The Buzz 10/17/19
IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area, a women’s philanthropic organization, announced Sunday, Oct. 13 the 11 recipients selected at this year’s annual meeting. These nonprofit finalists will each receive a grant of $106,000 from IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area.
The grant recipients selected by IMPACT 100’s Focus Area Committees are as follows:
ARTS & CULTURE: Escambia High School Band Boosters Association, Inc. and First City Arts Alliance, Inc.
EDUCATION: Santa Rosa County 4-H Association, Inc. and The Secret Place Home, Inc.
ENVIRONMENT, RECREATION & PRESERVATION: Children’s Home Society of Florida, Inc. and Splash Cats, Inc.
FAMILY: Pensacola Habitat for Humanity, Inc. and YMCA of Northwest Florida.
HEALTH & WELLNESS: Healing Paws for Warriors, Inc., Health and Hope Clinic, Inc. and Manna Food Bank, Inc.
With 1,166 members this year, IMPACT 100 is able to award $106,000 each to eleven nonprofit organizations in our community for a total impact of $1,166,000 in 2019. In the 16 years since its inception, IMPACT 100 has awarded 109 grants totaling $11,664,000.
Sued Again On the day Escambia Circuit Court Judge Stephen Pitre dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill, the District 2 commissioner had a new lawsuit filed against him that alleges he violated the state’s public records law. The Escambia County Board of Commissioners were also named in the lawsuit.
David Bear alleges that the county failed to provide Underhill’s comments and posts made on social media that were first requested in April 2019. After waiting for five months for the record request, Bear pressed again and was told the records would be given to him by close of business on Monday, Sept. 16. The records weren’t produced, according to the lawsuit.
In June, Bear made another public request of Underhill for “every conversation you’ve had on Facebook since March 1, 2019, where you mentioned by name, referred to and inferred to anyone in the Bear family.”
According to the lawsuit, he amended the request the same day to include, “Those conversations are not limited to only original posts you’ve made on both your Commissioner Doug Underhill account or your Douglas Underhill account, but also all private messages made between either of those two accounts and anyone else you’ve mentioned, referred to and implied to anyone in the Bear family.”
Bear alleges that Underhill failed to fulfill the request and blocked Bear from full access to his Facebook pages.
A third public request was made on August 20 of Underhill for a complete copy of the history and all posts made to the Doug Underhill Facebook account, including “edits to any post, comments to any post, copies of all Facebook messages (including the response) and copies of all pictures from said Facebook account.”
Seven days later, the request was amended to include only posts “which are in any way related to your activities, duties or role of a commissioner of Escambia County, Florida.”
According to the lawsuit, Underhill again failed to comply with the request.
The fourth count of the lawsuit charges that the Board of County Commissioners failed to “fully disclose any records relevant to Plaintiff’s requests” and “refused to permit Plaintiff from inspecting or copying public records, or had failed to maintain a copy of the records, in violation of its obligations under Chapter 119.”
The lawsuit also alleges Underhill violated, in his official and personal capacities, Bear’s First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights by blocking Bear from his social media accounts.
Bear requested a trial by jury, preliminary/permanent injunctive relief compelling Underhill to provide Bear access to his Facebook pages, and a judgment stating Underhill’s conducting blocking social media access to his Facebook pages is a violation of the 14th Amendment. He also requested punitive and compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
UWF Investigation The University of West Florida President Dr. Martha Saunders has launched an investigation into an allegation of potential mismanagement of funds and accounting issues related to the Complete Florida Plus program, a state-wide program administrated by the UWF Division of Research and Strategic Innovation.
Late last month, Dr. Pam Northrup resigned as vice president of Research and Strategic Innovation and CEO of Academic Innovation.
In a letter to UWF faculty and staff, Dr. Saunders wrote, “Consistent with UWF’s standard practice with these types of allegations, UWF administration immediately launched an investigation that will examine and audit the management and accounting of this program.”
Dr. Saunders said the result of the audit will be released once it’s completed.
Room Full of Asks
The collective sentiment of the Escambia County Legislative Delegation meeting last week was summed up nicely by Dr. Ed Meadows, president of Pensacola State College, where the event was held.
