Pensacola, Florida
Saturday May 25th 2019

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The Buzz 2/28/19

City Hall Changeover At the mayor’s press conference on Monday, Feb. 25, City Administrator Chris Holley announced that Mayor Grover Robinson would be replacing 15 key management positions over the next four years.

The list included Assistant Administrator Keith Wilkins, Sanitation Director Dennis Fleming (who is returning to Maryland), Deputy City Attorney Rusty Wells (in a year or so), CFO Dick Barker (a deputy CFO will hired and trained to replace him), Airport Director Dan Flynn (year or so), Risk Manager Tim Mulroy (who has retired and returned), Pensacola Energy Director George Suarez (2022) and Purchasing Manager George Maiberger (2023).

Excuses Not Accepted Proponents and critics of the proposed soccer complex filled the Scenic Heights Elementary School cafeteria on Thursday, Feb. 21, to discuss the proposed deal to build a soccer field near Hitzman Park and swap land with the YMCA (Inweekly, “Soccer Complex Conundrum,” Jan. 17).

“We’re going to walk in here as Pensacolians; we’re going to walk out of here as Pensacolians,” Mayor Grover Robinson said.

The mayor tried to explain updates to the proposed project aimed at appeasing neighborhood concerns, such as increased traffic, loss of trees, as well as noise and light pollution. But critics didn’t seem too much happier with the updated project than they did with the original.

Mayor Robinson employed a recurring reply to numerous commenters throughout the evening, noting that he only recently came into office and was not on the scene when the project was developed or when city council approved negotiations with the YMCA.

“All the things that you say, y’all, I was not there,” Robinson explained.

While accurate, the clarification didn’t play well in the cafeteria.

“Please do us all the service of not saying you weren’t here,” said Krista Hobgood. “Because you represent us all now.”

Mayor Robinson wasn’t the evening’s only target of neighborhood ire. City Councilman P.C. Wu, who represents the area, was also taken to task.

“Your silence and lack of response have us feeling unrepresented by you,” said Melissa McKnight. “Where do you stand on this proposal?”

Leaving his seat in the back of the cafeteria, Councilman Wu pointed to the city’s need for additional soccer fields and said he supported the project. He also lamented what he described as “a lot of disinformation” and noted that the park would be receiving upgrades, like new bathroom facilities.

“My kids grew up in Hitzman Park,” Wu said, explaining he lived nearby. “That park is very dear to me.”

Toward the end of the meeting, resident Beverley Collier posed an interesting question. She wondered what would happen if the city and YMCA nixed any potential deal. Would the YMCA remain as is, or would the organization put the property onto the market and open the door to an unknown future?

“If it goes on the market, then who knows, we could be fighting a Taco Bell or Fast Eddies,” Collier said.

Michael Bodenhausen, Northwest Florida YMCA CEO, had stood silently against the side wall of the cafeteria for the entire meeting. But the question begged answers only he could provide.

The CEO spoke about how the Y could benefit from moving to the Vickery Center and about how the concept of some sort of land-and-services swap had been kicked around for years.

“This is not something new,” Bodenhausen said, explaining how he’d first heard of the concept nine years ago upon coming onto the job. “All we have done is continue that conversation.”

Bodenhausen explained that the YMCA had been doing market research, which revealed a couple of interesting data points—some of their services overlapped city services—“it’s silly”—and of the facility’s 600 members, only five resided in Scenic Heights.

“You also have to understand,” he said, “the Y doesn’t belong to Scenic Heights. It belongs to Pensacola.”

Carpenter’s Creek Memories Ora Wills paints a vivid picture of living near Carpenter’s Creek before that area of Pensacola was developed into the landscape of malls and hospitals and big-box stores that it is today.

“Sometimes I still dream of walking up and down that strip past Carpenter’s Creek and being in those woods and sometimes stretching out on that grass and going to sleep,” Wills said.

Wills and other longtime Pensacola residents recalled the former glory of Carpenter’s Creek at a town hall held Tuesday, Feb. 19, offering an oral history concerning the creek and providing a peek at its potential as restoration efforts continue.

