“I am a conservationist at heart,” he said in a video on his Facebook page. “I think that as a conservative every once in a while you should want to conserve something.”
The freshman congressman touted his record as a state legislator, stating he had voted to secure more than a billion dollars in funding for our Everglades. He believes states do a better job of protecting the environment than the federal agency.
“For six years in the (state) legislature, I had a front row seat to the failures of the federal government in protecting the environment,” said Gaetz. “The question isn’t whether to protect the environment. The question is who is better equipped to actually do that.”
His proposed bill doesn’t abolish the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. The enforcement of those laws would fall to state and local governments. He claimed that local officials in Northwest Florida told them they don’t need the EPA because they manage and enforce a lot of those things locally.
Gaetz said the state’s brownfield program has been more successful in cleaning up environmental catastrophes than the EPA’s Superfund program.
“What’s significant about that is that we’re able to get projects funded and then they ultimately turn into great community assets, public parks, schools, mixed-use areas that improve vibrancy in neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s an example of state programs succeeding where the federal government has in fact not been able to be so successful.”
According to the congressman, the federal agency’s $8 billion budget would be better spent on the local level.
“Imagine all the good we could do if we could downstream those resources to communities that actually really would put their environmental priorities first and foremost and ensure that they are being reflected in a community’s own set of circumstances,” said Gaetz.
He also criticized the EPA for stretching its reach. Gaetz said, “I give an example of one of my constituents who simply went to widen his stock pond for his cattle on a cattle farm and just by virtue of increasing the size of his pond all of a sudden had EPA regulators all over him, all over his property.”
He added, “This truly conforms to the limited government principle that the government that’s closest to people will do the best job for them. I hope that answers some of the questions.”
Race & Reconciliation University of West Florida students Kesley Richardson and K’yone Johnson will talk about the challenges of adult identity formation while simultaneously dealing with the effects of racism. The topic, “Millennials Discuss Forming an Identity in the Face of Racism,” is part of a public series of discussions on racial tensions in Pensacola presented by the UWF Department of Social Work.
The event will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16, at Earl J. Bowden Building, 120 Church St. The students will speak for about 20 minutes each, followed by discussion and questions.
Rawson Lane Closure Debated For the second time since July 2010, Pensacola Christian College asked for Escambia County to close Rawson Lane that borders its east side.
To enhance its student safety and to expand the college, PCC argued the county should close the street that connects Brent Lane and Airport Boulevard used by Norwood and Hancock neighborhood residents and as a shortcut by other drivers.
Escambia County Board of County Commissioners held a public workshop on Feb. 7 at Brentwood Elementary School cafeteria where hundreds of residents reviewed various stations set up to explain the $26,350 traffic study by EPR.
Everyone was asked to fill out a survey for the Escambia County Commission to consider when it decides the issue at a public hearing scheduled for April 6.
Residents displayed strong feelings for and against the road closure. Traffic would be diverted to Palafox Street or to the Interstate-110 exit that runs between Airport and Brent.
Hilda Johnson, an 83-year-old retired elementary teacher, moved into the Norwood neighborhood in 1976 or 40 years ago.
“It’s absurd that this is constantly studied,” she said. “I oppose (closure) because it’s going to cause inconveniences for people in our neighborhood.”
The 55-year-old Randall Whitehead, who grew up on Rawson Lane, also is against the street closing. He uses the road all the time and said closing the road would make it hard to get in and out of his home. Plus, he has another reason.
“I hate PCC, and you can print that, I don’t care,” he said.
But Gary Mitchell, who works for construction consulting company, BE-CI, said the closure of Rawson Lane is needed for public safety reasons and to allow PCC to expand.
“It’s like dodge ball down there,” Mitchell said. “It’s just a monster to get through there.”
County staff said it shared a draft report with the college before posting it online for the public before last Tuesday’s workshop.
County Commissioner Lumon May said PCC getting the study earlier than everyone else “disappointed” him.
“My special interest is the citizens of Escambia County,” May said. “I’ve never voted against the public interest of the citizens.”
Residents who missed the workshop can view the study and traffic research on the Escambia County website. They also can take a survey until March 1 on whether they support or oppose the closure and make a comment.