“Everybody seems to have their hand out, and we’re like everybody else—we need state support,” Meadows told the delegation during his remarks.
From around the area, organizations, institutions and individuals took advantage of the opportunity to have a word with the region’s state legislators, Rep. Alex Andrade, Rep. Mike Hill and Sen. Doug Broxson. Each offered thanks for previous state efforts they viewed as helpful and also asked for the state’s help on various front.
Meadows asked the state legislators for help funding ongoing construction projects at Pensacola State College, as well as money for paving needs. His counterpart over at the University of West Florida, President Martha Saunders, also requested funds for construction as well as $15.5 million for the UWF’s cybersecurity program.
Escambia County officials lobbied for state support for traffic projects, like the Beulah Interchange, and also for estuary programs that fund local water sampling and restoration efforts. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson asked for help addressing legacy airfield contamination issues, support of the housing trust fund, which he said was needed in addressing the issue of homelessness, and for a cut of any opioid legal settlements.
From the Emerald Coast Utility Authority, board member Lois Benson requested $6 million for a project aimed at getting customers off of septic tanks and onto sewer in the Brownsville area. She said the move would be beneficial environmentally but also have ripple benefits throughout the community, such as improving the commercial landscape.
“We believe we can restore that community to the vibrant place it once was,” Benson said.
Sen. Broxson agreed that septic tanks were a problem statewide, contributing to environmental water quality issues.
“If we’re going to keep 120 million people coming in Florida, we’ve got to have clean, fresh water,” he said.
Rep. Hill also told Benson that she could take some encouraging news back to her ECUA board—the delegation will be pushing for the filling of the board’s District 3 seat, vacated with the passing of board member Elvin McCorvey in January.
“We will send a letter to the governor and urge him to fill that vacancy,” Hill said. “I know you’d be happy.”
On the education front, Escambia County School District Superintendent Malcolm Thomas applauded an announcement earlier in the day from the governor concerning increasing pay for beginning teachers.
“I would urge you to participate in the conversation the governor and the secretary of education started today,” Thomas said, adding that other district employees, such as bus drivers, also needed an increase in pay.
Carol Cleaver, a local sixth-grade science teacher, implored the delegation to push for not only improving pay for beginning teachers but also for experienced teachers, who she said needed to be retained.
“We need to keep these people that have been here engaged and committed to staying on the team,” Cleaver said.
Kevin Adams, who sits in the Escambia District 1 seat on the school board, told the delegation that he felt it unfair that the state place so much emphasis on a student’s end-of-year tests—counting for as much as 30% of the total grade—while private schools receiving public education funds were not held to the same standards.
Rep. Hill told local education leaders that he was glad to see increased mental health services available in schools. He said he hoped it would lead to less incidents where the Baker Act is employed.
“I wouldn’t connect mental health counseling and a reduction in Baker Acts,” Thomas dialed back expectations.
Other pitches lobbed during the local delegation meeting included one from FloridaWest concerning the development of an industrial cluster dubbed The Bluffs on the lower Escambia River, a request from the African American Heritage Society for museum funding and remarks from the Naval Aviation Museum about the impact on attendance that the base’s entrance change has had.
Ellen Roston of the League of Women Voters of Northwest Florida spoke out against the state’s open-carry law and against the new law allowing armed personnel on school grounds.
Roston also admonished the delegation for legislative actions pertaining to Amendment 4, a recently passed constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to convicted felons. She said that legislators’ requirement after-the-fact that felons pay all fees associated with their sentence, in addition to serving time, was against the spirit of the amendment passed by voters.
Rep. Andrade pushed back on this front, defending the state’s move on Amendment 4—“There was nothing designed to inhibit anyone’s vote.”
PSC Students Vote During the 2018 midterm election, 42% of Pensacola State College students voted compared to 39.1% voting rates of students from other U.S. colleges and universities, according to Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement.
The Tufts University study of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities also revealed that 75.6% of Pensacola State students were registered to vote in 2018, a slight increase over 2014 when 73.9% were registered.
Last year, more PSC students were voting early than ever before. In 2014, 14.3% of them submitted early votes; in 2018, 28% voted early. Female and male students voted at similar rates—42.8% and 41.2%, respectively. In 2014, both rates were under 30%.