“For us to restore it, we kind of need to know what it looked like, what it was like before humans started destroying it through development,” said Pensacola Councilwoman Sherri Myers, who was joined at the town hall by Escambia County Commissioner Robert Bender.

Later in the evening, Emerald Coastkeeper Laurie Murphy provided an overview of restoration efforts aimed at cleaning Carpenter’s Creek of silt and debris, but the night’s main event was the collective of storytellers seated around a table at the front of the hall in Asbury Place at the Cokesbury United Methodist Church.

Wills, a retired local educator and author of the book “Fish Head Soup and Sassafras Tea,” talked about a time when Carpenter’s Creek provided a place to both work and play, a place to swim, to cool off from the summer’s heat, as well as a place to gather for baptisms or to wash the laundry.

“They were not only washing their own clothes, but they were washing white people’s clothes,” Wills recalled how her family would work at the creek.

The trek to the creek for young Wills was short, just a quick walk through the woods. As a child, she visited it often.

“My grandfather would say, ‘Stay away from down there,’ but I wouldn’t listen,” Wills said.

Wills’ great grandmother was known as Aunt Jenny.

“Aunt Jenny had a bunch of beehives in the trees up from the creek,” recalled E.B. Williams.

One day, Williams thought it’d be funny to turn the hives over. He thought he’d gotten away with it, too, until he returned home from his venture down to the creek.

“There sat Aunt Jenny on the back stoop talking to my dad,” Williams said. “We knew then we were in trouble.”

Roger Williams, E.B.’s brother, recalled two different swimming holes along Carpenter’s Creek. One of the spots was named Aunt Jenny’s Hole.

“Every time we had a softball game,” he said, “when we’d get through, we’d go down to the water and take a swim.”

Jennette Norman also remembered making trips to that particular deep-water pocket along the creek.

“We would go through that clay pit to the most beautiful, pristine creek. It was called Jenny’s Hole,” Norman said, describing a thriving swimming spot. “We had swings and logs, you name it, diving boards.”

Learn Negotiation Strategies
Former U.S. Navy Seahawk pilot Laura Tuck Maasdam, a Harvard-trained negotiator and executive performance coach, will teach a half-day workshop in negotiation strategies for women on behalf of the Institute for Women in Politics of Northwest Florida.

The workshop will be held 8:30 a.m.-noon, Saturday, March 16, at New World Landing and will be followed by a luncheon featuring local women with professional expertise in negotiation:  Gulf Breeze City Manager Samantha Abell, UWF President Emeritus Dr. Judy Bense, NAI Pensacola CEO DeeDee Davis and Wind Creek Public Relations Director Magi Thomley Williams.

Ms. Maasdam is the co-founder of Sixth Wing LLC in Washington, DC, whose clients have included U.S. Navy SOUTHCOM, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, General Electric, Google, Bloomberg, Procter & Gamble, Patagonia, KPMG, MIT and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

The workshop is available to all women in the community, though space is limited. Early-bird registration at $99 per person is available through Feb 28. Full-price registration after that date will be $149 per person. Registration is open online at iwpflorida.org/workshop-negotiation-strategies-for-women/.

New Petition Drive Citizens Against Corporate Welfare today filed the paperwork with the City of Pensacola to form a petitioners’ committee that will ask the Pensacola City Council to reverse its vote two weeks ago to fund an additional $5 million for the expansion of the Aviation Maintenance Campus at the Pensacola International Airport.

The group, headed by Derek Cosson and Jarah Jacquay, must collect 4,005 signatures—10 percent of Pensacola’s registered voters as of the November general election. They have 60 days to collect the signatures. If that threshold is met, the council has 45 days to reconsider their action. If they do not reverse vote, a citywide referendum would then be held.

“Let me be clear, this effort is not about opposing the ST Aerospace project as a whole, though we do have grave concerns about the massive amount of risk taxpayers are taking on with this project,” Cosson said. “But this petition drive is about drawing a red line and saying that our infrastructure needs are just too critical for us to rob our LOST fund.”

