A Long Time in the Making

UWF-Don-Gaetz-announces-president

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

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

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

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Five Northwest Florida Residents UWF Board

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

Posted in Education, Florida, News Articles, Politics, Republican Party, Tallahassee | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A University Should Be a Place Fostering Intellectual Honesty

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

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

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

UWF Faculty-Staff Newsletter

Sen. Don Gaetz Letter

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

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

Matt Gaetz, Super PAC & “Pay-to-Play”

The Huffington Post
August 5, 2016
Written by Paul Blumenthal

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

That could be a problem.

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

Matt Gaetz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clark responded to requests for comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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nwfdailynews.com
August 8, 2016
Written by Tom McLaughlin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Efforts to reach Clark on Monday were unsuccessful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Modest “Thank You” Check

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

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

Our City Looks So Silly

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

Pensacola City Council-Satan v Preachers

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

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

The Publix Prison

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

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

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

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

Publix-Elevation-View

East Hill Publix • (click to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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Not A Pretty Picture for Democrats

(Originally posted October 14, 2015)

For Democrats it is not a pretty picture.

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

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

James Comey FBI

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

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

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

— Bob Kerrigan

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

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By the Water Boards

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

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

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

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

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FDOT – The Final Insult

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

FDOT Bridge Meeting Chipley

In Chipley — a town with one red light.

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

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

Kleenex

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

Cry Cry Kleenex Box

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

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

“Let them eat Sushi” say our town criers!

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

FDOT: An Unpleasant History

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

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

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

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

FDOT - Scenic Hwy-I10 interchange

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

Now they say just trust us.

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

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

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

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

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Who Actually Follows this Advice?

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

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

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

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

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

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The ARB

ARB

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

Why is it?

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

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Excellent PNJ Editorial

PNJ Logo

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

Editorial: Too Early to Change Charter

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

T.I.S.A. BID ANNOUNCEMENT

 TISA BID ANNOUNCEMENT

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

TSA - insecurity

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Rick’s Radio Show

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

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Ask Your Restaurant Server

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

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

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Tit for Tat & the Last Word

Sleaze Abounds at the PNJ

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

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

Where is the PNJ Publisher?

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Justice for Berta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Open Letter to Maren Deweese

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

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

Two Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest

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

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

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

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

Living the High Life in Santa Rosa County

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

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

Rick never mentioned that he lives in Gulf Breeze…

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FDOT Double Talk Caught Up Short Again

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

Mr. Vickery:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I would appreciate your response.

Glynn Brown AIA
Architect
March 28, 2016

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

No Sympathy for the Rich on the Beach

The recent decision by the appellate court reversing Chris Jones’ taxing of a parcel at Portofino is not what it appears to be. It involves one single parcel of land that had a unique non-recurring lease. All other beach leases that automatically renew will be taxed.

You would be hard pressed to find a single lawyer who would agree with what the courts allowed Escambia County to do. From the original conveyance of Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County in 1947 the county was prohibited from selling any portion of the island. It was supposed to remain for public use. But, there was plenty of land so, Escambia County had the legislature create the Santa Rosa Island Authority to lease some of the property on the island.

In the 1950s and 60s, Escambia County, through the SRIA, created the legal fiction they would later disavow. They granted 99 year leases renewable for 99 years and thereby complied with the deed restriction of the Federal government that prohibited sales. People leased the land from the SRIA and one of the selling points was there would not be any property taxes because it was a lease. And so it went for year and years…

Rich on Pensacola Beach

Then Escambia County decided that too many people were building nice homes on their leased land and they should pay property taxes. Escambia County decided to renege on these written lease agreements and the property appraiser assessed property taxes on leased land which seemed absurd at the time. No one thought they could get away with it. But they did. The appellate courts said what they did was okay. Then Escambia County taxed the land, as well. No one thought they could get away with that, either but — they did. The appellate courts said it was just fine.

Now the issue is what to do with the leases. Property leaseholders on the beach are now paying both lease payments and property taxes. Escambia County takes the position that they need the money and that should allow them to renege on written leases. No one thought they would get away with it — no one but the elected officials who decided to do it.

Good lesson for us all and those who might decide to move here. Be wary of any deal you make with local government, especially Escambia County.

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An Historic Compromise

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

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

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

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Charles Bare’s More Government Push Disappointing

Editorial from The Pulse Staff (pulsegulfcoast.com), March 14, 2016

More government, not less, seems to be the Pensacola City Council’s mantra under the leadership of Charles Bare, who took over as council president last November.

