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.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Special Meeting of BCC this Monday at 1:00 PM: Topic--Legislative Priorities

At yesterday's BCC installation meeting, it was announced that this Monday afternoon, the 28th of November, the BCC will have a special meeting to discuss Broadband AND to discuss the board's legislative priorities for next spring's session of the state legislature in Tallahassee.

Everyone's mind is on storm recovery and dysfunction within the property insurance market(s) in the state of Florida post-Hurricane Ian.  That issue will be discussed heavily in the upcoming special session of the state legislature in early December.

So we will probably discuss Insurance matters on Monday.  

I also want to talk about getting more power from the state to curb the ongoing, incessant littering we find ourselves dealing with in our County.  We clean it up, citizens dump more out of their car windows, over and over the cycle repeats.  I get a lot of calls on this so I am assuming my peers do as well.  So we will discuss the idea of working with the state to allow us to up the penalty for littering locally at our discretion.  Currently, this is a highly controlled area of governance where the state has usurped our ability to independently enforce and or set our own penalty amounts.  An interesting discussion of this issue occurred in February of 2021 and can be heard at minutes 9:45 and 12:45 of this video.

I'm certain we will also be discussing the area of getting state reimbursement for state prisoners we house in our Jail--as this is something that costs local taxpayers lots of money and for which we have not been reimbursed.

Other topics of interest will certainly be discussed, and this should be a productive meeting this Monday at 1:00.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Escambia's Pet Cemetery Needs some TLC

Escambia County's District 1 has a little something for everyone....

All the usual stuff like roads, bridges, drainage systems, public buildings, boat landings, public beach accesses, a public library, and public parks.  You know, like "normal" things.

But we also have super cool things like our Equestrian Center where we do horse shows and show jumper competitions along with Rodeos.  We also have nifty stuff like an archery range where you can learn to shoot a cross bow like John Rambo did or a standard, long or compound bow like Katniss Everdeen did---- if you want to. We've even got a model airplane park where RC aviation enthusiasts can fly their models--even some that are miniature jets with scaled-down jet engines that are as loud as some real jets--just ask the nearby neighbors that built their houses very close to this flying field!

Yes, we have all of that and more.

But how many of you honestly knew that we're also the home of the Escambia County's only "official" Pet Cemetery??  I mean, I am a dog-lover, still in mourning over the 2019 death of my best 4-legged friend and Goldendoodle, "Rocky", (still pondering what to do with his ashes) and even I must admit---I was several years into my tenure as a County Commissioner before I found out we had one! Most folks probably don't know this is a thing that exists here.

But yes, this is a real thing.  No, it's not like the Stephen King horror show "Pet Sematary"--but rather an actual, real life pet cemetery. Where dogs and cats are buried.   It sits right on a major road in D1, just catecorner to the area's Dollar General and across from a filling station.

And lately, sadly, it has fallen into a dilapidated state of disrepair.  

I hadn't visited it before, so on Saturday I came out in the cold rain and drove down Pine Forest Road, where-- nestled between an assited living/elder care facility and a high-end RV campground across from a few homes--sits the county's  pet cemetery.  I wanted to see it, I wanted to walk through it.  Yes, Escambia's Pet Cemetery needs some serious TLC.

The first thing I noticed was there are no more plots unclaimed.  The cemetery is full.  Cats and dogs from the 1950's onward have found this location as their final resting place.  Interesting, heartfelt nameplates, some with cute sayings on them and even some famous community names you would know adorn the plots of multiple pets buried here.  Some owners are obviously still visiting, as several of the pet burial sites had ornate decorations, flags, and even a chew-toy on one plot.  Some have elaborate landscaping with rocks and marble headstones.  Look, I get it--some people's pets are like their family.  I get that.  These particular plots I saw yesterday are obvioulsy the ones that someone has been visiting and looking after.   

What once, apparently, was a segregated (utilizing white picket fencing) area for deceased Law Enforcement Canine Officers is overgrown and the fencing is busted and destroyed.  four of the plots containing deceased LEO canine officers had flags neatly placed in front.  But at least 8 of these sites didn't--and were in a terrible state of upkeep.  Canine Officers Thor and Spike--I wonder how their lives went? I wonder about the great things they did, and how many bad guys these two canine officers helped to capture?  In an odd, perhaps prescient, Nostradamus-esque turn--there is even a LEO Canine officer buried there named "Morgan"--who's time of service and ultimate death apparently occurred prior to the beginning of the tenure of our former human Sheriff Morgan (2009-2021).  Kind of weird I thought.  Maybe that is a common name for a dog?  Who knows?

