Monday, March 31, 2008

When Will Construction Begin on Escambia County’s New Wastewater Treatment Facility?

It was announced today that the ECUA Board of Directors will soon break ground on Escambia County’s new wastewater treatment facility. Even though the new plant will be near the Solutia plant on Highway 29, the Board will be breaking-ground near the current downtown location.

The new plant will cost $302 million.

The PNJ didn’t report on when the construction of the plant will begin or end. Hopefully the ECUA Board will announce this news at the ground-breaking on April 11 at 11 a.m.

Why Does Everyone in the PNJ Forums Use Handles?

If we’re all using these forums to have an intelligent conversation, we’d use our real names. I think some of the forum-users like to choose handles so they can hide behind them when they throw around insults.

Why does some users do this? There are some people in these forums that childishly insult local politicians. Some people in forums wouldn’t act this way if everyone knew their names. You people wouldn’t do this in the real world because they would know who you are.

I’m not saying that everyone with a handle is childish, but if we all started using our real names, the children would no longer be able to hide behind their handles.

Will the adults in the forum start using their real names so we can have a civil discussion about local issues?

How Much Did the Jackson’s Acquisition Cost the Great Southern Restaurant Group?

Today, the PNJ reports that the owners of the Fish House and Atlas Oyster House have acquired Jackson’s. Sellers Barry Phillips and Irv Miller will continue to operate the restaurant on Plaza Ferdinand in Downtown Pensacola.

The PNJ article reporting the sale does a good job of describing the presence of the Great Southern Restaurant Group and Jackson’s in Pensacola, but they leave out the details of the transaction. Most importantly, they didn’t say how much money it took to buy Jackson’s.

If any one has any inside information on how much Phillips and Miller made from the sale, I would love to know.

Should The City Cut Jobs or Salaries?

In his blog, Mark O’Brien is touting a plan by a Pensacola citizen to help save jobs and balance the budget. John Fox’s plan that he shared at last Thursday’s City Council meeting, calls for the city to cut salaries of all employees, instead of letting a few workers go.

O’Brien writes, the “plan would cut employees’ salaries enough to offset the $4-$5 million needed to make next year’s budget balance. He added, “The higher the employee’s pay, the bigger the cut.”

If the city is thinking about cutting jobs, they should first look into cutting salaries. But, cutting salaries for all city employees is going to be much harder than cutting a few jobs. It’s much easier to cut jobs because only a few are affected.

The City Council asked the City Manager to look into the idea and see if it’s feasible. Hopefully they will actually do that and report their findings to all of us.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pensacola’s New Funding Scheme: Sell All Their Old Stuff

What do some families do when they need a few extra bucks? They have a yard sale. The city is doing the same thing.
In April, you’ll have the chance to purchase your very own unmarked police cruiser. Other city-owned vehicles and machinery will also be for sale. The city says they have a “surplus” of them.

I’m noticing a growing trend in our city: Pensacola is selling their old stuff to fund future projects.

Part of the proceeds from the city's sale of property on South Palafox will help fund the Charter Review Commission. What is the city planning on spending the yard sale money on?

Call me crazy, but I don’t think this funding scheme will be sustainable in the long-run. Obviously, there won’t be anything more to sell.

If you would like to participate in the auction, get down to the Pensacola City Garage on April 19 at 7:30 a.m. The sales will begin at 9:00.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

If You Think McCain’s Wife is Hot, You Should Check-Out His Daughter

Next Wednesday, the McCain that I care about is making a stop in Pensacola.

Have you seen Meghan McCain? You should check out her campaign blog; I’m a daily reader.

McCain is a curvy, blonde goddess with an Ivey league education. She is following her politician dad around the country as he runs for the presidency. McCain documents her travels with the campaign. Through her blog, Meggan tries to connect with the young voters of America.

It’s good she’s out there stumping for her old man; John will have a hard time connecting with Generation Change.

She will most likely bring her blogging crew to Pensacola when her father visits the PJC campus for a campaign stop. I look forward to reading her blog post about the Pensacola stop.

Is any one going? You should!

I have a favor to ask. If you go, could write “Hello Chris” with a black magic-marker on a piece of paper and take it to the rally? Once you’re there, can you take a picture with Meghan and the sign? That’s right; I want to holla at Megan and I need your help.

If you want to help me out, just get down to Pensacola Junior College’s Lou Ross Center by 3 p.m. on Wednesday. There will be many free tickets; The Lou Ross Center holds 1000 people.

Going to the rally will be easy and you’ll have a great time. You could get a picture with McCain and you’ll be participating in our democratic process. Get down to PJC on Wednesday and get a picture with Meghan!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The City Council Security Issue: Idealism vs. Realism

Councilman Sam Hall left a comment on my blog post where I disagreed with his decision to vote against possibly ramping-up security measures at City Council meetings. Considering the recent shooting at a City Council meeting in Missouri, I thought it would be wise to look into security measures.

If I were on the City Council, I would have voted for the security measures inquiry, but it would have left a sour taste in my mouth. It’s not a good thing when politicians fear their constituents and Mr. Hall agrees with me.