Bare has repeatedly pushed to expand the number of staffers employed by the council under an amendment to the city charter which voters narrowly passed in 2014. Previously, all city employees were the mayor’s executive branch, but the amendment essentially gave the council the power to hire an unlimited number of staffers itself. And they’ve been using that power: since the beginning of the year, council members have approved three new positions — two assistants and an attorney — bringing the total payroll for the council office to nearly $300,000 a year.

charles bare

This week, Bare is pushing the council again to add another position: a budget analyst, a move which council members voted down just last month. Here’s the thing — the city already has a full-time budget analyst within its Finance Department, a department which has been repeatedly recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association for its excellence when it comes to the budget.

What we’re seeing is exactly what opponents of the 2014 amendment warned about: a growing bureaucracy at City Hall, fueled by council members who are more concerned with creating jobs in government than they are the private sector.

The arguments of those who support the city council having its own budget analyst are much the same as their arguments in support of a separate council attorney: that the council can’t trust employees hired by the mayor; that employees advising both the mayor and the city council is a conflict of interest. These arguments ring hollow, though. In Jacksonville, a single legal office provides counsel for both the mayor and the city council, not to mention constitutional officers, the school board, and a slew of boards and authorities. It works the same way in Hialeah, the city from which much of Pensacola’s charter was borrowed. Makes sense to us, but our council members here in Pensacola apparently prefer to duplicate, rather than streamline.

That’s not all, though – Bare also wants the council to hire a short-term attorney to help create procedures for the council to investigate the mayor’s executive branch, a power granted to the council by the 2010 city charter but which the council has never used. It’s a good goal, but it’s not an emergency, and we can’t support spending an extra $22,000 to do it now when the council voted just last month to hire a full-time attorney. Presumably, that’ll take a while, and Bare wants to get a jump on things so that he can squeeze in an investigation or two before he leaves office in November. Sorry, councilman, but that’s not a good enough reason to spend taxpayer dollars. If the council’s already planning to hire a full-time attorney, let’s get that done and then have that person do the work.

There’s no question that Pensacola’s city council needs some administrative support. We’re not arguing that point. But Bare’s push to continually expand the council’s staff — with little or no analysis of whether there’s even an adequate workload to merit these positions — points to a council president whose priorities simply don’t reflect those of the people he was elected to serve. We believe that most Pensacolians want smaller, not bigger, government; less bureaucracy, not more.

Councilman Larry B. Johnson perhaps said it best when he spoke to The Pulse last month: “I believe this is a waste of taxpayer dollars. I don’t know what these people are going to do for 40 hours a week.”

Neither do we.

(Author(s) – pulsegulfcoast.com, Editorial staff. Read the original editorial here.)

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

Rubio Drops Out

Marco Rubio to area Republican supporters:
“I’ll never give up…”
(Pensacola, March 12, 2016)

Rubio Button Never Quit

Three days later, Marco Rubio to Republican supporters:
“…today my campaign is suspended.”
(Miami, March 15, 2016)

Rubio Button Quit

Is it any wonder people don’t believe anything these candidates say?

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President Obama: Pardon Don Siegelman!

Why hasn’t the President Pardoned Don Siegelman?

Siegelman-Obama-Pardon

NOTE: To view this as a web page with working links, click anywhere on the image above or CLICK HERE.

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Rubio A Bust

RUBIO-button-2016The Fish House cancellation due to “weather” was really an abandonment of Rubio by a few local Republicans who hang around the Fish House. The Fish House originally required an RSVP (Rubio is doing it everywhere) because an empty restaurant, regardless of the quality of the grits, would have proved quite embarrassing. In Sanford the past week, Rubio had 20 people show up. His Pensacola proclamation that he will never quit seems a rebuke to area Republican “leaders” who have jumped ship. He may not quit, because he does not have a job, but he stands no chance of winning Florida.

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, Local Business, News Articles, Politics, Republican Party | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The R(D)onald

GOP LOGOIt was supposed to be a simple scam on the voters. Have Trump treated like a viable candidate and watch the TV debate ratings soar. Another shallow minded Reagan-type celebrity; just what Republicans needed to juice up interest in a not so impressive field of candidates. Trump would never be a serious candidate and, in time, he would implode or explode — at least that is what they thought would or should happen.

