March 26, 2017
The Northview Boy’s weightlifting team competed today at Baker in the FHSAA 1A Region 1 Regional Meet.
Placing for the Chiefs were:
M.J. Jones – 139-lb. weight class – 4th Place – 400-lb. total* (210-lb. bench press*; 190-lb. clean and jerk*)
Ohijie Elliott – 154-lb. weight class – 3rd Place – 510-lb. total* (275-lb. bench press*; 235-lb. clean and jerk*)
Chase Olsen – 169-lb. weight class – 5th Place – 525-lb. total* (275-lb. bench press; 250-lb. clean and jerk)
(* denotes new Personal Record)
All three lifters are eligible for at-large berths to the state weightlifting meet in Deland on April 8th. The results of other regions will determine if they qualify for the state weightlifting meet.
Photo For NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
March 26, 2017
Teaching children a lifelong hobby, instilling appreciation for our marine environment and providing fun, family outings are the objectives for the Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Pensacola on April 8.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will offer a free Kids’ Fishing Clinic for children between the ages of 5 and 15 from 9 a.m. to noon at Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park, 301 W. Main Street.
These free clinics enable young people to learn the basics of conservation stewardship, fishing ethics, angling skills and safety. In addition, environmental displays will offer participants a unique chance to experience Florida’s marine life firsthand.
Kids’ Fishing Clinics strive to achieve several goals, but the main objective is to create responsible marine-resource stewards by teaching children about the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems. In addition, organizers hope to teach fundamental saltwater fishing skills and provide participants a positive fishing experience.
Fishing equipment and bait are provided for kids to use during the clinic, but organizers encourage children who own fishing tackle to bring it. A limited number of rods and reels will be given away to participants upon completion of the clinic.
If conditions allow, participants will have the opportunity to practice their new skills and fish from the pier. This event is a photo catch-and-release activity. An adult must accompany all participants. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. and will end when 350 participants are registered.
March 26, 2017
The Century Health and Rehabilitation Center is planning an Earth Day Celebration for Saturday, April 22. Vendor applications are being accepted now. Contact Mae at (850) 256-1540 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information. Pictured: Earth Day 2016 at the Century Health and Rehabilitation Center. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge.
March 26, 2017
The inaugural Ciclovia Open Streets Pensacola was held Saturday.
Open Streets Pensacola was a free, safe, and inclusive event that focused on fitness, recreation, and community programs along five miles of road for people to experience the streets in a new way.
Participants were invited to bike, walk, run, skate, roll, or dance their way through the scenic and historic routes of downtown Pensacola. There were numerous activities along the route including fitness classes, sports demonstrations, music, dancing, helmet fittings, a bike skills clinic, plus games and fun activities for all ages.
Ciclovia, also called Open Streets, started in South America and has since been held worldwide for more than 30 years in more than 400 cities.
Courtesy photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
March 25, 2017
The latest job numbers released Friday show the employment rate decreasing in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
Escambia County’s seasonably adjusted unemployment rate decreased from 5.5 percent in January to 4.8 percent in February. There were 6,812 people reported unemployed during the period. One year ago, unemployment in Escambia County was 4.9 percent.
“We continue to see economic growth in communities throughout the state and the Pensacola area is no exception. I am proud to announce that businesses in the Pensacola area created more than 4,000 new jobs over the year.” Gov. Rick Scott said.
The industries with the most job growth in the Pensacola area over the year were leisure and hospitality with 1,900 new jobs and trade, transportation and utilities with 1,100 new jobs. The Pensacola area had 4,588 job openings in February, including 1,442 openings for high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations.
Santa Rosa County unemployment rate fell from 5.1 percent in January to 4.4 percent in February. Santa Rosa County had a total of 3,396 persons still unemployed. The year-ago unemployment rate in Santa Rosa County was 4.4 percent.
Florida’s unemployment rate held at 5 percent from January to February and matches the mark for the state a year ago, according to numbers released Friday by the Department of Economic Opportunity. The latest numbers reflect 501,000 Floridians out of work from labor force of 10 million. The state’s unemployment rate remains above the national figure of 4.7 percent.
The jobless numbers released by the state do not include persons that have given up on finding a job and are no longer reported as unemployed.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
March 25, 2017
In just over a week, the Town of Century has burned about one-half of the vegetative debris that was left behind when an EF-3 tornado that ripped through town on February 15, 2016.
The downed trees were transported to an empty lot in the town’s industrial park. Piles were created for burning out of about 800 dump truck loads of trees and other vegetative debris from the tornado.
The first of those piles was burned Tuesday, March 14. Town employees are burning the piles under permits issued daily from the Florida Forest Service.
Pictured: Piles of 2016 tornado debris remaining to be burned in the Century Industrial Park on Friday afternoon, March 24, 2017. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.
