Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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The Buzz 11/24/17

Caldwell Visits State Rep. Matt Caldwell met last week with the Escambia County Republican Executive Committee. In October, he had a strong month of fundraising with $111,000 brought in between his committee and campaign accounts. Caldwell has nearly $1 million cash on hand for his 2018 race to be Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner.

Caldwell visited with Inweekly publisher Rick Outzen on “Pensacola Speaks.” He discussed the importance of the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

“The office is about jobs and all the different ones that the Commissioner oversees, whether it’s AG jobs directly or pest control, irrigation, auto repair, consumer complaints,” he said. “There are a lot of ways in which the department’s responsibility to oversee and regulate these industries and making sure that we’re doing so in a way that lets those jobs and those businesses flourish and be successful.”

He stressed the commissioner’s role in protecting Second Amendment rights.

“The Commissioner’s Office oversees the concealed weapons license program,” said Caldwell. “It’s critical that the person who operates in this position understands what the Second Amendment means, what our constitutional rights are, that they come from our Creator, that the Constitution is actually a handcuff on the government, and it doesn’t give us our rights.”

He also mentioned the need to preserve and conserve the state’s natural resources.

“The number one issue I’ve worked on during my time in the legislature is water,” he said. “When you look at a state like ours, growing rapidly, in order for us to continue that path of success in urban Florida, we have to do so in a way that doesn’t take away from rural Florida, that we actually look to benefit both communities, and all the while, preserving and conserving natural Florida. So, water and water policy are critical.”

Caldwell is the chairman of the House Government Accountability Committee. He praised his vice chairman, Rep. Jayer Williamson (R-Milton).

“Our committee oversees all the transportation issues, all the natural resource issues, local, state, federal government, and military issues,” said Caldwell.  “I’m proud to have Jayer Williamson as a partner to help me oversee that, and maybe cue him up for great things in the future.”

He explained the House leadership likes to challenge freshman lawmakers and gauge their ability to deal with pressure—both from other members seeking things for their districts and lobbyists. They look to see how the new legislators evaluate and handle amendments and suggestions.

“Jayer has done a fantastic job,” said Caldwell. “Last year, we asked him to carry the transportation package. They can get to be rather difficult, frankly, because everybody and their brother sees it as a vehicle to throw something on.”

Port’s Steep Decline When Inweekly reported earlier this month on the deteriorating financial condition of the Port of Pensacola (Inweekly, “Port Needs a Plan,” Nov. 9), the newspaper did not have the actual FY 2017 revenue figures for the port’s four primary revenue sources—wharfage, storage, dockage and property rentals.

According to unaudited financial report recently obtained by Inweekly, the key revenues dropped over half a million dollars in FY 2017. The revenue has declined $1.1 million since FY 2012, dropping from $2,197,942 to $1,021,376 in five years.

The unaudited revenue figures show the Port of Pensacola failed to meet its FY 17 revenue projections for wharfage, storage, dockage and rentals by $726,324.

In its FY 18 budget, the Port of Pensacola administration stated its goal was to “promote the long-term viability of the port and its ability to serve the maritime industry in a manner that ensures competitiveness with neighboring ports and promotes increased utilization of port facilities.”

Its performance measure for success has been retaining four to five major customers each year, but nothing about hitting revenue numbers.

The Port’s five customers in FY 2012 averaged $440K each in revenue.  In FY 2017, the Port’s four customers only averaged $255K each.  There was no mention in FY 2018 budget presentation that the Port was not meeting its FY 17 revenue goals.

Under the Business Development, the goal was to ‘”increase the utilization of port facilities by existing customers and work with local and regional economic developers and economic development agencies to attract new business and industry.”

Performance indicators were 1) keeping all lease documents up-to-date and current with programmed rate increases implemented as scheduled and 2) having two new client prospects finalized or in active negotiations.  No revenue goals were tied to the new prospects.

