Saturday, May 10, 2008

Does Pensacola Have its Own Change Candidate?

Pensacola resident Lumon May has filed to run for the District 3 seat in the Florida legislature. The seat is currently held by Republican Clay Ford, who really looks like John McCain.

I read May’s Viewpoint in the Independent News and was impressed. Although, May didn’t address Pensacola’s racial divide; will he want to help bridge it? Healing a divided electorate is what Barack Obama wants to do; will May want to embody some of the qualities that I see in the Senator?

Hopefully, May will want to help put Pensacola’s racial division behind us. His help could persuade Pensacola’s white community to work with the black community as partners, and vice versa. It’s time to heal the wounds of the past in order to move on, and work towards a better Pensacola.

Do you think there's a racial divide in Pensacola?

Obama is a Good Campaigner, but is He a Good Senator?

From the New York Times: “Mr. Obama has not spent much time in Washington during the campaign and he has hardly ever been spotted in the House, where all senators have floor privileges. He didn’t exercise those privileges in his own chamber Thursday, missing two Senate votes on a flood insurance bill.”

This can't help Obama in the general election when he tries to make case that he has experience. McCain trumps Obama when it comes to experience. McCain hasn’t been afraid to get his hands dirty and take care of business in the Senate; he's tried and true. Has Obama been tested while he has been in the Senate?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Is the City Looking for Other Ways to Fund CMP?

I’ve recently written about the city’s failure to look into alternative funding sources for the CMP; well, it looks like some on the City Council are finally looking into other ways to fund it.

Rick’s Blog reports today that “Councilmen Mike DeSorbo and Jewel Cannada-Wynn are really pushing for the city staff to come up with a plan for alternative financing for the Community Maritime Park.”

Finally – something is happening. Let’s hope everyone at City Hall will cooperate with their search for alternative funding. If they don’t have cooperation, then the CMP will never be constructed.

Outzen thinks many at City Hall will give a half-hearted attempt to look for alternative funding because the CMP could become a contentious political issue when elections are held this fall. City councilmen could court voters who don’t like the idea of building the park by not cooperating with the search for alternative funding.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Is Escambia County's District 3 Really that Bad?

In the latest edition of The Independent News, the weekly profiles Escambia County's District 3 in three different stories. In Rick Outzen’s piece, he describes the district as a place where whites don’t go “without risking their lives”. Dewayne Escobedo says District 3 is an area “where few white people ever venture”.

Come on guys – is the area really that bad?

I think Outzen and company are being a little too over-dramatic in their descriptions of the area. I was a substitute teacher at Pensacola High School a couple of years ago and was never afraid of being mugged or car-jacked when I left the school.

Residents venturing near Pensacola’s “inner-city” don’t need to worry their safety. Pensacola doesn’t see the type of violence that bigger cities experience.

You don’t ever hear about an incident like this in Pensacola: Last month, in the predominantly African-American areas of Washington D.C., four people were shot to death in a span of five hours. That’s real violence.

That being said; I’m still glad the paper decided to write about this issue. Escambia County’s mostly African-American third district is a heavily blighted area; we should all take the time to understand the root causes of the district’s poverty. We can do something about the poverty once we understand it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Roads Inc. “Catfish Pond” is a Public Health Risk

Photo Courtesy of Rick's Blog - More Photos In His Blog

Roads Inc. has created a clay pit that puts people in danger, and then the company had the gall to turn around and sue Escambia County when they told them to stop building it. The county is somewhat to blame; they let the company build the clay pit on their watch.

The now massive pit is attracting the attention of teenagers looking for a good time. This is bad; we all know how dangerous these pits are.

Roads Inc. and the county aren’t doing anything to prevent them from entering the pit. Roads Inc. has not put up any fence; the county isn’t enacting local ordinances or enforcing state law in order to keep the teenagers out.

Roads Inc. and the county are going to feel very foolish if they fail to prevent a tragedy. Hopefully - the city will thoroughly scrutinize this sketchy company before they hire them to work on their roads.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I’ve Had Enough of the Presidential Campaign Coverage

I’m also really over this whole Jeremiah Wright frenzy. Yes – I know Obama stayed at his church for way too long, but this blow-up over Wright’s words has gotten out-of-hand. Can’t we just stop paying attention to him, and anyone else who pays attention to him?

The media has had their gaze upon the preacher for a little too long. Media viewers need to use this incident to judge Obama’s character and move on.

Can I propose that we all take a break from the campaign coverage? I don’t know about you, but I could use a break from the election news. Can’t we all call off the coverage until Labor Day?

If we stopped now, and started watching again in September, we would still have three months chocked-full of hard-core campaign coverage. There is plenty of campaign and election coverage in the future; we can all use a break

Is the Community Maritime Park Dead in the Water?

The Pensacola City Council met last night, discussed the CMP, and Mark O’Brien’s blog reports that “members are frustrated by the slow pace of progress”.

They should be frustrated; it has been almost two years since city residents approved the park and ground still hasn’t been broken on its property. It’s starting to look like the CMP won’t ever be built.

For one thing, the Community Maritime Park’s funding scheme is probably unconstitutional until county residents are given the chance to vote on it. The Florida Supreme Court’s decision has been appealed, but the court could choose to not reconsider the issue.

At last night’s meeting, City Manager Tom Bonfield told City Council members that, "their decision could stand...we might never hear from them again".

This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the city was considering other funding sources, but they’re not. I've confirmed this with Pensacola City Councilman Sam Hall. Rick Outzen has also been writing in is blog about the city’s failure to look into alternative funding sources for the CMP.

The city and the Community Maritime Park Associates need to start looking for alternative funding sources. If they don’t, the CMP plan might never come to fruition.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Should the Escambia County School District Publicize Employees’ Salaries?

Yesterday, The PNJ published an opinion piece by Escambia County School Board Representative Jeff Bergosh, in which he recommends deep budget cuts for the school district.

In order to achieve these cuts, Bergosh thinks the school board should consider cutting top jobs at the administrative level. This would include the employees that work directly with Superintendent Jim Paul.

Bergosh suggests the public should have some input on which jobs are cut. To do this, he thinks employees’ salaries should be posted on the school district’s website.

Bergosh’s reasoning is: “Transparency is the key, and if we are not top heavy, showing this list of positions, salaries, travel and benefits may alleviate the public's concerns. Not being forthcoming with this information will do the opposite.”

My inner-cynic thinks Bergosh just wants to use the public outcry about high salaries as political cover for the school board to enact the budget cuts at the top-levels of the school district’s administration. Does the public really need to know what these people are making in order for the school board to make cuts? Shouldn’t this be their job?

Plus, what does the public know about staffing a school district? Do we know the exact number of employees that are needed to keep the school district running? Do we know how much their employees should make? I sure don’t.

Divulging the salaries of all school district employees seems a little intrusive to me; they’re not elected officials. Why should the public have the right to know how much they make?

Let’s leave the salary debate to the school board.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

How Does the City Council Feel About the Osceola Golf Course?

The PNJ polled the members of the Pensacola City Council to gauge their feelings about the future of Osceola Golf Course. Nine of the city’s ten council members responded to the poll. Jewel Cannada-Wynn was the only member who didn’t respond.

Of the members polled, a majority favored spending more money to re-develop the golf course in an effort to attract new golfers.

