I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Seafarer Files Part II: Marlette Manipulation 5.0

This cartoon has been manipulated to reflect the reality of the situation with respect to attempts to block Escambia Beach Access #4.  The people want it opened, though, and it will be opened.  That is what is going to happen.... 

Today's cartoon in the PNJ by Andy Marlette provides me another opportunity to make a funny cartoon even funnier, and more relevant at the same time.  I've manipulated a lot of his cartoons over the years.  Today's offering shows a cat representing commissioner Doug Underhill swinging an axe at a mouse, represented by me.  The mouse, sporting a chainsaw, is simultaneously attempting to slash the cat.  In the background sits an idled beach mouse just watching the action.

This is a direct play on the marginal characters from the Simpson's series, Itchy and Scratchy.  from wikipedia:

"The Itchy & Scratchy Show is a show within a show that appears occasionally in episodes of The Simpsons. They appear in the form of 12-60 second cartoons that are filled with gratuitous violence, usually initiated by Itchy the mouse against Scratchy the cat; Itchy is almost always the victor.[5] Itchy & Scratchy airs as a segment on The Krusty the ClownShow, and also aired on its brief replacements, Mr Burn's Cavalcade of Whimsy and Gabbo.[6]"

But "Itchy and Scratchy" is nothing more than a violent, updated play on the old Tom and Jerry Cartoon series from the 1940's and 1950's.  Interestingly, as I remember the old cartoons, none of Tom's (the cat in Tom and Jerry) sadistic plots against Jerry (the mouse in the cartoon) ever succeed.  As I remember it, the Tom was just a goofy, angry, vindictive bully, always trying to hatch a new way to try and injure Jerry.  The Wikipedia write-up describing Tom is funny:

"The plots of each short usually center on Tom's numerous attempts to capture Jerry and the mayhem and destruction that follows. Tom rarely succeeds in catching Jerry, mainly because of Jerry's cleverness, cunning abilities, and luck..The cartoons are known for some of the most violent cartoon gags ever devised in theatrical animation such as Tom using everything from axes, hammers, firearms, firecrackers, explosives, traps and poison to kill Jerry. On the other hand, Jerry's methods of retaliation are far more violent due to their frequent success, including slicing Tom in half, decapitating him, shutting his head or fingers in a window or a door, stuffing Tom's tail in a waffle iron or a mangle, kicking him into a refrigerator, getting him electrocuted, pounding him with a mace, club or mallet, letting a tree or electric pole drive him into the ground, sticking matches into his feet and lighting them, tying him to a firework and setting it off, and so on.[2] Because of this, Tom and Jerry has often been criticized as excessively violent..Tom is no match for Jerry's wits. Jerry also possesses surprising strength for his size, approximately the equivalent of Tom's, lifting items such as anvils with relative ease and withstanding considerable impacts. Although cats typically chase mice to eat them, it is quite rare for Tom to actually try to eat Jerry. Most of his attempts are just to torment or humiliate Jerry, sometimes in revenge, and sometimes to obtain a reward from a human for catching Jerry. By the final "fade-out" of each cartoon, Jerry usually emerges triumphant, while Tom is shown as the loser."

  Marlette's cartoon play of art imitating life on Itchy and Scratchy, imitating Tom and Jerry, is below.

Although it is funny--like many of Marlette's cartoons it simply misses the mark or could be funnier and even better.  The one I manipulated above at the top of this piece hits the mark.

The beach is currently off limits to visitors with signs mounted and a locked gate.  A paper trail is now established showing this has been an ongoing effort, to  actively try to prevent public access at this site by attempting to sell this site away along with the public's right to access it.  This fact was uncovered via a public records release of emails and contracts from 2017 illustrating this--- despite protestations and denials of this from  2018.  And this video denial from from 2018

The key to the entire issue is simple and is not funny..we, you and I the taxpayer, own this 300' of Gulf-Front Beach property since we bought it in 2013.  It was purchased in part for public beach access.

But this beach was never opened and there are some special interests that DO NOT WANT it to be opened to you and I the taxpayers who bought it.

Meanwhile----- the people do want it opened, the BCC has voted to make this accessible to the public, the staff is bringing plans for us to consider, and at the end of the day--just as I said at the end of the last meeting--we will #OpenOurBeach.

No, it's not some "Tom and Jerry" histrionics:  No, it is not "politics".  It's just ridiculous reindeer games and delay tactics that sadly resulted in a comfortable status quo for nearby condo owners that allowed them to use our beach while the rest of us were/are locked out.

That is ending, because what really matters is that we do what we voted to do, it's about doing what we said we would do with this property.   And we are going to do this.

