Local Jobless Mark Improves

September 19, 2015

The latest job numbers released Friday show the unemployment level holding steady to slightly increasing in the three county North Escambia area.

Escambia County’s unemployment rate fell from 5.7 percent in July to 5.4 percent in August.  There were 7,642 people reported unemployed  during the period. One year ago, unemployment in Escambia County was 6.6 percent.

Santa Rosa County unemployment decreased from 5.1 to 4.8 percent from July to August. Santa Rosa County had a total of  3,612 persons still unemployed. The year-ago unemployment rate in Santa Rosa County was 5.7 percent.

In Escambia County, Alabama, unemployment decreased from 8.1 percent in July to 7.7  percent in August. That represented 1,110  people unemployed in the county during the month. One year ago, the unemployment rate in Escambia County, Alabama, was 8.6  percent.

Florida’s unemployment rate for August stood at 5.3 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from a revised number for July. The latest monthly numbers show an estimated 507,000 unemployed Floridians in August, about 10,000 fewer than in July, out of a workforce of 9.5 million, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity. The state’s unemployment rate continues to hover just above the national mark, which went from 5.3 percent in July to 5.1 percent for August. Florida’s monthly jobs numbers were driven by improvements in fields such as education, health and hospitality. Some of the monthly gains were offset by drops in construction, retail and local-government jobs.

Alabama’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent in August, was unchanged from July’s rate of 6.2 percent and was below the year-ago rate of 6.5 percent.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

Tate Celebrates Homecoming, Bell Named Queen (With Photo Gallery)

September 19, 2015

Tate High School celebrated homecoming Friday night. Alli Bell was named 2015 Homecoming Queen for the Aggies.

For more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos by Keith Garrison, click to enlarge.



Escambia County Weekly Traffic Alerts

September 19, 2015

According to the Florida Department of Transportation, drivers will encounter traffic disruptions Sunday through Friday, September 25 on the following state roads in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties as crews perform construction and maintenance activities.

  • U.S. 98 between the Pensacola Bay Bridge and the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Santa Rosa County.  Alternating lane closures 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 20 through Friday, Sept. 25 Crews will pave and perform shoulder widening.
  • U.S. 90 (Scenic Highway) emergency repair at the intersection of Scenic Highway Circle.  No lane closures are anticipated, however, traffic flaggers will be on site to assist with traffic control as construction vehicles enter and exit the work area.
  • State Road 297 (Pine Forest Road) between Nine Mile Road and Mobile Highway.  Operation will require slow moving vehicles as crews replace reflective pavement markers from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 20 and Monday, Sept. 21.
  • Westbound Interstate 10 (I-10) between Scenic Highway (Exit 17) and Davis Highway (Exit 13) in Escambia County.   Alternating lane closures beginning Monday, Sept. 21 and continuing for approximately two weeks. Lane closures will be in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. as crews place asphalt.
  • Interstate 110 from I-10 to Maxwell Street (Exit 3).  Operation will require slow moving vehicles as crews replace reflective pavement markers from 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22 to 5 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Drivers are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling through a work zone. All planned construction activities are weather dependent and may be rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

Tate Beats PHS (With Photo Gallery)

September 19, 2015

Pensacola High was one of just two teams to top the Tate Aggies last season, but the Aggies had different plans this year. Tate beat Pensacola High 24-16 for a big homecoming win at Pete Gindl Stadium in Cantonment.

Tate scored in the first half with a 52-yard touchdown run from Alondo Thompkins, a 28-yard run from Sawyer Smith, and a 36-yard field goal from Evan Legassey. Thompkins added a 49-yard touchdown run in the fourth.

The Aggies (3-0) will host Niceville next Friday night at 7:30.

For more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos by Keith Garrison, click to enlarge.

Chipley Downs Northview 30-14 (With Photo Gallery)

September 19, 2015

The Chipley Tigers earned a 30-14 win over the Northview Chiefs Friday night in Chipley. The Tigers ran up 16 unanswered points in last five minutes of the game to seal the win.

Chipley was first on the board on a short run with 10:07 to go int he second quarter. Northview scored with 8:58 to go in the half on a Luke Ward touchdown. With a good extra point, the Chiefs took a 7-6 lead. With 5:49 remaining in the second, the Tigers made it 14-7 with a 40-yard touchdown pass.

Northview tied it up 14-14 with a Gavin Grant touchdown in the last seconds of the third quarter, before Chipley went on their 16 point scoring run in the fourth.

