Tuesday, December 11, 2007

City Council Approves Preliminary Design of CMPA, but Funding is Still a Question

Last night, the Pensacola City Council approved the preliminary design of Vince Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park. They also approved the allocation of the money that will go towards covering pre-construction costs of the park. The City Council voted 8-1 to approve the plan for the park and the pre-construction costs of its development.

This seems like good news for Pensacolians who welcome the park, but its construction cannot begin until the City Council knows they will be able to fund it.

The current funding scheme for the park could be ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. The court will soon lay down their ruling on the constitutionality of the funding scheme. If the court does rule it unconstitutional, the City Council and the Community Maritime Park Association will need to figure out a different way to fund the construction of the park.

If the current funding scheme is ruled unconstitutional, let’s hope the City Council will consider an alternate funding scheme for the construction of the park. If they don’t, we might never see a baseball game played in downtown Pensacola.

Pensacola Murder Suspects Make First Court Appearance

Bertney Hills

Bonnie Strong

Earlier today, murder suspects Bonnie Strong and Bertney Hills did not fight extradition in a Houston courtroom which means they will be coming back to Escambia County. This was there first court appearance for the two twenty-five year old men since they were apprehended on Sunday in Brookshire, Texas.

Strong and Hills are accused of shooting Patrick Vince Williams in the face on November 18th of this year. Authorities have said the shooting happened during a drug deal gone badly, but they haven’t revealed how it went bad.

The two men were apprehended by a Brookshire Community policeman who recognized an information sheet released by the U.S. Marshals.

The suspects will appear before a grand jury when they return to Escambia County. Authorities have not scheduled the men’s transport to the area.

No Money in City's Budget for Repairs to Pensacola Little Theatre

The word from last night's City Council meeting is the city's general revenue fund is out of money. This fund is where the money for the repairs to Pensacola Little Theatre would come from.

The PLT needs $250,000 for repairs to fix the damage that was done during Hurricane Ivan.

Patrons of the PLT should not lose hope because the city is considering paying for the repairs with the Penny for Progress tax. The City Council will distribute the money from this tax in February.

No Decision on Springfest Funding

If the SpringFest board has to rely on the city for funding, the yearly concert might never happen. The City Council hasn't even decided where the money will come from or the format of the concert.

Due to recent budget cuts, some members on the council are concerned about having to fund the event every year. SpringFest organizers say that the city doesn't need to worry about this because they won't need money every year.

The SpringFest board has requested $50,000 in funding. This is substantially lower than the $125,000 that they had originally requested.

The City Council floated the idea of funding SpringFest with money that will come from the Community Redevelopment Association. But if the funding comes from the CRA, they want SpringFest to be not one concert, but a series them.

I have a suggestion for the SpringFest board. Due to the lack of leadership on the Pensacola City Council, I would start looking for corporate sponsors to fund SpringFest.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Should the United States Abolish the CIA?

Christopher Hitchens, the controversial author of God is not Great has proposed that our country should abolish the Central Intellegence Agency.

His article comes amidst the revelation that the agency destroyed taped evidence in the case against terrorists that we have captured during the war on terror. This unlawful act is the latest in a string of blunders by the CIA. Because of their mistakes, Hitchens thinks we should disband the CIA and build it anew.

I think this is a little rash and Hitchens is overreacting. The CIA can be an important weapon in the war on terror, but it needs to be used responsibly.

The CIA should stay put, but they really need to clean up their act. Americans live in a democracy and the CIA is acting like we don’t. The CIA must act within the law

We shouldn’t abolish the CIA, but it’s time to reel in their power.

The Tourism Industry in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties is Thriving

The Pensacola Independent News ran an article last Thursday that brought more good news about the economy in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties. The resurgance of the tourism industry on the beaches of these counties has been the catalyst for an increase in revenue. This trend is good news to businesses on the beaches that are still recovering, three years after Hurricane Ivan devastated the island’s economy.

Retailers and hotel operators near the beaches are reporting tremendous revenue numbers as they recover from the economic setback that came after Ivan blew through the area. These businesses are just getting on their feet, and every summer, waves of tourists are coming back to the beaches.

The county governments have also welcomed the revenue from the tourists. Santa Rosa County took in 57% more tax revenue from their bed tax on the rental of hotel rooms than they did last year; even tough the county does not have a single hotel room on Navarre Beach.

Let’s hope other parts of the counties will start experiencing the growth that the beaches are feeling.

Does Pensacola Really Have a “Use” for the De Luna Statue?

The Park We Already Have is Fine

The main problem with statues is they just sit there; you can’t do anything with them. Sure, they are interesting to look at for ten fleeting seconds, but is the De Luna statue going to be something that we will actually seek out in order to view it? For most, the answer would be no because well, you can’t enjoy a statue for more than ten seconds.

Call me crazy, but I don’t want to pay a large sum of money for something that I am only going to enjoy for a few brief seconds. The statue has no tangible uses for the people of Pensacola. You can’t “do anything” with a statue.