March 25, 2017
The Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida released a juvenile bald eagle back into the wild Friday.
Mardi Gras the Eagle was found at the Santa Rosa County landfill and was taken to the wildlife sanctuary for rehab when they realized Mardi wasn’t doing too well. The sanctuary believes the eagle is about two years old and a female because her wingspan is about eight feet. Females are always larger than males.
It takes five years for a bald eagle to get a white head, white tail and yellow beak. So in about three more years, Mardi will look a lot different.
The Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida will hold heir annual Baby Shower and Open House April 15 from noon until 3:30. Visitors can see birds of prey, feed the pelicans, see numerous other animals, take part in children’s games, wildlife crafts and much more. Admission is free.
The Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 105 North S Street in Pensacola.
Courtesy photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.
March 25, 2017
Drivers will encounter traffic variations on the following state roads in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties as crews perform construction and maintenance activities.
· Nine Mile Road (State Road (S.R.) 10/U.S. 90A) from Beulah Road to Pine Forest Road Widening – Alternating lane closures between Interstate 10 (I-10) and the Navy Federal Credit Union from midnight Sunday, March 26 to 6 a.m. Monday, March 27 and from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday, March 27 and Tuesday, March 28 as crews install drainage. Traffic will be allowed in one direction at a time with traffic flaggers on hand to safely direct drivers through the work zone.
· Interstate 10 (I-10)/ U.S. 29 Interchange Improvements Phase I – Drivers will encounter the following traffic impacts 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday, March 27 through Thursday, March 30 as crews mill and resurfacing the roadway.
o Alternating lane closures on I-10 westbound near U.S. 29 (Exits 10A and 10B).
o The U.S. 29 north to I-10 westbound ramp will be closed. Traffic will be detoured north to make a U-turn at Broad Street to access I-10 westbound.
o Intermittent lane closures on the I-10 westbound to U.S. 29 north ramp (Exit 10B). Traffic will be detoured to Exit 10A for access U.S. 29.
· I-10 Widening from Davis Highway to the Escambia Bay Bridge - The right lane and shoulder of I-10 eastbound, between Scenic Highway (Exit 17) and Davis Highway (Exit 13), will be closed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Monday, March 27 through Friday, March 31 as crews pave the right lane and shoulder. Scenic Highway (U.S. 90) southbound travel lanes, south of I-10, will be slightly shifted Wednesday, March 29 and Thursday, March 30 as crews apply pavement markings.
· Bayfront Parkway (S.R. 196) 2017 Ciclovia Bike Event- Temporary closure from Spring Street to Cervantes Street , Cervantes Street to Scenic Highway, and Chipley Street to Summit Boulevard from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25 for festivities. Traffic will be detoured and local law enforcement on site to assist with traffic control.
· U.S. 29 at North Tate School Road Turn lane construction in Gonzales - The northbound, outside lane will be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, March 27 through Thursday, March 30
as crews extend the southbound (left) turn lane, install a new northbound (right) turn lane, and construct a new driveway at Arby’s.
· Perdido Key Drive (S.R. 292) Resurfacing from the Alabama State line to the ICWW (Theo Baars Bridge) – Drivers can expect minor delays Monday, March 27 through Friday, March 31 as crews stripe the roadway and complete miscellaneous construction activities on the project. Drivers can expect delays.
· Lillian Highway ( S.R. 298) over Mill View Bayou Bridge Maintenance- North and southbound lane restrictions from 8 p.m. Monday, March 27 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, March 28 as crews perform joint repair work on the bridge. Drivers are reminded to watch for traffic flaggers.
· Nine Mile Road (S.R. 10) south of Scenic Hills Drive Turn Lane Construction- Eastbound lane closure from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, March 27 through Thursday, March 30 as crews construction right turn lanes for the Wal-Mark Market just east of Westside Drive.
· New Warrington Spur (S.R. 727) over West Fairfield Drive (S.R. 295) Bridge Maintenance- Eastbound outside, right lane will be closed from 10 p.m. until midnight Monday, March 27 as crews perform joint repair work on the bridge.
· Barrancas Avenue (S.R. 292) over Bayou Chico Routine Bridge Maintenance- East and westbound lane closures from 12 a.m. until 5 a.m. Monday, March 27 as crews clean bridge joints.
· U.S. 29 (S.R. 95) Widening from I-10 to Nine Mile Road- Alternating lane closures continue from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on U.S. 29 between I-10 and 9 1/2 Mile Road and on Nine Mile Road near the U.S. 29/ Nine Mile Road overpass as crews perform drainage and bridge operations.
