They were against it before they were for it, which explains why they are against it now.
Are we headed for a different end than the lemmings?
They were against it before they were for it, which explains why they are against it now.
Are we headed for a different end than the lemmings?
Trump has nothing on us.
We have a man who has more titles and talents than Kushner will ever have. Our guy is in charge of community health care, early childhood education, entrepreneur development, civic-con leadership — whatever that is, strong city advocate for weak cities, head of local baseball operations, strings attached philanthropic pace setter, motivational speaker, author, investor, coffee expert, survey results presentation specialist, olive and candy retailer, used car salesman ( waiting confirmation), major sponsored EDATE political candidate funder, self-help seminar sponsor and keynote speaker, landlord, restaurateur, full time volunteer, mentor to many and friend and adviser to all.
Top that Donald!
May 5, 2014 — Letter addressed to Mayor Ashton Hayward and the Pensacola City Council from Quint Studer regarding Bruce Beach and The Fish Hatchery…
Click on Letter for Full Size…
No county commissioner has ever asked for an economic impact analysis of fee simple conversion of beach leases. We understand why they have not. The county will lose millions if these leasehold conversions take place.
1. ½ of the residential leases on Pensacola Beach are not considered in perpetuity; meaning the land is not taxed. In many cases the land is as valuable as the structure. These lease holders will not convert to fee simple because it would amount to as much as double the county ad valorem tax
2. The other ½ of residential leases will convert to fee simple title because they will pay no more taxes than they are now being assessed because their leases are taxed as if they own the land. Net annual loss to the county on the loss of those lease fees – $2 million.
3. Condos: The recent decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal exempts condo owners from paying any tax attributable to the land. They will not convert. Estimated annual loss — at least $2 million.
4. Commercial leases. Any commercial lease holders that convert to fee simple will cause those lease fees to be lost and the taxes now assessed will not increase. Unknown loss of revenue, however, revenue will be lost. In addition, the 5% surcharge on beach sales will be lost if leases are converted to fee simple. Current annual revenue — $1 million.
5. Escambia County will lose millions. No public official will dispute this basic truth. Why has Escambia County paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a federal lobbyist lobbying congress since 2011 for passage of this act?
Editorial from Pensacola News Journal Editorial Board published Oct. 8, 2017…
No matter what side you’re on in the contentious battle over a Senate bill that would allow private ownership on area beaches, one thing is certain. This is federal government action designed to intervene in a local government issue. For that reason alone, Senators Nelson and Rubio should scrap the legislation and allow local citizens to work out issues of taxes, fees and fairness on Santa Rosa Island.
It is unnecessary and inappropriate for federal officials to impose a sweeping major change in the historic status quo of public ownership of a natural treasure like Santa Rosa Island. Especially when the central premise for the bill comes from demands for fairness in county-regulated fees and taxes. We don’t use acts of Congress to solve disputes over parking meter rates. Nor should we look to federal officials to resolve questionable allegations of unfairness in a local tax issue.
Conservative backers of the bill such as Rubio and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz ought to explain to voters exactly why a federal government that should butt out of health care ought to be making sweeping land management decisions for citizens of Escambia County. If that’s not “big government,” then what is?
For Nelson’s part, after initially backing the bill, he has since raised doubts and called for revisions that would put preservation restrictions on Navarre Beach similar to what the bill calls for on Pensacola Beach. Specifically, Nelson’s spokesman said, “(He) still supports the overall purpose of the bill, but wants to add some additional assurances that Navarre Pass will stay closed and conservation areas preserved.” Nelson is right to call for increased preservation guarantees, but still misses other troubling questions with this bill.
Currently, Escambia County citizens own the Navarre portion of the island and lease it to Santa Rosa County. The proposed legislation would transfer ownership of that land to Santa Rosa, whose officials have rejected the sort of preservation restrictions that the bill contains for Escambia’s portion.
Therein lies the inherent flaw in treating the island as dual territories subject to different standards and protections. The barrier island is a highly unique and sensitive ecosystem. Tides and winds and forces of nature do not recognize imaginary dotted lines or arbitrary dictates and ambitions of neighboring county governments. Public ownership of the island was intended as a protective measure for a rare natural environment with a larger sense of posterity in mind.
Undoing that historic public ownership should require direct and widespread public input from all the citizens who have a stake in the island. That has not been the case at all with this proposed legislation.
Furthermore, before any such move should be considered, citizen stakeholders ought to be provided with a concrete financial analysis of a transfer to private ownership. Neither county nor federal officials have shown Escambia County citizens any hard numbers of what this legislation would mean for taxpayers’ bottom line. Since when are real estate transactions negotiated without some specific appraisals, assessments and dollar amounts on paper?
How much would be gained or lost in tax and fee collection?
How much is all this publicly owned land worth?
Do our commissioners, representatives or senators even have any idea?
We spend thousands on economic impact studies for everything from hockey to road closures in this county. So where’s the science-based economic report to justify the transfer of ownership that this legislation proposes? Show citizens the numbers that deserve their support.
Additionally, Gulf Islands National Seashore has historically been a leading voice for stewardship and a watchman over the entire island. In the past, Seashore officials have rightly opposed a Navarre pass, private ownership and increased development due to the fact that on such a sensitive sliver of sand, changes on one end of the island will inevitably alter the other end. Cut a pass in Navarre and you’ll feel it in Fort Pickens.
Senator Nelson and Rubio should look back at Gulf Island’s historic positions on the issue and seek direct, candid input from National Park leaders and rangers who have become deeply acquainted with these issues over the years. Their opinions are significant and they know the island better than most.
But in the end, the hundreds of thousands of Escambia citizens who own the island ought to decide this issue. The island is their treasure and heritage. And with all due respect to our federal officials, Escambia citizens know the beach better than senators from South Florida or a congressman from Fort Walton.
The beach belongs to locals. And with this overreaching legislation, our federal officials are trespassing.
Link to the original editorial here: PNJ Editorial 10-08-2017
Proponents of the beach bill claim that nothing in the bill itself has any negative impact on the beaches of Santa Rosa Island. That statement is not only false on its face, but it neglects to take into account what sociologists, legal scholars, philosophers, and software engineers recognize as inherent when dealing with complex systems. The law of unintended consequences serves as a warning that any intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes.
