Future Trump Cabinet Member gave a Serial Sex Abuser the Ultimate Break

How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime.

BY JULIE K. BROWN – THE MIAMI HERALD – NOV. 28, 2018

A decade before #MeToo, a multimillionaire sex offender from Florida got the ultimate break…

On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay
Lefkowitz.

It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

Alexander Acosta

Alexander Acosta, now President Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, was the U.S. attorney for Southern Florida when he negotiated an end to the federal investigation of Jeffrey Epstein.

Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to
coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found.

The eccentric hedge fund manager, whose friends included former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew, was also suspected of trafficking minor girls, often from overseas, for sex parties at his other homes in Manhattan, New Mexico and the Caribbean, FBI and court records show.

Facing a 53-page federal indictment, Epstein could have ended up in federal prison for the rest of his life.

Jeffrey Epstein

Jeffrey Epstein, accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage women, grins for his mugshot on Florida’s sex offender registry. He once compared his crimes to ‘stealing a bagel.’

But on the morning of the breakfast meeting, a deal was struck — an extraordinary plea agreement that would conceal the full extent of Epstein’s crimes and the number of people
involved.

Not only would Epstein serve just 13 months in the county jail, but the deal — called a non-prosecution agreement — essentially shut down an ongoing FBI probe into whether there
were more victims and other powerful people who took part in Epstein’s sex crimes, according to a Miami Herald examination of thousands of emails, court documents and FBI records.

The pact required Epstein to plead guilty to two prostitution charges in state court. Epstein and four of his accomplices named in the agreement received immunity from all federal criminal charges. But even more unusual, the deal included wording that granted
immunity to “any potential co-conspirators’’ who were also involved in Epstein’s crimes. These accomplices or participants were not identified in the agreement, leaving it open to
interpretation whether it possibly referred to other influential people who were having sex with underage girls at Epstein’s various homes or on his plane.

As part of the arrangement, Acosta agreed, despite a federal law to the contrary, that the deal would be kept from the victims. As a result, the non-prosecution agreement was
sealed until after it was approved by the judge, thereby averting any chance that the girls
— or anyone else — might show up in court and try to derail it.

This is the story of how Epstein, bolstered by unlimited funds and represented by a powerhouse legal team, was able to manipulate the criminal justice system, and how his
accusers, still traumatized by their pasts, believe they were betrayed by the very prosecutors who pledged to protect them.

“I don’t think anyone has been told the truth about what Jeffrey Epstein did,’’ said one of Epstein’s victims, Michelle Licata, now 30. “He ruined my life and a lot of girls’ lives. People need to know what he did and why he wasn’t prosecuted so it never happens again.”

Now President Trump’s secretary of labor, Acosta, 49, oversees a massive federal agency that provides oversight of the country’s labor laws, including human trafficking. He also
has been on a list of possible replacements for former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned under pressure earlier this month.

Acosta did not respond to numerous requests for an interview or answer queries through
email.

But court records reveal details of the negotiations and the role that Acosta would play in arranging the deal, which scuttled the federal probe into a possible international sex
trafficking operation. Among other things, Acosta allowed Epstein’s lawyers unusual freedoms in dictating the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.

“The damage that happened in this case is unconscionable,” said Bradley Edwards, a former state prosecutor who represents some of Epstein’s victims. “How in the world, do you, the U.S. attorney, engage in a negotiation with a criminal defendant, basically allowing that criminal defendant to write up the agreement?”

As a result, neither the victims — nor even the judge — would know how many girls Epstein allegedly sexually abused between 2001 and 2005, when his underage sex activities were first uncovered by police. Police referred the case to the FBI a year later, when they began to suspect that their investigation was being undermined by the Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office.

NOT A ‘HE SAID, SHE SAID’

“This was not a ‘he said, she said’ situation. This was 50-something ‘shes’ and one ‘he’
— and the ‘shes’ all basically told the same story,’’ said retired Palm Beach Police Chief
Michael Reiter, who supervised the police probe.

More than a decade later, at a time when Olympic gymnasts and Hollywood actresses
have become a catalyst for a cultural reckoning about sexual abuse, Epstein’s victims have all but been forgotten.

The women — now in their late 20s and early 30s — are still fighting for an elusive justice that even the passage of time has not made right.

Like other victims of sexual abuse, they believe they’ve been silenced by a criminal justice system that stubbornly fails to hold Epstein and other wealthy and powerful men
accountable.

“Jeffrey preyed on girls who were in a bad way, girls who were basically homeless. He went after girls who he thought no one would listen to and he was right,’’ said Courtney Wild,
who was 14 when she met Epstein.

Over the past year, the Miami Herald examined a decade’s worth of court documents, lawsuits, witness depositions and newly released FBI documents. Key people involved in the investigation — most of whom have never spoken before — were also interviewed. The Herald also obtained new records, including the full unredacted copy of the Palm Beach
police investigation and witness statements that had been kept under seal.

The Herald learned that, as part of the plea deal, Epstein provided what the government called “valuable consideration” for unspecified information he supplied to federal
investigators. While the documents obtained by the Herald don’t detail what the information was, Epstein’s sex crime case happened just as the country’s subprime mortgage market collapsed, ushering in the 2008 global financial crisis.

Records show that Epstein was a key federal witness in the criminal prosecution of two prominent executives with Bear Stearns, the global investment brokerage that failed in
2008, who were accused of corporate securities fraud. Epstein was one of the largest investors in the hedge fund managed by the executives, who were later acquitted. It is not
known what role, if any, the case played in Epstein’s plea negotiations.

The Herald also identified about 80 women who say they were molested or otherwise sexually abused by Epstein from 2001 to 2006. About 60 of them were located — now
scattered around the country and abroad. Eight of them agreed to be interviewed, on or off the record. Four of them were willing to speak on video.

The women are now mothers, wives, nurses, bartenders, Realtors, hairdressers and teachers. One is a Hollywood actress. Several have grappled with trauma, depression and
addiction. Some have served time in prison.

A few did not survive. One young woman was found dead last year in a rundown motel in West Palm Beach. She overdosed on heroin and left behind a young son.

As part of Epstein’s agreement, he was required to register as a sex offender, and pay restitution to the three dozen victims identified by the FBI. In many cases, the confidential
financial settlements came only after Epstein’s attorneys exposed every dark corner of their lives in a scorched-earth effort to portray the girls as gold diggers.

“You beat yourself up mentally and physically,’’ said Jena-Lisa Jones, 30, who said

Epstein molested her when she was 14. “You can’t ever stop your thoughts. A word can trigger something. For me, it is the word ‘pure’ because he called me ‘pure’ in that room and then I remember what he did to me in that room.’’

Now, more than a decade later, two unrelated civil lawsuits — one set for trial on Dec. 4
— could reveal more about Epstein’s crimes. The Dec. 4 case, in Palm Beach County state court, involves Epstein and Edwards, whom Epstein had accused of legal misdeeds in
representing several victims. The case is noteworthy because it will mark the first time that Epstein’s victims will have their day in court, and several of them are scheduled to testify.

A second lawsuit, known as the federal Crime Victims’ Rights suit, is still pending in South Florida after a decade of legal jousting. It seeks to invalidate the non-prosecution
agreement in hopes of sending Epstein to federal prison. Wild, who has never spoken publicly until now, is Jane Doe No. 1 in “Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2 vs. the United
States of America,” a federal lawsuit that alleges Epstein’s federal non-prosecution agreement was illegal.

Federal prosecutors, including Acosta, not only broke the law, the women contend in court documents, but they conspired with Epstein and his lawyers to circumvent public scrutiny
and deceive his victims in violation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. The law assigns victims a series of rights, including the right of notice of any court proceedings and the
opportunity to appear at sentencing.

“As soon as that deal was signed, they silenced my voice and the voices of all of Jeffrey Epstein’s other victims,’’ said Wild, now 31. “This case is about justice, not just for us, but for other victims who aren’t Olympic stars or Hollywood stars.’’

In court papers, federal prosecutors have argued that they did not violate the Crime Victims’ Rights Act because no federal charges were ever filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, an argument that was later dismissed by the judge.

Despite substantial physical evidence and multiple witnesses backing up the girls’ stories, the secret deal allowed Epstein to enter guilty pleas to two felony prostitution charges.
Epstein admitted to committing only one offense against one underage girl, who was labeled a prostitute, even though she was 14, which is well under the age of consent — 18 in Florida.

“She was taken advantage of twice — first by Epstein, and then by the criminal justice system that labeled a 14-year-old girl as a prostitute,’’ said Spencer Kuvin, the lawyer who
represented the girl.

“It’s just outrageous how they minimized his crimes and devalued his victims by calling them prostitutes,’’ said Yasmin Vafa, a human rights attorney and executive director of
Rights4Girls, which is working to end the sexual exploitation of girls and young women.