· Nine Mile Road (S.R. 10/U.S. 90A) Widening from Pine Forest Road to U.S. 29- Alternating lane closures continue on Untreiner Avenue as crews perform jack and bore operations.
· Fairfield Drive (S.R. 295) over the Railroad Tracks Routine Bridge Maintenance- East and westbound alternating lane closures from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. Tuesday, March 28 and Wednesday, March 29 as crews replace bridge joints.
· I-10 Escambia Bay Bridge Routine Maintenance- Eastbound lane closures from 8 p.m. Thursday, March 30 to 5 a.m. Friday, March 31 as crews perform routine maintenance on the bridge.
Santa Rosa County:
· I-10 Resurfacing from S.R. 87 to the Okaloosa County Line- Intermittent and alternating lane restrictions from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Monday, March 27 through Friday, March 31 as crews perform construction activities.
· I-10 Widening from Escambia Bay Bridge to Avalon Boulevard (S.R. 281/Exit 22) – Alternating lane closures on I-10 east and westbound near Avalon Boulevard from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. the week of Monday, March 27 as crews remove barrier wall.
Drivers are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling through the construction zone, and to pay attention for workers and equipment entering and exiting the work area.
March 25, 2017
One-third of the way through this year’s legislative session — assuming that it wraps up on time — some of the debates that will define the next six weeks are beginning to take shape. But there still seems to be a bit of haziness on where things are going.
There was movement on some of the more high-profile initiatives of the session, whether tearing down the “liquor wall” or overhauling the state’s higher education system. At the same time, there were few signs of movement on the budget, the one thing lawmakers must get done every year, and the thing that some have pegged as a reason the session could head to overtime.
At the same time, a longer-term project got underway, as the once-every-20-years Constitution Revision Commission held its first meeting — and promptly got into a scrape with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, about when the next few get-togethers should be held.
There were also issues of crime and justice to emerge, including the ongoing battle over an Orlando prosecutor’s decision not to seek the death penalty in capital punishment cases and one House Republican’s own brush with the law as he made his way home from the Capitol.
The skirmish over the Constitutional Revision Commission has its roots in a stinging defeat of Carlos Beruff, now the panel’s chairman. Beruff months ago lost his attempt to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in a bare-knuckles battle against U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
By Monday, Beruff had undertaken another project that could have long-lasting effects on the state: chairing the panel empowered to recommend constitutional amendments directly to the voters, who will decide whether to adopt those changes in November 2018.
Beruff, a Sarasota homebuilder and close political ally of Gov. Rick Scott, is the first chairman of a Constitution Revision Commission selected by a Republican. He pledged an open process as the 37-member body got down to work in a ceremonial meeting.
“Every member of the CRC will have the opportunity to be heard and have the chance to fight for the issues they believe are important to this state,” he said. “Most importantly, though, we need to listen to the citizens.”
Complaints from various corners accused Beruff of having no apparent experience in constitutional law, and also raised questions about his closeness with Scott. But even some Democratic members of the GOP-dominated commission seemed less than concerned.
In fact, one of the first flashpoints around Beruff’s leadership of the commission came from Corcoran, a Republican whose relationship with Scott has become increasingly strained over the last several months.
Of the four men allowed to pick members of the commission — Scott, Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga — the House speaker was the only one to place current legislators on the panel. Corcoran appointed five members.
So when the first four public hearings were announced — all of them to be held outside of Tallahassee, and during the ongoing legislative session — Corcoran was not pleased.
“Obviously … especially when you have such a once-in-20-year august body dealing with something that is of the highest impact, which is our Constitution, and you only have a limited number of members, 37, and immediately the first action is to disenfranchise one-sixth, I don’t think that’s a good start,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the commission responded Friday, noting that videos of the meetings would be available online and more meetings will be held.
“As a commission which meets just once every 20 years, commissioners have a responsibility to be accountable to the people of Florida and accomplish as much as we can in the short time we have,” said Meredith Beatrice. “The work before this commission is incredibly important. We will be working with all commissioners on additional public hearings to ensure the best possible outcome for families in our state.”
TEAR DOWN THE WALL
The nation’s most prominent Republican might be devoted to building a wall, but in Florida, some members of the Senate GOP were part of a push to tear one down.
The so-called “liquor wall” — a Depression-era ban on liquor being sold alongside groceries — took a hit when the Senate narrowly approved a measure (SB 106) to get rid of the prohibition.
The chamber voted 21-17 to approve the bill, as members argued over whether it might kill someone. And as two of the Senate’s more prominent Republican members got into a public fight on the floor.
The issue has led to repeated legislative battles in recent years, pitting Walmart and Target, which want to stock liquor on shelves near other goods, against Publix and ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, which have stand-alone liquor stores as part of their corporate blueprints.