Watch and see. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Seafarer Files Part I: Anything But Public Access

Nearby condo owners in 2017 were interested in buying our 300' gulf front property, having us restore the dunes and remove pedestrian and car accessibility; for this, they would pay less than what we paid for the same property four years earlier (in 2013) and these same nearby condo owners would then be able to use this beach at will--but Escambia taxpayers would not have been given access to this beach!

Thank God it didn't happen!

Earlier this week a batch of emails was published on the Escambia Citizen's Watch site that dealt with the Property that Escambia County Owns on Perdido Key next to the Crab Trap Restaurant.

This particular piece of property was purchased in 2013 for the express purpose of providing Perdido Key Beach Mouse habitat.........and PUBLIC BEACH access.

This particular property has generated a lot of heated discussion lately, as the sense I have had is that there was/is a coordinated effort afoot to block the public from accessing this beach.

But this property belongs to the public, the taxpayers.  I have said it over and over and over and over.....

like a broken record.  We will  #OpenOurBeach

Because beach access is precious in Florida.  And it is becoming even more scarce.

And the comfortable status quo of nearby condos being the only ones able to currently access our beach easily is an untenable situation which the board is going to rectify in short order when we #OpenOurBeach

Meanwhile, just last year, I joined my counterparts in voting to purchase more beach property at Perdido Key--but unfortunately we were out-bid for that parcel.

Apparently, though, at the same time we were all trying to get more beach access at Perdido Key for citizens---a push was being made behind the scenes to divest the taxpayers of the very  beach property the taxpayers purchased in 2013 to provide MORE access to the people with.

Sounds crazy right?!?  It sounds crazy to me.

Had I known of or been privy to the contract contained within these documents, I would have ripped that document up and thrown it in the trash.  I would NEVER vote to sell that to private condo owners in 2017 (at less than what we paid for it in 2013 price wise)

Thankfully, attorney Stephen G. West (see his email of concern below) with the county shot this whole idea down in the early stages of this plan being concocted......

Glad he did, and I'm glad I now know of this effort to keep the public off this beach.  Even more motivation for us to do the right thing now and as quickly as we can, to #OpenOurBeach

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal Comes to Pensacola

Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh, Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal, and Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh at Pensacola Yacht Club, Wednesday September 26, 2018

The Federalist Society of the Emerald Coast welcomed Florida Solicitor General Amit Agarwal to Pensacola Wednesday evening.

The assembled gathering of about 50 local attorneys, current and former judges, elected officials, and interested citizens welcomed Mr. Agarwal to the Pensacola Yacht Club for a very enlightening, often humorous and personal question and answer session between he and Federalist Society of the Emerald Coast President Gary Bergosh.

When asked about how he came to be in the legal profession, Agarwal recalled the way this happened.  "My parents wanted me to be a doctor, but I wanted to study Philosophy"  he quipped.  he continued "My dad was persistent, he told me that I should get an MD and a PHD, and HE would be alright with that."

After completing his undergraduate studies at Duke University, Agarwal moved to Washington DC.

"I wanted to do something in print journalism, so I applied at every newspaper in the area up there, and didn't get any offers" he mused.

Eventually, he landed a job with CSPAN doing a video series on books, which required he be involved in every part of the process of that series, to include research, reading, writing, production, and even doing live segments on the street with people, asking them which books they currently were reading.

"The only part of me that ever made it on the show was my hand, holding the microphone as I interviewed people" he said with a chuckle.

After three years at CSPAN, Agarwal decided he wanted to go into the law profession.  He applied to, was accepted, and completed his law studies at Georgetown.

He then answered questions about the judges for whom he clerked, to include Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh among several others, and he had interesting stories to tell about each of these men and how the experiences working for these Judges and Justices shaped his early career.

Agarwal also detailed the specifics of what he does as Solicitor General of the State of Florida, including a brief discussion of some of the 30 current cases which he and his staff of just 4 attorneys are working on presently.

"It is a lot of work, and thankfully I have some really talented attorneys in the office who can turn these projects around quickly when necessary." he said, complimenting his staff.

The evening went by quickly, but it was an enlightening conversation.  Those who missed it missed an opportunity to get an inside glimpse into the person behind the position of Solicitor General.

As the session wound down, it was pointed out that Agarwal had never before been to Pensacola.

"I was born in Texas and raised in South Florida--never made it over to Pensacola until now.  But I'll be coming back with my kids and you'll hear us coming, I'll be staying at the Beach" he said with a laugh.

Learn more about Amit Agarwal here.

Learn more about the Federalist Society here.

No Medical Examiner For Escambia County in Just Three Days?

A dispute over pay has led to the abrupt resignation of our area's Medical Examiners Offices which will happen in three days...

