Pensacola, Florida
Thursday October 17th 2019


The Buzz 10/10/19

2019 Rat Pack Reunion Council on Aging of West Florida announced the ninth annual Rat Pack Reunion has been set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25, at Skopelos at New World. Every year, a committee selects four outstanding business and philanthropic leaders to honor. The black-tie fundraiser allows the senior services agency to increase resources and awareness for its various programs, including Meals on Wheels, adult daycare, companionship, respite care and more. This year, the honorees are:

Ashton Hayward—His eight years as mayor shaped Pensacola into what it is today—a vibrant hub of ideas and opportunity. After a few years in New York City working for AT&T, Ashton moved back home to open his own real estate company before taking public office as the first “Strong Mayor” in 2011. His current work at the Andrews Research and Education Foundation represents the organization on a global scale.

Michael Murdoch—He brought the technology industry to Northwest Florida in a new way through his creation of AppRiver. He attended the University of Georgia and always had a passion for the technology industry, creating applications long before AppRiver. Within a few years of founding his signature company, it was worth millions. Murdoch has since sold AppRiver and is enjoying seeing the world with his wife, Addie.

Michael Riesberg—Dr. Riesberg is an ear, nose, and throat doctor in Pensacola. After retiring as a Navy captain, he opened the Riesberg Institute to provide ENT services in Pensacola. Not satisfied with just practicing medicine, Dr. Riesberg works to improve his field by inventing various medical devices. A patron of the arts, he is heavily involved in the local opera community. Known as the “Opera Doc,” he is the only doctor that many professional singers trust to operate on their throats. It is difficult to find a local cause that he has not been heavily involved in.

Brenda Vigodsky—She worked closely with her late husband, Fred, to build the business community in Pensacola for decades. Their various businesses ranged from clothing stores to restaurants to a television broadcast station. Known for her class and tact, Brenda has been involved in many nonprofits in Pensacola. Today, her close involvement with the Pace Center for Girls has changed the lives of the young girls involved. Brenda can also be found cheering for the Florida Gators and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Now in its ninth year, the Rat Pack Reunion recreates the glamorous old Vegas styles and atmosphere of yesteryear’s Rat Pack by honoring Pensacola’s own celebrities with a gentle roast, dancing, dinner, free cocktails and more. To date, the event has raised more than a million dollars for Council on Aging of West Florida and the 2,200 seniors in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties the organization serves. To purchase tickets, sponsor the Rat Pack Reunion or for information on the event, visit

ECAT Melodrama Last week, WEAR-TV made it seem that an agenda item on the dissolution of the special district for Escambia County Area Transit would amount to the county taking control of the mass transit system. According to the report, Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill said if the county took control, routes would be cut and jobs would be lost.

The reporter, Renee Beninate, tweeted, “Commissioner Doug Underhill hopes to save least $4.5 million a year by cutting bus routes and jobs in the county. That way, commissioners could repeal a 4-cent gas tax that funds the county’s transportation services right now. Full story tonight at 10 on @weartv #C3N.”

Sadly, the local ABC affiliate fell for Underhill’s political trap without understanding the issue or the commissioner’s motives. County Attorney Alison Rogers told Inweekly the vote would have no impact on mass transit. The county has had control of ECAT since 2017. Nothing would change if the special district was dissolved. The county commission would gain no more power over the system.

Predictably, the television report concerned ECAT workers. Mike Lowery, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1395 president, sounded off on the prospects of losing the transit authority at the Wednesday, Oct. 2, press conference.

“You have not given it a chance to even operate,” Lowery lamented, contending that county commissioners were giving up on the special district his union fought for two years ago.

When Inweekly caught up with Commissioner Underhill after the presser, his tone had changed. He said, “It’s a nothing burger. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t mean anything.”

However, the WEAR-TV news report led Lowery to believe repealing the special district hinted at additional motives. After all, Underhill had brought up cutting gas taxes in 2017, 2018 and 2019 but failed to muster the two additional votes he needed do it.

“We’re concerned there is a hidden agenda, which Commissioner Underhill put out there in the pubic, which is to cut service,” the union president said. “I think their intention is to squeeze the system and make it smaller and not successful.”

At the commission meeting on Thursday, Oct. 3, the commissioners showed little support for the special district.

“This is removing a layer of government,” explained Commissioner Robert Bender, attempting to assure ECAT employees that the move would not impact jobs or routes. “I support the ECAT system. I want to see our routes improve; I want to see our ridership go up.”

He added, “I did ask the question, would it make it any easier to dissolve ECAT, and the answer was no.”

Escambia County Administrator Janice Gilley and Clerk of Court Pam Childers said that the special district required added accounting and reporting responsibilities, some of which the county has not actually been adhering to. County Attorney Rogers said the district amounted to “a paperwork shuffle” and was “an extra layer of government that could be pretty easily gotten rid of.”

Lowery said that the county should have communicated better about its intentions to do away with the authority. He requested commissioners hold off on a decision until after meeting with ECAT representatives.

“I’ve heard more tonight than I’ve heard in the last two weeks trying to find out what the basis of this was,” Lowery said.

Cathryn Andrews, legal counsel for the national Amalgamated Transit Union, traveled from Maryland to ask the county to reconsider. She said that the district arose out of negotiations with ECAT unions as part of the process that saw the employees moved under the county, and as such, further negotiations should be held prior to dismantling the district.

“I want to emphasize that the special district was not created in a vacuum,” Andrews said. “It was created for a special purpose in a specific context, and removing it should not be a unilateral decision.”