The Northview Chiefs will play host to Vancleave, MS, next Friday night, 7:00, at Tommy Weaver Memorial Stadium in Bratt.

For more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos by Gary Amerson, click to enlarge.

Florida Supreme Court Makes Fashion Statement For Judges

September 19, 2015

The Florida Supreme Court says the issue comes down to public trust and confidence.

And from now on, that means judges can only don solid black robes when they head into court.

Despite arguments that it doesn’t need to act as the fashion police, the Supreme Court on Thursday approved a rule that will prevent judges throughout the state from wearing colorful robes or other adornments while presiding over cases. Justices said in an eight-page decision that judges “wearing different colored robes or robes with varying embellishments” could lead to uncertainty for people going before courts.

“Depending on the color or pattern of the robe or the type of embellishment worn, some may wonder whether the presiding judge is a ‘real judge’ or whether the judge will take the proceedings seriously,” the decision said. “Robe color also could be seen as a reflection of a judge’s mood or attitude that day. Should a defendant facing the death penalty feel trepidation when the presiding judge appears in a red robe or feel more at ease when the robe is green? The possibility that the unique attire of the judge assigned to one’s case could raise these concerns and thereby diminish public trust and confidence in the proceedings is not acceptable.”

While it’s not clear from the decision how many judges might have ditched traditional black for something more colorful, the rule drew some opposition before it was approved.

Maybe most notably, the Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges said in a May filing that it “does not see any need” for the rule.

“The conference is not aware of any instances in which the use of judicial robes other than black robes without embellishments has been detrimental to the administration of justice, nor any inappropriate circumstances which it believes would be curtailed by the proposed rule,” the group said.

Similarly, Broward County Circuit Judge Merrilee Ehrlich wrote in an April filing that the issue of judicial robes should be handled on a case-by-case basis. She wrote that a judge “need not be required to have the literal appearance of severity (black,unadorned robes), only solemnity.”

“Historically, the respect was accorded austere, plain black judicial robes designed for my brethren, at the time, older, somber-appearing men,” Ehrlich wrote. “I wear a simple white lace collar on my plain black robes to add a touch of femininity to the dignity of the robe. It is equally important for the Florida Supreme Court to acknowledge that we now have a diverse bench.”

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, Peggy Quince, Ricky Polston and James E.C. Perry approved Thursday’s decision. Justice Charles Canady concurred in the result, though he did not sign on to the decision.

The court said it has “no doubt that the clear majority of judges conduct themselves in the most exemplary manner and hold themselves to the highest standards.” But it said that is not the case with all judges and that the rule can help bolster trust and confidence in the judiciary.

“The public should not have to guess as to the meaning of different colored, patterned, or embellished robes,” the decision said. “Promoting uniformity in judicial attire, by requiring all judges to wear unembellished, solid black robes, will no doubt avoid these concerns and promote public trust and confidence. The people of Florida have a right to expect equal justice every day in every court in this state, and should not have to question whether equal justice is being dispensed based on the color of a judge’s robe.”

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida


Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Back To The Future

September 19, 2015

Sen. Jeff Brandes drove an electric car around the state Capitol on Thursday. Someone might want to ask him if he got up to 88 mph.

Because much of this week in Tallahassee seemed like it was going Back to the Future. (The DeLorean in the 1980s film franchise had to reach 88 mph to start the time-travel process.) From the debate over guns on college campuses to the continuing fallout from this year’s botched rollout of the state’s new standardized tests, the discussion seemed to be holdovers or leftovers from the 2015 legislative session — or even earlier.

http://www.northescambia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/floridaweeklly.jpgMeanwhile, both sides of the ongoing debate about the state’s congressional districts went back to court, and one side was accused of using political consultants to try to carve up the state for partisan gain. This time, though, the voting-rights organizations and voters who challenged the map lawmakers drew in 2012 were put on the defensive.

So, again: Just how fast did Brandes drive that car?

‘WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY …’

During a trial last year over whether the Legislature’s 2012 congressional redistricting plan violated the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010, critics of the map built their case on an alleged conspiracy between Republican political consultants and legislative leaders to draw the lines in a way that helped the GOP.

The Legislature this week tried to use that fact to suggest that there was a dose of irony or hypocrisy — take your pick — when two groups of plaintiffs who fought the 2012 map in court filed proposed alternatives that had been discussed with Democratic operatives. In one case, some of the plaintiffs talked about their plan with the organization devoted to electing Democrats to Congress.