This past Summer, fireworks erupted over some financial disputes between the four counties of the First Judicial Circuit (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton) and the Medical Examiner (ME) for this area.

We were actually sued by the ME.

The issue revolved around the payments to the Medical Examiner's Office, fees withheld from the counties by the ME's office, and other financial issues that raised some concerns (notably the high salary of the ME herself, paid by public sources.)

Fast forward to late yesterday afternoon, with the end of the fiscal year upon us, everyone going a million different directions with the Kavanaugh drama playing out in the media---and a couple of HUGE emails are dumped in our lap.

The first one, from the attorney for Dr. Andrea Minyard, casually drops the news that the ME plans to close up shop in four days.  Reading between the lines, it appears this is about compensation for the position.  from the email...

"Although I have been told on multiple occasions that a multi-county contract had been circulated among counsel for the four counties, no contract has been presented to the Medical Examiner. Last week, a letter proposing to pay $400,000 for a minimum of two medical examiners was received by my office. The letter suggests that this is a reasonable number given information that the counties have collected; however, that information was not provided, and we are quite skeptical that any credible information would indicate that this is a reasonable amount for a Board Certified Forensic Pathologist serving as Chief Medical Examiner and one associate medical examiner, much less the two needed in District One. In fact, Dr. Minyard's current associate is paid $200,000, and he is not Board Certified. Thus, it appears that Dr. Minyard will be closing the office of the Medical Examiner at the end of her current contracts." 

State Attorney Bill Eddins immediately responded with an email describing the catastrophic consequences of NOT having a ME for the area.  From Bill Eddins' email:

"As you can see from the email, Dr. Minyard plans to resign at midnight on Sunday, September 30, 2018.This will create turmoil for the criminal justice system.  In addition, there are many other duties of the Medical Examiner’s Office that will not be provided to the general public effective Monday, October 1, 2018.You have the responsibility and authority to provide a Medical Examiner for the First Circuit.  Please make immediate arrangements to do so.  Some of the immediate needs for my office is to have a Medical Examiner available to conduct autopsies where homicide is suspected.  In addition, arrangements need to be made for body removal and body storage awaiting autopsy.  In addition, in my opinion, it is necessary for a Medical Examiner or their staff to be immediately available to respond to homicide scenes.  If no arrangements are made, this service will end on September 30, 2018 at midnight.  Please make immediate arrangements for these duties. Additionally, as a result of Dr. Minyard’s resignation, there will be no staff or facilities available to provide any of the other services customarily provided by the Medical Examiner’s Office.The dispute between the counties and the Medical Examiner’s Office has been ongoing for several months and needs to be resolved.  However, in view of the turmoil, disruption and lack of services that will occur on October 1st, I request that the counties immediately offer to continue payment of the Medical Examiner under the terms and conditions that have been ongoing for many years.  This is the only solution to this problem that I am aware of.  I make this request for the time necessary to resolve the dispute or have an orderly transition to another Medical Examiner." 

High-$Dollar contract disputes:  Not just for athletes, actors, news anchors, and entertainers anymore.........

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Quint Studer on Why We Should Appoint rather than Elect our Superintendent of Schools in Escambia County

Nationally-renowned speaker, writer, and entrepreneur Quint Studer-- CEO of Studer Community Institute--joins Escambia County Commission Chairman Jeff Bergosh for a discussion about the need for Escambia County to move from the antiquated model of an “Elected Superintendent of Schools” to the modern, efficient “appointed” Superintendent of Schools model.  This decision will rest in the hands of Escambia County Voters this November—as it will be on the ballot for the people to decide.  And Studer makes a compelling case for modernizing our system via moving to the “Appointed” system like 99.6% of the rest of our nation’s schools.  Watch the brief interview with Quint Studer, above, to hear his thoughts on this pressing topic.

(I have long-supported the appointed model for many reasons, and I have often written about this topic here on this blog...Interestingly, in 1967, Escambia County Voters came up just ONE (1) vote short of going to the appointed superintendent like the rest of the nation does.  Hopefully in 2018 we can get this passed and move our education system, locally, into the 21st Century!)

Monday, September 24, 2018

On WCOA This Morning......Talking Mean-Spirited, Petty, and Small Minded Attacks!

I'll be on WCOA's Good Morning Pensacola later this morning to discuss yesterday's Hatchet Piece Hit Job articles printed against me and several public officials and former candidates that were published in the Sunday edition.

A whole lot of FAKE NEWS.

I look forward to discussing what I felt was an unfair portrayal of the OLF 8 issue in general, and my position on this issue specifically.