Although, the majority is rather thin; five favor re-development and four want to sell the course or give it to the county. If Canada-Wynn doesn’t favor re-development, then the City Council would be split on what to do with the golf course.

I think the City Council will remain dead-locked on this issue. The city will maintain its current funding level for the golf course, and it will continue to lose money. The status quo will be maintained.

Chris’ Corner 05 04 08: Mexican Kick Ball Party in DC’s Chinatown


Last night, my girlfriend and I went to our mid-season kick ball party by the Verizon Center in downtown Washington D.C. (even though we’ve only been to one game this season). Life seems to have gotten in the way of going to kick ball games.

I wish I could attend more of our games. I made a lot of them during the first two seasons I played. First season was played on the National Mall; the second was held at the downtown YMCA. After games, everyone goes to an assigned bar and plays drinking games. I think most players want to relive their college days; I sure do.

The party had a Mexican theme that I assume was planned to coincide with the Cinco de Mayo holiday. The party consisted of 20-somethings getting buzzed on light beer. Even though I am a 20-something, I can’t be around this crowd for too long. You don’t get into the most enlightening conversations at these parties.

Let’s just say my girlfriend and I felt good after the party; we wore our sombreros to a Chinese restaurant near to bar we were at. Jessica and I had another beer at the restaurant as we waited for our Chinese food that we’d ordered to-go.

At the restaurant, we had a Curb Your Enthusiasm moment when my girlfriend and I debated going over to a table where a guy from our team was eating by himself. We had talked to him before, but we didn’t really know him too well.

Should we talk to him? Should we leave him alone? Some people like to eat in solace, but then again, maybe he's lonely. We decided to not bother him. Although, we did get to have a friendly exchange as he left the restaurant before we did.

After leaving the restaurant, we did get a few funny looks from people as we rode the Metro back home; a few smiled. This morning, we decided to continue our Cinco de Mayo celebration when we went to the grocery store to get breakfast. Let me tell you; it seems sillier to wear a sombrero in public when you haven’t been drinking.

Ole!

The County Should Help Subsidize the Osceola Golf Course

In today’s PNJ, Jamie Page writes about the financial woes of Osceola Golf Course. The golf course’s money problems are particularly burdensome for the city; they subsidize the publicly-owned course. In the past 7 ½ years, the city has spent $3.1 million on Osceola, and it’s not even turning a profit. That’s out of control!

The city should lower their current level of spending on the golf course. I’m not saying the city should stop spending money on it; they should just spend less.

This means the city shouldn’t expand the course like some at City Hall are pushing to do. It would be foolish to try and lure more golfers to a course that will never be able to compete with the privately-owned courses in the area.

I understand that many rely on city subsidies to enjoy the course, but this spending has become too burdensome. The city can’t be the only government that’s spending money on a golf course that's losing money; it’s time for the county to pony-up the money to keep it afloat.

The county should pay at least half of what the city is currently spending on the golf course. That’s the only fair choice; the course sits within the county’s property. Plus, the PNJ says “an estimated 70 percent of Osceola’s players are not city residents”.

The city is paying for a service that's mostly used by county residents; it's time for the county to start paying their fair-share.

If the county doesn’t pay their fair-share, the city should sell the golf course to the highest bidder. The city shouldn’t spend another penny on Osceola Golf Course if the county isn’t willing to help them out. The city has no choice.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Congressional Candidate Joe Roberts Changes Party - Again

Joe's latest party change really baffles me. Why did he change his party again? He was a Democrat, then he decided to have no party affiliation, and now he's a Republican.

By doing so, he basically disqualified himself from running for Congress in this election cycle. If he would have done some research, he would have found out that he had no time to qualify. Roberts changed party afilliation the day before the deadline to qualify for the Congressional race. Didn't he do his homework before changing his party affiliation to Republican?

I want to give Roberts some credit as just being a really passionate candidate, but I'm starting to think the guy might have a few loose screws in his head.

Although - I do have respect for Roberts; he’s standing up for what he believes in. Don't give up the dream Joe! Having new voices in our electoral process is good for our democracy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Is the Community Maritime Park Plan Too Ambitious?

To show how slowly Pensacola has been moving on our own multi-use stadium, Rick Outzen has been blogging about the completion of the new baseball stadium in Springdale, AR. The city approved their stadium six weeks before we approved ours; last month, their baseball team moved into it.

Meanwhile, ground hasn’t even been broken on the CMP property. Heck – the city hasn’t even cleaned-up the property in preparation for the ground-breaking. The development of the Community Maritime Park – where the multi-use stadium will be located – is moving at a snail’s pace. Is this because the CMP plan is too ambitious?

Today, Rick Outzen writes in Rick’s Blog about his radio interview yesterday with Springdale Mayor Jerre Van Hoose. The mayor told IN Your Head Radio that the town planned to develop around the ballpark after its opening. Outzen writes, “Springdale didn’t wait for the perfect master plan for the area around the ballpark. Only now have they started working developing the acreage around the park.”

Pensacola is going to construct several facilities on the CMP property at the same time. Along with the multi-use stadium, the CMP plans to build a museum, conference center and mixed-use development. Is this too much to build at one time?

Due to the ambitious nature of the plan, maybe the city should focus on building one piece of the CMP, and not the whole thing. The multi-use stadium wouldn’t even need to be the first thing built.

It’s worth considering.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pensacola Pastor/Radio Host Wins Third Party’s Presidential Nomination

Chuck Baldwin, the pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church is now the Constitution Party’s nominee for President of the United States. The party’s website says Baldwin beat out, “eight prospective nominees, including former U.N. Ambassador and Asst. Secretary of State in the Reagan administration, Dr. Alan Keyes”.

Baldwin was the Constitution Party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2004.

His views could be compared to Ron Paul’s libertarian-leaning brand of conservatism. The pastor is against abortion and the war in Iraq. He’d also like to abolish the IRS and Federal Reserve. Like Paul, Baldwin believes the Constitution should guide government when they make policy decisions.

If he wins the presidency, Baldwin pledges to “cultivate a climate in D.C. which reins in government and reminds those in power they are bound by limits set in place by our Constitution”.

Baldwin’s rhetoric sounds just like Paul’s. When he accepted his nomination, Baldwin said, “Dissatisfied Americans have come to view political insiders as carriers of big government disease”.

Maybe Baldwin will be able to get his message out there by catching fire on the Internet like Paul has done during his run for the White House.

Tour of IP Plant Would Be Interesting

I wish I could attend to the tour of Cantonment’s International Paper Plant that the company will be conducting on May 8th at 5 p.m.

I love learning about how things are made. Have you ever watched the television show How It’s Made on The Discovery Channel? I love that program.

On the tour, the PNJ says you'll be able to find out how the plant makes materials for "baby diapers, feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products". Come on - don't tell me that wouldn't be interesting.

I recently toured the Bureau of Engraving and Printing facility in Washington, D.C. and it was a fascinating experience. It was really neat to see how America's paper money is made.

Is there anyone out there who shares my fondness for the manufacturing process? Does anyone plan on attending the tour?

Is it Time to Consider Natural Gas Drilling in Area Waters?

