Killing New Jobs in Florida

Feb 03, 2017 — When Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus folded its tent last month, 400 Floridians lost their jobs. Now, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott appears determined to turn his state’s drive for jobs into a Cuba policy clown show.

Gov. Scott, on the eve of a “jobs summit” that he is staging, unleashed a twitter storm and released a state budget to pressure port officials and cut off funds for port projects to stop Florida ports and businesses from trading with Cuba.

At a time when the Governors of nine states, between 2015 and 2017, have brought trade delegations to Cuba for the express purpose of doing deals and creating two-way trade with Cuba, Gov. Scott, uniquely, seems determined to kill jobs – or prevent jobs from being created – in his own state. Simply because those jobs would depend on Florida having commercial relations with Cuba.

Whether he is acting out of “principle” or acting out of self-interest, Gov. Scott is “acting out” and most abnormally for a government official.

Except. Wait a minute. Tweeting? Pushing people around? Breaking trade deals? This seems awfully familiar.

When it comes to Cuba, Florida – to put it kindly – has always been a paradox unable to come to terms with itself. No state in the union has worked harder to impose sanctions on Cuba, and no state has benefited more from trade and travel with the island.

center-for-democracy-americasSince 1959, it has been the center of resistance to the existence of the Cuban system. Now, majorities in the diaspora community and across Florida support an open policy. Florida’s airports, slowly then dramatically, have filled with hundreds of thousands of Cubans and Cuban Americans flying back and forth between the U.S. and Cuba. After the passage of a revised trade sanctions law in 2000, the state’s ports saw off the ships sailing to Havana, and then to Mariel, with containers of food and the other limited but legally traded items U.S. businesses could sell to the island.

Until January, as the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council points out, it was the state’s policy under Governor Scott to make normal trade with Cuba a priority for Florida’s seaports. “Due to the proximity of the state to Cuba and the cultural ties, expanded trade opportunities could be dramatic.” Some business leaders believed Sunshine State trade with Cuba could one day create 20,000 local jobs.

Yes, trade with Cuba does build profits for U.S. businesses and create U.S. jobs. Not just for Florida. Since these opportunities are also open to ports up and down the Atlantic coast, and along the southeast states on the Gulf, Florida has competition; to preserve and expand employment, it has to keep up its investments in trade with Cuba.

Enter the ringmaster. While others wait for the Trump Administration to review Cuba policy (Reuters says that’s happening now), Rick Scott leapt into the ring.

As officials at Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach prepared to welcome Cuban counterparts from Cuba’s National Port Administration and sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) to build cooperation between their ports and Cuba, Gov. Scott made it clear he didn’t want Florida ports to make deals with Cuba.

Scott tweeted in English and Spanish, as the Miami Herald reported, “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior,” and added that he’d ask “state legislators to cut off funding for any Florida ports that ‘enter into any agreement with [the] Cuban dictatorship.’” This caused the knees of Port Everglades and Palm Beach to buckle; there, officials agreed to meet the Cuban delegation but not to sign the MOUs. And, as we report below, it had the same effect on the Port of Tampa, with a spokesperson even denying it ever planned to sign an MOU with Cuba to a reporter who filed a story with a copy of the agreement in his hands.

Yes, the Scott saga even comes with an alternative set of facts. As Paul Guzzo wrote, “The truth is, according to an internal document obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, Port Tampa Bay had already drawn up a memorandum, gotten approval from the federal office, circulated the word in maritime circles and garnered congratulations for its efforts.”

Deciding, apparently, to enlarge rather than quell the problem, Scott put language in his budget, as the Miami Herald reported, that says no money can be “allocated to infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with the Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses.”

The Bradenton Herald slammed the governor for his “inconsistency” for supporting trade with China, and added that “Scott’s threat puts Florida at a competitive disadvantage to ports along the Gulf Coast, East Coast, Caribbean islands and Central America [which are] signing agreements with Cuba.”

We asked Dr. Michael Bustamante, a scholar at Florida International University, to interpret the Governor’s behavior. “It’s clear Governor Scott is returning to an old playbook, one in which U.S.-Cuba policy – or in this case Florida-Cuba policy – is a function of domestic politics, not national or state interests.”

The day Gov. Scott released his budget and doubled down on his investment in stopping bilateral trade with Cuba, the Miami Herald observed, “the first legal maritime shipment from Cuba to the U.S. in more than 50 years” had made its way to Miami-Dade County, after reaching Port Everglades the week before. It was two containers of “artisanal” Cuban charcoal. And more may be coming to a pizza oven near you, even if Governor Scott succeeds in sanctioning businesses in his own state, in the name of shutting down trade with Cuba.

What a circus.

break-line

Source: From the director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas — The Center for Democracy in the Americas promotes a U.S. policy toward Cuba based on engagement and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty. democracyinamericas.org

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Simple Solution to Address Systemic Corruption

In a recent exposé, journalists from Reveal at The Center for Investigative Reporting exposed an accountability gap that has allowed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to pour over $130 million of development assistance into projects run by Planet Aid. USDA continues to invest in Planet Aid even after being presented with evidence that their projects are tied to a corrupt and abusive cult. While many aspects of this report yield troubling lessons for U.S. taxpayers who are footing the bill, the one that struck a chord here at Accountability Counsel was the final conclusion – there is no policy framework at USDA preventing harm and abuse, and no accountability system committed to uncovering, investigating, and remedying harm to victims of USDA-funded projects.

blog-on-huffpo-04-20-2016The Reveal investigation demonstrates harm from lack of oversight and accountability with just one aid recipient, at one institution. As lawyers for communities around the world harmed by internationally-financed development projects, we know that this Planet Aid scheme is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. This conclusion applies not just to USDA, but to the more than 20 U.S. federal agencies that invest in development abroad, representing at least $65 billion a year in aid and financing. Until U.S. agencies adopt both a strong policy framework and a robust accountability system that can deliver remedy, we have no way to ensure that U.S. investment is reaching its intended beneficiaries and is doing more good than harm.

To date, only one U.S. federal agency – the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) – has gotten even part way there. While OPIC has created policies designed to avoid harm and abuse tied to an accountability framework, it still lacks the critical remedy piece. Our case supporting Liberian communities to use OPIC’s Office of Accountability shows why this missing remedy piece of the framework matters.

In Liberia, OPIC’s failed investment into Buchanan Renewables’ biomass project drove farmers into poverty, contaminated water, and involved sexual abuse of local women, among other catastrophes. As a result of a community-led complaint, an OPIC Office of Accountability investigation affirmed many of the community’s allegations. Whereas USDA has made no acknowledgement of wrongdoing in the Planet Aid situation and has failed to investigate, the OPIC findings were an important public acknowledgement that OPIC failed. The OPIC investigation also uncovered a more systemic failure to ensure that human rights and environmental risks of OPIC’s investments were dealt with appropriately. As a result, OPIC has recently increased its due diligence staff and is undergoing a full, public review of its human rights and environmental policies. These positive fixes are critical to OPIC avoiding a repeat of the harm that resulted from the Buchanan Renewables investment. They show progress toward a good policy and accountability framework from which USDA could learn.

However, even after all of the positive systemic impact from their complaint, the communities in Liberia are still suffering. They are worse off than they were before OPIC made its investment. To be truly accountable for its failure, OPIC must deliver remedy for people harmed by its investments. If OPIC gets this right, all federal agencies – including USDA – can benefit from the model it creates.

What would U.S. agencies getting it right look like? Accountability structures must ensure that confirmed allegations of abuse tied to projects or investments result in the power to correct mistakes, so that people’s rights and dignity and the environment are respected where aid and investment hit the ground. OPIC has the chance to lead by example through creation of, for example, a remedy fund tied to its accountability framework. This fund could be paid into through insurance or bonds and could then deliver compensation to victims and make good on the promise the United States has made to its taxpayers – that OPIC’s investments help “solve critical development challenges.”

For OPIC, USDA, and all of the U.S. agencies involved in development aid and finance, we can’t make progress on closing these accountability gaps soon enough. Our own clients in Liberia, victims of Planet Aid schemes, and millions of others harmed by U.S. development spending each year, are still waiting for remedy from a system not designed to deliver it. Our country’s tremendous resources can do tremendous good – or harm – and it’s up to all of us to get it right.

—————

CREDIT: This article first appeared in The Huffington Post, The Blog, April 20, 2016, under the title of “Dysfunction in Development Aid Runs Deep” authored by Kindra Mohr, Policy Director at Accountability Counsel and Co-authored by Natalie Bridgeman Fields, Founder and Executive Director of Accountability Counsel

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New Publix Prison Nears Completion

Publix WallInmates are scheduled to arrive in January. The new prison on Cervantes street is a horizontal expansion from the food sales division of Publix. Economies of scale will result from bag boys serving time while carrying out groceries. One early criticism of the stark no window building was recently addressed by adding faux windows. Most of the people driving by will believe the prison has real windows. Publix will voluntarily post “Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers” signs up and down the street. There is real neighborhood excitement over the extra lighting being installed in the parking lot adjacent to residences. The Publix commitment to building architecturally compatible neighborhood building structures is a core value of the company.

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Keep Partisan Revenge Out of State Constitution

Keep partisan revenge out of state constitution —An Editorial

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board

Floridians need to stay informed on judiciary amendment

Florida voters had to be aware of a sneaky constitutional amendment this year. They may have to be even more informed and focused in 2018.

The 2016 subterfuge was an amendment related to solar energy that advertised itself as consumer-friendly. In fact, Florida’s investor-owned utilities financed the amendment with $26 million in hopes of securing a monopoly on solar power. Voters, however, wised up. The amendment fell far short of the 60 percent needed for approval.

For 2018, the looming danger is amendments that seek to undermine Florida’s independent judiciary. This issue may not sound as sexy as energy from the sun, but it’s far more important.

Florida is the only state in which an appointed body — the Constitution Revision Commission — can put amendments on the ballot without court review. The 37-member commission meets every 20 years, and the next iteration starts in 2017 to decide which amendments — if any — go on the 2018 ballot.

The governor gets 15 appointments, including the chairman. The House speaker and Senate president get nine, the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court gets three and the attorney general is automatically a member. When Florida created the commission in 1965, the intent was to provide regular review of the new state constitution — approved in 1968 — to propose bipartisan updates. For House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, however, his priority is partisan revenge.

