Learn About Local Option Sales Tax At Meeting Monday At Hillcrest

October 19, 2014

As the election on Tuesday, November 4, approaches Escambia County citizens are encouraged to be informed about the proposals and candidates on the ballot.

The Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) was first approved by Escambia County voters in 1992. It was again approved in 1997 and 2006 with the current round expiring in 2017. In an effort to engage citizens about the details of the already existing Local Option Sales Tax, the County has hosted a series of public meetings throughout its five commission districts.

The remaining meeting schedule concerning Local Option Sales Tax is as follows:

Monday, October 20, 5:30 p.m.

  • Hillcrest Baptist Church, 800 Nine Mile Road

Thursday, October 23, 5:30 p.m.

  • Jim Bailey Middle School, 4110 Bauer Road

Tuesday, October 28, 6 p.m.

  • Pensacola Beach Community Church, 920 Panferio Drive

A presentation and brief video will be shown to illustrate projects that Local Option Sales Tax III has funded and county staff will be available to answer questions.

Weekend Gardening: Colorful Bedding Plants Can Brighten A Winter Day

October 19, 2014

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.

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

October 19, 2014

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.

http://www.northescambia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/floridaweeklly.jpgIt 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

Mother And Son Indicted In Murder Of Covenience Store Owner

October 18, 2014

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.

Town Of Century To Be Honored With Florida Chamber Foundation Award

October 18, 2014

The Florida Chamber Foundation will recognize the Town of Century next week for their commitment to regional economic development.

The town will receive the “Six Pillars Award” for the completion of the Century strategic plan to help the community create jobs and opportunities for business and families.

“We are strategically positioning the Town of Century to become a model community for how to recognize the benefits and opportunities available within a rural community,” said Brice Harris, director of Strategic Initiatives with the Office of Economic Development and co-director of the Haas Center for Business Research & Economic Development at the University of West Florida. “The Six Pillars Community designation establishes the Town of Century as a leader in this region and I believe our efforts will result in a stronger economy and better quality of life for our residents.”

The Haas Center authored Century’s recently finished strategic plan, funded by a $25,000 a Community Planning Technical Assistance Grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The Florida Chamber Foundation Six Pillars framework serves as an organizing force for strategic planning at local, regional and state levels.

The Town of Century Six Pillars plan includes a number of strategic goals, including:

  • Leading the region in rural economic competitiveness and rural community revitalization, and
  • Proactively leading the region in the development and delivery of innovative and relevant workforce training programs.

“I am pleased to welcome the Town of Century as the newest Six Pillars Community,” said Bentina Terry, vice president, Customer Service & Sales Gulf Power and chair of the Florida Chamber Foundation. “Their commitment to improving their economic competitiveness in all areas of the six pillars framework will not only benefit this region but will add their vision to the work of other communities throughout Florida.”

NorthEscambia.com file photo.

Suffering From Allergies? Don’t Blame The Goldenrods

October 18, 2014

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.

High School Football Finals

October 18, 2014

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

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

October 17, 2014

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.



Public Meeting To Address Roundabout At Mobile Highway, Beulah Road

October 17, 2014

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.

Amendment 3 Could Determine Future Of Florida Supreme Court

October 17, 2014

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

Next Page »