Pensacola, Florida
Thursday October 17th 2019

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The Buzz 9/19/19

Mayor Loco Award-winning newspaper columnist Carl Hiaasen last Thursday visited Pensacola as part of the University of West Florida Seligman First Amendment Lecture Series. Inweekly got a few minutes with him to discuss some of his memorable columns for the Miami Herald.

He talked about getting denounced by a resolution of the Miami City Commission after writing about corruption in the city.

“Commissioner Joe Carollo, who is still a figure in Miami politics, got all exercised about it. He saw it as some sort of slur against the integrity of the community, so they passed a resolution condemning me,” shared Hiaasen. “I was so proud of it that I asked my book publisher, ‘Can we put that on the back of the next book jacket as a blurb?’ To actually get this kind of condemnation from somebody like Joe Carollo, in the Miami City Commission, I considered it to be a high honor.”

He continued, “Most of what I did pissed somebody off. I did a column once because the mayor, at one point, started acting a little eccentric and a bit obsessed about what the Herald was writing about him, including my columns, and he had shown up in the lobby of the Herald, in the early morning hours, wearing a bathrobe, to get one of the first editions of the paper to see what had been written about him.”

Smiling, Hiassen said that even in Miami, a bathrobe appearance was unusual. He said, “And so, I think I wrote a column, and I referred to him from then on as “Mayor Loco,” and he, I believe, may have even filed a lawsuit, but it was dismissed, of course.”

In fairness, the columnist later used the  “loco” moniker to label his boss. “When the publisher of our newspaper, later on, decided he might float the idea of running for governor, then I did a column about our own publisher and referred to him as “Publisher Loco.”

He added, “So I felt that I was even-handed in my tastelessness. And every word of that column ran exactly as I wrote it, which is not always the case. Very few papers would let the columnist write about the publisher and refer to him as crazy, and then the Herald did, which is a measure of the journalistic integrity of the paper.”

Berryhill Complex for Sale The Santa Rosa County School District, represented by Scoggins III, Inc., is offering the former Berryhill Administrative Complex for sale by bid.

In 2018, the SRC School District purchased and consolidated its administrative functions to the Douglas Dillon Administrative Center, formerly the old Food World Building, at 6032 U.S. 90, in Milton. This move allowed the former Administrative complex located at 6751 Berryhill Street to be declared surplus and sold to the offeror, whose offer best meets the goals of the Santa Rosa County School Board.

A bid package is available at scogginsrealestate.com/berryhill. The offering package includes environmental information, appraisals, structural reports, a title commitment, zoning information and the proposed Agreement for Sale and Purchase, along with much more information.

For an offeror or buyer to be considered, final bids must be delivered before 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, and the selected bid is scheduled to appear for consideration and acceptance before the Santa Rosa County School Board at its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 24.

There is no minimum bid, however, for the 2019 tax year, the Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser has assessed the value of the site and improvements at $1,220,753. For more information, email scogginsiiire@gmail.com.

Haas Deep Dives on Hispanic Population The Hispanic population in the Escambia County area is not huge. It accounts for just over 5% of the population. But that’s projected to change in the coming years.

“It is the most rapidly-growing population segment in Escambia County,” said Amy Newburn, director of market research with the University of West Florida’s Haas Center. “The pattern is going to be striking.”

Coinciding with Hispanic Heritage Month, the Haas Center has released a collection of data relating to the local Hispanic community. As the organization has done for the African American community, women and veterans, it assessed information concerning population numbers, as well as educational, economical and professional particulars.

As of 2018, the total Hispanic origin of Escambia County was at 5.9%, or 18,794 individuals. In the next five years, by 2023, that percentage is expected to grow to 6.6%. To put that in context, the same population was at 2.7% in 2000 and 4.7% in 2010.

The Haas Center also broke down the local Hispanic population number by country of origin. Individuals hail from a range of locales, such as Central and South America, as well as Cuba and Mexico. By far, most of the local population—42%, nearly 8,000 people—hails from Mexico, with the next largest population, at 21.4%, being from Puerto Rico. The remaining Hispanic population is split between a number of countries, with 7% coming from South American countries and 8.2% from Central American countries.

Insofar as economics, the Haas Center found that the local Hispanic population is bringing in a combined $315,849,100, as of 2017, in household income.