Two weeks ago, Corcoran addressed the business group Associated Industries of Florida. Corcoran told AIF that his appointees to the Constitution Revision Commission must favor term limits for Florida Supreme Court justices, who now can serve until age 70, like all of Florida’s jurists. In addition, Corcoran said his “litmus test” is that commission members be “conservative.”

Though he claims that conservatives “get the separation of powers,” Corcoran is not acting like such a conservative. He wants to make the Florida Supreme Court subservient to the Legislature because he opposes the court’s rulings on, to name a few, school vouchers, workers compensation insurance and, especially, redistricting.

In 2010, voters approved constitutional amendments that prohibited the Legislature from drawing gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts to favor parties and incumbents. Last year, the groups that sponsored the amendments successfully challenged the congressional and state Senate maps the Republican-controlled Legislature drew in 2012.

Both amendments got nearly 63 percent of the vote. Evidence showed that, despite promises of transparency, Republican leaders had worked in secret with party operatives to draw maps that favored the GOP. The legal challenge ensured that the amendments would work as voters intended.

Corcoran now wants the Constitutional Revision Commission to go after “bad decisions” — translation: his side lost — by the Florida Supreme Court. He wants proposals to neuter the Fair Districts Amendments and impose 12-year-term limits on Supreme Court justices.

Republicans earlier targeted the justices after the court in 2010 struck some misleading amendments from the ballot. In 2011, the House proposed an amendment that would have split the seven-member Supreme Court into a pair of five-member divisions — criminal and civilian.

Conveniently, the Democratic-appointed justices would have gone into the criminal division. Judges whom the GOP liked would have gone into the civil division, which would have reviewed constitutional amendments. Gov. Rick Scott would have appointed three new justices. It was court-packing. Fortunately, the Senate blocked it.

Even a weakened version of the amendment got less than 40 percent the next year. Also in 2012, Corcoran tried to finance a campaign to defeat three justices who were up for merit retention. He called them “the enemy of the free markets.” All kept their jobs. One is Jorge Labarga, the current chief justice who will make those three appointments to the Constitution Revision Commission.

Corcoran alone would be dangerous enough, but Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, also wants the commission to review the Fair Districts Amendments. Scott’s statements show that he prefers the judiciary to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the executive and judicial branches — if Republicans control them.

In 1998, the Constitution Revision Commission property focused its work on changes intended to make state government work better. The most important amendment shrunk the Florida Cabinet by making the education and insurance commissioners appointed, not elected. In 1978, voters rejected all eight of the commission’s amendments, but most — such as the right to privacy — became law later.

It takes 22 votes to get an amendment on the ballot. We don’t know what the commission will produce. Based on the early comments, however, we know that there’s reason for Floridians to start worrying and stay informed.

(Sun Sentinel editorial originally appeared here.)

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Florida’s Broken Sentencing System

Florida’s broken sentencing system — designed for fairness, it fails to account for prejudice (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Justice has never been blind when it comes to race in Florida.

Blacks were first at the mercy of slave masters. Then came Jim Crow segregation and the Ku Klux Klan.

Now, prejudice wears a black robe.

Half a century after the civil rights movement, trial judges throughout Florida sentence blacks to harsher punishment than whites, a Herald-Tribune investigation found.

They offer blacks fewer chances to avoid jail or scrub away felonies.

They give blacks more time behind bars — sometimes double the sentences of whites accused of the same crimes under identical circumstances…

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

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Self-righteous Indignation

There is no allegation of corruption of the vote in our election. The complaint is the Russians favored Trump over Clinton and did some media manipulation to advance their preferred candidate. This seems pretty mild compared to what we have done for a very long time in countries all over the world…

From the Washington Post, “The long history of the United States interfering with elections elsewhere”

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The Studer Community Survey

We have been assured by the Pensacola Young Professionals that all supporting data for the Studer Community Survey that they published will be made available to the public. Mr. Studer pays for the survey, pays to present it for publication the way he wants it presented and does all of it in the name of the Pensacola Young Professionals. PYP claims that somehow Mason-Dixon polling was involved. We hired a polling expert who wrote to Mason-Dixon and asked for the raw data. They have refused to provide it notwithstanding the assurances of the PYP that they would provide it. We have asked the PYP to request Mr. Studer direct Mason Dixon to release the raw data. The “PYP survey” that was published by Mr. Studer presented a bleak picture of the City of Pensacola. The results were touted by the dark side bloggers as proof positive the City was going in the wrong direction. The minute it was published the response from many in the community was confusion. How could everything seem like it is terrific in the City with businesses flourishing but only 45% of the people polled thought the city was headed in the right direction, a 25% decrease in public approval from the previous year. It was an astonishing drop in public opinion approval of the city. So we asked the PYP to allow us to see the raw data. They now refuse to allow it.

The problem with potentially bogus surveys is when they are used to try to influence public policy. The methodology and raw data should be transparent in every respect. Painting the city the way Mr. Studer’s survey did discourages others to invest, demoralizes elected officials and city staff and is highly damaging to the city. It fosters baseless criticism of city policy decisions and demeans good people who are doing good work. It is great however for bloggers like Outzen who need no substantive evidence to inflame their dozen or so followers.

So we make this public demand to PYP and Mr. Studer. Show us the raw data immediately so we can see how Mr. Studer’s survey reached the negative conclusion the PYP allowed to be published under their name. There was an old Pensacola lawyer back in the ’50s that filed some case papers with this legal conclusion: “On top of everything else it smells fishy.” Something doesn’t seem right about this PYP/Studer survey. When you decide to publish a survey that paints our city in a negative light, the persons who did it should have the intellectual honesty to show us the supporting raw data ( all of the details including the polling sampling method, the actual questions asked, age sex and residence of the person polled and much more), otherwise they should publicly withdraw it.

So now we have this very positive, objectively done, legitimate community survey conducted by the UWF. They have no ulterior motive and no axe to grind against the Mayor. This is a true picture of the city done with professional objective polling. The city is not perfect but it is doing pretty darn well. Most of the citizens are proud of the city and happy to live here.

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City of Pensacola Announces Results of Most Recent Community Survey

city-of-pensacola-aerial

The Haas Center submitted the results of its third annual City of Pensacola community survey to Mayor Hayward today. The survey is conducted to assess resident satisfaction with the delivery of major city services, help improve the quality of those services and determine budget priorities.

The survey results produced the following key findings:

• 69.3% of respondents said the City is headed in the right direction.
• The report identified three areas of concern, down from five in 2015.
• There was a 14% increase in the percentage of respondents who said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the value of services provided by the City compared to the taxes they pay.
• The percentage of respondents who were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the ease of obtaining information about City services rose by 21%.

“The faculty and staff at UWF are a tremendous resource for the city and we turn to them on a regular basis for research assistance and advice”, said Mayor Ashton Hayward. “The annual survey has developed into a great partnership between the City and the Haas Center.”

“Seeing that by a margin of 8 to 1, city residents are telling us that the city is on the right track, and that the City continues to get high marks for core services such as public safety, sanitation and city parks, I think these survey results validate that our priorities are aligned with the community’s expectations,” said Mayor Hayward. “The survey data is useful to us as we begin our budget planning process. There were a lot of positives in the survey, but it also showed us opportunities for improvement, especially around issues of infrastructure.”

The three city services that were identified in the report as “areas of concern” were stormwater infrastructure, streets and sidewalks. The City is taking active steps to address each one of them. Beginning in early 2017 and continuing for the next three years, the City will spend $13.8 million to resurface 1825 blocks of city streets. When the project is complete the overwhelming majority of city streets will have been resurfaced or reconstructed since 2005.

In the last three years the City has spent over $21 million on stormwater projects and that investment is now at a point where progress is readily visible. Some rain events that used to overwhelm the City’s stormwater system are now contained by it, flooding is minimized, and untreated runoff is prevented from flowing into Pensacola Bay. In response to residents’ ongoing concerns about stormwater management, city staff continues to research and apply for grants to enhance the City’s resiliency and has placed a priority on obtaining RESTORE funding for projects to reduce flood risks in the Long Hollow basin.

To address concerns about sidewalks the City is preparing to assess the condition of the entire network of sidewalks in order to identify and prioritize maintenance needs for existing sidewalks and locations for new construction. Money from Local Option Sales Tax proceeds will be used to pay for the prioritized list of projects.

The International City/County Management Association recommends citizen surveying as a way to bridge the gap between the government and citizens who vote, pay taxes, and make decisions about where to live and build their businesses but may not be able to attend council meetings or participate in public workshops. Surveys done by outside professionals help establish a neutral benchmark that all parties can accept and they come with analysis and explanation that put the results in perspective.

Conducted over a five-week period that began October 1, 2016, the mixed methods survey randomly sampled city residents. In total, 444 people completed the survey. That response level coincides with an approximate 4.6% margin of error. In other words, a sample of City of Pensacola residents will differ no more than +/-4.6% from a survey that included all City of Pensacola residents.

The complete report along with the survey instrument is available on the City’s website: City of Pensacola Document Center

About the Haas Center

The Haas Center is a research and consulting unit of the University of West Florida that specializes in applied business research, survey research and economic development. For over twenty years, the Center has led a wide range of research projects, including studies on economic and fiscal impacts, workforce development, industry clusters, feasibility analyses, demographic profiles and custom analytics.

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An Embarrassment of Immense Proportion

The Florida Department of Transportation does what the governor wants done. The director keeps his job if the governor wants him to. We can only assume that the governor is indifferent to the planning and building disaster at I-10 and Scenic Highway, the fiasco of the three mile bridge contract award and the endless FDOT mistakes, like the Avalon Boulevard construction. The I-10/Scenic Highway mess is not only an awful sight, but it is highly dangerous as an unfenced retention pond.

So how does the FDOT get away with it? The same way they got away with handing us the worst possible design and the cheapest bidder for our new three mile bridge. The local politicians do what they are told to do by FDOT or FDOT will punish them by reallocating money away from the community. It is a fiefdom that operates outside the legislative appropriation process. They have their own “process” which is a system that operates better in the dark than a gaggle of swarming bats.

The Director never shows up in public to take responsibility for the disasters they cause.

We are a community of uneven highway lanes, the poorest highway construction contractors and neutered politicians that can do nothing about any of it. The incompetence of their three mile bridge contractor award is just beginning. We will face this FDOT decision for years with construction screw-ups and predictable major traffic congestion. They picked the cheapest contract bid after effectively eliminating world class bridge designers and builders by the way they set up the specifications for bidding. The FDOT used the money they saved on our three mile bridge contract for pet projects of powerful politicians in South Florida that FDOT needs to maintain this unchecked power of non-legislative appropriations. This is a corrupt system involving hundreds of millions of dollars and it was designed to do just what it is doing.

