Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 17th 2019

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The Buzz 8/22/19

Champion for Justice Pensacola City Councilman Gerald Wingate passed away on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 13, at age 73 after a battle with cancer.

His peers saw him as a “voice of diplomacy,” “fierce advocate for his district while remaining a gentleman to others on Council,” a “kind and gentle man,” “the epitome of a gentleman who cared deeply about our community” and “a sweet man with a quiet, dry sense of humor and a playful smile.”

Councilman Wingate’s record shows that he was a champion for justice and fairness.

When City Administrator Bill Reynolds proposed three ordinances to outlaw panhandling—one of which banned the use of blankets in city parks—in May 2013, Wingate voted against them. A year later, the city was forced by public pressure to repeal them after the area was hit with a severe ice storm.

In December 2013, he spoke out in favor of the city council establishing a domestic partner registry—a legal mechanism that provided certain rights to two unmarried cohabitating people, regardless of gender. He said, “I always used religion as the basis, but I feel this was beautiful tonight—I’ve been convinced that it’s something that would benefit the people of the community, and I’m willing to support it.”

The registry passed on its second reading, 8-1.

The councilman was a strong advocate for city employees being treated fairly. When Mayor Ashton Hayward fired Council Executive Lila Cox without first discussing it with the council, Wingate led the charge for a charter amendment that gave the council the power to hire its executive, attorney and budget analyst without interference from the mayor’s office. He even used his own money to campaign for the amendment, which passed with 52% of the votes cast.

He was also upset with how the mayor handled the firing of interim Fire Chief Matt Schmitt and Deputy Fire Chief Joe Glover. He didn’t like that City Administrator Eric Olson prohibited firefighters from attending council meeting when the chiefs’ terminations were debated and refused to support the mayor’s recommendation to hire David Allen as fire chief.

“I’m not going to be supporting this tonight,” Wingate said. “I think the fire department needs strong leadership. I think the fire department is probably undermanned, which is one of the things that came out in that report.”

He added, “I’m in support of a national search to get a strong fire chief here and also to build up the fire department to the level that it should be.”

Last year, the city paid $575,000 to settle lawsuits filed by Schmitt and Glover.

West Cervantes Workshop The West Cervantes safety improvements on display Tuesday, Aug. 13, were slightly different from plans presented during a workshop earlier in the summer. Notably, the revised plans featured red circles at several intersections, where openings had been created in a median running down West Cervantes to allow for through traffic and crossing opportunities.

“We’ve added some additional median openings,” said Ian Satter, pointing out the new breaks on an enlarged map of West Cervantes laid out on a table in the gymnasium of the Fricker Community Center.

The state is planning to spend $7.5 million on safety improvements for West Cervantes, a route that has proved dangerous to pedestrians and vehicular traffic. The West Cervantes Pedestrian Safety Plan encompasses 2.3 miles of roadway, from Dominguez Street to A Street, and work is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2020.

The slated safety improvements include added traffic signals and crosswalks, as well as a median, potentially topped with a fence-like barrier, running down the middle of the street to prevent improper pedestrian crossings and act as a barrier between directional traffic lanes. The improvements also involve reducing lanes from 12 feet to 10 feet.

The Fricker center event was the second in a pair of summer presentations FDOT has hosted to allow the public to get a look at the proposed improvements. Plans presented during the first event featured a barrier with far fewer brakes, limiting the cross streets drivers could turn onto and forcing pedestrians to walk blocks to reach an intersection where they could cross the street.

During the first meeting, Satter had explained that the unbroken median was key to improving safety, but on Tuesday, he explained that a total of seven new openings in the center median had been added as a result of feedback received during the earlier meeting. FDOT, he said, is attempting to incorporate concerns about access and the number of crossing opportunities while still emphasizing safety.

“Safety is always going to outweigh that, but we’re trying to find compromises,” Satter said. “It’s a balancing act.”

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, in attendance at the Fricker center workshop, said the city still has issues with FDOT’s proposed improvement, such as the number of added crosswalks and traffic logistics, and is currently working with the agency in hopes of seeing further revisions.

“We’re working on it, know what I mean?” Robinson said, adding that he’d recently discussed the project with FDOT officials. “We met with them the other day and said, ‘We like some things; other things, we’d like some flexibility.”

While the workshop on Tuesday was the last opportunity for the public to comment directly to FDOT, input may still be submitted via mail or email through August 27. Comments can be emailed to tommy.johns@dot.state.fl.us.

The public will also have another opportunity to comment on the West Cervantes project later this fall, specifically about the additional median breaks. Satter said FDOT is required to conduct formal public hearings because the revised plan opens up additional breaks in the center median. He explained, “You are changing access to people’s homes, businesses, school.”

Quality Principals At last week’s CivicCon, Dr. Ron Ferguson attributed the success of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to training its principals. He mentioned that parents get to hire the principals for their schools.

What a revolutionary concept! In Escambia County, principals have been selected by Superintendent Malcolm Thomas, and they are seen as primarily his political operatives, ensuring his re-election and quelling in dissent among the ranks.

The Escambia County School District has 56 principals, of which 71.4% are white. No surprise there.

How principals are hired could change under the new appointed superintendent system, particularly if the school board hires from outside of the school district.

In Chicago, most schools have a Local School Council (LSC), which is responsible for hiring and evaluating the school’s contract principal.

According to the district’s website, most LSCs have a multi-step selection process, which includes a resume review, and may include one to three rounds of interviews and a final round “Candidate Forum.” During a Candidate Forum, the community has an opportunity to ask questions of each finalist in an open meeting format.