Attorneys for a group of voters known as the Romo plaintiffs “discussed aspects of the Romo plaintiffs’ proposed remedial plan with staff members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee” and others, court papers said.

Meanwhile, plans pitched by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida were drawn by an employee of Strategic Telemetry, a firm whose founder worked for the presidential campaigns of Democratic nominees John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008. Strategic Telemetry is also ensnared in a controversy over maps it helped craft for Arizona’s independent redistricting committee.

Lawyers for the state House quickly went to the Florida Supreme Court and called for the opportunity to dig deeper into the background of those maps by lifting the court’s ban on discovery — essentially, the ability to get documents and gather testimony — ahead of a hearing before a Leon County judge next week.

“Without apparent shame, plaintiffs have presented to the trial court alternative maps that were drawn, reviewed, discussed, modified, and approved in a closed process, in complete darkness, by national political operatives,” the filing said. “The fact that plaintiffs’ maps, despite their origins, are pending before the trial court for a possible recommendation to this (Supreme) Court should dismay and disturb all Floridians.”

The plaintiffs fought back, saying the identities of who came up with the maps are irrelevant. In a response to the legislative argument, the voting-rights organizations’ attorneys filed a brief drawing a distinction between the way lawmakers and consultants drafted districts in 2012 and the way the plaintiffs’ maps were drawn for the court process.

“The coalition plaintiffs are not secretly submitting proposed maps through subterfuge, and the courts are certainly not conspiring with the plaintiffs to secretly consider these maps,” the response said. “The plaintiffs have submitted their maps through public filings in court under their own names that directly identify who helped prepare the maps.”

The papers were still flying at the end of the week, with Circuit Judge Terry Lewis set to begin a hearing on the proposed maps Thursday. Lewis will ultimately recommend a map for the Supreme Court to consider.

TAKING ANOTHER SHOT

Despite trying and failing in the past to get lawmakers to approve a proposal that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to pack heat while hitting the books on college and university campuses, advocates haven’t given up. And the measure notched it first two successes this week, even as one of its highest-profile opponents was unmoved.

The legislation (SB 68 and HB 4001), which won support from criminal-justice committees in the House and Senate, is supported by gun-rights groups but widely opposed by academic leaders.

Proponents argued that the proposal would make colleges safer, while opponents questioned the need to allow weapons into an already stress-filled atmosphere. But Florida State University President John Thrasher, a former lawmaker who helped derail a similar measure in 2011, told The News Service of Florida that allowing more guns on campus will not make schools safer.

“We live in a different environment where, if you look at the footprint of this campus and you see where this campus is and where it goes, and then you look at the outskirts of it, there are multiple places to be served alcohol, there are multiple types of high-risk behaviors that go on at universities when you have 42,000 students,” Thrasher said. “I frankly think it’s just a mistake to do it. … I believe in the Second Amendment. I supported it when I was in the Legislature, but I think there certainly are reasonable exceptions. This is one of those.”

A number of students, some pointing to a November 2014 shooting at Florida State’s Strozier Library that left three people injured, told lawmakers Wednesday that they don’t feel safe. Even though the gunman in the Strozier Library shooting was killed by first responders, there remains a two- or three-minute response time — time in which people with concealed-weapons licenses could react, several students noted.

“A lot can happen in two to three minutes,” said University of Florida student Brandon Woolf, a vice president of the campus chapter of Students for Concealed Carry. “Nobody here wants to call my parents and tell them I was killed while hiding behind a desk.”

WHO WILL TEST THE TESTERS?

The debate over the messy Florida Standards Assessment rollout is over. Long live the debate over the messy Florida Standards Assessment rollout.

The last official review related to the new standardized test for public-school students came to an end Wednesday, when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced it had identified neither a clear motive nor a suspect in a cyberattack that was one of the many technology woes the exam faced earlier this year.

State officials emphasized that the March incident was what is known as a Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS, attack — which occurs when someone bombards a server with requests to overload it and make it unable to handle legitimate traffic.

“Most importantly, I want to reassure our state’s students, parents and educators that, because of the nature of the cyberattack, no student information was accessed and the content of the assessment was not compromised,” Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The next day, though, the debate was kicked back into high gear when senators from both sides of the aisle raised sharp questions about a study that Florida Department of Education officials say validated the controversial new test.

