Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 17th 2019

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The Buzz 4/2/15

Dead Man Walking On Pensacola Speaks, GOP political strategist Rick Wilson gave his opinions on the various Republican presidential hopefuls for 2016. When asked about the two governors considering a run for the White House—Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey, Wilson had better things to sat about Walker.

“Scott Walker has got a terrific story to tell,” he said. “He’s still got a terrific ability to talk about how he took on everything Big Labor could throw on him in Wisconsin and won the fight. He won a huge ideological and political battle against everything the National Labor Movement and Obama could throw at him and came out on top.”

Wilson said that Walker still has to prove he can raise the money for a national campaign. He said, “He’s got some good people around him. He’s a guy who is learning a little bit how a presidential campaign has to scale up very quickly.”

Wilson is not a fan of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He said, “That guy is dead, but two dumb to lay down and start stinking. This is a campaign that is over before it starts.”

Christie lost credibility last year.  “He’s going to try to mount a comeback, but in most polling right now Chris Christie isn’t even in the single digits; he’s in the rounding area.”

Wilson said that Christie’s campaign money is drying up. “The establishment has walked away from him; they’re terrified of him because he’s got a temperament that they don’t see as presidential anymore. It’s not just a ‘bridge gate’ story, it’s an overall collapse.”

While Christie did do a good job last year as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Wilson doesn’t see the New Jersey as a serious contender.

He said, “ There’s no natural political argument for Chris Christie in a field that is this big and has this many quality candidates.”

Covering Grant Denial The Federal Aviation Authority has denied the city of Pensacola’s request for a $3.5 million AIP grant needed to extend the taxiway at the Pensacola International Airport to accommodate VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering’s aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility.

The FAA denial was  received in January, but Inweekly only recently learned of it through a public request of city emails regarding involving the Federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP).

Inweekly also found out Interim Airport Director Dan Flynn and Interim City Administrator Dick Barker knew six months ago the grant might not be given to the airport.

In an email, dated Sept. 24, 2014, consultant Michael Moroney told Barker and Flynn, “FAA has said to me that we should not count on the $3.5 million from them.”

This revelation came three weeks after Mayor Ashton Hayward held a ceremonial contract signing event with VT-MAE officials, Pensacola City Council and area leaders. The project promised to create 300 jobs.

For nearly two months, the city did little on the grant application, according to the documents released. The city did not start working on the grant until Nov. 12, 2014—a week after the general election. Over the next two months, Flynn, Hayward supporter Dave Penzone, John Daniel of Beggs & Lane law firm, lobbyist Scott Barnhart and others worked to convince the FAA to hand over the $3.5 million. They enlisted the help of Congressman Jeff Miller and Senator Bill Nelson to apply pressure.

On January 9, the city submitted a Pre-Application for the funds arguing that the Airport Improvement Funds were for the construction of the taxiway designed to handle larger aircraft that could not be accommodated elsewhere at the airport. Unfortunately, FAA disagreed.

Flynn received a phone call from Bill Farris, Program Director in FAA’s Orlando district office, on January 22. Farris said the proposed taxiway was not for general use.

Farris later explained his decision to Congressman Miller’s staff. He wrote in an email, “Despite our best efforts, we cannot reach a conclusion that the taxiway serves any purpose other than to support the private, commercial interests of a single Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) operator.”

It was that exclusivity that made the project ineligible for AIP funding.

“Before reaching this conclusion, we reviewed the airport’s planning documents going back to 1999 and cannot find any reference to the proposed taxiway, apron, or hangar,” said Farris. “Moreover, neither the ALP (Airport Layout Plan) or the airport’s Capital Improvement Plan request provided any documentation of a need for additional common use parking in this area.”

Even after receiving word from Farris, the emails showed the city lobbied Congress to get FAA to change its decision through the month of February. Then a few weeks ago, the city turned to the Florida Department of Transportation for help.

Interim Airport Director Dan Flynn wrote Inweekly, “The City of Pensacola has been in contact with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) with respect to funding assistance for the $3.5 million that the Federal Aviation Administration will not provide.”

He said that FDOT has indicated a multi-year approach to providing the funding–a portion of it this year through a State Joint Participation Agreement (grant) this year, and the remainder over the next one to two years with Supplemental Joint Participation Agreements.

Flynn said, “This would work with the overall project timeline. At this time, we are waiting for the issuance of the initial Joint Participation Agreement.”

When asked about a possible match, the airport director said, “At this point FDOT has not referenced the need for a match. Some Joint Participation Agreements require them, some do not.”

He pointed out that the $2.7-million Joint Participation Agreement for the stormwater project was a 100 percent grant.

“The $11 million Joint Participation Agreement that FDOT already has in place for the VT project is being matched by the other sources of funds already committed to the project,” said Flynn. “If a match is required, it would still be covered under the remainder of the other funds already available for the work.”

Olson Assumes Top Post Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward announced late Friday, March 27 that he was promoting Eric Olson, his assistant city administrator, to be his third City Administrator.

Prior to going to work for the city, Olsen was the veterans outreach coordinator for Pensacola Habitat for Humanity after retiring from the Navy.  A 1985 distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Olson began his military career as a Naval Aviator and was later designated a Foreign Area Officer. In that capacity, he specialized in European political-military affairs and strategic planning.

Hayward’s two previous administrators were Bill Reynolds, another military veteran who was fired after a State Attorney’s investigation revealed that he had violated the mayor’s trust, and Colleen Castille, a lobbyist and Secretary of Florida Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Jeb Bush.

Castille resigned in August 2014. The administrator’s duties were divided between Olson, Chief of Staff Tamara Fountain and Chief Financial Officer Dick Barker, who was given the title Interim City Administrator. With the appointment of Olson, Barker returned to his role as Chief Financial Officer.