It was reality show entertainment with terrific TV ratings and all was well in the Republican Party.

But then, something happened during the exploitation of Rush’s low information voters. They thought The Donald was saying some things they liked. The racists, the bigots, the self-acclaimed religious, they all heard things they longed to hear. The real face of the base started to be revealed. They had their new “Ronald.” Then, as the Party promoters’ designed joke became actual reality, the “leaders” of the Party and their talk show constitutionalists decided the low information voters needed to hear the truth. The Donald was not the Ronald and the whole thing was a massive fraud by a con man who even fooled Sarah Palin.

Oh, gracious! How did this go so wrong for the Party of Lincoln?

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FISH HOUSE RSVP

All women who confirm attendance to see Little Marco must wear flats. Short supporters are urged to attend. Booster seats will be preinstalled on all chairs. No questions will be permitted about when Marco’s parents “fled” Cuba.

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Don Siegelman Turns the Big 7-0

On February 24, Don Siegelman will celebrate his 70th birthday…

siegelman-don-70

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The Racist Basis of the 10-2 Jury Vote to Execute

This idea originated in Louisiana where they established a 9-3 vote to execute. Given the universally accepted truth that black men were disproportionately executed, there is an understandably strong sentiment in the African American Community that opposes the death penalty. Louisiana figured that if they could keep 12 person jurors limited to 3 African Americans, they could continue the executions of black men.

The way death penalty-qualified juries are selected a prospective juror is excluded from the jury if they oppose the death penalty. So, the prosecution starts with a stacked deck in favor of executions. But, to be safe and assure that if one or two African Americans end up on the death-qualified jury, the one or two votes opposing the death penalty that would come from them will not be enough to save the accused from executions. 10-2 is not a compromise between the Florida House proposed 9-3 vote and the Florida Senate (that voted to require unanimous verdicts of execution), it is a continuation of the disparate application of the death penalty to African American men.

It is doomed when this latest Florida legislative effort reaches the United States Supreme Court.

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Fire Starter Award

Pensacola News Journal editor Ms. Nellessen-Lara selected her top reporter to cover government affairs: Will Isern. She knows his background and decided that he was particularly well suited to be assigned the most important beat at the paper.

Is it possible Ms. Nellessen-Lara also awarded the reporter the “Studer Fire Starter” designation?

There could be some resulting confusion, however, because he actually is a fire starter. He is on felony probation from Tennessee for arson. He was arrested again locally for another crime while on probation for arson and put on concurrent probation.

Ms. Nellessen-Lara is ultimately responsible for the editing and the approval of Isern’s stories. His recent story involving a contract with Roads Inc. was the paper’s typical baseless slam against the Mayor. Libeling a local business in the process of libeling the Mayor, however, was not such a good idea. The PNJ will have to print a retraction. They left out the most important fact: the contract was the product of a low bid determination by Hatch Mott MacDonald. She just loved the implication of wrongdoing in the article even though she knew there was no wrongdoing or, she was too lazy to ask city officials involved what really happened. We wonder if Ms. Nellessen- Lara and the “North Hill probation office location objector lady” are going to suggest moving the probation office to the PNJ building. Might be a good solution for their respective problems.

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

Help Rescue Abused Neglected Horses

(Originally appeared in the Pensacola News journal, January 23, 2016)

A new year has begun and with it comes a sense of fresh beginnings and renewed hopes. It is a time to set goals and work toward becoming a better “you.” A great way to accomplish this is through volunteer work.

English author John Bunyan wrote “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” I have experienced the truthfulness of those words through volunteering to help the abused and neglected. The “someone” for me is not human though, but rather equine. They are the horses of Panhandle Equine Rescue Inc.

Panhandle Equine Rescue 2

In our 11th year, PER is still working hard fulfilling our mission which is to rescue, rehabilitate and provide adoption services for abused, neglected and abandoned equines. We are a 501(C)3 organization and verified by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. We have a dedicated board of directors and a core group of hardworking volunteers but we need more community involvement to continue in our mission.

We currently have 23 horses in foster care and desperately need adoptive homes for them. These horses deserve loving, forever homes especially given the abuse and neglect they have had to endure. Many of our horses are not ridable due to medical and/or abuse issues. This does not make them less deserving of a home or family, in fact I think just the opposite. We have several strong, sound horses who can be ridden with the proper training and patience.