“There is no such thing as a child prostitute. Under federal law, it’s called child sex trafficking — whether Epstein pimped them out to others or not. It’s still a commercial sex act — and he could have been jailed for the rest of his life under federal law,” she said.

It would be easy to dismiss the Epstein case as another example of how there are two systems of justice in America, one for the rich and one for the poor. But a thorough analysis of the case tells a far more troubling story.

A close look at the trove of letters and emails contained in court records provides a window into the plea negotiations, revealing an unusual level of collaboration between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team that even government lawyers, in recent court documents, admitted was unorthodox.

Acosta, in 2011, would explain that he was unduly pressured by Epstein’s heavy-hitting lawyers — Lefkowitz, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, Jack Goldberger, Roy Black,
former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis, Gerald Lefcourt, and Kenneth Starr, the former Whitewater special prosecutor who investigated Bill Clinton’s sexual liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.

‘AVOID THE PRESS’ PLAN

That included keeping the deal from Epstein’s victims, emails show.

“Thank you for the commitment you made to me during our Oct. 12 meeting,’’ Lefkowitz wrote in a letter to Acosta after their breakfast meeting in West Palm Beach. He added
that he was hopeful that Acosta would abide by a promise to keep the deal confidential.

“You … assured me that your office would not … contact any of the identified individuals, potential witnesses or potential civil claimants and the respective counsel in this matter,’’
Lefkowitz wrote.

In email after email, Acosta and the lead federal prosecutor, A. Marie Villafaña, acquiesced to Epstein’s legal team’s demands, which often focused on ways to limit the scandal by
shutting out his victims and the media, including suggesting that the charges be filed in Miami, instead of Palm Beach, where Epstein’s victims lived.

“On an ‘avoid the press’ note … I can file the charge in district court in Miami which will hopefully cut the press coverage significantly. Do you want to check that out?’’ Villafaña wrote to Lefkowitz in a September 2007 email.

Federal prosecutors identified 36 underage victims, but none of those victims appeared at his sentencing on June 30, 2008, in state court in Palm Beach County. Most of them
heard about it on the news — and even then they didn’t understand what had happened to the federal probe that they’d been assured was ongoing.

Edwards filed an emergency motion in federal court to block the non-prosecution agreement, but by the time the agreement was unsealed — over a year later — Epstein had
already served his sentence and been released from jail.

“The conspiracy between the government and Epstein was really ‘let’s figure out a way to make the whole thing go away as quietly as possible,’ ’’ said Edwards, who represents Wild
and Jane Doe No. 2, who declined to comment for this story.

“In never consulting with the victims, and keeping it secret, it showed that someone with money can buy his way out of anything.’’

It was far from the last time Epstein would receive VIP handling. Unlike other convicted sex offenders, Epstein didn’t face the kind of rough justice that child sex offenders do in
Florida state prisons. Instead of being sent to state prison, Epstein was housed in a private wing of the Palm Beach County jail. And rather than having him sit in a cell most of the
day, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office allowed Epstein work release privileges, which enabled him to leave the jail six days a week, for 12 hours a day, to go to a comfortable
office that Epstein had set up in West Palm Beach. This was granted despite explicit sheriff’s department rules stating that sex offenders don’t qualify for work release.

The sheriff, Ric Bradshaw, would not answer questions, submitted by the Miami Herald, about Epstein’s work release.

Neither Epstein nor his lead attorney, Jack Goldberger, responded to multiple requests for comment for this story. During depositions taken as part of two dozen lawsuits filed
against him by his victims, Epstein has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination, in one instance doing so more than 200 times.

In the past, his lawyers have said that the girls lied about their ages, that their stories were exaggerated or untrue and that they were unreliable witnesses prone to drug use.

In 2011, Epstein petitioned to have his sex offender status reduced in New York, where he has a home and is required to register every 90 days. In New York, he is classified as a level 3 offender — the highest safety risk because of his likelihood to re-offend.

A prosecutor under New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance argued on Epstein’s behalf, telling New York Supreme Court Judge Ruth Pickholtz that the Florida case never
led to an indictment and that his underage victims failed to cooperate in the case. Pickholtz, however, denied the petition, expressing astonishment that a New York prosecutor would make such a request on behalf of a serial sex offender accused of molesting so many girls.

“I have to tell you, I’m a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this. I have done so many [sex offender registration hearings] much less
troubling than this one where the [prosecutor] would never make a downward argument like this,’’ she said.

THE HOUSE ON EL BRILLO

Jeffrey Epstein home

Jeffrey Epstein’s home on El Brillo Way in Palm Beach, FL

The women who went to Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion as girls tend to divide their lives into two parts: life before Jeffrey and life after Jeffrey.

Before she met Epstein, Courtney Wild was captain of the cheerleading squad, first trumpet in the band and an A-student at Lake Worth Middle School.

After she met Epstein, she was a stripper, a drug addict and an inmate at Gadsden
Correctional Institution in Florida’s Panhandle.

Wild still had braces on her teeth when she was introduced to him in 2002 at the age of
14.

She was fair, petite and slender, blonde and blue-eyed. Wild, who later helped recruit other girls, said Epstein preferred girls who were white, appeared prepubescent and those
who were easy to manipulate into going further each time.

“By the time I was 16, I had probably brought him 70 to 80 girls who were all 14 and 15 years old. He was involved in my life for years,” said Wild, who was released from prison in October after serving three years on drug charges.

The girls — mostly 13 to 16 — were lured to his pink waterfront mansion by Wild and other girls, who went to malls, house parties and other places where girls congregated, and told
recruits that they could earn $200 to $300 to give a man — Epstein — a massage, according to an unredacted copy of the Palm Beach police investigation obtained by the Herald.

The lead Palm Beach police detective on the case, Joseph Recarey, said Epstein’s operation worked like a sexual pyramid scheme.

“The common interview with a girl went like this: ‘I was brought there by so and so. I didn’t feel comfortable with what happened, but I got paid well, so I was told if I didn’t feel
comfortable, I could bring someone else and still get paid,’ ’’ Recarey said.

During the massage sessions, Recarey said Epstein would molest the girls, paying them premiums for engaging in oral sex and intercourse, and offering them a further bounty to
find him more girls.

Recarey, in his first interview about the case, said the evidence the department collected to support the girls’ stories was overwhelming, including phone call records, copies of
written phone messages from the girls found in Epstein’s trash and Epstein’s flight logs, which showed his private plane in Palm Beach on the days the girls were scheduled to give
him massages.

Epstein could be a generous benefactor, Recarey said, buying his favored girls gifts. He might rent a car for a young girl to make it more convenient for her to stop by and cater to
him. Once, he sent a bucket of roses to the local high school after one of his girls starred in a stage production. The floral-delivery instructions and a report card for one of the girls
were discovered in a search of his mansion and trash. Police also obtained receipts for the rental cars and gifts, Recarey said.

Epstein counseled the girls about their schooling, and told them he would help them get into college, modeling school, fashion design or acting. At least two of Epstein’s victims told police that they were in love with him, according to the police report.

The police report shows how uncannily consistent the girls’ stories were — right down to their detailed descriptions of Epstein’s genitalia.

“We had victims who didn’t know each other, never met each other and they all basically independently told the same story,’’ said Reiter, the retired Palm Beach police chief.

Reiter, also speaking for the first time, said detectives were astonished by the sheer volume of young girls coming and going from his house, the frequency — sometimes several in the same day — and the young ages of the girls.

“It started out to give a man a back rub, but in many cases it turned into something far worse than that, elevated to a serious crime, in some cases sexual batteries,’’ he said.

Most of the girls said they arrived by car or taxi, and entered the side door, where they were led into a kitchen by a female staff assistant named Sarah Kellen, the report said. A
chef might prepare them a meal or offer them cereal. The girls — most from local schools
— would then ascend a staircase off the kitchen, up to a large master bedroom and bath.

They were met by Epstein, clad in a towel. He would select a lotion from an array lined up on a table, then lie facedown on a massage table, instruct the girl to strip partially or fully,
and direct them to massage his feet and backside. Then he would turn over and have them massage his chest, often instructing them to pinch his nipples, while he masturbated,
according to the police report.

At times, if emboldened, he would try to penetrate them with his fingers or use a vibrator on them. He would go as far as the girls were willing to let him, including intercourse,
according to police documents. Sometimes he would instruct a young woman he described as his Yugoslavian sex slave, Nadia Marcinkova, who was over 18, to join in, the girls
told Recarey. Epstein often took photographs of the girls having sex and displayed them around the house, the detective said.

Once sexually gratified, Epstein would take a shower in his massive bathroom, which the girls described as having a large shower and a hot pink and mint green sofa.

Kellen (now Vickers) and Marcinkova, through their attorneys, declined to comment for this story.