Open Russia Movement Four young men who are members of opposing political parties in the Moscow area said Russia and President Donald Trump did join forces in the 2016 elections in the United States.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller lead a Special Counsel investigation into Russian operatives cooperating with Trump associates since May 2017.

Ruzil Mingalimor, an Open Russia Movement elected official and manager of an independent media outlet, said American authorities should punish Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We do believe there was interference in American politics,” Mingalimor said through a translator at a Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council meeting Thursday attended by about two dozen people.

Alexander Chernyorsky, a 32-year-old member of the Solidarity Movement, agreed with Mingalimor.

“This time, America must take real steps, not just token sanctions,” Chernyorsky said. “They must affect the (Russian) people guilty of these actions.”

The Russians spoke in Pensacola as part of an Open World Leadership exchange. Open World is a legislative branch agency that supports Congressional outreach for Members of Congress and conducts exchanges that establish lasting professional relationships between emerging leaders and their U.S. counterparts in democratic institutions. Delegates are provided with extensive exposure to American politics, civic life, and are hosted by American families. In 1999, Congress established Open World. Since then, more than 27,000 Eurasian leaders are alumni of Open World.

Russians involved in their country’s political system said Thursday that the Communist Party continues to block opposition parties from participation in national, state and city elections.

Chernyorsky, a political consultant, said his candidates were barred from advertising at apartment complexes. So, he would send out bicyclists in the middle of the night to put up flyers without permission. The state would then send its people out to rip them down.

“It became like a game,” he said.

Oleg Khomutinnikor said he plans to run for governor as an Open Russia Movement candidate in his jurisdiction, one of about 85 in Russia. However, to get on the ballot, he must get the signatures of 20 council members, all part of the ruling Communist party.

“There are no real elections,” Khomutinnikor said. “It’s all negotiations with the Kremlin.”

Despite the obstacles thrown at them, Alexey Kalitvinov pointed out that the Open Russia Movement began during the 2016 elections and in roughly two years has built a network across Russia with citizens running in each of the jurisdictions. In 2017, he said, about 12 candidates earned election during Moscow’s local elections. The Kremlin took notice and fined and indicted its opposition members, including for the first time jailing one woman.

“Early on, the government didn’t notice our movement,” Kalitvinov said. “Now, we are observing more pressure on the movement. It has been a success story.”

FloridaWest Board Openings The Escambia County Commission is seeking Escambia County residents interested in volunteering to be considered for an appointment on the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance Board of Directors.

Residents interested are asked to submit a resume and letter indicating their desire to serve by close of business Tuesday, March 5. Resumes should be submitted to Judy Witterstaeter, Program Coordinator, Board of County Commissioners, P.O. Box 1591, Pensacola, FL 32502, or emailed to jhwitter@myescambia.com. Please be aware that resumes submitted for consideration are subject to public records requests.

The mission of FloridaWest EDA is to promote industry and commerce, enhance the business climate and stimulate economic prosperity, support workforce development, promote community development and encourage political action.

Mark Your Calendar Women for Responsible Legislation will hold their monthly meeting 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28, at Pensacola City Hall. The speaker will be Escambia County Superintendent of Schools Malcolm Thomas. WRL meetings are open to the public, so all are welcome and encouraged to attend. Refreshments served at 11:15 a.m.

Trinity Presbyterian Annual Rummage Sale returns 7 a.m.-1p.m., Saturday, March 2, in the gym at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3400 Bayou Blvd. Eager shoppers wanting first pick can come to Preview Night from 5-7 p.m., Friday, March 1.

Pilot Club of Pensacola is hosting its 39th annual Pancake Festival 7-11 a.m., Saturday, March 2, at Ashbury Place, Cokesbury Methodist Church on Ninth Avenue across from Pensacola State College. Meal tickets are $5. Local personalities will be pouring coffee, answering questions and smiling for the camera.

Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Pensacola will host the Pitch, Hit & Run event 9 a.m. Saturday, March 2, at Raymond Riddle Park, 1704 N. W St. Registration for the event is free for boys and girls aged 7-14. The competition consists of three events: hitting off a stationary batting tee, pitching and running the bases. Registration is available at pitchhitrun.com.