If you cannot adopt, perhaps fostering would be a better fit. PER reimburses for 100 percent of expenses and you provide the pasture, shelter, safe fencing and TLC. We desperately need foster homes as we are full at our facility and cannot take in critical-care equine when that call comes in due to lack of space.

If you cannot foster, then sponsor. For as little as $15 a month, you can sponsor any of our foster horses. Every three months you will receive a letter and pictures from your horse filling you in on all their adventures.

If you can’t sponsor, then volunteer. No matter your interest or ability, we need your help in the following ways; Horse training, horse grooming, stall cleaning, barn maintenance, errands, public relations and fundraising.

If you can’t volunteer then donate. As I stated earlier, we have 23 equine in foster care and we pay for all of their needs. When we take in a critical care equine, the bills can add up into the thousands depending on the medical issues. We rely on the generosity of people who share in our feelings that every animal deserves to be treated with kindness and dignity and to live free of abuse and neglect.

If you can’t donate then educate, network and cross post. Please follow and share our Facebook page and visit our website, http://www.panhandleequinerescue.org for more information. Remember to always report abuse or neglect by calling (850) 587-3565.

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”

These words, although simple, have such a deep and powerful meaning. Please join our team of volunteers and let’s see how much we can accomplish together!

the author of this article, Nancy Way, is treasurer for Panhandle Equine Rescue.

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Volunteers Needed to Help Rescue Horses

(First appeared in the Pensacola News Journal, June 13, 2015)

I am a Panhandle Equine Rescue volunteer and board member.

Our mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and provide adoption services for abused, neglected and abandoned equine. We are a 501(c)3 organization which operates in Escambia County.

I cannot stress enough how dependent we are on the hardworking men and women who volunteer to come and do barn chores. We rely on these folks 365 days a year to keep the facility clean and the horses tended to. We have a small group of dependable volunteers who have been coming each week. These folks are our “constants” and we appreciate them so much. We desperately need more people to step up and volunteer especially during these hot summer months. We currently have eight horses. We could have more come within a moment’s notice. We need YOUR help!

If you have been interested in volunteering, now is the time! It is not that difficult. School is out for the summer and high school students can earn hours toward their scholarship requirements. We have mom/daughter duos and even a dad/daughter team. What a wonderful bonding experience!

Our facility is a small, humble place, but what we lack in size we make up for in love and dedication to our rescues. We pride ourselves on keeping it clean and tidy and making our horses as comfortable as possible. It is a place of love; a place of safety and security for horses who haven’t known these things.

Panhandle Equine Rescue 1I get so much out of the hands-on experience of doing barn chores … seeing a horse who has not had shelter, go into their stall that is clean, has fresh bedding and a full hay bag. I also love when I’m watering the horses and I finish filling a bucket with cold fresh water and a horse take that first drink – seeing him lift his head and lick his lips as if to say “Oh, that’s good! Thank you so much!” After chores are done, comes my favorite part: grooming! It’s an incredible feeling to be able to show these horses that a human’s touch is not something to fear. They enjoy the attention and it’s amazing to see a horse blossom from a skinny, malnourished bag of bones to a beautiful, healthy and happy equine!

It’s especially touching to see updates on our horses, especially ones that I had a hand in helping. The horses who greeted me each day when I came for barn chores and are now either adopted or fostered: Capona (Topsannah), Sweet Mary, Comanche, JB, Jesse, Rolla, Smarty, Lucky and Ebony. When I see updates on Facebook, I feel proud because I know in some small way I made a difference in that horse’s life.
You can also have the experience of making a difference in a horse’s life, no matter the commitment you can give; every little bit helps. Our barn chore volunteers are our “boots on the ground.” These are the folks who are invaluable to our day-to-day operations. Barn chores are a labor of love. It is not glamorous but it is rewarding in so many ways.

If you are interested in learning more, please send a message or email. If you cannot volunteer, please share this and our FB page. There may be people out there who would love to volunteer but don’t know we even exist.We need you. The horses need you! Your life will be richer because of it. Hope to see you out at Pensacola Equine Rescue!

—Article written by Nancy Way

Email her at njway2300@aol.com. To contact Panhandle Equine Rescue Inc., call (850) 587-3565 for more information or to report equine abuse/neglect. Check out the Facebook page, Panhandle Equine Rescue Inc. for frequent updates and current events, or visit Panhandleequinerescue.org.

