Winners & Losers 2014
Winners & Losers is the most popular Inweekly column. Readers love to see who had a good week and whose week might not have been so good. Politicians check it regularly not so much to see if they are winners, but to make sure they aren’t in the loser’s column.
The Winners & Losers cubicles of the South Palafox division of the Inweekly media and entertainment worked several all-nighters over beer, wings, fries and ‘Cuse Juice shots to come up with this list of the ultimate winners and losers for 2014. Enjoy.
Sacred Heart & Baptist Hospitals
For nearly two decades, these two health care systems battled. In 2014, they joined forces to form the Partnership for a Healthy Community that has tackled community health issues. Their Live Well Northwest Florida initiative promotes healthy weight, tobacco cessation and access to health services. Recently, the Florida Hospital Association awarded its 2014 Community Benefit Achievement Award to Baptist Health Care and Sacred Heart Health Care System for their partnership’s accomplishments.
With the help of Gov. Rick Scott, the city of Pensacola, Escambia County and Greater Pensacola Chamber had a record year for job creation. Navy Federal Credit Union announced in May 2,000 new jobs, and then right before the Nov. 4 general election, the company committed to another 5,000 jobs by 2016. Offshore Inland and Houston-based Deepflex have committed to create 200 jobs at the Port of Pensacola. At the Pensacola International Airport, VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering is set to add at least 300 jobs. In one year, the county surpassed the Vision 2015 goal of creating 3,000 job by 2015.
The Gulf Breeze 11-year-old became the poster child for the legalization of Charlotte’s Web in Florida. The strain of marijuana has been very successful in helping children, like Rayann, who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy. Charlotte’s Web is low in THC, the chemical that produces pot’s intoxicating effect, but high in CBD, the one that calms seizures. Rayann and her parents, with the help of State Rep. Matt Gaetz, convinced the Florida Legislature to pass and Gov. Rick Scott to sign the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014 and make the product available next year.
The advocate for the homeless once again proved his ability to use social media to influence public policy. When the January ice storm hit, Monk fought for the repeal of the city of Pensacola’s ordinances that banned blankets from city parks. His online petition to change the law garnered worldwide attention and pressured Mayor Ashton Hayward and the Pensacola City Council to rethink their policies on how the city treats the homeless. Most recently, Monk has organized a homeless shelter for women and children to help them deal with upcoming winter nights.
The Republican Congressman from Chumuckla made a big splash this year as chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. Miller, the only Florida Congressman who chairs a major House committee, led the bipartisan effort to improve the health care the VA gives our veterans. He pushed for transparency when whistleblowers revealed some VA clinics had misreported their waiting lists. For a lawmaker from a district filled with military veterans, Congressman Jeff Miller did us proud.
Rishy & Quint Studer
Pensacola’s top power couple continued their efforts to revitalize downtown Pensacola. In January, they donated land and money to help the Northwest Florida YMCA build a new facility on South Jefferson Street. This spring, the Studers expanded the retail offerings on the corner of South Palafox and Main streets, launched the Studer Institute and bought BLAB TV. In October, they opened their new, four-story office building at the Vince Whibbs, Sr. Community Maritime Park. Last month, they bought the ECUA site where the Main Street Sewage Treatment Plant was once located. Plus, there are probably other deals we haven’t heard about yet, but 2014 still has a few more days.
The University of West Florida went through a major shakeup of its leadership team. Dr. Martha Saunders, the Provost and Vice President for the Division of Academic Affairs, emerged as the new head of both academics and operations. All vice presidents, as well as the associate vice president for Human Resources and General Counsel, report directly to her. Saunders served as the president of the University of Southern Mississippi from 2007-2012. She was the chancellor for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater from 2005-2007, after serving as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Columbus State University from 2002-2005.
Residents in Wedgewood, North Hill and Spanish Trail successfully fought for their qualities of life, oftentimes using Facebook to get out the information. In the Spanish Trail area, neighbors joined together to fight zoning changes that would have allowed a Dollar Store to be built at the corner of Spanish Trail and Summit Boulevard. The North Hill Preservation Association convinced Gov. Rick Scott to reverse a decision to open a probation and parole office on the edge of its neighborhood. Wedgewood, Rolling Hills and Olive Heights got the attention of the Escambia Board of County Commissioners and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to examine the landfills in their area. Power was returned to the people in 2014.
Youth Services International
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice canceled the contract for a 40-bed residential facility for low-to-moderate risk youth operated by Youth Services International in Milton. The Santa Rosa Substance Abuse Treatment Center had three substantiated reports of excessive force, nine complaints against staff under review by the department and two complaints against staff under review by the Inspector General’s Office. Department officials said the facility hadn’t corrected problems involving safety and security for the 14- to 18-year-old boys in its program. They also pointed to the program’s failure to provide “effective behavioral interventions and appropriate reporting of incidents,” according to a news release.