Klaus Gorbandt of Gulf Breeze recently wrote a viewpoint in the PNJ that advocates for natural gas drilling in the waters off our coastline. The geologist thinks there’s an impending energy crisis in America and we need to consider drilling in areas that have been deemed untouchable by our area’s environmental community.

Gorbandt writes, “Considering that natural gas prices, and consequentially home utility costs, are going through the roof, it seems the time has come to immediately and selectively lift the restrictions in the national interest.”

What do you think; should we start drilling for natural gas in the waters off the northwest Florida coastline?

I’m still ambivalent, but I know one thing; Americans won’t let environmental concerns trump economic concerns forever. If our energy situation gets too bad, we will allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Recommended Reading for the City and CMPA

In light of the news that Pelican's Park at the CMP will be delayed even longer because the master developer candidates need more time to prepare their requests for proposals.

I'm beginning to think the city and CMPA need some help with constructing Pelican's Park. I'm not an expert in stadium construction so I got them some help from academia. Enjoy!

The Economics and Politics of Sports Facilities

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why Do Some of Us Bad Talk America's Power and Wealth?

I don’t get it.

As an American, I can really appreciate the power we hold. There hasn’t been another society in history that has allowed more people to reach the heights of power. It is my belief that: Power is being distributed throughout our country. In our society, power is no longer centralized in one place like it has been in the past; Power has been spread throughout by the leveling power of capitalism.

Power equals wealth and no other nation in the history of the world have enjoyed the opulence and privilege that we all have. We can get anything at our beckon call; at the click of a button, every consumer good imaginable can be at our door. Everything from: Pizza, televisions, sex toys and Viagra can be delivered to your door in one day.

We have created a society in which some Americans could actually never leave their house for the rest of their lives, and survive. It could happen.

Some shy away from taking pleasure in this, but I don’t. I think overall, our way of life is improving the lot of the world. Yes - some are at a disadvantage, but on a whole, more people are doing better than they’ve ever done throughout history.

I don’t have a quote to back that up; challenge it if you’d like.

We should all take pleasure and pride in our way of life. Embrace it; you’ve earned those privileges. We work hard; we play hard. Like Shuck and Wilson say in Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation: We “may be self-absorbed, but who isn’t?”

We are the envy of the world; we shouldn’t feel bad about it. Americans shouldn’t feel bad about our power and wealth because I don’t think we use it in a way that puts people at a disadvantage. Because our country doesn’t put people at a disadvantage, we don’t have to feel bad about our way of life.

Do you think our power and wealth puts people at a disadvantage?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Did Party-Throwers Have Permit to be in Parking Lot?

In today's story, the PNJ doesn't go into much detail when they talk about why "a crowd of up to a thousand young people" showed up in the parking lot near the gate to Fort Pickens Park.

It seems as though there was going to be a hip-hop concert/party in the parking lot. The PNJ said: "Marquel Kelson, 31, a rap artist with the local group The Tanyards, said he and several other performers went to the beach about 9 a.m. Saturday to set up for a party that was to start at 2 p.m. and end at 7 p.m. But he said deputies arrived at 5 p.m. and told them to leave."

The PNJ doesn't confirm if The Tanyards had a permit to have a concert/party in the parking lot. If they didn't, defending the actions of the ESCO is going to get a whole lot easier.

All of the available evidence seems to put them in the clear.

Counties Address Property Rights on Santa Rosa Island

The Pensacola Beach Blog has great coverage of the Santa Rosa Island property rights issue that will be addressed today during a special joint meeting between Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.

Let's hope some progress is made at the meeting; it's simply unfair to double-tax the residents of Santa Rosa Island.

Slowly Sifting Through Beach Brawl Information

I'm slowly getting caught up on the incident that took place on Saturday at Pensacola Beach; there's coverage all over the place.

The PNJ, Rick's Blog and the Pensacola Beach Blog all have coverage of the arrests that followed the near-riot on Pensacola Beach. There's even Youtube videos of the event.

After reviewing the videos, it looks like the ECSO was justified in their actions. The crowd was getting out-of-control and deputies arrested the troublemakers.

I'm going to review more of this information and later today, I hope to have some in-depth analysis of the incident.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Chris' Corner 04 28 08

Getting back into groove at work after a much needed vacation in Pensacola.

I'll be living the bachelor life for the next three days; my girlfriend is going on a business trip to Philadelphia tomorrow and she'll be back on Thursday.

In the morning, I have to drop her off at the train station in DC.

What shall I do with the time?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don’t We Kind of Need Earmarks?

Saturday, The Washington Post published a piece by three mayors that defends the use of Congress’s spending on earmarks. They argue that earmarks buy important things that communities need in order to thrive and stay safe.

They do have a point; in order to stay prosperous, communities need Congress to spend money on things like roads, social services and police. Whether we like it or not, we must spend money on these things. Some government at the local, state or federal level would have to spend money on these needs.

But, do we need to take care of this spending at the federal level?

Couldn’t this spending take place at the local level? We could, but don’t you think there would be a disparity between municipalities all across America. Cities with high property values would flourish and cities in urban areas would flounder.

If earmark spending was transferred to the local level, there’d be an even bigger inequality between the rich and poor in America. We pretty much need earmark spending to take place the federal level.

Won’t don’t need to kill earmark spending; we just need to re-think the way in which we spend this money.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chris' Corner: 04 26 08

I took care of some major spring cleaning today. It was about time; the cleaning was really needed.

If only I could just get the yard in order.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is the City Buying Scenic Highway Residents a View of Escambia Bay?

The PNJ has an interesting piece in today's paper that talks about the "past, present and future" of Scenic Highway.

One part of the story grabbed my attention. It says: "Jean Wallace, vice president of the Scenic Highway Foundation, would like to see public purchase or private donations over the next 10 years to expand and enhance the highway’s scenic nature."

The story adds: "A crucial victory, Wallace said, was the City of Pensacola’s purchase of the former Baars property south of Bay Bluffs Park about eight years ago. The undeveloped stretch of land just south of Bay Bluffs Park gives drivers and area residents...an unobstructed view across Escambia Bay."

What? Why is the city buying Ms. Wallace a view of the bay? I'm sure she's a lovely woman, but I don't think we should use taxpayer money to improve her property value.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chris' Corner: 04 24 08

I've been able to enjoy a real string of good weather in the past seven days. In the DC metro area and Pensacola, it has been gorgeous and sunny. I love the weather this time of year.

I slept with my windows open last night and had the best sleep I've had in weeks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Three Questions with Councilman Hall

I sat down with Pensacola City Councilman Sam Hall on Monday and discussed some of Pensacola's pressing issues. We talked about the future of Pensacola's port, the Community Maritime Park and the city's social service spending.

First of all, Hall supports a dual-role for the port's property; shipping and transportation should still take place on it, but these activities should be scaled back. He thinks the tourism industry should have a bigger influence on the property.

His reasoning: The city is already using CRA funds to develop tourism downtown and Pensacola should start focusing on that mission.

Secondly, I asked Hall if he thinks the city is exploring alternative funding sources for the CMP.

Just a little background: In the coming months, the Florida Supreme Court will rule on the Strand case. The court could decide that until county residents vote on the CMP, its funding scheme is unconstitutional.

The astonishing thing is: Hall thinks the city isn't exploring other funding sources for the CMP. This is amazing; the Strand case could sideline the planned construction of the CMP. The city needs to start exploring a plan B for funding it.