But "Morgan's" grave site's a wreck though.  His and many others. Untidy, disheveled, and unkempt.

So I have now, very recently,  been contacted by the nonprofit entity that currently owns this property.  They are asking for and wanting to turn this property over to the county so the site can receive better maintenance and upkeep and so the fencing can be repaired and the landscaping cleaned up.  I'm working out a way to make this happen because I think those sites deserve to be maintained and preserved.  Those animals are/were very special to the owners who buried them there.  The canine officers deserve the dignity and respect of a clean and orderly, well maintained site.

So I'll be bringing this for discussion to an upcoming meeting in December.  If necessary to gain support for the county taking on this property/maintenance responsibility--I'll be pledging to utilize D1 discretionary to get the fencing repaired and the site cleaned up.

I believe this is the least we can do for those animals and for the families (and Law Enforcement Agencies) that buried these animals here.

Look for the discussion to come, and check out the photos, below.

On "Real News with Rick Outzen" Later this Morning at 7:00

Rick Outzen--journalist, publisher, and host of the area's best, most widely listened-to and most informative local morning drive news-talk program "Real News with Rick Outzen" on 1370 WCOA--has invited me onto his show later this morning at 7:00 as his leadoff guest.

Rick has asked me to come on and talk about the last year on the BCC and accomplishments the board has made over this past year as we prepare for tomorrow's swearing in and re-organizational meeting at 9:00AM when I will hand over the chairman's gavel to D3 Commissioner Lumon May.

Once this podcast is completed later today, I will post it here.

We will discuss the big-ticket wins of the last year districtwide:

--Completion of once every 10-years redistricting of county commissioners' districts

--Completion of the 4-year salary deal with ECSO

--Moving out of COVID Pandemic utilizing Cares Act and Rescue Plan funding

--Building a better staff/County Leadership Team

--Formalizing/negotiating Wes Moreno's contract as Administrator

--Completion of Bargaining with all the County's Bargaining Groups

--Opening Beach Access #4 at Perdido Key

--Record $620 Million FY 23 Budget WITHOUT raising Millage Tax Rates

--Funding $1.6 Million for regional Advanced Traffic Management System

If time permits, I'll also spotlight some completed D1 Specific projects 

--Opening of the first D1 public library, the Bellview Library 

--Awarding contract and breaking ground on the Beulah Fire Station

--Working to get Sorrento Road widening project on Sorrento Road moved up on TPO priority list

--funding for Beulah area master plan finalized, project is forthcoming

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Another Inaccurate, Misleading, Garbage PNJ Headline: Par for the Course

"Mike Kohler Looks to Restore Trust in District 2 Commissioner's Seat" is how PNJ's misleading headline above should have read.....

Yesterday's electronic PNJ put out a story about soon-to-be sworn in County Commissioner-Elect Mike Kohler.  And once a reader was able to get by the BS headline--the story was well-written. (and don't worry, the PNJ are saving this piece, along with the garbage headline, for their Sunday edition....the only day they have any readership of their hard copy product to speak of.....

 But the headline they used and will be using tomorrow is garbage.  No, it is worse than that, it is BS, misleading Garbage.

 "Mike Kohler Looks to Restore Trust in Escambia County"

 After reading that headline, I expected to see yet another inaccurate, hatchet piece article running down the current commissioners--  because--to read that headline one would assume the county is in shambles and broken--and Kohler like a white-knight is coming in for a rescue job.  (In fairness, some do believe Escambia's Governance is a wreck:  The PNJ, a former PNJ cartoonist, a couple of downtown types, a downtown stockbroker, and about 12 people on one Facebook chat site.)

 Most normal human citizens don't share this dystopian and skewed view of reality, though. 

 Looking at the election, where the only incumbent Escambia County commissioner on the ballot won in a landslide, and looking at the recent survey the Studer group put out showing year-over year improvement in the public's perception of the county commission and the county's overall trajectory--what the PNJ and some foil-hat haters think about the commissioners and the county does not line up with what the average citizen believes.

I get a lot of email, phone calls, and feedback directly from constituents all day, every day. They don't hold back, either. Rarely do I get a complaint about the 401a, lack of a strategic plan, or the idea of consolidation or creating a "charter county" with a "strong elected administrator."  I never get complaints about firing former administrator Janice Gilley.  Nope-those are the issues of the PNJ and a handful of downtowners.  Normal folks are concerned with their own issues--traffic, over-development, and to a lesser degree--stormwater issues.  What I don't hear is ordinary folks upset about the PNJ's faux issues of anger above.   Never.

