Friday, December 18, 2009

Scenic Bay Bluffs Park

Mayor Wiggins awarded his Beautification Award for December 2009 to the Scenic Bay Bluffs Park. The following teams were a part of the amazing transformation our 52 acres of paradise has seen over the last year.
United States Navy Flight Students
Pensacola Police Department
Pensacola Fire Department
Scenic Highway Foundation
Edmisten & Associates
City of Pensacola Parks & Recreation
District 3 residents

What an honor to have worked so hard with all of you to take back our Scenic Bay Bluffs Park. The Mayor’s Beautification Award simply ties a big bow on all of our efforts over the past year.

2009 brought the following projects to Scenic Highway’s Bay Bluffs Park.
1.CPTED planning for crime prevention through environmental design
2.Health and Fitness Trails for boot camp training and hiking
3.Environmental Survey identifying invasive plants throughout the park

Officer Donohoe surveyed the entire park area for clean up efforts that would create a safe and accessible environment. The concept of CPTED opens up visual spaces and creates a sense of safety along with assisting Pensacola Police Department in their enforcement efforts. The PPD has instituted regular patrols with both uniformed and plain clothes officers, along with string operations to end the deviant behavior. We have also added additional lighting and cameras in both parking areas and PPD has enforced the closure of the park from dusk until dawn each day.

In May for the first clean up Captain Rick Simmons rallied our Firefighters from Engine One and we completed the clean up of 8 areas within the park for safety. Our parks and recreation department, along with neighbors from District 3 came out and worked along side the firefighters all day in May 2009. Volunteers completed 90 man hours and 4 truckloads of plant material was removed.

The Second clean up is a result of efforts by Parks & Recreation director Dave Flaherty in creating a boot camp training class at the Bluffs. He commissioned Lisa Nicholas to create Boot Camp training effort. I met with Lisa and her son Alex and she became equally as passionate about cleaning up the park as I am. The Navy then sent 17 volunteers and our Parks and Recreation Department again participated and sent 3 teams of chainsaw operators. We cleared our new running trails making a complete loop from the north boardwalk all the way down to the lookout at the South end. There are now 3 different trails with beginner, intermediate and advanced challenges covering over a mile combined distance.

Our Third Clean up is the result of our Environmental Survey for invasive plants that was commissioned by our Scenic Highway Foundation with Edmisten and Associates. Mr. Sean O’Toole identified the Russian olive bushes, popcorn trees and numerous other invasives for removal. Once again the Navy and our Parks & Rec. department sent teams to further clean up and renew the Bay Bluffs Park. Ensign Bond has prepared a report the show “By the Numbers”the massive amount of plant material and the man hours spent cleaning up the park. (550 gallons of trash was collected from the surrounding area and removed 30,000 cubic feet of invasive species vegetation was cut down and removed).
I am in awe of your commitment to this effort and honored to be a part of such a wonderful group of people. You are All my heroes because the best you can hope for in life is to First be listened to by others, and Secondly to have others endeavor to take your passions as their own…You have made such a difference in Pensacola; the team work, strength and commitment you have all shown shines bright as an example for all citizens.

2010 brings the following plans for Scenic Bay Bluffs Park.

1.Continued clean up of areas around the park and along Scenic Highway.
2.Further improvements to the fitness trails
3.Plant identification signs that are graffiti and vandalism resistant
4.GeoCache tours connected to the internet for self guided tours, this is already in the works with the Scenic Highway Foundation.
5.Picnic areas at the North parking area along with benches to view the bay
6.Connecting the North and South parking areas along the roadway.
7.Replanting of native plants including blueberry bushes and other plants attract more birds wildlife.
8.Bike Trails looping from the Northern parking area to Brookshire Drive.
9.Advertising to tourists that visit the area through the Visitor’s bureau and our Parks & Rec. website.
Please continue to focus your efforts with me on our 52 acres of paradise and give me your input and ideas for future events or clean up efforts. I have instituted a new citywide clean up day for any Saturday you would like, just let me know where and I can get the signs put out on any Monday for the workday on that weekend. I will also have this information posted on our city website, with Clean and Green and ask the PNJ to publish the information so we can make our way up Scenic Highway. I wish you all a Happy Holiday Season and look forward to a prosperous 2010.

Best,
Maren

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A New Era Dawns at the Port of Pensacola



The Port of Pensacola welcomes the BOA Rover!