Reading only goals and performance indicators in the FY 2018 budget, one would think the Port of Pensacola is a success.

In the FY 2018 budget, Mayor Ashton Hayward offered no plans for how he would turn around the Port operations.

Based on the documents submitted to Triumph Gulf Coast, the proposed Northwest Center for Dynamic Ocean Technologies will not pay any rent. Warehouse 4 and its land are considered the City’s in-kind contribution to the project.

The decline in revenue also means the city does not have the funds for any matching grants, as per the FY 2018 budget message.

Amy Miller and Clark Merritt are the port director and Economic Development manager, respectively. According to city records, neither has had a job performance evaluation in the past three years.

‘Creepy’ Roy Moore On “Pensacola Speaks,” Congressman Matt Gaetz told Inweekly publisher Rick Outzen that he believes the women who have come forward with harassment allegations against Judge Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama.

“They strike me as very credible, and so I think that Jeff Sessions would be far preferable to Roy Moore as the Senator from Alabama,” said Rep. Gaetz.  “Maybe Jeff Sessions will see that he can save the Republican Party, he can save the Senate, he can save the Trump agenda by going back to the Senate, because Roy Moore is really striking me as someone who is not going to win and also has really done some creepy things, by his own admission.”

He continued, “Forget the stuff that Moore denies, just look at the stuff that he admits to doing. You know, dating high school girls when he was in his 30s… that’s creepy.”

Wilbur Barry Highway The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners and the community commemorated the renaming of a portion of U.S. Highway 29/Pensacola Boulevard as Wilbur Barry Highway at a dedication on Nov. 13 at Smokey’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que.

State Rep. Clay Ingram spoke at the event, where the highway sign was unveiled to the public by Wilbur Barry’s family.

“Mr. Barry and the Barry family have meant so much to me, personally…they have done more for me than I’ll ever be able to do for them,” Ingram said. “And they learned that from their dad, Mr. Barry.”

District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry also spoke at the dedication, expressing his appreciation to Rep. Ingram on behalf of his family.

The section of Pensacola Boulevard between W Street and Marcus Pointe Boulevard was named Wilbur Barry Highway as a tribute to Lloyd Wilbur Barry, Jr.’s service to the community.

Wilbur Barry passed away on April 19, 2016. A University of Florida graduate, he made Pensacola his home in 1978 and soon opened Smokey’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que, where he cultivated a second family.

Chance to Serve The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners is seeking county residents interested in volunteering to be considered for an appointment to the West Florida Public Library Board of Governance.

The duties of the board include establishing policy and overseeing the management of Escambia County library services and making recommendations to the BCC regarding the annual budget according to the purposes and authority set forth in resolutions, interlocal agreements and other agreements, as well as state and federal laws. These duties also include establishing an annual plan of service and the long-range strategic planning of library services.

West Florida Public Libraries provides service to all of Escambia County, with the board typically meeting on the fourth Monday of the month from 4-6:30 p.m.

Residents interested in serving on the board are asked to submit a resume and letter indicating their desire to serve by close of business on Thursday, Dec. 14. Resumes should be submitted to Todd J. Humble, Director, West Florida Public Libraries, 239 N. Spring St., Pensacola, FL, 32502 or by email to tjhumble@mywfpl.com.

Hawkshaw Memorial Park Ignored Trash covers the ground nearly everywhere below the National Memorial to Missing Children at Hawkshaw Memorial Park.

More tiles have been torn up from the observation deck and bronze statue, “Sanctuary,” and smashed on the rocks below that line Pensacola Bay.

The smell of urine slaps visitors in the face at the entrance to the memorial at Bayfront Parkway.  And on a recent afternoon, country music played softly as five homeless people crouched hidden behind Sam Nettles’ statute.

The large statue depicts a nude mother with her baby nestled safely in her crossed legs with the father leaning over her shoulder and praying hands over their heads symbolically protecting them.

