benefit and 1700 jobs---yeah, I'll support that choice all day every day.

Wonder which choice everyone else will make?

The Problem With Fake News......

Fake News is destroying the old-guard, fourth estate Journalism Establishment in America including once-respected local news outlets--what a tragedy for a formerly lofty, esteemed, and respected profession....

Everybody hates fake news, and fake news is all around us.

This is why many Americans have tuned out (to a large degree, even if they occasionally watch for entertainment) of watching most big news outlets.

There is bias.

There is selective reporting (or non-reporting depending upon where the outlet "is" on certain social issues, etc.)

Then there is reporting that is sloppy, and most of the time the journalistic integrity necessary to correct bad reporting is absent.  Very few will step up and correct an error.  Why should they, right?  nobody holds them accountable.

Often times, these outlets will double-down on ridiculous stories.  Look at the crazy ridiculous obvious bias in the reporting about President Trump and Russian collusion.  It is a feeding frenzy and established media outlets continue to report on a "push to impeach" for infractions the President allegedly committed that occurred decades ago, before he was president, for which the Constitution does not allow impeachment.  They salivate over collusion, even though there has been not 1 shred of evidence presented that points to collusion between Russia and President Trump.

It is in large part because the media, by and large, hates this President.  They wanted the other candidate.

Locally, we have our own issues.  First, we have a couple of news monopolies.  For the most part the vast majority of Pensacola gets the local written news from the PNJ and the TV news from WEAR.

I have had a good rapport with WEAR--never have had an issue with them or their reporting.

PNJ cycles through reporters on a very frequent basis, and for the most part--I have enjoyed a good rapport with most of these reporters for the 12 years I have been in public office locally.

Now, I have had my ups and downs with the PNJ and some of their former staff.  I'm still here, and the ones that attacked are mostly all gone  now(all but the most talented guy, the cartoonist, and one of the west-side feature writers who I have never met....).  I have worked over the last 5 years or so to really develop a good working relationship with the PNJ.  When they call, I pick up.  I give quotes.  I offer story ideas. I submit editorials.   I am amiable.

But last month, they made an error in the way they portrayed an event.  I don't know why, but they characterized a news conference at a local business as a "campaign event" when it was not a campaign event.  This was sloppy and inaccurate.  There were 50 dignitaries, elected officials, workers, members of the media, and local elected officials at this outstanding event.

As chairman of the board I was invited and asked to speak, which I did.

This was not presented to me as a campaign event, and if it had been, I would not have attended because I serve on the canvassing board and this would not be allowed. I have remained neutral in this campaign despite what some have proclaimed.  I have not actively supported any candidate.

But that's all a moot point because this was not a campaign event.  Not everyone that posed for a group picture supports one of the local candidates for office that was among the attendees.  The Mayor was there in the photo-was he a part of the "campaign event?"  How about dignitaries from Gulf Power and Florida West--are they suddenly in the tank for one candidate because they came to this event like I did and posed for photos?  Of course not.

To draw that conclusion and then publish it--that is disappointing.

If a writer reports the sky is green and falling trees make no sound--does his written account a fact make?  Of course not.

But there are ramifications beyond sloppy journalism.

Now, a couple of citizens have read that sloppy piece of writing and one has filed a specious complaint--they are pointing to this article as "proof" that Jeff Bergosh attended a campaign event.

 This has necessitated that an alternate person sit on the canvassing board  --because I won't return to that post until this bogus complaint is resolved.

Even though I know I have complied with every facet of the law surrounding my participation on the canvassing board, I will not jeopardize the transparency and the perceived integrity of the election by participating until this unfounded complaint is run to ground as I believe it will be in short order.

No harm to me, but other people are now being inconvenienced because a bad story was not corrected.  A popular morning radio host that I spoke with also stated he did not think this event was a campaign event, he said that characterization was puzzling to him...

But now come the cartoons, all apparently because I had the audacious temerity to simply request that that inaccurate portrayal be corrected.

It's okay though, the cartoons don't bother me.  I'll manipulate them to actually make them even better and funnier!

Too bad a funny cartoon can't fix bad journalism....

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Doing the Master Planning the Right Way....

