The Buzz 6/13/19
Smart Money State Rep. Alex Andrade’s local town hall was billed as focusing on recent educational developments in Tallahassee. The Republican was joined by two Democrats—Escambia County Commission Chairman Lumon May and Dr. Laura Edler, the District 3 representative on the Escambia County School Board.
Of primary concern among attendees was the GOP-controlled legislature’s decision to allow public education dollars to be used for private and charter schools. It’s a move proponents defend as allowing parents and students a choice when it comes to education, while critics contend that it will drain needed resources away from public education while funneling it towards potentially unaccredited and unqualified private institutions.
Members of the public who spoke at the town hall were all of the latter opinion, leaving Andrade as the move’s sole defender.
“Philosophically, the concept of the public school system we have today is an outdated system,” Andrade said. “This is going to be a difference of opinion and a difference of philosophy.”
Dr. Edler said she wasn’t particularly bothered by the concept of charter schools and said public schools needed to focus on offering students the best available education.
“It’s like a product,” the school board member said. “We have to market our product. If the charter schools are more attractive, we have to be competitive with them.”
Chairman May argued that “charter schools are fly by night,” spoke about the importance of holding non-public institutions to the standards—”we can’t do it without regulations, we can’t do it without accountability”—and agreed with a member of the audience in describing a quality public education system as foundational in a democracy.
“Quite frankly,” May said, “it’s the great equalizer for the American Dream.”
While Andrade didn’t waiver in his support for the measure, he did concede that “Escambia County has been burned by some charter schools” and that he appreciated the public’s input. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard the critique though—the state representative’s mother is a teacher in Broward County.
“If you could see the novel she sent me via text message, you’d all lay off me a little bit,” Andrade said. “The tongue lashing has occurred.”
Arming Teachers The state legislature’s decision this past session to allow for arming teachers, Rep. Andrade said, was a reaction to the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The law makes Florida the first state in the country to allow for arming teachers.
“We’re not taking this lightly,” Andrade said, assuring that gun-carrying teachers would be required to undergo screening and training. “We’re taking serious, adult approaches to solutions. We’re not saying everybody should be a cowboy.”
Speakers at the Brownsville town hall were decidedly opposed to the concept of arming teachers, asking the representative to square how they were supposed to be “teaching children to add and subtract and to read while carrying a gun on their hips.”
“This is not a mandate from the state for teachers to carry guns,” Andrade said, clarifying that both of the school districts in his region—Escambia and Santa Rosa—were electing not to allow teachers to carry guns.
The state representative—who voted for the measure—said he understood that most of the state’s urban school districts were taking a pass and argued that the guardian program is intended “to allow some communities that are different than ours the opportunity to put that option in place.”
In Escambia, Dr. Edler said, the district would not be arming teachers but would be participating in the guardian program, incorporating armed protection in the way of law enforcement personnel or school security guards.
“You will not be a classroom teacher and a guardian at the same time,” Edler said.
May expressed skepticism in the overall concept of guns in schools, pointing to the recent series of shootings in the area and efforts to combat gun violence.
“I’d never support it,” the chairman said. “You don’t fight fire with fire.”
Stop Gun Violence Following another shooting Monday, June 3, in a string of shootings in recent weeks in the Pensacola area, local officials joined with victims’ family members two days later to implore people with any information regarding the shootings to step forward.
Tameika Crayton was among those family members who stood on the steps of Pensacola City Hall and asked the community for help. Her brother, Terrell Crayton, was shot earlier this week as he sat in a car. He is currently in the hospital.
“My brother is fighting for his life now. He was on his way to work. He had nothing to do with nothing. He was at the wrong place, wrong time. He was on his way to work, so why? Why the guns?” Crayton said. “We need to put the guns down. That’s all I’m asking. Please stop shooting. It don’t make no sense.”
Escambia County Commission Chairman Lumon May said he has known Crayton since he was about four years old, when the child began participating in a local youth sports program. During Wednesday’s press conference, he spoke about the personal loss felt across a community due to gun violence.
“The lives that have been lost are not just statistics or social security numbers,” May said. “These are children that we work with daily in our youth program and after-school program and our sports program.”
In the past three weeks, there have been four shootings in the Pensacola area. Two of the shootings have been drive-by events, and the string of shootings have resulted in two deaths.
“There are lives that are cut short. These people are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that are killed,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.
Another family member of a gun-violence victim that spoke at the June 5 press conference was Cindy Martin, whose son, Matthew Sheldon Cox, Jr., was shot and killed in 2012.
“I hate that people are being so complacent, because I have people that live three, four, five blocks away that never heard of my child, of his murder,” the mother said.
In her comments, Martin linked gun violence in the African-American community to poverty and infrastructure issues, as well as with the lack of schools in black neighborhoods.
Hill’s Apology On Wednesday, June 5, State Rep. Mike Hill issued this statement:
“As everyone already knows, I am a Bible-believing Christian. I am publishing this press release to address the controversy that arose over a question recently asked at an event sponsored by Women for Responsible Legislation in Pensacola.”
“Specifically, one man I had never met said the Bible in 1 Corinthians calls for a man having an affair with another man to be put to death. If the man was referring to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, that text says nothing about anyone being put to death. It simply states people who practice various sins will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
“I apologize for not directly responding to the fact that the premise for this question was inaccurate. I deeply regret how the tone of my response to a constituent was received at this event. I believe that no matter one’s race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, economic status or otherwise, that all lives are created equal in the image of God. I served in the U.S. Air Force to protect the many freedoms we have in the United States for all Americans.”
