Pensacola, Florida
Friday July 19th 2019


The Buzz 5/9/19

Transit Union Votes The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 139 met Sunday, May 5, and overwhelmingly approved the labor agreement with Escambia County Area Transit. The union also expressed its displeasure with Tonya Ellis, the proposed interim ECAT transit director.

According to ATU Local 319 president, Mike Lowery, the final agreement was reached on April 25 between him and former Interim County Administrator Amy Lovoy, Transit Director Mike Crittenden, Assistant Transit Director Ellis and BOCC Human Resource Director Eric Kleinert.

At the Sunday union meeting, the members in attendance voted with a 98 percent approval of the presented agreement. The members also voted by a margin of 97 percent for a “vote of no confidence” for Ellis, assistant transit manager, becoming the interim transit director to replace current and retiring Transit Director Crittenden.

Lowery reported to the membership that Ms. Ellis during a meeting between ATU Local 1395 and the county’s negotiating teams on Friday, May 3, chose not to stand by the agreed upon tentative labor agreement reached on April 25 between the parties.

“Instead, Ms. Ellis left her integrity in question, and the union membership feels she will not stand up for the workers as she is scheduled to become the interim transit director in June,” Lowery wrote the commissioners. “Ms. Ellis showed the lack of will to stand up and honor the agreed upon union contract during this meeting.”

Satisfied with Grover The latest Inweekly/Political Matrix poll of 538 likely City of Pensacola voters found that 73 percent of those polled were satisfied with the performance of Mayor Grover Robinson thus far in his administration. More than a third were either extremely (17.7 percent) or very satisfied (20.3 percent) with his performance. Only 17 percent were unsatisfied.

On the question of whether the hours of bottle clubs should be changed to end at 3 a.m. instead 5 a.m., 40.1 percent of city voters favored the reduction, 27.5 percent didn’t support it, and 32.3 percent were undecided.

The persons sampled were likely city voters with a voting score of 100% for the general election cycles. The voters were called using an Interactive Voice Response system during the hours of 1-7 p.m. between May 2-4. The margin of error for this study is +/- 4.5 percent with a confidence level of 95 percent.

State Systems Unavailable The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) is performing a statewide database update beginning Friday, May 10. All driver license, vehicle and vessel titling and registration systems both in the office and online will be impacted and unavailable until Monday, May 13.

“We anticipate the impact to our systems could begin in the early afternoon on Friday, May 10,” Escambia County Tax Collector Scott Lunsford said. “The DHSMV hopes to have the systems restored by the time we open our offices on Monday, May 13.”

Driving test appointments will continue throughout the outage. However, a license cannot be issued if the system is offline. This will impact all DHSMV and tax collector offices and online transactions for driver’s licenses, identification cards and title and registration services.

All other tax collector services, such as property tax, business tax receipts, concealed weapon intake, Florida birth certificate and hunting and fishing licensing, will not be impacted.

Customers needing to renew registrations are encouraged to use our Express Lane same-day pick-up service at for faster service once the system returns to normal. The DHSMV anticipates restoring all services by 7 a.m. CDT on Monday, May 13.

Kids on Climate Change Last Friday, local youth gathered in downtown Pensacola’s Plaza Ferdinand to raise awareness about the issue of climate change. The gathering mirrored similar such events—international student strikes—in communities across the country and world on May 3.

Pensacola High School juniors Jett Zhang and Jane Chakraborty organized the rally. Zhang explained his reasoning in an interview before the event, “We’re a coastal community, so we’re particularly at risk.”

Zhang hoped the rally would not only highlight the issue of climate change but also energize students to be more involved in pushing for local and state governments to place environmental concerns at the forefront of policy decisions.

“The main purpose of this is to raise awareness,” Zhang said, “raising awareness for this issue and in general protesting against government inaction on climate change.”

Students have been staging events related to climate change around the world in recent years, with the movement gaining considerable steam in August 2018 when Swedish ninth grader Greta Thunberg began protesting the issue by not attending school until the September general election and demanding a reduction in carbon emissions.