Glaring omissions from the discussion on OLF 8, petty, mean, and unwarranted attacks on SOME political donors and SOME political candidates (not others, though), and a total LACK of any mention of the REASON the BCC began the process to acquire this OLF 8  property in the first place ($30 Million in Triumph Grant to help offset expenses and develop the site)--these will be addressed and discussed in this interview!

I went to 8,634 houses in my last election, 800+ in Beulah.  I know people are frustrated and want amenities and traffic infrastructure improved.  I also know these same residents DO NOT WANT any more high-density residential built on the field in Beulah--- because we can't take any more until we get our infrastructure improved.

Listen to this morning's interview, in its entirety, here.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Disagreement DOES NOT Equal an "ATTACK"

Residents I have heard from locally (I live right across the street from OLF 8 in Beulah) do NOT want more high-impact, high-density residential built in Beulah on the helicopter field until the infrastructure catches up.  I agree with these constituents, but the PNJ thinks this constitutes an "attack" on those who feel differently....

Sadly, the PNJ will be running a hatchet piece editorial tomorrow that inaccurately portrays the facts surrounding the OLF 8 project.  Disappointing.  

The theme of it is that I am attacking folks that I disagree with.  This is simply not true.

I attacked nobody in my disagreement and concerns over what is being planned for OLF 8. I have expressed the concerns I have heard from residents and constituents that do not want any more high-density residential development out here until our infrastructure catches up. I can and will correct folks who inaccurately distort my position on this issue--that is not attacking someone. 

Here are the facts: We have a $30 Million dollar triumph request for which we will qualify if we create a minimum of 1000 good wage-paying jobs with this property. I made the motion to sell 100 acres to NFCU for a market price plus the commitment of 300 jobs--so we only need to create a minimum of 700 more to stay in the running for that money! I made the motion to sell this 100 acres to get us closer to our jobs goal.

 Triumph, to date, has not funded any residential projects--so I have stated that I do not feel residential development is appropriate at the site--for this reason and because 1200 apartments, condos, and homes are currently under construction within walking distance from NFCU's campus already. Again--we can't take any more of this high-density residential development until our infrastructure catches up...
Beulah has too much residential construction ongoing, and residents with whom I have spoken have begged me to not approve any more residential construction until our infrastructure catches up.   Because I agree with my neighbors---- this is now considered an attack on those that want more high-density residential?  What?!?

so why do we, the public sector, need to compete with the private sector by facilitating the building of more high density residential on our soon to be acquired, taxpayer paid property? 

Another big concern that I have heard in listening to my constituents is this: while there are really nifty mixed used developments and town center concepts that are put out as examples of what could be built out on OLF 8--many believe these sorts of developments belong in urban areas, not rural, bucolic areas like Beulah. Many, like me, find the CIVICON speakers to be very informative, enlightening, and educational. But not all of those concepts are applicable to a rural, suburban community that is desperately trying to retain the rural charm and character despite the growth that is occurring. 

To agree with my constituents that feel this way and to disagree with others that want to build a "mini-city" in Beulah's OLF 8 field to make this area a slick "city" like in Tampa, Atlanta, or Pittsburgh--that is an attack? I disagree. 

Here is the key: The county expended $17.3 million dollars for OLF 8 for the purpose of creating jobs--not for creating a "town of Beulah" or for acquiring land for residential developers. The jobs-generating project for OLF 8 was conceived, voted upon, and financial commitments were made long before I came on this board--I inherited this. Like I supported ST Aerospace at the airport (for jobs) I do continue to support growing of clean jobs out here as well. 

But I also made the motion to engage a professional planner to give us a plan that takes all of these factors into account, keeps us in the running for the $30 Million dollar grant, brings some amenities to the residents out here that we desperately need, and brings us a plan that citizens county wide can benefit from to include nearby residents like me (I live across the street). 

Far from attacking anyone, this is me doing my job and siding with constituents over special interests that want to build a "mini city" out here, with condos, townhomes, and low rent subsidized housing to boot.  

I am not hearing many of my constituents telling me this is their vision for this property--I'm hearing "No More Residential until the infrastructure catches up!"

Friday, September 21, 2018

Come Join us for Our Next Coffee with a Commissioner!

We will be having our next coffee with the commissioner event this coming Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM at the McDonald's Restaurant at Blue Angel Parkway at Hwy 98.

Come by, say hello, and lets talk about what is important to you and your neighbors!




--making our community better

All topics are fair game, all are welcome--- and we hope to see YOU!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

NW District 1 Advisory Committee will Launch Next Thursday

I am looking forward to the launch of our Northwest District 1 Advisory Committee next Thursday at 6:00 PM.

We were supposed to start up and organize this committee earlier this month, on the 10th, however TS Gordon forced us to reschedule our 1st Budget Hearing for that time so our meeting got postponed.