In the meantime they have sold these inane official blue and white lettered signs on the interstate to GEICO. The signs alert drivers that the upcoming rest stop is a “safe cell phone area” as if anyone needed that warning. Truth is they sold GEICO coveted interstate right of way signs and allowed them the same lettering as official FDOT signage. The irony will be when someone trying to read one of these signs plows into the car ahead of them.

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Not Close to Understanding

The Democrats now eager to recount votes that will not change the outcome of the Presidential election are applauding the selection of their revered leader Nancy Pelosi. She is by far the worst possible person they could have elected to lead them. Mired in charges of insider dealing and profiteering she is the very face of the disgraced. Yet the Democrats hold on to her. They are clueless of the sentiment of many. Until they get a clue they are not going to win much.

In Florida they have provided one poor candidate after another for governor; maybe it’s time for Morgan. Nationally it is hopeless. The vast middle class who saw little hope for improvement in their lives with four more years of the Democrats turned to Trump. How can anyone blame them?

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Imprisoned for Crimes They Did not Commit

Innocence Project of Florida – Unlocking the truth…

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Family Fun

Our thanks to all for participating in the naming survey for the YMCA apartment complex. The three finalists are:

1) Edatum (“A” is pronounced as in “take”)

2) Q – Family Village

3) Subsidy Place

Please have your votes in by the end of November. Our special thanks to the downtown business community for all their help in conducting the survey. Their response has been terrific.

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Florida Leads the Nation in Wrongful Convictions

For Victims’ Families, the Torment of Exoneration

Relatives say overturned convictions leave them feeling overlooked, afraid and even angry

By Kate King, Wall Street Journal, Nov. 7, 2016 12:03 a.m. ET (updated)

Andrea Harrison was buying lemonade at the Wawa store on Route 38 in southern New Jersey when the man who she had grown up believing killed her mother walked in the door.

Ms. Harrison had never met Larry Peterson, who spent nearly 18 years in prison for the murder before his conviction was overturned. But she had studied his picture from the state’s online criminal database.

“I walked out of that store so fast,” Ms. Harrison said of the encounter several years ago. “I was stunned.”

A judge threw out Mr. Peterson’s conviction in 2005, after DNA analysis discredited the forensic evidence used against him in his 1989 trial. Prosecutors haven’t charged anyone else.

“I still don’t have my mom,” Ms. Harrison said. “And now I don’t even have satisfaction in knowing that whoever did kill her is away and they can’t hurt anybody else, they can’t hurt me.”

exoneration-wrongful-convictions

There have been 1,913 exonerations nationwide since 1989, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The registry estimates the wrongfully convicted have lost a total of 16,699 years behind bars. Stories about dubious convictions, such as the case profiled in the podcast “Serial,” have attracted cultlike followings and helped win new trials.

Meanwhile, a 2013 report commissioned by the National Institute of Justice was a rare look at the experiences of crime victims and their families in wrongful conviction cases.

Erin Williamson, who worked on the federal study as a consultant for ICF International, a consulting and technological services firm, said the families of murder victims told her they felt overlooked as they watched the media and members of the community rally around the wrongfully convicted.

“The victims kind of said, ‘No one’s realizing that this all happened because our family member was murdered,’ ” Ms. Williamson said.

Steven Barnes was convicted of the 1985 murder and sexual assault of 16-year-old Kim Simon in upstate New York. DNA analysis of evidence freed him from prison in 2008. He received a $3.5 million settlement from the state.

‘I’m just angry at the system that failed me. I hope there’s closure in this case so they can put it to rest.’

—Steven Barnes, who was exonerated for murder and sexual assault

Todd Simon was 12 when his sister was killed. Now 43 and living in Florida, Mr. Simon said he feared for his safety after learning Mr. Barnes had been exonerated and asked police whether his family would receive protection. Law-enforcement officers assured Mr. Simon that he wasn’t in danger, but he still worried that Mr. Barnes would blame him or his family for his incarceration.

“I still had in the back of my mind, what could happen if this person is angry?” said Mr. Simon.

Mr. Barnes, who was 23 when he went into prison and 42 when he was released, said he holds no animosity toward the Simon family.

“I’m just angry at the system that failed me,” he said, adding that he hasn’t talked with the Simon family since his exoneration. “I hope there’s closure in this case so they can put it to rest.”

The 2013 federal study found that fear is common among family members after the person they long believed killed their loved one is exonerated and released from prison, said Ms. Williamson, the consultant. “It’s very hard to suddenly flip a switch and think differently about that person,” she said. “That fear is very genuine.”

Mr. Barnes used part of his settlement to buy a house near his mother in Marcy, N.Y. The Oneida County District Attorney’s Office spent close to $500,000 reinvestigating the Simon murder after Mr. Barnes’ exoneration, but it remains unsolved. Mr. Simon said he and his parents, who are now in their 70s, doubt they will ever see the case closed.

“Our family gets nothing,” Mr. Simon said. “People forget that we were the victims.”

It is difficult to determine how many underlying criminal cases remain open after exonerations. The national registry doesn’t keep comprehensive statistics on how many cases are later solved.

In Brooklyn, a conviction review unit of nine prosecutors and three investigators has overturned 21 convictions since 2014. One was Antonio Yarbough, who spent nearly 22 years in prison after he was convicted of killing his mother, sister and a family friend.

Mr. Yarbough, who grew up in Coney Island, said he had a stable childhood even though his mother, Annie Yarbough, was a heroin addict. “If you didn’t know, you would think I had the perfect mom,” he said.

One summer morning in 1992, Mr. Yarbough, then 18, arrived home after a night out with friends and found his mother; his 12-year-old half-sister, Chavonn Barnes; and her friend, Latasha Knox, also 12. They had been tied up with electrical cords, garroted and stabbed multiple times.

Police charged Mr. Yarbough and one of his friends with the murders. Both were convicted and spent more than two decades in prison before they were exonerated in February 2014.

During his years behind bars, Mr. Yarbough said his anger toward the justice system was compounded by his feelings of guilt over not being home to protect his family the night they were murdered.

“I wasn’t accused of killing somebody else,” he said. “I was accused of killing the most important people in my life.”

Mr. Yarbough was released after a DNA sample found under his mother’s fingernails matched a sample found on a woman who was raped and murdered while Mr. Yarbough was in prison. He received a $3.6 million settlement from New York state, which he used to buy a small home on the outskirts of Queens. He is suing the New York City Police Department for violating his civil rights. A spokesman for the city Law Department declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The person whose DNA sample led to Mr. Yarbough’s exoneration remains unidentified, and the murders of his mother, sister and family friend are still unsolved. The NYPD didn’t respond to requests for comment on the status of the case.

“I want him to get locked up, I want him to go to trial,” Mr. Yarbough said, referring to the killer.

Wrongful conviction cases that involve DNA or other forensic evidence stand the best chance of seeing the crime solved. But the evidence that gets someone released from prison doesn’t always lead to another conviction, said Joe Giacalone, a retired New York police sergeant.

Mr. Giacalone, who was commanding officer of the Bronx Cold Case Squad, said older cases are more difficult to solve because witnesses die and records are lost. In many cases, the original investigators had “tunnel vision,” focusing too early on a person or group and neglecting to pursue other leads, he said.

“Exoneration cases become, unfortunately, cold cases times two in many respects, because there are no other suspects,” Mr. Giacalone said.

Andrea Harrison was 3 when her mother, Jacqueline Harrison, was found dead near a soybean field in New Jersey’s Pemberton Township on Aug. 24, 1987. An autopsy found that Jacqueline Harrison had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death. She was 25 with two daughters.

In 1989, Larry Peterson was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for the crime. Andrea Harrison said she grew up fixated on the loss of her mother but believed justice had been served. She was 21 when a judge threw out Mr. Peterson’s conviction and called for a new trial.

“We thought, OK, that was it. Case closed,” Ms. Harrison said. “And then this exoneration happened.”

Burlington County Prosecutor Robert Bernardi concluded that his office didn’t have strong enough evidence to retry Mr. Peterson and asked the court to dismiss the charges.

“At this time there are no other identified suspects in this heinous crime,” Mr. Bernardi wrote in a 2006 report outlining his decision.

Mr. Peterson couldn’t be reached for comment. He was the first person in New Jersey exonerated in a homicide case based on DNA analysis and won a $1 million settlement from the state. In 2013 he was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, according to court records. The charges were dismissed the following year.

At the time of her death, Jacqueline Harrison was dating Dwayne Jones, Andrea Harrison’s father. They had plans to marry, but Jacqueline Harrison “was involved in some stuff that she shouldn’t have been,” Mr. Jones said. He believes she went out with other drug users from the neighborhood on the night she was murdered.

“I wish they would have found out who did it,” Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Bernardi declined through a spokesman to comment.

Vanessa Potkin, an Innocence Project attorney who represented Mr. Peterson, said both crime victims and the wrongfully convicted deserve justice.

“It’s horrific enough to lose a family member, to add to that injury, finding out decades later that the wrong person was incarcerated—that can be unbearable,” Ms. Potkin said. “There is no finality in a case if an innocent person has been convicted and the true assailant is left unapprehended.”

Mr. Jones still lives in southern New Jersey, but the social gatherings that he used to enjoy have been clouded since Mr. Peterson’s exoneration. Today, Mr. Jones suspects people from the community have information about Jacqueline Harrison’s murder but don’t want to share it with police.

“They’re breaking bread with you and still keeping this big, deep dark secret,” said Mr. Jones.

Andrea Harrison, now 32, lives in Maryland with her 9-year-old daughter, Lavender. She can no longer remember the shape of her mother’s face or the sound of her voice. For the past three Christmases, she has asked her aunts for photographs of her mother. They sit on the mantel in her living room.

“Tell me about my mom, tell me what happened to her,” Andrea Harrison said. “I think I want to know, as long as it culminates with them being prosecuted and put away.”

Write to Kate King at Kate.King@wsj.com

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Appalling to Say the Least

From the Washington Post, 09/08/2016…

Officer threw black teen ‘like a child’s doll’ during parking lot encounter, lawsuit claims

Surveillance video of the 2014 incident shows a 15-year-old girl pedaling a bike through a mall parking lot in Washington State.