We don’t need the statue because the City of Pensacola has already put aside enough money to build a magnificent park in the heart of downtown that features things you can actually use. This money has gone towards things in the park that we will actually be able to enjoy for hours, or at the least minutes.

Fishing and the fountains will be the main features of Plaza de Luna Park that will draw Pensacolians to it. Citizens will hopefully be able to reel in a monster redfish from the fishing area of the park. Children will be able to cool themselves in the fountains on a hot and muggy day in August. These amenities in the park are something that we can actually use.

Without a use, the De Luna statue is just an unneeded and expensive extravagance.

Pensacola Murder Suspects Appear Will Appear in a Texas Court Tomorrow

“Bonnie and Clyde” will appear before a Texas judge tomorrow. I am sure the judge will start the process of extradition back to Pensacola.

The police say that Bonnie Strong and Bertney Hills shot Patrick Vince Williams in the face during a drug deal gone badly. The two hapless criminals then dropped the body out of a quilt when they were transporting it from the place of the murder to their cars.

Sorry guys, I don’t think they let you wear bling in jail and you better get used to it because you’re going to be there for a long time.

Pensacola Men Wanted for Murder are Caught in Houston

The PNJ reports this morning that the suspects in the shooting death of Patrick Vince Williams have apprehended in Houston. Williams was allegedly killed by Bonnie Strong and Bertney Hills on Nov. 18th.

There’s no word on how the suspects were apprehended; hopefully the PNJ will do some follow-up.

I’m glad these two knuckleheads are off of the streets. I didn’t think the culprits would ever be caught.

Is Downtown Pensacola Making a Comeback?

On Sunday, the PNJ business section continued the paper’s rosy outlook on the area’s economy and it cites a door-to-door survey that says more people are moving into downtown Pensacola.

The Downtown Improvement Board surveyed an area that stretches from A street to Pensacola Bay; surveyors did not go north of Cervantes or into lower East Hill.

The PNJ throws out two statistics that seem to contradict each other. One says that in the past two years there has been a 51% increase in the number of people living downtown, but another says that the increase was only one or two percent.

A little insight into these numbers would have been helpful.

If downtown Pensacola offered retail and restaurant areas, young people would live and spend money they earn at high paying jobs. But the problem is there are not enough money spending opportunities or profitable jobs in downtown Pensacola.

Maybe the area is on the rise; new businesses are opening. There’s a pizza and beer joint called Fogarty’s that will be opening in a few weeks on South Palafox Street. Hopefully, the venture will be successful and more entrepreneurs will head downtown.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Is Tourism on the Rise in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties?

A PNJ article out today says the two counties are taking in more money from their bed-tax on the rental of hotel rooms.

The PNJ doesn’t give us any tax revenue numbers from county officials, but a local businessman is quoted as saying, “this was the best year ever…for lodging revenues”.

A Santa Rosa county official says that tourism in the area is vibrant, even though there isn’t a single hotel on Navarre Beach.

It would be nice to get some figures on the area’s upswing in tourism.

The “Accusations” Against the Owner of Cancun’s are Crazy

The owner of three Mexican restaurants in Pensacola Gulf Breeze and Navarre has been charged with trafficking cocaine and meth into our area. Rogelio Galvan Chavez is also accused of employing illegal immigrants. Chavez is screwed because the Feds have a mountain of evidence against him. He’ll never see the light-of-day.

Chavez’s operation had gotten deep. The PNJ says that on Monday, “investigators found an undisclosed amount of cocaine stashed in a bag of potatoes at the restaurant”.

To catch Chavez in the act, authorities employed the help of a “snitch” that worked at the restaurant. Informant Alejandro Hatem-Hernandez also ran drugs for Chavez, from Atlanta to Pensacola. Hernandez and Chavez had been close friends for over ten years.

Only the Navarre location of the restaurant is open at this time. Fifteen illegal immigrants that worked at the restaurants are already in the process of deportation back to Mexico.

Expect for this story to rile-up Pensacola’s put-up-a-fence crowd. This story could possibly get national attention.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Escambia County School District’s War of Words over What to Call Break is Distracting

I can’t believe that certain members of the Escambia County School District are distracting themselves with a petty argument over what to call the break from classes that occur every school year at the end of December and the beginning of January.

These arguments are nothing new and we have seen them take place all across the country. Secularists and religious believers are pitted against each other in a battle to see how much attention local governments should pay to the religious aspects of the Christmas holidays.

Why do is the Escambia County School District getting bogged down by this senseless argument? In the big scheme of things, there are bigger fish to fry. The Escambia county school system is faltering and our students are falling behind their peers in Florida.

I have a suggestion: why doesn’t the Escambia County School District just give the student break a name that will satisfy the secularists and religious believers? What’s wrong with calling it the Christmas/Winter Break? Giving the break this name would put this issue to bed and the ECSD could get back to the job at hand, educating the students of Escambia County.