NEVER ENOUGH

One girl told police that she was approached by an Epstein recruiter when she was 16, and was working at the Wellington mall. Over the course of more than a year, she went to
Epstein’s house hundreds of times, she said. The girl tearfully told Recarey that she often had sex with Marcinkova — who employed strap-on dildos and other toys — while Epstein
watched and choreographed her moves to please himself, according to the police report. Often times, she said, she was so sore after the encounters that she could barely walk,
the police report said.

But she said she was firm about not wanting to have intercourse with Epstein. One day, however, the girl said that Epstein, unable to control himself, held her down on a massage
table and penetrated her, the police report said. The girl, who was 16 or 17 at the time,
said that Epstein apologized and paid her $1,000, the police report said.

Most of the girls came from disadvantaged families, single-parent homes or foster care.

Some had experienced troubles that belied their ages: They had parents and friends who committed suicide; mothers abused by husbands and boyfriends; fathers who molested
and beat them. One girl had watched her stepfather strangle her 8-year-old stepbrother, according to court records obtained by the Herald.

Many of the girls were one step away from homelessness.

“We were stupid, poor children,’’ said one woman, who did not want to be named because she never told anyone about Epstein. At the time, she recalled that she was 14 and a
high school freshman.

“We just wanted money for school clothes, for shoes. I remember wearing shoes too tight for three years in a row. We had no family and no guidance, and we were told that we
were going to just have to sit in a room topless and he was going to just look at us. It sounded so simple, and was going to be easy money for just sitting there.”

The woman, who went to Epstein’s home multiple times, said Epstein didn’t like her because her breasts were too big. The last time she went, she said, one girl came out crying and they were instructed to leave the house and had to pay for their own cab home.

Some girls told police they were coached by their peer recruiters to lie to Epstein about their ages and say they were 18. Epstein’s legal team would later claim that even if the girls
were under 18, there was no way he could have known. However, under Florida law, ignorance of a sex partner’s age is not a defense for having sex with a minor.

Wild, who worked for Epstein until she was 21, said he was well aware of their tender ages — because he demanded they be young.

“He told me he wanted them as young as I could find them,’’ she said, explaining that as she grew older and had less access to young girls, Epstein got increasingly angry with her
inability to find him the young girls he desired.

“If I had a girl to bring him at breakfast, lunch and dinner, then that’s how many times I
would go a day. He wanted as many girls as I could get him. It was never enough.’’

THE PYRAMID CRUMBLES

Epstein’s scheme first began to unravel in March 2005, when the parents of a 14-year-old girl told Palm Beach police that she had been molested by Epstein at his mansion. The
girl reluctantly confessed that she had been brought there by two other girls, and those girls pointed to two more girls who had been there.

By the time detectives tracked down one victim, there were two and three more to find. Soon there were dozens.

“We didn’t know where the victims would ever end,” Reiter said.

Eventually, the girls told them about still other girls and young women they had seen at Epstein’s house, many of whom didn’t speak English, Recarey said. That led Recarey to
suspect that Epstein’s exploits weren’t just confined to Palm Beach. Police obtained the flight logs for his private plane, and found female names and initials among the list of
people who flew on the aircraft — including the names of some famous and powerful people who had also been passengers, Recarey said.

Jeffrey Epstein private jet

Jeffrey Epstein’s current private plane, painted a distinctive blue, is parked at an executive hub at Palm Beach International Airport on Thursday morning, May 24, 2018. It is how he shuttles between his homes in the Town of Palm Beach, New York City, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. During the decade when, police say, he sexually abused dozens of underage girls, he used a different plane, which tabloids nicknamed ‘The Lolita Express.’

A newly released FBI report, posted on the bureau’s website as a result of the Herald’s Freedom of Information Act request, shows that at the time the non-prosecution deal was
executed, the FBI was interviewing witnesses and victims “from across the United
States.” The probe stretched from Florida to New York and New Mexico, records show.

Indeed, one lawsuit, still pending in New York, alleges that Epstein used an international modeling agency to recruit girls as young as 13 from Europe, Ecuador and Brazil. The girls
lived in a New York building owned by Epstein, who paid for their visas, according to the sworn statement of Maritza Vasquez, the one-time bookkeeper for Mc2, the modeling
agency.

Mike Fisten, a former Miami-Dade police sergeant who was also a homicide investigator and a member of the FBI Organized Crime Task Force, said the FBI had enough evidence
to put Epstein away for a long time but was overruled by Acosta. Some of the agents involved in the case were disappointed by Acosta’s bowing to pressure from Epstein’s lawyers, he said.

“The day that a sitting U.S. attorney is afraid of a lawyer or afraid of a defendant is a very sad day in this country,’’ said Fisten, now a private investigator for Edwards.

SUIT/COUNTERSUIT

Now, a complex web of litigation could reveal more about Epstein’s crimes. A lawsuit, set for trial Dec. 4 in Palm Beach County, involves the notorious convicted Ponzi schemer
Scott Rothstein, in whose law firm Edwards once worked.

In 2009, Epstein sued Edwards, alleging that Edwards was involved with Rothstein and was using the girls’ civil lawsuits to perpetuate Rothstein’s massive Ponzi operation. But
Rothstein said Edwards didn’t know about the scheme, and Epstein dropped the lawsuit.

Edwards countersued for malicious prosecution, arguing that Epstein sued him to retaliate for his aggressive representation of Epstein’s victims.

Several women who went to Epstein’s home as underage girls are scheduled to testify against him for the first time.

Florida state Sen. Lauren Book, a child sex abuse survivor who has lobbied for tough sex offender laws, said Epstein’s case should serve as a tipping point for criminal cases
involving sex crimes against children.

“Where is the righteous indignation for these women? Where are the protectors? Who is banging down the doors of the secretary of labor, or the judge or the sheriff’s office in
Palm Beach County, demanding justice and demanding the right to be heard?’’ Book asked.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Villafaña, in court papers, said that prosecutors used their “best efforts’’ to comply with the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, but exercised their “prosecutorial
discretion’’ when they chose not to notify the victims. The reasoning went like this: The non-prosecution deal had a restitution clause that provided the girls a chance to seek
compensation from Epstein. Had the deal fallen through, necessitating a trial, Epstein’s lawyers might have used the prior restitution clause to undermine the girls’ credibility as
witnesses, by claiming they had exaggerated Epstein’s behavior in hopes of cashing in.

Acosta has never fully explained why he felt it was in the best interests of the underage girls — and their parents — for him to keep the agreement sealed. Or why the FBI
investigation was closed even as, recently released documents show, the case was yielding more victims and evidence of a possible sex-trafficking conspiracy beyond Palm Beach.

Upon his nomination by Trump as labor secretary in 2017, Acosta was questioned about the Epstein case during a Senate confirmation hearing.

“At the end of the day, based on the evidence, professionals within a prosecutor’s office decided that a plea that guarantees someone goes to jail, that guarantees he register [as
a sex offender] generally and guarantees other outcomes, is a good thing,’’ Acosta said of his decision to not prosecute Epstein federally.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, in opposing Acosta for labor secretary, noted that “his handling of a case involving sex trafficking of underage girls when he was a
U.S. attorney suggests he won’t put the interests of workers and everyday people ahead of the powerful and well-connected.’’

Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who is one of the nation’s leading advocates for reforming laws involving sex crimes against children, said what Acosta and other prosecutors did is similar to what the Catholic Church did to protect pedophile priests.

“The real crime with the Catholic priests was the way they covered it up and shielded the priests,’’ Hamilton said. “The orchestration of power by men only is protected as long as
everybody agrees to keep it secret. This is a story the world needs to hear.’’

break-line

CREDIT: From the investigative reporters at The Miami Herald. More here…

UPDATE: Sex Offender Epstein Settles Suit — Averting Victim Testimony (AP, 12-04-18)

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Kavanaugh’s WSJ Op-Ed

From: Careen Shannon

In his WSJ piece, Kavanaugh wrote, “I testified before the Judiciary Committee last Thursday to defend my family, my good name and my lifetime of public service. My hearing testimony was forceful and passionate. That is because I forcefully and passionately denied the allegation against me. At times, my testimony—both in my opening statement and in response to questions—reflected my overwhelming frustration at being wrongly accused, without corroboration, of horrible conduct completely contrary to my record and character.”

A couple of things struck me when I read this particular passage. First, he correctly says that in his testimony he “denied the allegation.” But he doesn’t bother to say here that the allegation against him is false.

I also did a double-take at the phrase “wrongly accused.” I don’t think I’ve actually every heard anyone say (or seen anyone write) that before. The usual phrase is “wrongfully accused,” not “wrongly accused.” This is an experienced federal judge, who understands the difference that small nuances in language can make (such as “shall” versus “can” versus “may,” or the importance of the placement of a comma in a statute). So this phrase, “wrongly accused,” is something he chose with care. Why?

The word “wrongly” essentially means “incorrectly.” Given how careful Kavanaugh was in last week’s hearing not to go on the record with straight answers to a number of simple, yes-or-no questions, I think this is an interesting choice. “Wrongly” in this context could simply imply that there are details in the allegation that are incorrect.