The intended benefit of S. 1073 is not solely to grant fee simple title to leaseholders in Escambia County but also to protect the public, recreation, conservation, and preservation land in and around Pensacola Beach. However, those conservation protections are not guaranteed in the ways outlined by the Department of the Interior in its recommendations on previous versions of the bill. The issues DOI found with the bills are described in this 2013 testimony:
“Our primary concerns lie with the lands within Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach that remain natural, in a pristine condition, and that provide vital wildlife habitat and have outstanding opportunities for public recreation. As written, this bill does not adequately define those areas to ensure they remain in public ownership, protected from development, and available for public use and enjoyment, as intended by the Act of July 30, 1946. Specifically, the county resolutions referenced by the bill do not identify current planning documents by date for both counties, leaving land use zones subject to change, rezoning, and redefinition of management prescriptions and permitted uses. Further, if rezoned, nothing in this bill would prevent the sale of these lands for private ownership and development.”
Supporters of the current legislation point to this preservation section of the bill as evidence that these conservation/preservation areas will be held in perpetuity. The Department of the Interior, much more accustomed to dealing with land use legislation, obviously felt that the wording of the bill was insufficient to achieve the stated goal. This bill’s wording duplicates that of the 2013 and 2015 bills and is, once again, insufficient. And DOI made 4 recommendations which have not been incorporated:
Using those recommendations as a guideline, this bill is worse for the island. Allowing Santa Rosa County the opportunity to remove all conservation/preservation protections is also an intended outcome, a benefit for which Santa Rosa County Commissioner Sam Parker voiced his appreciation on a morning radio show. Santa Rosa County, according to Parker, wants to be able to utilize all of their resources on the island. Apparently, he does not consider conservation, preservation, wildlife habitats, and maintaining a healthy island adequate utilization of the mile closest to Eglin AFB.
It’s difficult to discern if cutting off public access to the beaches is intended or unintended. As Commissioner Robinson pointed out recently, most lot lines stop behind the dune line, but there are several (as yet, there is no clear number) that extend to the water line. Given the contentious argument in Destin about hotels, condos, private residences, “private beaches,” and mean high water lines, I think many here would be averse to opening up a brand new legal can of worms.
Arguably, unintended consequences got us to the place where we are now. When the county advertised tax-free leases on the island in the middle of the last century, no one could have foreseen that the Florida legislature would pass a law opening the door to taxes on 99-year leases. But, they did. And no one could have foreseen that the Florida Supreme Court would issue multiple rulings upholding that law and declaring the responsibility of the equity-owner of the leasehold to pay them. But it did.
Escambia County has full responsibility for the entire island, whether it’s fully exercised or partially ceded to Santa Rosa County. We hold the legal title and we cannot wash our hands of the consequences, intended or unintended, of decisions that impact the whole island. Leaving open the possibility of another cut in the island would be irresponsible—environmentally, ecologically, and geologically. As Dr. James Morgan, a coastal geologist who extensively studied the island wrote in 1988 about a proposal to recreate Navarre Pass, “Santa Rosa Island is one of the few barrier islands that is not on the endangered list –let us not deliberately institute a project that might put it there.”
In the event that the current legislation fails, we respectfully ask that you place a referendum on the 2018 ballot and allow the 318,000 Congressionally-appointed stewards of Santa Rosa Island the opportunity to have their voices heard in this matter.
— Blog Attributed to Vicki Neapolitan as addressed to Escambia County Commissioners
In the public discussions one woman has been an outspoken advocate for exchanging her lease for fee simple title. We decided to analyze her lease. We suspect she does not realize the effect of losing the tax exempt status of her land if she exchanges her lease for a fee simple title.
1. Her total assessed value for land and house for 2016 was $208,423 (which seems extraordinarily low)
2. She has $100,000 in exemptions for senior homestead
3. Because her lease is for a fixed term SHE PAYS NO TAXES ON THE LAND which is assessed at $ 84,187
4. $208,423 – $184,187 equals a county taxable amount of $24,236 or a tax of $160.36 based on millage of 6.6165
5. Had she been taxed on the non-homestead assessed value it would have been – $717.00 (6.6165 x $108,423)
6. Had she lived anywhere else in the county the land would be taxed.
7. Her lease fee is approximately $360.00 per year
8. Her total lease fee and county ad valorem tax would be $520.36
9. She has paid $196.64 less in county taxes ($717.00 – $520.36). She does not pay taxes based on the land value because her lease is for 99 years or until 2180. This fixed term lease is true of most residential leases on the beach.
10. So much for the double taxation argument.
This can be verified by checking the foregoing for 1008 Via Deluna Drive. This calculation ignores school and other taxes that do not credit for the non-taxed land. Only the county tax allows exemption for non-taxed land.
Related Documents (PDF):
How could Escambia initially pledge Navarre Beach bed tax revenue for Escambia bonds? I thought you said it was as if Escambia deeded Navarre to Santa Rosa in 1956?
What is your position on the status of sub leases? If the master lease holder refuses to accept fee simple title can the sub lease holders demand it nevertheless?
If the master lease holder wants fee simple title, will that nullify his lease with the sub lease holder?
How can federal legislation interfere with the contractual relationship between the lessor and the sub leasing party? Isn’t that prohibited by the U.S. Constitution?
Do you agree that there will be many lawsuits filed because of this legislation?
Do you agree that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of leases that are different from one another? If so how will this legislation affect each lease?
Were minutes taken of your meeting with Matt Gaetz?
How is this proposed legislation different from what has been previously introduced in the U.S. Congress?
You have said all leases up for renewal are renewed. What then is the justification for the current legislation?
Now that it is well known that these lease fees are nominal and that the Fla Supreme Ct has rejected the double taxation argument in the Accardo case do you still maintain it is double taxation?
You have said that waiving lease fees will “raise taxes” but if the leases are eliminated won’t that produce the exact same result?
In addition when leases are converted to fee simple the 5% added charge for retail sales on the beach will be lost. You have said it was one million, how much was it last year? How will this be made up?
In your meetings with Matt Gaetz was the issue of the Air Force interests discussed? If so what was discussed? Shouldn’t we be concerned about anything that harms the military mission at Navarre?
You have said that Santa Rosa can do what they want with Navarre Beach now and Escambia can’t do anything about it? Where in the 1956 lease can authority for that position be found?
Will you support a binding referendum for all voters in Escambia County regarding supporting or opposing federal legislation changes on Santa Rosa Island?
The Escambia County Commission has been trying to tax structures and land on Pensacola beach since at least 1990. What have you done to oppose the imposition of these taxes in the past?
Why has no economic analysis been done of the effects of this legislation?
Do you see a conflict between Escambia County and Santa Rosa County if they elect to dig a pass at Navarre?
