The Buzz – 1//9/20
Fight Over Local Gun Laws
On Thursday, Jan. 2, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, League of Women Voters of Florida, Equality Florida Institute and the Brady organization filed a brief urging the 1st District Court of Appeal to affirm a lower court ruling that the provisions of a 2011 Florida law
that threatens tough penalties if city and county officials approve gun regulations were unconstitutional.
The law states local officials “who knowingly and willfully violate the statute shall be fined up to $5,000 and may not be indemnified for the costs of defending themselves.” State lawmakers and the National Rifle Association have contended that the preemption authority—when a “higher” level of government (state or federal) eliminates or reduces the authority of a “lower” level over a given issue—necessary to prevent local governments from ignoring state gun laws.
However, the brief asserted that “there is no evidence that local governments are ignoring or willfully violating Florida’s firearm preemption law. The primary effect of the penalty provisions will be to chill legitimate exercises of local legislative authority.”
The brief also added, “Most importantly, (the law’s) harsh penalty provisions will deter local legislators from experimenting with any solutions directed to the problem of gun violence, depriving Floridians of ordinances promoting their safety and security.”
Since 1987, Florida has barred cities and counties from passing regulations that are stricter than state firearms laws. In 2011, the NRA lobbied state legislators to strengthen the law by adding the penalties. Cities, counties and local elected officials challenged the penalties after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. They argued that the penalties made local officials afraid to move forward with gun-related measures that might not be preempted by the 1987 law.
In finding parts of the 2011 law unconstitutional, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson cited issues related to “legislative immunity,” which protects local government officials in their decision-making processes. He also pointed to the constitutional separation of powers, as judges could be asked to rule on penalizing local officials.
On the other side of the case are Attorney General Ashley Moody and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have appealed Judge Dodson’s ruling. The NRA filed a brief that argued that the penalties were needed because local officials had “contemptuously” violated the 1987 law.
“The penalty provisions are necessary to preserve and protect the Florida Legislature’s prerogative to occupy the field of firearm regulation to preempt unlawful local action,” the NRA brief said. “Local authority and home rule cannot constrain the Legislature’s enforcement of its preemption prerogative because local governments do not have any independent rights or powers beyond those granted by the Florida Legislature.”
Opening Doors Northwest Florida is looking for volunteers for the 2020 Point-In-Time Count on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
How many people are currently homeless in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties? How many of them are families, youth or veterans? How many are disabled? The answers to these questions and more are answered by the Opening Doors NWFL point-in-time counts. A point-in-time count is an unduplicated count on a single night of the people in a community who are experiencing homelessness that includes both sheltered and unsheltered populations.
Volunteers will be stationed at meal sites, day shelters, camps and events such as U-Count Homeless Connect throughout Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and will complete surveys of people experiencing homelessness.
As a volunteer, you can join a survey team to collect data via a mobile app survey tool or a paper form if you prefer not to use the app. All volunteers will be paired with a team leader at your site location with assignments. Requirements—friendly and compassionate personality, attention to detail, ability to fill out written survey documents and reliable transportation, as this survey is conducted in locations throughout Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Volunteers must be at least 16 years old to participate. Volunteers between the ages of 16 and 18 must be accompanied by a guardian.
Training is mandatory for volunteers between the ages of 16 and 18 and available for all age groups. The session will be 10-11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 17, and 5:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, Opening Doors NWFL, 1020 N. New Warrington Road.
Training will provide you with an overview of the PIT count and review the mobile app survey tool and paper survey we utilize to collect the required information needed to complete our annual census.
To volunteer, send your email information to email@example.com, or call 741-4616 to receive a registration form.
Human Trafficking Summit
The Circuit One Human Trafficking Task Force will hold Local Human Trafficking Summit 7-9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at Olive Baptist Church, 1836 E. Olive Road. Doors will open at 6:30pm.
The keynote speaker is Erin Collins, executive director of the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking, a nonprofit organization created by the Florida Legislature to provide funding, support and assistance to the statewide effort to end human trafficking.
There will also be three breakout sessions to kick off the event—Sarah Peacock, One More Child, “Bridging the Gap with Law Enforcement;” Bradley Lord PsyD, Lakeview Center, “Trauma Informed Care and Human Trafficking;” and Brad Dennis, Klaas Kids, “Human Trafficking 101.”
The Human Trafficking Task Force is state mandated by the Office of the Attorney General through HB 7141 and works in conjunction with the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The 29 established task forces across the state of Florida are comprised of law enforcement, state agencies, victims’ services, faith-based community and concerned citizens.