Climate change-related student strikes have continued and grown since that time, with some students deciding to ditch school on Fridays—the so-called Fridays for Future movement—in protest. On March 15, students internationally staged the Global Climate Strike for Future, with an estimated 1.6 million participants.

The Pensacola event was moved to 4 p.m. so students wouldn’t have to skip school. Zhang, an International Baccalaureate student at PHS, was dissuaded from a ‘strike’-oriented event upon being told he’d face consequences at school.

“I was told I would get a referral; that would mean detention,” Zhang said, adding that he hopes future events would garner enough community support to make a consequence-free protest possible. “I’m hoping eventually, if I get enough involved, to get support for something like that.”

Triumph Deal Struck For a year, Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas has delayed the start of a training program that would prepare students in IT, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, and aviation/aerospace for jobs related to the significant expansions at the Pensacola airport because he wouldn’t accept the accountable clauses of an agreement with Triumph Gulf Coast.

Triumph Gulf Coast wanted to give the school district $2.3 million for the program. Pensacola State College would contribute not less than $2,697,840 in cash or in-kind toward the project, and a DEO Job Growth Grant would give $1,860,510 in cash.

On Monday, April 28, the Triumph Board agreed to modify the metrics, giving Superintendent Thomas three options to satisfy the performance requirements:

Option 1: For the 2022-23 school year (three years after Thomas has left office), the program must issue 280 elementary and secondary certificates and 73 postsecondary certificates in the target fields;

Option 2: Between the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and the end of the 2022-23 school year, at least 70 percent of those enrolled in a high school or postsecondary certification program who attempt a certification exam actually obtain a certificate;

Option 3: For the same period as Option 2, at least one-half of the students shall have wages equal to or higher than the average entry-level wage for that occupation in this geographic area.

It’s a shame that students had to wait a year for the launch of this nearly $5 million job-training program.

NOAA Marine Fisheries Advisory Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has appointed Don McMahon, the owner of Pensacola Bay Oyster Company, to NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC), bringing the group’s membership to the full complement of 21.

MAFAC advises the Secretary of Commerce and NOAA on all living marine resource matters that are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. McMahon was chosen from a pool of highly qualified applicants who submitted nomination packages during an open, publicly-announced process.

MAFAC members draw on their expertise to evaluate and make recommendations on national living marine resources policies. The members represent a wide spectrum of fishing, aquaculture, protected resources, environmental, academic, tribal, state, consumer and other related national interests from across the U.S. and ensure the nation’s living marine resource policies and programs meet the needs of these stakeholders.

PSC Kids College Pensacola State Kids College is a unique summer opportunity for high school students to stay busy, make an impact on the community and develop soft skills and leadership skills. Teens can spend the week working with children, serving as teachers’ assistants and mentors. Teens also participate in Chain Reaction curriculum and build professional and leadership skills while earning service hours.

Teens can volunteer at Kids College Monday through Friday from May 28 to August 2. Full- and half-day options are available. If your teen is interested in volunteering at Kids College, please email

Stamp Out Hunger On Saturday, May 11, the letter carriers of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties will join forces to help Stamp Out Hunger in our community. In its 27th year, the National Association of Letter Carriers’ (NALC) annual food drive has grown to be the largest national single-day effort that benefits millions of Americans who struggle to put food on the table. Locally, organizations received nearly 125,000 pounds of food from the drive last year.

“Stamp Out Hunger is the most important food drive for many food pantries in the area,” said DeDe Flounlacker, Manna Food Pantries executive director. “The food collected by the letter carriers is critical to our ability to feed our neighbors in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Every donation helps ensure the immediate needs of the hungry can be met in the coming months.”

A donation of just one dozen cans provides three days’ worth of food, or nine meals, for neighbors in need. Residents are encouraged to leave a bag of non-perishable food items, such as canned chicken, canned tuna, canned fruit in 100 percent juice, dry breakfast items (oatmeal, grits, whole grain cereal), canned vegetables, peanut butter, rice and/or dry beans next to their mailbox prior to regular mail delivery on Saturday, May 11.

