Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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The Buzz 4/13/17

Defending Home Rule On April 5, the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) hosted its Legislative Day. Commissioners and staff descended on Tallahassee to assist in the lobbying efforts to protect home rule and prevent unfunded mandates.

Two bills, HB 17 and SB 1158, would preempt local governments with regards to regulation of businesses, professions, and occupations unless it is expressly authorized by the state. SB 596 and its companion bill in the House, HB 687, prohibit local communities from prohibiting or even merely regulating the collocation of small wireless facilities in public rights-of-way. Both bills set a maximum fee of $15 that counties could charge communication facility companies to locate on taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson, a former FAC president, attended and told Inweekly that he ran into House Speaker Richard Corcoran at the Governor’s Club. Robinson said when he brought up unfunded mandates, Corcoran referenced problems with counties and their utilities in other parts of Florida.

“I was trying to remind him that all 67 of us are different,” Robinson told Inweekly. “It’s unfortunate that some of these bills that are happening are really beginning to intrude on local government.”

He pointed out the state constitution created home rule in 1968. The commissioner said, “It really allowed the different areas of Florida to become different and for us to embrace the diversity of Florida.”

He added, “It’s unfortunate that’s being assaulted by the people in Tallahassee, and we’re tried to remind them. That’s why we go over there to fight and make sure that they remember that we’re all different. Northwest Florida is not Miami. It’s not Orlando. It’s Northwest Florida, and it needs the ability to be itself.”

IMPACT Workshop IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area will host its annual nonprofit workshop at First Baptist Church, 500 North Palafox, on Thursday, April 20, 9 a.m.–12:15 p.m., with check-in beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Debbie Ritchie, founding president of IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area and president of the Studer Group, will be the guest speaker. Her topic will be “Dream Big, Serve Better, and Make an IMPACT.”

All nonprofit organizations in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are invited to learn about the grant process, get tips to writing a more successful grant, be inspired to dream big and create a winning proposal. Additionally, construction and permitting as part of a successful grant will be discussed.

The workshop will also focus on the IMPACT 100 grant application process for 2017 with a review of all the required forms and instructions for digital grant submissions. Board members, focus area chairs, and co-chairs will participate in a panel discussion to address questions.

This year, IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay area will award ten project grants of $107,700 each to nonprofit organizations in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. Letters of Intent to Apply for an IMPACT 100 grant are due April 30.  Grant Applications for IMPACT 100 must be submitted by June 16.

All nonprofit organizations are encouraged to attend. The workshop is free. Registration is required and can be completed online at impact100pensacola.org.

This will be the 14th year that IMPACT 100 will award grants to local nonprofit organizations. After awarding the 2017 grants, IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area will have funded 87 grants, totaling $9,395,000.

Keep Playgrounds The City of Pensacola is looking into closing the children’s playground in Morris Court, and Escambia County is having similar discussions about the one in the Brentwood area. Commissioner Lumon May wants local governments to pursue solutions other than closure.

“I think that we have to find other remedies,” he told Inweekly. Commissioner May suggested increasing patrols by law enforcement, installing cameras and better lighting, and, in the case of Morris Court, allocating staff for those hours in which the problems occur.

“When we have one of the highest levels of poverty, one of the highest levels of homelessness, and one of the lowest graduation rates, particularly among minority kids, this is a problem that’s deeply rooted. It’s not about just closing a park and saying that we’re going to make an area safe, without addressing the real issue.”

He added, “When local governments more aggressively enforce their laws towards panhandling, we should also become just as aggressive in prevention and providing opportunities, jobs, education, mental health counseling and places where these people can go and seek shelter out of the elements.”

Commissioner May recognizes that homelessness and poverty have plagued Escambia County for years.

“It’s not just a simple issue that we’re going to be able to address overnight,” he said. “Together, we’re going to have to take baby steps to remedy it.”

Easing Pot Restrictions Panhandle Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL) have joined forces in a bipartisan effort to make it easier for ill patients and scientific and medical researchers to obtain marijuana.