An off-duty officer in an SUV pulls up from behind and stops the girl, who was with her brother. The girl, Monique Tillman, asked the officer why the pair had been stopped, according to an amended lawsuit complaint filed in Pierce County Superior Court.

The Tacoma police officer, identified in the lawsuit as Jared Williams, told Tillman and her brother, Eric Branch, that they were causing a disturbance, the lawsuit alleges — something that Tillman disputed.

Tillman, who is black, told authorities that she thought she was “being harassed because of the color of her skin,” the lawsuit states. After a back-and-forth, Tillman claims she tried to pedal away.

Instead, the lawsuit states, the officer “erupted” and “began brutalizing” the teen. He “tossed Plaintiff Tillman around like a child’s doll, slamming her into parked vehicles, forcefully shoving his hand and forearm into her chest, grabbing her by the hair and body slamming her into the pavement,” the complaint claims.

When Tillman was on the ground, the officer used a stun gun on her, the complaint states. Her brother, “horrified” by the scene, tried to help. But according to the lawsuit, he was threatened with the stun gun, too.

In the wake of the incident, Tillman has suffered nightmares, fears incarceration and distrusts police officers, the lawsuits states. According to the lawsuit, Williams was “working as a Tacoma police officer and in an off-duty capacity” in a private security job at the time the incident occurred.

“She says it best herself, and that is she doesn’t feel secure,” her attorney, Vito de la Cruz, said in a phone interview. “She is frightened of police officers and doesn’t feel like she is safe.”

Tillman was arrested after the May 2014 incident but the charges she faced were dismissed by a judge, according to the Seattle Times, which reports that the lawsuit was initially filed earlier this year. The lawsuit — in which Tillman claims her civil rights were violated during the encounter with police and security guards — has now been amended and expanded.

The Times reports that this happened “after a spokeswoman for Tacoma police told reporters that though Williams was off duty and working as a security guard, he still had police authority to make the arrest.”

According to a news release from de la Cruz, the amended complaint now includes the Tacoma police department, its chief, and two other defendants, another officer and a security guard.

“Given that Officer Williams’ conduct was committed under color of law as a police officer for the Tacoma Police Department, the Plaintiffs have alleged federal and state civil rights violations in their amended complaint,” the release states. “At the core of the complaint is the excessive force used and illegal arrest made by Tacoma Police Officer Williams and others against Ms. Tillman and her brother Eric Branch.”

The lawsuit, in which Branch is also a plaintiff, alleges that officials “routinely approve or ratify abusive, excessive, and unnecessary uses of force” and fail to take action against officers who go too far.

Authorities allow officers who “abuse citizens and violate their rights” to remain employed, and “routinely charge arrestees with acts of resistance or violence when the officers have used violence against the arrestee, regardless of merit,” the lawsuit states.

“I think it’s important to stress that police officers are there to protect and serve the community,” de la Cruz said. “And in situations such as this, when excessive force was clearly used, the video speaks for itself, they must be held accountable and policies must change. For too long, the African American community and other communities of color have felt that they’re not protected when they’re out and have police encounters.

“These two children were riding their bikes and that was all they were doing. And they’re African-American, and that seems to have been the reason why they were stopped. At least a prime motivator for it.”

Williams is white, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit comes at a time of increased tensions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. Across the country, many are debating the use of force, police tactics and the interactions between law enforcement and black citizens.

Earlier this summer, fatal police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota stirred continued unrest, while the fatal shootings of officers in Dallas stoked fears about the dangers faced by those who work in law enforcement. More recently, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has protested by taking a knee during the national anthem, an effort to raise awareness of racial injustice. He has been joined by soccer star Megan Rapinoe, though her act of protest was preempted earlier this week.

A message left with a Tacoma police spokesman was not immediately returned Thursday.

Read the original article from the Washington Post here.

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One Amendment We Don’t Need

sun-solar-energyThis November, “Amendment 1” (The Solar Energy Amendment) will be on the Florida ballot. We have all heard the radio commercials and seen the TV ads promoting “solar energy choice” and growing solar “the right way” protecting the “rights of consumers.” Not so fast.

The November ballot Amendment 1 is being funded by big power companies. Duke Energy (Florida), Tampa Electric, FP&L (Florida Power & Light) and, yes, Gulf Power. Why would all of these big power companies support the passing of this amendment?

– Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente warned us all that Amendment 1 is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” that “actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.” Meaning gaining monopoly control over solar power by the existing power companies.

– Florida statutes and regulations already allow for the use solar energy by individuals. This amendment is a fraud on Florida voters. You will not find a single Gulf Power Executive that will own up to responsibility for what they are trying to pull off. Not one – none nada.

How can we tell if a state constitutional amendment is good for consumers? A good indicator is who funds this one, not consumer advocates it is the power companies. These companies dutifully operate our electric power systems. They do a good job and we appreciate and respect them for it. We want them to make a reasonable profit. This Amendment One scam however is beneath the dignity of every Gulf Power employee save the management responsible for it. Millions spent to convince us to give them control over our solar power. Dishonest and intentionally deceptive advertising to take away from us what we now have a right to possess, a new low for our power companies.

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Move Here, Pay Taxes & Help Foot the Bill

According to our list of Public Record Requests, in 2016, Mr. Outzen has managed to equal his record request total from the previous three years, making over fifty requests this year alone (see image below this post). He always copies an employee of the State Attorney’s office with his requests suggesting he has their support, which is simply false. He can copy the President of the United States if he wants to and there is nothing anyone can do about it, but the reason he copies an employee of the State Attorney is to create the impression the State Attorney is supporting the request. Yesterday he announced on radio that “the State Attorney does not seem particularly interested in Sunshine violations.” Unfair and not true. Mr. Eddins’ assistant state attorneys have vigorously enforced violations of the public records laws. Mr. Outzen has kicked the wrong dog accusing the State Attorney of indifference to violations of law.

He has recently filed criminal charges against the Mayor of the City of Pensacola which were determined to be groundless. He has previously filed a false criminal complaint accusing an unknown person of committing cyber stalking which was patently ridiculous and filed solely to learn the identity of the author of “Dick’s Blog” — which had previously observed Mr. Outzen was not a journalist.

Mr. Outzen certainly has a right to file public record requests, but his almost every-other-day requests seem excessive. Mr. Outzen, who lives in Gulf Breeze, pays no Pensacola City or Escambia County land taxes, apparently has no reservation in making the City of Pensacola incur all these staff charges to produce records. His rage seems oddly myopically focused on the Mayor of the City of Pensacola. When he obtains the records he requests he does nothing with them because there has been no wrong doing by city staff or the Mayor’s office. In the meantime legitimate news agencies and private citizens are delayed getting their public records requests answered.

Far worse is the relentless bashing of our city (not his) and the negative image he seems hell bent to keep advancing. We need good jobs and businesses to locate here. Next time you see his weekly paper think about the harm he causes us all in our efforts to reach that goal.

rick-outzen-public-record-requests

click on image then click on magnifying glass to ENLARGE

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Please Identify Yourself

“Some of these concerns were not wholly unfounded. Some were patently absurd.”

So reads a Pensacola News Journal editorial regarding the many questions that were raised about Senator Gaetz qualifications for the presidency of UWF. Sadly the PNJ writer offers no example of either. What does it mean to say not wholly unfounded? Is the writer of the editorial suggesting some concerns were unfounded? The PNJ owes it to the faculty, the students, the trustees and the public to provide the facts supporting this editorial writer’s opinion. What concerns were absurd? Which person made an absurd charge? What was it? What were the unfounded concerns? What were the well-founded concerns?

It takes 20 minutes to fire off an editorial where the writer makes no effort to prove what they are writing. Yes, it is an opinion and no you don’t have to have any factual basis for it, but this is not a weekly blog, this is a Gannett newspaper. Will the writer please stand up and identify him or herself and provide us with a bit more detail?

Andy Marlette also criticized Governor Scott with a bombastic editorial attack. Does anyone know though what information the Governor had about Senator Gaetz that he could not disclose publicly? How can anyone rationally reach the conclusion that what the Governor did was petty retaliation politics? No one knows what the Governor said to any trustee — if anything. Maybe he saved UWF an embarrassment that none of us, including the PNJ, understood.

It is easy to understand the cabal boys spreading this baseless rumor, but the PNJ? You could only reach that editorial conclusion if you were a big Don Gaetz supporter and upset he was not selected. Few responsible newspaper writers would malign the Governor of this state with absolutely no factual support.

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Can Trump Lead Us Back?

HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal on time. This is a good way of letting him know that you have been thinking about and are concerned· about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself. Take fifteen minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up you makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.

the-good-wife-1950sClear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him and greet him with a warm smile.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other pleasant entertainment. Instead try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to unwind and relax. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest that he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take. off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Some don’ts: Don’t greet him with problems and complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

The goal: To make you home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax in body and spirit.

(The preceding was excerpted from a 1950 high school Home Economics textbook.)

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Mr. Negative

ricks-radio-showRick Outzen was interviewing Mr. Studer on Outzen’s radio show and the two of them were lamenting the terrible negativity associated with the UWF presidential search. They mix exposing the truth with baseless criticism. Now isn’t this a pretty picture? Mr. Negative interviewing the guy who gives $$ to politicians who give him tax breaks. If you mention it they whine that you are negative. Mr. Studer says we need to get passed this in our community. We will when high profile people conduct themselves honorably. Till then pointing out dishonorable conduct or politically rigged deals really needs to continue.

In this community (where Outzen does not live), what we really need to do is to expose all of the hypocrisy by people claiming to be benevolent community benefactors. Go ahead and do good, just don’t brag about it. That would be a good start.

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Posted in City of Pensacola, Community Maritime Park, Escambia County, Florida, Local Business, News Articles, Politics, Republican Party, Studer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is It All Unraveling?

There was a troubling disclosure From Ms. Suzanne Lewis at the UWF Board of Trustees meeting yesterday. She said that someone from Greenwood–Asher (the search firm) had recently contacted her polling her ranking of the candidates. Dr. Greenwood remained silent after Ms. Lewis made that disclosure. Why would the search firm be trying to ascertain how a Trustee was going to rank candidates before the Trustees had any information about the candidates? (Which is an euphemistic way of asking how they were going to vote.) What other Trustees were contacted? Who did Greenwood–Asher provide their polling information to? The search firm was not tasked with conducting a ranking poll before the finalists names were given to the Trustees or at any other time.