I'm looking forward to having our first meeting of the Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee on Monday, September 10th.
After the organizational meeting and a brief tutorial on the Sunshine Law—I look forward to having this group work together with the community to assist with organizing a Master Plan for the Northwest Portion of District 1 (Precincts 43, 5, and 68 as indicated above).

This area of District 1 is the fastest growing—and with this growth has come pain. 

Our infrastructure is catching up, but currently it is inadequate and this is problematic. 

But the 9-Mile road 4-Lane project will be completed next year, safety enhancements are being made at the intersection of Mobile Highway at Beulah Road, and we are working toward the interchange with I-10 at Beulah road to alleviate traffic congestion for Beulah. 
Other projects at Wilde Lake, Klondike, and 8-Mile Creek are being planned.
A library is coming and the Beulah fire station will be renovated, modernized, and appropriately equipped.  It all takes time, it takes patience, it takes persistence, and it takes money.

Meanwhile, a group of citizens has already begun the Master Planning information gathering for a big portion of this study area.  I’ll encourage the newly formed Northwest D1 advisory committee to take this previously-compiled information into account as they move forward.  We welcome this input!

We will plan this area the right way, with citizen input, and with a professional firm, and taking all information into account before the final plan is voted upon by the full BCC.

A large part of this is that we’ll be sure to identify and account for areas of county-owned land that already have planned uses—we can’t NOT do this.  And for areas where such county-driven development will occur—we will ensure that the Master Plan meshes with whatever the various final disposition (s) of such planned land uses will be. 

Specifically—this Master Plan – as we begin it at the 50,000-foot level-- will have multiple variations that will mesh with whatever is eventually planned and constructed at OLF 8—because ultimately the BCC and nobody else will vote on the future use of this county-owned property.  And this property, OLF 8, will have an independent master plan conducted on its footprint apart from the master plan that will be developed for the entire NW District 1 area. 
So initially, the area-wide master plan will account for any one of the following as it pertains to the eventual development of OLF-8:  A commerce park, a mixed use residential/commercial development, residential and park, or open field.  It will be planned so as to mesh with any one of the above final uses for OLF 8. 

This is doing this plan the right way…no “planning” our way out of the ability to use a piece of property acquired by the county for a use intended by the county.  Sounds crazy—but this just happened in District 2 when leadership there lacked discipline to fully flesh this out and lost focus badly..... 

Exhibit "A"-- the current fiasco with Perdido Key:  a parcel of land was acquired for habitat conservation and public beach access, but a subsequently approved “master plan” did not take this property into account and subsequently under the “master plan” that was approved--- this public beach access at this location is now being deemed as “not optimal.”  And that taxpayer-purchased property just sits there unused by the taxpayers that bought it.  What a monumental failure of leadership that was.

Or imagine this one:  What if Escambia citizens near where the county landfill is located got together

On AM 1620 This Morning

I'll be on the the Pensacola Morning News this morning discussing the canvassing board.

The segment will air at 6:37 and topics of discussion will include:

--what the role of the canvassing board is

--what canvassing board members may or may not do politically

--why I have chosen NOT to resign from this board--but rather I will abstain from participating temporarily pending the disposition of a claim made that I should not participate on this board

--why I believe the claim made against me on this matter is specious and will be dismissed in short order

--why it is perfectly acceptable for me to make a campaign contribution (which I have done for a candidate this cycle that is intelligent, steady, reliable, measured, positive, respectful to students and who has a tremendous resume as a long-serving Federal Government Employee) and why this contribution I have made does not preclude my service on the canvassing board.

--what actively supporting a campaign is under the law

--how "fake" news and inaccurate depictions of events can create these "fake" controversies

--how supporting ballot initiatives/issues ( I support the appointed superintendent of schools issue that will be on the ballot) does NOT preclude my participation on the canvassing board

Listen to the complete interview Here

Friday, August 17, 2018

Staff is Moving Forward with Plans to #OpenOurBeach

The comfortable status quo is ending, the beach access that taxpayers purchased 5 years ago will be opened--that ball got rolling in earnest last night.

Dozens of speakers excoriated us for letting that property just sit idle for all these years, chained up preventing citizen access.

Meanwhile, condo owners and other nearby locals continue to use this property as their own private beach.  They even advertise the fact that they have their own private boardwalk to "The beautiful Gulf of Mexico"  see the picture below, from their marketing materials available online.

