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Sweet Math Project: Northview Students Supersize Candy

Sweet Math Project: Northview Students Supersize Candy

Geometry students at Northview High School recently completed a really sweet project — scaling ordinary candy packages into supersized replicas. The completed projects are currently on display in the school library. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Five Questions For Florida DOC Secretary Michael Crews

Five Questions For Florida DOC Secretary Michael Crews

Gov. Rick Scott tapped Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews two years ago to oversee an agency that is responsible for more than 100,000 prisoners and supervises nearly as many people in the community. Crews, who has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Florida State University, started his law-enforcement career 30 years ago as a correctional officer at Apalachee Correctional Institution. Crews spent 27 years working his way up the ladder at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before returning to the corrections department, this time as assistant secretary, in 2011. Crews began his tenure as corrections chief with a $100 million budget deficit. Things worsened this year after reports of inmate deaths, abuse by guards and cover-ups in the department. The Department of Law Enforcement is now investigating more than 100 suspicious inmate deaths, and the FBI is looking into possible wrongdoing at several state prisons. Black leaders are also asking the Justice Department to scrutinize prisoner deaths. A group of corrections department investigators sued Crews and others earlier this year, alleging retaliation for exposing a cover-up surrounding the death of an inmate at a Panhandle prison two years ago. Five questions for Michael Crews: Q: Your department is under intense scrutiny because of a number of inmate deaths, as well as alleged cover-ups surrounding those deaths. What do you say in response to those investigations, and what can you say to the families of the 100,000 inmates in your care to assure them that their loved ones are safe? CREWS: The first thing I want to say is I think it’s unfair that the agency as a whole is painted under the same umbrella of all being corrupt and non-transparent. A lot of those words have been used in a lot of the stories that have been written about us. The fortunate thing for us in this department is that 99.9 percent of the men and women that work here are good, hardworking, decent people. They come here to work every day, do their jobs. They do it with integrity. They do it professionally. And it’s somewhat unfair, although I understand that this is not just about the Department of Corrections. That seems to be the mindset of society as a whole. But there is a very select, few people who have either made conscious decisions or taken deliberate actions, allegedly, and conducted themselves in a way that we say is unacceptable in this department. They’re the reason we are in the position we are in today, because of that select few. It is somewhat human nature for people to think that when you have some of the things that are going on in the agency that we’re looking into right now that it is a cultural issue. What I would say to those people is that maybe it’s cultural but it’s cultural within that select few people. It’s not cultural in this agency. The reason I’m confident and I can say that is because, knowing the times we’re in, knowing some of the challenges that we face in this agency, I hate to think of where we would be if we didn’t have the quality of the people we have working in this agency. We’ve also made it pretty clear, for the last several months as I’ve traveled around this state and I’ve met with the leadership teams at all 49 of our institutions about what our expectations are as it relates to conduct if you’re going to work for the Department of Corrections, and that conduct’s not only while you’re on duty, that conduct’s while you’re off duty. We made a statement that we’re not going to tolerate anything less other than being the highest professional, integrity-based individuals and agency in this state and in this country. It’s unfortunate sometimes that people do elect to go outside of those expectations and those goals of how you’re going to conduct yourselves and how you’re going to do business. We’ve said all along, and we made this point at each of those 49 stops, we’re going to have zero tolerance for inmate abuse. Period. We’re not going to allow it. What we have to continue to do is make sure that our staff understand that when they see, witness or are exposed to something that they know is fundamentally, morally or legally wrong, they have a responsibility to report what they saw up their proper chain of command. What I’ve told them, I gave them my word there will be no repercussions or retaliation for people wanting to come forward and do the right thing. I’ve also said that I can’t make everybody like them. But I can protect them. I want them to feel and understand that that’s how we get better. We hold each other accountable. I’m going to hold our staff accountable and likewise I expect them to hold me accountable. And as long as we’re all doing that, we are going to get to where we want to be as an agency and that is to get to a respectable agency that people understand we know what we’re doing and we’re doing it the right way because it’s the right thing to do, not because somebody’s looking at us. Q: You say there won’t be any repercussions, but that is part of the culture. People get dead animals in their mailboxes. Their cars get keyed. Their colleagues don’t come to respond when they call for help. You may not retaliate against folks when they come forward but doesn’t it take time for that message to trickle down and for those behaviors to change? CREWS: There’s no doubt there are still people who work in this agency that are fearful of coming forward for doing the right thing. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. We didn’t get into the position that we’re in today overnight. We’re not going to get out of it overnight. This takes time. And when you’re trying to change a culture you have to do it from the top down and the bottom up. Because if you segment either one of those and say we’re just targeting the wardens or we’re just targeting this group and it’s not inclusive of everyone and everyone doesn’t understand that this is the way we do business, you’re never going to change that cultural aspect. It has to be collectively as a whole. That’s what we’re attempting to do. In those meetings, there were a lot of people. … When I say leadership teams, we were pretty comprehensive as we went about this. The message I delivered to them, the expectation was that same message was to be delivered to all of our 22,000 staff across the state. Actions are worth 1,000 words. It’s easy to say it. Where we start making positive gains and positive movements in this area is when we do have people who are willing to come forward and stand up for doing the right thing. It’s those people then that we want to publicly recognize and say this is the type of conduct not only do we expect but this is what we’re going to recognize. That is a huge hurdle to overcome, just knowing some of the things that have gone on in the past. If we could predict human behavior, we’d probably all be doing something else. You just can’t. As hard as you try through your hiring processes, your selection processes, to get the best people, people are humans. People are tempted. People do make mistakes. What I promised our staff is that there is a significant difference in people making a mistake and people doing something deliberately to embarrass or discredit this agency. You and I are going to make mistakes every day. I probably made a handful before I got here this morning. I’ll probably make another handful before I get home tonight. What we have to do for those people is, when they make decisions that maybe they weren’t the best decisions or in the best interest, we owe it to them to make sure we pull those people in and say, “Listen. Let’s talk about what happened. Let us help you learn so that the next time this happens you make a better decision.” There’s a huge difference in that and someone who goes out and intentionally does something to discredit because of their conduct, how they behave, how they treat an inmate or how they treat another staff. There’s a huge difference in that. And the group in the latter half, that smaller group I talked about earlier, we’re not going to tolerate them in our agency. The real frustrating thing is that you’ve got a select few. Their actions reflect on all 22,000 of us, all 22,000. But they don’t represent who we are. We’re not going to let them drive the direction we’re going to go in this agency. When we identify those people, and we have good, credible information and we come to the end result of an investigation and we determine that someone has done something outside of what we’ve said is allowable or justifiable or even legal, then we’re going to deal with those people as expeditiously as we can and make sure that they find someplace else other than this department to work. Q: A few more inmates died last week. That brings the total to more than 116 unresolved deaths under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Some people are questioning how this can still be going on with all of the attention on the agency. Is this just what normally happens and if it hadn’t been for these high-profile cases no one would be paying attention to it? Or is there a bigger issue here? CREWS: Great question. I would ask people to think of it this way. I didn’t look at it this morning but my guess is if you pick up the Tallahassee Democrat, there’s a list of obituaries. A number of people died. We have people in our prisons. We have over 101,000 today. People are going to die. We also have an aging population in our prisons. People that were 60 years old 10 years ago, now they’re 70 years old. Institutional life, or prison life, is a hard life within itself. When you have all those factors coming together, we’ve had people dying in our institutions since we’ve had institutions. That’s not anything new. When your population grows, when you have part of your population that becomes older, those factors all contribute perhaps to the number of deaths that you have. Now, do the numbers go up? They do. I know about all of these deaths from when they occur now because we made a change in our protocol. Every inmate death, now, that occurs in our institutions a couple of things are going to happen. One is, I’m going to be immediately notified. I get calls at all hours of the night and early morning saying here’s what happened based on the facts that we know at that time. On every death that’s occurring in our institutions now, the department’s office of the inspector general is notified, FDLE is called to come in and then the medical examiner’s office from the respective area is going to come in. I think that was a very positive step for us because I would hope that it would give the general public an idea that we are going to be open and transparent. We’re not going to hide anything. It gives us the opportunity to utilize the services of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to come in as almost an independent review in addition to (what) the office of our inspector general would be looking at. Ultimately, at the end what we want to get to is the truth. We want to know what did happen. We want to know was it a natural cause, was it accidental, was it a suicide, or was it another type death that we had perhaps people acting outside the norm of what we say is allowable or justifiable, so that we can then make decisions based on fact. What I’m not willing to do is make decisions based on what the rumor mill is or what somebody thought they heard or saw. We’re going to base our decisions on factual information that comes from investigations, medical examiner’s findings. I would hope that’s the way everybody wants to be treated. Everybody should be afforded due process. That’s part of what we have by soliciting FDLE to come in. You then take all of that information and you get to the truth. Then based on the truth, it’s incumbent upon me, if there were things that were not done properly or people that did not act properly and misconduct was there, that’s my responsibility to make sure those things are rectified. But not based on what somebody says they think they heard two weeks ago. That’s not fair to you, me or any of our staff or anyone else. We’re going to base our decisions on fact. Q: Is what you’re doing enough to instill trust in the public that people