Lastly, Hall had an interesting line of reasoning when he talked about funding the social services in Pensacola. He thinks we shouldn't dramatically decrease the funding that goes to them. Hall said the city would end up paying more in the long-run if they cut spending to social services.

I'd need to read some research on this before I agree with Hall. Although, it could be true; it does make sense.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chris' Corner: 04 22 08

Today, I flew back to DC today from Pensacola; I just got done spending a four day vacation in the area.

I hit the Oar House and Intermissions with some friends on Friday night. Saturday, I rocked the Widespread Panic show at The Wharf in Orange Beach, AL. Sunday, I was at my brother's baby shower hosted by my parents. Yesterday, I met with Sam Hall at Panera Bread to discuss local politics. Last night, it was dinner with friends at Monterrey's and then drinks at Coyote's.

Flights were uneventful; both planes I took were half full. On the flight from Atlanta to DC, I laid out on all three seats and took a siesta.

Monday, April 21, 2008

City Hall Should Cut Spending on Social Services

This past January, Florida voters approved Amendment 1 to cut off the unessential funding that has been going to local governments in the last few years. Florida's cities and counties will need to drastically cut back on their spending.

Pensacola's already cash-strapped government is being forced to cut millions of dollars from their budget. Due to the passage of Amendment 1, the city now has less money to spend.

Pensacola's leaders have been forced to cut spending on services that we all receive from the city; some are vital. Police, Parks and Recreation, Community Redevelopment and Public Works Departments are all facing budget cuts.

Pensacola's Fire Department is really feeling the pinch of budget cuts. Fire Chief Frank Edwards tried to keep his chin up at Monday's budget meeting, but he did not seem confident that the Fire Department would still be able to provide the same level of service that they have provided in the past.

Commenting on the Fire Department's budget cuts, Chief Edwards said, "There may be times when we're impacted by this". Could the city's new budget cuts endanger the lives of firemen?

The local firemen's union thinks they will put them in danger. Bob Sumner, a representative from Firefighters Local 707 thinks the Fire Department has faced too many budget cuts in the past, and firefighters have already been put in harm's way. Sumner contends that previous budget cuts led to a fireman's death in 2000. "We killed a fireman", exclaimed Sumner at Monday's budget meeting. Sumner says deeper budget cuts will intensify the danger to firemen.

If budget cuts are endangering the lives of firemen, then it's time to curb all spending until we know that firefighters are safe. It's unfortunate, but charity must end if it threatens to put city employees at risk. City Hall needs to cut back on social service spending.

This spending was not touched during the recent budget cuts. Not cutting back on social service spending is a problem when it puts firemen at harm, and threatens the service level in essential departments.

Not only are firefighters in danger, the citizens of Pensacola could be in danger of receiving poor service if their homes catch on fire. A city can't afford to be charitable if they don't have enough money to keep their citizens safe.

I know it may seem heartless to cut spending on social services, but we need to learn how to stomach the idea of spending less on this expense. Firefighters are in danger and essential services are threatened. We have no choice; we have to cut back on social service spending.

We should not worry about the social service agencies; I think the people of Pensacola will make sure they get by after their budgets are cut. The Amendment 1 tax break will allow some of us to give more money to our favorite social service agencies. If some of us cannot give money, I'm sure we would at least be able to volunteer for them.

We should not worry about social service cutbacks; we will all get through them together.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Does the Gulf Islands National Seashore Officially Oppose the Navarre Pass?

The League of Women voters hosted a forum yesterday morning at the IHMC building to weigh the pros and cons of building a pass on Navarre Beach. The environmental community trashed the plan to build it; the Emerald Coastkeepers are even threatening to take legal action if the government approves the pass’s construction.

Biologist Riley Hoggard said the pass would negatively impact the shoreline to the west of the pass’s proposed site. Hoggard said "Immediately down drift, there will be severe erosion. Navarre Beach would be imperiled."

Hoggard is natural resource specialist for the Gulf Island National Seashore. Hoggard said he was not speaking on behalf of the federal agency when he came out against the pass in yesterday’s meeting; he was not officially representing the Gulf Islands National Seashore. But, Hoggard told the PNJ that “the park is on record opposing the pass.”

Is this true? Has the Gulf Islands National Seashore officially opposed the pass in a written statement? I think he should back up his claim with proof that they’re opposed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why I Left the PNJ Forums

I’ve recently stopped going to the PNJ forums and am now using the forums on Gulf Coast Gab.

Here’s why:

  1. The posters on GCG are much more civil than some of the dregs that frequent the PNJ forums. Before going on the PNJ forums, I’d never been berated on any Internet message board. Some of the posters on that site are real cretins, and will personally attack you if they don’t agree with something you say.

    In my experience, the GCG forums give posters a space where you can talk about issues in a constructive manner. I’ve never seen anyone insult another poster on the GCG forums.

  2. The PNJ doesn’t feed their forums with their news stories. This is something they did on their old site, but stopped doing it when they launched their new site. By not feeding their discussion board with their news stories, The PNJ is preventing posters from discussing current events.

    Not only does Gulf Coast Gab feed their forums with PNJ stories, they also feed stories from four other news sources.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Should the City Sell Osceola Golf Course?

In his blog, Mark O’Brien notes that the Osceola Golf Course is receiving dwindling support from the Pensacola City Council. O’Brien writes, “In the past, Ron Townsend and Mike Wiggins…had stood up for the city course. But they sat silent, as did other members present” at Monday’s budget meeting.

Is the city thinking about ridding itself of the golf course?

It could be possible. Since Florida voters passed Amendment 1 in January, city government has been forced to cut unneeded expenses from their budget. In the next two years, the city will spend nearly $300,000 to run a golf course that isn’t even within the city limits. Also, people aren’t using it as much as they did in the past.

What do you think? Should the city sell the Osceola Golf Course?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Charter Review Committee Discusses Speakers and Website

The Charter Review Committee met last night and nothing of real substance was discussed.

Their meetings are still in the planning stage of the charter review process. The CRC talked about the list of expert speakers that will come to future meetings and help them review Pensacola's charter. The CRC members also discussed how they should design and fund their website.

Rick's Blog has a full re-cap of last night's meeting.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Congressman Miller’s Challenger Posts Embarrassing Fundraising Totals

Joe Roberts faces an uphill battle in his effort to unseat Jeff Miller from his spot in the House of Representatives. Roberts only raked in $850 last quarter. However, he did loan himself 11 grand.

Roberts has run against Miller is the last couple of election cycles and he hasn’t done very well.

Mr. Roberts – get in touch with me; I’m serious. I want to help you get some exposure to fundraisers. Let’s get your platform out there to the people of northwest Florida.

How would you do a better job than Jeff Miller if you came to Washington?

Upgrade of Alabama 113 is Great for Area

I’m not going to complain about the fact that the widening of Alabama 113 – Pensacola’s final link in our hurricane evacuation route - will be finished at the end of the hurricane season. I’m just glad that Alabama is doing it and it will be finished this October.

This upgrade is not only important for hurricane evacuees; it’s a good thing for our economy. This upgrade provides a reliable connector to I-65. More goods will able to flow through the area, at a quicker pace.

