The Buzz – 1/30/20
The Downtown Improvement Board has continued to invest in technology, partnerships and infrastructure to make the 44-block district safe and secure for those who work, live and play downtown.
In December, the City of Pensacola Community Redevelopment Agency put two additional dedicated patrolmen on downtown streets. The DIB also drove an initiative that paired Pensacola Police Department and downtown businesses to combine police surveillance cameras with private security systems installed in and around downtown. With access to a more comprehensive view of the area, the police are able to intervene faster and more knowledgeably if and when an incident occurs.
“The DIB district is rapidly evolving with a lot of moving parts,” said Lissa Dees, DIB executive director. “Our challenge is to approach difficulties and opportunities with innovative solutions so we can create and maintain a safe, secure environment for everyone who enjoys downtown.”
In addition to new law enforcement officers and shared surveillance video, DIB has developed other ways to keep downtown safe:
LED Lights in DIB Parking Lots and Jefferson Street Garage: City of Pensacola Public Works replaced the lights in the DIB-managed North Palafox lot with brighter, safer LED lights, and an upgrade to the lights at the Tarragona Street lot was completed by NextEra Energy. Lights in the Jefferson Street Garage were completely replaced with LED lights in 2019.
After-Hours Ambassador in the Jefferson Street Garage: A DIB ambassador now patrols the Jefferson Street Garage during the late evening-early morning hours.
Security Monitors: The monitors were installed in the DIB office, accessible to police officers assigned to patrol the downtown area.
Jefferson Alley: The once-dark and empty alley between the Jefferson Street Garage and the rear of Palafox businesses is now a well-lit, active community space with plants and planters, paint, lights and planned public art.
Parking App: Downtown visitors need not exit the security of their cars to pay to park in DIB-managed parking lots, on-street parking or the Jefferson Street Garage now that the DIB has launched its Passport Parking app.
A Small Step
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet last week unanimously approved a proposal that would make it easier for felons who owe restitution to get their rights restored.
The revamped clemency rule would allow felons who have waited at least seven years after they have completed their time behind bars and have fulfilled other requirements but owe restitution to victims to request a hearing from the clemency board. Under the current rules, restitution must be paid in full before felons can apply to have their rights restored.
Attorney General Ashley Moody called the new process “a great first step,” saying that a series of recent court rulings “will give us the opportunity to more comprehensively look at the rules and determine how we can best tackle the backlog of cases.”
The change didn’t go far enough for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who sits on the Florida Cabinet with Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis.
“This only actually applies to citizens that require a board hearing by rule,” said Fried. “This will have no effect on the current backlog of over 10,000 pending RCR (restoration of civil rights) applications.”
Desmond Meade, executive director of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, called the vote a small step in the right direction but agreed with Fried that more needs to be done.
“Lost in the political chatter are the lives of real people, public safety and Florida taxpayers,” said Meade in a statement released to the media. “It is well documented that restoring civil rights drastically reduces recidivism rates (from 33% to 11% according to the Office of Offender Review study), saves hundreds of millions of Florida taxpayers’ dollars annually and allows Floridians from all walks of life to stimulate our economy and democracy through inclusion.”
New High School
The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee is opening of a new Catholic high school in August for students with special needs. Morning Star High School of Pensacola will be an independent institution located on the campus of Pensacola Catholic High School, 3043 W. Scott St.
Morning Star High School of Pensacola will provide a faith-filled Catholic education to students with special needs in the Pensacola community. By serving students with love and support, the administration, faculty and staff will prepare students for independence and success after high school. The curriculum goal is for students to earn a high school diploma after five to six years, taking into consideration that the student will need more time and assistance, as well as an alternative means of assessment as they progress toward that goal.
“It is our goal to help parents educate and form the minds and hearts of all of our students, including those who may need extra care and help. Morning Star High School of Pensacola will ensure that all of our brothers and sisters receive an excellent education together with their classmates across the diocese,” said Bishop William A. Wack, CSC.
Tuition is expected to be $12,500 per year. The McKay Scholarship Program or the Gardiner Scholarship Program may be applied toward tuition.
The diocese anticipates needing $200,000 in startup costs to open the school. To date, pledges have exceeded $186,000. Once the goal is met, the overage will help offset additional operational costs and provide scholarships for families who can’t afford the full tuition rate.
“I have been truly humbled by all the hard work of the committee members over the past two years and excited by the strong show of support from the founding donors who have stepped up to make this high school a reality for these students,” said Dave Kimbell, committee chair. “In the coming months, we’ll be hiring a program director, beginning the admission and enrollment process, and preparing the site for a classroom building.”
Currently, there are 11 pre-registered students for the program. The diocese anticipates 15 enrolled students by August.
There are currently two elementary/middle school Morning Star programs in the diocese—Sacred Heart Cathedral School and St. John the Evangelist Catholic School. Both are located in Pensacola. For more information, visit ptdiocese.org/morningstarhs.