The Trustees should determine how the foregoing occurred and why. It was the intellectual integrity of the individual board members displayed by their comments that was the highlight of the day. They should now ascertain what actually happened with the Greenwood-Asher polling of the Trustees. More to the point, why would a search firm ever conduct such a poll unless they were asked to do so? If so, who asked them?

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DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!

Looks like the Pensacola News Journal had the Gaetz victory story already to go. Then the headline changed — but the picture didn’t…

PNJ-gaetz-whoops-saunders-UWF-091516

Posted in City of Pensacola, Education, Escambia County, Florida, Pensacola News Journal, Politics, Republican Party | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Important Survey Results

In an effort to replicate the surveying of Pensacola’s Young Prostitutes, we have conducted our own unscientific polling that violates every possible aspect of a valid polling. Here are our results:

important-survey-results

In regard to Mr. Studer…

Do you believe he should stop running half page ads extolling how wonderful he is?
Yes – 11 %
No – 6 %
Never read the ads – 83 %

Do you believe he should pay more in taxes and lease fees to help pay $60 million debt the city has to pay starting in 2017 for his ballpark?
Yes – 31 %
No – 6 %
Had no idea the city owed $60 million – 66 %

Do you believe candy is good for little kids?
Yes – 67 %
No – 6 %
Only if it is free – 27 %

Do you believe Mr. Studer wants to run the entire city?
Yes – 51 %
No – 6 %
Just the downtown portion – 44 %

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Posted in City of Pensacola, CMPA Documents, Community Maritime Park, Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, Pensacola Young Professionals, Studer | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Reports from the Front

Yesterday was show and tell for Don Gaetz at his search committee reception. Staged speakers appeared asking softball questions preceded by lavish praise for Mr. Gaetz. A modern day filibuster against substance. The room was packed with cheering fans with the exception of one or two contrarians who were dismissed.

These staged speakers made to look independent are exactly what happened with the hearings for redistricting which Mr. Gaetz personally organized. When does the charade become too much for the independent of the Trustees to accept?

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Related Blogs:

“It was the Other Guy—Not Me” (10/22/2015)

“Time for Gaetz to Apologize” (10/27/2015)

“Gaetz Senate Trial Continues”  (12/17/2015)

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Straight Answers Are Not Easy For Politicians

Don Gaetz told this to the committee in regards to the pending lawsuit (read the entire complaint here) against his former company:

“It is also in the public domain that the company I joined with two others in founding has a challenge from the federal government because the Feds say that some of their patients lived too long. It is a hospice company supposed to take care of people 6 months or less. Some of these people got such good care they lived a little too long. So the federal government said that was not the plan. So now there is an audit going on with that. My understanding is that will be concluded very favorably for the company. But it is an audit that I had nothing to do with and over which I have no control.”

What does this answer mean? Is Mr. Gaetz unaware his former company is being sued by the United States of America?

Indeed, the Federal Government may have “challenged” his company, and his former company may be doing an audit including evaluation of the time he was an officer with the company. And yes the company internal audit may find it all quite fine. But, the truthful answer is his former company is being sued by the United States Government for fraud. Fraud involving the most offensive conduct: Cheating the Federal Government involving sick, elderly and dying people. The lawsuit is not going away; it is set for trial in February 2018. Was Don Gaetz with this company when the alleged fraud was ongoing? How in the world could the search committee accept this answer without any further questions? (See video clip below, 13:05 – 13:46) They should take him through every single allegation in the lawsuit and ask him to respond. This politically selected committee may elect to refuse to inquire about Mr. Gaetz redistricting fraud but how can they avoid asking about this lawsuit?

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Experience Credit

It is ironic that the search criteria for UWF presidential search includes an “experience credit.” This credit the search terms provide may be “superior” to a terminal degree, the offering of which is product of an accredited university. Among the educated in higher education, this “experience credit” is generally advertised available in the pay-for degrees offered online or found acceptable in junk colleges from strip-mall campuses. The search criteria doesn’t define what the experience could be that would be superior to a terminal degree. It’s not a conspiracy theory to observe that declaring “experience” could be superior to a terminal degree was included for Don Gaetz who only has a master’s degree from Troy.

Would it be rude to ask though: If it is not experience in post-secondary education, what type of experience would be superior to a terminal degree? Is this the first new step towards preeminent status? Is experience credit towards UWF degrees next?

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Matt Gaetz: Tax Break for Quint Studer Equals Big Donations

From The Pulse
The Pulse Gulf Coast

August 22, 2016

Late last year, State Representative Matt Gaetz came to the rescue after Pensacola developers Quint and Rishy Studer said they wouldn’t move forward with a planned $50 million mixed use development in downtown Pensacola without a tax break that was set to expire.

At the Studers’ request, Gaetz inserted language into a bill clarifying that projects like the Studer development, which previously qualified for the incentive under Florida’s now-defunct enterprise zone rules, can continue to receive it going forward. The tax break — what’s called an EDATE, or economic ad valorem tax exemption — will reduce the Studer’s tax obligations for the project by an estimated $5 million or more over a ten-year period.

In April, Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law, and the Studers announced the project — a mixed-use residential and commercial development located on the former site of the Pensacola News Journal headquarters — was back on. Studer has said the 258-unit development will generate an estimated $65 million in new investment, 600 construction jobs, and as many as 150 permanent jobs.

Now, with Gaetz running for Congress to replace the retiring Jeff Miller, the Studers have contributed nearly $40,000 to Gaetz’s campaign accounts and a pro-Gaetz political action committee since the beginning of the year.

The couple’s largest contribution has been $25,000 to North Florida Neighbors, the federal “super PAC” supporting Gaetz’s congressional campaign. The couple each also gave the federal maximum of $5,400 to Gaetz’s campaign committee. The $25,000 super PAC contribution came about a month after Governor Scott signed the tax bill into law. The Studers had not previously donated to any of Gaetz’s campaigns.

Studer did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but told POLITICO Florida that the contributions did not represent a quid pro quo. “Matt and I have spoken several times at Blue Wahoos games, but this was the first time I was able to watch him work as a legislator,” Studer told POLITICO. “I was immediately impressed with how he worked to fix this statewide EDATE issue. Following the legislative session, when he announced his plans to run for Congress, I looked for a way to support his campaign.”

Despite Studer’s comments, campaign finance records show that the Studers, along with their Studer Properties LLC, contributed $3,000 to Gaetz’s state senate campaign on January 11 — about a month before Gaetz filed the bill and two months before the legislative session ended in March. Gaetz switched to the congressional race shortly thereafter when Jeff Miller announced he would not seek reelection.

In a statement released after Governor Scott signed the bill in April, the Studers thanked the area’s entire legislative delegation but singled out Gaetz for special praise. “We are very grateful to local legislative Representatives Clay Ingram and Mike Hill, as well as State Senator Greg Evers,” Studer said. “We especially are grateful to Representative Matt Gaetz whose leadership in writing the language and support was crucial.”

The Studer project is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

– by DEREK COSSON, founding partner & managing editor of The Pulse. Original article here.

Related Blog — Matt Gaetz, Super PAC & “Pay-to-Play”

Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, Local Business, News Articles, Republican Party, Studer, Tallahassee | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Long Time in the Making

UWF-Don-Gaetz-announces-president

When Don Gaetz said he would support anything Lewis Bear asked him to legislatively support it seemed Mr. Gaetz was a tad too enthusiastic. That was in 2014. Likely long before then Mr. Gaetz had his eye on the UWF presidency. Lewis Bear was and is chairman of the board of trustees.

Then an announcement was made that Dr. Bense was going to remain as President for another year. Speculation was that it was to accommodate Mr. Gaetz ending his senate term so he could apply for the presidency of UWF. Then Mr. Bear chose the nominating committee. His de facto assistant, Collier Merrill, a member of the search committee, has repeatedly said he favors Mr. Gaetz appointment without knowing who else might apply. At first Mr. Bear had no faculty named to the committee; eventually he allowed only four faculty appointments. Among the non-faculty appointees was a former employee of Mr. Gaetz and a man Mr. Gaetz had nominated for appointment to the Okaloosa Walton Community College Board of Trustees. This man does not appear to have any connection to UWF (see letter below). Mr. Bear was picked by the Governor for Enterprise Florida based on Mr. Gaetz’s recommendation. In the meantime not a single member of the Board of Trustees of UWF registered any public complaint about Mr. Bear’s composition of the search committee or the selection of the search firm that was hired.

On August 15th, Mr. Gaetz formally submitted his application to the search committee. The only relevant question is: Why in the world didn’t they just hire Mr. Gaetz outright and save the time and money from what they are doing now?

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Five Northwest Florida Residents UWF Board

Related Post: “A University Should Be a Place Fostering Intellectual Honesty”

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A University Should Be a Place Fostering Intellectual Honesty

It is no secret that the power that runs the University of West Florida is geared up to make Don Gaetz the next President. It wouldn’t take ten minutes to figure that out looking at a majority of the search committee membership. It may be that Greenwood-Asher selected as the search firm is coincidentally located in Miramar, Florida in Okaloosa County, but it does not have the best appearance given Senator Gaetz home county of Okaloosa.

Then there is this special invitation letter to the people listed (see image below). Senator Gaetz used the UWF Argo Club ostensibly to introduce community leaders to Senator Negron. Several of these people are either on the search committee or the board of trustees. However, all members of the search committee were not invited and all members of the board of trustees were not invited. The major community leaders were not invited, the mayor of Pensacola, the chairman of the Escambia County Commission, nor were other elected officials and community leaders. Senator Gaetz has never explained why he invited who he did. The University noticed the meeting a few days before it occurred, but there was no widespread publicity about the meeting. These invited guests were seated around a connected square table arrangement; any member of the public who went to observe did so, but were not allowed to sit at the table designated for the invited guests.

It may be that Senator Gaetz never applies for the job. If he does however, it will require the immediate disqualification and removal from the search committee or the board of trustees of every one of these special guests who received this letter invitation and attended this meeting. Not a single one of these invited guests asked Senator Gaetz at this meeting if he was planning on applying for the position of the President of UWF, yet that was the most obvious question that should have been asked by each of these people. Had he said he might apply, they should not have attended if they were serving on the presidential search committee or as a member of the board of trustees.