Escambia County Commissioner Mike Whitehead was quoted in the PNJ as saying, “I think this will open that whole (U.S.) 29 corridor up for economic development”.

Councilman Hall Praises Budget Cuts

In a blog posted today, Sam Hall ruminates about the budget cuts that were enacted earlier this week by the Pensacola City Council.

Hall sums up his post by saying, "Finally, Amendment I is helping us get our priorities in order".

I thoroughly agree with Hall.

Did Army Corps of Engineers have to Dump Sediment in Lake?

Today, the PNJ reports that the Army Corps of Engineers are pumping sediment – that could be laced with contaminants - into a lake near Warrington. The Corps is conducting a dredging project in Bayou Chico and they’re using the lake to dispose of the sediment.

The PNJ contends the sediment could possibly contaminate the lake which is located two miles from the dredging site. State and federal officials refute this claim.

I’m not a scientist and I don’t know if the sediment will pollute the lake, but isn’t there another location to dump the sediment? Does the Corps need to dump it in a body of water? Isn’t there a hole near Bayou Chico where they can dump the sediment? It’s just a thought.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Will City’s New Budget Cuts Affect the Quality of Police Work?

In today’s paper, the PNJ explains how the city’s new budget cuts will affect the police department. Jamie Page says, “The Community Oriented Policing and Tactical Unit have been consolidated, meaning a total of 14 positions instead of 19.”

The paper delves a little deeper into their explanation by saying, “service level reductions to the Police Department will be minimal”. Page mustn’t have asked the police department why the service level reductions will be minimal because there aren’t any quotes to qualify their statement.

At last night’s City Council meeting, Police Chief John Mathis should've explained why the budget cuts won’t affect their police work.

Maybe he didn’t explain himself because a couple of quotes from Rick Outzen’s blog post make it sound like the Police Chief is unsure of how the budget cuts will affect his department. Outzen writes, “Mathis said he can’t say there aren’t going to be any consequences” from the budget cuts, and quoted the Police Chief as saying the consequences will, “be minimal in my opinion”.

How does Mathis know the consequences of the police department budget cuts will be minimal if he‘s unsure that there will be any?

I think at the very least, Mathis should explain why the police department no longer needs the Policing and Tactical Unit. In order to be comfortable with these new budget cuts, the people of Pensacola need to know that they’ll be getting the same level of service after the cuts happen.

Most Area Voters Don’t Know Name of their Congressional Representative in DC

I was saddened when I read this news on Rick’s Blog today.

The College Democrats polled 581 registered voters in Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties, and of those called, only a fifth knew that Jeff Miller was their district’s representative in Congress.

I’m speechless. How can any of us expect things to get done in Washington if most of us don’t even know our district’s congressional representative?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Can City Cut Budget, Without Cutting Services? I'm Skeptical

Pensacola is following the lead of Escambia County and will consolidate some of their services to help pay for the Amendment 1 tax cut that was approved by Florida's voters in January.

Today, City Manager Tom Bonfield proposed a plan that calls for job consolidation in city government. The City Council unanimously approved of it.

Mark O'Brien says city residents will, "get their $340 property tax cut and see no major drop in services". Is this true?

Is this round of cuts really going to cut enough of the city's budget? Does this budget proposal cut enough spending to pay for the Amendment 1's tax cuts? If not, won't the city need to start cutting more services to pay for them? Bonfield's plan seems too good to be true.

I hope the newly formed Pensacola Budget Study Group will thoroughly scrutinize Bonfield's budget proposal.

Who’s Eligible for Prescription Drug Discount Card?

There has been some confusion as to who's eligible to receive the prescription drug discount card that's now being offered by Escambia County. I did a little digging to find out who's eligible to receive it.

I talked to the Escambia County’s Department of Community Services and they said all county residents “with or without insurance” are eligible to receive the prescription drug discount cards, but the catch is: The discount card will only cover medications that aren’t covered by your insurance company.

If you don’t have insurance, the pharmacies that accept the cards will run your name through a computer to make sure you don’t have insurance. After your pharmacy verifies that you don’t have insurance, you’ll then be eligible to receive a discount on all of your prescription medications.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why Did John Ma Kill Himself?

Today, the PNJ writes about Pensacolians who are remembering the life of John Ma. The business owner killed himself in his downtown restaurant on Thursday morning.

The paper shies away from talking about why Ma took his life. Today’s story says, “Friends didn't want to speculate about Ma's death in the immediate aftermath”.

I think we should start talking about why of Ma killed himself. The quicker we talk about the causes, the quicker we can prevent this from happening in the future.

I suspect Ma was stricken with depression and it led to his suicide. The PNJ quotes downtown merchant Bill Dollarhide, who said, “He was just very quiet and sad.”

Mental illness is a common cause of suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website says, “Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.”

Does anyone know if Ma had a history of depressive episodes?

The Market Should Help Determine the Future of Port

Recently, I’ve been blogging about the Port of Pensacola’s future. In light of recent news that the port isn’t making any money, I thought it’d be a good idea for the city to reevaluate how they’re using the port property.

There are two schools of thought when people talk about the port’s future. Some in the city want to start developing the port property for tourism, and move away from shipping/storage operations. Others want to bring new tenants to the port, and keep using the property for industrial purposes.

Both ideas are feasible, but I think we need to look at these options through the lens of a business. In essence, the port is a business that’s run by the city. We should plot a future for the port property that will make the city as much money as possible.

The city should study the future prospects for the tourism and shipping industries in Pensacola. Can Pensacola’s port compete with the larger ports in the area? Are developers even interested in using the port property for tourism?

After the city studies the future of these industries in our area, we should decide which of the two will be most profitable for the port property.

Maybe we’ll see that the port property can profit from both the shipping and tourism industries. If so, we should plot a future for the port property that will give the industries the opportunity to co-exist and thrive.

The Skinny on Escambia County’s New Prescription Drug Discount Cards

Yesterday, I blogged about the new prescription drug discount cards that are now available in Escambia County; I jumped to conclusions and cynically assumed the county had to pay for the cards. I was wrong.

I assumed that in order to being these cards to Escambia County, money must’ve exchanged hands. This isn't the case. No one had to spend any money to bring these cards to Escambia County.

Escambia County is a member of the National Association of Counties which has partnered with CVS/Caremark to get the cards in the hands of Americans who are having trouble with paying for their drugs. CVS/Caremark used their buying power, negotiated with drug companies and got a discount on some prescription drugs.

It’s simply good PR for CVS/Caremark to offer these drug discounts to their customers. Plus, the cards can only be used at CVS/Caremark pharmacies, which will drive more customers to their stores.

I assume that CVS/Caremark is using the NACO because they’re able to easily distribute the cards throughout Americas’ counties. The NACO has now brought these cards to Escambia County.

Everyone is eligible to receive the cards; you don’t even need to be poor to get one. They’re real easy to get; you don’t even need to sign up or enroll. Just go to the first floor of Escambia County’s government complex and pick one up.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Can Escambia County Profit from Saufley Field?

Mike Whitehead and Mark O’Brien think it’s a good idea to spruce up Saufley Road in an effort to make Saufley Field “as inviting as it can be”. In the next couple of years, the Navy “is looking for a developer to handle much of the property there”.