are safe when they get incarcerated? CREWS: I hope it makes a difference. I really do. I hope the general public understands some of the things we’ve done proactively — bringing in FDLE to help with investigations, putting a real emphasis on mental health of inmates, increasing our crisis-intervention training, putting in place a certification program for mental-health units. We’re going to be hiring an ombudsman who is going to be solely dedicated to give those inmates who have mental health issues a voice, someone they can go to when they feel they’re being treated wrong or they’re not being treated properly. I would hope also that that ombudsman will give the families of those inmates an opportunity to reach out. So I would hope that the general public would see that we are being proactive. Do I think it’s enough? The results will prove that as we move down the path. Are we making some significant differences today? Yes. I am 100 percent confident of that. We didn’t get here overnight. We’re not going to get out of it overnight. This is a marathon, not a race. What’s incumbent upon us, as leaders in this agency, is to make sure that we continue to do and evaluate and look at all of our practices, protocols, policies, procedures and everything that we have to make sure that we’re maximizing the safety of our staff, our inmates and the general public who comes into our institutions, that we’re conducting ourselves properly and within the realm of what we say we expect and that we treat everyone fairly and respectfully. Getting to that point, once we get there — I don’t know that we’ll ever stand up one day and say we’re there — but I think we’ll know it. But I am confident that we’re making some significant changes in this agency on things that for a long time perhaps weren’t addressed. Maybe they should have been. I don’t know. But this agency has been around a long time, a lot of history. And when we began, this agency, as most correctional systems were, was viewed as a warehouse for inmates. As long as you kept those that were sentenced to prison behind the fence, from an institutional perspective, you were considered doing a good job. Our statutory responsibility is the care, custody and control of inmates. We do a great job with the custody and control. Where we’re really focusing a lot of our efforts now is on the care part, because that’s typically where you wind up getting yourself in trouble. Being sentenced to prison is the sentence. There should be no other sentences once you get there. I know there’s different views and opinions. Some say if you didn’t want to go to prison, you shouldn’t have committed the crime. Well, you know people do commit crimes. People make mistakes every day. And it’s our job to make sure that those who come into our custody, that we protect them as best we can, that they’re safe and in a safe environment and that our staff treat them safely and we also maximize the safety of our staff who are working in one of the most difficult jobs you can ever work in. Q: You have a re-entry prison now. What are you doing to prepare inmates to go back into the community? CREWS: Outside of our operational issues, re-entry and our transitioning from prison to community initiative is our highest priority. If you think of it in these terms, in just sheer numbers, that 101,000 inmates that we have currently incarcerated, at some point about 89 percent of those individuals are going to be released. When they’re released, they’re going to come back into our communities. They’re not going to go to the community for ex-inmates and ex-felons. They’re going to come in your neighborhood and they’re going to come in mine. Their children are going to go to school with our children. They’re going to be in the same gas line and the same grocery store line that you and I are in. So we can stick our heads in the sand and say, “Re-entry doesn’t apply to me.” Well, if they move next door to you or your grandchild or your granddaughter or your grandfather, it does apply. What we’re trying to do is to make sure that when those inmates are released back into society that we have done everything we can to prepare them to be successful, productive citizens back into the community, to keep them from coming back into the system again. How do you do that? One is you’ve got to get them an education. About 70 percent of the inmates who come into our system have no formal education at all. It’s incumbent upon us to keep pushing forward with our GED programs. It’s also helpful if you can get them a vocational skill that meets the needs of what the demands are in the community now. That’s why we work closely with industries to look at the current needs and future needs for vocational-type skills. It really doesn’t do us any good to have plumbing-certification programs if there’s not going to be a need for plumbers. We work with those industries to see if we need to change our programming to be able to give them a vocational skill. So many of our inmates, almost 80 percent, have some form of substance abuse. I won’t say all, but the vast majority of individuals who are incarcerated in our system right now — they may be in there for a burglary or a theft or whatever — but if you look down to the root cause of what made them do that, there’s some form of substance abuse. That is the root of so much of what we see. We’re doing everything we can. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. Honestly, in re-entry, I don’t know that we’ll ever be there. Continuing to build some of the partnerships we have in the community to provide the resources they need, we’ll continue to do that. We’ll foster new relationships and build on the old ones we have. Right now, there seems to be a little bit of a gap between when an inmate is released and when they go back into society from this standpoint. Individuals that are released from custody in an institution that have some form of supervision to follow — probation, parole, whatever it is — we still have authority and the ability to direct and get them to that mental-health appointment, that substance-abuse appointment, set them up with a job-placement group to help them get employment. Those individuals that the end of their sentence comes and they have no supervision to follow, it’s their decision then whether or not they’re going to take advantage of all of those appointments. What we’re trying to do now is figure out how we bridge the gap for those people to give them the ability to have access to what they need that minimizes some of the obstacles that they face. There’s a lot of them out there. One of the areas we’ve focused on is making sure that inmates that go out of our system have an ID card. That’s been a big push for us. What we heard around the state in our town hall meetings, that was one of the biggest nemesis. Even if an inmate has everything — an education, a vocational skill, an ID card, they’re getting their treatment — the fact that they’re an ex-felon is an obstacle within itself. There just are not a lot of people out there who are willing to give these individuals a chance to have a job, to be able to earn a paycheck, to be able to rent a place or buy a place. What we’ve got to continue to do is say everyone does make mistakes but some of these people deserve a second chance. They’ve served their time. The more we can get our communities involved, whether it be from the employment side, the faith side. … But where we really have to make sure we’re focusing on is making sure that family reunification is there. So many of the inmates we have that are released don’t have that family bond to go back to. That is a critical component for them, having that safe environment, someone they can rely on until they get their feet set and a little bit situated. (People might be surprised at the amount of empathy you’re expressing for the people in your custody.) I do care. If I am the family of a victim of a crime I probably feel a little bit differently about that. My view is probably my loved one didn’t have a chance for that or my loved one didn’t have the opportunity to continue to move forward in life. I respect that wholeheartedly. In our system, we have three different classifications of inmates. This isn’t anything formal. This is just my view. You have a group over here who made a mistake and they’re serving their time. Quite honestly, we really don’t have to do much for them. They’ve learned their lesson. The time they’re serving is hard. When they come out, they’re not going to come back to us. You’ve got a group on the other end of the scale that no matter what we do for them it really doesn’t matter. Pretty shortly after being released, they’re going to commit a new crime. But in the middle of our population — there’s probably 60 to 70 percent of them — that one, a large if not vast majority of them came from broken homes. They didn’t know who their father was or have a father figure, and they were exposed to some conditions or environments that, had you or I been exposed to, we probably would have been in the same situation. I do care. … People a lot of times get caught up in saying I have an interest in dropping the recidivism rate — the number of inmates who return within three years — because there is a cost savings. And there is. For every 1 percent drop in recidivism rate there’s a cost savings of $19 million spread out over five years. And that’s nothing to sneeze at. I mean, that’s important. But we’re doing what we’re trying to do in re-entry because it’s fundamentally and morally the right thing to do. Yes, there are people who have committed some horrific offenses and crimes in this state. No doubt about it. And again, there are some of those that there’s just not much we can do to help them. But we do have so many of our population that we can help. When we can help them to go back into society and they don’t commit a new crime, the greatest thing out of them not committing a new crime is there’s no new victim. When you’re talking about victims, you can’t put a dollar on the cost to the person who was subjected to that crime. I’m proud to say we’ve got a 43-year low in crime in this state right now. That’s a significant accomplishment due to the hard work of the criminal-justice professionals in this state and our Legislature and the governor. But when we can reduce the number of victims and we can stop people from going out and two years later coming right back in our system, that’s a win for all of us. Everybody in this state wins when we’re able to do that. We’re going to do our part to make sure that while we have them in custody that we do everything we can to prepare them. We release about 32,000 inmates a year that go out into the communities. The average age of our inmates right now is about 33 years old. The average inmate serves about a three-years, two-month sentence. The average education level is sixth grade. So for every inmate we have that has a high school or college degree, we have somebody that from an educational- and mental-capacity level, is a kindergartner. That’s tough. That’s tough when you’re trying to effect change and get inmates and people to understand. We can give them all the programs in the world. But they too, have to have some ownership in this. They have to want to change. And they have to want to change inside to understand that there are other ways to be productive in society rather than being a criminal. And the second piece of that is we have to give them the skills to do that, whether it be educational, vocational, treatment programs, whatever it is. So many times we take for granted what they really need. You take an inmate who’s been incarcerated for 25 or 30 years. How to balance a checkbook, how to parent, how to write a resume, how to interview for a job — they have no clue because for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the last 25 years, they’ve been told when to get up, when to go to sleep, when to get dressed, when to take a shower, when to eat. It’s very structured and very disciplined. Then the end of their sentence is going to come and we’re going to send them outside that gate and if they don’t have something that they feel confident they can pull back and rely on to help them begin to build their new life, they’re going to revert back to what they know best, which is committing crimes. That’s the cycle we’ve got to break. I’m proud we announced two years ago that our recidivism rate dropped from 33 percent to 27.6 percent in this state. I’m proud of that. And we’re continuing to drop that number even more because, if we’re doing that, then we’re making a positive difference not only in that inmate’s life, but we’re making our lives better, too. by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