But we will start it this Thursday.  The public is welcome to attend, and I look forward to going to work on several pressing issues in this area.  See the agenda below

3 New Plans will be Discussed to #OpenOurBeach

Last month we decided we would wait until after the primary election to pick up the discussion about opening up our 300' of  Gulf-Front property in Perdido Key for public access.

We were supposed to discuss a "Chevy and Cadillac" option for opening the beach this month.

But staff ran into delays and there were some unexpected issues that came up--namely a requirement that a full-sized fire truck be able to turn completely around within the footprint of the parking area due to the distance from the main road.

So this threw the original designs out the window.

But the BCC will be discussing three new potential options for opening this property up at October's Committee of the Whole.

Two of these three options were developed by staff, and the third one was submitted by a citizen.  Each have certain pluses and minuses.  I like all three but the price tag and number of spaces provided via Option 2 make it my initial favorite choice.  We will see what the full board thinks.  See all three options below

On WCOA today discussing NFCU, Beulah, Jobs, and OLF 8

I appeared this morning on Good Morning Pensacola with Don Parker and Alex Gavin.

The topic was the recent offer from NFCU to create 300 jobs with a hundred acres from OLF 8 if the county will sell it to them at a fair market rate

additional topics of interest in the brief interview included:

   ----current planned developments withing walking distance (100 yards) of the NFCU campus that will have 1100 apartments, townhomes, condos, and mixed use retail

  ----the walkability aspect of these developments due to their proximity to the NFCU campus and the addition of the recently constructed walking/biking sidewalk along 9-Mile road

  ----the value this deal brings us in getting us closer to our minimum of 1000 jobs created with
OLF 8 in order to keep us in the running for our $30 Million Dollar Triumph Grant

Listen to the brief interview here

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

OLF 8 To Produce 300 New Jobs! (And we Don't Even Own It Yet!)

The much-discussed OLF 8 Property in Beulah is poised to create its first new jobs if the BCC follows through with a proposed sale of 100 Acres of this property to Navy Federal Credit Union.

After last week's committee of the whole meeting, where the board voted to sell Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) 100 acres of OLF 8 in Beulah in exchange for new job creation, parking, and recreation facilities-- there was a buzz forming about just how many more jobs this sale could produce.....

Today, commissioners received the below email from Executive Vice- President Debbie Calder detailing NFCU's commitment.

These 300 new jobs will help us meet the BCC's triumph application goal of a minimum of an additional 1000 new, good paying jobs with this property in order to realize grant revenue of as much as $30 Million Dollars to develop this property.

Today was a great first step in that direction!

From the letter:

"I am happy to advise that, if we are able to agree upon mutually acceptable terms and Escambia County conveys approximately 100 acres of the OLF 8 property adjacent to our Heritage Oaks campus to Navy Federal, Navy Federal is willing to create 300 additional jobs on our existing campus..Navy Federal plans to create more parking for our campus, which will enable us to accommodate those additional jobs. Navy Federal also plans to build a recreation area on a portion of the property. Subject to any reasonable conditions that we may require, the recreation area we are proposing could be available for public use when not in use by Navy Federal. The public use of the recreation area would be part of our on-going contribution to the community."

See the letter below:

Monday, September 17, 2018

Beach Renourishment at Pensacola Beach.....Of Course it is Going to Continue!

In this evening's article in the PNJ-the issue of beach renourishment is hung out as something that is potentially on the BCC's chopping block.  This is not true.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

This is fear-mongering that is unneccessary and unproductive.

First of all, there is no movement afoot to make all leases 100 year leases.  There is a movement afoot to standardize the lease renewal language as these properties come forward to be renewed, as I discussed at multiple meetings and here.

The initiative goes like this:  When a property is brought in for a lease renewal to the SRIA we propose that the tenant decide what type of lease they want going forward, one with renewals that are automatic in perpetuity---or---leases that are 99 years in length and that require renegotiation upon expiration. 

The perpetual leases are taxable, so if that option is selected upon renewal by the lessee, the property would be subject to ad valorem taxation on both the land and the improvements. 

Conversely, if the lessee selected a lease that requires renegotiation upon expiration--the land portion of that leasehold would not be subject to ad valorem taxation going forward (But the land portion would be subject to a lease fee, which we would set at a market rate and index for inflation in the document)

One or the other--it would be at the option of the lessee.

This is to avoid another catastrophically bad renewal of a high value beach property's lease for a price that takes the taxpayers of Escambia county to the cleaners.  We had one of those recently (Beach Club) which has spurred this entire initiative in order to prevent such a poor treatment of taxpayers going forward.

Meanwhile, the SRIA is not going anywhere, and even if they did, that renourishment function would just be funded with a different pot of money.  Just like Beach Public Works and Lifeguards are funded with a different funding source now that the BCC has taken those functions over. 