Whitehead is already lobbying the state in an effort to the secure the funds that will be needed to revamp Saufley Road. The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce thinks Saufley Field will be “used by a defense contractor”.

Is it a good idea to redevelop Saufley Field? Are defense contractors even interested in coming to Saufley Field? Before the County uses state money to revamp Saufley Road, I think they should gauge defense contractor’s level of interest in coming to Saufley Field.

How Much Did Escambia County Pay for Prescription Drug Discount Cards?

On Thursday, Escambia County announced that citizens – who have trouble paying for their prescriptions drugs – will now have the chance to get a discount card through them. The prescription drug discount cards will help our poorer citizens save up to 20 percent on their next prescription drug purchase at their local pharmacy.

Escambia County purchased the cards through the National Association of Counties. Our county is one of 39 counties that are offering the discount cards.

This is great for poorer citizens that are having trouble with paying for prescription drugs, but the National Association of Counties doesn’t just hand these cards out to counties for free; they cost money.

Escambia County – how much did you pay for these cards?

Friday, April 11, 2008

When Pensacola Photo-ops Go Bad

The PNJ prevents me from posting their pictures on my blog, so I won’t display a picture of ECUA’s ground-breaking for their new waste water treatment plant.

I welcome the news of the plant moving, but it’s a little odd because the ground-breaking took place on the site of the old plant that will be shut down when the new one is opened.

The big-wigs of local government showed up to take credit for moving the plant. In the PNJ pictures, you can just see the pols patting themselves on their backs for the accomplishment of moving the plant.

Why is the CMPA Obsessed with Inclusion?

Inclusion fever has struck the Community Maritime Park Associates. In order to include more minorities on their board, the CMPA would like to expand their number of trustees to fifteen. The mission of the CMPA has been side-tracked by its new found obsession.

During today’s CMPA meeting, the trustees elected an African-American to replace Hugh King Jr. who was ousted after copping to a drug charge. It was the intention of the board to replace King with another African-American.

After including the African-American community in the CMPA, some trustees voiced their opinion that there weren’t enough minorities on the board. Juanita Scott told others, “Minority doesn’t just mean African-American or female”

That statement made me throw-up in my mouth a little bit. Where does the inclusion end?

I don’t see any homosexual midgets on the board. Where is their voice?

If the CMPA wants to include all minorities, they’ll have to include this group. The inclusion will never end if you start trying to include all minorities on the board.

The CMPA should just pick trustees with the best experience.

Does the City Even Talk to FDOT?

Last year, when clay used in the expansion of I-110 was eroded into Pensacola Bay, we all knew it was FDOT’s fault. But when the erosion was happening, the city seemed unwilling to get any answers as to why the clay couldn’t be contained. It was almost as if the city wasn’t even talking to FDOT.

I think that trend is continuing.

At last night’s city council meeting, Councilman Nobles talked about the slow progress of FDOT’s road repairs on Bayfront Parkway. Other Councilmen agreed with Nobles.

Instead of talking to each other, shouldn’t our leaders talk to FDOT and try to figure out why the repairs are taking so long?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Suicide on Palafox is Tragic

This Pensacola man shot himself in the head this morning after he locked himself in a closet. It all happened in his resturant, just after it he'd opened up for business.

I didn't know the man, but I know he was living the American dream; he had it all.

John Ma was a successful restaurateur that enjoyed fishing and seemed to have many friends in the area.

Maybe we'll find out he had money troubles or his marriage was going bad, but it still doesn't deny the fact that this was simply a tragedy. His death was uncalled for.

Did anyone know Ma, and want to talk about him?

It’s Time to Map-out the Port’s Future

In July, the lease of a port tenant will come up for renewal. This gives Pensacola’s citizens the perfect opportunity to decide what they’d like to do with the port property.

The tenant is Halcorp which stores liquid asphalt on the northeastern portion of the port’s property. Some in Pensacola have complained about the eyesores and odors in this area of the port; some don’t care about the sights and smells as long as the port makes money.

With the possible renewal of Halcorp’s lease, this is the prefect time to map out the port’s future.

We could decide against renewing Halcorp’s lease and start attracting downtown friendly ventures to the northern portion of the port property. This would remove the unsightly blemishes on our downtown landscape. The port’s management is interested in doing this.

They’re interested, but port management is also negotiating with Halcorp in an effort to get them to renew their lease. We could choose to maintain the ports industrial features, renew the lease and secure a long-term revenue source from a loyal tenant.

Now is the time for you to weigh-in on this issue and let your local elected officials know what you would like them to do with the port property. Don’t let port management dictate what will happen with the property. Our window of opportunity has arrived.

Should CMPA Give Extra Consideration to African-Americans During Effort to Replace King?

When the CMPA picked nominees to replace Hugh King Jr. on their board of trustees, they intentionally gave extra consideration to African-Americans. The PNJ says “members of the black community have asked that he be replaced by another black resident.”

Five of the six nominees are African-American; the other nominee is a Hispanic female. Tomorrow, the CMPA will pick one of these candidates to replace King.

Is this right? Should the CMPA give extra consideration to African-Americans during their effort to replace King? They could be excluding a candidate that’s more qualified than any of the other nominees. It’s just a thought; what do you think?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

“Government is Not the Answer”, but They’re Also Not the Problem

John Roberts recently threw up a major league rant on Panhandle Politico. The piece rails on government's current spending habits. In his not-so subtle attack on the spending by the American government, Roberts concludes that they’re currently spending way too much and it’s repulsive. He says government should get out of his way and stop taxing him so that he can make as much money as possible.

Is the government really stifling capitalist growth in America? Who says we spend too much?

For one thing, people involved in private enterprise need the government to keep the capitalism train a-rollin’. Without the government, the capital holders wouldn't be able to get more of it. There's a lot of government spending that’s very important and most of us wouldn’t agree to give it up. The government spends money on very important services that we all need. What are they?

Services like roads, military bases, communications technology, airports, railways and ports are essential. These things keep our economy running smoothly. Without them, capital would go to waste. Capitalists need government, just like government needs capital.

Unfortunately, these services are not cheap and government needs to keep spending more money to keep up with the growth that capitalists create.

The government’s current spending habits are not the problem per se. The problem is they don’t spend it well.

Mike Whitehead’s Campaign Fails to Bring in as Much Money as Challenger

When it comes to raising campaign funds, Mike Whitehead is getting spanked by the candidate challenging him for the commission seat in District 1. Mark O’Brien reports in his blog that since the beginning of 2007, Wilson Robertson has taken in $40,000 more than Whitehead.

Although, in his bid for the Republican nomination, Wilson Robertson is quickly burning through money, and actually has $4,000 less in the bank than Whitehead. There’s still five months until the Republican primary. Spending all of his money could come back to haunt Wilson as the primary election draws near. If I were Wilson, I would start rebuilding my war-chest and spend less on the campaign.

But, if Robertson’s fundraising continues to out-pace Whitehead’s, he wouldn’t have to worry about refunding his campaign coffers. Plus, Mike Whitehead’s funding problems don’t look they’re going to be solved any time soon.

Whitehead received some bad press when he didn’t show up to an anniversary celebration for Myrtle Grove firefighters, and instead went golfing. Whitehead could be a lame duck if his funding problems continue until the primary.