An LSC has the authority to award a four-year performance contract to a principal candidate if a minimum of seven LSC members vote in favor of that candidate. An LSC may only award a principal contract to a candidate who officially applies to their posted advertisement and is eligible under the CPS Principalship Policy.

The district has a Department of Principal Quality that works to support Local School Councils in their recruitment and selection efforts. The department facilitates principal job postings, receives and compiles all principal application materials and forwards candidate applications to the Local School Councils. It works closely with LSC Relations throughout the selection process to ensure that LSCs have the information, resources and support they need to complete their principal selections.

Replacing Wingate City Council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, to make an appointment to the District 5 seat. The meeting will take place in Council Chambers, located on the first floor of City Hall at 222 W. Main St.

District 5 Councilman Gerald Wingate passed away on Aug. 13, and his unexpired term ends November 2020. Per the City Charter, the vacancy for the unexpired term of the vacated seat shall be filled by a majority vote of the remaining City Council members within 30 days after the vacancy occurs.

Reading the qualification requirements of Section 6.03 in conjunction with the language of Section 4.02, the candidate must be qualified to vote in the council district and have been a resident of the district for one year prior to the appointment. The appointment is scheduled to be made at the special meeting on Sept. 4, 2019, thus the candidate must have resided in the district since at least Sept. 5, 2018.

Anyone interested in being considered for appointment should submit an application of interest or a resume on the city’s website and contact a City Council member for nomination.

Applications must be submitted prior to Friday, Aug. 23. City Council members have until 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23, to submit their nominations to the City Clerk’s office for consideration at the Sept. 4 special meeting.

Salzman Outraises Hill Republican challenger Michelle Salzman outraised incumbent Florida House Rep. Mike Hill in July, according to reports filed with the Florida Secretary of State.

Salzman brought in $1,966 in cash from 29 donors and another $4,476 in in-kind contributions for a total of $6,442. Meanwhile, Rep. Hill had only four contributors. His largest donor was former County Commissioner Wilson Robertson, who accounted for $1,000 of the $1,150 raised by Hill.

Broxson, Andrade Deliver Escambia County will receive $21.8 million from the Florida Division of Emergency Management through Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement, which will go directly toward the county’s $145 million correctional facility project.

“On behalf of the board of commissioners, I’d like to thank the Escambia County legislative delegation chairman, Sen. Doug Broxson, and Rep. Alex Andrade for their continued support of this project,” Commission Chairman Lumon May said. “Sen. Broxson has been working with our county administrator for the past six weeks on these reimbursements, and we appreciate his efforts and diligence in delivering these funds.”

To date, the county has received over $111 million in funding for the correctional facility project from bond proceeds, Local Option Sales Tax, the State of Florida and FEMA.

“These funds get us closer to the completion of this priority project for our community,” Sen. Broxson said. “Making sure that Escambia County gets to close the door on a devasting incident and move forward is important, and I am thankful to be able to provide meaningful assistance.”

Shoe Drive The HER Foundation, honorher.org, is conducting a shoe drive fundraiser today through Oct. 31 to raise funds for women veterans in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. The HER Foundation will earn funds based on the total weight of the pairs of gently worn, used and new shoes collected, as Funds2Orgs will issue a check for the collected shoes.

Those dollars will benefit women veterans in the Pensacola area. Anyone can help by donating gently worn, used and new shoes at the HER Foundation Faith House, 6150 W. Fairfield Drive, and the AMVETS Post 292, 955 Dog Track Road. You may also donate shoes 8 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Cordova Mall.

All donated shoes will then be redistributed throughout the Funds2Orgs network of micro-enterprise, small business and partners. Proceeds from the sales of the shoes collected in shoe drive fundraisers are used to feed, clothe and house their families.

Ping Pong on Palafox Zarzaur Law, P.A. has partnered with the Pensacola Table Tennis Club and City of Pensacola Parks and Recreation Department to host a community ping pong tournament event 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the intersection of Palafox and Romana streets. All entry fees will go to Gulf Coast Kid’s House.

“In this day and age of kids and their devices, we figured highlighting the games we 40-somethings played as kids would be good for everyone,” said Joe Zarzaur, owner of Zarzaur Law, P.A.

“Ping Pong on Palafox” will include a table tennis “ping pong” tournament for all ages and levels, games, refreshments for players and more. The round robin tournament will kick off at 10 a.m. with kids age groups and adult divisions with cash prizes for winners. The first 50 players to sign up for the tournament will also receive a swag bag.

Businesses, organizations and groups are encouraged to create teams of four, bring their tent, coolers and signs, and battle for bragging rights and be the tops in team table tennis. Entry fees are as follows—Kids, $10; Teens-Novice Adult, $15; Advanced Adult, $20; and Corporate team of four, $40.

For event details and to sign up for “Ping Pong on Palafox,” visit zarzaurlaw.com/ping-pong-on-palafox.

Mark Your Calendar Join District 1 Commissioner Jeff Bergosh for the next Coffee with the Commissioner 6:30-7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at Denny’s, 4625 Mobile Hwy.

Downtown Improvement Board will meet 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the Bowden Building, Room #1, 120 Church St.

Sacred Heart Health System will provide free heart-health screenings 9-11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at Ebonwood Community Center, 3511 W. Scott St.

Sacred Heart Health System will provide free osteoporosis screenings 9-11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 28, at St. Monica’s Episcopal Church, 699 S. Hwy 95A, Cantonment.