Shouldn’t Escambia exercise its control over Navarre Beach to prevent this from happening?
You have said that this legislation allows Santa Rosa County to do what it wants with Navarre Beach. Other than one guy from Santa Rosa County that met with you and Matt Gaetz when has there ever been a statement by elected officials in Santa Risa County that they favor doing away with protected conservation and public access land which this bill effectively does?
This is perhaps the shortest act ever enacted into law. Do you think you understand all consequences of this legislation? Why wasn’t this proposed language offered to the public at any time in the last year for public comment?
Do you agree that if fee simple title is granted to the owner of Flounders for example he can build a condo hotel on the property where now the SRIA has preserved designated uses through these leases?
Will you tell the county to produce all the leases that extend beyond the dune line?
You have said something about beach land filling changing the gulf side property line – what is the authority for this statement?
Do you foresee any issue with the incorporation of Pensacola beach as a city? Why was this specific authorization to do so included in the legislation?
You have repeatedly said that we need this legislation so we can then address all the many problems that exist. Will you state clearly each problem you envision that either will be created by this legislation or will need to be addressed that cannot be addressed without the legislation?
Do you agree that this legislation will financially enrich some lease holders on the beach? Have you identified who those are?
United States Senate, WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has received written confirmation from the U.S. Air Force that reopening Navarre Pass in Santa Rosa County would directly interfere with the Air Force’s ability to conduct future testing and training missions at Eglin Air Force base.
“Reopening Navarre Pass … would interfere with current and future Air Force and DOD missions,” Gen. David Goldfein, the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, wrote in a letter to Nelson.
Nelson, who has always opposed reopening Navarre Pass, says legislation he sponsored earlier this year with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) doesn’t go far enough to prevent future cutting of the pass, which was opened only a few months before Hurricane Betsy closed it in 1965.
Nelson says he sponsored the bill with Rubio to give those holding a 99-year lease on Santa Rosa Island full ownership rights of the property, while also preserving the current land conservation areas and public access to the beach.
He says while Escambia County has agreed to keep the current conservation areas in place, the current legislation, as written, doesn’t go far enough to prevent Santa Rosa County from developing the conservation areas or reopening the pass.
“The Air Force has made it clear that reopening Navarre Pass would interfere with its testing and training missions,” Nelson said. “The legislation filed earlier this year doesn’t go far enough to prevent future cutting of the pass and needs to be changed in order to protect our national security interests.”
(A copy of the Air Force’s Sept. 27 letter to Nelson is available to read here.)
Listen carefully to this interview with Matt Gaetz and note the following: He claims the wording of the legislation came from Grover Robinson and the Santa Rosa representative meeting in Washington, D. C. with Gaetz. A United States Congressman allowing local elected officials to effectively write federal legislation directly interfering with local control over Santa Rosa Island.
He refers to the poor people on the beach suffering double taxation when he knows the Florida Supreme Court has rejected that baseless position. He has no answer why the Santa Rosa representative insisted on language in the bill not preserving current public access at Navarre Beach. He claims he wants to leave that to local officials of Santa Rosa County. So why pass federal legislation then? It is all double talk support for a very bad idea.
He also claims he will work on having the Air Force “replicate” their island installation defense mission so a pass can be dug through a barrier island at Navarre. That’s a very bold promise from a freshman congressman but it shows why this is being jammed through.
As the double taxation argument crumbles from its fictional foundation, Gaetz and Grover have switched to argue their real goal is to protect the island from actions of local elected officials in the future. A federal government fix to prohibit future actions of local elected officials. A “Big Brother” solution from purportedly conservative politicians. It is as we have previously written a solution in search of a problem to solve. And we have no idea who exactly is gaining financially nor how much this is going to cost the taxpayers.
The ACLU has brought its mighty financial sources against a person who apparently insulted someone. The ACLU long a champion of protecting the constitutional rights of all has lost their way and in doing so fosters disrespect for our judicial system. They have elected to sue an “event organizer” because she insulted a guest by asking the person to move to the back of the room to another table.
So what’s the legal claim? The person asked to move “identifies” female although apparently a male and wanted everyone to know it. Let me see if I have this right. If just before the event earlier in the day a man with a beard, a beer belly, and a pierced nose decides to wear a dress and spike heels waddles up to the front and makes a scene by his appearance, an event organizer cannot politely ask her (her for that evening) to please move to the back of the room?
According to the morning newspaper article the ACLU claims this is to be a really important case, another Brown v. Board of Education as a landmark case preventing discrimination against “transgenders.” So, the ACLU picks on an individual with inferior resources to establish their new cause celeb. In the meantime the public fumes over the allocation of the judicial resources that will be needed to litigate this ridiculous lawsuit which should have been handled (if at all) with an apology. And the erosion of public confidence in the judicial system has another straw added to the camel’s back. That’s the real victim here not the person who claims to be offended.
Louisiana Is Restoring Its Barrier Islands to Defend Against Hurricanes and Rising Seas. Funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are flowing into the state, financing unprecedented restoration work along its beleaguered coast — just in the nick of time. Louisiana is in a race against time, says Governor John Bel Edwards: “If we don’t restore these barrier islands, then our future is in peril. That land is the first line of defense. What we cannot have is a situation where the Gulf of Mexico is lapping at the levees of New Orleans.”
To check the Escambia County Sheriff’s Expenditures Detailed by Year click to open the following PDF file (400 KB)…
The Escambia County Sheriff is permitted the following categories of expenditures from the Law Enforcement Trust (LET) Fund, Florida Statute 932.7055 Disposition of liens and forfeited property (special law enforcement trust fund – see paragraph 5, subsection C) —
“Such funds may be used only for school resource officer, crime prevention, safe neighborhood, drug abuse education, or drug prevention programs or such other law enforcement purposes as the board of county commissioners or governing body of the municipality deems appropriate.”
The obvious answer to the purported double taxation (it isn’t double taxation, of course) is for the County Commissioners to waive the lease fees on the beach.
So why can’t they do it?
Why did Grover have to get Matt Gaetz to do it by passing United States Law to convert these leases to fee simple title? Because they all know this will cost the county revenues from lease fees and other fees generated on the beach. That’s why none of them have ever asked for a revenue impact study. They know what the answer will be. It will cost the county substantial revenues. But, if they could blame the big oppressive federal government for the revenue loss they would be saved a taxpayer backlash.