Florida continues to rank third in the U.S. for calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. In
2018, the hotline received 1,885 calls relating to trafficking from Florida. Of that, 767 were determined to be human trafficking cases. For more information about this event or the Circuit One Human Trafficking Task Force, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barker Not in DROP
The city of Pensacola has provided some clarifications regarding the employment specifics of Dick Barker, current chief financial officer and Mayor Grover Robinson’s pick for assistant city administrator.
When Robinson announced that Barker would be taking the assistant administrator position once the Pensacola City Council signed off on it, there were references to Barker’s participation in a DROP, or Deferred Retirement Option Plan, program. But, apparently, that is not the case. Barker is not in a DROP program and has not been since 2012.
“The mayor just misspoke about Dick being in DROP,” explained city spokesperson Kaycee Lagarde in an email.
After announcing Barker as his assistant admin selection, Mayor Robinson went on to explain how “Dick is still in the DROP program, and at some point, he will be leaving us,” and how the CFO has “still got a couple of years until he DROPs.’”
Robinson also discussed how the DROP system worked in response to a question. “At the end of your five years, you’re gone; you have to leave,” he said. “At this particular time, Dick has a date; he’s already in DROP. So it’s either then or sometime before that or whatever he decides to do. Otherwise, we’re happy to have him here. He’s a valuable member of the team and he can add to what we do.”
Barker, who was in the room at the time, also contributed to the conversation.
“Mayor, to clarify, that DROP program was general pension DROP program. I decided to go to FRS when we switched back in ‘07, I think it was. So, currently, I’m in the FRS program, and my date for retirement is December of ‘23, is what I’m looking at,” Barker said, before also fielding a question concerning the DROP particulars of Keith Wilkins, who was recently named city administrator. “Keith just went in. Keith probably has about four years if he wants it.”
But, Lagarde clarified, Barker is not actually in the Florida Retirement System DROP program, but rather was referring to the FRS pension program in general. References to Barker currently being in the DROP program, she said, were incorrect.
“To be clear,” Lagarde wrote in an email, “Dick Barker is not currently in any DROP program.”
Barker was originally in the city’s general pension DROP program beginning in 2007. Also in 2007, Barker and other city employees, as well as all hires going forward, switched to the state-run FRS program. Then, in 2012, then-Mayor Ashton Hayward used the authority granted to him as per city ordinance to allow the CFO to remain on beyond his DROP date. At that time, Barker exited the city’s DROP program and pension program and has not been in any DROP program since that time.
During his time in the city’s DROP, from 2007 to 2012, Barker accumulated retirement benefits and upon exciting the program began receiving his city pension in-service distribution benefits. Since 2007, the CFO has also contributed 3% of his pay to his FRS pension, which kicks in post-retirement.
The deadline has been extended for the City of Pensacola’s annual resident satisfaction survey, in order to provide city residents additional time to complete the survey and let their voices be heard.
The new survey deadline is Friday, Jan. 10. City residents are encouraged to complete the anonymous survey online at uwf.edu/haasresidentsurvey. Some residents have also received a postcard in the mail prompting them to complete the survey.
The survey asks residents about their satisfaction with a variety of city services and facilities, including street lights, sidewalks, neighborhood safety and more, also prompting participants to rank their top priorities for the City of Pensacola.
Japanese New Year
The Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida will usher in the “Year of the Rat” with its 26th annual Japanese New Year Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the Wright Place, 80 E. Wright St.
Festivities will take place from noon until 4 p.m. and will include performances by the popular Matsuriza taiko drummers, traditional Japanese dancing, martial arts demonstrations, music, food vendors and other cultural displays. A silent auction will also be held, and ticket holders are automatically eligible for door prize drawings. Doors open at 11:30 a.m.
Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for students and active-duty military and free for Japan-America Society members and children 12 and under. Advance tickets are available from Sake Cafe and Kyoto Japanese Steakhouse. Some vendors may require cash, but credit cards are accepted at the door for admission.
For more information or to become a JAS member, visit jasnwfl.org or facebook.com/jasnwfl.
Women in Leadership
The University of West Florida College of Business Executive Mentor Program will host the 2020 Women in Leadership Conference on Friday, Feb. 28. Registration began Monday, Jan. 6. The event, which is free and open to the public, has grown in popularity since it was started in 2014.