This is because we value the beach, we understand the value of the beach, and we will fund important aspects of the Beach whether it comes from our authority (SRIA) or the BCC itself.

And to say otherwise is reckless speculation.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What's the Best Way for Government to Work With the Private Sector to Improve Communities?

I recently had the opportunity to ask community leaders this very question.  Studer Community Institute founder and CEO Quint Studer, Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown, Escambia Circuit Court Judge Gary Bergosh, and I had a very good conversation on this topic.

--What can government do to help the private sector develop our area for the benefit of citizens?

--What are we doing right in Escambia County--and where can we improve?

--What makes a great community?

--How can the local government and the private sector help improve our schools?

--What is the best governance model for our schools--Appointed or Elected Superintendent? (On the ballot this November)

These and other questions were discussed and answered in this interview.  I appreciate these leaders taking their time to speak with me on the show.

Retention Pond Answers

I recently received a lot of questions on facebook about the local retention ponds in and around the Beulah area of District 1.  So I posted some information about retention ponds and how citizens can check on their nearby ponds, online, to see if such ponds are county-maintained.

The drawing above illustrates several of the ponds about which I have been questioned.

I received information back from staff late this week about these specific ponds, so I am posting it here now:

Pond 833 Bridlewood.  Last cut 6-25-18
Ponds 684, 685, 686 Twin Spires. Last cut 6-26-18
Pond 724 Audrey Plantation. Last cut 6-11-18
Ponds 895, 896 Twenty One Oaks. Last cut 6-11-18
Pond 872 Hawthorne Grove. Last cut 6-28-18
Pond 914 Navy Oaks. Last cut 6-11-18
Pond 917 Covington. Appears to be a new pond recently added to the route and will be cut in the next 2-3 weeks.

Pond 564 is the one in front of the Equestrian Center. We have not cut it in a couple of years as the Equestrian Center has been mowing around it each time they mow their site. I know there are trees around it and lily pads in it but it is a wet pond.

All the ponds above, with the exception of the Equestrian Center, should be cut in the next 2-3 weeks .

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Retention Pond Questions

This map shows the storm water ponds in and around Mobile Higway and Beulah Road in District 1.  Green ones are county-maintained, red ones are private.

Over the last several days, due to the numerous rain events we had over the last several weeks, I have been asked about the status of the maintenance of various retention ponds in and around Mobile Highway and Beulah road.

Staff have answered the question about the rotation:  Once every 13 weeks or so, the county sends crews out to service these ponds as necessary--to include cutting the grass.  Weather can make this schedule fluctuate. contains a very user-friendly,  interactive GIS map of the county, with layers that can be added or taken out to provide the user with a variety of good information.  For example, the screenshot above is from this GIS database and is based upon the following search:

From the home page, Click on Maps, then Commission Districts, zoom in to the desired location, Go to map layers, check environmental, check County ponds - as you zoom to an area County ponds will be green, private ponds will show red. 

If you are curious about whether or not a pond is county maintained, this feature will let you know very quickly.  Or, you can call our office at 850-595-4910 and we will look into this for you.

I have asked staff to identify the last service dates for the 10 ponds circled on the illustration above, as I was asked on my facebook page about these specifically by multiple citizens.  I'll post the answer(s) when I receive them--here and on facebook.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What is the Best Way to Develop OLF 8?

Before I was elected to my current office, the existing Escambia Board of County Commissioners made a critical vote in 2016.  

This unanimous vote on June 2nd of 2016 authorized spending to complete a land swap with the United States Navy which would ultimately result in the Board of County Commissioners receiving the 636-acre site in Beulah known as OLF 8 later this year. 

This vote precipitated Escambia county’s total spending of $17.3 Million dollars to acquire OLF 8.  
This is a lot of money and I inherited this issue when I joined the board less than two years ago—But I’m up for the challenge to make this project work for everybody; I’ve lived right across the street from this property for the last 14 years, I have skin in the game, and I want what is best for Escambia County! 

 This is the #1 economic development project identified by the County’s Restore Act Committee, and a lot of people have worked very hard to bring this project to where it is today.

Earlier this year, however, some residents began to submit alternative ideas for this 636-acre parcel. Some folks fleeing from the urban sprawl of South Florida are proposing residential development (Apartments, Condos, subdivisions) on the OLF 8 site in a way that re-creates the exact thing they are fleeing-- right here in Beulah.

I don’t know anyone that wants to build a “City of Beulah” -- the constituents I have spoken with DO NOT want more apartments and high density residential construction out here on the helicopter field.