Nobody is fooled. This is all happening with the full endorsement of a majority of the County Commission. It isn’t just Grover. Otherwise, how could any County Commissioner who doesn’t represent the people on the island ever agree to give this land away and risk their constituents rights to use the island? How could they agree to do something that lowers fees for some at the expense of their constituents? How in the world could they ever justify giving away Navarre Beach to Santa Rosa County which would happen if all leases are converted to fee simple title? No, they are all in the soup together.
Their view is if they do nothing; never make a public comment, act like they have nothing to do with it, their problem that they helped to create will be solved by the federal government. When Grover met privately with Matt Gaetz in Washington, D.C. (without public notice) to hatch this plan, he was there on behalf of the Escambia County Commissioners. They may act like they have no involvement in this legislation, but they do.
This plan to give away the island solves a lot of elected officials’ political problems, but the majority of the people are being betrayed by their elected officials. The few that aren’t live or have businesses on the island and they are getting a windfall benefit at the expense of the rest of the taxpayers.
— Bob Kerrigan
Quint Studer has a podcast entitled “How To Promote Yourself.” There is no one more qualified to teach this than Mr. Studer.
Due to the President’s decision to kick illegal children out of the country, the Climate Change Deniers September meeting has been canceled.
The scheduled monthly meeting of the Climate Change Deniers will not occur this month.
Matt Gaetz has a grand plan. He says he wants Navarre beach to be another Destin (as if that is a worthy goal). Working with developers at Navarre, Gaetz has secured passage of legislation that will allow that to happen. Escambia owns Navarre Beach and leases the Beach to Santa Rosa County. Although Santa Rosa County has annexed Navarre Beach, it only leases the beach — it can never own it. Masking the real intent of the bill, Gaetz has not disclosed that the bill to grant fee simple title to leaseholders on Pensacola Beach will also nullify the Escambia Navarre lease to Santa Rosa County and give that beach to Santa Rosa County. If this bill passes the U S Senate, Escambia will lose Navarre Beach and receive no compensation or other benefit. Escambia will also lose the right to stop the wholesale devastation of Navarre Beach that will follow.
Gaetz has no infrastructure plan for the “billion dollar” expansion he and the developers are planning. Inadequate east-west roads to support the growth are the least of the infrastructure problems that will be encountered. He plans this massive growth fueled by digging a pass through Navarre Beach. How will this be paid for? He will ask his father for Triumph money. He has openly talked about changing the military objection to the pass. Every ecological and environmental study that has ever been done has found the pass to be a very bad idea. They tried it before and Hurricane Betsy filled it in almost immediately after they dug it.
The plan to change the ownership on the beaches from leases to fee simple title for residents is the tip of the iceberg. The real Gaetz motive is to get Navarre Beach in the hands of developers by gaining fee simple title to Navarre Beach. Under the terms and conditions of the transfer of the island to Escambia in 1947 that cannot happen because Navarre Beach can only lease the beach from Escambia County.
In pushing this legislation Gaetz has not asked for an environmental assessment across the entire beach from Pensacola to Navarre, has not done any economic feasibility study to determine the net gain or loss to Escambia for converting the leases on Pensacola Beach, has not held any public meetings to discuss the many problems this legislation may cause including the effect on subleases, the 5% gross sales tax loss from beach commercial leases, loss of beach lease revenue and countless other issues. Will this Navarre Beach title change impact the lease requirement for 1% bed tax Escambia receives from Navarre pledged for Escambia Civic Center bond payments? Who knows…
Grover is all for it because the leaseholders on the beach will benefit even though the net loss to the county in tax revenue has not been determined. Santa Rosa County is delighted by gaining fee simple title to Navarre beach and Navarre developers are salivating over the new pass. And none of them know or, at least in Gaetz and the developers case, care what the other unintended consequences might be. Grover might decide it was not a good idea.
Gaetz has been interviewed about the objections being raised and said those questioning what he has done were “trouble makers” and “leftists.” No. They are concerned citizens who see the potential problems which he either did not see or elected to ignore.
We have one hope and that is that Senator Nelson will stop this now.
August 8, 2017
VIA OVERNIGHT DELIVERY
Senator Bill Nelson
United States Senate
716 Senate Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Re: Proposed legislation regarding Santa Rosa Island
Dear Senator Nelson:
The legislation to give fee simple title to businesses and individuals is likely unconstitutional for many reasons. The federal government can’t interfere with a contract right by unilaterally canceling that contract and offering the lame excuse “you will like what we give you better” to say nothing of the representations to the public that these leases by their very nature could never be taxed. Individuals relying on those representations entered into lease agreements with the county. The 99 year lease was designed to induce people and businesses to enter into agreements with the county that if they built homes or businesses there would never be taxation of those properties. That was fairly basic. No lawyer could anticipate that the county would be upheld when they unilaterally reneged on the lease arrangement, and no lawyer or judge could have envisioned how the courts in Florida have allowed it to be done. The argument that these people should now pay taxes to shoulder their fair share sounds fine except their fair share was investing in building in the first place which generated lease revenues for many years.
This is a massive land grab from the public. When the island was given to Escambia County it was with the clear restriction it could not be sold. It was always to be held for the public. Escambia County created the Santa Rosa Island Authority and, through it, came up with a plan to lease the land to individuals and businesses. When the Florida courts ruled that these leases were, in fact, conveyance of fee simple title, the courts never considered that this was designed by Escambia County to nullify the restrictive language of the original conveyance from the Federal Government.
This fictional lease plan was used to generate revenue for the county. As the land became more valuable and nicer homes and hotels were built, the Tax Appraiser for the county
implemented a plan conceived by the county commission of Escambia County to tax the improvements. That decision was litigated and the county prevailed. Next came the decision to tax the land itself on the theory the leases were tantamount to fee simple conveyances. Indeed they were, but the scheme to create them was created by Escambia County.
Florida courts have upheld the 99 year leases with the 99 year renewal as equivalent to and for all purposes the same as conveyance of fee simple title. The fly in the ointment, however, is many leases are not automatically renewing and the courts have held these are not tantamount to fee simple conveyances – this despite the vigorous protestations by Escambia County that they were. The irony is the intentional plan to circumvent the restriction of fee simple conveyance created by local government is now the basis of legislation you are reviewing that rewards Escambia County for ignoring the original restriction on the sale of land.
Not in our lifetimes, but as theses leases expire, the land will revert to the public good. That was what was intended when the Federal Government conveyed the land to Escambia County.