The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with check-in from 8 to 9 a.m. in the UWF Conference Center and Auditorium, Bldg. 22, on the UWF Pensacola campus. It will offer opportunities to hear from and connect with prominent women leaders who have achieved both personal and professional success.
“Our motivation for this highly-regarded Women in Leadership Conference is to educate the next generation of business leaders who will shape the destiny of Northwest Florida and the state,” said Dr. Sherry Hartnett, founder and chair of the conference. “This go-to event for hundreds of women, both very seasoned and just beginning their careers, sells out quickly every year, so register early!”
This year’s keynote speaker will be Deshauna Barber, a former Miss USA, U.S. Army captain and STEM graduate. Her speech, titled “I Don’t Like Being Told ‘It’s a Man’s World,’” aims to empower women and draws on Barber’s experiences in two male-dominated organizations, the technology industry and the U.S. Army. Barber encourages women to break through their glass ceilings and chase their dreams.
For more information about the Women in Leadership conference, visit uwf.edu/womeninleadership.
In early December, the city of Pensacola was hit with a ransomware cyberattack. While the city has been tight with details regarding the attack as a criminal investigation is ongoing, Mayor Robinson has said that no ransom has been paid and that the city was able to recover thanks to sufficient backups of data.
At the mayor’s Jan. 6 press conference, Public Information Officer Kaycee Lagarde said that the city expects soon a final report from an outside cyber consulting firm that will outline potential vulnerabilities and ways to improve security. She also said those eligible for the LifeLock identity protection services the city has offered residents, customers and businesses who may have had sensitive data compromised as a result of the municipal cyberattack should expect to be hearing from the city soon.
“The letters that we mentioned should be going out by the end of the week,” Lagarde issued a heads-up. “It’s just under 57,000 letters.”
The mayor said that the city had confirmed that those responsible for the attack had possession of some data—describing it as “not exactly critically sensitive”—and described the decision of providing the identity protection services as “prudent and the right thing to do to protect those individuals that we felt like were most exposed.”
Christmas Tree Disposal
The City of Pensacola is offering several Christmas tree collection sites now through Jan. 31. City Sanitation customers can also leave their tree curbside to be picked up on their normal yard waste pickup day. Please remove all decorations before dropping off your tree or leaving it at the curb.
Drop-off sites are as follows—Summit Boulevard next to old Fire Station 3, East Maxwell Street underneath I-110 and Bill Gregory Park near the back of the park, 150 N. W St.
Mark Your Calendar
Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program Education Committee will meet 3 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, 6263 Dogwood Drive, Milton.
DIB Parking & Traffic Committee will meet 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, Bowden Building, Room #1, 120 Church St.
The last community forums to share their input on the appointed school superintendent will be held 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, in the cafeteria at Tate High School, 1771 Tate Road.
The Florida SBDC at UWF offers the “Starting a Business” workshop noon-4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, Synovus, 125 W. Romana St. Attendees will learn the essentials of getting started in business—idea evaluation, legal business structures, regulations & licensing, business plan basics, finding capital and more. Attendance fee is $50 (required, non-refundable online payment) for the public. To register, visit our website at sbdc.uwf.edu and click on “Training & Events.”
Architectural Review Board Special Meeting will be held 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, 412 E. Belmont St.
Value Adjustment Board will meet 9 a.m., Monday, Jan. 13, Ernie Lee Magaha Government Bldg., 221 S. Palafox.
The City of Pensacola Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Board will hold a regular meeting 3:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, Hagler Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor of City Hall, 222 W. Main St. Following the meeting, the Pensacola City Council will hold an agenda conference.
Marine Advisory Committee will meet 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, Escambia County Central Office Complex, 3363 W. Park Place.
The City of Pensacola Planning Board will meet 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan.14, Hagler-Mason Conference Room, 2nd Floor, City Hall, 222 West Main St.
DIB Finance Committee will meet 4:30, Tuesday, Jan. 14, Bowden Building, Room #2, 120 Church St.
Affordable Housing Advisory Committee will meet 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, 420 W. Chase St.
Studer Community Institute hosts “Essential Leadership Skills for Successful Supervisors” 8:30-11:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, Hillcrest Church, 800 E. Nine Mile Road. Cost is $119. For more details, visit studeri.org.
Board of County Commissioners Committee of the Whole will meet 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, Ernie Lee Magaha Government Bldg., 221 S. Palafox.
John Appleyard talks local history. Free. Thursday, Jan. 16 at 6 p.m., St. John’s Episcopal Church, 401 Live Oak Ave.