The Condominium across the street from our 300' beachfront property advertises their "private boardwalk" to the Gulf of Mexico--where they currently utilize taxpayer purchased property as their own "private beach"--while you and I are locked out of this beach.  Is this fair?
Beach access is becoming more and more precious in Florida, and this parcel that was acquired back in 2014 should have been opened years ago. Additionally, the mouse habitat that is also an important component of what this property is to be used for should also be protected.  We have not done this, either.  Shame on us for that.  Currently, there is no signage on the dunes warning pedestrians to stay out of the property to protect the habitat.  Instead, there are footprints all over that property and litter strewn about.  It's as if every facet of what we should have been doing with this property under the grant we received to purchase it has been ignored purposely.

That is ending.

Because now that the board has expressed its collective displeasure over this parcel not being opened for public access, as the board voted to do 5 years ago--staff has now been firmly directed to bring two plans to the next meeting to describe what it will take to get this access open.

The feckless attempts at deflections and protestations that this somehow does not align with the Perdido Key Master Plan all fell on deaf ears last night.  Intelligent, unbiased people realize very quickly this is not an "either or" scenario.  We can and should seek to purchase additional gulf-front access to the east near the core--which is directly in alignment with the goals of the PKMP.

But opening this particular parcel (that we already paid for and own) is the right thing to do, and it does not go against the Master Plan--in fact Public Beach Access is Encouraged in the PKMP!   Moreover, the zoning of this parcel HDR-PK allows for beach access as a conditional use once the Board of Adjustment weighs-in.  So very soon that process will begin as well.

Meanwhile, the comfortable status quo is ending, we are now working toward opening this parcel.

The irony is thick:  Condo owners are using our beach here as their private beach, attempting to keep the public out.  Meanwhile, a little ways down the road at our tiny 60' Beach access #1--both sides of that public beach have no trespassing signs going all the way to the water.  Sheriff's deputies guard the beaches on either side, keeping the citizens out of the Condo Owners' "private beaches"
The Indefensible Position:  Condo Owners want to enjoy their "private beaches" and our publicly purchased beaches while also keeping the public off of their "private beaches"----and our public beaches!!!  What?!?

It's ridiculous.  Yes we need to open our 300' Gulf front property now, which will double our free beach access on Perdido Key.

This is what staff is now working to do.  No more excuses, no more explanations, no more stonewalling.

We will #OpenOur Beach !

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Making Proper Comparisons, NOT simplistic ones

It’s easy yet intellectually dishonest to take two different real estate development types, do a 6th grade-level, basic mathematical comparison on one metric--ad valorem property taxes paid-- and then suddenly exclaim “point-proven, issue settled residential development is BETTER than Commercial!”

To take such a firm-fixed position on such a large and complex subject (real estate development and the public-sector) based upon one data point is ridiculously naïve.

First and foremost:  Because we know the free market system works, the private-sector should always take the lead in development of the lion’s share of residential and commercial development within an economy. The government (public-sector), on the other hand, should enact policies and ordinances that foster an environment conducive to private-sector development of most housing, commercial facilities, and other development that enriches a community (e.g. shopping malls, restaurants, theme parks, golf courses, office buildings, strip centers, etc.)

Of course, there are circumstances where the local government must purchase and develop properties for the good of the citizens and to fill a market niche for which the private sector has no profit incentive. (Schools, Fire Stations, Hospitals, libraries, Courthouses, Jails, etc.).

Then there are cross-overs between the public and private-sectors:  for-profit hospitals, for-profit schools, public-private ventures, contracted-services, out-sourced services, off-shoring, nonprofit- provisioning and not-for-profit service providers.  The lines become blurry on some areas between what the public and private sectors do in some economies.  

That is a fact.  

There are numerous other examples that could be given.
And regardless of how one feels about either low-cost publicly-subsidized housing or public-sector economic development---from a philosophical, ideological perspective---there are already numerous federal, state, and local laws and ordinances that encourage both of these hybrids.

Most importantly for this discussion are the publicly funded economic development projects. 

Along with Infrastructure and Public Safety--Economic Development is a vitally important government function—no matter who says otherwise.  Escambia County voters recently approved a renewal of the local option sales tax of which 15% can be utilized for economic development—and this is a good thing! The game has changed nationwide-and communities are now engaged in a pitched battle for jobs.  