“Wrongfully,” on the other hand, means “unjustly.” That is why we usually hear this word in phrases like “wrongfully accused” or “wrongfully convicted”—the implication being that they got the wrong guy. I find it interesting that he’s not saying that.

I won’t even get into the larger absurdity of how a man whose testimony demonstrated such vitriolic partisanship could possibly be an independent, impartial Supreme Court justice….

Careen Shannon is a Partner based in Fragomen’s New York office.

 

I Am an Independent, Impartial Judge

Yes, I was emotional last Thursday. I hope everyone can understand I was there as a son, husband and dad.
By Brett M. Kavanaugh
Oct. 4, 2018 7:30 p.m. ET

I was deeply honored to stand at the White House July 9 with my wife, Ashley, and my daughters, Margaret and Liza, to accept President Trump’s nomination to succeed my former boss and mentor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, on the Supreme Court. My mom, Martha—one of the first women to serve as a Maryland prosecutor and trial judge, and my inspiration to become a lawyer—sat in the audience with my dad, Ed.

That night, I told the American people who I am and what I believe. I talked about my 28-year career as a lawyer, almost all of which has been in public service. I talked about my 12 years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often called the second most important court in the country, and my five years of service in the White House for President George W. Bush. I talked about my long record of advancing and promoting women, including as a judge—a majority of my 48 law clerks have been women—and as a longtime coach of girls’ basketball teams.

As I explained that night, a good judge must be an umpire—a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no political party, litigant or policy. As Justice Kennedy has stated, judges do not make decisions to reach a preferred result. Judges make decisions because the law and the Constitution compel the result. Over the past 12 years, I have ruled sometimes for the prosecution and sometimes for criminal defendants, sometimes for workers and sometimes for businesses, sometimes for environmentalists and sometimes for coal miners. In each case, I have followed the law. I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.

As Justice Kennedy showed us, a judge must be independent, not swayed by public pressure. Our independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic. The Supreme Court is the last line of defense for the separation of powers, and for the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms. As I have said repeatedly, if confirmed to the court, I would be part of a team of nine, committed to deciding cases according to the Constitution and laws of the United States. I would always strive to be a team player.
During the confirmation process, I met with 65 senators and explained my approach to the law. I participated in more than 30 hours of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I submitted written answers to nearly 1,300 additional questions. I was grateful for the opportunity.

After all those meetings and after my initial hearing concluded, I was subjected to wrongful and sometimes vicious allegations. My time in high school and college, more than 30 years ago, has been ridiculously distorted. My wife and daughters have faced vile and violent threats.

Against that backdrop, I testified before the Judiciary Committee last Thursday to defend my family, my good name and my lifetime of public service. My hearing testimony was forceful and passionate. That is because I forcefully and passionately denied the allegation against me. At times, my testimony—both in my opening statement and in response to questions—reflected my overwhelming frustration at being wrongly accused, without corroboration, of horrible conduct completely contrary to my record and character. My statement and answers also reflected my deep distress at the unfairness of how this allegation has been handled.

I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said. I hope everyone can understand that I was there as a son, husband and dad. I testified with five people foremost in my mind: my mom, my dad, my wife, and most of all my daughters.

Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good. As a judge, I have always treated colleagues and litigants with the utmost respect. I have been known for my courtesy on and off the bench. I have not changed. I will continue to be the same kind of judge I have been for the last 12 years. And I will continue to contribute to our country as a coach, volunteer, and teacher. Every day I will try to be the best husband, dad, and friend I can be. I will remain optimistic, on the sunrise side of the mountain. I will continue to see the day that is coming, not the day that is gone.

I revere the Constitution. I believe that an independent and impartial judiciary is essential to our constitutional republic. If confirmed by the Senate to serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep an open mind in every case and always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law.

Judge Kavanaugh has been nominated as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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It Doesn’t Matter

It really doesn’t matter who is right or wrong — Kavanaugh or Ford. What has become obvious is the judge does not have the judicial temperament to be on the Supreme Court. He is quick tempered and has an abiding hatred of apparently every registered Democrat. He showed no respect for the role of the United State Senate, if not open disdain for it, and his caustic comments undermined public confidence in both the Congress and the judiciary. His testimony revealed a profound sense of entitlement and privilege. These are the character traits he has shown when under stress or when challenged.

I suspect there are very few judges in the country that believe he is fit for the Supreme Court of the United States. Polite as almost everybody has been questioning on the subject, he may have a drinking problem. He certainly had one in the past.

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White Men Partners Announcement

Arnold Kowiskiful has presented the City of Pensacola with a stunning opportunity. He proposes the development of a sex toys production and distribution facility at the Port. He promises 13 new jobs!

The plan is for the products to be shipped in from China via our port, repackaged after USA testing done here, and then shipped to Cuba. The jobs will be product tester positions and will pay a full minimum wage. Although he has had good luck just using volunteers, we told him we want good paying jobs. His company will distribute “dildo dividends” to the City of Pensacola based on the volume of sales to Cuba. This is a win win.

At White Men Partners LLC we are all about jobs and family values. You can maintain your standards and still make deals with people who are in businesses where we don’t necessarily agree with all their products. Mr. Kowiskiful has agreed to open an outlet store next to the Olive shop on South Palafox Street so we can buy his products at a discount — win win win!

We conducted the same intensive interview with him that we did with the rock crusher guys. Mr. Kowiskiful is the real deal in sex toys.

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

PRESS RELEASE:

White Men’s Partnership LLC is proud to announce our significant role in bringing a new company to the airport. We have not met the owners, but we have been busy behind the scenes making this happen. We do not fully know what business they are in but we know they are foreigners. We were intimately involved in the strategic master plan to bring some business here. We now want to bring a highly professional rock crushing company to the port. More jobs!!

We did our due diligence! We talked to these men for one full hour before deciding it was a go. We explained what family values really means at the Port. They nodded with approval. They didn’t say much but we are good at reading faces. The fact we didn’t understand every word they said did not detract from the excitement we had for the crusher and all those good crusher jobs.

As many of you know, we were instrumental in bringing Navy Federal to the area. We are not a pathetic junior chamber of commerce as some critics have suggested. We are NOT washed up old white guy has beens. We also are not an exclusive old white man’s club as we have been called by people who don’t want jobs brought here. We admit black business owners for the same $3500 a year and they are entitled to all the benefits of full associate members.

We are all about jobs and we are not about side deals with rock crushers or any other job creators. Why is it in this community that where good honest white men get together and propose creating jobs there is a presumption of inside dealing, kickbacks, and other unsavory practices? Why?

We have lots of members and they all want the same thing – the best for poor people. Not more cushy high rise condos for rich Democrats. You could join us for $3500; send your check to the attention of: Mr. Chubby. We will give you a window sticker that says “We helped bring Navy Federal here”.

Join us today for a full or associate membership depending on admission criteria.

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Posted in City of Pensacola, Florida, Local Business, Pensacola Airport, Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, Politics, Port of Pensacola | Tagged | 1 Comment

BREAKING? New Bridge Concrete Cracks Raise Questions

Article from the Navarre Press (original article here), reposted here in its entirety.

By Rob Johnson, Navarre Press, July 18, 2018

Cracks in newly placed concrete during the current construction of the Pensacola Bay Bridge recently caused two temporary halts to work on the deck of the $400 million span, state officials told the Navarre Press Wednesday.“Cracks were identified in some of the newly placed concrete…,” said Tanya Branton in an email. “Work on this portion was halted while the concrete placement methods and materials were evaluated.”

The work stoppage was specifically on the new concrete bridge deck following an inspection in March. FDOT described the inspection as “routine.” It’s unclear whether the inspection came after the fatal collapse of a bridge at Florida International University in Miami on March 15.

Branton said the Pensacola Bay Bridge deck work stopped twice—first between April 5 and April 16 of this year, and again between June 26 and June 27.

Construction of the bridge began in 2017 and is scheduled to be finished in 2020. But the contractor, Skanska USA, faces a deadline on Jan. 26, 2019 to finish the eastbound section—meaning essentially three of the eventual six lanes—in order to earn a $15 million completion bonus.

Experts in bridge construction say the seriousness of cracks varies. “Any cracks should be taken seriously and looked at by an engineer,” said John Pepper, a Fort Lauderale construction engineer who testified in court cases related to flaws in building projects.

Pepper said cracks can be from “improper mixing of concrete,” among other problems.

FDOT’s Branton said, “Although cracking in concrete is not uncommon and can be attributed to many different issues, the concrete deck cracking found in the new Pensacola Bay Bridge deck has been attributed to the concrete mixture drying faster than anticipated during and after placement.”

The inspection, evaluation of the cracks and the decision to restart the work all came from within the ranks of FDOT and Skanska.