Commission Chairman Lumon May said that he would not be supporting the move to dissolve the special district and was supportive of ECAT’s mission, but he seemed to know the tally of the vote that was about to be thrown upon the dais. The commissioners ended up voting 4-1 to shed the weight of the special district.

PSC Students Vote During the 2018 midterm election, 42% of Pensacola State College students voted, compared to 39.1% voting rates of students from other U.S. colleges and universities, according to Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement.

The Tufts University study of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities also revealed that 75.6% of Pensacola State students were registered to vote in 2018, a slight increase over 2014 when 73.9% were registered.

Last year, more PSC students were voting early than ever before. In 2014, 14.3% of them submitted early votes; in 2018, 28% voted early. Female and male students voted at similar rates—42.8% and 41.2%, respectively. In 2014, both rates were under 30%.

Black Pensacola State students voted at a higher rate than any other race or ethnic group. At PSC, 48.1% of black students cast ballots, 41.3% of white students voted and 39.7% of Hispanic students voted. In 2014, white students voted at a higher rate (30.4%) than black students (28.3%) and Hispanic students (22.3%).

Cybersecurity Task Force Named On Sept. 30, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Jeanette Nuñez as chair to the Florida Cybersecurity Task Force, as well as the appointments of Ben Miron, Linda Reid, Dr. Eman el-Sheikh, Jason Raymond, Bernard Kelly, Michael Delgado and Jeffrey Sturman to the Florida Cybersecurity Task Force.

The Florida Cybersecurity Task Force, as defined in s. 20.03(8), Florida Statutes, must review and assess the state’s cybersecurity infrastructure, governance and operations. The task force will analyze and identify potential improvements of state government cybersecurity programs, including individual state agencies. The task force will also prioritize the risks posed by identified threats.

Dr. El-Sheikh is the director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of West Florida (UWF), as well as a professor of computer science. She leads UWF’s efforts as the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence Regional Resource Center for the Southeast United States and received several grants to enhance cybersecurity education and training for K-12, college and non-traditional students. She earned her bachelor’s degree in computer science from American University in Cairo and her master’s degree and doctorate degree in computer science from Michigan State University.

BBC Returns The BBC World Service has returned to WUWF’s overnight lineup. Monday through Saturday from midnight to 5 a.m., listeners can tune into 88.1 FM or visit to hear the latest global news.

“In this day and age, having a global perspective when trying to make sense of the news is more important than ever,” said Joe Vincenza, director of Content & Operations at WUWF.

He continued, “With reporters positioned all over the world and decades of experience, the BBC fills that space in a way no other news organization can. I am thrilled we can once again bring this uniquely informative service back to the WUWF audience.”

Art Vendors Needed The Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce is calling for art vendors to submit applications for the 2019 Art & Wine Festival. This year, the festival is moving to November and will be held Sunday, Nov. 10, on the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. The festival will take place from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. with wine tastings happening from noon-3 p.m.

The selection committee is seeking 25 artists to show/sell original works of art. Application forms can be downloaded from Photos of art items must be submitted with the application or directions must be included to a website where the artwork items can be viewed. Deadline for applying is October 30. All entries are $75 for a 10-by-    10-foot tent space.

Include a check or money order payable to Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce with the completed application form and mail to Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce, 7 Casino Beach Boardwalk, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561.

Super Bowl Bonanza Mr. Robbins Neighborhood (MRN) has announced their 3rd Annual Super Bowl Bonanza will be held 4:30-9 p.m., Nov. 9, at Cordova Lanes Bowling Center. Super Bowl Bonanza is a fun night of fundraising, networking, bowling, prizes, great music and much more. Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased at

This fundraiser will benefit our programs, “Game Plan Camp” and “The Playbook.” The camp and the year-long program primarily serves students from underfunded schools and low-income neighborhoods. MRN’s mission is to help our students to be better prepared for college admission and the workforce.

MRN’s two program initiatives are “The Game Plan Camp” and “The Playbook” for high school student-athletes offer college readiness resources, financial literacy programs, fitness and nutrition workshops, career exploration and workforce development. MRN partners with professionals, institutions, organizations and businesses on a local and national level to help our students reach their full potential.

Adoption Special The Escambia County Animal Shelter is offering a special reduced adoption fee of $40 for all dogs and puppies and $20 for all cats and kittens during the month of October.

Adoption fees include altering of the animal (spay or neutering services), microchip, heartworm test and the initial vaccinations, including rabies vaccinations. Escambia County residents will be required to purchase a license at the time of adoption. This is an additional $11 over the adoption fees and is paid separately.

The Escambia County Animal Shelter is located at 200 W. Fairfield Drive and is open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

Mark Your Calendar DIB Parking & Traffic Committee will meet 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Bowden Building, Room #1, 120 Church St.

Bras, Brews & BBQ will be held 6-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 at The Bridge Bar, 33 Gulf Breeze Pkwy. The requested items are new/gently used bras, new underwear and menstrual hygiene products, which will be donated to local non-profits assisting homeless women and youth.

Ascension Sacred Heart will provide free flu shots for adults 18 or older 9-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at New Birth Baptist Church, 1610 N. Q St.; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Deliverance Tabernacle, 1780 W. Detroit Ave.; and 9-11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Cobb Center, 601 E. Mallory St.

FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance Board of Directors will meet 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, 418 W. Garden St.

Architectural Review Board will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Hagler-Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St.

Pensacola City Council regular meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 17, Council Chambers, First Floor, Pensacola City Hall, 222 W. Main St.