States and communities have put together strategies to compete, and there are winners and losers—as in life. 

Escambia County has had several big victories in the competition to import jobs and revenue to our economy from outside of our area:  Navy Federal Credit Union is building a massive campus here that will culminate in 10,000 jobs by 2026 and an economic impact to our region of $3.4 Billion yearly--- per reporting by the PNJ.  ST Engineering Aerospace just completed a massive Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) Hangar at the Pensacola Airport, they’re bringing 400 jobs here and they’ve just received a $56 Million Dollar grant from Triumph Gulf Coast to build 3 more MRO hangars and add an additional 1300 jobs!
None of these wins occur without diligent effort and incentive packages from the public-sector. 
Incentives drive the decision making. Incentives bring corporate relocations, manufacturing firms, and jobs. 

Incentives were the deciding factor in NFCU’s move to Pensacola according to NFCU Senior Vice President Preben Ebbeson as reported in the January 2003 Site Selection magazine.

So, when we bring the discussion back locally to the subject of what to do with the 636 acre OLF 8 site in Beulah that Escambia County will soon acquire, to achieve the highest and best use for this property, we must be sophisticated and intelligent.  We must be deliberative and we must listen to the

Monday, August 13, 2018

NW Florida Modelers Use of Fritz Field: A New Agreement Will Be Considered This Thursday

Some of the RC Planes that are out there are spectacular.  I've never seen one as large as this B-52 replica pictured here, but I have seen some very large and impressive models....

Earlier this month, there was a dust-up of sorts between a few residents in Beulah, and the Northwest Florida Modelers Club, a 14-year user of Fritz Field in Beulah.

The issues centered on noise.  A few residents of a newer subdivision in Beulah wanted the club to operate later in the day and also wanted the club to agree to reduced levels of noise as the new standard.

When the bridge to the field was finally repaired recently-the county made some modifications to the field, and now the RC planes only fly south of the runway-whereas before this change the planes would fly north of the runway.

I've visited the site, and I have met with many of the members of the club.

Some with which I have spoken feel they were being unfairly treated.  "What about the county ordinances, we can use backpack leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and gas powered weed eaters at 7:00 AM---but they want us to start later than that even though we are a lot quieter than these lawn-care tools?  said one member with whom I spoke.

Another observer noted that nearby construction activities on roads and other subdivisions can commence as early as 6:30 or 7:00 AM.

So the agreement that will be considered this Thursday represents a compromise: the modelers, according to their previous agreement, could begin flying as early as 7:30 AM.

An interim, unofficial, "back of the bar napkin" agreement the modelers accepted between themselves and two nearby residents specified the flights would not commence before 9:00AM.  "That agreement was when they were threatening to shut us down.  We were under duress" said one of the NW Florida Modelers representatives with whom I spoke when I made my site visit a few weeks back.

This new, official agreement will split the difference and allow the modelers to fly beginning at 8:15.  Additionally, this agreement has stipulations that will protect the residents by making the airspace above the residences strictly OFF LIMITS.

I hope all parties can recognize that this agreement is generally fair to all and does indeed represent a compromise.  I anticipate this will pass this Thursday with a unanimous, affirmative vote in support.

Kool Aid Chuggers Part II: The Conspiracy Theorists....

It is oftentimes fascinating and simultaneously sad to watch the lengths some will go to in order to try to validate invalid, non-existent ideas, concepts and theories

After spending a relaxing weekend--playing tennis, going to the beach, spending time with my wife and family, eating downtown, and catching up on some work around the house--I wake up this morning early to find there are some conspiracy theorists hard at work cooking up new theories and conspiracies to consume their lives and their very existences.

As I discussed in part I about some folks who just walk around aimlessly regurgitating talking points, like parrots, there appears to be a new breed of Kool Aid Chugger arriving on the scene:  The Conspiracy Theorist!  Like the "talking point regurgitators" (who like Kool Aid Chugging Parrots are also Cavity Nesters)sometimes they just hear something, do no study at all, then run with it.  This often times ends like the Red Bull Flying Contraption contests we've all seen on YouTube.

Everything is a conspiracy, everything MUST have an ulterior motive, nobody is good (except our guy that we love) and anything person "X"  does = BAD! (Person X being anybody the conspiracy theorist does not like)

LOL--these guys are a hoot.