This legislation will rob the people of something that belongs to them. Our new Congressman does not have a clue how these individual leases will be impacted. There has been no analysis of who will financially benefit by having a commercial lease with a shorter duration converted to fee simple title. The reason for this legislation is to correct a problem created by Escambia County where leases are subject to an annual lease payment because it is a lease, yet also taxed as fee simple ownership.
This is not a problem the Federal Government should fix, nor should the Federal Government be complicit in helping resolve this situation which was intentionally created by Escambia County. If passed, Escambia County will financially benefit from a scheme it created to get land into private hands permanently.
This legislation was hastily drafted to rescue politicians who have created an effective double taxation of leased land on Santa Rosa Island.
For over a decade I represented Citizens To Save Our Beach. We litigated many issues on the Island. I will be happy to answer any questions your staff may have.
Very truly yours,
Robert G. Kerrigan
cc: Congressman Matt Gaetz
Chairman, Escambia County Commission
The Escambia County Sheriff is permitted the following categories of expenditures from the Law Enforcement Trust (LET) Fund.
“Such funds may be used only for school resource officer, crime prevention, safe neighborhood, drug abuse education, or drug prevention programs or such other law enforcement purposes as the board of county commissioners or governing body of the municipality deems appropriate.”
Suggesting the Sheriff is precluded from allocating money for school resource officers because he “can’t budget them” is only half right.
He cannot budget these as salaried positions — right.
He therefore can’t pay these school resource officers every year from this trust fund — wrong.
An excellent article that appeared in The Pulse, July 24, 2017 —
OUR VIEW: NEWS JOURNAL’S NEGATIVITY ON NBA OPPORTUNITY IS BIZARRE AND TELLING
Pensacola is one of two finalists to land the New Orleans Pelicans’ new NBA G League team, an opportunity that could bring millions of dollars in outside investment along with stronger ties to one of Pensacola’s key feeder markets.
This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky thing we’re chasing. Pensacola is one of just six communities that were specifically invited to compete for the G League opportunity by the Benson family, which owns the Pelicans. The fact that Pensacola is on their radar is a testament to the progress that the city has made in recent years.
If local leaders can work out all the details, Pensacola could join a select group of cities that offer residents and visitors three minor league sports teams, along with a symphony orchestra, art museums and galleries, and historic district, all located in a vibrant, growing downtown.
Counterintuitively, though, the city’s daily newspaper’s coverage of the opportunity has been consistently negative, including a bizarre fixation on the “private” meetings that Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, County Commissioner Lumon May, and other local leaders have held with Pelicans officials.
At The Pulse, we’re among the strongest advocates for Florida’s government-in-the-Sunshine laws in the region. We comb through public records every day. But let’s be clear: the New Orleans Pelicans haven’t asked for any public money, and as Hayward said this week, these are very preliminary meetings. Despite the News Journal‘s sensationalist reporting, neither Hayward, May, nor any other public official has the power to commit substantial public dollars behind closed doors. Any public financing for a new arena, upgrades to the Pensacola Bay Center, or any other part of this recruitment effort would have to be debated and approved by city council and county commission members in public meetings — if the effort even gets that far.
The executives at the corporate-owned News Journal aren’t stupid, though. They know that. And that’s how we know that their outrage is false; their consistently-negative coverage driven by a loyalty to out-of-touch elitists rather than to the truth or to the readers they serve.
The News Journal‘s latest report is perhaps their most ridiculous: on Sunday, the paper devoted nearly its entire front page to a bizarre story questioning the economic benefit — or lack thereof — of an association with the National Basketball Association and the family which owns both the Pelicans and the New Orleans Saints.
“What’s still unclear is whether the city hosting the NBA affiliate would translate to actual economic benefits for the region,” the newspaper wrote Sunday.
We’re not sure who the News Journal is using as sources these days, but it’s abundantly clear that the establishment of a new NBA-affiliated basketball team in Pensacola would be a major economic win for the city and the region.
Just ask those in Oshkosh, Wis., which was selected as the home of the Wisconsin Herd G League team earlier this year. “You’re looking at tens of millions of [dollars in] economic development spin-off,” said Rob Kleman, the senior vice president of economic development for the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce. A new arena, developed through a public-private partnership, is currently under construction.
“The arena will not only provide a new home for the Herd, but will be a true catalyst for downtown Oshkosh that will create jobs and have a significant economic development impact on the entire region,” said Mark R. Hogan, secretary and CEO of WEDC, Wisconsin’s lead economic development organization.
Where was the News Journal‘s concern during Quint Studer’s effort to bring minor league baseball to Pensacola and the development of Blue Wahoos Stadium, built largely at taxpayer expense?
Both have been a tremendous success, with the stadium winning numerous awards and the Wahoos ranking in the top two in Southern League attendance every year since the team’s debut in 2012. There’s no reason to think an NBA-affiliated basketball team, backed by the Benson family, couldn’t have the same success.
And remember — unlike Studer and the Wahoos, the Pelicans haven’t asked for any public money. In fact, the Benson family has indicated their willingness to invest part of their $2.2 billion sports empire right here in Pensacola; or in Shreveport, if we don’t want their money.
But sadly, there are those in Pensacola who do not want outside investment — who see it as a threat to their power — and who have influence with the News Journal‘s executives and editors.
At first, the News Journal ignored the opportunity altogether, remaining silent while media in the other six cities who were invited to compete covered the story. Then, when they did choose to dedicate column inches, their coverage has been uniformly negative, sensationalist, and dramatic.
Unfortunately, all of it is being read by the decision-makers who are vetting Pensacola and Shreveport, trying to decide in which community they should invest millions of private dollars.
We trust that the Pelicans and the Benson family are smart enough to see that the corporate-controlled News Journal doesn’t speak for all Pensacolians; that Pensacola is a city that’s growing, thriving, and open for business; full of citizens who are excited about the future and who welcome outside investment.
As the newspaper industry continues to struggle, the path forward for local newspapers is often unclear, and the News Journal and parent company Gannett are no exception. We don’t have all the answers. But we do know that if the News Journal continues to allow advertisers to influence its editorial and news coverage, readers will continue to lose trust and seek out alternatives.
Our advice to the News Journal is simple: stick to the facts, focus on quality local reporting, and protect your independence. It’s the only way forward.
Rumor is Don Gaetz will allow Alan Bense to remain Chairman of Triumph for a year. Then Gaetz will formally take over. In the interim, Gaetz will make all major decisions as he controls a majority of the board.
Is Don Gaetz planning to take over the Triumph board at tomorrow’s (July 13) meeting at IHMC?