No public announcement of the cracking was made nor was any outside agency or contractor not involved with the bridge already called in to evaluate.

“An outside, independent testing company should immediately be employed to evaluate if there is any basis to believe the bridge has construction related problems,” said Pensacola attorney Bob Kerrigan.

Kerrigan, who has criticized the bidding procedure through which Skanska won the bridge contract, added: “It is unfair to sound an alarm before we know what is actually going on but FDOT should not be the entity evaluating the problem because they are the ones that selected this contractor.   FDOT should immediately disclose everything they now know.”

Orlando attorney Matt Morgan said the bridge cracks underscore why bonuses of the sort being offered to Skanska to finish the work by a certain time are unwise: “As with any construction project, safety should always be the primary consideration. In my opinion, monetary bonuses on construction projects can lead to unnecessary risk and pressure on team members to complete the job as quickly as possible.”

Morgan, who has filed a lawsuit in the FIU bridge collapse on behalf of some victims, added, “Complex construction projects should always proceed in a deliberate, cautious and calculated manner to ensure the safety of the general public.”

Branton, who said public safety is always her agency’s top priority, noted, “The contractor’s current work schedule shows they are on track to achieve the bonus for shifting traffic to the new eastbound bridge.”


See also:
“Cracks where FIU bridge buckled may have signaled ‘imminent failure'”
“State asks judge to block release of records that might show why FIU bridge collapsed”
“The FIU Bridge Collapse: Do We Need Slow Engineering?”

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

Judge Nickinson Boots ACLU Transgender Lawsuit

REPOST — From this blog on September 26, 2017

ACLU Dangerously Meandering Off Course

acluThe 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 Pensacola News Journal article (Sep. 25, 2017) 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.

And now, from today’s Pensacola News Journal…

PNJ, June 19, 2018, reported by Kevin Robinson

Judge Rules Against Pensacola Woman in Transgender Discrimination Suit

A judge has ruled against a Pensacola woman who claims she was discriminated against because she is transgender.

The suit was based around allegations that Nevaeh Love, a woman who was assigned male at birth, was singled out and asked to move from her seat at an adults-only fundraising event. Event organizers testified that Love’s presence at the front of the venue made the performers uncomfortable, and she was asked to sit further back.

In a case presented directly to Judge Edward P. Nickinson in April, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida argued that denying Love her seat of choice because she is transgender was a violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act.

In a final order filed last week, a judge wrote that in most circumstances — say, if Love had been denied a seat at a restaurant, a room at a hotel or an opportunity at her place of employment — her case could have merit.

But adding sex to the equation changes things, according to the judge.

The fundraising event featured a troupe of male exotic dancers and was advertised as open to “ladies only.” The dancers purportedly “expressed objections to performing their show, which involved some degree of disrobing and mingling with the patrons, if a person they considered to be male was to be in the audience,” the order said.

“In some circumstances … the physical attributes, male or female, of a person’s body simply can make a difference,” the judge wrote. “No person should be required to perform body-contact sexual or sexually suggestive acts with another except by consent. The court believes that a judgment in favor of Ms. Love, in this case, would violate that basic premise.”

Nickinson’s order continued, “Here, the dancers clearly did not consider Ms. Love to be a ‘woman’ for purposes of their performance, and the court sees no reason why, for that limited purpose, Ms. Love should be able to force those dancers to think otherwise.”

The ACLU had looked to Love’s case to establish an important precedent for Florida’s transgender community. Florida’s Civil Rights Act was written to protect citizens from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status, but the language of the act does not specifically list gender as a consideration.

Nickinson did address that issue in his ruling, noting, “In concluding that Ms. Love should not prevail on her claim, in this case, the Court does not take issue with any of the multitude of cases finding that statutory prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex extend to transgender persons.”

The judge ended his order by noting the defendant, Katoshia Young, had attempted to find a “middle ground” that would have been satisfactory to both parties, but that Love had requested a refund and left the venue before any such resolution could be reached.

Neither party was awarded anything in the decision, but the court retained jurisdiction to award costs or fees if appropriate.

Read the original PNJ article here.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE GOVERNOR

Outzen: Governor my name is Rick Outzen and I am a local journalist. I was responsible for spearheading the drive to kill the fish hatchery here

Governor: I did not know that, what is your name again?

Outzen: Richard Outzen, I work for the interests of Quint Studer.

Governor: I know of Mr. Studer, so what is the question?

Outzen: Will you guarantee we will still get the fish hatchery project here but in another location?

Governor: I know the project will be good for this area.

Outzen: But, Governor both me and the PNJ, who helped kill it for Mr. Studer, want to know if it is still on but, to be built somewhere else because we are getting some bad community feedback about what we did?

Governor: Fish Hatcheries are important to Florida and I support them.

Outzen: It isn’t just me, Mr. Studer needs to be able to tell everyone he didn’t cost the community 20 million by having me and the PNJ kill the fish hatchery. He is still reeling from criticism about the 5 million the city gave him, the 60 million price tag for the ballpark and parking issues and other stuff.

Governor: Some of these public private partnerships end up being mostly funded by government and mostly profited by the private sector.

Outzen: Governor, we all know you have done a lot for us because of your relationship with Mayor Hayward. I never intended to criticize Mayor Hayward; it’s just that Mr. Studer didn’t want the fish hatchery near his property. You can understand that, right?

Governor: It is said he wouldn’t hurt this community for all the tea in China and he only seeks win-wins.

Outzen: I promise I won’t write a petty, sarcastic, rude untrue editorial about the Mayor if you will promise me that this hatchery build isn’t a dead fish. You understand all we wanted was to keep a place near the storage tanks for the poor people to sunbathe? We were just trying to preserve their proper beach place in the community.

Governor: Here is what I can promise: I will talk to the Fish and Game people who worked on this for years and spent 1.7 million of taxpayers money planning it and tell them if Mr. Studer promises not to change his mind again they should trust him. You know trust once broken is hard to mend.

Outzen: Does that mean we will get 20 million even though the hatchery is now deceased?

Governor: The money will be delivered here by courier after the election in November. I hope this community will support my candidacy for the U S Senate.

Outzen: We are all on board Governor. You can trust me, Governor, I am Mr. Studer’s media point person here and I give you my word as a editorial/ad salesman/journalist I will not make this in any way look like the Mayor did anything but try and help our community.

Governor: You promise?

Outzen: Rainbow scout’s honor and pinky promise (Pinky handshake extended).

Governor: What was your name again?

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

A Letter from Mary

This letter to the editor of a Dallas newspaper is reprinted with permission.

May 16, 2018

a-letter-from-mary

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Posted in Politics, Religion, Republican Party | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

CONGRATULATION

To Quint Studer and all those who helped him kill a 20 million dollar investment in our community with the accompanying loss of jobs, research to protect our fisheries and an educational tourist attraction. He couldn’t have done it without the help of the PNJ, a dysfunctional city council and Thing One and Thing Two filing a lawsuit. There will be no new location of the fish hatchery selected in our community, the state will look elsewhere. The state officials involved are too classy to say it but they are out of here and with it a tremendous investment in the city is lost.

A person who controls the city council and the print media warns anyone who is considering coming here to invest: you will be vulnerable to his whimsical manipulations. The State of Florida abandoning this project is an ominous warning to other investors — Pensacola is now clearly a one man town. Speculation may continue as to why he did it but there is no doubt that he did it.

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

A Sad Day for Pensacola

The trial judge dismissed the lawsuit regarding the fish hatchery. It was a correct interpretation of the law. The lawsuit had no merit. But, Mr. Studer may have effectively killed the fish hatchery. And, no, Ms. Meyers, the state is not going to hand us 18 million anyway. Our community will have lost an infusion of millions, a wonderful tourist attraction and related supporting jobs.

This is what happens when weak politicians are beholden to one man whose whimsical opinions control public policy. It is a sad day for Pensacola, but a predictable outcome, if the State of Florida says “we are out of here” — which looks likely.

You may read the seven page dismissal order by clicking on the image below:

FWC fish hatchery dismissal pensacola

Fish Hatchery Dismissal Order

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Posted in City of Pensacola, Escambia County, Florida, Florida Circuit Court, Local Business, Studer | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Omnibursting with Spending

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Weekly Wastebasket | March 23, 2018

Around 8 PM Wednesday night, a 2,242 page behemoth omnibus spending bill appeared on the House of Representatives Document Repository web site. Weighing in at $1.3 trillion, the bill amounts to $582 million a page. About 17 hours and another 1511 pages of explanatory text later, the bill passed the House. The Senate quickly followed suit in the wee hours of Friday morning. The math works out to House members having about 16 seconds to speed read each page in the package, their Senate colleagues granted a more leisurely 28 seconds per page. Not to put too fine a point on it, but no one – no one – knew what they were voting on.

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It’s worth putting this frantic last minute mad scramble to fund government into context.