Here's the thing about conspiracy theorists though:  They are, if nothing else, entertaining to watch.

The really amusing thing to witness is when the conspiracy theorist is manipulated like a claymation "little monster", into doing the bidding of someone else.  This is great.

Some of these conspiracy theorists are manipulated by folks much smarter than they are, into believing in OUTLANDISH things like.....:

1.The Loch Ness Monster esxists
2. Ancient Alien Astronauts are documented on cave paintings
3. The Movie Capricorn One is based upon a True Story
4. Steve Austin was a real air force test pilot that got a rebuilt body
5. Bigfoot is Real
6. The Pleadians live on the Zeta Reticuli

Friday, August 10, 2018

On the Andrew McKay AM 1620 Morning Show Today---

I'll be talking about the strange way yesterday morning's committee of the whole ended, the true back story of how that happened, and the true issues surrounding the agenda item that was not heard yesterday about opening up beach access for the people of Escambia County, how we are going to #OpenOurBeach !  (Michael Carro will be guest-hosting the show today)

Listen to the brief interview here to get the true scoop on what the real back-story was from yesterday's strange ending to the Committee of the Whole meeting.

Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee Appointees Selected

I want to thank all of the citizens that stepped up and volunteered to serve on the Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee as specified in the resolution adopted by the BCC in June.

The cutoff date for applications has passed (applications were due by 7-31-2018) and the slate of citizens selected to serve has been identified.

At next week's regular meeting of the BCC, the following names will be put before the full BCC for approval as specified in the resolution that established this committee:

Jay Ingwell
Kim Aderholdt
David Liechty
Dr. Laura Bryant
Jill Johnson
George Levy
Joseph Poitivan
Wilson Taylor
Paul Flores

Several members of the community had expressed interest in serving on this committee, but for unknown reasons these folks did not apply within the specified time frame.  I will continue to accept applications from those that are interested in serving but who did not apply during the first window of time for applicants, and in the event of a vacancy on this committee I will select a replacement from this new pool of applicants which also includes the citizens who submitted initially but who were not selected.

I look forward to having this committee reach out to the citizens of the Northwest portion of District 1 in order to work to implement a master plan for this area of the district--in addition to providing recommendations on addressing growth and infrastructure.

The initial meeting of this new committee is scheduled for Monday, September 10, 2018.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Today Reminded Me of this Scene from "Fargo"

Sometimes topics are uncomfortable and people don't want to discuss them.  That's human nature.

That's why the odd manner in which today's BCC Committee of the Whole Workshop ended, abruptly, was somewhat surreal.  For some reason, it reminded me of this scene from the movie "Fargo."  the end of this clip is classic.....

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How Quickly and Inexpensively Could we #OpenOurBeach ?

I requested information from our environmental department about what it would take, in terms of time and resources, for us to #OpenOurBeach at the property we own on the Gulf of Mexico in Perdido Key.  All board members will be presented the below information during tomorrow's Committee of the Whole Meeting.  We can open this beach, for a lot less money and with a lot less red-tape than what many have been espousing.  This is what my research is indicating....

Monday, August 6, 2018

#Research to #OpenOurBeach, Part III--Are there Any Legal Reasons We Couldn't #OpenOurBeach

The County Attorney sent out the following email to all commissioners today.  It is legal to #OpenOurBeach

Builder's Update on Escambia County's New Correctional Facility

Commissioners received a progress report today on the status of construction of our new jail....

#Research to #OpenOurBeach, Part II--Site Visit

Sunday afternoon was a beautiful day in Pensacola.  It was especially nice at the beach--where I spent my afternoon.

I started out in Perdido Key at the Crab Trap Restaurant where I parked, went inside, made a purchase, then walked out to the beach.  There is a very nice stretch of beach out behind the Crab Trap that was being enjoyed by dozens of patrons. 

Just to the East of this spot, the Escambia BCC owns 300 feet of beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico. 

This stretch of beach was also being enjoyed by dozens of folks as well!  

