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The Buzz 11/07/13

DIB Shake Up In a small room in the Rhodes Building, over 30 people attended the Nov. 5 meeting of the Downtown Improvement Board. Many were vendors at the Palafox Market.
They were there because they had just learned that Hillary Gilles, the manager of both Palafox Market and Gallery Night, and the DIB office manager, Gloria Heckman, had been terminated last Friday, Nov. 1.

The audience was told that there were no plans to do away with the market, and all five board members–John Peacock, Teri Levin, Corbett Davis, Bernie Merrill, Susan Hatler and Brian Spencer–voiced their support for the popular event.

However, they refused to discuss the terminations. The executive director said that he was rewriting the job descriptions and looking at how to improve workflow in the office.

Executive Director Ron Butlin said, “The DIB, myself and the board, are very excited about the market. It has been a great success and continues to be a success. It continues to grow. The board is very committed to the continuation of the market.”

Eric Schmidt, Gilles’ husband, asked, “Why don’t you explain to the people exactly what was done to Hillary? Instead of just saying she’s no longer with the market.”

Chairman Corbett Davis said, “Right now it’s not something we can discuss. Her leaving is still in negotiation.”

Schmitt said, “But she didn’t leave.”

The chairman recommended people talk with Butlin in private. He promised that her dismissal would be explained at future date.

Deborah Dunlap said that she had sent an email prior to the Palafox Celebration to Butlin, Davis and Mayor Ashton Hayward.

“In that email, I stated to the mayor that, while his heart was in the right place, it was a mistake not to include Hillary,” said Dunlap, who owns several buildings on Palafox Street.

“In the American Planners Association statement as to why we were named one of the top 10 streets in America, two events were mentioned–Palafox Market and Gallery Night. Both of these events have been orchestrated and run, pretty much single-handedly, by Hillary Gilles.”

She said that she had hoped that Hillary and the DIB staff would be recognized and commended for their efforts at today’s meeting. With emotion in her voice, Dunlap said, “You could have knocked me over with a feather when Sandra called me and told me that she was fired. That’s all I want to say.”

A Brand Plan Pensacola’s idgroup, an award-winning branding firm, is opening up voting to the public for their second “Brand on Us” project. “Brand on Us” is an idgroup initiative that provides pro-bono consulting to one area non-profit. The first organization they worked with—the Pensacola Humane Society—received a seven-month branding makeover, involving a range of idgroup’s “Branding from the Core” services valued at over $100,000.

For the 2014 campaign, 13 not-for-profit organizations will compete for an idgroup guided image update. The candidates are: The Epilepsy Society of Northwest Florida, Escambia County School Foundation, Healthy Start, Seastar Aquatics, United Ministries, Health and Hope Clinic, Chain Reaction, Pathways for Change, The Global Corner, Sunday’s Child, Manna Food Bank, Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE), and Re-Entry Alliance of Pensacola (REAP). For more information about the organizations and to vote for the 2014 “Brand on Us” winner, visit svy.mk/1h5DPUd. The voting period ends on Nov. 15.

Up To Code As a result of Florida House Bill 7207, a 2011 state bill aimed at providing county governments more authority in their local planning and development guidelines, a multi-department collaboration is underway to update the 2030 Escambia County Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code (LDC). The code provides the regulations by which officials implement the stated goals the plan describes. At the request of the Board of County Commissioners, county staff have produced a draft plan for 2030 in which ordinances no longer required by the state have been removed.

The Escambia County Planning Board met on Monday, Nov. 4 and discussed upcoming workshops in which the board will evaluate changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The Public Works and Facilities Department in coordination with a consultant Engineering & Planning Resources, has produced a draft, which the planning board will discuss at upcoming workshops. The first workshop will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 19. A public hearing on the changes will be held at a later date. The county staff is accepting written comments regarding the process through Friday, Nov. 8. Written comments should be submitted to Allyson Cain at macain@co.escambia.fl.us.

Cannabis Controversy In April, proponents of medical marijuana rejoiced when State Representative Katie Edwards filed House Bill 1139—also known as the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act—which would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. The bill died in the Health Quality Subcommittee in May, but Edwards has made it clear that she plans to continue advocating for the legalization of marijuana.

Though Edwards’ bill has yet to gain traction, supporters of the medical cannabis cause are attempting to collect enough signatures to have an amendment placed on the 2014 ballot that would seek to achieve the same goal. People United for Medical Marijuana are currently leading the charge, but state officials are taking to the courts to oppose their initiative, citing what they say is the bill’s misleading language. Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin announced on Oct. 30 that they are joining Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in a challenge of the ballot initiative’s validity. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Dec. 5.