City Contracts and Race-Relations in Pensacola

In an opinion piece published in today’s PNJ, Mark O’Brien is right on the money when he talks about how the city should award contracts to businesses that are performing services for them.

O’Brien states: “Government represents all of the people and therefore should make purchases on the basis of the lowest and best bid, not according to race, geography or hometown favoritism.”

I love this approach to awarding city contracts. It saves them money by awarding contracts to businesses who will perform the job in the most efficient and inexpensive manner. This is what the city should do from now on when they're awarding contracts for work.

With this method, race is never a consideration in the awarding process; it would never show favor or slight any race because the awarding of contracts is not based on the color of a person’s skin.

That being said, no matter the color of the contractor’s skin, we should always be vigilant of this process to make sure we don't see city contracts go to businesses that can’t provide a service efficiently and inexpensively.

You Now Have the Chance to Study Pensacola's Budget

This weekend, I wrote a post about Escambia County’s effort to cut their payroll spending. Due to the city’s budget woes, I concluded that they should consider doing the same thing.

A skeptical reader left a comment on this post saying, “You know what the problem is with this kind of information that is presented to the public? One can not really make an actual assessment of the budget.”

Well, this reader will now get their chance to assess the city’s budget. Pensacola’s Diane Mack is assembling the Pensacola Budget Study Group which will meet independently of the city to examine their budget. You may join the group if you're a Pensacola resident and promise to attend the meetings.

I applaud Mack for taking the initiative to study the city’s budget and assess their financial situation. We need to verify that the city’s claim that they’re experiencing a budget crunch.

Is anyone planning on attending the Pensacola Budget Study Group meetings?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Why is the PNJ Trying to Start a Fight between ACLU and Church-goers?

The PNJ is trying to stir-up trouble between secular and religious groups by fanning the flames of a possible controversy that they think could be igniting in Santa Rosa County. The story’s author insinuates that it’s controversial that a church is trying to use county property for their services.

The story’s first sentence sets the stage for a fight by stating, “A church soon could use the main public parking lot at Navarre Beach for Sunday morning services.” Until the author quotes an ACLU member, the piece is a story about a church trying to find a worship spot after their old one was destroyed by Ivan.

By quoting an ACLU member, the author tried to instigate a fight. But the truth is – there is no controversy here.

No one has a problem with the Navarre Beachside Church using the Navarre Beach parking lot for their services, not even the ACLU. The regional director of the ACLU in Northwest Florida said "(The County) would have to give other religious organizations the same, and I'm sure they would."

You know it’s definitely a non-issue when the ACLU is siding with the religious folks.

The County Commissioners also don’t have a problem with letting the church use the county parking lot. The PNJ story says, “The commission voted unanimously to leave the request on the agenda for Thursday's regular meeting.”

This begs the question: If this story is a non-issue, why did the PNJ even publish it?

Does the Port have a Future in Pensacola?

Yesterday, Rick’s Blog reported that “the Port of Pensacola’s revenue was down 41 percent last year”. This revenue number is not uncommon for the port; it has seen a down-turn in business over the past few years.

So, if the port is not making any money, should the city keep it open?

Commenting on Rick’s post about the loss of port revenue, former UWF Finance Professor C.C. Elebash makes the case for closing the port.

Elebash argues, “The Port of Pensacola has been doomed for 50 years. Starting about 1960, containers have become the preferred vehicle for international shipping. There has been a long-term trend towards bigger ports and bigger ships. Our port is too small to compete.”

He suggests the port should be closed and “converted to non-industrial uses with public access to the waterfront.”

This sounds like an attractive option for a city property that is not making any money. The port’s property could be prime location for hotels, restaurants and condos that would provide the city with an increased tax-base and jobs.

Thankfully, Port Director Clyde Mathis weighed-in on the subject by commenting on Rick’s post. Mathis doesn’t deny that the port is not making money, but he blames the decrease in revenue on the down-turn in the housing market and he sees reasons to be optimistic about the port’s future.

Mathis explains,”We move products that supply the local construction industry and we all know the current state of this industry. We continue to hold down our expenses while this market is down. We are adding some diversification to our operations, the first of which will begin moving in a few weeks. We are also moving forward with the community on alternative use possibilities.”

There might be reasons to be optimistic about the port’s future. It could always attract new tenants once the economy comes back to life. Maybe the port would get more tenents if Pensacola's citizens welcomed them.

Now that both sides have made their case, what do you think? Should the city keep the port open? Should they close it and open it up to private development? I want you to have your say.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Change to the PNJ Forums That I Don’t Like

PNJ - overall, I’m satisfied with the new look of your website, but I think you should make a change to the new forums.

Why don’t you automatically update the forum topics with the stories from the paper?

The old forum would automatically start a new topic in the forums when a story was published on the PNJ website. The topic’s title would be the title of the PNJ story and the comments on that story were automatically added to the forum topic that was created for that story.

Now, comments on stories are not posted in the forums. The comments on stories have been completely separated from the forums. Did your writers not like the criticism they were receiving in comments to their stories?

PNJ – please add story topics to your forum like you did in your old one. If you don’t, I have a feeling that forum posters will start migrating over to Gulfcoastgab.com. They automatically start a forum topic everytime you publish a story.

Should the City Protect Trees on Private Property?

Tomorrow, Pensacola’s Planning Board will hold a public hearing to determine how many of Pensacola’s “heritage trees” will be protected. Right now, the definition of a heritage tree is rather vague and the purpose of tomorrow’s meeting is to define the term.

The city, developers, and environmentalists all agree that heritage trees should be protected, but they disagree on what types of trees should be defined as heritage trees. Naturally, Environmentalists want a definition that will protect more trees. Developers want a definition that won’t protect as many trees as the environmentalists want to protect.

What do you think about all of this? Should property owners be allowed to cut down all of the trees on their property? Should we protect more of our trees for the enjoyment of future generations? I want to hear what you have to say.

Why Will it Take 12-18 Months for CRC to Review City Charter?

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to hear from Mark O'Brien that it will be 12 to 18 months before the Charter Review Committee sends their recommendations to the City Council. After all, this is Pensacola.

But, what is the hold up? I know the charter review process is very important and experts must be brought in to help the CRC craft their recommendations, but do they really need to take over a year to complete this task?

I guess I’m just concerned that if the CRC takes too long to put forth their recommendations for amending the charter, the City Council will be less willing to listen to them. The recent push to amend the charter could lose its momentum.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pelican’s Fans Shouldn’t Worry about Sewer Smell Ruining their Ballpark Experience

In the latest edition of The Independent News, Duwayne Escobedo writes about the progress of projects in our area that are in some phase of the planning or construction process. Two projects on which Escobedo gives updates are the Community Maritime Park and ECUA’s new wastewater treatment plant.

From Escobedo’s updates, it looks like ECUA’s Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant will be closed before the first pitch is thrown at Community Maritime Park. Construction of the new wastewater treatment facility is expected to begin this summer. Meanwhile, the future of the Community Maritime Park - where Pelican’s Park will be located - is in limbo until the Florida Supreme Court decides if its funding scheme is constitutional. There’s no word on when the court will decide.

It’s very important that the Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant is closed before opening day at Pelican Park, because as we all know, the plant is right across the street from where Pelican’s Park will be built.