Posted in Education, Escambia County, Florida, News Articles, Pensacola News Journal, Santa Rosa County, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Nice New Fire Station

Pensacola Fire Station 3

It will only cost $3 million. Fire Station #3 on Summit has some mold issues so our designated council person says let’s just build a new one.

Not to pour water on the parade, but wouldn’t it be prudent to make a cost benefit analysis? We need a building to house fire trucks, but do we need a brand new one? Has anyone determined what a minimal 5 year repair fix would be? If this were the city council person’s own money, would he be pushing this 3 million dollar plan or would he carefully consider whether a cheaper fix would work?

This is not a municipal meeting building; a fire station building receives minimal public use. Is it really a good idea to build a new one with our money without really exploring other options?

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

Kerrigan Resigns from The Kerrigan

Today I announce my resignation from The Kerrigan.

I leave the organization with some regret because there is currently no one else in it. However, the inspiration I have provided to myself and hopefully others will surely have a long standing positive impact.

In the future I will concentrate on publicizing the community good works I am doing at the time.

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Fahd Ghazy released from Guantánamo

CCR - Jan 2016

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Gulf Breeze Elected Officials: Irrevocable Conflicts of Interest

Since the publicity over the proposed new bridge design and routing, we have received many comments. We have found no one who disagrees that the proposed new bridge should route traffic east of Gulf Breeze, either completely, or as one of two exits. It is obvious to anyone who objectively looks at the traffic problems in Gulf Breeze. You would be hard pressed to find any residential occupant of Gulf Breeze who would want the current flow of traffic to continue through the city let alone increase as it will.

So, what have the Gulf Breeze mayors and elected officials done to support a more easterly landing? They have actively but quietly opposed it. The reason: They act exclusively for a handful of business owners and commercial property owners who see their values and revenues declining if traffic is reduced.

What do they do about the traffic they want to keep coming through the Gulf Breeze? They engage in a fiction that they are protecting access moving across Highway 98 by refusing to regulate the lights in favor of expediting the mass of traffic moving through the city. They claim they owe no concern to transient travelers moving through the city — and of course the ticketing of that traffic is a major revenue source for the little city.

Want to inquire? Ask the Mayor of Gulf Breeze what efforts they have undertaken with the FDOT to support a landing east of the heart of the city. Ask any other Gulf Breeze elected official. They will all tell you the same thing: they can’t do anything about it — not even to suggest to FDOT it is an insane traffic movement solution to require all Highway 98 traffic to move through the city.

So, the little tail wags the big dog, not only against the population of Pensacola, the tourists who want to visit the beaches, but the residents of Gulf Breeze, as well.

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Staying Home New Year’s Eve

Rose Bowl 2016It will be interesting to see if the NCAA decision to have the playoff games on New Year’s Eve harms area restaurants for the normal New Year’s Eve dinner reservations.

All of this is being dictated by the Rose Bowl which the NCAA demands be held on New Year’s Day at 5 pm every year no matter how bad it is for everyone else.  All game scheduling is backed into that time slot for a game that only the fans of the teams playing care much about.   The NCAA has always been high-handed and indifferent to the rights of players and coaches, but this level of deference to the “grand-daddy of them all” broadens that indifference to all football fans.

New Year’s Eve is (this year anyway) a stay at home and watch TV night.

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2015: A Year of Misplaced Media Priorities

Distorted 2015 Media MissesAs 2015 comes to a close, some Pensacola residents are hoping that next year, local media’s priorities better reflect those of the people.

Thousands of Pensacolians can’t find work. Two thirds of Escambia kindergarten students aren’t ready for school. Inmate deaths are still happening all too often at the Escambia County jail. Yet the local media spent much of the year chasing silly stories and manufactured controversies that the average Pensacolian couldn’t care less about.

How much time was spent talking about an ill-advised email that City Administrator Eric Olson sent to a citizen’s boss? Stupid, for sure, but something that didn’t impact anyone’s life, other than those directly involved.

The latest would-be controversy centers around a radio tower that may or may not have been permitted properly. We’re devoting column inches to a permitting issue? Despite the best efforts of the local media establishment to create a controversy, no one cares, outside of the group of well-to-do, “not in my backyard” North Hill residents who are pushing it. But wait — doesn’t the city need the radio tower land for stormwater purposes? Nope. “Removing the radio tower and excavating the area … would be insignificant in attenuating another April 2014 storm event,” says ATKINS, the city’s engineering consultant.