 Knowing all this and seeing the headline I was prepared for the worst.

 But the article did not attack the commissioners, at least not overtly anyway.  It was primarily a piece about the incoming commissioner and some of his priorities and goals once getting into office.  And the article is framed around his challenge in doing that due to his predecessor's horrible record and tumultuous, scandal-ridden tenure and departure under clouds of suspicion, ongoing litigation, and multiple ethics violations.

from the article:

"Kohler said for the first few months in office, he would focus on restoring trust in the District 2 office. “I really want to try to build a decent relationship with the other commissioners so that hopefully they'll work with me to get some stuff done in District 2," Kohler said. "I know the people in District 2 really feel like they've been underserved..Kohler said he hopes he is not "held hostage" by the actions of his predecessor, who he pointed out did not support him during his election campaign.  I'm hoping I can make some amends and just go in and prove to them that I'm not an enemy," Kohler said."

So, I asked Jim Little about the misleading headline.  I told him the headline should have been something like "Kohler to attempt to restore trust in D2 Commission seat" which he disagreed about.  He doubled down on the headline he used.  "I see your point, but I think the article conveys he is looking to restore trust in the D2 seat but also trust in the county for the residents of D2.  So, I think the headline fits the story" he stated.

 Another inaccurate, misleading garbage PNJ Headline--it's par for the course because they want strife, conflict, angst, and controversy.  They feast on it, and a headline like that magnifies a "position" that is not held by a majority of area citizens.  No matter, the PNJdoesn't care.  They will create it or attempt to manifest dysfunction in order to sell ads and papers--because they do not care about this community and the people that live here.  It's all about making a buck, meeting sales goals, and a desperate attempt to stay relevant.  It is disgusting and dishonorable, but legal, the way this paper plies its trade.  And they risk setting up the soon to be commissioner for a tougher start than needed by publishing this article this way.  They don't care though.  They want strife and division on this board, they are counting on it.  They leverage it to sell papers and ads.

If they (the PNJ) were offered a community guaranteed to be free of crime or any issues with locally elected leaders that served the citizens and functioned at a high level --but this scenario required them to go out of business---they would cast that perfect community aside for the ability to continue doing what they do---fostering discontent with fake, garbage "news", misleading headlines, unfair and inaccurate "editorials" and cartoons ONLY on their perceived philosophical rivals and those who their advertising patron(s) disfavor.

 No wonder the PNJ are shrinking; they're slowly going out of business, quietly and incrementally.  But it is coming.  They did (and continue to do) it to themselves.   This headline is another example of why.

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Mystery of the More Than $7,000.00 1-Month ECUA Water Bill?!?

Just imagine it.  You go online to pay your routine bills, to include your ECUA bill for water, sewage and garbage.  Ho hum, just something you do once a month.

But when you log in to pay your bill, you spit coffee through your nostrils and adrenaline pumps through your body and your blood pressure skyrockets  as you see something that CANNOT be right---a bill that is normally around a hundred bucks is $7,326.00 dollars!

What!?!     (picture the Allstate Commercial where the guy on your door cam starts smashing your car window and you aren't there to stop him from doing it)

What?!?  Seven Grand!!!

Making matters worse--you quickly realize this isn't a "mistake."

Uh oh, spagetthi o's--or as Scooby Doo might say "Ruh-Roh Raggy!!"

In this instance of a true story that unfolded yesterday afternoon/evening--------the bill was, in fact,  correct.  Apparently--the culprit was a water leak on the property-owner's side of the meter that was not noticed by anyone. (not sure how, but that's a question for another time I guess--once folks calm down and come back from the ledge) 

So what do you do?  Well,  you --the property owner---quickly contact your county commissioner--- (who has no play in this at all-- by the way--but whatever:  I am here to help!)----who quickly forwards the issue to his ECUA counterpart--and lo and behold there is an explanation.  And, thankfully, a solution.

In this story--the quick actions of ECUA staff and board member Vicki Campbell are to be commended.  ECUA immediately went out to the property, checked the situation, and determined a leak was the culprit.  No word back yet on what caused it or whether or not it has been repaired by the property owner (hopefully it has been!--but it must've been leaking a while to run up that kind of a billing--how did the property owner not notice this?).

Thankfully--there is now a happy ending to this story coming.....

Because ECUA offers its customers a one time credit for such catostrophic occurrences.  (I know this firsthand because I had a similar situation occur and was able to wipe away the charges with this one-time facility provided by ECUA.)

Thankfully (and mercifully)--this is a bill that this homeowner won't have to pay.

Whew--that's a relief!

Political Disclaimer