Could you imagine going to ballgames if the Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant were still operational? What a nightmare that would be. Fans would need gasmasks if the wind was blowing towards the stadium, in the direction from the treatment plant. Pelicans Park would look like a WWI battlefield.

Pelican’s games will be a bigger draw if the Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant is closed before their first pitch is thrown at Pelican’s Park.

Why Does International Paper Want to Move its Wastewater Pipeline?

This week, I wrote about International Paper’s efforts to get the State’s approval to move the location of their wastewater pipeline. If the pipeline’s construction is approved, the location of International Paper’s wastewater dumping site would also change.

International Paper currently disposes of its wastewater in upper Eleven Mile Creek. The new dumping point would be located downstream from the current location at the mouth of Eleven Mile Creek which flows into Perdido Bay. If the new pipeline is built, International Paper’s wastewater dumping site would not be very far from where International Paper is currently disposing of its wastewater. Their wastewater would still be dumped into the same body of water, but in a different location.

If International Paper’s new wastewater dumping site isn’t very far from the current location, why do they want to move it? It’s going to cost them $70 million to upgrade their wastewater disposal system. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

While the citizens of Escambia County are trying to decide if International Paper’s wastewater is safe for the environment, they should also be questioning their motives for moving their pipeline.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

County Trying to Cut Jobs; City Should Do the Same

I applaud Escambia County administrator Bob McLaughlin for making the push to cut county jobs. Escambia County will offer buyouts to some of its employees in a move to cut-down on their payroll spending.

In the past, I have advocated for job cuts at City Hall and offering buyouts to city employees would be the perfect way to cut spending on the city’s payroll. Plus, buyouts are less painful than layoffs.

Pensacola City Manager Tom Bonfield should look into offering buyouts to city employees.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hey McCain Protestors - I Was Wrong, You’re First Amendment Rights Weren’t Violated

Some in the PNJ forums have accused me of being too into myself. I don’t know how they can get that impression from just my writing, but whatever. I think you show true humility when you admit that you’re wrong, and I am.

The protestors that were booted from the McCain rally for refusing to take down their sign did not have their rights violated. Astute PNJ forum poster Goatman, directed me towards some Supreme Court cases that dealt with these types of possible free speech violations.

The cases got me thinking about the difference between freedom of speech on public and private property. I then thought about the situation that took place at Wednesday’s rally and asked myself: Did the rally take place on public or private property?

While the McCain rally was taking place at Hartsell Arena, the space was private property. Sure, Pensacola Junior College is a public institution and the event was free, but the McCain campaign paid to use the gymnasium. The campaign could kick anyone out of the gym if attendees refused to act the way they wanted them to act.

Protesters - even though this was a political rally, you’re first amendment rights weren’t violated.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Puddle of Mudd to Rock Free Concert on NAS Pensacola

Wow - this band has really fallen from grace.

NAS Pensacola and TK 101 have announced a free Puddle of Mudd concert at the naval station. That’s great that our military and the people of Pensacola get to go to a free concert, but this gig is a career low for the pop-rock band. Weren’t these guys rockin’ arenas like six years ago?

The military and the radio station will split 14,000 tickets between the soldiers and people of Pensacola. The show will take place on Thursday, April 24th at 6:30.

Meriwether and Deepfield will open up for the Fred Durst creation on the Portside Lawn of NAS Pensacola.

IP Permit for Pipeline Should be Approved if Effluent Will Be Safe for Environment

International Paper is re-submitting their application for a permit to build a ten-mile long pipeline from their plant in Cantonment to wetlands in Perdido Bay. If built, the pipeline will carry water that has been used to make paper, and dump it into the wetlands.

The PNJ said International Paper applied for the permit to build the pipeline last year, but it was denied by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection because a judge said the “mill had not proved there would be no negative impact on the wetlands where the waste would be discharged”. In International Paper’s new application, the company said they will pay for “a $70 million upgrade to the mill's wastewater treatment system”.

Should the Florida DEP approve the new pipeline application?

They should if the effluent is truly safe for the environment around the dumping site. If the DEP can prove to the residents that live around Perdido Bay, that they will still be able to swim and fish near the effluent dumping point, then the application should be approved.

Did Law Enforcement Officers Violate First Amendment Rights at McCain Rally? Part 2

Picture of Protestor's Sign

Yesterday, I asked everyone if the first amendment rights of protestors were violated at McCain’s PJC rally. Well, I have proof that their rights were violated. I’ve received an email from one of the protestors who corroborated what I reported in yesterday’s post.

The protestors were not disturbing the rally. Also, the PJC police officer that threatened to boot them from the rally was not off-duty. The PJC police officer violated the first amendment rights of the protestors.

In order to speak openly about the incident, the protestors asked that I not divulge their names. The protestors said they went to the rally because they had “the intention of letting people, McCain specifically, know that not all Republicans in Pensacola were blindly following him.”

The protestors said they quietly unfurled their sign at “the very top of the bleachers, so we weren't blocking anyone's view of McCain.

The protestor said about five minutes after the rally started, a local candidate and campaign staffer asked them to stop displaying the sign. The protestors “refused politely”.

After they refused to take down the sign, “A police officer (definitely not off-duty) then confronted us and said "either I take the sign or I take you." After the police officer confronted them, “we decided to not take it any farther and gave her the sign”.

In their email, the protestors talked about their run-in with the same police officer at the last McCain rally in January. “Members of our group, including those I was with, had a confrontation with this same officer last time McCain was at PJC - she seems to have a personal issue with us and our political views.”

After the protestors were forced to stop displaying their sign, they walked outside to discuss the incident. They talked about what happened, decided to go back in, but were denied re-entry. Even though, “other people who didn't speak to us were allowed in”.

This is a very serious incident; The PJC police officer violated the first amendment rights of the protestors and the administration at the college must address this issue. The right to peacefully air your grievances should never be infringed upon, especially on a college campus.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Did Law Enforcement Officers Violate First Amendment Rights at McCain Rally?

I was shocked when I read the PNJ coverage of today’s McCain rally at PJC. The paper said, “Minutes after the event began, a sign that read, "Republicans Against McCain," was confiscated by law enforcement officers from a small group of individuals.”

The PNJ article was short on their details of the incident between the protesters and law enforcement officer, but posters commenting on the story were quick to fill in the details.

YourStar99 wrote, “I was standing right beside the one young man when the police officer came and said something along the lines of "I take the sign or I take you," so he gave it to the officer, and they all walked out.” The poster added, “They hadn't caused any trouble or disturbance besides the sign.”

This account of the incident leads me to believe the law enforcement officer violated the first amendment rights of the protestors. The protestors were quietly protesting McCain’s presence and the law enforcement officer trampled on their rights. They weren’t disturbing the rally by shouting things that would stop it.

Forum poster Goatman tries to make the case that law enforcement officers were allowed to confiscate the protestor’s sign because the campaign rented the PJC facility and the rally was a private event. Goatman might be right if the law enforcement officer was hired by the campaign and off-duty.

But, even if the McCain campaign did rent the arena at PJC and the cop was off-duty, can we still consider the rally private? Today’s McCain event was open to anyone who wanted to attend. The line between public and private is really blurry.

Does anyone know if the law enforcement officer was off-duty? Is there anyone who saw the incident and wants to share what they saw?