Escambia and Santa Rosa letter carriers will collect food donations for local food banks including Manna Food Pantries, Feeding the Gulf Coast in Pace and Milton, ACTS Ministry of Holley Assembly of God in Gulf Breeze, We Care Ministries of Navarre United Methodist Church and Warrington Emergency Aid Center.

Brunch & Bubbles Gulf Coast Kid’s House returns with its signature fundraiser Brunch and Bubbles 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at Portofino Island Resort. This year’s honorary chair is Jim Reeves.

Brunch & Bubbles will feature a champagne brunch served by Skopelos, The Grand Marlin, Union Public House, Portofino and more. Guests will be treated to live music, provided by John Ripley while enjoying bottomless brunch cocktails and Bloody Marys from Ruby Slipper Cafe.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available, and seating will be limited at this exclusive event.  Individual tickets are available for purchase at or by calling 595-5800.

STEM Saturday The National Flight Academy will host a STEM Saturday program from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, for third-eighth grade students. May’s STEM Saturday topic is “The Science of Diving.”

Students will play the role of a Navy diver to understand the importance of gas laws as they conduct lab activities that illustrate the physics of gases and the impact on a diver’s body. Additionally, these students will fly the T-6 Texan II in the National Flight Academy’s simulators.

Like the National Flight Academy’s other programs, STEM Saturdays are designed to address the serious concerns of declining science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills in our country. The Academy’s mission is to inspire students to pursue STEM academic and professional paths. Through the STEM Saturday program, the National Flight Academy appeals to younger elementary-aged children.

Visit to register, as space is limited for each session. Registration closes May 13 at 5 p.m. Registration is $30 per child and lunch is provided.

Healthy Minds Robinson Harris Academy of Music, Inc. is producing and publishing original music as part of its fundraising efforts. To that end, RHAM is honored to present its first musical artist, AceYezzy, who is debuting his first musical piece, “Ocean.” For only $0.99, “Ocean” is available for download in iTunes, Spotify and Amazon Music.

With your support, RHAM can continue to provide its innovation in social science to disadvantaged children as well as ensure that our nation moves forward with “Healthy Minds.” For more information about RHAM, please visit

Mark Your Calendars The Escambia County Waste Services Department will host the next Regional Roundup 8 a.m.-noon on Saturday, May 11, across from the Naval Hospital, 6000 W. Highway 98. Residents can dispose of electronics, household hazardous waste and up to four tires per vehicle, free of charge. Proof of Escambia County residency is required to participate, such as a driver’s license, power bill or voter registration card. This is a residential drop-off program only; no commercial waste accepted.

Book signing for Mary Kay Andrews, “Cocktails at Sunset Beach,” 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturday, May 11, Page & Palette, 32 S. Section St., Fairhope, Ala.

The Escambia County Marine Advisory Committee is hosting a special Scuba Diving Safety Symposium 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 13, in conjunction with the Marine Advisory Committee’s regular meeting. The meeting and symposium will take place in room 104 of the Escambia County Central Office Complex, 3363 W. Park Place.

Feline Frenzy will provide free spay and neuter surgeries, vaccinations, microchipping, and ear tipping Monday, May 12-Thursday, May 16 at the Pensacola Humane Society Barbara Grice Memorial Low-Cost Spay & Neuter Clinic, 5 N. Q St. Appointments are required and are available by calling 898-3380 or visiting All cats are welcome, including community cats.

City of Pensacola Gateway Review Board will meet at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 14, in the Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, City Hall.

City of Pensacola Planning Board will meet at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, in the Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, City Hall.

The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, at the City of Pensacola Housing Division, 420 W. Chase St.

District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry will host a town hall meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, at the Langley Bell 4-H Center, 3730 Stefani Road.

Zoning Board of Adjustment will meet at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, in the Whibbs Conference Room, 1st Floor, City Hall.