Does anyone know if the same military generals who spent 28 million dollars on Afghan woodland camouflage pattern uniforms, where 98% of the country is desert, are the ones asking for thousands more young soldiers to die in their 14 year war?
Last Sunday Don Gaetz wrote an excellent editorial on the need for ethical reform for those in public service and those who benefit from having been in public service. The very next day 300 million from BP was deposited in the Triumph Corporation bank account. On that same day something else happened. Mr. Gaetz’s fellow senator, Joe Negron as president of the Senate appointed someone Speaker Richard Corcoran wanted to the Triumph board. And, Corcoran appointed someone Negron wanted to the Triumph Board. In a shallow almost silly effort to conceal who really made these appointments, Corcoran appointed Don Gaetz.
So, Don Gaetz sponsored and secured passage of a law that diverts 1.5 billion owed to the eight NW Florida counties to Triumph, a private Corporation he created when he was President of the Senate. Mr. Gaetz later effectively selected a majority of the five initial board members. This last session of the legislature the board was expanded to add one board member ostensibly to represent the interests of the smaller counties to the east and one more board member from Walton County alone, making seven board members. Mr. Gaetz was Mr. Negron’s Walton County selection. Escambia County doesn’t have a representative. Mr. Gaetz is now formally and effectively in charge of 1.5 billion that will be expended by Triumph.
Outzen has made a living out of effectively selling spots in his top 100 influence list. The last list was embarrassing to say the least. Selling praise is not all that bad because it is self-evident silly. His man-crush on the Mayor is well, beyond embarrassing. You could say he is unfair, but he has a right to be unfair because he controls what is printed. He is steadfast in his desire to paint everything that is being accomplished to promote the City of Pensacola in the most negative fashion possible.
Calling what he prints “news” is like calling cod “a snapper filet.” It may look like snapper, but it ain’t quite the same. But pretend snapper isn’t killing the community image – his substitute for news is.
An open letter to the citizens of Pensacola from the Office of the Mayor…
I know we are all pleased having Navy Federal here. But, the elephant in the room is their failure to pay any federal income tax. As this article points out although the basis of federal tax exemptions for small very limited in scope credit unions is part of our national fabric, massive 60 billion dollar banking businesses are not. For any business person facing the possibility that a competitor 60 times bigger can pay better wages and support extraordinary compensation for their executives because they are not required to pay federal income taxes is an unfair competitive advantage. And that is exactly this credit union disparity as compared to our local banks. Congress should end this federal income tax exemption for any credit union over a billion dollars in assets. This is an unsupportable abuse of the historic tax exemption afforded to small local credit unions.
PNJ, it’s ok to say you dropped the ball.
The PNJ missed any coverage of the Triumph confiscation of the BP oil spill money plan for nearly two years. The editor just published an editorial extolling the benefits of diverting money away from Escambia County. The cartoon accompanying the editorial portrayed our county commissioners as buffoons. She wrote that the money would be better given to a private corporation ( that is accountable to no one ) than to our county commissioners.
The PNJ publisher needs to have a meeting with the editor and explain to her that baselessly bashing our elected officials is not advancing the efforts of so many others to bring new industry here. It is a continuing problem as Gannett’s musical chairs staffing of the PNJ never finds anyone here very long. The irony of her editorial blaming state senator George Gainer for protecting the small counties in his district’s claim for some of the BP money is Mr. Gainer’s district was formerly represented by Don Gaetz. Mr. Gainer is protecting his constituents which Mr. Gaetz seemed to forget when he was their senator as he set up the Triumph Corporation and provided not a penny to these smaller counties impacted by the oil spill. So, all the small counties to the east of Okaloosa were neglected and counties to the west of Okaloosa, including Escambia were cut out of any of the BP oil spill recovery. Destin residents comprise a majority of the five board members of Triumph that will decide where they will spend $1.5 billion. Destin, Mr. Gaetz home.
The PNJ editor advocates not giving 18 million to each county (eight) because the smaller counties are well, smaller counties. Problem is that cuts out Escambia and Santa Rosa as well. She says she favors “regional” projects. It is obvious she has absolutely no idea what they are or how they could impact our two counties. Her editorial is a last minute effort to justify the PNJ ignoring for two full years this grab of the BP money. So what, it didn’t matter is the implication of the editorial. Yes it matters. It matters to the smallest counties and it matters to us. Senator Gainer sees this for what it is, a grab for cash for unaccountable spending. He is trying to insert accountability. Any responsible newspaper should applaud the effort.
Shallow as the editorial is, the greater harm of the editorial is the insulting manner with which she disparages all county and city elected officials and by implication we the ignorant voters that have elected them. Real great stuff for recruiting businesses to locate here.
Polls Reveal Majority of Americans Against Limiting Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice & Nursing Home Lawsuits
Public Policy Polling (PPP) recently released data from phone polls conducted in late March on the topic of H.R. 1215, a House bill that will be voted on in the next several weeks. H.R. 1215 seeks to limit non-economic damages to $250,000 in medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, prescription and OTC drug and medical device lawsuits. PPP asked the same set of questions to between 500-700 registered voters in 7 red (Republican) and purple states (those that have voted both Republican & Democratic in the past several elections). Polling only red & purple states was intentional, as Republicans have traditionally leaned towards tort reform, the act of limiting medical malpractice and nursing home abuse lawsuits in favor of protecting big corporations. PPP found that in the polled states of Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Alabama and Arizona, support for H.R. 1215 was virtually non-existent, with over 60% of polled citizens in every state disagreeing with the bill.
Even more impressive was the percentage of voters in each state that believed nursing homes should be held accountable if acts of negligence caused the injury or death of a loved one. The amount of support for nursing home abuse and negligence lawsuits was 77% at its lowest (Florida), and 86% at its highest (Georgia).
Finally, each state’s opposition to H.R. 1215 grew stronger as the person conducting the phone interview gave more information on the bill to voters.
Poll Results by State
The poll results for each state are as follows:
Lawmakers’ Re-Election Bids May Depend on H.R. 1215
If lawmakers haven’t paid attention to the constant stream of H.R. 1215 opposition voicemails and emails coming from their constituents, they may want to start. PPP’s survey found that regardless of political party affiliation, 58% of voters would be less likely to vote for the re-election of their representative if he or she supported the bill.
The bottom line here is that voters have simply reached a point where it has become inexcusable to continue to allow big businesses to get away with oversight, negligence, and greed at the expense of the American people. Whether Democrat or Republican, PPP’s data shows that voters refuse to buy into the idea that non-economic damages don’t encourage corporations, hospitals, and other healthcare-related businesses to be BETTER. In this era of profits above all else, awarding non-economic damages in line with the injustice incurred sends a message that we deserve more as patients, nursing home residents, and people.