October 21, 2014 | Read the story »


Early Voting Begins With 1625 Ballots Cast In Escambia County

Monday was the first day of early voting in Escambia County, with 1,625 total ballots cast. In North Escambia, there were 97 ballots cast in Molino, 250 at the Extension office is Cantonment. Earl voting continues at seven locations until Saturday November 1: Molino Community Center,  6450 Highway 95A North, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Escambia County Extension Services, 3740 Stefani Road, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Genealogy Branch Library, 5740 N. 9th Avenue, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Main Library, 239 N. Spring Street, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bellview/Saufley Early Vote Site, 4607 Saufley Field Road, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Supervisor of Elections Main Office, 213 Palafox Place, Second Floor, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Southwest Branch Library, 12248 Gulf Beach Highway, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Back in 2010,  there were 1,104 ballots cast on the first day of early voting.  Read More →

October 21, 2014 | Read the story »


Florida DEP Open House For Home Buyers, Real Estate Agents, Developers

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Northwest District invites real estate agents, developers and potential home buyers to an open house on Wednesday, October 29 in Pensacola. The open house is designed to answer questions about state-permitting requirements, property restrictions and cost-saving measures in order to help buyers make informed purchasing decisions. The department has a wealth of information about wetlands, waterfront property, docks and marinas, lift stations, asbestos, site contamination and more. DEP experts will be available to answer questions and demonstrate online resources. In addition, several presentations are scheduled throughout the day to provide an in-depth overview of some of the most common topics. The event will be held from  10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 29 at  DEP’s Northwest District Office at 160 West Government Street, Suite 502 in Pensacola For agenda and registration details, click here.  Read More →

October 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Escambia (AL) Sheriff Candidate Heath Jackson Endorsed By Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Escambia (AL) Sheriff Candidate Heath Jackson Endorsed By Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Heath Jackson, Republican candidate for sheriff of Escambia County, AL, announced Monday that he has been endorsed by “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “I’m honored to have the endorsement from Sheriff Joe Arpaio,” Jackson said. “Sheriff Arpaio has a reputation throughout the country as one of toughest, hardest working members in law enforcement and I am proud to have his support.” Arpaio’s endorsement was as follows: “I know the importance of conviction, dedication, professionalism, and the strength it takes to serve in law enforcement. That is why I am happy to endorse Heath Jackson in his run for Sheriff in Escambia County. Heath has worked tirelessly in Alabama and Florida to take drugs off the streets and put drug dealers behind bars. He has worked aggressively as a narcotics investigator and spearheaded countless high-profile investigations that resulted in the successful arrests and prosecutions of criminals involved in drug trafficking, organized crime, prostitution, and violation of gun and explosive laws. I hope the good people of Escambia County will join me in supporting Heath Jackson for Sheriff.” Arpaio is tae six-time elected sheriff . Known throughout the country as one of America’s toughest sheriff’s, Arpaio has been featured and profiled thousands of times by worldwide news media. Arpaio is a leading voice in the debate against illegal immigration and is known for unapologetically punishing those who break the law in his county. He is famous for building “Tent City,” an extension of the Maricopa County Jail that houses prisoners in un-air conditioned, outdoor military tents, despite Phoenix’s extreme heat and for requiring inmates to wear pink underwear and undershirts.  Read More →

October 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Owe Santa Rosa County Money? There Are New Payment Options

Customers owing money to Santa Rosa County  can now  establish payment plans using automated withdrawals from their checking account or credit card. “We want to make it as easy as possible for the customer to meet their court obligations. By signing up for this program the customer no longer has to come to the Courthouse to make their payment, pay postage to mail in their payment, or worry about missing their payment. It is a good program for our customers,” said Clerk of Court Don Spencer. Both methods allow the customer to set up their withdrawal plan without worrying about missing payments.  The customer’s authorized pre-agreed upon amounts will be deducted on the same day of each month from their checking accounts or charged to their credit cards.  It is easy to establish, resolves the late payment fees issue and the customer does not need to remember the payment due date. On a monthly basis, the participant  will receive a recorded phone message from the Clerk’s office reminding them of their automatic bank draft or credit card charge. When the customer’s account is paid in full withdrawals are stopped and the customer’s file is closed. If a customer wants the automated process to stop they should send their written request to the Santa Rosa County Courthouse.  The request should be mailed by the customer so that it arrives  at least five days prior to the next withdrawal date. Questions can be directed to the  Courthouse Information Desk at (850) 981-5554.  Read More →

October 21, 2014 | Read the story »

Northview FFA Receives National Grant For Poultry Project

The Northview High School FFA has received a Local Program Support Grant sponsored by the National FFA Alumni Association. The $1,000 grant will enable to group to complete a “Backyard Poultry” project. The grant will be presented during the awards session of the National FFA Alumni Convention on Thursday, October 30 in Louisville, KY.  Read More →

October 20, 2014 | Read the story »