Some critics say the county “spent too much and that the property is only worth $4.75 Million.”
This is inaccurate.   The Brantley Appraisal of May, 2016, listed the value of the OLF 8 property at $17.8 Million.
But the true value of the land swap continues to be in what the county could do with this property to create jobs and attractive amenities for the area.

Our triumph gulf coast application, for which we stand to receive $30 Million dollars, is centered on creating 1,000 good-paying jobs with this property as well as quality of life improvements like walking, running and biking tracks—which would benefit the entire county and region.
Or, we can just cancel the grant application and sell the property to the highest bidder (perhaps $20 Million dollars) who might promise good amenities; but history has proven they will build cookie-cutter home subdivisions, high-density, low income apartments with things like vape shops and tattoo parlors. 

My neighbors do not want 7,000 more residents with extra traffic and low-end retail.
Beulah already has too much residential construction underway...Amazingly, some want to cram even more on OLF 8.

No, they would much rather have upscale employers like Navy Federal increase the workforce with 1,000 more good jobs.

I know there are many who lament that Beulah has become a suburb.  I have family members who have lived in Beulah since the 1960’s on several acres of land and wanted nothing more than the green areas to remain and have no subdivisions.  Unfortunately, populations grow, people move outside the city and places change.

And Beulah has changed.

The area in and around the proposed Beulah Interchange now has roughly 7,000 residential units recently completed, currently in construction, in planning, or going through development review; our roads and infrastructure simply cannot handle any more of this residential construction…

We need a master plan for OLF 8 that captures the maximum amount of value for this land for residents via amenities and community enhancements while simultaneously staying within the guidelines of our Triumph grant request.

We must be good financial stewards of this county-owned resource—staying in the running for our $30 Million-dollar grant while intelligently developing OLF 8 is how we demonstrate this.  

TPO to Approve $1,886,592 in FDOT Traffic Infrastructure Funding for Beulah Today

At today's Florida Alabama Transportation Planning Organization meeting--several very important initiatives will be addressed.

Of great concern to a fast-growing area of District 1 will be the state stepping up to fund two traffic easing projects in Beulah.

The TPO will vote today to approve $836K for Design for the Beulah I-10 Interchange (Beulah Road at I-10)

Additionally, the TPO will vote today to approve $1,050,000 for design of the traffic easing initiative on 9-Mile Road at I-10 (NFCU initiative).

Additionally, of note, county staff will be meeting face to face with state traffic staff to discuss a road-swap with the county, Perdido Key Drive for Beulah Road.  This meeting will take place September 27, 2018.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Hamlin Road Roundabout Story---According to a Resident

The Roundabout at Hamlin Road at Livernois Road in Rochester Hills, Michigan, has reportedly produced more traffic collisions per year, every year, since its initial construction in 2010--Including 2X the wrecks in 2011 compared to 2010...

I've been lukewarm, at best, to the idea of traffic roundabouts since the moment I got on this board.

I believe that in order to alleviate Pensacola Beach traffic-- we need to hire 2 off-duty officers to direct traffic for the busiest 12-15 days of peak summer gridlock yearly.

This, combined with some additional parking (that the BCC supports), as well as going fully automatic with a reduced-cost fare at the toll booth (phased-in over a two to three-year period) and the addition of some premium, paid parking at the front rows of our lot at Casino Beach--would not only save the county money--it would also reduce traffic congestion getting to the beach!

Opinions on this topic are all over the map--and I have received quite a bit of correspondence....

After the recent SRIA BCC joint meeting, I received even more.

It appeared, after the SRIA meeting, that the whole idea of roundabouts at Pensacola Beach was a dead item.  DOA. Done. Gone.  "Put a fork in it"-- dead.

Most Pensacola Beach residents with whom I have spoken about this topic do not even want the roundabouts anyway.

So at the subsequent meeting we put an "all stop" on the engineering work.

(To finish 100% plans for the roundabouts at the beach would cost an additional $342,000.00 we have expended roughly $900,000.00 thus far to get about 70% completed.)

After we decided to stop the study-- some community leaders asked us to "just go ahead and expend the allocated money to finish the we will all know the real cost of it"

So last meeting, out of deference to my counterpart in D4, I moved with the board majority, via a  4-1 vote,  to finish the plans so we would know, with certainty, just what it would cost ($10 Million?  $15 Million?--more?)  to fund the roundabouts.  We did this even though we don't have a funding source

Friday, September 7, 2018

County Steps up to Support Project Titan

Escambia County partnered with the city and Triumph Gulf Coast yesterday for a project that will provide as many as 4,725 new direct and indirect jobs in our area--a tremendous economic development win for years to come!

Last night the Escambia Board of County Commissioners took the first steps toward providing essential local funds for Project Titan.