Black Pensacola State students voted at a higher rate than any other race or ethnic group. At PSC, 48.1% of black students cast ballots, 41.3% of white students voted and 39.7% of Hispanic students voted. In 2014, white students voted at a higher rate (30.4%) than black students (28.3%) and Hispanic students (22.3%).
Park with a Purpose The Downtown Improvement Board (DIB) is providing a way for the community to donate to a good cause during October through a unique parking partnership with the American Cancer Society. DIB has implemented a new function to DIB-managed pay machines that enables visitors to donate directly to ACS—with or without purchasing a parking session.
To make a donation, visit a DIB-managed pay machine in Downtown Pensacola and tap any button to start. Enter your tag number, and you’ll be presented with the option to begin a parking session or make a donation. Once the donation option is selected, you can select from three donation amount options—$1, $3 or $5—which can be paid using cash or card. Finally, press the “Print” button to complete the donation.
“We are excited to support an important cause during October with this new pay machine feature,” said Lissa Dees, executive Director of the Downtown Improvement Board.
The American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer has scheduled a series of events in October to help raise awareness for Breast Cancer. Their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K walk will be Saturday, Oct. 26, starting at Maritime Park. Registration starts at 8 a.m., and the walk starts at 9 a.m. People can sign up at makingstrideswalk.org/pensacolafl.
Art Vendors Needed The Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce is calling for art vendors to submit applications for the 2019 Art & Wine Festival. This year, the festival is moving to November and will be held Sunday, Nov. 10, on the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk. The festival will take place from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. with wine tastings happening from noon-3 p.m.
The selection committee is seeking 25 artists to show/sell original works of art. Application forms can be downloaded from pensacolabeachchamber.com. Photos of art items must be submitted with the application or directions must be included to a website where the artwork items can be viewed. Deadline for applying is October 30. All entries are $75 for a 10-by-10-foot tent space.
Include a check or money order payable to Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce with the completed application form and mail to Pensacola Beach Chamber of Commerce, 7 Casino Beach Boardwalk, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561.
Town Halls Return After taking a three-month break, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson will host his fifth town hall since taking office in late November 2018.
At the town hall will be District 4 Councilman Jared Moore, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Vickrey Resource Center, 2130 Summit Blvd. Mayor Robinson has hosted town halls in District 2 with Councilwoman Sherri Myers, District 5 with the late Councilman Gerald Wingate, District 7 with Councilwoman Jewel Cannada-Wynn and District 1 with Council Vice President P.C. Wu.
Mark Your Calendar Architectural Review Board will meet at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in the Hagler-Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Pensacola City Hall.
Ascension Sacred Heart is hosting a day of free basic medical care, screenings, social services and more at its Medical Mission at Home 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Brownsville Community Center, 3200 W. DeSoto St.
League of Women Voters will meet 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, Tryon Branch Library, 1200 Langley Ave. Speaker—Dr. Paula Montgomery.
Downtown Improvement Board will meet at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, at Bowden Building, Room #1, 120 Church St.
The Florida SBDC at UWF presents “Fighting the Algorithm–Facebook and Google” noon-1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, at Synovus, 125 W. Romana St. Attendance fee is $25, which includes lunch. To register, visit sbdc.uwf.edu and click on “Training & Events.”
District 1 Commissioner Jeff Bergosh will hold his 28th Coffee with the Commissioner 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, at McDonald’s, 5 S. Blue Angel Parkway.
Baptist Health Care will host a blood drive 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in the Andrews Institute parking lot, 1040 Gulf Breeze Parkway. All donors will receive a Halloween treat bag and T-shirt. Donors must be age 16 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and be feeling well that day. Photo identification is required.
Florida SBDC’s “Starting a Business” workshop is 1-4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, Gulf Breeze Chamber of Commerce, 409 Gulf Breeze Parkway. Pre-registration is required. Fee—$50. To register, visit sbdc.uwf.edu and click on “Training & Events.”
Planning Board Workshop for proposed amendments to the City’s Tree Ordinance will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in the Hagler-Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Pensacola City Hall.