Weekend Gardening: Colorful Bedding Plants Can Brighten A Winter Day

by Santa Rosa Extension Service Decreasing day length is a signal to start preparing for winter. Soon, deciduous shrubs will drop their leaves and the landscape will appear stark and less impressive. To keep the gloomy days of winter at bay, add cool season bedding plants to the landscape. Bedding plants are those that are commonly used in residential and commercial landscapes to provide color and interest. No other group of plants can so quickly and economically create a colorful landscape. Most bedding plants are annuals. These short-lived plants grow from seed, bloom and die within one growing season. The transient nature of annuals means that at the end of their season when they are no longer attractive, annuals are removed and replaced with new plantings. Many flowering plants prefer a very specific season; therefore, bedding plants are classified into two groups based on the temperatures they prefer. Cool season bedding plants do best in the cold to mild temperatures of October through early May and generally tolerate typical winter freezes without protection. According to a University of Florida/IFAS publication, bedding plants that can be added to the North Florida landscape now include alyssum, baby’s breath, calendula, carnation, dianthus, dusty miller, foxglove, hollyhock, ornamental cabbage and kale, pansy, petunia, snapdragons and violas. Most annual bedding plants prefer to be in a sunny location. Prepare the planting beds several weeks before planting. First, remove any weeds or other unwanted plants from the bed. Next, turn the soil to a depth of about eight inches. Spread a two- to four-inch layer of compost, rotted leaves, aged manure, composted finely ground pine bark or peat moss over the bed, and then evenly sprinkle a light application of an all purpose fertilizer. Thoroughly blend the organic matter and fertilizer into the bed, rake smooth and you’re ready to plant. Gardeners are accustomed to (and even demand) that bedding plants be in bloom when they are purchased. Some cool season bedding plants, however, will provide far superior results if they are purchased when young and before the colorful display begins. Bedding plants are typically planted to make a dramatic statement. To accomplish that, place multiple plants of the same kind in a bed. Bedding plants generally look best and the beds will fill in better when the rows are staggered. Lay out the first row of plants spaced properly. The second row is laid behind the first row at the appropriate spacing from it, but the plants are placed between the plants of the first row so that they form triangles with those plants. Flower beds of colorful bedding plants add a lot to the landscape but require a fair amount of maintenance to stay looking their best. Keeping beds well weeded is critical. A two-inch layer of mulch will help considerably in keeping weeds from growing, and using preemergence herbicides (weed preventers) may help in some situations. However, always plan on having to do some hand weeding.  Read More →

October 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Fangate, The Winds Of War

An ill wind blew across Florida politics this week. And much of it was generated by an electric fan. Former Gov. Charlie Crist’s quest to keep cool at the second debate between himself and Gov. Rick Scott kicked up as much dust as a fan turned to its highest speed. Scott’s team argued that Crist had blown past the rules of the debate, while Crist’s campaign said the incumbent was simply trying to distract attention from his own huffing and puffing. It was the kind of fantastically weird Florida story that spins out of control. From the evening newscasts to the “Daily Show” and beyond, national figures ventilated their opinions about the latest weird political event in the Sunshine State. Some of those presentations breezed by the nuance to focus on the easy storyline: A fan had stopped a debate in Florida, if only for a few moments. It would be wrong to blow off the other stories that took place this week. Both the University of Florida and Florida State University are closer to finishing the process of selecting their next presidents. And the Florida Supreme Court ruled on a case that had the potential to turn iPhones into trackers for law enforcement. But the reports about Fangate whirred along. THE DEBATE THAT ALMOST WASN’T It’s still not entirely clear what happened in the run-up to Crist and then (after a few minutes) Scott taking the stage in Davie for their clash over the issues. The outlines are clear enough: At some point, Crist’s people put a fan on the stage, which ran afoul of at least one version of the debate rules. Crist, a Democrat, was on stage shortly after the debate was scheduled to begin, and Scott, the Republican incumbent, wasn’t. Then the governor appeared. Almost all agreement breaks down after that. According to the Crist campaign, former state Sen. Dan Gelber, a close Crist adviser, had discussed the use of a fan with the debate organizers. The Crist camp said it was alarmed by reports that the stage at the remodeled venue had been uncomfortably warm for an event last week with CNN’s Candy Crowley. But about an hour before the debate, the temperature on the stage checked in at a less-than-balmy 67 degrees, according to a statement issued after the debate by the two groups that organized the event, the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida. “[FPA President Dean] Ridings then informed the Crist campaign that there was no temperature issue, and no fan would be needed, or permitted,” the groups said Thursday. The Crist campaign put a fan on the stage anyway, only to be told that it wouldn’t be allowed. In the ensuing back-and-forth, debate organizers now say Scott never refused to take the stage, as was originally reported; instead he was waiting for the fan situation to be cleared up. “Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association did not anticipate or plan for the possibility that a candidate would not honor the debate rules,” the statement said. “In retrospect, the debate partners should have been better prepared for this possibility. In addition, we regret that one candidate was allowed to take the stage and allowed to talk before the fan issue was resolved.” “So, let’s get one thing clear: Rick Scott never refused to take the stage and debate,” Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers said in a lengthy email late Wednesday, shortly after the debate. “In fact, our campaign was not notified Charlie had even taken the stage because the last we heard, Crist was in an ‘emergency meeting’ with debate organizers pleading for his precious fan.” But some pointed to the fact that Leadership Florida is tied to the Florida Chamber of Commerce — which supports Scott’s re-election. And the Crist campaign highlighted what it said was the most relevant fact: Their guy was on the stage, and Scott wasn’t. “Who are you going to believe? Rick Scott, or your lying eyes?” Crist Communications Director Brendan Gilfillan wrote in an email to reporters. He added later: “Charlie was on stage. Everyone saw it … because it was on TV.” And anyone who didn’t see it live almost certainly heard about it in the furor that followed. In any case, both had less to complain about than Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, who was left off the stage for good when a federal judge ruled against Wyllie’s request that he be included in the debate despite not polling high enough to qualify. “For too long, the Republican-Democrat ‘duopoly’ has controlled the conversation, and they have used their power to silence the competition,” Wyllie said in a statement following the decision. “Their attempts to exclude me from the debates is just another example. The people of Florida are demanding a third choice, and this decision is an injustice to those millions of Florida voters crying out for fairness and for their voice to be heard.” If Scott was looking for something to take people’s minds off the fan flap, he received some fodder on Friday: The state announced that the final jobless numbers before the Nov. 4 general election could be the lowest for Florida since June 2008, when Crist was governor. The Department of Economic Opportunity posted an unemployment mark for September at 6.1 percent, down from 6.3 percent in August. THE NEW BOSSES University of Florida fans had to take a little glee in the hammering that their in-state rival, Florida State University, took for selecting state Sen. John Tharsher, R-St. Augustine, as its next president. But while UF didn’t go with a powerful politician, it still used a lightning-fast process once things really got started. Cornell University Provost Kent Fuchs was selected quickly, and with little comment, on Wednesday to lead the Gainesville school’s efforts to improve its national academic reputation. The university’s Board of Trustees unanimously picked Fuchs, 59, to become the school’s 12th president, after a discussion that lasted less than five minutes. The trustees’ selection followed morning interviews with Fuchs and New York University Provost David W. McLaughlin. Fuchs, pronounced “Fox,” is expected to start at UF just after the beginning of the new year, replacing President Bernie Machen who is retiring in December after 10 years. Fuchs, who graduated from Miami Killian Senior High School, said he felt privileged to join “Gator Nation,” where he hopes to build on the academic legacy already in place and also intends to become “one of the most enthusiastic of all the sports fans.” “If I had the opportunity to be any place, this is the place I’d be,” Fuchs said during a news conference. “What is particularly exciting is that you have a single campus here that encapsulates all of higher ed in some sense. … To me, I can’t think of a better dream job.” As for Thrasher, negotiations between himself and FSU over the contractual details of taking the job appear to be on track. A draft of a proposed $430,000-a-year, five-year contract released this week has Thrasher taking over as the university’s new president Nov. 10. Asked about the proposed contract, Thrasher responded in a text, “I’m good” — as most people would likely be with a six-figure compensation deal. Thrasher is expected to be confirmed by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees all universities, the first week of November. ‘CAN YOU TRACK ME NOW?’ NOT WITHOUT A WARRANT Looking to buy a new smart phone for a loved one this Christmas? You no longer have to worry about whether you’ll unwillingly be helping the cops track down that family member or friend. Pointing to privacy rights, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday said police need to get warrants before using cell-phone information to conduct “real-time” tracking of criminal suspects. Justices, in a 5-2 decision, sided with a man who was arrested in 2007 in Broward County after a search of his vehicle uncovered a kilogram brick of cocaine hidden in a spare-tire well. Police tracked the man, Shawn Alvin Tracey, through location information given off when cell-phone calls are made. “We cannot overlook the inexorable and significant fact that, because cell phones are indispensable to so many people and are normally carried on one’s person, cell phone tracking can easily invade the right to privacy in one’s home or other private areas, a matter that the government cannot always anticipate and one which, when it occurs, is clearly a Fourth Amendment violation,” wrote Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, who was joined in the majority by justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry. But Justice Charles Canady, in a dissenting opinion, wrote that given the “known realities of how cell phones operate … cell phone users have neither a subjective expectation of privacy nor an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the cell site information generated by their cell phones.” “Individuals may very reasonably desire that information they provide to third parties —such as a cell service provider, a bank, or a credit card company — be kept private,” wrote Canady, who was joined in dissent by Justice Ricky Polston. “But a strong desire for privacy is not equivalent to a legitimate expectation of privacy.” STORY OF THE WEEK: The second of three campaign debates between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist gets snared in “Fangate,” a dispute over whether Crist should have been allowed to have an electric fan cool him during the debate. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?”—Former Gov. Charlie Crist, when asked why he insisted on having a fan during a debate. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