Future of Triumph The House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast has released a draft of the committee bill that will establish the process for how the BP oil settlement funds ($300M) will be appropriated.
Committee chair Rep. Jay Trumbull (R-Panama City) appeared on “Pensacola Speaks” last week to discuss the draft.
“What we really want to do is to create this process where we get a lot of public input,” he said. “This is not Tallahassee’s money. This is our Northwest Florida money, and so I want to create a process that allows folks the opportunity to come to us with ideas about where they think the money should go and how that process looks.”
Rep. Trumbull said the draft bill sets up a trust fund for the money and establishes a process for final approval of any expenditure to go through the Legislature.
If the bill is passed, the Triumph Gulf Coast board will remain to vet projects.
“But at the end of the day, we have set up a plan to where there are multiple steps to where we’re ensuring that these dollars are spent in the fashion that is the best for all of the Panhandle, not just a select few,” he said.
One concern has been that Northwest Florida may suffer cuts in other state funding because of the BP settlement dollars. Trumbull dispelled that concern.
“I have heard a significant amount of that same concern,” he said.
“The reality is, and I’ve had this conversation with the Speaker in the past, the way funding for a myriad of things, whether it be water projects or DOT’s work plan or the education funding, there is a process set in place that it would be so difficult to unwind that to be able to take some of the Panhandle’s money out, that this just would not happen.”
How soon will we see projects funded with the Triumph dollars?
“One of the proposals says that the existing Triumph Committee is supposed to give the legislative budget committee a spending plan by December 30 of this year,” said Trumbull.
“That doesn’t say that that’s the day it has to be in. That’s just, that’s the date that it’s late if you will. It can happen in May or middle of the summer or something like that. The purpose of this is to make sure that we get the dollars in the hands of the Panhandle as quickly as possible and not have wait another year or even two.”
Blue Wahoos Get All-Star Game In 1962, Pensacola hosted its last all-star game when it showcased the best players from the Class-D Alabama-Florida League at Admiral Mason Ballpark.
This summer – 55 years later – Pensacola will host the Southern League All-Star Game.
Jonathan Griffith, Pensacola Blue Wahoos president, said the all-star game will showcase Pensacola to about 1.1 million fans in the nine other Southern League markets.
“We’re really excited,” Griffith said. “This is one of those things that happens so infrequently that it’s a big deal. It’s another step in the right direction.”
The Wind Creek Casino in Atmore will be the premier sponsor of the All-Star Game that features two days of festivities and will cost about $250,000. Wind Creek has sponsored the Blue Wahoos since its first season in 2012.
Tim Ramer, Wind Creek Atmore property manager, said he and his three sons attend about two games a month.
“We are a baseball family,” Ramer said. “To be able to see future stars who may one day play in the World Series is exciting.”
Planned festivities for about 10,000 expected visitors include a Fan Fest, which will include autograph sessions with the players, a Home Run Derby, and other fun, interactive activities.
National Poetry Slam Champion Coming The University of West Florida Office of Equity and Diversity will host renowned poet Clint Smith as the keynote speaker for Black History Month. The lecture will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 in the University Commons Auditorium, Building 22, on the UWF Pensacola Campus.
Smith is a writer, acclaimed spoken word poet, award-winning teacher and doctoral candidate in education at Harvard University. His two TED Talks, “The Danger of Silence,” and “How to Raise a Black Son in America,” have been viewed more than 4 million times. In 2014, he earned the spotlight as the National Poetry Slam Champion and Individual World Poetry Slam finalist.
“We are incredibly excited to bring Clint Smith to UWF,” said Dr. Doug Thompson, assistant dean for equity and diversity. “Clint is a nationally recognized poet who passionately shares stories of justice, education, and community. I am expecting this to be a powerful evening and an amazing experience for our campus.”
Smith is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and was named the 2013 Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year by the Maryland Humanities Council. His work has appeared in “The New Yorker,” “The American Poetry Review,” “The Guardian,” “Harvard Educational Review,” and “Boston Review,” among others. Write Bloody Publishing released his debut poetry collection, “Counting Descent,” in September. Smith is also a finalist for a NAACP Image Award.
The lecture is a free event, open to the public and will conclude with a book signing. For more information, visit uwf.edu/respect.