In asking lawmakers to reject the proposal, Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said “large corporate citizens want us to do it (approve the bill) for their own economic purposes.”
That prompted Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, to fire back in a speech that ended with him dropping a live microphone on his desk.
“We talk about who is pushing it, but we know who is pushing against it too, Sen. Latvala. We know who’s pushing against it real hard,” Lee said.
On the other end of the Capitol, House committees began moving forward with two marquee issues. First, they approved the latest version of legislation in the years-long battle over what comes next for the state’s gambling industry.
The House Ways and Means Committee voted 11-7 to approve the proposal (HB 7037), aimed at creating a new agreement with the Seminole Tribe, even if a tribe representative recently called the proposal a “non-starter.”
The bill would continue to allow the tribe to have exclusive rights to operate “banked” card games, such as blackjack, at five of its casinos. In exchange, the Seminoles would have to guarantee $3 billion in payments to the state — earmarked mainly for education — over seven years.
But critics objected that the proposal gives short shrift to pari-mutuels. The measure would, among other things, ban popular and lucrative “designated player” poker-style games operated by numerous cardrooms throughout the state.
“The pari-mutuel industry has been a friend to this state. They’ve helped provide a lot of dollars for a lot of things to happen. They by-and-large are getting treated less well than they deserve for the service they’ve rendered the state,” Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, said.
Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican shepherding the upper chamber’s proposal, was optimistic.
“It’s only week three (of the 60-day legislative session) and at this point I am more focused on the fact that gaming bills are moving than the differences,” Galvano, who is slated to take over as Senate president in November 2018, said in a text message late Tuesday.
On the education front, a House committee approved its version of a higher-ed reform bill, one that includes expanding Bright Futures scholarships and requiring state universities to begin using “block” tuition, some of the earliest movement on a priority of Negron, R-Stuart.
Both bills would expand the top-level Bright Futures award for “academic scholars” to cover full tuition and fees for those students who qualify for the merit-based aid. But while the Senate would expand the scholarship for “academic scholars” to the summer semester, the House wants to expand summer support to all Bright Future recipients.
There are also differences over the details of the tuition plan, which would replace the current per-credit hour charge with a flat per-semester fee.
PUNISHMENT AND CRIME
Outside the walls of the Capitol, the firestorm started by a Central Florida state attorney who says she won’t seek the death penalty continued to play out.
Aramis Ayala, whose decision not to ask for capital punishment for alleged cop-killer Markeith Loyd started the dispute, accused Scott this week of abusing his authority by handing the case to another state attorney.
Ayala, state attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange and Osceola counties, asked a judge Monday to put a hold on proceedings in the case of Loyd, accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and the execution-style killing of Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.
In a five-page filing, Ayala argued that Scott lacks the power to strip her of her role as prosecutor. If a court interpreted state law to allow Scott’s action, Ayala wrote, the governor could supersede a prosecutor in any given case.
“Giving the governor the tremendous and unfettered discretion to interfere in that decision making, would be unprecedented and could undermine the entire justice system in Florida,” she wrote.
Scott defended his decision to appoint a different prosecutor.
“So the first thing I did was I asked her to recuse herself. She said she wasn’t going to, so I moved the case to Brad King. Last week, she said she was fine with that. Today she’s changed her position. So the case has been assigned to Brad King, and that was the right decision,” the governor said.
By the end of the week, another potential criminal case had grabbed attention.
With a blood-alcohol level nearly double the legal limit, state Rep. Cary Pigman was charged with drunken driving after a traffic stop on Florida’s Turnpike several hours after a House session Thursday, according to a police report.
Pigman, R-Avon Park, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. Calls to his legislative offices went to voice mail.
STORY OF THE WEEK: The Constitution Revision Commission held its first meeting as it embarks on the once-every-20-years task of recommending changes to the state’s basic law.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “This is Florida’s version of `To Kill a Mockingbird.’ And I appreciate the committee supporting this resolution so that these families can get some closure.”—Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, on a proposal (SCR 920) that would apologize to families of the “Groveland Four,” a quartet of African-American men convicted under dubious circumstances of raping a white woman in 1949. Two of the men were killed in the aftermath of the alleged crime and two others served lengthy prison sentences.
by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
March 25, 2017
An Escambia County woman could spend the rest of her life in prison for stealing hundreds of thousand of dollars from a disabled veteran.
Knotts was arrested on the charges in October 2015 after a lengthy investigation conducted by the State Attorney’s Office and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The elderly victim is a disabled World War II veteran, with whom Knotts stood in a position of trust and confidence as his bookkeeper and caregiver. Knotts exploited the elderly victim over a two year period of time by committing multiple thefts. The amount stolen exceeded $300,000.
Knotts faces up to 230 years in state prison. She is currently incarcerated awaiting sentencing on May 10.