October 19, 2014 | Read the story »

Mother And Son Indicted In Murder Of Covenience Store Owner

An Escambia County Grand Jury had indicted Dontonio Diaz Thornton and Willie Mae Thornton with one count of first degree murder-premeditated or felony in the death of a convenience store owner. The mother and son are accused in the September 13 murder of Phoung Nguyen Truong, 50. He was found deceased behind the counter at his place of business, the T M Food Mart located in the 1000 block of West Michigan Avenue. Prosecutors said Truong was shot and killed in the course of a robbery.  Read More →

October 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Tate Gets District Win Over Crestview (With Photo Gallery)

The Tate Aggies beat the Crestview Bulldogs Friday night, 42-28 With 6:31 to go in the first quarter, the Bulldogs took an early lead that they held until  the second. With 10:11 in the half, the Aggies tied it up 7-7 with a 34-yard touchdown on fourth and 11 from junior quarterback Sawyer Smith to Reginald Payne. Alondo Thompkins propelled Tate into a 14-7 lead with a 55-yard touchdown run with 8:14 on the clock in the second. Then, with 4:12 in the half, Payne was in for his second touchdown of the night on a sneak play from 1-yard out, and Tate was up 21-7 with 4:12 in the second quarter. Smith found Darren Lee for a 45-yarder with 50.3 second on the clock for a 28-7 Tate lead at the half. For a photo gallery, click here. Less than three minutes into the third quarter, Tate moved up to 35-7 with a 12-yard keeper from Smith. Crestview scored twice before Alonte Thompson made it 42-21 with a 1-yard touchdown dash. Crestview capitalized on an Aggie fumble  with 8:09 in the fourth, 42-21. Crestview recovered an onside kick for one more touchdown with 6:23 on the clock for the night’s 42-28 final. The Tate Aggies improved to 6-2 overall, and an important 1-1 in the district. “The district win is huge in a three team district,” Coach Ronnie Douglas said. “Our backs were against the wall because if we don’t win, we’re done.” “We still have a real good chance. Crestview and Niceville still have to play, so we are still waiting on that.”  Last season, Crestview beat Niceville, leading to a three-way tie and a district shootout. Tate will host Fort Walton Beach next Friday night, 7:30 in Cantonment. For a photo gallery, click here. NorthEscambia.com photos by Keith Garrison, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Suffering From Allergies? Don’t Blame The Goldenrods

The bright yellow flowers of the goldenrod are everywhere in the North Escambia area, taking the blame from allergy sufferers. But one of fall’s most colorful plants actually gets a bad rap, according to the University of Florida Extension Service. The true culprit for all those sneezes and sniffles is ragweed, according to Environmental Horticulture Agent Alicia Lamborn. Goldenrod plants are bright and showy, producing large, heavy pollen grains that are carried off by bees, butterflies and other pollinators rather than by the wind. Ragweed bares greenish yellow flowers in small heads which produce copious amounts of pollen, carried by the wind rather than insects. Ragweed flowers are not showy which means these plants are often easier to recognize by their stems and leaves. Ragweed has branching purplish stems that are rough and hairy, and leaves which are smooth, but deeply divided into lobed portions. Pictured: Goldenrods bloom alongside a dirt road in Bratt. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 18, 2014 | Read the story »

High School Football Finals

Here is a look at Friday night’s high school football finals score from around the area. FLORIDA Northview 43, Freeport 9 [Read more...] Tate 42, Crestview  28 [Read more...] Baker 42, Jay 14 West Florida 27, Gulf Breeze 7 Washington 23, Pine Forest 14 Escambia 44, Milton 34 Pensacola 35, Pace 10 Arnold 38, Catholic 36 ALABAMA Flomaton 38, St. Lukes 26 W.S. Neal 47,  Satsuma 21 St. Pauls 49, Escambia County (Atmore) 12 Escambia Academy 48, Pike Liberal Arts 14 Open: T.R. Miller  Read More →

October 18, 2014 | Read the story »

Northview Pounds Freeport

The Northview Chiefs were ranked No. 5 in the state in Class 1A as they headed into a 43-9 pounding of the Freeport Bulldogs Friday night in Freeport. Northview jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a touchdown from Lett. Freeport worked their way to the red zone, but their endzone pass was picked off by Cameron Newsome for a return that set up a Chiefs 30-yard field goal, 10-0 Northview. Tydraee Bradley added another touchdown for the Chiefs with 1:45 to go in the first quarter, 16-0. The Chiefs rolled on to a 31-0 halftime advantage before allowing a touchdown and field goal from Freeport in the second half. Lett  rushed for just 220 yards Friday night along with three touchdowns  two weeks after setting a school single game record of a 313 total rushing yards.  The senior is now well over 1,000 yards for the season — 523 of those yards in his last two games for those doing the math. Newsome is at about 500 yards for the season after earning 137 yards along with a touchdown Friday night. Chiefs are now 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the district. They will host 4A Walton Friday night before taking on the undefeated Baker Gators for the district championship October 31 in Baker. Pictured top: The Northview Chiefs in action against Freeport Friday night in Freeport. Pictured inset: The Chiefs’ Cameron Newsome goes down after a long interception return, setting up a 30-yard Northview field  goal. Images courtesy WEAR 3 for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 18, 2014 | Read the story »

NWS: Monday Night Storm Damage In Cottage Hill Was Not A Tornado

Damage to several homes and outbuilding in the Cottage Hill area Monday was not caused by a tornado — that’s the word from the National Weather Service in Mobile. NWS forecasters said Thursday afternoon that there was no need for them assess the damage directly. Escambia County Emergency Management surveyed the damage and determined it was caused by straight line winds. Four homes were damaged but were still liveable following the storms, plus the roofs of several barns and outbuildings were damaged. Several trees and power lines were also downed. There were no injuries reported. There was a tornado watch, but no warnings, in effect as the storm hit. For more daytime photos of the storm damage, click here. NorthEscambia.com photos by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Century Correctional K-9 Unit Places 2nd, Escambia Road Prison 6th, In Southern States Manhunt Competition

The Century Correctional Institution K-9 Unit placed second in the multi-leash division in the recent Southern States Manhunt Competition, while the Escambia County Road Prison placed sixth overall. Less than five minutes separated the first six places. The multi leash division consists of more than one K-9 being utilized to track a suspect with the teams ranked by the amount of time that it took to capture the suspect. A total of 29 K-9 teams from Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas participated in the event hosted by the Escambia County Road Prison. The Florida Department of Corrections has 38 K-9 programs statewide which are used to support law enforcement agencies with felon apprehension, locating missing persons and locating and providing aid to persons in distress. In Fiscal Year 2013-2014, the Department’s K-9 tracking teams were deployed 710 times. Pictured: From Century Correctional Institution – Major K. Carter, Officer J. Sanders, Officer K. Reaves, Officer D. Smith, Officer J. deGraaf, Sgt. B. Townson, Asst. Warden L. Marinin, Warden D. Sloan and Major D. Dunlap. Pictured below: Escambia County Road Prison officers during the competition. Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Public Meeting To Address Roundabout At Mobile Highway, Beulah Road