Who’s protecting the memorial? Not the city. Roughly two months after Inweekly first described the rundown conditions that the city has allowed to happen at the Hawkshaw Lagoon Memorial Park, the site on the Pensacola Bay waterfront downtown appears even worse than before.

Clark Thompson remains dismayed at the lack of attention to the national memorial. He was on a committee that spearheaded the development and raised roughly $750,000 to develop it.

“It kills me,” Thompson told Inweekly. “This is the only memorial in the United States to missing children and the city can’t seem to care.”

In Feb. 25, 2008, the city took ownership of the memorial and agreed to maintain the site in a “good state of repair and cleanliness.” That obviously hasn’t occurred.

Thompson has lobbied city parks and recreation department officials, Mayor Ashton Hayward repeatedly to do repairs and fired off an email Aug. 8 to City Council President Brian Spencer. No action has been taken. Thompson, who passes by the memorial every morning and afternoon said he has found homeless still sleeping overnight at the memorial site.

“They’ve (city officials) got to do something sooner or later,” Thompson said hopefully. “They’re just ignoring it as long as they can.”

Drug-Related Deaths Spike According to the Florida medical examiner’s report for 2016, heroin-related deaths in the First Judicial District increased 21 percent last year. We had 34 such deaths, the most in any single year. Ten years ago, Northwest Florida had only one heroin-related death, five years ago none.

And the problem is statewide. The total number of drug-related deaths in Florida jumped 22 percent from 2015 to 2016. The number of opioid-related deaths — 5,725 in 2016 — grew by 35 percent. Opioids were either the cause of death or were present in the decedents, according to the report.

“Clearly, those are shocking numbers and we have got to do something about it,” Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young, R-Tampa, told The News Service of Florida.

Prescription drugs killed more Floridians than street drugs such as heroin in 2016, the medical examiners reported. Oxycodone-caused deaths increased by 28 percent.

The report said 3,550 people died with at least one prescription drug in their system that was identified as the cause of death, a 40 percent jump from 2015. The report notes that the drugs may have been mixed with other drugs and/or alcohol.

Deaths due to fentanyl, a lethal synthetic opioid analgesic often mixed with heroin, spiked by 97 percent in a year, causing 1,390 deaths in 2016, according to the report.

The report also showed the numbers of heroin-related deaths have spiked dramatically since 2011, when lawmakers cracked down on prescription “pill mills.” Over a decade, Florida saw more than a 10-fold increase in heroin-related deaths, from 96 in 2006 to 1,023 in 2016, with a dip as low as 56 in 2011, the year legislation aimed at shuttering the pill mills went into effect.

Art at the Chimney The Scenic Highway Foundation and Creative Learning Academy have partnered to create one-of-a-kind art projects on two trash receptacles at Chimney Park on Scenic Highway near Langley Avenue.

The art project is just one of a series of projects that the Scenic Highway Foundation (SHF) is implementing at Chimney Park. Back in October, several members of the Six Rivers Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas removed invasive species on the site. Another removal event is planned for 2018. Eventually, the SHF hopes to create a clear view of Escambia Bay from the park with the removal of the Common Reed and other tall plants that now obscure what is a panoramic view from the bay shore.

To learn more about either event or to become involved in other activities, visit pensacolascenicbluffs.org.

Questions for Lawmakers WSRE, PBS for the Gulf Coast, is now accepting viewer questions for the upcoming broadcast of “Legislative Review: Dialogue with the Delegation” on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. Questions may be submitted in advance by email to questions@wsre.org. Every question must be accompanied by the person’s name and city of residence.

The following legislators of the Northwest Florida delegation are expected to participate: Sens. Doug Broxson (District 1) and George B. Gainer (District 2); and Reps. Clay Ingram (District 1), Frank White (District 2), Jayer Williamson (District 3) and Mel Ponder (District 4). The program will be moderated by Jeff Weeks.