UWF Faculty-Staff Newsletter

Sen. Don Gaetz Letter

UWF Presidential Search Committee
Mort O’Sullivan, Chair
C. Wayne Ansley
K. C. Clark
Jason Crawford
Dr. Pamela Dana
Dan Doyle, Jr.
Athena DuPre
Rick Harper
Clay Ingram
Dr. Steven J. Kass
Scott Keller
Dr. Eric Kollar
Collier Merrill
Jay S. Patel
Steve Riggs
Bentina C. Terry
Christopher Thrasher
Garrett Walton
Pat Wentz
P.C. Wu

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, News Articles, Politics, Republican Party, Tallahassee | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Matt Gaetz, Super PAC & “Pay-to-Play”

The Huffington Post
August 5, 2016
Written by Paul Blumenthal

This Super PAC Is Funded By Groups Once Run
By The Candidate It Now Supports

That could be a problem.

Two PACs once connected to Florida state Rep. Matt Gaetz contributed to a super PAC now supporting his congressional candidacy.

Matt Gaetz

WASHINGTON — Three days before Florida Republican state Rep. Matt Gaetz announced his intention to run for an open seat in Congress, he sent two letters to the state’s Division of Elections formally stepping down as the chairman of two leadership PACs he had run for over two years. Three months later, those two PACs contributed all of their remaining funds to a super PAC supporting his congressional bid.

These donations are yet another sign of the porous rules restricting coordination between campaigns and independent groups. Whether the PAC contributions to the pro-Gaetz super PAC amount to violations of Federal Election Commission rules governing coordination depends on the as-yet-unknown facts of the case.

The contributions in question include a $369,008 donation from the Economic Freedom Foundation and a $11,306 contribution from the Free Enterprise Fund. Both are political action committees registered with the Florida Division of Elections. They were led by Gaetz from 2013 until he stepped down as chairman and named Amanda Clark as his replacement on March 18, 2016. On March 21, he announced his congressional bid.

Under Clark’s leadership, the two PACs filed papers with the Florida Division of Elections to formally terminate operations on May 26. Then on June 20 they contributed their remaining funds to North Florida Neighbors, a federally registered super PAC.

North Florida Neighbors was created in July 2015 with a stated goal of supporting the congressional campaign of Republican Neal Dunn in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District.

One of the group’s first contributions was actually a $10,000 donation from Gaetz’s Economic Freedom Foundation.

At the time, Gaetz was running for the state Senate seat currently occupied by his retiring father, Don Gaetz. It wasn’t until Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) announced that he was retiring from Congress that the younger Gaetz dropped the bid to replace his father in the state Senate and threw his hat into the race to represent Florida’s 1st Congressional District in Washington.

On May 20, North Florida Neighbors announced that they would now be supporting Gaetz’s campaign along with Dunn’s — conveniently running in neighboring districts in Florida’s panhandle. One month later, the super PAC received the $380,314 in contributions from the two PACs formerly led by Gaetz. These contributions amount to 65 percent of the total funds raised by the super PAC.

North Florida Neighbors has since spent $292,262 to support Gaetz in the eight-candidate Republican primary in the 1st District.

The question at issue is whether Gaetz directed his successor at his two leadership PACs, Amanda Clark, on what to do with the remaining funds. Neither the Gaetz campaign nor

Clark responded to requests for comment.

Federal coordination rules prohibit any entity controlled by a candidate from making independent expenditures on their behalf. Although untested, those rules presumably extend to prohibit contributions from a leadership PAC controlled or directed by a candidate to a super PAC supporting that candidate.

“If what happened was that he raised the money to these state organizations and then he said ‘transfer money over to the super PAC,’ that would be illegal,” Larry Noble, general counsel to the Campaign Legal Center, told The Huffington Post. “What they always say, though, is that they had nothing to do with it.”

Christina Johnson, spokeswoman for North Florida Neighbors, simply stated, “We don’t comment on specific contributions or donors.”

This is not the first time that a candidate-linked leadership PAC has contributed to a super PAC supporting the same candidate. In 2015, a leadership PAC connected to Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) donated $75,000 to Prosperity for Pennsylvania, a super PAC run by former Toomey aides. The super PAC, however, refunded the Toomey leadership PAC contributions more than a month after The Huffington Post wrote about them. That was before the super PAC spent a dime on Toomey’s election.

~ Paul Blumenthal is the Money in Politics Reporter for The Huffington Post. Original Article Here.

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nwfdailynews.com
August 8, 2016
Written by Tom McLaughlin

PAC Funds Prove Controversial for Gaetz
Republican District 1 candidate Cris Dosev: “This is pay for play, quid pro quo. You want to play, you pay. These people have paid to play and now they’re paying some more.”

In the last two election cycles, state Rep. Matt Gaetz has counted on a leadership PAC called the Economic Freedom Foundation to influence local election campaigns.

Before beginning his run for Congress earlier this year, Gaetz resigned as chairman of the Economic Freedom Foundation as well as the Free Enterprise Fund, another PAC he chaired.

Soon thereafter, both organizations turned over all of their assets, $380,314, to a Super PAC supporting Gaetz in his run for Florida’s District 1 seat in the U.S. House.

Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, maintains that he resigned as chair of the organizations he used in 2012 and 2014 to fund opponents of sitting Okaloosa County Commissioners because federal election law dictated that he do so.

He said he has had no contact with the PACs, or their new chair Amanda Clark, since he cut ties on March 18.

Gaetz was therefore unaware, he said, that on May 26 Clark filed papers with the state to shut down the Economic Freedom Foundation and the Free Enterprise Fund.

Or that on June 20 the funds left over in both accounts were contributed to a Super PAC called North Florida Neighbors.

“At the time I filed for office I was legally required to resign from the committees I led. I did so and have had no correspondence or communication with that committee since,”

Gaetz said. “All decisions made would have been made by the new head of that organization.”

Efforts to reach Clark on Monday were unsuccessful.

The Huffington Post first reported on and questioned the timing of the funds moving from Gaetz’s former committees to the Super PAC he shares with fellow Republican congressional hopeful Neal Dunn.

“Federal coordination rules prohibit any entity controlled by a candidate from making independent expenditures on their behalf,” the article said.

Gaetz said he’s been “viciously attacked” by the Huffington Post before.

“It’s no surprise the Huffington Post would attack a Panhandle conservative,” he said.

But the financial maneuvering also gave those running against Gaetz room to question big money politics.

“It’s one thing to have a Super PAC come in on their side, but coordinating, that’s against the law,” said fellow Republican District 1 candidate Cris Dosev. “One day that money’s in a state account and the next it ends up in a Super PAC.”

Dosev said the congressional race should be about “credibility, experience and maturity” and not money.

Fellow Republican candidate James Zumwalt said “it is incumbent on all voters to research all of the candidates and not just the ones they see more on television.”

Steven Specht, the single Democrat in the race for the District 1 seat, said the timing of the money movement points out the need for a bipartisan congressional review of campaign finance laws.

Gaetz rebutted the comments of his opponents by pointing out that he has raised more money from in-district donors than the other seven candidates combined. He noted that Dosev, a former Marine with Illinois roots, has received significant donations from Peoria.

Candidate Rebecca Johansen Bydlak, Gaetz said, has received donations from Washington D.C.

Dosev countered that many Gaetz donors are men and women who have received favors from Gaetz as a state House members.

“This is pay for play, quid pro quo,” Dosev said. “You want to play, you pay. These people have paid to play and now they’re paying some more.”

~ Tom McLaughlin, nwfdailynews.com, Original article here.

COMMENTS
(on above article from nwfdailynews.com, as of August 9, 2016 4:30PM)

Glen Jones:
While NWF voters wring their hands over same-ole, same-ole crooked politics, they keep on electing same-ole, same-ole crooked politicians.

Hil:
He is NOT going to win the election and he knows it. He’ll try anything now. Moving that money to the PAC puts it back in his hands for the election. This should be illegal.

James Guzman:
Gaetz you need to leave florida for good and stop pretending to be somebody your are not. Please do not vote this guy in!! Like the article mentioned “do your own research before you place your vote” Ps. His smile is even crooked in this picture.

Christopher Damien:
Cris Dosev for Congress has identified itself as the only candidate that is willing and able to tenaciously go after career politicians and the slick moves they try to pull over on the citizens for which they are supposed to work. If you think this needs to happen in Washington, then send the candidate that will fight. He has proven his intentions.

Gregory E. Johnson:
Surprisingly NOT mentioned in this article is the fact Amanda Clark, Chairperson of the PAC “North Florida Neighbors” is in fact the spouse of Chris Clark, who is Chief of Staff for Florida State Senator Don Gaetz. So, I guess one could think Northwest Florida has it’s very own “Clinton” style family; that being the Gaetz folks who just like the Clinton’s have their fingers in everything spreading their influence far and wide!

Tintruder:
Seems Dosev is the only candidate with any real integrity. The rest of these rats have never earned anything by way of honest work, so they manipulate government for their own financial reward. Dosev, on the other hand, is a self-made man who doesn’t need this job, but chooses to pursue it in order to help our citizens. Instead of choosing yet another sneaky, self-serving insider, choose someone with good character. Cris Dosev is that man.

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Posted in Florida, Politics, Republican Party, Studer, Tallahassee | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A Modest “Thank You” Check

We all read the effusive praise bestowed on Matt Gaetz by Mr. Studer for getting Mr. Studer’s EDATE passed which over ten years will save him millions in city taxes. Making a $25,000 contribution to Matt Gaetz PAC (as reported by Politico) would seem a modest gesture of thanks and certainly does not have the appearance of a dollar-for-dollar quid pro quo.

Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, Local Business, News Articles, Republican Party, Studer | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Our City Looks So Silly

The Washington Post online video featured Satan’s representative at a recent Pensacola City Council meeting. Mr. Charles Bare was seen presiding with his patriotic tie and the city “CEO” was seen, arms folded, behind the hooded chanter, ready to defend the honor of the area preachers counter-chanting on the front row their love of, well, everybody but the evil one with the hood.

Pensacola City Council-Satan v Preachers

This will have no adverse impact on company executives thinking about moving here and bringing jobs…

Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, Local Business, News Articles, Pensacola City Council, Religion | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Publix Prison

Publix WallPublix may have had a right to build the monstrosity they are building that fronts on Cervantes at 12th Avenue, but they had other choices. They could have abandoned their standard big box design and built something compatible with the neighborhood. Instead they have ruined the neighborhood and created an eyesore for us all to see whenever we drive by on Cervantes Street. It looks like a 40 ft. windowless prison wall built right next to the street. The only thing missing is a chain link fence with razor wire, but there is no room to put it between the building and the sidewalk.