Project Titan is the initiative to bring three additional MRO (Maintenance, Renovation, and Overhaul) hangars to the Pensacola International Airport as well as an administrative building over the next 4 years.

Triumph Gulf Coast has stepped up with a conditional approval for $56 Million Dollars toward this $210 Million dollar project.  The company that will be occupying these hangars (ST Engineering Aerospace) will be contributing another $35 Million toward this effort.  Various other funding sources will be needed and are being sought in order to be eligible to receive these triumph funds, and the next big ask comes of the city next Thursday when the Mayor will request $8 Million in funding for the project.

The really beneficial thing about the county's funding is the way the payments are structured and back-loaded to the out-years as follows:

Year 1---$0 net new money from county ($3.2 Million owed to county from city will be credited)
Year 2---$0
Year 3---$2 Million
Year 4---$4.8 Million

If the project holds true to the timeline and schedule, shortly after the county commits the largest out of pocket funding for this project($4.8 Million in FY2022-2023)--the county will within 12 months of this time begin reaping the economic windfall of nearly $3 Million in new revenue yearly from this build up to 1725 jobs resulting from this project. ($2 Million in recurring ad valorem revenue and a nearly $1 Million increase in sales tax revenue)

 If these projections of revenue hold true--within 4 years after the build-out of these hangars, the county's investment will be recouped fully, and the increased ad-valorem and sales tax revenue will continue coming in to the county's coffers as long as this operation is running.

This is a tremendously beneficial and profound project, a fantastic win for Escambia County and Pensacola--glad that the majority of commissioners clearly recognized this as a winning proposition in every respect.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Shouldn't We Try to Recoup As Much of our Investment as We Can?

People have opinions, I have my opinion.  Opinions are like...well, you know.

Everyone's got one.

But when we look at the intelligent, long view strategy employed via our Triumph Gulf Coast application for the OLF 8/OLF X Land Swap--It is hard to argue with the logic displayed within that document.

If we put together the OLF 8 project and proceed as we have described in our application, we stand to receive $29 Million for this transformational, job-creating project. And a large part of our $17.3 Million Dollar expenditure (to purchase and build OLF X in Santa Rosa County) will come back to the county as a part of this grant--$10.1 Million to be precise initially from the grant.  (And if we sell off the 9-Mile Road frontage lots for restaurant, retail, and other needed private sector service providers to develop--we could very well recoup an additional $7.3 Million so that our entire acquisition cost could come back to Escambia County!)

In addition to that, we stand to receive an additional $19 Million to add infrastructure and build out the property--if we are creating jobs and being transformational.  That's what the triumph board is looking to fund, transformational, job creating projects like the one they just conditionally approved for ST Aerospace to build three more hangars at the Pensacola International Airport.

Imagine it--going through with the plan, recouping the money, building an attractive park with tons of amenities for area residents, and creating jobs that will benefit the entire county!

OR....we could just take the property and build a giant park and clock tower, fill it up with high-density residential, and low-paying, low-wage retail.  And leave the $29 Million Triumph money on the table...

I think the best strategy is to stick with the plan, diversify the jobs base, create good jobs and opportunities, and provide residents retail and recreational amenities all at the same time!

If we do what we said we were going to do in our triumph application, I think there could be something in this project for everyone--a true win-win.  Read our triumph application, below.

Baked Mackerel with Yellow Squash OR...... Strawberry Shortcake?

Someone recently sent me something from a social media site that was amusing. 

It was purported to be a "Poll."

The funny thing about polls is that depending upon how they are administered and depending upon how they are worded-- they can be used to push the respondent one way or another, depending upon what the pollster's actual desired outcome is.  It is called a Push Poll.  They are used frequently in politics.

Once administered just the way the pollster wants it he/she can then proudly exclaim  "See, look at these numbers!"  This obviously means "X!" (which oftentimes also, conveniently, aligns with what the "pollster" wants.....)

The audience sampled is also key.

I served on the school board for a long time, before that I spent some time teaching at the 2nd and 3rd grade level.  I coached youth sports and raised three children, so I spent some time in schools around students.  I know how kids think. 

So Imagine if I conducted this sort of a poll at the lunchroom full of elementary school students:

"Attention students, which would you prefer to eat today?"

A. Baked Spanish Mackerel with Yellow Squash


B. Strawberry Shortcake

Of course we know what that answer would be. 

But the value of the conclusions drawn are distorted.  Although I personally don't like Mackerel ( I use it as bait for Striped Marlin when I go deep sea fishing in Cabo ) --there are many people that love Mackerel. 

If I asked the very same question above of a group of 30-something low-carb fitness fanatics--would the results be the same as the results from the elementary school students?

(Answer:  of course not)