Forget investigative reporting — it’s much easier to simply comb Sheriff’s Office releases for the latest lurid “leading and bleeding” crime stories. Why put in the hard work when you can throw up silly stories about “withcraft murders” and give the national press more “Florida man” fodder?

Unfortunately, if left to their own devices, there’s little indication that Pensacola’s local media would change for the better. The city’s daily newspaper is run by a deeply co-opted management team, and the paper’s corporate overlords have pushed out or run off just about everyone with any talent in their never-ending crusade to squeeze every last ounce of profit out of the operation. Conflicts of interest aren’t disclosed, and sacred cows are never criticized. Has anyone told the paper’s tone-deaf editorial board that there’s a whole world outside of Downtown Pensacola?

Then there’s the local bloggers, who largely operate on a “pay for protection” model in which ads or personal services are traded for favorable coverage. “If I don’t pay them, they’ll go after me,” or so we’ve heard, from more than one person. Unfortunately, the unethical way in which they operate taints and overshadows whatever value they provide.

Oh, and if you were hoping to lend your voice to the discussion, well, sorry — neither the daily paper nor the bloggers are particularly interested in public discourse, regularly censoring and deleting comments which don’t align with their editorial slants.

The shortcomings of Pensacola’s establishment media has left a gap, and it’s one of the reasons readers have embraced The Pulse. Since our debut in September, our stories have received more than a quarter-million views and have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media. In fact, this month, we more than doubled last month’s traffic.

Judging from some of the things we’ve seen on social media, some of the establishment media folks are sweating us.

No need. Pensacola is a growing market and there’s room for everyone. We’re just trying to raise the bar a little bit.

CREDIT: “2015, A YEAR OF MISPLACED MEDIA PRIORITIES,” The Pulse (pulsegulfcoast.com), PULSE STAFF EDITORIALS, DECEMBER 29, 2015

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

Understanding the EDATE Studer Issue

Who loses and who gains?

The City loses $200,000.00 annually for 8 years or $1.6 million.

The County loses $330,825,000 or $2,656,000.00 over 8 years.

The City provides all the services required to the owners and the tenants for those eight years.

Total net loss to the City and County: $4,256,000.00.

The School board gains $2,844,800.00 over 8 years

The DIB gains $800,000.00 over 8 years

Net loss to all governments over 8 years: $611,200.00.

Against this of course is the benefit of jobs in construction, materials purchased and the benefit to downtown businesses.

These tax benefits have been so misused here locally that our poor county hands out more tax benefits than Miami-Dade. This project however may well be worth it.

The long term tax benefit to the City is questionable; the overall benefit to our larger community appears to be beneficial.

This calculation ignores the tax benefits after year 11 which would have to be reduced to present value. Even over a total of 15 years the present value benefit would be positive.

This calculation assumes millage rates will remain constant.

This calculation does not factor the tax benefit to governments of an undeveloped site.
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EDATE = Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption

Posted in City of Pensacola, Community Maritime Park, Education, Escambia County, Local Business, Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, Pensacola City Council, Studer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

GTMO: Our Nation’s Disgrace

New Guantánamo Habeas Case Breaks Legal Ground

In our efforts to do everything possible to close Guantánamo, CCR has taken on another new case. Muhammadi Davliatov was detained in 2002, never charged with any crime, and cleared for release in 2009. Like dozens of others – including CCR clients Tariq Ba Odah, Fahd Ghazy, Ghaleb Al-Bihani, Mohammed Al Hamiri, and Mohammed Kamin – Muhammadi continues to languish unjustly and illegally in GITMO with no end in sight. In 2005, he filed a habeas petition challenging the legality of his detention, but when he was GTMO Dec 2015cleared for release, the court stayed his case – over his objection – because the government said he would be transferred expeditiously. That was in 2009. Now CCR along with co-counsel has filed a new habeas petition seeking Muhammadi’s release and challenging the government’s authority to continue to hold him on several grounds. The case was filed on November 5 but the motion was made public only last week; the government had insisted it be filed under seal.

We argue that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) prohibits arbitrary detention and imposes a limit on the duration of his detention; that the Due Process Clause of the Constitution applies at Guantánamo and imposes a limit on the duration of his detention; that whatever detention authority may have existed at the time of his initial capture has since unraveled because of the changed nature of any ongoing hostilities; and that the court has the broad equitable power to fashion appropriate relief.