And that context lies in the scramble happening one week shy of the six month mark of fiscal year 2018, meaning that Congress began punting back in September.

Actually, you could soundly argue that it started well before that. The House got all twelve spending bills done, but they bore little resemblance to what got enacted.

The Senate didn’t even try. Not a single FY2018 spending bill graced the Senate floor last year.

The first nine months of the year were mostly dedicated to a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The last three focused on jamming through a deficit-financed tax cut. Only after that, did Congressional leadership turn to their only constitutionally-mandated annual duty. And the only duty that, unlike efforts to reform health care or tax policy, has a hard deadline; pass bills funding federal agencies or the government shuts down.

And what did they do? They agreed to add about $150 billion in additional spending over budget cap levels for fiscal year 2018 and for fiscal year 2019 by adding the tab onto the $20 trillion national debt.

Quote of the Week:
“Nobody knows what’s in it. I don’t know what’s in the damn thing…I have no intention of voting for this bill until I know everything that’s in it…Whoever came up with this isn’t qualified to run a food truck.” ~ Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) on the Omnibus spending bill. For the record, he did vote against the bill.

Article from:
© Taxpayers for Common Sense (3/23/18)
651 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20003
202-546-8500

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BREAKING: Bad News

Former candidate for the Presidency of the United States, Rick Outzen (Arizona 2008 primary) and former candidate for the city council, Maren DeWeese, announced while holding hands within minutes of the Mayor’s decision not to seek reelection, that they too would no longer have a purpose for their continued quasi-journalist existence.

The relentless mostly baseless tirades against the Mayor were fun while they lasted, Outzen said. He thanked his supporters and all of his anonymous sources for making his paper what it was. He pushed back however on the charge he annually sold his top 100 Influencers positions. Outzen said he and his co-editor C J Lewis and his Tilapia fry-cook co-owner assured they would seek other ways to undermine the Mayor in whatever future endeavors the Mayor undertook.

Our thanks to the one person who attended the DeWeese/Outzen “news conference” for reporting this developing story.

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

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy: Into the Record Books with an Asterisk

Bull headed, stubborn, aloof and won’t listen. This is how you build great cities? Maybe Mr. Studer should just walk up to our mayor’s office and say, “Come on down to one of the Studer meetings and tell us what your vision was, how you did it and why it has been such a success.”

We really don’t benefit much by speeches from self-promoting politicians who join the speaking circuit. What did they pay for this guy to come here?

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The following is from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, June 3, 2006, by Dennis B. Roddy:

A strange deal with the feds was the latest twist in a career that began with activism, ended with aloofness…

In a city renowned for political horse-trading, Tom Murphy preferred to travel by foot: walking door-to-door, retailing himself as a leader beyond politics, a youthful voice of reform in a town he said was slowly dying from doing things the old way.

former-pittsburgh-mayor-tom-murphyNow, with a two-year federal probe ending in a strange agreement not to prosecute in return for Mr. Murphy’s acknowledgement that he traded a generous contract for the support of the firefighters union, a self-made reform politician goes into the record books with an asterisk.

This was a former seminarian and Peace Corps volunteer who in 1975 got chucked into the back of a police wagon when, he says, he stopped to help a group of youths who were being beaten by police.

In 1989, Mr. Murphy, then a state legislator from the North Side, came in a surprising second in the Democratic mayoral primary to incumbent Sophie Masloff, beating three others, including the favored county Controller Frank Lucchino.

Elected mayor four years later, he succeeded in building two stadiums and a new convention center. But in the course of those successes, the often aloof Mr. Murphy alienated old friends and newfound allies, finally losing both his political edge and his reformer’s label.

“The dark side of the force is strong. I don’t know how much it was Tom or how much it was the system that pushes people,” said Mark Fatla, who entered Mr. Murphy’s orbit during his days at the Community Technical Assistance Center, part of the stew of community groups with whom Mr. Murphy built his early base.

Mr. Fatla recalled Election Night 1993, when the room was filled with community activists drawn to the campaign.

“By the first re-election campaign, those persons were not active or their participation had been reduced,” Mr. Fatla said. The first signs of problems were budget cuts for community groups, he said. Later, it was access.

“I think as he became enmeshed in the bigger issues in the mayor’s office, it got harder and harder to talk to him, but it got much harder to hold his attention. And when you did talk to him you got the sense that his mind was already made up, that he wasn’t open any longer to what you were telling him. I think that was the change,” Mr. Fatla said.

To many who saw the transformation, Mr. Murphy’s disaster was caused by his straying from his political base and embracing another — the more traditional city politics with which he never felt comfortable and whose practitioners never quite accepted him.

Mr. Murphy and his chief lieutenant, Executive Secretary Tom Cox, cut their teeth as North Side community developers. In the idealistic atmosphere of the early 1970s, he should have fit in — but didn’t.

“Tommy was not a reformer. Tommy was a loner. There’s a big difference,” said Bob Cohen, a Shadyside consultant who preceded Murphy as director of the North Side Civic Development Council.

Tom Murphy was first elected a state representative in 1978. Mr. Cohen, who now advises clients in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, views Mr. Murphy’s management style as both his strength and weakness. Appointed to the chairmanship of the Insurance Committee in the state House, Mr. Murphy disappointed party leaders by refusing to raise campaign funds from lobbyists who did business with the committee, a long-standing Harrisburg practice Mr. Murphy found repugnant. Caucus politics did not interest him.

“Tommy was the world’s worst politician,” said Mr. Cohen.

In 14 years as a state representative, Mr. Murphy strengthened his reputation as a neighborhood builder, but never became a coalition builder.

Instead of making the Harrisburg tavern circuit, where lobbyists and legislators share drinks and ambitious legislators map out deals, Mr. Murphy’s work in the house was literal. He spent his evenings rehabbing a rundown house he co-purchased with four other members for $4,000 at 1616 Green St. in Harrisburg.

“He would stay back and work on that house. He wanted the neighborhood to look better,” said Allen Kukovich, one of the residents at 1616 Green.

Mike Dawida, another legislator who entered the House the same year as Mr. Murphy, and with whom he aligned himself politically, recalled his colleague as an idealist capable of spotting important policy issues, but not adept at working the legislative levers to bring them about.

“He wasn’t always good at working with the Legislature. Others would have to take up the ideas,” Mr. Dawida said.

Mr. Murphy’s biggest weakness, Mr. Dawida said, was a failure to listen.

“Reformers tend to be people who listen. He didn’t cultivate that talent very well,” Mr. Dawida said. “It got a lot worse in the mayor’s office.”

Dan Cohen, who served on City Council during Mr. Murphy’s tenure as mayor, remembers a man who rarely initiated contacts on his own.

“There was an aloofness,” said Mr. Cohen, who now works as a telecommunications lawyer. “Was Tom a politician? Not as we typically use the term. He was the anti-politician.”

That anti-politician posture would sometimes frustrate Mr. Murphy’s supporters. His staff would sometimes be frustrated that, during fund-raisers, the mayor didn’t seem to know who his biggest donors were.

For that matter, he didn’t always know when his fund-raising events were scheduled, said Sal Sirabella, deputy mayor under Mr. Murphy.

On one occasion, Mr. Sirabella recalls Mr. Murphy returning from a run and saying, ” ‘You know what? I think we have a fund-raiser tomorrow. Isn’t it great that we don’t even know when our fund-raisers are?’ ”

Some Democratic ward leaders gradually became disenchanted. “The only time he knew my name was when he was up for re-election,” said Barbara Ernsberger, who has chaired Shadyside’s 7th Ward Democratic Committee since 1994 and who was elected city Democratic chair during Mr. Murphy’s administration.

She recalls putting in a phone call to the mayor’s office to suggest a meeting between Mr. Murphy and the Democratic committee.

“I was told we were not on his agenda,” she said.

A partnership with Allegheny County Commissioners Mike Dawida and Bob Cranmer helped Mr. Murphy build two new stadiums and a convention center. That, too, frayed.

One notable moment came Sept. 29, 1998, when government buildings along Grant Street were evacuated when an unexplained noxious odor wafted through. City and county emergency officials didn’t communicate with each other, even though they shared some of the same buildings. The ensuing turf battle between the city and county climaxed when Mr. Murphy announced he was calling off plans to merge the city’s 911 center with Allegheny County’s.

Mr. Dawida was stunned by the reaction.

“I guess what I’m saying is there were these issues that popped up from time to time when a little bit of listening would have done the guy some wonders,” Mr. Dawida said.

Relations with City Council were strained, thanks to both fiscal constraints and Mr. Murphy’s infrequent communication with council, said Dan Cohen.

Then came the publicly financed construction of two new stadiums despite taxpayer resistance, and the mayor’s controversial effort to revitalize Downtown’s Fifth and Forbes retail district.

Mr. Murphy wanted to seize properties and turn them over to a Chicago developer. “We asked for an open process, and in fact it was a closed process,” said Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. A Murphy enthusiast in 1994, Mr. Ziegler joined the many vocal critics of the Fifth and Forbes plan.