(originally posted by Levin & Perconti, Chicago, Illinois, Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog, April 10, 2017)
Four days after the Bondi settlement announcement of the 1.5 billion dollar BP settlement, the Gaetz/Destin group of three directors met with the other two directors in Sandestin. Fully two years prior in 2013, Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. was created by then Senator Don Gaetz in anticipation that substantial sums would be received by the State of Florida and he wanted to control those funds. Very few people during this two year period understood how this was all going to circumvent local control over the settlement funds. These minutes are interesting. UWF staff appear to be involved yet there is no defined role for UWF by statute or otherwise. It all is made to appear very official with grand theatre demonstrated by comments from Senator Gaetz and others. It all sounds like such a great idea. In the end however the five directors of Triumph Gulf Coast are accountable to no one. They are free to award the money with virtually unlimited discretion. Five unelected people parceling out 1.5 billion plus earned interest. No one, no one has any idea how this is going to operate including the board of directors.
The following is the statute that created the Triumph Gulf Coast Corporation in 2013, two years before the Bondi announced settlement.
A Who’s Who…*
Juan Ramos (photo) – A Cuban refugee who arrived in Florida during the Mariel boatlift, Ramos was living in Cocoa when he was arrested and convicted of murder. He was sent to death row when he was 25 years old. He was acquitted after a second trial.
Wilton Dedge – Was a 20-year-old high school dropout from Port St. John in 1981. He lived with his parents in Port St. John and worked on car transmissions at a shop in New Smyrna Beach. He spent 22 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.
William Dillon – Was an out-of-work 22-year-old living with his parents in Satellite Beach in 1981 when he was arrested, tried and convicted of a murder he did not commit. He spent nearly 28 years in prison before being exonerated.
Gary Bennett – Was an out-of-work 26-year-old who has spent the last 33 years in prison for the murder of his neighbor Helen Nardi in 1983.
Gerald Stano – Regarded by many to be both a serial killer and a serial confessor, Stano was executed for the Brevard County murder of Kathy Lee Scharf. He was already serving several life sentences in Florida when he was convicted in Brevard.
Dean Moxley – Now a retired judge, Moxley was the chief prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office in Brevard County. He personally prosecuted Dedge, Ramos, Bennett and Stano and was the supervising attorney for the Dillon trial.
Clarence Zacke – The owner of a West Melbourne junkyard, Zacke dabbled in the stolen car business before starting to smuggle marijuana from the islands on his own plane. Arrested on drug charges, Zacke then worked to eliminate the witnesses against him. He ordered the murder Richard Lee Hunt, the brother of prosecutor Michael Hunt. He also tried to have State Attorney Doug Cheshire and Judge William Woodson executed. He raped his adopted daughter for years. He became a star witness for the state in several high profile cases.
John Preston – A former Pennsylvania State Trooper, Preston used tracking dogs to become an expert witness testifying around the country in criminal cases. He was discredited and proven to be a fraud. His testimony helped send Wilton Dedge, Juan Ramos and William Dillon to prison.
*Written by John A. Torres, Florida Today, March 19, 2017 — original article at this link)
In 2012, some politically powerful people in North Florida secured the services of then Senator Don Gaetz to help them control 1.5 billion of funds that BP was expected to pay for the carnage to the Gulf Coast caused by the BP oil spill. The concern of these behind the scenes power brokers was that they did not want our elected officials to have any control over these funds. So Senator Gaetz introduced legislation to set up a corporation that would have all money funneled through it. When he set it up he named five political friends to the board of directors. Three are from his home base of Destin, Florida. One lives in Santa Rosa County and one resides in Bay County. None are from Pensacola or even Escambia County. These five will control 1.5 billion dollars. They will not be accountable to the taxpayers or the voters. Did anyone ever see an application for a position on this board of directors? The answer of course is no. This was done long before most of us had any idea about the feverish effort that was undertaken to get control of the settlement money that would come later.
The Speaker of the Florida House of Representative, Mr. Richard Corcoran, has expressed concern about accountability of the disbursement of this very substantial amount of money. He is right. This money should be awarded to the counties impacted and the municipalities within those counties on a block grant population basis. Doing it on the basis of population with direct payments made to the counties and cities would assure that the money will be spent not based on what a committee of people outside our community want but based on what our elected officials decide is best. But more importantly elected officials are accountable to the voters. The fact that this transformative award of money has been sidetracked through the Gaetz created Triumph Corporation is hardly a triumph for the taxpayers. We will never know the names of the people who got Don Gaetz to do it, but we have a hunch. We do know this was all in process well before the Pam Bondi 1.5 billion dollar settlement was even reached.
Had this board been established to be fairly inclusive and without potential conflicts of interest it would have looked entirely different than it does now. If Mr. Gaetz wanted to assure transparency he could have selected Andy Marlette of the PNJ for the board. If he wanted people who have a history of doing great things for the community he could have added the president of the league of women voters or the president of Impact 100 to his board. If he truly wanted inclusion, he could have selected members from the minority community. There are countless other fine people who would have volunteered to help oversee the proper and fair use of this money.
Mayor Hayward of Pensacola has called for block grants to the cities and counties and he is right to do so. Having a fishing village like Destin controlling a majority of this board is a short tail wagging a big dog. Pensacola is the largest City and Escambia is the largest county of the eight counties and the cities within them. Our communities should receive our fair share of this 1.5 Billion dollars settlement and we need our elected officials to control the money. Our legislative delegation should be demanding this dismantling of this Triumph Corporation before they get their hands on the money. This is once in decade’s infusion of money that may never happen again and it is so important to the future of our communities.
The City of Pensacola is proud to support the inaugural Ciclovia Open Streets Pensacola event, on Saturday March 25th from 9AM to 2PM.
Open Streets Pensacola is a free, safe, and inclusive event that will focus on fitness, recreation, and community programs along five miles of road for people to experience the streets in a new way.
We invite you to bike, walk, run, skate, roll, or dance your way through the scenic and historic route of Downtown Pensacola from Community Maritime Park on Main Street to Gulf Power on Bayfront Parkway and along Palafox from Garden Street to Plaza de Luna! There will be many activities along the route including fitness classes, sports demonstrations, music, dancing, helmet fittings, a bike skills clinic, plus games and fun activities for all ages.
Bring your friends to Ciclovia Open Streets Pensacola for a walkable, vehicle-free, and thrilling adventure!