The Obama administration’s opposition to Muhammadi’s original habeas petition, like its opposition to Tariq’s release on humanitarian grounds, clearly illustrates that while Obama may want Guantánamo closed, he is unwilling to roll back the excesses of state power he inherited upon which the detention practices that constitute GITMO are constructed. ~

article & photo credit: Center for Constitutional Rights, “Frontlines of Justice” weekly newsletter, Dec. 2015

Posted in Military, News Articles, Politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

State Execution Facts

From the DPIC (Death Penalty Information Center): Facts about the Death Penalty.  Statistics, charts and graphs regarding how the death penalty is applied in each state (as of Dec. 09, 2015).
Death Penalty Fact Sheet_Page_01
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Death Penalty Fact Sheet_Page_04

You may also download the PDF (500KB) “Death Penalty Information Center: Facts about the Death Penalty”

Posted in Fact Sheets, Florida, Florida Circuit Court, Florida Supreme Court, News Articles, Politics, Tallahassee | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gaetz Senate Trial Continues

Florida Senate’s single witness takes a beating in redistricting trial

Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The second day of the Florida redistricting trial ended early Tuesday as the Florida Senate presented a single witness in defense of its redistricting map who withstood a blistering cross examination before the Senate rested its case.

LiuThe Senate sole witness was Baodong (Paul) Liu, a professor of political science at the University of Utah, who testified that the Senate’s maps were superior because they were more likely to guarantee that minorities could be elected to office.

But in a two-hour cross examination, the lead lawyer for the challengers, David King, attempted to poke holes in Liu’s testimony, showing that he failed to include in his report the “functional analysis” that the Florida Supreme Court has ruled is necessary to determine the voting performance of minority districts.

King prompted Liu to concede that he relied on voting patterns in Central Florida to determine the performance patterns of voters in Broward County, and he provoked Liu to acknowledge that he got the results of one election wrong in his report to the court — claiming that a black candidate for Orange County clerk of court had been defeated when she had won.

Liu said he relied on “local people” to provide him with “accurate information” about the results and did not verify it independently.

After Liu’s testimony, Senate lawyers withdrew a second witness, prompting lawyers to suggest that the weeklong trial could end earlier than the scheduled Friday adjournment.

The focus of Liu’s testimony was his review of the state’s voting trends, concluding that because of Florida’s history of racially polarized voting, the Senate maps proposed by the challengers would likely lead to whites being elected in districts intended for blacks and Hispanics, in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution.

He concluded that to increase minority voting participation in Florida, districts must be drawn to give the minority the majority of the population. That means that for blacks to be elected in a Senate district, the voting age population must exceed 50 percent, and for Hispanics to be elected, the voting age population must exceed 75 percent.

“My conclusion is the state Senate plan is a better plan than the alternative plan,” based on scientific methods used to study “racially polarized voting in the state,” Liu told the court.
But King challenged him to point to an election that proved these conclusions were accurate. Liu could not cite an example but said that was no reason to conclude it wouldn’t happen.

“One election outcome doesn’t mean the pattern changed,” he said.

But Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds noted the inconsistency of the argument, asking Liu to show how many districts in the Senate map meet his suggested voting age population thresholds, and how many in the map drawn by challengers.

Liu replied that while the map drawn in
2002 had three Hispanic districts in which the voting age population exceeds 75 percent while the Senate map includes only two districts with Hispanic voting age population at that level and the plaintiffs maps include two proposals with one district with VAP at 75 percent or higher, and two proposals with two district with 75 percent or more VAP.

The Fair Districts amendments to the state constitution require that any redistricting map preserves the right for minorities in Florida to elect a candidate of their choice. The Senate argues that the four maps proposed by the challengers diminish the voting strength of blacks in Broward County and Hispanics in Miami-Dade County.

But plaintiffs counter that claim, saying the measurement is not how many people are included in a district but how well the district performs to elect minority candidates. They claim that the Legislature’s map attempts to pack blacks into districts throughout the state to help Republicans win in adjoining districts, while the plaintiff’s map maximizes the number of districts blacks can safely be elected to the Senate without packing them together.

The challengers also offer two maps that draw four Hispanic seats in Miami-Dade and two that draw three Hispanic seats, the same number offered in the Senate map.

After Liu’s testimony, the trial continued at an unexpectedly swift pace as lawyers for the Senate decided not to present the testimony of one of its two expert witnesses, prompting the judge to suggest that portions of two depositions be read into the record Tuesday afternoon.