Mr. Dawida sees Fifth and Forbes as the turning point leading to Mr. Murphy’s slide.

“He had invested a lot of his capital in it because the Downtown of Pittsburgh was always a kind of showplace,” Mr. Dawida said. “It was the public perception that this was a very important thing and then it never happened.”

When retailer Nordstrom pulled out, Mr. Murphy abandoned the plan. But with his neighborhood base disenchanted, and his foes energized, the mayor had to build a new base.

He reached out to firefighters.

In April 2001, Mr. Murphy attended a meeting at Larry’s Roadhouse with his campaign manager David Caliguiri, Arlington neighborhood activist Michele Balcer and Pittsburgh Fire Fighters Local 1 President Joseph King.

On April 30, Mr. King wrote to union members that he’d reached agreement with the city on contract basics that would preserve jobs and raise wages between 4 percent and 8 percent. Mr. King later estimated that the raises would have cost the city $10 million to $12 million over four years, had the deal not been trimmed after 2002.

At around the same time, the 870-member union switched its endorsement from then City Council President Bob O’Connor to Mr. Murphy.

“I told Tom at the time I thought it was a bad deal. But he didn’t often listen,” Mr. Dawida said.

Mr. Sirabella doesn’t think the fire union’s endorsement decided the 2001 primary, which Murphy won by 699 votes.

Nonetheless, had 350 people — firefighters or otherwise — moved from Mr. Murphy’s to Mr. O’Connor’s column, the former wouldn’t have had to contend with a budget meltdown and, presumably, last week’s odd settlement that suggested Mr. Murphy had done something if not indictable, at least wrong.

To some old friends, it seems almost as if Mr. Murphy’s lack of skill in the kinds of insider dealing he so flatly rejected starting with his Harrisburg days, might have left him unprepared for the junctures at which politics and governance sometimes merge.

“It would seem to me that there are some people who might be what’s described as wheeler-dealers in political jargon, who might know how to handle those situations better, perhaps, than someone who’s not used to figuring out how to deal with tough contracts when there’s an election coming up,” said Mr. Kukovich. “It takes someone with rare skill. For someone who’s not adept at that sort of thing, I guess it can be a problem.”

It remained for Mr. Dawida to sum up the paradox of his old friend: “He was bullheaded, stubborn and opinionated. But he wasn’t ever dishonest. This kind of thing implies that he was and he wasn’t.”


Read original article here.

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Businesses Reaping the Benefits of the Florida Panhandle

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Businesses are reaping the benefits of the Florida Panhandle

Author: Rick Byars, Community & Economic General Manager, Gulf Power
29 Jan 2018

Holidaymakers have recognised the appeal of the Florida Panhandle for decades. Now, the region’s industrial sector is proving its worth too

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Bordering Alabama to the west and north, Northwest Florida’s commuting labour force comprises more than 1.2 million talented workers

The American state of Florida is perhaps best known for attractions such as Walt Disney World in Orlando, South Beach in Miami or any of the beaches found along the peninsula. Tourism aside, Florida is also an economic powerhouse. If the state were a country, it would be the 18th-largest global economy, at a value of $839bn (€710bn).

As the third-largest state in the US, with a population of more than 20 million, Florida offers a wealth of diverse opportunities for businesses to develop. However, it is one of the lesser known parts of the state that boasts the greatest potential for growth over the next five years: the Florida Panhandle, or Northwest Florida, is a picturesque strip of coast best known for its quaint beach towns.

Northwest Florida encompasses metropolitan areas such as Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Destin and Panama City. While its beautiful beaches with sugar-white sand and pristine waters have drawn in tourists for decades, it also has a significant military presence, with six major aviation-related bases, including Eglin Air Force Base, the largest in the world.

Growth potential
Today, Northwest Florida has diversified beyond the tourist towns and military-focused communities that once dominated the region.

The talent pipeline serving the Florida Panhandle is helping industries to thrive throughout the region

The population has grown to 1.9 million, and the Panhandle now has three international ports, three airports, 400 miles of freight rail tracks and countless miles of interstate highways. Because the region borders Alabama to the west and north, Northwest Florida’s commuting labour force comprises more than 1.2 million talented workers.

Those who live and work in Northwest Florida are employed in a range of sectors. The region’s multiple manufacturing industries include aerospace, watercraft, food, wood products, plastics, textiles and chemicals.

Recently, two major aerospace companies chose Northwest Florida as the location for their expansion plans. VT MAE, a business unit of VT Systems and the US headquarters of ST Engineering, is expanding its maintenance, repair and overhaul operations by moving to a 173,000sq ft facility at the Pensacola International Airport. This $46m (€39m) project will employ a 400-strong workforce.

Florida first
Additionally, GKN Aerospace is building a manufacturing facility in Panama City, creating 170 jobs with a $50m (€42m) capital investment. The site will be located at the Venture Crossings Enterprise Centre, an industrial park adjacent to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

It’s a designated Florida First Site, a status that means all risks have been mitigated and the land is certified project-ready by a third-party consultant. In the Florida First Sites portfolio, there are nine total tracts of land, all 50 acres and above, which are ready for development.

While manufacturing is a large industry in the region, the Panhandle also boasts hi-tech, unmanned systems, back office and cybersecurity companies. The talent pipeline serving the area is helping these industries thrive. Northwest Florida has much to offer companies considering expanding in the US, and the south-east in particular.

Original Article here…

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Open Carry

The United States Supreme Court just assured some semblance of gun sanity will remain in Florida. They refused to consider reversing the Florida Supreme Court’s rejection of open carry. Long championed by Matt Gaetz (Gaetz said on a WNRP 1620 AM radio interview he favored open carry, even in church), open carry would allow every misfit, coward, underachiever, and law enforcement wanna-be to strap on a gun and walk into restaurants and every place else — Look at me! A tough guy with a gun!

Open carry was universally opposed by all law enforcement. But the hard core Gaetz supporters loved it and so did he. The argument that “we have concealed carry so what is the difference?” misses the mark (no pun intended). The weapon is concealed and any effort used to intimidate someone with it is a crime. The visual intimidation of someone wearing a Wild West double-holster with six-guns is self-evident. We can all breathe a sigh of relief, as least for now.

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Three Blogs by Escambia County Commissioner Bergosh

Jeff Bergosh is County Commissioner for Escambia County, District 1. The following links are to his blog, jeffbergoshblog.blogspot.com — the words and the research are his…

Timeline of Raises at the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office

A Review of the BCC’s Answer to the Sheriff’s Budget Appeal

Pay Compression: A 3-Year Look at ECSO W-2 Data

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Was Don Gaetz with this Company in 2002, 03 & 04?

“Chemed Corp. and VITAS Hospice Services agree to pay $75 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations relating to billing for ineligible patients and inflated levels of care.”

Read more below…

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Click anywhere on the image to read full size.

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Something Smells Real Fishy

Mr. Studer is circulating a survey that he claims supports his change of mind on the Hatchery. He attributes the survey results to The Political Matrix, though he claimed he hired them. No such organization is listed in Florida for a fictitious name. They appear to have a web site and their number one listed client is Rick Outzen. On their Linkedin page they claim “we are proud to be working with Rick Outzen and the Independent Weekly”. Of course Mr. Outzen is proud to work with Mr. Studer for a number of economic reasons.

Understanding Mr. Studer is the master of the survey technique where the survey results are used to sell or influence others. For many years he sold hospitals on how to convince the patient that their care was better than it actually was so the patient survey results were improved based on his nursing scripting techniques. Hospitals loved it because it meant they could get better survey results (hence greater government reimbursements) but not materially improving health care, for example, by hiring adequate nursing staff or giving patients private rooms. Nurses disliked the scripting because it required them to make phony caring comments and disingenuous patient friendly chit chat.

So, it is with respectful cynicism we wonder about these survey results that support Mr. Studer’s relentless push to shut the Hatchery project down. The primary questions are push-poll questions, suggesting the answer he wanted in the question asked. The intellectually honest first question would be: “Are you familiar with the proposed fish hatchery to be built in downtown Pensacola?” I would bet 90% would say they were not. That would render the survey invalid with any additional related questions. Instead the survey uses push-poll questions that intentionally and dishonestly provide the respondent with a negative impression of the hatchery.

1. Do you support the State of Florida investing nearly 10 million dollars of BP remediation money for the construction of an experimental fish hatchery on downtown waterfront property and an additional 8 million for its operation?

Notice the use of “experimental” and “waterfront property” and an unsourced need for 8 million more.

2. Do you think the mayor or the city council has provided adequate communication with the public regarding the details of the proposed experimental Pensacola Fish Hatchery?

Mr. Studer ran a full page ad laying out every conceivable detail when he supported it. The issue was widely covered in the media. Most people do not care.