More than 32,500 square yards of pavement has been milled, and nearly 11,000 tons of new asphalt placed in the first two weeks of the citywide street resurfacing program.
Thus far, work has focused in west Pensacola, but beginning Monday, March 6, crews also started working in downtown areas to repair concrete features such as sidewalks, curbs, and handicap accessibility ramps.
Milling and resurfacing of downtown city streets is scheduled to begin in mid-April and continue into the summer months. The multiyear construction program encompasses 1,800 blocks of city streets. The streets have not been resurfaced for a decade or more.
Read more here.
On February 28, Captain Vines (and the crew of Engine 6) responded to an Assistance Lifting call. An 81 year old male slid out of bed and his elderly wife was unable to help with his return. Engine 6 assisted their resident back into his bed and Captain Vines had a wellness conversation with his wife regarding her husband’s long-term health status and special needs. Insurance and financial issues had created a delay in the family receiving a wheelchair.
Fearing the potential for injury, due to deteriorating mobility, Reese offered to provide a wheelchair. The next morning, Captain Vines and members of Station 6 delivered a wheelchair to our grateful Wimbledon Drive family.
As you know, this past year has been a challenging one in the Vines family. His recognition of this special need, and swift intervention, is truly an act of exceptional customer service.
– Ginny Cranor, Battalion Chief – C Watch, Pensacola Fire Department
Relay For Life of Pensacola is hosting its very first Masquerade Ball and Silent Auction on March 10th from 7PM to 12AM at the Artel Gallery (223 Palafox Place).
Relay For Life seeks to give everyone, in communities across the globe, the chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. The theme “Masquerade” was chosen for this Ball in order to symbolize how little is known about the disease that is cancer, but how the organization is searching to find out more.
McGuire’s Irish Pub is hosting its 40th St. Patrick’s Day Prediction 5K Run on Saturday, March 11th at 9AM.
The race goes on, rain or shine, and will start and finish at McGuire’s Irish Pub (600 E Gregory St). Each runner or walker predicts how long it will take them to complete the 3.1 mile course. Participants who come the closest to the time predicted on their registration form win.
Crossing the finish line is just the beginning. Stay for the after party, where there will be refreshments and entertainment until 12PM. To register for the race, or for more information, visit the event website.
The Maritime de Luna Du Youth Duathlon is the first of two events in the TriGulfCoast Youth Multisport Series.
The De Luna Du Duathlon will be held March 12, 2017 at Pensacola’s Community Maritime Park at 8:30AM. The race will offer a scenic run-bike-run course for kids ages 6 to 15.
The Knights of Columbus will host their 8th annual Smokin’ in the Square event March 17th and 18th in Seville Square.
This barbecue cook off raises funds through activities and food sales, and the proceeds are donated to local charities. What was once a small, backyard-competitor cook off is now a large event with an average of 50 pro teams and 25 backyard teams showing up each year. There will be live entertainment, cooking competitions, and other activities.
Smokin’ in the Square is free to attend, but VIP tickets are also available for those who would like special access to the Lee House, next door to the square, where they can enjoy their barbecue. For tickets and more information, visit the event website.
The Jacksonian Guard is a Pensacola re-enactment group of soliders from the Jacksonian and Spanish era. The next event will be March 18th at 12 noon in Plaza Ferdinand on Palafox Street.
The ceremony commemorates Pensacola’s 195th Birthday and Florida as a U.S. Territory. It will continue to take place every third Saturday of each month through 2017. Join the guard at the flagpole in the center of Plaza Ferdinand, and see a demonstration of Pensacola’s rich heritage.
The Jacksonian Guard currently consists of mainly students ages 12 to 29. They are young to represent the youthful composition of Andrew Jackson’s army and the great talent that exists among our youth today in Pensacola. Membership is open to any area youth willing to perform in these re-enactments. Inquiries can be sent to email@example.com, or for more information, call (850) 466-5220.
Join Ocean Hour Florida for a Project Greenshores and Bartram Park Cleanup on Saturday, March 18.
Project Greenshores is at the Three Mile Bridge on Bayfront Parkway (745 Bayfront Parkway). The second location is Bartram Park (211 Bayfront Parkway, behind The Fish House). Buckets, grabbers, gloves, and trash bags will be supplied. Sign in at 8:45AM and the clean up will be from 9AM to 10AM.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (850) 450-1112.
This week, we kicked off the 2017 Pensacola Citizens Academy: a free, nine week program for residents to learn more about their local government, community, and how to take that knowledge to better their neighborhoods and be more active participants in their city.
At the first meeting, academy registrants visited City Hall for presentations from the City Administrator, Constituent Services, Finance, and the City Clerk. Thank you to our attendees. We look forward to the next eight weeks!
For a sneak peek of this week’s meeting, click the image below.
While all the Trump people are bashing fake news, it might be well to note the benefits. Let me cite a few local examples…
If someone wrote a story saying Outzen apologized for his non-stop trashing of the City of Pensacola we would see three reactions: The vast majority could care less, but of the minority, some would see real hope that he had repented and would return to some form of journalistic honor. The remaining few would know that the news was fake and double down their vocal objection of him killing the community to get trade out ads. Contrast that with a true story that Outzen was continuing his bashing of the City of Pensacola and its Mayor and absolutely no one would even read it.
A story is published that the Fish House manager apologized for ruining the ambiance of the historic district and agreed to tear down their garish flashing EAT NOW sign. No one would believe it. The benefit of such a fake news story however would be to highlight the level of offensive conduct the ARB permits for their friends.
Speaking of the ARB and their alternative facts , they recently rejected a night lighting of the new YMCA sign. An unequivocal insult to the generosity of the Bear, Levin and Studer families who gave millions to build the “Y.” Fake News would consist of a story about how each of the ARB members care greatly for the historic district and that the granting of permission for the lighted all night billboard sign was to help illuminate the streets of the historic district ( the need to do it would be an example of an alternative fact ) . The bogus story would go on to explain that since Zaragoza Street has street lights there is no need to have a Fish House type illuminated YMCA sign.
In Pensacola the ARB has just proposed a conflict of interest disclosure requirement that can be waived depending who is asking for what favor at the time. This is of course fake news because they would never pass a conflict of interest code.
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.
Since 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.
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
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.
The 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
Inmates 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.
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.
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…
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”
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.
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.
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.
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?
Innocence Project of Florida – Unlocking the truth…
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.
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.”
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
From the Washington Post, 09/08/2016…
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.
This 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.