In his comment, Hall wrote, “our response to security concerns should be measured reasonably and balanced with access to the civic process. City residents already feel somewhat alienated.”

Hall is right; a city council meeting where ideas can freely flow and no one fears a reprisal for conveying their thoughts is the most ideal situation for Pensacola, but unfortunately, this isn’t current reality.

When this issue came up for a vote on Monday night, Mr. Hall chose to be idealistic, and the other nine who voted against him took the realistic route. They looked at the reality of the situation and determined that there could be a genuine security concern at City Council meetings.

Mr. Hall isn’t wrong to be idealistic on this issue, but sometimes you need to pepper idealism with realism.

Talking about Letting Government Workers Go, Shouldn’t be Taboo

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Pensacola’s sanitation workers showed up to make the case for keeping them employed with the city. Rick Outzen posted a blog that said, “Employees spoke on behalf of their service and their jobs when solid waste consolidation was discussed as follow-up from the recent joint city-commission meeting.”

I know it’s going to sound very cold, but I hope the City Council was not swayed by the workers’ arguments.

I thoroughly empathize with Pensacola’s sanitation workers, but sometimes, governments need to make cut-backs. This is especially true for Pensacola after Florida voters recently passed Amendment 1 which will cut funding to local governments.

We need to have a serious discussion about trimming the fat in Pensacola’s payroll budget. Politicians and constituents shouldn’t shy away from this discussion because we think it’s too sensitive of a subject.

I’ll start the discussion.

Businesses talk about layoffs all the time. It’s unpleasant, but it’s the natural order of things in the business community. If labor is becoming too expensive for a business, they start letting people go. It should be the same way in government.

Obviously, if City Hall is talking about consolidating sanitation services, it has become too expensive to pay for all of Pensacola’s sanitation workers. This tells us that making jobs cuts in sanitation services is the next logical step for City Hall. It’s becoming too expensive for the city, which means it’s also becoming too expensive for Pensacola’s taxpayers.

After letting them go, the city should direct the workers to state and federal assistance that will help them out until they find a new job. State and federal agencies also have programs that will pay to retrain laid-off workers. The sanitation workers will have opportunities to quickly get back on their feet after they are let go. Don’t worry; they’ll be fine.

It’s time to start talking about letting city workers go because Pensacola’s taxpayers are being burdened by unneeded expenses.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hopkins House Fried Chicken (kind of) Returning to Pensacola

I’m so disappointed. I’ll be out of town and won’t get the chance to chow-down on some Hopkins House fried chicken. Well, it won’t be the same exact chicken that we saw served up in heaping piles on the tables at Hopkins House.

Caterers will be using the Hopkins House fried chicken recipe for a charity event that will take place at the former boarding house on April 26th and 27th. Hopkins House is now a private residence that will be open to the public on those two days to help raise money for the North Hill Preservation Association.

There’s no doubt; this fundraiser will be a great success.

Would any one like to share a story about a great Hopkins House experience?

Walker Free to Run for City Council; PNJ Made Grammar Mistake

On Tuesday, I suggested that Bob J. Walker should reconsider his bid to run for City Council after he made a major grammar gaffe when talking to the PNJ about his candidacy. Walker no longer has to reconsider it because the PNJ misquoted him.

A couple days ago, the paper quoted Walker as saying the current City Council is “too beholding to special interest and they’re not doing what they’re supposed to.”

If Walker really did say beholding, it would have been a peculiar choice of words because it means to perceive with your eyes. Like I did, I’m sure everyone assumed the wanna-be councilman meant to say beholden.

Walker was vindicated in today’s PNJ when the paper reprinted the same story they ran on Tuesday, but they replaced beholding with beholden. The PNJ corrected their mistake, but didn’t note that the story had been corrected.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Security Measures at City Hall Should Be Cost-Effective

Last month's shooting at a city council meeting in Missouri has apparently spooked some on the Pensacola City Council. On Tuesday night, they voted to let the city look into putting metal detectors at the entrance of City Hall, and manning them with security guards.

As I said yesterday, I think it is a good idea to take security measures at City Hall, but it should be done in a way that will be cost-effective. Councilman P.C. Wu put it perfectly when he commented on security at city hall in today’s PNJ. He said, “We have to balance safety versus cost.”

Let’s secure City Hall, but we shouldn't get out of control.

Is the City Council Even Interested in Approving of a “Strong Mayor”?

Barring any shenanigans at tomorrow’s City Council meeting, the Charter Review Committee should be able to move ahead with its mission and put forth a recommendation on how Pensacola’s charter should be amended. Many observers think the CRC will eventually recommend a charter that will let Pensacola have a “strong mayor”.

Mark O’Brien wrote an op-ed in today’s PNJ that says, “Some want a "strong mayor" with more centralized clout than the current system of council members setting policy while a city manager handles day-to-day matters.”

I agree with “some”. Recommending a strong mayor for city hall is what the Charter Review Committee should do. After recommending it, the City Council should vote in it.

But, there’s one question that has not been asked. Is the City Council even interested in having a strong mayor? I don't think so.