The proposed legislation, which was introduced last week is aimed at rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug, on par with heroin and LSD, to a Schedule III drug, on par with anabolic steroids.

Recent polling suggests 93 percent of Americans support legalizing doctor-prescribed medical marijuana.  Rescheduling makes it easier to conduct research into marijuana’s medical uses with lighter regulation.  The benefits of rescheduling marijuana would help local economies.  Small businesses in the marijuana industry would finally have the legal ability to meet the needs of patients.  Legal status would lead to more businesses receiving loans and banking services from financial institutions.

“This drug should not be in the same category as heroin and LSD, and we do not need to continue with a policy that turns thousands of young people into felons every year.  Nor do we need to punish the millions of people who are sick and seeking medical help – from pain, from muscle wasting, from chemotherapy-induced nausea” said Gaetz.

Pitch Hit Run Returns Former Pensacola Council President Charles Bare has teamed with Quint Studer, co-owner of the Blue Wahoos, to bring back RBI Pensacola, a youth baseball program affiliated with Major League Baseball.

“(Quint) really wanted to have RBI brought back and focused on inner-city youth, and not necessary on duplicating what was already there because we do have baseball on the west side, but doing things in a way that allows people to come in and be mentors,” Bare said on “Pensacola Speaks” last week.

The program will involve the sheriff’s office, police, and the fire department who will not only offer to mentor but also provide educational experiences to bridge the gap between baseball and education.

“That’s really what RBI was designed to do,” he told Inweekly. “It was to help kids graduate from high school. We’re starting with some of the younger kids, 5 to 12 years old, working with the Boys and Girls Club and doing some introductory baseball with them. We’re not doing a league this year.”

RBI Pensacola and the Blue Wahoos have partnered to host a free Scotts® Major League Baseball® Pitch Hit & Run™ Competition on Saturday, April 22, at 2 p.m. in Pensacola Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Pitch Hit & Run™ is the official skills competition of Major League Baseball®. The competition divides boys and girls into four age divisions: 7/8, 9/10, 11/12, 13/14, and offers the chance to advance through four levels of competition, including Team Championships at Major League ballparks and the National Finals during the 2017 MLB™ All-Star Week®.

The individual Pitching, Hitting and Running Champions, along with the All-Around Champion in each division age group at the Local Competition will be awarded and advance to the Sectional Level of Competition.

All participants must bring a copy of their birth certificate and have their parent or guardian fill out a registration/waiver form before the start of the competition.  Registration is available online pitchhitrun.com.

“The last time it was done, it was done on the grass outside the stadium,” said Bare. “This (competition) is going to be a much better venue because we’ll actually be in the stadium on the field.”

For questions concerning the competition, please contact Charles Bare at 610-0411 or Charles@RBIPensacola.com.

More Girls in STEM The University of West Florida Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering now offers Code and Tech Stars, CaTS, a free, semimonthly program on the Pensacola campus to encourage interest among fourth through sixth-grade females in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Offered at 10 a.m. on the first and third Saturday of each month, each CaTS session lasts one hour. Dr. Brian Eddy, UWF computer science professor, and his wife, Adrienne Eddy, devise a variety of activities that participants complete from week to week, including creating games, animated stories, and programmed art. She teaches the classes, while he helps facilitate, manages volunteers and works one-on-one with the students. No prior coding experience is necessary.

“CaTS is an opportunity to break down the stereotypical perception that computer science and programming are difficult and boring subjects,” Dr. Brian Eddy said. “We use games, stories, and art to show that computer science is not a limited subject. It is fun and exciting, open to multiple possibilities and open to all who want to participate.”

According to the National Science Board Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 Report, women earned 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees in all fields in 2013 and 50 percent of science and engineering bachelor’s degrees. However, women’s participation in science and engineering at the undergraduate level significantly differs by the specific field of study. While women receive more than half of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the biological sciences, they receive far fewer in computer sciences (17.9 percent), engineering (19.3 percent), physical sciences (39 percent) and mathematics (43.1 percent).