Pensacola City Hall
For the fourth consecutive year, the Hayward administration had more department heads pack up their things and leave. Gone are City Administrator Colleen Castille, City Council Executive Lila Cox, Airport Director Greg Donovan and Information Services administrator Paul Jones, just to name a few. Communications Coordinator Tamara Fountain was promoted to the newly created position of Chief Operating Officer and Eric Olsen was named assistant city administrator to the interim city administrator, Dick Barker, who is also the city’s CFO. It might be best to hold off on getting new business cards made, or at least leave the job titles blank.
Over 40 percent of the households in Escambia County live paycheck-to-paycheck and are one mishap away from financial disaster, according to a study recently released by United Way of Florida. ALICE stands for the “Asset-limited, Income Constrained Employed.” They work hard, often juggling two or three jobs, to make a living above the federal poverty level, but not enough to have a stable environment for their families. The statistics are even worse in the African-American community where nearly two-thirds of the families live below the ALICE threshold.
Universities & Florida’s Sunshine Law
Florida law requires government entities, including universities, to hold public meetings and make their records available to the public. Florida’s public universities have found a way around the law by creating foundations as private corporations. These foundations oversee a number of what most of us would consider university-related functions, such as managing athletics departments, constructing housing and running technology parks. The foundations don’t necessarily have to tell us about their operations or open their books for public scrutiny. That could change once the Florida Supreme Court rules on the matter.
The oil giant repeatedly lost court battles in its fight to stem the tide of settlement claims related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. BP tried to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars it claims to have overpaid victims. The judge agreed to rework the claim process, but he refused to make those changes retroactive. BP also unsuccessfully tried to get the claim administrator removed. Of the 10,311 Florida Panhandle business and individual claims currently filed, only 1,148 had been paid as of mid-October. If all 10,311 claims were paid, Florida Panhandle businesses would receive nearly two billion dollars over the next two years.
Rolling Hills C&D Recycling Center
The construction debris landfill had mound of debris that toured over the Marie Young Community Center. Residents complained for years about of noise and dirt from the dump trucks running day and night through their neighborhoods, of safety risks from the pits, the stench from debris in the landfills and of high rates of cancer and respiratory problems. Commissioner Lumon May and State Rep. Mike Hill helped bring attention to the problems. Escambia County placed a moratorium on new landfill permits, and DEP began the process to revoke the facility’s operating permit.
Pensacola Energy’s Infrastructure
USA Today published its report on the natural gas systems across the country. According to the Gannett-owned publication, its analysis of federal records revealed that Pensacola had older cast iron and bare steel gas mains than any other Florida utility. Almost half of Pensacola Energy’s gas mains were at least 50 years old, while nationally 38 percent of the pipes are that old. The utility can’t account for 4.4 percent of its gas in 2013. The good news is the city has quadrupled pipe replacement from five miles of pipes to 20 miles this year.
West Florida Recycling
The processing center on North Palafox Street that handled as much as 300 tons of recyclable each day from homes and businesses in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties filed for bankruptcy in April. The bankruptcy left both county governments, the City of Pensacola and ECUA scrambling for a new place to handle their recyclables. West Florida Recycling had battled complaints for months of health and safety risks at its recycling stations and mounting debt. Escambia County and ECUA have agreed to examine the possibility of jointly building a regional recycling center somewhere in Escambia County.
Mayor Ashton Hayward: The strong mayor is our nominee for The Florida Bar’s client of the year.
Jerry Maygarden: The Pensacola Chamber Foundation CEO helped the chamber spin off its tourism, military and economic development functions while creating a new job for himself.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos: The team continued to attract record attendance.
Bubba Watson: Winning the Masters and partnering with the Studers makes for a very good year.
Lumon May, Jewel Cannada-Wynn and Linda Moultrie: For the first time in Escambia County’s history, African-Americans chaired in the same year the Board of County Commissioners, Pensacola City Council and Escambia County School Board.
Sheriff David Morgan: It’s OK. You can say it—“I told you so.”
Tamara Fountain: The last man standing on the seventh of floor of Pensacola City Hall always gets to call the shots.
Pensacola International Airport: It has no director and still no Chick-fil-A.
#fangate: Charlie Crist had one, Rick Scott didn’t but still won re-election.
Lila Cox: The former Pensacola City Council executive learned not to cross the last man standing on the seventh floor.
Food trucks: The quickest way to kill an idea in downtown Pensacola is apparently to create a pilot program.
Florida Democratic Party: They couldn’t beat a Republican governor with their own Republican candidate.
City of Gulf Breeze: The jail explosion is the only story that kept the city’s flooding off the front pages of the daily newspaper … and the story about butterflies.
Garcon Point Bridge: People aren’t going to pay a $5 toll to shop at Wal-Mart.