Although the parcel of land has a prominently placed "No Trespassing" sign on the front, and despite the fact that the gate is chained shut--a steady flow of residents from the condominium on the North side of Perdido Key Drive walked on a wooden "walkover" that is reserved for their exclusive use only and proceeded to utilize the county's portion of the beach.  Right now, however, the general public taxpayers that paid for this beach cannot access it.  How can this be allowed to continue?

This smacks of unfairness.

 Right now there are Condominium complexes adjacent to our existing three beach access points that have placed "no trespassing signs" all the way down their property lines to the beach.  Access #'s parking lot was lined with cars toting out of state license plates (nearby condo's with limited parking spaces send their guests to our public lot, I'm told).  At acess #1, the condos on the right and left actually had two uniformed sheriff's deputies monitoring the boundary to ensure the general public did not "trespass" and attempt to use "their beach."

Access points #2 and #3 were jamm-packed full of cars--no spaces available.

It was depressing to see, and given a lot of what is going on around the country and the state concerning beach access--it should be setting off alarm bells for all of us in the County.

We need to #OpenOurBeach   We need to

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Fixing the Lease Renewal Process on Pensacola Beach

.....As discussed at our last meeting and also at our joint meeting with the SRIA--this Thursday we will start the discussion on formulating a uniform practice/policy for renewing leases at Pensacola Beach. 

As we all saw and heard from property appraiser Chris Jones's presentation last month--there are a lot of inequities between residents in terms of who pays taxes, who doesn't, and who has market-rate lease fees and who doesn't.  

There are lots of problems with the way the leases have been written-lots of inconsistency where taxpayers were treated very poorly---including the disastrously bad renewal recently of a huge condo complex where  the lease fees--- for these posh $750,000K-$1.5Million Dollar Gulf-front condos--will be a mere $185 dollars a year on the land portion of the tax bill!

This was a great deal for owners of that condo complex--but a horrible deal for the true owners of all the land--Escambia County Taxpayers.  Too late to fix that one.....

So to prevent deals like that from ever happening again to Escambia County Taxpayers--I asked our attorney to draft some potential guidelines  topics of discussion for the board related to lease renewals going forward that the BCC could codify into a policy that would standardize the lease renewals.

This will all be discussed this Thursday at the committee of the whole.  See the very intelligent initial ideas in the six slides below:

#Research to #OpenOurBeach, Part I

What would happen if the BCC installed "no-trespassing" signs all the way down to the beach water line and enforced this with our 300' of beach property--just like the condo owners on Perdido Key are doing presently?  Would that force this issue to be addressed?

In preparation for this Thursday's meeting on the subject of public beach access, I am doing a significant amount of research on this topic all weekend.  I think it is an absolute travesty that we are not doing more to #OpenOurBeach ! as it pertains to a large, 300' beachfront plot of land we own on Perdido Key.

I've requested additional information from the staff over the last two days--to include legal, zoning, and environmental "opinions" on whether or not we can open this beach quickly, as was the original intent when this property was purchased, if the resources to do so are identified (e.g. is there any legal reason we cannot open this property if we do so as was contemplated in these documents here, here, and here?).

Obviously--this beachfront is currently, right now, being utilized by a few fortunate residents who have access to this publicly owned beach via a privately owned and maintained wooden beach walkover. (that also is locked and has a "only for use by residents of Sundown Condominium Owners and guests") sign affixed to the gate.

So yes, doing nothing and making no forward progress on getting this 300' of beach frontage opened for the public creates a very comfortable "status quo" for the few condo owners and paying customers of the nearby "Crab Trap" restaurant that are currently benefiting by the Board's inaction on this.

They get to use our beach at their whim with no "competition" from the taxpaying citizens who paid for and would also like to use the beach.

It is a very comfortable status quo for them--just as I have stated earlier here.

These lucky few condo owners are now having their cake and eating it too!....They get to fence off their "private" waterfront areas within their condominium footprints-- and even hire private security guards to keep the public out of "their" areas and off "their" beaches-- while simultaneously using a wooden structure they own on a 10 foot sliver of property that runs down to the beach--to use our 300' of beach exclusively!  (remember, you and I are locked out of this property and no trespassing signs are on the property)

I wonder what would happen if the county installed "No Trespassing" signs all the way down to the beach on both sides of our 300' section of this beach and had security keep the condo owners off our property like the condos keep the public off of their property?  I wonder how that would play out?