“STEM outreach is central to the educational mission of the faculty, staff, and students in the Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering,” said Dr. Michael Huggins, dean of HMCSE.  “Nationally, there are not enough women pursuing careers in STEM – computer science and engineering in particular. Through programs of this type, we hope to help address this national issue.”

Valerie Taylor, Youth Education Assistant Director in the UWF Distance and Continuing Education Department, said CaTS began in January, and nearly 40 girls have participated to date. The projects created each week stand alone, enabling students to skip weeks or join at any time during the spring or fall semesters. All computers, robots, and equipment are provided during the class. Registration is required.

“The students have really enjoyed it,” Taylor said. “Some attend every single week, and others come when they have time. One parent told me that her daughter wanted to code all day after she came to CaTS.”

For more information about CaTS, visit uwf.edu/cse. To register, contact Valerie Taylor at 474-3221 or vtaylor@uwf.edu.

Helping Female Veterans Pathways for Change has taken a large stride towards providing much-needed treatment for female military veterans thanks to a pledge from the Dugas Family Foundation.

The Foundation committed to match, dollar for dollar, up to $200,000 in contributions toward the purchase of the Clinton Cox Residential Treatment Facility, a home for up to 12 women veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Dugas Family Foundation is a significant commitment, but matching dollars are needed to reach the goal of $525,000 needed for purchasing the home, providing a full-time director and house mother, and paying for the annual cost of operating the facility.

The comprehensive, 18-month treatment program will provide a therapeutic community where women veterans receive individual counseling, outpatient substance-abuse treatment, benefits assistance and education and vocational training.  Each woman will also be assigned a mentor. All services will be designed so that each veteran is given the greatest opportunity to transition to a sober, stable environment and, in some cases, back to their families.

Pathways for Change is committed to providing a secure community and a strong foundation for continued healing where each veteran can focus on putting her life back together.

To donate, visit pathwaysforchange.org.

Veto Overridden The Pensacola City Council voted unanimously, 7-0, to override Mayor Ashton Hayward’s veto of the hiring of a budget analyst at a special meeting Monday at the Hagler Mason Conference Room.

Council President Brian Spencer and members Jewel Cannada-Wynn, Sherri Myers and P.C. Wu all spoke in favor of the override.

The city voted March 9 to hire a budget analyst. Hayward then issued a veto March 14 saying in part in a letter, “There are more pressing needs within the City of Pensacola that would directly benefit the taxpayers.”

District 2 Councilwoman Sherri Myers took issue with the veto because voters passed an amendment to the city charter in 2014 allowing the position independent of the mayor.

“I support the override,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do for the citizens of Pensacola.”

There was no public comment on the issue. But Cannada-Wynn, who represents District 7, said letting the veto stand would have the effect of giving the mayor power over whom the council hires.

“We need a budget analyst for council to exercise our power as the legislative branch,” she said. “I do think (the veto) is interference by the mayor. The charter allows us to have an independent staff.”

P.C. Wu added: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Spencer said his reaction to the mayor’s veto was “less dramatic” than the other council members stated. He said it was necessary to have informed budget conversations with the mayor’s office.

“I see this as moderate turbulence, not being in an aircraft in a tailspin,” he said. “In the long run for Mayor Hayward or future mayors, this will be better for our city in the future.”

The council will reaffirm its vote in the consent agenda at Thursday’s regular meeting because Pensacola City Attorney Lysia Bowling disagreed with Spencer and said the vote should be held then, not in a special meeting.

“There is ambiguity,” she said.

At 7 p.m. last night, Mayor Hayward, who did not attend the meeting, issued a statement accepting the override:

“I completely respect Council’s decision to override my veto of hiring a budget analyst.

The purpose of the veto was to underscore my objection to what I thought was an unnecessary cost to the taxpayers.

Our team has always worked well with city council on all legislative issues, and I expect that to continue.”