The City Council would have to give up their power to the mayor because he or she would have to approve of everything the council passes. Right now, the City Council’s decisions are binding when they vote. This wouldn’t be the case with a strong mayor. All of the city council’s decisions would have to be approved by the mayor's office.

Is any one asking their councilman if they're interested in approving the recommendation of a strong mayor?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pensacola City Council Shouldn’t Short-Change the Charter Review Committee

Last night, the Pensacola City Council begrudgingly approved the Charter Review Committee's $50,000 budget. Some council members approved the CRC budget after griping about Pensacola’s money problems and reminding everyone that the city is enduring a budget-crunch.

Councilman John Jerralds wants a “cap” on the Charter Review Committee’s budget “to not let this thing get out of control.”

Mr. Jerralds – the CRC budget is no where near getting out of control. Rick’s Blog says that most cities give their Charter Review Committees at least $300,000. Some get even more than that.

So, why should we give the CRC more than $50,000?

The CRC has to pay witnesses who are experts on city government to help them write Pensacola’s new charter. It’s pertinent that the experts are paid because the charter review process should guided by people who know how local government should run. That’s the real reason for reviewing the charter.

Pensacola needs a streamlined city government that runs efficiently and meets the needs of its people.

The charter review process is vital to improving Pensacola. If the City Council cares about the future of Pensacola, they should give more money to the Charter Review Committee. It would be worth the expense.

Should Hall Question the Security Concerns of Fellow Council Members?

Last night, some members of the Pensacola City Council talked about wanting to increase the amount of security at their meetings.

Sam Hall has a problem with this. In a blog posted today, Hall facetiously asked readers; “What comes next?” “Do we issue flak jackets to City employees to wear to and from their cars?”

Hall also thinks the Council should worry about the security concerns of other city employees. “Are City Hall employees more deserving than library employees?”

Hall’s post that borders on mockery makes it seem like the members are utterly insane for even talking about the issue.

Apparently, Hall didn’t hear about last month’s City Council shooting that took place in a suburb of St. Louis. I guess he also didn’t hear that other cities in America are already beefing-up security at council meetings.

City Council events are a meeting place of ideas and this environment can sometimes breed conflict. It’s not preposterous to think that someone would try to settle these conflicts with violence. This escalation of violence doesn’t take place in a public library.

Mr. Hall – I love your blog and respect that you’re willing to put yourself out there by posting on it, but I think you should reconsider your stance on this issue.

Does Bad Grammar Disqualify You From Serving on the Pensacola City Council?

If so, I hope Bob Walker is reconsidering his run for a City Council seat.

Commenting on his candidacy, Walker told the PNJ that he thinks the City Council is “too beholding to special interest and they’re not doing what they’re supposed to.”

Perhaps he meant beholden. I hope so because beholding means to perceive with your eyes.

For Walker’s sake, I really hope the PNJ misquoted him.

Walker will face incumbent P.C. Wu in the upcoming election. This is Walker’s second run for the District 1 seat.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Congressman Jeff Miller Wants to Shower District with Earmark Money

The PNJ and Rick's Blog report that Pensacola’s representative in the House, Jeff Miller, has released his request for earmarks that will benefit our district. If the spending is approved, the earmarks would cost American taxpayers $117 million.

Like other Congressmen on Capitol Hill, Miller released a description and cost of all the earmark requests. The list included 30 requests for money that will mostly fund defense spending, road projects and education initiatives in our district.

Personally, I would like to see a major decrease in earmark spending, but let’s be real, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. We like earmarks when they benefit our area. Although, disclosing earmarks before they are voted on will help reform the process. It’s a start.

Tomorrow, I will talk about who the big winners will be if the earmark spending is approved.

Sick of Your Job? Sammy's Gentlemen's Club is Hiring

It was a slow news day in Pensacola because the PNJ ran a story today about Sammy’s search for a new manager. Is this really that hard of a task for the gentlemen’s club? Apparently, it is.

Prospective employees who would love the perks of the job are quick to apply, but these aren’t the candidates the gentlemen’s club wants. Sammy’s is looking for a person with real management experience that knows how to show their guests a good time. Most Sammy’s managers have college degrees and a business background.

If the owners of Sammy’s are reading this blog post, I have a message for you. I appreciate your due diligence in hiring managers to make your gentlemen’s club hospitable, but I don’t go to Sammy’s to look at your managers.

You might be trying to hard.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tourist From Georgia Drowned Off of Pensacola Beach

Photo Courtesy of Barrier Island Girl Blog

You hear about these incidences all the time in our area. A tourist goes into the Gulf of Mexico when there are warnings of rough surf. Expectantly, they get caught up in a rip tide and drown in the waters. It’s normal, but it usually doesn’t happen this early in the year.

Today, a 27 year-old man from Georgia was killed when he drowned off Pensacola Beach. A low-pressure weather system that blew through Northwest Florida is to blame. The weather whipped up the surf in the gulf.

How do local authorities stop the tourists from drowning off Pensacola Beach? Does the island need more warning signs?

I think no matter how many signs the SRIA puts up, the drowning will continue. Some tourists just won’t heed their warnings.