When looking at median household incomes, the Hispanic population falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when compared to other segments of the population. The median household income for Hispanics is $37,147, while for the total population, it’s $47,361. To further break those numbers down, the white population has a median household income of $52,160, and the black population has one of $32,792, while the Asian population sees a median of $44,118.

Per capita income for the Hispanic community is listed just below $20,000, compared to an overall number in the mid-$25s. And about 23% of the Hispanic community is considered to be at poverty levels, compared to an overall population rate of 15%.

One of the more striking data points concerning the local Hispanic community’s educational particulars was the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher. About 33% of the Hispanic community has a higher degree, compared to 30% of whites, 26% of Asians and 14% of blacks.

Of those in the Hispanic community attaining college degrees, the Haas Center found that a good number of them are going into the sciences and engineering-related fields, with those paths accounting for about 34%. The arts and humanities attracted the next highest percentage, at 28%, followed up by business and education paths.

Approximately 81% of the local Hispanic population has earned a high school diploma. Those without a high school diploma account for 19.3%.

To further explore the Haas Center’s findings on the local Hispanic population, check haas.uwf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Presentation.pdf.

The Wall No One Wants The Florida Department of Transportation is planning a $7.5 million project to improve safety along a stretch of West Cervantes that has grown notoriously dangerous for pedestrians and drivers. In addition to improvements including traffic signals and crosswalks, the state is also planning to run a fence-like barrier down the middle of Cervantes in an effort to steer both pedestrians and drivers to designated cross-over points.

Local officials from both the city and county, as well as residents and business owners in the area, have spoken out against this barrier concept, contending that it breaks up the street grid and unnecessarily limits the flow of the neighborhood. FDOT, meanwhile, has remained unmoved.

Recently, Mayor Robinson has expressed his thoughts regarding the West Cervantes improvements on multiple occasions. He has expressed the city’s concerns in a letter and also met with FDOT officials.

“DOT made this very clear in the meeting we had, it’s for safety. And part of that is getting pedestrians to go to the right spot,” he said. “They have been, both times, fairly insistent that this is a safety project, that this was safety money. And in their minds, they’re going to address safety.”

As the state isn’t budging on its plan to effectively limit crossing points on the street, the mayor is touting a compromise—more traffic signals.

“While I would have liked to get every opening opened, that’s probably not going to be the case with DOT,” Robinson said at his Sept. 9 press conference. “My compromise to that, when they told me that, was. ‘Well, I want you to put in traffic lights at every opening you have.’”

In exchange for FDOT building its West Cervantes wall, Mayor Robinson said he was able to secure three additional traffic signals—on Q, L and B streets—to complement the one already slated for J Street. These additional lights, he said, would go a long ways toward slowing traffic and providing safe crossing points for pedestrians.

“We think that is going to be significant in that stretch,” the mayor said, pointing to other areas, such as the stretch of East Cervantes between Palafox and 17th Avenue, where traffic signals are more plentiful and pedestrian-vehicle incidents less frequent.

Mayor Robinson pointed out that FDOT did not feel the lights were necessary, and the city was likely getting them as a form of concession regarding the state’s lack of flexibility when it comes to the median fence.

“DOT would say that the traffic signals that we’re putting in are unwarranted, which means normally they would never go in,” he said.

The mayor also said that even though FDOT would likely go ahead with a physical street divider, enough streets had been opened to allow for a reasonably traversable distance between crossing opportunities—“the idea is no one has to go more than a block and a half to find a signalized area”—and that ultimately, the wall could be reassessed if it was found to be problematic.

“If we decide something happens, people learn, we want to come back and take it down. It’s fairly easy to take a fence down,” Robinson said. “What’s not easy to get is a traffic signal that’s unwarranted.”

Mark Your Calendars Architectural Review Board,  2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, Hagler-Mason Conference Room, Second Floor, Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St.

Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program Technical Committee, 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, Escambia County Central Office Complex, 3363 W. Park Place.

Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program Educational Committee, 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, Escambia County Central Office Complex, 3363 W. Park Place.
Escambia Cares Community Resource Expo will take place 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, Brownsville Community Center, 3200 W. De Soto St.
Downtown Improvement Board meets 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, Bowden Building, Room #1. 120 Church St.