After a record-breaking season, the newly-reorganized Pensacola Youth Soccer is opening registration for the spring season. Over the past decade, the city’s youth soccer league has grown from around 300 players to last fall’s record membership of more than 900 players. The league is open to boys and girls ages 4 to 17, with the Under-5 and Under-6 age groups being co-ed teams.
Phil Nickinson, president of Pensacola Youth Soccer, Inc., said the growth in the soccer program was due to many factors, but the biggest draw was the many volunteer coaches and parents who make the league encouraging and fun but still provide a competitive experience for players at every age group.
“This league just would not happen without the coaches who volunteer their time to help these kids learn the game of soccer in a supportive and fun environment,” said Nickinson.
Nickinson said the league’s focus this season will be to provide more training for volunteer coaches, soccer skill drills for different age groups, ways to manage practices with energetic youngsters and health and safety awareness.
For the first time, the league will conduct a “rookie camp” for first-time soccer players of all ages to help those children (and parents) get some basic pre-season training on the basics of soccer.
“Our goal as a league is to teach kids to love soccer and to learn the basic skills of the sport,” Nickinson said.
Registration is open for players through Feb. 16, and more information can be found at pensacolayouthsoccer.com. Adults interested in coaching a team can also contact the league through the website. A background check is required.
Hurricane Health Survey
Earth Ethics, Inc., a nonprofit organization that focuses on environmental and social issues, outreach and education, advocacy and action, and The CLEO Institute, a Florida based nonprofit organization focusing on climate literacy, education and advocacy, have partnered up with The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to understand the public health implications of Hurricane Michael.
Hurricane Michael brought intense winds, heavy rain and life-threatening storm surge that wreaked havoc in Northwest Florida. Over a year later, people living in the areas hit hardest by the storm are still working to pick up and rebuild their lives. The stresses of hurricanes are great. Hurricanes can cause job loss, ruined homes, limited or no access to food, water, healthcare, and the loss of electricity for prolonged periods. Citizens are left in tenuous economic, health and safety situations.
If individuals were impacted by Hurricane Michael directly or indirectly, they can fill out our survey at ch.miami.edu/fl/michael.
The Escambia County School District had the third-largest percentage of students using vouchers for private schools under the Family Empowerment Scholarship program.
This is how the Florida Department of Education describes the program—”The Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) Program is one of Florida’s greatest victories for low-income and working-class families, and it is the first of its kind to extend support to middle-income families.”
Florida had 9,095 students receive vouchers for private schools this past fall—4.4% lived in Escambia County. When given a choice, parents opted their children out of Escambia County public schools.
Of the state’s 67 counties, Escambia ranked No. 12 in total vouchers handed out under the program—402 vouchers. Santa Rosa County had only 74 Family Empowerment Scholarships. Okaloosa County had 95.
The Agency for Health Care Administration, the chief health policy and planning entity for Florida, last week published its report on the need for adult, children and adolescent psychiatric beds as well as adult substance abuse beds for July 2025.
The agency said there’s a need for 24 new adult and seven new children psych beds in Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. Meanwhile, there’s a need for 26 new adult psych beds in Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union counties.
Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute will host its fifth annual Cardiovascular Symposium 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, at Sanders Beach Community Center at 913 S. I St. Doors open at 7:45 a.m.
Structured for physicians, nurses, case managers and allied health providers, the symposium provides the opportunity for healthcare professionals to enhance their skills and learn about innovative practices for cardiovascular care. Speakers include experts from BHVI, Nemours Children’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, Philips Research and VITAS. Continuing education hours are available.
Online registration is available through Feb. 10 at ebaptisthealthcare.org. Registration is required.
Mark Your Calendar
Foo Foo Fest 2020 Kick-Off Meeting will be 10:30-11:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at Palafox House, 196 N. Palafox. The meeting is for those interested in potentially submitting for a Foo Foo Festival grant, becoming a Friend of Foo or finding out how your business or venture can benefit from the festival and its marketing and advertising.
The Pensacola Beach Advocates group will host a meeting to discuss 2020 spring break safety and law enforcement plans 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4, Beach Community Church, 920 Panferio Drive, Pensacola Beach.
Florida SBDC’s “Starting a Business” workshop is 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, Santa Rosa Economic Development Office, 6491 Caroline St., Ste. 4, Milton. Attendees will learn legal business structures, best management practices, funding options, basic marketing strategies and more. After attending, you will be assigned a Florida SBDC Business Consultant to get assistance (at no cost to you) in moving through the stages of your business venture. Fee is $50. To register, visit sbdc.uwf.edu and click on “Training & Events.”
Escambia County Development Review Committee will meet 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5,
Escambia County Central Office Complex, 3363 W. Park Place.
Escambia County Community Redevelopment Agency will meet 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 6,
Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building, 221 S. Palafox.
Escambia County Commission will meet 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, Ernie Lee Magaha Government Building, 221 S. Palafox. Open forum begins at 4:30 p.m.