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Monday July 22nd 2019

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The Buzz 12/26/14

Sorry Moms The Community Maritime Park Associates Board rejected at its Dec. 17 meeting a proposal from Quint Studer for two parcels at the maritime park.

Last month, Studer Community Investments responded to a Request for Proposals for parcels at the park. The company was the only one who proposed specific plans for the available sites. SCI asked to develop Parcel 3 and Parcel 9, the two smallest available sites immediately adjacent to the stadium.

The plan for Parcel 3 was to locate a childcare center on the first floor and a sports museum on the second. Parcel 9 would have been a training facility for the Wahoos. SCI agreed to pay lease fees immediately, not waiting for the buildings to be completed.

Proposed annual rent for Parcel 3 would total $20,633. For Parcel 9, SCI proposed annual rent of $31,610. Both parcels would have an automatic 7 percent increase every five years.

Board member John Merting wanted the board to give conceptual approval to the SCI proposal so that he could include it in his negotiations with the Studers on signage and naming rights at the park. The board rejected his motion.

A few board members were vocal in their opposition to SCI building a childcare center at the park. Ann Hill said that daycare facilities don’t generate any taxes.

She said, “We need taxes generated at the park.”

Alexis Bolin agreed. She said that daycare and an exercise facility are not part of a park concept. “It’s not what we need,” she said. “We need retail space and maybe some living space above, or a hotel with retail.”

The CMPA could still accept the SCI proposal in January when it will also hear a presentation from a south Florida company seeking to be the master developer, but the board doesn’t appear to have much of an appetite for the SCI plans.

As they did with the YMCA, the Studers have decided to find other locations for his projects. SCI withdrew its offers for the park parcels.

Sour Grapes Gene In late October, Commissioner Gene Valentino mailed an ethics complaint on his county letterhead to the Florida Ethics Commission.

In the rambling, 15-page complaint against his nemesis, Sheriff David Morgan, Valentino alleged, “Simply stated, he has affected my duties to legislate and govern the 300,000 citizens I represent in Escambia County.”

The commissioner complained that State Attorney Bill Eddins did not prosecute the sheriff over a July 2011 voice message that Valentino said was threatening and intimidating. He asserted that sheriff’s office employees used county equipment while working on county time to produce a commercial for his opponent, Doug Underhill. He wrote that one of his loyal supporters was arrested after putting on a fundraiser for the commissioner.

Valentino said “undercover deputies in unmarked cars” followed him. He claimed the sheriff campaigned for Underhill in uniform and carrying his gun. Valentino wrote, “…there was no option but to vote for my opponent or else.”

He was also upset that the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office refused his request to fly its U.S. flag at half-mast when former County Administrator George Touart died.

The Florida Ethics Commission received the Valentino epistle on Oct. 27. The commission has yet to determine whether the allegations are legally sufficient to warrant an investigation.

Valentino leaked the complaint to the media the week before Christmas.

New Tool Needed for Sentencing Florida Taxwatch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy research group, issued recently its annual recommendations on how Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature can save taxpayers billions of dollars.

“This year, the 2015 Government Efficiency Recommendations report proposes new and innovative ways for the state to save taxpayer dollars and improve efficiency in service delivery,” said John R. Alexander, Chairman of the TaxWatch Center for Government Efficiency Advisory Board. “It is crucial for Florida lawmakers to continue to implement previous recommendations that are still relevant but not yet complete, while also adopting new recommendations to improve taxpayer value.”

Florida TaxWatch made several recommendations regarding the state’s criminal justice system. The Florida Department of Corrections housed 100,942 inmates as of June 30, 2014, and the population is expected to grow 2.5 percent by FY 2018-19. According to the report, the growing corrections population costs taxpayers over $2 billion annually.

The research group recommended the creation of a risk/needs assessment tool for judges to access offense/offender-specific cost and recidivism estimates and develop more appropriate sentencing options best targeted to individual offenders and reduce the overall prison population over time.

“Florida can responsibly reduce the prison population while maintaining public safety by adjusting sentencing restrictions and embracing alternative sentencing methods that reduce recidivism by targeting individual offender risks, needs and characteristics.” -Florida TaxWatch

Two decades after Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, lawmakers have focused on harsher mandatory sentences that locked up more offenders for longer periods. Florida’s imprisonment rate has climbed 31 percent and crime has declined 54 percent since then.

With the implementation of “tough-on-crime” approaches to offenders, beginning with Florida’s 1983 Sentencing Guidelines, judges have faced increasingly narrowing discretion in sentencing options, as well as pressure to put offenders away for less serious crimes and for longer periods of time in situations where they do retain discretion.

TaxWatch sees the need for a tool to guide sentencing toward an effective treatment by assessing criminogenic needs and the other factors such as low self-control, substance abuse, antisocial attitudes and criminal thinking.

“Florida can responsibly reduce the prison population while maintaining public safety by adjusting sentencing restrictions and embracing alternative sentencing methods that reduce recidivism by targeting individual offender risks, needs and characteristics,” said TaxWatch. “Every 1 percent reduction in recidivism represents 400 fewer inmates admitted over a three-year period and savings of approximately $8 million.”

No Recovery for Paychecks Escambia County’s average wages have been flat over the past 10 years. Don’t feel bad—Santa Rosa County is down 3.3 percent for the period from 2004 through 2013.

According a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, a third of all U.S. counties have seen their pay decline when the figures are adjusted for inflation. Florida has faired worse than most of the nation. Three out of four Florida counties suffered wage declines in that period. Only 17 counties reported average wage gains.

In Northwest Florida, Escambia County had a .01 percent decrease, dropping from $38,196 in 2004 to $38,146 last year. Santa Rosa fell from $34,244 to $33,117. Only Okaloosa County had an increase in annual pay, jumping from $38,431 in 2004 to $40,207 in 2013—a 4.6 percent jump.

New Rats Announced The Council on Aging of West Florida recently held a cocktail reception at Jackson’s Steakhouse to thank supporters and announce its 2015 “Rat Pack.”

The brainchild of Dee Dee Davis, “The Rat Pack” reunions have been highly successful fundraisers. The initial “Rat” was attorney Fred Levin. Since then, Quint Studer, Terri Levin, Mike Papantonio, Corbett Davis and others have been honored and roasted. The 2014 honorees were Larry “Moose” Morris, Jack Nobles, Tom Pace, Jr. and Jim Rigsbee.

The Council on Aging of West Florida CEO John Clark announced the 2015 “Rats” are McGuire Martin, Collier Merrill, Charlie Switzer, and County Commissioner Lumon May.