Inweekly looked up 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The English Standard version states, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Is Hill signaling his supporters that he really isn’t apologizing?
Timeline for Appointment The Escambia County School Board last month met with Florida School Boards Association search committee to discuss the 18-month timeline for the selection of the district’s first appointed superintendent.
The FSBA committee recommended conducting a three-month online community survey to find out how the public views the district’s strengths and weaknesses and their priorities for the new superintendent. The survey would go live on Sept. 1 and close on Dec. 1. During that time, the school board will conduct several community forums.
The committee also recommended the formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee to help the board screen the pool of applicants and provide a non-ranked list of candidates they think the board should consider. According to the timeline, the advisory will be appointed on Feb. 18, 2020, and will hold its first meeting on June 25, 2020, the day before the application deadline.
During July 2020, the advisory will meet, screen the applications and identify the semi-finalists. The following month, the school board will identify finalists and conduct interviews. The appointed superintendent will be selected on Sept. 1, 2020, and contract negotiations will commence. The start date for the new superintendent is Nov. 24, 2020.
Gaetz on Immigration At his Pensacola town hall on June 1, Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) discussed with the crowd one of his favorite issues, immigration.
During one exchange, the congressman fielded a question from a man who contended that lawmakers were not doing enough to deal with the immigration issue legislatively. Gaetz asked the man what Congress should be doing—”So, give me a suggestion.”
“I think you ought to lock all those people in a room and keep them in a room until they come out—” the man began.
“Are you talking about the migrants or the congressmen?” Gaetz interrupted, getting a laugh from the room. “The congressmen? Fair question, it’s a fair question.”
Gaetz continued, “Alright, your suggestion to me is a padlock and a large room, but not for the migrants, for the members of Congress.”
It was a little awkward, if the padlock-imagery happened to conjure up a recognition that the federal government was very recently roundly criticized for keeping migrant children in fenced cages.
Earlier in the conversation, Gaetz had come down hard on the situation at the border, talking about Mexican drug cartels were slipping in “bad hombres” into the waves of migrants heading toward the U.S. and how he had recently visited the border to get a firsthand account.
“They weren’t running; they weren’t hiding. They would surrender, and then within four days of their surrender, we would send them on a plane to anywhere they wanted in the country, and we would do it at your expense, at taxpayer expense,” Gaetz said.
The crowd was beginning to get riled up. Some people booed the situation Gaetz was describing, while others booed the people that were booing.
“The fabric is full!” a man yelled.
As he did several times during the event, the congressman found himself needing to reign things in.
“We are not going to do this,” Gaetz said. “We are not going to yell at each other disrespectfully.”
There would be more immigration talk later, when a man would talk with the congressman about how “Mexico is really not a friend of ours” and how “they’re still mad because we bought Texas and southern California from them” and how “now they’re trying to subvert us by sending out all these people here that are gonna end up voting Democrat” and how when they speak in their given language “you don’t know if they’re talking about you or not.”
“It’s true,” the man said. “In other words, you better learn how to speak Spanish, OK?”
Again, the crowd would get worked up—”English is the American language!” one lady yelled, “Oh, boo your ego!” another replied—and again, Gaetz would need to wrangle a hot mess he’d just watch unravel.
“Let’s get to the point,” he said, quickly pivoting the man to a question about imposing punitive import tariffs on Mexico as a way of getting the country to a more “cooperative partner” when it comes to immigration.
Health Clinics When Mayor Grover Robinson took office, he said he would be looking into the city’s health insurance plans and whether or not city employees would be better off taking advantage of community health clinics. Robinson is familiar with that arrangement as employees of Escambia County, where he previously served as a county commissioner, participate in such a plan.
“I think we had a little bit better benefit at the county, and it was a little bit cheaper to the user,” Robinson said at his June 3 press conference.
The city’s exploration of this option kicks into an earnest gear this week with the arrival of Amy Lovoy, who will be stepping into the assistant finance administrator position. Lovoy previously worked for Escambia County, where she worked with Robinson on the county’s health clinic program.
“I worked diligently with Amy to put that employee clinic together at the county, and I think it creates a good benefit and we’re trying to see how it might play with us,” the mayor said.
Robinson said that Lovoy would be evaluating the city’s current insurance costs and what the cost might be if it switched to the health clinics. He allowed that typically such a move works better the more employees an entity has—the county has around 1,000 employees, whereas the city has about 800—but the mayor said he thought the numbers would work.
The mayor also said he felt that not only would the move be financially beneficial to the city but also individual employees.
“They typically go there easier; you manage it more effectively and they don’t end up waiting for a longer time to then find out they get sick or something else happens, and it costs you more money down the line,” Robinson said.
Mark Your Calendar DIB Parking & Traffic Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, Bowden Building, Room 1, 120 Church St.
Pensacola Fire Department will host a Car Seat Rodeo from 8-10 a.m. Friday, June 14, at Fire Station 1, 400 E. Cervantes St. The free community event provides car seat installation assistance and safety checks.
Zoning Board of Adjustment will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, in the Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Pensacola City Hall.
Architectural Review Board will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday, June 20, in the Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Pensacola City Hall.
Book signings for Mike Papantonio’s latest thriller, “Law and Addiction,” are 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, June 14 at Jewelers Trade Shop, 26 S. Palafox and 2-4 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at Barnes & Noble, 1200 Airport Blvd.