The people with homes across the street now look at the Publix Prison wall…

Publix, like a bad neighbor, is here to stay.

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This is what they were supposed to build (renderings released October 2015):

Publix-Elevation-View

East Hill Publix • (click to enlarge)

East Hill Publix • Cervantes St. View • (click to enlarge)

East Hill Publix, Cervantes St. view • (click to enlarge)

East Hill Publix, overhead view of building & parking • (click to enlarge)

East Hill Publix, overhead view of building & parking • (click to enlarge)

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, News Articles | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Not A Pretty Picture for Democrats

(Originally posted October 14, 2015)

For Democrats it is not a pretty picture.

Even the audience for the debate (October 13, 2015) was corrupted by the Clintons. Why does anyone who watched the debate care what cheers and jeers came from the audience? It was all Clinton Theatre.

Everyone sees what they want to see in Hillary. For me, I see someone who is dishonest on all fronts, on all subjects, all the time. She and her husband have amassed a fair fortune from his speeches. The conflict she had as Secretary of State with Bill’s fees for speeches to foreign payers is troubling. And that’s putting it mildly. Last night, a rehearsed statement by Bernie Sanders that the American people didn’t care about her emails, may be his opinion, but it is neither mine nor the opinion of many others.

James Comey FBI

It is in the nature of politics that lies are told. Hillary Clinton however, has topped them all with her account of “off server” official State Department emails. She intentionally created a shadow email system to conceal official emails from government servers and from the American people. No one on that stage said one critical word about it. To dismiss this as of little concern to the American people is, in a word preposterous.

Not a single person on that stage rocked the Clinton boat in the slightest. The Clintons have nailed down the nomination for her and everyone knows it. Joe Biden would be a good man to run but, it is over. We have her. There is nothing anyone can do about it.

Let’s see who the Republican’s end up nominating.* There may be a lot more Democratic defectors than people think.

— Bob Kerrigan

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*As mentioned earlier, this was written and posted October 14, 2015. At the time, there were still 14 GOP candidates for President with Ben Carson and Donald Trump leading in the polls. Read the original post here.

Posted in Democratic Party, News Articles, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By the Water Boards

Ms. Myers is right. Many of these City and County boards need to be either eliminated or have their purpose better defined. For years the word on the street was when you need something from one of these boards, hire a board member or their relatives. That was especially true with the ARB. Boards can also serve as buffers protecting politicians who want to do favors for constituents but don’t want their fingerprints on the decision.

Now who could possibly think that a board member should be able to represent the interests of their clients before the board upon which they serve? The fiction that has been used in the past is the board member who is making the pitch for their client doesn’t vote on the client’s request. What about very basic conflicts of interest like personal friendships between a board member and the person making the request of the board? What about business benefits either prior or future dealings between the board members and the requester?

It may be that a given board might have some community benefit, but the appearance of conflicts and competing loyalties generally far outweigh any benefit that these boards can provide. Yes, there are occasionally people with no conflicts who serve on these boards and I am sure there are others who do it for the benefit of the community. But, the fact they agree to serve on boards where other members have these glaring conflicts indicts them equally.

The City Council should make zero based board assessments. The presumption should be we do not want them but if we have them they must not be riddled with these board member conflicts. It seems simple enough. If you want to help the community by serving on a board you can’t use the board for personal benefit directly or indirectly.

Posted in City of Pensacola, Local Business, Pensacola City Council | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

FDOT – The Final Insult

The FDOT will hold a special unveiling of their preferred contractors, not here where the communities will be impacted by their decision, but where?

FDOT Bridge Meeting Chipley

In Chipley — a town with one red light.

So unless we rent a bus of interested citizens and drive two hours, their unveiling party will be sparsely attended which, of course, is the why they will do it in Chipley. Just when we thought the insulting and degrading manner in which the FDOT operates couldn’t get much worse, they set the bar of accountability a notch lower.

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, Santa Rosa County, Tallahassee, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Kleenex

We are delivering a case of Kleenex for the City Council. These tissues can be used any time they lament their waning significance while wringing their hands sobbing that no one is paying any attention to them.

Cry Cry Kleenex Box

While recently declaring that the city is in open rebellion and chaos is in full at City Hall, they have only the deranged bloggers who will listen to them. Even though they pay their “CEO” more money than the Mayor, they know that deep down he shares their profound grief and despair and as tough as he is even an ex-cop can cry boo-hoo, too.

And one of their number will soon fade to obscurity leaving no one to lead them to their dream of privileged free parking. While they weep over the fall of the City that leaves them no time to take care of the problems of the peasants, like the food trucks.

“Let them eat Sushi” say our town criers!

Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, News Articles, Pensacola City Council, Pensacola News Journal, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FDOT: An Unpleasant History

While we anxiously await how the FDOT will get our 3 mile bridge contract to their favorite contractors, you may wish to read the below articles. The system has always been rigged. The FDOT is run by the contractors for the contractors. They leverage every politician so they can’t oppose how the FDOT operates. People you will never meet and who are accountable to no one in our communities will decide how $500-600 million will be spent.

We were denied the participation in the bidding process of one of the world’s great bridge designers. It was intentional. Our local bridge advisory group was ignored throughout the planning phase. The FDOT’s claim for interest in public input is all for show, they could care less.

No one can do anything to stop them. It is an entrenched system of spoils for the insiders. Our two communities will be greatly harmed.

The same old crappy FDOT bridge is on the way notwithstanding the shallow effort to dress it up with lipstick. We could have had a world class signature cable span bridge. It could have been fantastic for economic development. But no one here can buck these guys. Miami said “hell no” and the FDOT folded and capitulated to build a 1.4 mile signature bridge for 600 Million. Miami successfully stopped FDOT because the leaders in Miami were united.

FDOT - Scenic Hwy-I10 interchange

Look at the I-10 interchange at Scenic Highway. An embarrassment of immense proportion and FDOT did it with no local approvals or local opposition. Worse they lied to the elected officials who asked them what they were planning.

Now they say just trust us.

We wrote the Governor and complained about the entire RFP process for the 3 mile bridge design. The FDOT investigated themselves and found no wrong doing. It was just business as usual.

Don’t worry your little heads about it we (FDOT) are going to give you a real nice bridge that will be good enough for your communities

Three high-speed lanes grinding to a halt in Gulf Breeze. Three north bound lanes facing a traffic light right at the terminus in Pensacola. The insanity of the plan and the highly questionable process of selecting the designer and the likely design combine to make this $500-600million dollar boondoggle a guaranteed disaster from the inception.

RELATED STORIES:
State Road Reports Find Potential “Illegal” Activity But Never See the Light of Day
While Two Companies Dominate North Florida Road Contracts FDOT Shrugs

Posted in Department of Transportation, Florida, Tallahassee | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Actually Follows this Advice?

Who follows this advice? “Studer: What if my boss is the problem?” (PNJ, 5/21/2016)

Mr. Studer’s advice is ill advised in an at-will employment state like Florida. There is no requirement that an employee can only be fired based on just cause. In Florida, an employee can be fired for no good reason at all. The only exceptions are terminations based on discrimination.

If you polled 100 of the area’s best employers, I doubt there is a single person that would agree that an employee should follow Mr. Studer’s advice. It is a guarantee for termination sooner or later. Bosses are not required to sit down and chat with employees to make sure the employee feels good about their “relationship” with the boss. This “D.E.S.K.” is hokey nonsense. There is likely not a nurse anywhere in any hospital in an at-will employment state that would ever follow this advice and no hospital would suggest a nurse do so.

However, Mr. Studer has invited his employees to express their concerns with his management style and they should all line up to do so. You will not find a management book by a respected author that would support this pseudo-subordinate friendly compliment –boss criticism-compliment suggestion. How in the world did he dream this up? It all sounds so lovely. If only the real world bosses could be so tolerant of complaints of disgruntled employees.

Please Mr. Studer tell us which (if any) hospital that you advise has adopted your suggestion. The nurses employed there would like to know.

Posted in Education, Florida, Studer | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ARB

ARB

The ARB, oh my goodness, what a group they are. They approve a massive billboard in the middle of the historic district the second it was requested because of who requested it. They have no standards, no buildings identified as historic and no criteria for historic preservation. They meet and make ad-hoc decisions depending on who is asking. This is simply the way it is.

Why is it?

Because, with no standards they can pretty well do whatever they want to do, either to someone or for someone. The idea they always table requests is true when they want it to be and not true when they don’t. It all depends on who is asking.

Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, News Articles, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Excellent PNJ Editorial

PNJ Logo

The Sunday (May 15) Pensacola News Journal editorial ( give a link ) was outstanding.

Editorial: Too Early to Change Charter

Posted in City of Pensacola, News Articles, Pensacola City Council, Pensacola News Journal, Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

T.I.S.A. BID ANNOUNCEMENT

 TISA BID ANNOUNCEMENT

The TISA is accepting bids for airport bathroom genital checkers. Minimum opening bids will be set at $100,000.00. Checkers will be empowered to check the genitals of anyone appearing to be an incompatible user of any airport bathroom facility.

TSA - insecurity

Posted in Department of Transportation, News Articles, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rick’s Radio Show

ricks-radio-showBREAKING NEWS — We interrupt our story of the invasion of the Martians and the two nuclear bomb explosions today to bring you reporter Marlon D. Weis reporting on the latest development of the Pensacola fired Fireman…

Posted in City of Pensacola, News Articles, Pensacola City Council | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Ask Your Restaurant Server

BASA FISHDon’t rely on “grouper” or “snapper” or any other fish being what is presented on a restaurant menu. Ask your server to tell you if the restaurant is substituting Basa fish or any other species for any fish on the menu. Basa is now being imported from Vietnam and appears similar to gulf fishes.

The problem is Basa is a catfish farmed raised on the Mekong River, one of the most polluted rivers in the world. DO NOT EAT IT. If you have any information that any local restaurant is substituting Basa or any other species for grouper, snapper or any other gulf fish, write and tell us. If you can, photograph the shipping box with the restaurant address send that to us.

Posted in Food, News Articles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tit for Tat & the Last Word

Sleaze Abounds at the PNJ

For the first time in the history of the Pensacola News Journal, the editor will not allow a “Letter to the Editor” that criticizes her or the PNJ. If they do publish a letter that criticizes the PNJ, the editor writes her response below the letter or comment so the editor gets the last word.

