Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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The Buzz 9/15/16

Profitable To Serve Since he took office in January 2011, Mayor Ashton Hayward has appointed four city administrators. Bill Reynolds started work in August 2011. Colleen Castille replaced Reynolds in July 2013. From August 2014-March 2015, Dick Barker served as an interim. Then Eric Olson was named city administrator on March 30, 2015.

Reynolds’ contract had several perks. Taxpayers reimbursed him up to $16,000 for moving expenses. He was immediately credited with 500 hours of PTO (value $31,250). He was given a monthly car allowance of $500. If Mayor Hayward terminated his contract without cause, his severance package was 20 weeks (value $50,000). Unfortunately, Reynolds was dismissed for cause and lost his PTO and severance, according to his personnel folder.

Castille, who lived in Tallahassee, was only reimbursed up to $2,500 for moving expenses. She was not credited any PTO hours prior to starting work. Her monthly car allowance was also $500. She had the same severance clause as Reynolds. However, she could only get severance if the mayor terminated her contract after she had served as city administrator for one year.

Castille announced her resignation in mid-August. Dick Barker was immediately made interim administrator, and Eric Olson and Tamara Fountain were promoted to assistant city administrator and chief operations officer respectively. Though she left city hall on Aug. 14, 2014, Mayor Hayward allowed Castille to stay on city payroll until Sept. 3, 2014, so the taxpayers would have to pay her $50,000 severance. While her General Release Agreement has a clause titled “Resignation,” it’s clear Mayor Hayward terminated her contract: “The employment relationship between EMPLOYEE and EMPLOYER is terminated by EMPLOYER effective September 3, 2014.”

Olson got no perks, not even a monthly car allowance. However, he is paid $3,016 more than his predecessors. He has the same severance clause as Reynolds and Castille.

Third Party Changes Presidential historian Alan Manning discussed third-party presidential candidates on News Talk 1370 WCOA’s “Pensacola Speaks” last week.

“Most of the time they’re trying to play the role of a spoiler,” said Manning, who authored the book “Father Lincoln: The Untold Story of Abraham Lincoln and his Boys.”

Ralph Nader and Ross Perot were both spoilers.

He said, “Nader certainly wasn’t trying to elect Jeb Bush (in 2000), but the data would suggest that that’s exactly what happened because Bush won Florida very narrowly, by 537 votes out of almost six million cast.”

Manning said the several thousand votes that Nader received were votes that many believe would have gone to the Democratic candidate, Al Gore.

“Without Nader on the ballot, Gore would have carried Florida and his electoral votes, and that would have been enough to give him the election,” he said. “That’s one case where I think there’s strong evidence that Nader flipped the election.”

Historians have a mixed view of the impact of Perot on the 1992 presidential election, President George H.W. Bush vs. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

“Ross Perot entered as a third party candidate and ended up getting about 19 percent of the popular vote. He did not win any states,” said Manning. “The evidence is a little bit mixed on whether he cost Bush the election. I think most people who examine the data say that Clinton really would have won anyway.”

This year, three alternative candidates are garnering attention, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party, and an independent conservative Evan McMullin. Manning doesn’t give their campaigns much hope of being spoilers because they need to win some electoral votes somewhere.

“I suspect that Gary Johnson will get some votes,” said Manning. “The Libertarian candidate historically over the last 20 years seems to get between 1-5 or 6 percent of the vote. In this election, Johnson might pull that off, but I certainly don’t see him getting any electoral votes.”

Ukraine’s Environmental Challenges Five Ukrainian environmentalists will speak in Pensacola on Thursday, Sept. 15 about environmental challenges in Ukraine.  The group is visiting the United States on a program sponsored by the U.S. Congress and are hosted locally by The Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council.

While in the region, the group will explore environmental conservation practices and will discuss challenges and solutions with their American counterparts.  Ukraine’s environmental problems include nuclear contamination from Chernobyl, polluted water, municipal waste management, and oil-related pollutants.  The group’s activities include volunteering with the Florida of Department of Environmental Protection and touring Perdido Landfill.  Through their community presentation on Thursday, the group hopes to interact with locals and to address questions regarding Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s Environmental Challenges” will take place at the West Florida Library on N. Spring St. in downtown Pensacola on Sept. 15 from 6-7 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public.

Owning PYP Survey FloridaWest CEO Scott Luth got good news from the 2016 Quality of Life survey and found areas for improvement. The survey revealed a slight drop, 5 percent, in how voters feel about economic conditions in Escambia County, but they were less concerned about the security and future of their jobs.

Luth said he believed the more positive attitudes about job security are tied to the drop in the unemployment rate over the past eight years. When the study began in 2008, the unemployment rate was double-digits. Today it hovers around 5 percent.

“The more folks we get out there employed and working, and contributing to the economy, it makes a good difference, and makes people feel better,” Luth told Inweekly.

Since 2008, the majority of voters have rated the county’s success in attracting economic opportunities and job growth as just fair or poor. Eight years, 90 percent of the respondents gave the county a weak rating in those areas. While the percentages dropped to 76 percent in 2016, Luth knows he has an issue.

“The survey shows we need to improve,” he said. “While we’re hearing that companies are rehiring, and looking for folks, the public still feels like there aren’t good opportunities, which means there’s a disconnect.”

Luth said, “Really what we need to do is focus on how we make sure that we’re linking the needs of the companies with the desire of the community wanting to go to work, and find those good opportunities. We’re going to be spending a lot of time this coming year to kind of address that issue.”

State Faces Tighter Budget Lawmakers will have to be a bit more frugal with the money of the hard-working taxpayers of Florida during the 2017 Legislative Session. The latest budget forecast shows the state will have a surplus of only $7.5 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year, not much wiggle room considering the state spends roughly $82 billion each year.

According to the projections, the budget gap could open up in 2018-19 fiscal year to $1.3 billion, followed by $1.8 billion in the 2019-20 budget.

The report is based on several assumptions that the Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers control. It assumes some increases in spending on areas like education and health care while using a three-year average of tax cuts.

Expect to see a lot of horse-trading in next year’s session.