Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday October 21st 2014

Follow the Blog

On Sale:

Archives

The Buzz 5/8/14

UWF Budget Cut The University of West Florida did not fare well in the 2014 Florida Legislative Session. The new performance measurements approved by the lawmakers will cost the university $3.82 million.  The school received low marks for its student retention and six-year graduation rates.

Under the new metrics established by the state Board of Governors and approved by the Florida Legislature, universities scoring at least 26 points keep their base funding, plus a portion of the $200 million in performance money. Three universities scored less than 26 points—Florida Atlantic University, New College and UWF. The schools will have a portion of their base funding withheld while they develop and submit a metric improvement plan during the summer  to the board for approval. Metric progress reports must be submitted in December 2014 and May 2015. If satisfactory progress has been made, half the base funds withheld will be returned following each report.

“Currently, UWF has a score of 21 and $3.82 million will be withheld from our legislative appropriation for 2014/15,” wrote UWF President Judy Bense in a letter to her faculty and staff.  “It is unclear at this time if the Board of Governors will require us to prepare a reduction plan for the $3.82 million. However, UWF will submit our improvement plan this summer and make progress reports in December and May to the BOG. We all must work diligently to improve our metrics, especially our FTIC retention and 6 year graduation rates to get our base funding restored and receive performance funding next year.”

Studer Supports Hatchery Quint Studer sent a letter to the Pensacola City Council on Monday, May 5 in support of the proposed fish hatchery at Bruce Beach. He wanted to clear up his position on the controversial plan to lease the city-owned property to the state for the facility to be built with BP funds.

“This past week I have heard from multiple sources regarding my position on the Fish Hatchery at Bruce Beach,” wrote Studer. “I have heard that I am 100 percent for the hatchery and heard that I am 100% against it.”

He said that he did approve of the hatchery on the proposed site because part of the funds will be used to remediate Bruce Beach. “Even if the hatchery does not work out, the worse-case scenario is that the city has remediated land which is safe and open to the public for enjoyment and learning,” he said. “This is far better than what is in place today.”

Studer wrote that he did not believe that any private investors are interested in the property.  He believed that a Request for Proposal for the Bruce Beach site would not have generated any interest.

“If they existed, they would have come forward by now,” he said. “This the same approach some on the Council and the CMPA took with the Maritime YMCA. Those who opposed the project on Site 8 believed a better option would come along. A year later, that lot is still empty—and it is remediated, site ready property. Lease fees that would have generated $1 million over 10 years and $5 million over the entire lease are gone.”

Studer said that the city needs clear guidelines regarding the process to put vacant government land to more productive use.

“These reforms could range from zoning, to best use, to how the RFP process or selection of firms to advertise and broker such properties should be handled,” he said. “The more transparent and publicly understood the process to dispense excess government property, the greater ability to attract non-government investments in the area, which is important to improve the quality of life for area residents.”

Workshop: Restoring the Gulf—Four Years Later Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director of Earth Ethics, Inc. is coordinating the upcoming “Restoring the Gulf” workshop, which features presentations from scientists, researchers, environmental advocates, and industry leaders involved in the Gulf of Mexico restoration effort. Originally set to take place on April 30 as part of the Power Up Energy Expo on Pensacola Beach, the event was rescheduled due to the flooding and is open to the public, though pre-registration is required. The registration deadline is Wednesday, May 14. Registration will not be available at the door.

Speakers include: Keith Wilkins, Director, Escambia County Community and Environment Department
Jeff C. Helms, Vice President, Sr. Practice Manager, ATKINS, Santa Rosa County Consultant Sal Nodjomian, PE, Executive Vice President, Matrix Design Group. Program Manager, Okaloosa County Consultant Bill Williams, RESTORE Act Consultant, SCG Governmental Affairs Darryl Boudreau, Director Florida County Government Relations, the Nature Conservancy

RESTORING THE GULF—FOUR YEARS LATER
WHEN: 10 a.m.—5 p.m. Friday, May 16 (Register by Wednesday, May 14)
WHERE: Downtown Library, 239 N. Spring St., Meeting Room “B”
COST: $15 for lunch and cost of materials
DETAILS: earthethics.us or e-mail: mary.earthethics@cox.net

GAMBLING GOES BUST Source:  The News Service of Florida A gambling overhaul was a crap shoot from the beginning, and in the end it turned out to be no dice.

Lawmakers spent $400,000 on a gambling analysis by New Jersey-based Spectrum Group, didn’t like the first version the industry group provided and, ultimately, shelved any gambling legislation altogether.

Out-of-state gambling operators have pushed the Legislature for several years to approve “destination resorts” — a term that this spring morphed into “integrated resorts.” The issue split the business community, with the Disney-friendly Florida Chamber of Commerce ardently opposed to the idea while Associated Industries of Florida, after buddying up with Las Vegas Sands, arguing that casino resorts would be an economic and jobs boon to the state.

The Senate Gaming Committee took its show on the road, holding six hearings throughout the state to take testimony from folks on both sides of the issue, before floating a proposal that would have allowed two casino resorts — one each in Broward and Miami-Dade counties — that would have paired hotels, retail and slots.

But Weatherford effectively put any gambling plans on ice early in the session when he laid out two requirements for any legislation to pass his chamber.

Weatherford wanted a constitutional amendment to go on the November ballot that, if approved by voters, would have required a statewide vote on any future gambling expansions.

What finally killed any gambling proposals this session was Weatherford’s almost insurmountable second condition — that Scott complete a deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida before the end of the session.

Scott is negotiating the portion of a 2010 compact that gave the Seminoles the “exclusive” rights to banked card games, including blackjack, at five of its seven facilities in exchange for $1 billion over five years. The card deal expires on Aug. 1, 2015.

Just a week before the session ended, Scott’s envoys — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, the governor’s chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth and general counsel Pete Antonacci — told House and Senate leaders in private meetings that a deal with the tribe was imminent.

Legislators who were part of the huddles said that Scott’s team didn’t reveal any details but were instead “taking the temperature” on the possibility of a special session in mid-May so the Legislature could ratify the compact.

But news leaked out that the Seminoles were willing to pay more than $2.5 billion over seven years to add another casino in Fort Pierce, and that the deal didn’t appear to include any sweeteners for casino operators or the state’s pari-mutuels.

That put the kibosh, at least for now, on a special session.