3. If you knew that the $18 million experimental Fish Hatchery would only guarantee 8 to 12 permanent jobs for five years, on a scale of 1 to 5, how likely are you to support the project?

Notice the use of “only guarantee” and “experimental”. None of the other many benefits of the hatchery are noted.

4. Of the following locations, which area would you prefer an experimental fish hatchery be located between a new custom build facility at Bruce Beach or in an existing vacant warehouse at the Port of Pensacola?

Notice “custom built” implying a Cadillac where a Ford Focus would be adequate. Existing vacant warehouse suggests a facility was available and they could be moved in tomorrow which is not true for many reasons.

5. Would you rather see the largest city owned bay front property developed into a publicy [sic] accessible waterfront park or an experimental industrial fish hatchery?

Waterfront Park, next to massive storage tanks? Not suggesting how this would be paid for is not disclosed. He finally finishes off the push poll by “experimental industrial fish hatchery” . Tossing in industrial to make it all the more awful.

6. How happy are you with the Mayor’s leadership in promoting an experimental fish hatchery for Bruce Beach?

Everyone knows how Studer and Outzen dislike the mayor. The mayor’s leadership – Outzen and Studer just can’t let that go. The recurrent theme: promoting unhappy with the mayor’s leadership. Outzen is so oddly fixated on the mayor while Studer desperately wants to act like the mayor. A happy match.

So would it be rude to ask what does Mr. Studer have to do with this polling? Regardless, and more pointedly, did he write these push-poll questions? I suspect he did. It takes skill to write push poll questions like the ones used in this non-scientific, invalidly sampled survey —a survey he admits he paid to have conducted.

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Posted in City of Pensacola, Community Maritime Park, Local Business, News Articles, Pensacola City Council, Pensacola News Journal, Studer | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Just Do What Mr. Studer Wants Done with the Hatchery

Brian Spencer should not be faulted for doing what his client, Mr. Studer wants. For the rest of the Council however, reneging on a contract, especially with the State of Florida, could have dire consequences for our city. Casually tossing out a suggestion of a “better site” at the Port is the kind of half-baked poor decision making typical of a weak city beholden to one man who is subject to change his mind again tomorrow.

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

Following Our Community Leaders

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?

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

Our Own “Jared Kushner”

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!

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

Has The Big Fish Flipped & Flopped?

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…

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

Loss Analysis – Beach Lease Conversions to Fee Simple

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?

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Editorial: Senators Nelson & Rubio Should Scrap Beach Bill

Editorial from Pensacola News Journal Editorial Board published Oct. 8, 2017…

navarre-beach-sceneNo 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

Posted in Democratic Party, Escambia County, Florida, News Articles, Pensacola News Journal, Republican Party, Santa Rosa County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Law of Unintended Consequences

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:

  1. To assure public beach access in perpetuity, public parking and beach access corridors identified within the Escambia County and Santa Rosa County planning and land use documents as of August 1, 2013 (other than parking and beach facilities), should remain publicly owned and undeveloped.  This could be accomplished by retaining the applicability of the reversionary clause from the Act of July 30, 1946, for those lands, and by specifically referencing in the bill the county planning and land use documents as they existed on the date the bills were introduced.
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  3. Lands zoned “preservation” or “conservation/recreation” within the Escambia County and Santa Rosa County planning and land use documents as of August 1, 2013, should remain in public ownership and in preservation or conservation/recreation status in perpetuity.  This, too, could be accomplished by retaining the applicability of the reversionary clause from the Act of July 30, 1946, for those lands, and by specifically referencing in the bill the county planning and land use documents as they existed on August 1, 2013.  The language should include the definitions, management prescriptions and permitted activities for “preservation” and “conservation/recreation” zones in the county planning and land use documents as they existed on the date the bills were introduced, so that the terms cannot be redefined or reinterpreted at a later date. Further, the term “recreation” should be clarified to refer to passive recreation only for these lands.
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  5. Authority should be provided for Gulf Island National Seashore to accept by donation conservation easements for the lands zoned preservation or conservation/recreation within Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach on Santa Rosa Island.
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  7. There should be a prohibition on any dredge and fill permits that would allow for the construction of a channel through Santa Rosa Island, and the construction of associated jetties, groins, bulkheads or revetments, and the dredging or filling of any wetlands, estuaries, or embayments.

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

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A Beach Lease

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):

Property Appraiser (1008 Via Deluna Drive)

Real Estate Tax (1008 Via Deluna Drive)

Assignment of Leasehold Interest

Residential Lease

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Questions Sent to Grover Robinson

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?

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Air Force says Reopening Navarre Pass would Interfere with Missions

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.)

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Posted in Democratic Party, Escambia County, Florida, Military, Politics, Republican Party, Santa Rosa County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Matt Gaetz: Worth A Listen

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.

Posted in Escambia County, Florida Supreme Court, Military, Politics, Republican Party, Santa Rosa County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

ACLU Dangerously Meandering Off Course

acluThe 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.

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Posted in City of Pensacola, Democratic Party, Florida, Florida Circuit Court, Florida Supreme Court, Local Business, Pensacola News Journal, Politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Using Oil Spill Money to Restore Barrier Islands

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.”

Read More Here…

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Escambia County Sheriff’s Yearly Expenditures

To check the Escambia County Sheriff’s Expenditures Detailed by Year click to open the following PDF file (400 KB)…

Escambia County Sheriff’s Expenditures Detailed by Year

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.”

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The Gaetz/Grover Great Giveaway

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

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, Politics, Republican Party, Santa Rosa County | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Studer Podcast

Quint Studer has a podcast entitled “How To Promote Yourself.” There is no one more qualified to teach this than Mr. Studer.

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Due to the President’s Decision

Due to the President’s decision to kick illegal children out of the country, the Climate Change Deniers September meeting has been canceled.

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NOTICE

NOTICE:
The scheduled monthly meeting of the Climate Change Deniers will not occur this month.

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What’s Matt Gaetz Really Up To?

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.

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, Republican Party, Santa Rosa County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proposed Legislation Regarding Santa Rosa Island

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

RGK/jls
cc: Congressman Matt Gaetz
Chairman, Escambia County Commission

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, Florida Legislature, News Articles | Tagged , , , ,

The Sheriff & the LET Fund

The Escambia County Sheriff is permitted the following categories of expenditures from the Law Enforcement Trust (LET) Fund.

Florida Statutes 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.”

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.

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Pensacola News Journal’s Negativity: Bizarre & Telling

An excellent article that appeared in The Pulse, July 24, 2017 —

The Pulse Gulf Coast

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.

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Link to original article: OUR VIEW — NEWS JOURNAL’S NEGATIVITY ON NBA OPPORTUNITY IS BIZARRE AND TELLING — PULSE STAFF, JULY 24, 2017, EDITORIALS 

Posted in City of Pensacola, CMPA Documents, Community Maritime Park, Escambia County, Local Business, News Articles, Pensacola News Journal, Sports, Studer | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Deal

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.

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Is Don Gaetz Planning…

Is Don Gaetz planning to take over the Triumph board at tomorrow’s (July 13) meeting at IHMC?

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Does Anyone Know?

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?

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The Final Triumph

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.

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

Outzen: Our Local Fake News Leader

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.

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

As Paul Harvey used to say: “And now, the rest of the story.”

An open letter to the citizens of Pensacola from the Office of the Mayor…

mayor-pensacola-open-letter

Letter available as a PDF here.

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

Time to Pay their Fair Share

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.

fl-bankers

Posted in Escambia County, Florida, Local Business, Sports, Tallahassee | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lots of Scrambling to Explain the Ball Drop

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.

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Posted in Escambia County, Florida, News Articles, Pensacola News Journal, Politics, Republican Party, Santa Rosa County | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Limiting Non-Economic Damages in Med Mal & Nursing Home Lawsuits: Poll Results

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:

  1. Florida:
    • 63% against H.R. 1215
    • 77% believed nursing homes should be held accountable for negligence/abuse of loved one
  2. Georgia:
    • 68% against H.R. 1215
    • 86% believed nursing homes should be held accountable for negligence/abuse of loved one
  3. Pennsylvania:
    • 68% against H.R. 1215
    • 81% believed nursing homes should be held accountable for negligence/abuse of loved one
  4. Texas:
    • 70% against H.R. 1215
    • 85% believed nursing homes should be held accountable for negligence/abuse of loved one
  5. Utah:
    • 64% against H.R. 1215
    • 82% believed nursing homes should be held accountable for negligence/abuse of loved one
  6. Alabama:
    • 63% oppose H.R. 1215
    • 81% believed nursing homes should be held accountable for negligence/abuse of loved one
  7. Arizona:
    • 67% oppose H.R. 1215
    • 81% believed nursing homes should be held accountable for negligence/abuse of loved one

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.

Link to H.R.1215 – Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017

(originally posted by Levin & Perconti, Chicago, Illinois, Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog, April 10, 2017)

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