Of course I'd never support actually doing that-- but I bet if we did do this it would spur some action on getting this beach access opened up.

I want us all to be able to enjoy the beach--that's why it is imperative that we do what we told the FEDS we would do--conserve the dunes for habitat and signage, provide public parking and ADA accessibility, and  #OpenOurBeach !

Friday, August 3, 2018

Together, Let's #OpenOurBeach!

At yesterday's public forum--multiple passionate speakers demanded action from the board of county commissioners on public beach access on Perdido Key.

Currently, out on Perdido Key, there are only three small public beach access points where beach visitors can park and visit the beach free of charge.  These are very small, and all around the public access points are condominium owners that have cordoned off the rest of the beach from public use.

Public Beach access #1 only has about 60 feet of beachfront and there are police on either side enforcing "no trespassing" signs.

Meanwhile, back in 2013, the county purchased a large piece of property out on Perdido Key just East of the Crab Trap.  It has 300 feet of beach frontage.  It was purchased with $2.3 Million in Federal Grant money to assist with Beach Mouse Habitat.  An additional $787,000.00 in County money (LOST funds) was put into the purchase price ($3.1 Million total) to provide for Public Beach Access.

Sadly, this site has been locked-up and inaccessible to the public for going on 5 years!

On March 8th, I asked about this property and why it was locked up. Folks had asked me about it so when we discussed the restore act projects I asked questions of D2 about this property.  I did not receive a satisfactory answer so I did some additional research on the issue and requested documentation from the staff.  I received the data, I read the data, and Long story short, we can utilize this property for dual purposes--mouse habitat and public beach access.  We just have to muster the will to do it and we have to fund the project.  Contrary to what some say about me online--I do my research.  And this issue is no different than any other issue I study and research. Because of the

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee Taking Shape.....

The shaded areas above represent the NW portion of District 1--the study area that will be the focus of work by the Northwest District 1 advisory committee.

Now that the deadline for applications has passed for the Northwest District 1 Citizens Advisory Committee, I can report that I have received 13 completed applications from citizens that I am reviewing.

I thank everyone that expressed interest in serving, and I especially want to thank all those citizens that actually followed through and submitted applications, within the time-frame specified, to serve on this committee.

For those citizens that have expressed an interest in serving but who didn't submit an application by the advertised and stated cutoff deadline, you can still submit an application and I will hold such applications in reserve and utilize these as a pool of alternates for membership on this committee.

I will select the 9-Member committee tomorrow, Friday August 3rd.  I will bring this slate of names to the regular BCC meeting on Thursday, August 16th, for consideration/confirmation by the full board as is specified in the resolution that established this committee. 

I anticipate a late August/Early September date will be announced for the organizational meeting of this committee--at which point a Chair and Vice-Chair will be elected, meeting times/dates established, and initial topics of consideration will be explored.

The work of this committee will be open to the public, this will be a "Sunshine" committee.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Great Day For Our Community and One Local Small Business

Patti Marine Services, Dignitaries, and Economic Development professionals from around the region celebrate the news that Patti Marine Services received a massive grant from the DOT to improve their facility.  7-31-2018 

I was honored to be asked to come and speak as Chairman of the Board along with the Mayor and many other public figures, dignitaries, and professionals in Economic Development.  Keith Hoskins, Scott Luth, John Hutchinson, Alan McMillan, Jane Birdwell, and several members of the extended Patti family were also present.

Patti Marine Services is celebrating 40 years in business here in Pensacola with the announcement that they will be receiving a nearly $500,000.00 grant from the Department of Transportation to purchase heavy equipment that will allow their operations to be more efficient.

"I've been here 40 years working, and the last couple of years have been tough in this industry but this will really help our business and allow us to bring in more ships" said Frank Patti Jr., the owner of the company.  "These are good jobs where people do good work with their hands--this is important" he continued.

Mayor Ashton Hayward addressed the crowd with a rousing speech, focused on the vital importance of small businesses in our community.  "Small businesses like this are the backbone of our country!" he exclaimed to a rousing ovation from the crowd of fifty workers, onlookers, and dignitaries.

I was asked to give brief remarks and I simply congratulated the employees of the yard and reiterated my support for economic development that helps small businesses like these thrive and create jobs.

This was a great day for Escambia County, Pensacola, and the west side of Pensacola!