Members of the Senate Education Pre-K-12 Committee reviewed the study of the Florida Standards Assessment and suggested that the department had portrayed the report’s conclusions in an overly optimistic light and wondered whether teacher evaluations and school grades should be tied to the exam.

For all the sound and fury, though, Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Lutz, seemed to be content with a testing bill that lawmakers approved last year.

“My intent is, after today we have other legislation that we’re going to be reviewing in our committee,” he said. “So my time will be limited.”

But Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who doubles as CEO of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, wasn’t as quick to walk away.

“This meeting today gave me no more comfort. In fact, it even raised more questions about the process that was used, the conclusions that they came to. I am not satisfied,” he said. ” … I don’t think this is just going to go off into the sunset.”

STORY OF THE WEEK: The spat over congressional redistricting continued, as both sides filed their proposed maps with Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “He was, I think, feeling his oats a little bit, out in Iowa. It was on a sports program, and I get that. I think Marco’s a very gifted young man, no question about it. But our folks took a little bit of exception to what he had to say.”—Florida State University President John Thrasher, on a back-and-forth between himself and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who’s running for the White House. Rubio, a Gator fan, took a shot at FSU in a radio interview.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Man Shoots At Deputy In Cantonment Before Armed Standoff

September 18, 2015

An 19-year old Cantonment man opened fire on an Escambia County deputy Thursday night before a nearly two hour standoff.

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 1500 block of Crystal Drive to assist EMS after the 19-year-old’s family thought he was having a heart attack. Sheriff David Morgan said the family believed the man had ingested some type of narcotics, possibly LSD.

The suspect, later identified as Christopher Allen Payne,  kicked his family out of the home, and he fired about six shots from a rifle at an arriving deputy. The deputy was not struck.

Payne then barricaded himself inside the home with two rifles and a shotgun. The Sheriff’s Department SWAT team was called to assist, and neighboring homes were evacuated as a  precaution.

The Sheriff’s Office set up their mobile command unit, first near Ascend Performance Materials and then at the Gulf Coast Baptist Church on Chemstrand Road at Wiggins Lane, just a short distance from the standoff.

A Sheriff’s Office hostage negotiator was able to reach Payne on the phone and establish a rapport, Morgan said. Payne was eventually talked into a peaceful surrender.

Payne was transported to an area hospital for evaluation and then booked into the Escambia County Jail about 12:50 a.m. Friday on a charge of felony assault with a deadly weapon against a law enforcement officer.

“We will work with the family and the judicial system to get him the help that he needs,” Morgan said.

Pictured top and inset: The scene on Crystal Drive in Cantonment Thursday night after a 19-year opened fire with a rifle on an Escambia County deputy. Pictured below: The Sheriff’s Office mobile command unit, an Escambia County EMS unit leaving the scene following the suspect’s surrender, and deputies on scene on Crystal Drive. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Century Man Facing Felony Fleeing Charges For Taking Off For Alabama

September 18, 2015

A Century man is facing a felony charge after fleeing from deputies in Century and heading across the state line into Alabama.

An Escambia County (FL) deputy attempted a traffic stop for speeding and a turn signal violation on a Toyota Highlander driven by 29-year old Emanuel Rabun Bethea on Old Flomaton Road. After the deputy followed him a short distance with lights and siren activated, Bethea eventually came to a stop about 20 yards from the Alabama state line.

When the deputy asked Bethea to step out of the vehicle, he instead rolled up the vehicle window and drove into Alabama. The deputy did not give chase.

Bethea told his mother, the owner of the vehicle, that he was borrowing for a job interview, according to an arrest report, but the deputy told her that was likely not true because was first spotted in the known narcotics trade area of Pond and Jefferson Avenue. The report also states that Bethea told his mother than he fled from the deputy because he was rude and punched him.

A warrant was issued for Bethea’s arrest. He was charged with felony fleeing and eluding police with light and siren activated and knowing driving with a suspended license. He also received traffic citations for improper turn signals and speeding.

He was released from the Escambia County Jail on a $6,000 bond.

Voter Registration Event Next Week In Century

September 18, 2015

The Escambia County Supervisor of Elections Office will hold a voter registration drive September 21 in Century

The event will be held  from 2:30 until 3:30 p.m. at the Century Town Hall.  Florida residents can register to vote or, if already registered, make sure the elections office has their most current information on file.

Florida residents attending the event should bring their Florida driver’s license, Florida ID card or the last four digits of their social security number.

For more information, call (850) 595-3900.

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