The decision led to an odd hour where a lawyer from the plaintiffs’ law firm read excerpts of the deposition of Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, into the record.

On Wednesday, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will be called to testify by the challengers, along with three of their expert witnesses. They claim that Galvano single-handedly selected the Senate map and chose one that gives an advantage to Republicans over Democrats — in an effort to preserve his chances to be elected Senate president in 2018.

The case is expected to finish up on Thursday and the parties will submit their draft motions to the judge on Dec. 23.

Posted in Florida, Florida Legislature, News Articles, Republican Party, Tallahassee | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

FDOT Investigation Requested

Letter to Governor Rick Scott regarding the Florida DOT, the Three Mile Bridge replacement and the Interstate 10 – Scenic Highway construction…

Letter to Gov Scott New 3 Mile Bridge_Page01Letter to Gov Scott reBridge p2mod
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Posted in City of Pensacola, Department of Transportation, Escambia County, Florida, Florida Legislature, Republican Party, Santa Rosa County, Tallahassee | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Merrill’s Entitlements

The following letter is typical of the comments and letters sent in protest. The Merrill’s entitlements know no bounds…

Fish House extravagant sign letter_Page_1

Fish House extravagant sign letter_Page_2

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

PNJ – Wrong on All Fronts

As the following time-line and opinion (see links following this blog) reflect, the PNJ is simply wrong.

Poor reporting and conclusion-based reasoning in their editorials are hardly signs of professional journalism. The Long Hollow Communications Tower was never a story until they decided to create one. We have major serious issues in this community that need covering and the PNJ editorial staff needs to admit that, on this one, they simply got it all wrong.

People understand Outzen and the other bloggers write baseless accusations to benefit creditors, advertisers and to get attention, but the PNJ has historically responded to a higher calling. It is not now.

To: Pres. Terhaar & City Council Members
From: City Attorney Bowling
November 12, 2015

To: City Council
From: Eric Olson, City Admin.
November 12, 2015

PNJ WRONG

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

Outzen – Oops Again

Outzen had quoted his blogger friend who wrongly wrote that airport concession revenues were down. Outzen then dreamed up a reason for the “decrease” blaming it on the opening of Chick-fil-A.

Take a look at these numbers and it is crystal clear the company that won the RFP fairly and honestly has done a terrific job over the vendor who lost the RFP…

• The initial revenue amount established in the FY ’15 budget for the food and beverage concession was $300,000. The total revenue collected thru September 30, 2015 was actually $454,813.20. Therefore we collected $154,813.20 more than we budgeted to collect.

• The gross sales for OHM for FY’15 were $3,333,223.47, as compared to gross food and beverage sales of $2,430,261in FY ’14 when the operation was split between Verona’s and OHM for the year, and as compared to gross sales of $2,412,591.35 for FY ’13 when Verona’s operated the concession.

• In August 2015, a budget resolution was performed, adjusting various lines in order to balance the Airport’s overall budget, and the food and beverage line was one of those adjusted because overall Airport revenues were coming in greater than forecast. For the November 2015 budget resolution, lines are again being adjusted, and with respect to the food and beverage revenue line, the amount is being adjusted to match the actual revenue received. Again though, the amount received for the year is $154,813.20 greater than what was budgeted.*

Honest competition where the old guard doesn’t have a fix in means the taxpayers are millions ahead. Isn’t that what these businessmen all claim they want — fair competition? When they get it and lose however, they resort to what has always worked before; getting favors from the city council.

This time it didn’t work and congratulations are in order for the Mayor and those on the council who stated clearly, the rules apply to everyone. No one is entitled to public assets simply because they have political pull.

*Source, City of Pensacola CFO

Airport Billnoard

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

Tower Babble

In these spellbinding tower stories, the Pensacola News Journal has shown that it is not irrelevant. Some people are questioning the allocation of resources by the PNJ to this myopic North Hiller tower issue. However, the PNJ editors know a blockbuster story when they make one up. Will the Naval Air Station emailing employee demand NAS intervention (hopefully without force)? Will more NAS source originated emails be discovered by the volunteer PNJ investigators? Are more news breaking headlines coming? Just because channel 3 news and everyone else doesn’t think the little tower story is worth covering it hardly detracts from the significance of the endless PNJ coverage.

When the Pensacola News Journal takes home their Pulitzer, we will see who gets the last embarrassing laugh.

Not relevant?  We shall see!

Tower Babble

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