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting concerning the placement of a traffic roundabout at the intersection of Mobile Highway and Beulah Road in Escambia County. The meeting will be held Tuesday, October 21, 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Beulah Senior Center, 7425 Woodside Road. Roundabouts have been identified by the Federal Highway Administration as an effective means of reducing the frequency and severity of crashes at intersections. The proposed roundabout would provide a new, yield-only movement for local road users. Although this project is in a preliminary planning stage, design and construction are not currently funded. This meeting will provide you an opportunity to preview the proposed design, ask questions and/or submit comments concerning upcoming projects. Maps, drawings and other information will be on display. There will not be a formal presentation, however FDOT representatives will be available to answer questions and discuss the proposed project.  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Amendment 3 Could Determine Future Of Florida Supreme Court

A low-profile ballot proposal that supporters say would avert a constitutional crisis but opponents say is nothing more than thinly-veiled partisan power grab is headed to voters in November, possibly with the future of the Florida Supreme Court at stake. Amendment 3 would essentially grant an outgoing governor the right to appoint replacements for Supreme Court justices and District Courts of Appeal judges who leave office at the same time as the governor does. It comes after years of heated battles over the high court, which has served as one of the last barriers to the Republican agenda in Tallahassee. And it comes against the backdrop of an election between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, his Democratic rival, that could decide which governor gets to make the appointments in 2019. That has left critics suspicious of the motives of Republican lawmakers who approved it. “We think that this is politicizing the way that the court works,” said former Republican Sen. Alex Villalobos, who has sometimes butted heads with his party since leaving office. At the center of the issue are three justices — R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince — who are part of the court’s left-of-center majority. That voting bloc, which often decides controversial cases on a 5-2 margin, has frustrated GOP lawmakers and governors for years. Lewis, Pariente and Quince will reach the mandatory retirement age for justices before their next retention election, meaning they will have to step aside in early 2019. That will happen at the same time that the governor elected in the November 2018 elections is taking office. As it stands now, according to Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, it is unclear who would have to power to appoint replacement justices — the outgoing governor or the incoming governor. The proposed constitutional amendment, if approved, would give that power to the outgoing governor. “The Senate Judiciary Committee thoroughly researched the Florida Constitution and case law surrounding the filling of court vacancies and concluded that, under the Florida Constitution and case law, either governor is arguably authorized to make these appointments,” Lee wrote in an op-ed distributed to media members. Former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead and others say that flies in the face of a 2006 advisory opinion from the Supreme Court that “a vacancy exists upon the expiration of the term of the judge or justice.” Anstead, who was a member of the court that unanimously approved the opinion, said that means the new governor gets to make the appointment. “What’s wrong with that?” he asked. “We have lived with that at least 40 years, and nothing terrible has happened to us.” But Lee pointed to a 1955 case involving county judges in which the Supreme Court ruled that the outgoing governor’s appointments were valid. That ruling occurred before the adoption of the merit-retention process for appeals court judges in Florida, though Lee said the current rules are “substantially the same” now. “The stakes will be immeasurably higher in 2019 when the dispute involves three Supreme Court vacancies,” Lee wrote. He also highlighted logistical issues in having the new governor make the appointments. “Even if the appointments could be made on the incoming governor’s inauguration day in 2019, the Supreme Court would likely not be fully functional for weeks as the new appointees close existing law practices, relocate to Tallahassee and get up to speed with their new duties,” Lee wrote. Anstead said existing justices or judges from the state’s district courts of appeal can be appointed by the chief justice to serve as acting justices — something that briefly happened, for instance, at the end of Anstead’s final term to allow him to wrap up some cases. Lewis, Pariente and Quince have been in the middle of a political storm for several years now. In 2011, in the wake of several court decisions that went against the Legislature, then-House Speaker Dean Cannon proposed splitting the Supreme Court into two panels and putting those three justices on the court that would handle criminal cases — not challenges to the Legislature’s authority. That plan was killed in the Senate. In 2012, when the three justices faced their last merit-retention election — in which a candidate runs for re-election, but not against an opponent — the Republican Party of Florida formally opposed the justices. All three still easily won another term. Coincidentally, Quince was appointed in 1998 during a change in administrations from outgoing Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles to incoming Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. After Bush argued that he had the right to name the next justice, he and Chiles agreed to jointly appoint Quince. Business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce, often closely allied with the Republican Party, and the Florida Council of 100 have supported the proposed constitutional amendment. “Florida can’t afford to let its highest courts fall victim to uncertainty and doubt if it wants to continue to shine as a prime location for doing business,” Susan Pareigis, president and CEO of the council, said in a news release. They have been countered in the low-level fight by interest groups that have traditionally opposed GOP efforts on the courts and elections, such as the League of Women Voters of Florida. Anstead said he’s concerned that allowing an outgoing governor to appoint the justices to the court will remove the accountability that would face a governor who would later seek a second term. Anstead said he’s “not cynical, but … no dummy” when it comes to whether politics is at play. “If there is partisanship here, it appears to be something of a gamble that Governor Scott will be re-elected,” he said. But Lee said the uncertainty about the battle between Scott and Crist is the reason to change things now. “Voting ‘yes’ on Amendment 3 avoids all these questions before we know which political party will be positively or negatively impacted,” he wrote. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Mosquito Borne Illness Alert Remains In Effect For Escambia County

An mosquito-borne illness alert  for Escambia County is continuing, according to the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County said Thursday. Back in August, the health department issued the alert after receiving notification of  a confirmed case of West Nile virus (WNV) infection in a resident of Escambia County. The Escambia County Mosquito Control Division and the health department continue surveillance and prevention efforts.  FDOH-Escambia reminds residents and visitors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and to take basic precautions to help limit exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses. Some mosquito tips include: Remove standing water to stop mosquitoes from multiplying Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected. Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used. Empty and clean birdbaths and pet’s water bowls at least once or twice a week. Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water. Maintain swimming pools in good condition and appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use. Cover skin with clothing or repellent— Stay indoors when mosquitoes are active Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long-sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present. Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing. Always use repellents according to the label. Repellents with DEET(N,N-diethyl-mtoluamide), picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535 are effective. Use mosquito netting to protect children younger than 2 months old. Cover doors and windows with screens to keep mosquitoes out of your house Repair broken screens on windows, doors, porches, and patios. Keep doors and windows closed if screens are not present. Always read label directions carefully for the approved usage before you apply a repellent. Some repellents are not suitable for children. Products with concentrations of up to 30 percent DEET are generally recommended. Other US Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents contain Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. These products are generally available at local pharmacies. Look for active ingredients to be listed on the product label. Apply insect repellent to exposed skin, or onto clothing, but not under clothing. In protecting children, read label instructions to be sure the repellent is age-appropriate. According to the CDC, mosquito repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under the age of three years. DEET is not recommended on children younger than two months old. Avoid applying repellents to the hands of children. Adults should apply repellent first to their own hands and then transfer it to the child’s skin and clothing. If additional protection is necessary, apply a permethrin repellent directly to your clothing.  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Foley Defeats Ernest Ward

The Foley Lions defeated the Ernest Ward Middle School Eagle Thursday night, 26-12. Ernest Ward, Escambia County’s only middle school football team, will wrap up their season at home next Tuesday at 6 p.m. as they host the Flomaton Hurricanes. For more photos, click here. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Tate Lady Aggies Softball to Host Softball Camp

The Tate High School Aggies Softball team will host a November Camp on Saturday, November 1st at the school’s softball field. There will be a skills and hitting clinic from 9 a.m. until noon and a pitching/catching clinic from 1-2 pm. The cost is $30 for one session or $40 for both sessions and lunch. The camp is for ages 7 through the 8th grade. Register by mail (click for printable pdf registration form) or day of camp. For more information, call (850) 572-6466.  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Supreme Court Rejects Cellphone Tracking By Police

Pointing to privacy rights, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday said police need to get warrants before using cell-phone information to conduct “real-time” tracking of criminal suspects. Justices, in a 5-2 decision, sided with a man who was arrested in 2007 in Broward County after a search of his vehicle uncovered a kilogram brick of cocaine hidden in a spare-tire well. Police tracked the man, Shawn Alvin Tracey, through location information given off when cell-phone calls are made. In a 46-page majority opinion, Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote that using the information without a warrant violated Tracey’s Fourth Amendment constitutional rights, which protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Labarga, in ruling that evidence against Tracey should be suppressed, also pointed to the public’s dependence on cell phones. “We cannot overlook the inexorable and significant fact that, because cell phones are indispensable to so many people and are normally carried on one’s person, cell phone tracking can easily invade the right to privacy in one’s home or other private areas, a matter that the government cannot always anticipate and one which, when it occurs, is clearly a Fourth Amendment violation,” wrote Labarga, who was joined in the majority by justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince and James E.C. Perry. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida issued a statement calling the decision a “big victory for privacy in Florida.” “The Florida Supreme Court has definitively stated what we have asserted all along: that police can’t track your movements in public using these cell phone tracking tools without first getting a warrant,” ACLU attorney Benjamin Stevenson said in the statement. “Technology is changing all the time, but just because a technology you own is newer than the constitution’s protections doesn’t mean it is exempt from them. Police all over the state should now put an end to warrantless cell phone surveillance once and for all.” But Justice Charles Canady, in a dissenting opinion, wrote that given the “known realities of how cell phones operate … cell phone users have neither a subjective expectation of privacy nor an objectively reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the cell site information generated by their cell phones.” “Individuals may very reasonably desire that information they provide to third parties —such as a cell service provider, a bank, or a credit card company — be kept private,” wrote Canady, who was joined in dissent by Justice Ricky Polston. “But a strong desire for privacy is not equivalent to a legitimate expectation of privacy.” The Tracey case started after police received information that he bought large amounts cocaine, which was transported from Broward County to the state’s West Coast for distribution. In October 2007, police received a court order to use technology that recorded telephone numbers dialed from Tracey’s cell phone and numbers from incoming calls. More than a month later, officers learned that Tracey would be coming to Broward County to pick up drugs to transport to the Cape Coral area, where he lived, according to Thursday’s ruling. Without getting additional court approval, police used electronically generated cell-phone information to track his movements in real time, ultimately leading to the arrest. A circuit judge and the 4th District Court of Appeal rejected arguments that evidence in the case should be suppressed, but Labarga wrote that a warrant, based on probable cause, was required for the location information. “Simply because the cell phone user knows or should know that his cell phone gives off signals that enable the service provider to detect its location for call routing purposes, and which enable cell phone applications to operate for navigation, weather reporting, and other purposes, does not mean that the user is consenting to use of that location information by third parties for any other unrelated purposes,” Labarga wrote. “While a person may voluntarily convey personal information to a business or other entity for personal purposes, such disclosure cannot reasonably be considered to be disclosure for all purposes to third parties not involved in that transaction.” by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

October 17, 2014 | Read the story »

Victims Identified In Jay Murder Suicide

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office has released the names of two people involved in an apparent-murder suicide near Jay early Thursday morning. The Sheriff’s Office received a call reporting a shooting at 3771 Nowling Road at 5:56 a.m., and deputies were on scene within three minutes. Deputies found two deceased individuals – a male and a female – inside the residence. A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office said the incident was domestic violence related. The victims were identified as 41-year old Misty Wright Herring and 43-year old Max Bruce Herring.  According to court records, the two were in the process of getting a divorce. Misty Herring was a pharmacist as the Duramed Pharmacy in Jay, and was formerly the pharmacist at Flomaton Pharmacy. The shooting appeared to have occurred sometime during the overnight hours. Misty had two children from a previous marriage.  Lt. Leeland Butcher said the  children were not involved in the shooting and are being cared for by relatives. Investigators were also seen combing through a truck in the parking lot of the Moore Creek-Mt Carmel Utilities company, a short distance from the scene.  Investigators removed at lease one weapon, a long gun, from the vehicle. The vehicle reportedly belonged to one of the victims. Nowling Road is just outside the Jay city limits, about a mile south of Jay High School.  The Jay schools were placed on a brief lockdown this morning as deputies responded and began their investigation. The lockdown was lifted after is was determined to be a likely murder-suicide with no other suspect. The incident remains under investigation.  Further details will be posted as they become available. Pictured top and inset: An apparent murder suicide was discovered at this home on Nowling Road in Jay. Pictured first two photos  below: Investigators and deputies secure a weapon found in a truck in the parking lot of  the nearby Moore Creek-Mt. Carmel Utilities Company. Pictured bottom: More photos from the scene. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 16, 2014 | Read the story »

State Selects Century To Participate In Competitive Florida Partnership

The Town of Century has been selected to participate in the  Competitive Florida Partnership, a rural community development initiative. The Competitive Florida Partnership focuses on improving local economic development activities, particularly in the rural areas of Florida.  The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will assist Century in working to implement the town’s strategic economic development plan in a way that is tailored to the community’s unique character and vision. One facet of the program will be to create a community asset inventory that will be available to local businesses wishing to expand or potential businesses interested in moving to Century. The Competitive Florida Program will help Century to market the community’s local assets and to set realistic goals for advancing the town’s economic development vision. The program will help Century develop an innovative economic development strategy that promotes partnerships, community design, and a vibrant local economy. Asset-based economic development is a bottom-up approach that focuses on developing and promoting existing local resources such as the available workforce, buildings and land, public infrastructure, transportation networks, education, political advocacy and civic organizations, to strengthen the local economy. This approach focuses on leveraging a rural community’s assets and economic advantages into sustainable economic growth and prosperity. DEO will work with Century to identify and market these assets and facilitate promotional opportunities to bring economic development to the community.  Read More →

October 16, 2014 | Read the story »

Young Wyatt Johnson Loses Fight Against Rare Disease

Wyatt Johnson of Century passed away late Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta. He was just two and a half. Wyatt suffered from a rare liver disease – Langerhans cell histiocytosis – that required chemotherapy and would have eventually required a transplant.  He also had an enlarged liver, spleen and heart. Last year, Wyatt received national attention due to Shelby Godwin of Bratt. She saw a fundraising flyer with Wyatt’s picture at CVS in Century. She was so emotionally touched by the young man that she wanted to do something to help him, and she set up a roadside orange juice stand to raise money for a young child she had never met. The then 10-year old used her own money to purchase the oranges and supplies for her little  business venture and borrowed an old fashioned juicer from a friend of her mom. Wyatt’s family has an active GoFundMe website that was established to pay about $30,000 in transportation expenses for Wyatt and his family that were incurred to and from Atlanta where he received his specialized medical care. Donations can be made here. Pictured: Wyatt Johnson in October of last year when a special event was held in his honor at Bratt Elementary School for him to meet Shelby Godwin (bottom photo) for the first time. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 16, 2014 | Read the story »

Two Bodies Found In Mobile Home

The bodies of a man and woman were found inside a mobile home in Ensley Wednesday night after neighbors called deputies saying the family had not been seen in days. When Escambia County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, they said cars were in the driveway of the residence in the 99 Oaks Mobile Home Park, but no one would answer the door. Deputies forced their way into the home and found the two bodies. There were reportedly no weapons found in the home. The Sheriff’s Office said a cause of death will be determined by the Medical Examiner’s Office and a determination will be made if there was foul play in the deaths. Neighbors described the couple as being in their mid-40’s.  Read More →

October 16, 2014 | Read the story »

Cross Country: Northview, EWMS, Flomaton, Miller

About 90 runners took part in a cross country meet with Ernest Ward Middle, Flomaton High, Milton High, Northview High, Catholic High and T.R. Miller High Tuesday at Northview High School in Bratt. For additional photos, click here. Results were as follows: Top Girls Teams TR Miller- 30 points Pensacola Catholic- 36 Points Milton-63 Points Northview -141 Points Ernest Ward-153 Points Fastest Girl-Allie Nelson from TR Miller with a time of 20:02 Top Boys Teams Pensacola Catholic- 29 points Milton High -50 points TR Miller -80 points Flomaton -126 points Northview -165 Points Ernest Ward-237 points Fastest Boy- Grant Kemp from Pensacola Catholic with a time of 18:08 TOP FIVE RUNNERS FROM EACH SCHOOL Northview Girls Moriah McGhan -25:29 Mary Sullivan -31:53 Bethany Reynolds -32:18 Myisha Syria -33:01 Jessica Barrows-41:28 Northview Boys­ Brandon Korinchak -20:20 Josh Borelli -20:49 Heath Sheldt -23:58 Austin Ates -24:35 Triston Reaves -28:03 Ernest Ward Girls Addison Albritton 28:11 Haley Black -32:57 Cailee Wilburn -33:02 Lexxi Baggett -33:07 Anna Sullivan 33:09 Ernest Ward Boys Brandon Sheldt -25:36 Bryce Korinchak-28:07 Shane Hardin -30:12 Keaton Brown -32:48 Alexander Floyd -35:04 Flomaton Boys Dustin Reaves -20:37 Duane Hamby -21:00 Dylan Patterson -22:07 Dakota Boatwright -23:28 Hayden Hammond 23:59 TR Miller Girls Allie Nelson- 20:02 Tara Townsend -23:54 Sarah Byrd -24:17.21 Madison Lum -24:17.59 Carmen Knowles -25:02 TR Miller Boys Travis Carlson -19:08 Micah Flores 19:37 Walker Harris 21:03 Noah Morris 21:11 Tuck McDaniel 21:54 Milton Girls Isabella Potate-23:36 Nikki Delagarza-24:57 Becky Ward -24:58 Rachel Natioa-25:49 Aly Bly-26:27 Milton Boys Cody Price -18:57 Alex McDonald -19:03 Myles Osborne -19:36 Virgil Holmes -20:35 Marcus Deloach -20:45 Pensacola Catholic Girls Annabelle Doyle-22:52 Gabby Endacott-24:18 Olivia Endacott-24:21 Vivi Lee -24:35 Angie Gonzalez-24:40 Pensacola Catholic Boys Grant Kemp -18:08 Edward Neyman -18:09 John Rawley -18:23 Henry Marcille -19:23 Logan Kane-19:40 NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

October 16, 2014 | Read the story »

Governor’s Race Debate Blown Away By Crist, Scott Dispute Over Fan

After tens of millions of dollars worth of television commercials and the slinging of massive amounts of mud, could the Florida gubernatorial election come down to an electric fan? In the latest strange chapter in the always-fascinating politics of Florida, Gov. Rick Scott skipped the first few minutes of a televised debate Wednesday with his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, because of the presence of an electric fan at Crist’s feet. Actually, debate organizers were unsure at first whether either of the candidates would be on stage, though Crist strode out as moderator Eliott Rodriguez tried to explain the situation to the audience. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now,” Rodriguez said. Scott eventually came out as well, but the incident brought a whole new meaning to the “spin room,” where surrogates for the two candidates gathered and tried to make sense of a nonsensical turn of events. The Crist camp’s description of events: They had learned that after an event last week featuring CNN anchor Candy Crowley, the stage at the remodeled venue, Bailey Hall at Broward College, was described as uncomfortably warm. Debate organizers promised to fix the problem — with fans if necessary. “They said they were going to fix it,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, who signed the debate agreement on Crist’s behalf. “And they said … if they don’t, they’ll have something available.” The Crist campaign quickly produced the copy of the rules they signed, where Gelber had written in “with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.” But Scott’s supporters countered that the fan violated the rules of the debate, and Rodriguez said in the opening moments of the debate that a copy of the rules showed to him by the incumbent’s campaign indicated the fan shouldn’t be on the stage. In fact, Scott’s camp said, it was Crist who threatened to pull the plug on the event if the fan was not plugged in. “When I got here today for this debate, I was told that Charlie Crist was going to cancel the debate, because unless there was a fan on that stage, he would not come out,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “So I think that Governor Scott was waiting to see if Charlie would actually pull that off or not.” Scott and others said he didn’t immediately take the stage at the beginning of the debate because he wanted to make sure Crist did. Crist’s nearly ubiquitous fan was already famous, memorialized by a Twitter account and obsessed over by MSNBC host Chris Matthews. Rubio said that “a similar incident” happened in a 2010 Senate debate between himself, former Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek and Crist, then running as an independent, when Meek complained about the fan. Both campaigns tried to blow off the issue Wednesday night, but only after scoring a few political points from it. “What looked bad was this bizarre incident tonight where Charlie Crist insisted on ignoring the rules of a debate, just like he’s ignored the rules time and again when it comes to telling the truth about what he stands for on issue after issue,” Rubio said. “Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates — none of that will cover up how sad his record as governor was compared to the success of Rick Scott,” Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers said in a statement issued after the debate, an apparent effort at damage control. “Crist should buy a fan for the 832,000 Floridians who lost their jobs while he was governor.” Crist’s campaign said Scott was afraid to address issues. “I think it’s outrageous that he’s worried about that when he’s not worried about a million Floridians without health insurance, he’s not worried about teachers, he’s not worried about my kid who goes to a public school,” said Annette Taddeo, Crist’s running mate. “That’s what he should be worried about, not about a fan.” Both candidates addressed the fan flap near the end of the debate, with Crist defending having his cooling system on hand. “Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?” Crist said. “I don’t think there is.” Once the debate did begin, the candidates continued the squabbling that started in television commercials and carried through a debate last week at Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo. “That’s not true,” Scott said at one point during a discussion of insurance rates. “Oh, it’s true,” Crist shot back. Crist once again brought up a years-old deposition in a civil case where Scott invoked his right not to incriminate himself 75 times. “That is not the kind of leadership that Florida deserves,” Crist said. In response to a question about gay marriage, Scott noted Crist’s evolving position on the issue — part of a narrative seeking to portray Crist as a habitual flip-flopper. “We don’t actually know what Charlie believes on this issue, because he’s taken every side of this issue,” Scott said. But most of the talk on social media and at the debate venue concerned the fan — and whether or not it will make any difference. “It’s funny, but in terms of pushing people, I doubt it,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “But it may make them watch the next one.” by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

October 16, 2014 | Read the story »

Free Hunter Safety Course Offered In Santa Rosa County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is offering a free hunter safety course in Santa Rosa County. The class will be heldat Avalon Middle School, 5445 King Arthur’s Way, Milton. Instruction will be from 6-10 p.m. Oct. 21, 23, 28 and 30. The range portion of the class is Nov. 1 from 7-10 a.m. An adult must accompany children under the age of 16 at all times. Students should bring a pencil and paper with them to take notes. Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised). The FWC course satisfies hunter-safety training requirements for all other states and Canadian provinces. People interested in attending this course can register online and obtain information about future hunter safety classes at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling Hunter Safety Coordinator Will Burnett at the FWC’s regional office in Panama City at 850-265-3676.  Read More →

October 16, 2014 | Read the story »

Molino Bar Wants Noise Ordinance Waived For Veteran’s Event

A Molino bar is asking the Escambia County Commission to waive the county’s noise ordinance for an all-day Veteran’s Remembrance Event and Ceremony. The event is planned for 8 a.m. until midnight on Saturday, November 8 at Louie’s Tavern at 271 Molino Road. The event, according to the establishment’s application, is a “remembrance to celebrate life and remember the fallen”. If approved the Escambia County Commission at their Thursday meeting, a special event permit will be issued.  Read More →

October 15, 2014 | Read the story »