Never before — never anywhere else, where professional journalism prevails, does this happen. Formerly unique to snarky bloggers and baseless weekly published scandal sheets, the PNJ now joins those ranks.

Where is the PNJ Publisher?

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Justice for Berta

BERTA-1On Monday morning, the Honduran authorities arrested 4 men in relation to the murder of internationally renowned activist Berta Cáceres — 2 are retired or active members of the Honduran Armed Forces and 2 have ties to DESA, the company building the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project that Berta was campaigning against. With even the Honduran government investigators now admitting the assassins have ties to the Honduran Armed Forces, it is time once and for all for the United States to end financing and training of the Honduran security forces.  Berta’s family and COPINH continue to call for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to investigate the case.  It is hard to believe that the Honduran government has the political will to investigate the higher-ups who may have helped plan or known about Berta’s murder; as Berta’s daughter Laura Zuniga Cáceres told The Guardian, “The Honduran state is too closely linked to the murder of my mother to carry out an independent investigation.”

BERTA-2Early on, there were clear signs that the Honduran authorities were manipulating the investigation and interrogating COPINH members. Even with an international outcry demanding investigation into the years of threats and persecution Berta suffered for her defense of the Gualcarque River, it took 11 days for the investigators to go to DESA’s installations. Even then, the investigation was declared secret and the lawyers for the family excluded. Berta’s daughters and COPINH members took the demand for justice internationally, speaking out in the US and Europe, calling for an end to US and European security aid to Honduras given Berta’s assassination and the ongoing persecution of social movements.  Last week, the European Investment Bank canceled a $40 million loan to Honduras, citing Berta’s murder as the reason.  Shortly thereafter, the Honduran government apprehend 4 men with ties to the military and DESA, admitting for the first time that Berta was assassinated for her activism.

Those arrested include Sergio Rodriguez, Environmental and Social Manager for DESA, who Berta denounced was threatening COPINH during a protest against the Agua Zarca project on February 20, as well as Geovanny Douglas Bustillo, retired Honduran leuitenent, who previously served as head of security for the Agua Zarca project. The other two arrested include Mariano Díaz Chávez, reported to be an active Major in the Honduran military, and Edilson Atilio Duarte Meza, reported as a retired captain in the Honduran Military.  It seems doubtful they would have acted solely on their own.

Berta took on extremely powerful interests in Honduras and the persecution of her while she was alive was done with the knowledge of very powerful people, with the Public Ministry prosecuting Berta in 2013 and the Secretary of Security, trained at the School of the Americas (SOA) in Psychological Operations, failing to ensure her protection.  Now we are asked to trust the same Public Ministry with the investigation into her death.  Without transparency in the investigation and the Honduran government’s refusal to accept the offer of the IAHCR independent commission, one must ask if higher ups in the Honduran Armed Forces and government have been investigated in relation to Berta’s murder? Has David Castillo, head of DESA with a background in military intelligence for the Honduran Armed Forces, been investigated? Have the directors of DESA, including those who belong to the powerful Atala family, one of the families many believe was behind the 2009 military coup in Honduras, been investigated? Has Julian Pacheco, Secretary of Security, been investigated? Did the US Embassy or US military officials know of the plans to murder Berta?

Those may be very dangerous questions to ask. Honduran opposition journalist Felix Molina, well-known throughout the country for his resistance radio show that was one of the clearest voices against the military coup in Honduras for years, posted very similar questions on Monday after the arrests. Hours later there was an attempt to attack him but he got away, only to be shot four times in the legs Monday night. Luckily the bullets missed arteries and veins, and Felix is still alive, though in the hospital. Felix is renowned for his journalism and radio programs critical of the powers at be.

Whether or not all the intellectual authors of Berta’s murder are ever brought to justice, one thing is clear: the United States must stop financing and training the Honduran Armed Forces and other security forces. The US-trained and supported TIGRES, with the stated goal of addressing drug trafficking, have spent significant time stationed at DESA’s installations, guarding the Agua Zarca Project. Were any of the Honduran military (current or former) involved in Berta’s murder trained by the US? Has the United States ensured it does not fund the First Battalion of Engineers, which was stationed at DESA’s installations and murdered Indigenous leader Tomas Garcia in 2013? When will US funding, training, and equipping of the Honduran security forces end? How many more people have to die?

BERTA-3The United States is not the only one with responsibility for what is occurring in Honduras; earlier this month I accompanied Berta’s daughter Bertha Zuniga Cáceres, COPINH leader Asencion Martinez, and Rosalina Dominguez and Francisco Sanchez of the Rio Blanco Indigenous Council to call on the Dutch Development Bank FMO and the Finn Fund, both majority owned by the Dutch and Finnish governments respectively, to definitively cancel their financing of the Agua Zarca Project. FMO had seemingly ignored Berta’s first attempt to inform them of the violence and human rights violations surrounding the Agua Zarca Project before they finalized the loan. Now, these banks share responsibility for the violence in the zone.

Francisco and other COPINH members in Rio Blanco have also been threatened for their opposition to the Agua Zarca Project.  As Rosalina stated, “we do not want any more deaths.”  Yet, despite Monday’s arrests, the project continues forward and the banks have yet to definitively withdraw.  The US keeps financing and training the Honduran security forces, all too many of whom are deployed in the zone.  Even worse, the US increased the number of Honduran military trained at the SOA-WHINSEC this past year and is giving an extra $750 million to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, for the ill-named “Alliance for Prosperity,” known also as the Plan Colombia for Central America.  This money only serves to further embolden the repressive Honduran regime.

How many more people have to die before the financing of repression is halted?

justice for berta

Please make a donation to support the work of SOA Watch: http://SOAW.org/donate

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An Open Letter to Maren Deweese

bowling news march 2016Yes, Maren, I am the editor of the Bowling News. As editor however, I am not responsible for the writings of the criminals and misfits who happen to write articles that are published in the Bowling News. However baseless and devoid of any semblance of sanity those articles may be, I as editor will never interfere with our writers First Amendment rights. And will, as does the PNJ, publish them without any editing whatsoever. As for you and your fellow “journalist,” Mr. Rick, you don’t need criminals and misfits to write articles and editorials — you both do quite well on your own.

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Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, Pensacola News Journal, Politics | Tagged ,

Two Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest

cuckoo-clock-042216Dissent is good. The right to expose corruption wherever it occurs is unique in this country. In virtually every other country in the world, you can be arrested for exposing corruption. Politicians need to be challenged every time they make a decision on anything that impacts the lives of their constituents. That is good for everyone. Sometimes those that criticize are wrong, but that is equally ok. The right to expose corruption carries with it the possibility that innocent mistakes will occur, but the greater good is accomplished by the exposure of corruption.

We can’t however, let the nuts take over the asylum. Especially the nuts with irreconcilable economic conflicts of interest like Outzen. Although Deweese is a much better writer than Outzen, she is equally off balance; not because of conflicts of interest, but because of an avowed dislike for the targets of her rages. Irrational rants from whatever motivation need to be exposed almost as much as public and private corruption.

Where is “Dick’s Blog” when we need it so badly?

Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, News Articles, Pensacola City Council, Politics | Tagged , , , ,

Living the High Life in Santa Rosa County

Radio TowerI am probably the only one that listens to Rick Outzen’s WCOA talk show, but recently he said something I thought beneficial to all.

Rick went on and on about all the things he doesn’t like about Pensacola and then suggested we needed a study to learn why people don’t want to move to “our community.” Why, he asked, do people in Molino or Century not think of themselves as Pensacolians, like he does? Why, he kept asking, do people not want to move to Escambia County?

Rick never mentioned that he lives in Gulf Breeze…

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FDOT Double Talk Caught Up Short Again

Greg Vickery
District Communications Coordinator
Florida Department of Transportation
Chipley, FL 32428

Mr. Vickery:

I have not received the documents regarding the pertinent alignment, environmental impacts, and federal regulations for identifying and regulating undeveloped properties classified as 4(f) properties” that I requested over a month ago.

You stated that alternate bridge landing locations were considered. I recall many options that were debated, but then we were told that as a replacement bridge, it must be located in the same position as the existing bridge. Why is FDOT now saying that if only we had spoken up long ago, they would have considered moving the landing? Or that they originally considered an alternate landing, but decided against it due to the federal lands and sturgeon population? Isn’t that contrary to the statement that the bridge must be located in the same position as the existing bridge?

Isn’t it actually correct that neither allegation above is true? The 400 gulf sturgeons (out of the counted 15,000 sturgeons state-wide) that breed in the fresh water Escambia River habitat would get the same environmental protection wherever the bridge head is located. Relocating a new bridge landing less than a mile east is mandated by the U. S. Transportation Equity Act and funding by the Hazard Elimination Program (23USC152) to resolve safety problems at hazardous locations, sections and roadway elements which may constitute a danger to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

There are no usable properties around the Gulf Island National Seashore, or options that would avoid impact with the Naval Live Oak Reservation (aka Gulf Island National Seashore). This is contrary to your statement in your Feb. 15, 2016 email.

The effort by the Florida Department of Transportation to construct the proposed Pensacola Bay Bridge landing in the wrong location is fundamentally flawed and dishonest. Your effort, if successful, will endanger the population of Gulf Breeze and the motorists that are forced to use a highway known to be hazardous through Gulf Breeze.

Your actions for the bidding for the design and construction of the proposed Pensacola Bay Bridge should be halted and deferred until the bridge landing in Santa Rosa County is relocated to the Naval Live Oak Reservation. Repair the existing Pensacola Bay Bridge, as originally proposed, until the necessary funding for the revisions is secured.

I would appreciate your response.

Glynn Brown AIA
Architect
March 28, 2016

Posted in City of Pensacola, Department of Transportation, Escambia County, Florida, Santa Rosa County, Tallahassee | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

An Historic Compromise

elevator 6 floor city hallIn an unprecedented compromise, the City announced it was allowing City Council Members access to the Sixth Floor.

The City will build a padded room on the Sixth Floor with direct Baker Act staff access for members of the Council (or their “executive director”) who lose it during heated debates over City Council member free parking or other highly contested matters.

Sacred Heart has agreed to provide free transport of patients by helicopter from the rooftop of City Hall. Now this is a real win-win.

break-line

Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, Pensacola City Council | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment