December 12, 2013
Festivus, the sitcom-created holiday,” went on display Wednesday in the first floor of the Florida Capitol through a state-approved pole comprised of beer cans. South Florida political blogger Chaz Stevens delivered his 6-foot-tall “Festivus” pole — made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans.
The pole is a not-so-subtle protest to a Christian nativity scene that was put up December 3 by the Florida Prayer Network. Stevens, an atheist and member of the American Civil Liberties Union, wants to make a political statement on the need for the separation of church and state.
“When I asked to put this up, I hoped that I could make a circus out of this whole thing, to make it ridiculous,” Stevens said. “It’s six feet of beer cans … the government doesn’t belong here.”
Festivus, celebrated Dec. 23, is a “holiday” created for the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” as a non-commercial festival “for the rest of us” in the Christmas and year-end holiday season. A symbol of the holiday is an unadorned aluminum pole.
Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, attended the non-ceremonial standing of the pole Wednesday morning. “I’m not shaking and my God’s not afraid either,” said Olsen, who had a brief exchange with Stevens. “We’re all in the Capitol exercising our freedom of religion.”
The pole stands next to a banner from the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. The state Department of Management Services, which oversees displays in the Capitol, continued Wednesday to review additional requests for seasonal banner space in the Capitol’s entry rotunda. Those requests were by the American Atheists Florida Regional Directors, the Tallahassee Atheists and the Satanic Temple of Tallahassee.
The Festivus pole is approved for display until January 3.
December 12, 2013
The American Pickers from the History Channel are coming to the North Escambia – Pensacola area in January and they are looking for people with barns, warehouses, buildings full of odd, unique, and interesting collections. They also love to explore the history of the locations tied to the items.
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, are longtime “pickers” or as they call themselves “modern archaeologists”. They drive the back roads of America knocking on doors, digging through barns and basements, and sifting through junkyards and warehouses. The dirty, rusty treasures and antiques they pull out of these places are not just given a new life; they’re saved for future generations to appreciate. Along the way the guys meet the amazing people and interesting places that make America great.
A list of wanted items the American Pickers sent NorthEscambia.com is below. They are looking for the items in Florida only.
December 12, 2013
Police are investigating a double shooting that occurred Tuesday night.
The incident occurred around 10:45 p.m. at 711 Underwood Avenue. Upon arrival, Pensacola Police officers found an 18-year-old male in a parking lot with a gunshot wound near his left elbow and a bullet hole in his pants near his right hip.
The male told police he was randomly shot while walking through the apartment complex. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment. The second male also was taken to a local hospital for treatment of a gunshot to his buttocks.
While a motive for the incident remains under investigation, investigators say it may have been drug related.
Anyone having information on the incident is asked to contact the Pensacola Police Department at (850) 435-1900.
December 12, 2013
Santa Claus visited with the children of the Friendship Learning Lodge on Wednesday.
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Submitted photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
December 11, 2013
Motorists might soon be able to use their cell phones or other electronic devices to show proof of insurance when they are pulled over by police.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet — Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — approved without comment a request Tuesday from the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to allow people to display electronic copies of their motor-vehicle insurance through cell phones, tablets or other electronic devices.
The use of electronic copies is in state law, but the department’s administrative rule currently requires motorists to carry “3 1/2 inches × 2 1/4 inches” identification cards that list personal-injury protection benefits and property-damage liability insurance providers and policy numbers, along with the vehicle year, make and vehicle-identification number. The rule has been on the books since 1989.
December 11, 2013
A pedestrian is in critical condition after being struck by a car Tuesday night on Davis Highway south of Northcross Lane.
The Florida Highway Patrol said 52-year old Jeffery Kucinski of Pensacola was attempting to cross Davis Highway about 6:55 p.m. when he walked into the path of a 2002 Cadillac driven by 66-year old Christina Smith of Gulf Breeze.
After being hit by the vehicle, Kucinski was thrown forward about 60 feet. He was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital in critical condition.
Smith was not charged.
December 11, 2013
A three-week delay has been set for the rollout of a legislatively approved insurance clearinghouse that is expected to help reduce the number of homeowners’ policies in the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp.
The delay is needed in part to respond to questions about the privacy of policy holders as their applications to Citizens are marketed to private insurers.
“When we introduce this, we want to make absolutely sure that it’s going to be successful,” Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway told the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on Tuesday. “By moving this date by three weeks, it gives us the opportunity to conduct far more user-acceptance testing, and, with a much more degree of confidence when we launch this system, that it will operate as advertised.”
The clearinghouse system had been scheduled to begin comparing new policies on Jan. 2, but is now expected to go into use Jan. 27, Gilway said.
Through the clearinghouse, all new applications to Citizens will be shopped to private firms. If coverage is found within 15 percent of Citizens’ premium, the policy would go to the private carrier. For Citizens customers, renewals will have to go to the private market if comparable coverage is found at or below the state-backed insurer’s rates.
The clearinghouse was part a sweeping insurance package (SB 1770) approved by legislators during the 2013 session.
In August, the Citizens board approved a five-year contract with Bolt Solutions, Inc., to design the software for the clearinghouse. The contract, which has an option for an additional five years, could total $44.9 million over the decade.
“If three weeks is not enough, please take the time that you need, I’d rather you roll it out right,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
However, committee Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said that while the delay is understandable, the agency needs to “give it your all.”
“I don’t know some of us will be so forgiving if it gets to be Jan. 27 and it’s not there,” Simmons said.
Jay Neal, director of the advocacy group Florida Association for Insurance Reform, prefers Citizens takes its time setting up the system to ensure consumers are also able to judge the different companies that may be competing for their business.
“When these offers come back, it’s not just important that the consumers know the policies are similar, consumers need to know other things, they need to know the relative financial strengths … they need to know if the companies are going to be around when the wind blows,” Neal said.
Neal expects even with the extra time there will be “bumps” for consumers. But he remains “cautiously optimistic” the system will work.
The delay comes as the state Department of Economic Opportunity’s $62.8 million “Connect” system, which overhauled the unemployment computer system, continues to cause consternation for many users.
Connect was introduced on Oct. 14, a couple weeks after the federal government’s problem-plagued health-care website had its own not-so-spectacular introduction.
Gilway said after the state Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the clearinghouse system “is far more complex than Healthcare.gov.”
“The property casualty product is far more sophisticated than the health care,” Gilway said. “The challenge is that every single company is different and the challenge with every company is different. Some companies use credit scores, some don’t. We’re trying to come up with a system that meets the needs of every carrier across the board, but also meets the individual needs of every carrier, because that will make them more aggressive.”
Gilway added that the delay will allow Citizens to expand the number of private carriers from three to seven that will get a chance to review each policy when the system goes live.
The inclusion of renewals of Citizens policies into the clearinghouse remains on schedule to begin July 1.
Gilway told Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet that the state-backed insurer should be down to 925,000 policies by the start of the 2014 hurricane season and around 725,000 policies by the end of 2015.
Preliminary figures as of Nov. 29 show Citizens total policy count at 1,062,817. As of Oct. 31, there were 1,223,009 policies, according to Citizens’ website.
by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
December 11, 2013
Charlie Crist put down his first marker. And Rick Scott made official what everybody already knew.
Crist, the former Republican governor who is trying to win back his old job as a Democrat, announced Tuesday that he had raised about $3 million in November after formally entering the 2014 gubernatorial race. Meanwhile, Scott opened a campaign account to seek re-election — a long-anticipated move that cemented his candidacy and provided another avenue to rake in millions of dollars.
The gubernatorial moves came as political candidates and committees rushed to meet a Tuesday deadline for filing campaign-finance reports for November. The reports reflect for the first time a new law that increased campaign contribution limits to $3,000 for statewide candidates and $1,000 for other candidates, up from a longtime $500 limit.
Crist’s exact fund-raising totals had not been posted to the state Division of Elections website early Tuesday evening. But he issued a statement indicating that he had raised about $3 million through his campaign account and through a closely aligned committee known as “Charlie Crist for Florida.”
In the statement, Crist acknowledged that he will not be able to raise as much money as Scott. While Scott only opened a campaign account Tuesday, a committee backing his campaign — known as the “Let’s Get to Work” committee — raised $5.87 million in November and has brought in nearly $20 million this year.
“Rick Scott says he will have more money than any politician in the history of Florida politics,” Crist said in the announcement. “But he doesn’t have the people.”
Campaign-finance reports popped up on the Division of Elections website throughout Tuesday and reinforced that Republicans will have a huge fund-raising edge over Democrats in key races next year.
For example, Attorney General Pam Bondi reported raising $104,875 in November for her campaign account, bringing the overall total to $526,451. Meanwhile, one of her Democratic opponents, George Sheldon, reported an overall total of $51,807, and another, Perry Thurston, reported a total of $21,500.
Meanwhile, Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater raised $235,825 in November, giving him an overall total of $814,756. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam collected $158,604 in November, pushing his total to $1,008,693.
Big money also flowed to some Republican lawmakers. For instance, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, collected $64,375 during November, increasing his total to nearly $200,000 for his re-election bid in Senate District 24.
Down the Gulf Coast, Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, raised $54,075 during the month, giving her a total of $491,812 to fuel her campaign in District 30.
Among House candidates, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, reported raising $59,928 during the month, bringing his overall amount to $113,853. One of his challengers in House District 114, Democrat Daisy Baez, has collected an overall total of $63,388.
by Jim Sanders, The News Service of Florida
December 11, 2013
An Escambia County man was ticketed after hitting a school bus in Navarre Tuesday afternoon.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 61-year old Joseph A. Nunnari failed to notice a 2009 Thomas Bus driven by Alison Furber of Navarre was slowing as it approached an active school zone. Nunnari struck the back of the bus with his 2007 Ford Edge.
There were no injuries.
Nunnari was cited for careless driving, according to the FHP.
December 11, 2013
Get ready…Santa is planning visits to the Century and Molino branch libraries for a couple of a programs.
Kids are invited to wear their PJ’s and enjoy a Santa visit with stories, carols, photos with Santa, hot chocolate and more on Monday December 16 from 6-7 p.m. at the Molino Branch Library. The program will be presented in conjunction with the Molino Mid-County Historical Society.
Century — Christmas Program
The Century Branch Library Christmas Program will be held Thursday, December 19 from 5-6 p.m. at the library, 7991 North Century Boulevard. Th event will include a Christmas story, craft, a tasty treat, a gift from an elf and a visit with Santa Claus.
Pictured: Santa Claus at the Century Branch Library last year. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.