On Dec. 14, 2009, Pensacola City Council received a briefing detailing a strategy for increasing maritime business at the Port of Pensacola while, at the same time, working to attract the private sector investment necessary to incorporate public use and access into the port's long-range plan. To view the presentation in PDF format, please click this link.

http://www.portofpensacola.com/upload/images/PDFs/Port_Presentation_12-14-09.pdf

Monday, November 30, 2009

Take a Stand

In One week we will know the results of the No 48 Million Debt petition drive. My concern is with the fact that their petition,based on article III section 15 of our City Charter, does not align with their Need's Statement posted on their website.

Petition statement: The action to which we object is as follows:
That City Council approve a resolution authorizing the issuance of Redevelopment Revenue Bonds, Series 2009 and approve all actions necessary to complete the sale. Further, that Bonds be issued in an amount not to exceed $48 million.
Yet the quote from their website states:
"We want to see a 15 to 25 acre public park built on the city owned Trillium waterfront property. A park that would be a permanent monument to the citizens of Pensacola. A park that would be a tribute to the water that we are all so proud of. A park that we deserve. Sounds simple: Using public owned land to build a public park and all for about half the cost of the proposed baseball field and stripped down park that is now being proposed for the $48,000,000 of city debt. Why can't we have a park? The simple answer: Special interests, egos and personal agendas want a park in their image."

A few points that need to be clarified:

1. We have a tribute park. Plaza De Luna is a permanent monument to the citizens of Pensacola. Plaza De Luna is a tribute to the water that we are all proud of, the CMP is altogether different it is one of the most important projects in the history of Pensacola.
The Vince Whibbs Community Maritime Park is a visionary project that not only gives access to the waterfront, but also creates a large venue for our citizens to gather and celebrate their beautiful waterfront. We will all benefit from the improvements and gain a higher sense of community. The events that our new park will bring to our area will be world class and open up the City of Pensacola to success and prosperity that to date we have not realized or imagined possible...this is big thinking for a hopeful & patient community.

2. On September 5, 2006 9,684 citizens of Pensacola voted YES for the Vince Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park... not special interests, egos or personal agendas. The CMP has been voted on and approved by the citizens. Next Question please.

3. The petition question being raised is simply "how the City of Pensacola will finance the park". The actions taken on October 8,2009 were in line with council discussions on March 27, 2006.

Councilman Donovan:"Do we know what the total bond issue will be to net $40 million?"
Finance Director Barker: "that was with 3 years of capitalized interest. The most recent numbers I have are around $42 million".
Councilman Donovan: "$42 million"?
Finance Director Barker: "Yes Sir'.

Here's my point: Net Proceeds of $40 million + 3 years capitalized interest + closing costs = total cost of CMP. This equation has not changed, the timing of the bond issue has changed due to the first referendum, yet the fundamental and very basic calculations have not.

Again, the citizens of Pensacola voted YES for their Community Maritime Park in September 2006. The only question now is "how will it be financed"... don't confuse these two very seperate issues. It is time to move forward on the most important project Pensacola has ever seen.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Path

"Around Here, However, We Don't Look Backwards Very Long, We Keep Moving Forward, Opening Up New Doors And Doing New Things, Because We're Curious...
And Curiosity Keeps Leading Us Down New Paths."
Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New City Charter

Congratulations Pensacola

The new city charter has passed with the unofficial votes cast at:
55% yes and 45% no.

This is the next logical step in transforming our city's future. We have a confident and energized City Council and a City Staff with decades of experience. This is the perfect time for change in how we communicate and drive our successes.

When I walked the district last year & discussed the direction of our city with you at your frontdoor, I could see the "What If" that was happening for our citizens. We have a wonderful opportunity in our hands now to create the momentum that our city has lacked in the past. We have the most diverse City Council Pensacola has ever seen with 70% minority membership and each council member bringing all aspects of our city together.

Tomorrow is a new day Pensacola. Let's change the official seal and get to work!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fire Truck Pull

What a wonderful way to spend your Saturday...Hope to see you there!!

"The Ronald McDonald House will host the Fire Truck Pull from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Seville Quarter in downtown Pensacola.Teams of 20 will compete to pull a fire truck 50 feet in the least amount of time to win the trophy.
The event will feature a free children’s area with activities including face-painting, games, inflatable bouncers and more. Ronald McDonald and Friends, Scoop from the Pelicans, and Star Wars characters will be there from noon to 2 p.m. to greet attendees. Admission is free.
Proceeds will go to Ronald McDonald House. For more information about the Fire Truck Pull, contact development director Angie Hanson, 477-2273 or e-mail events@rmhpensacola.org"

information from Staff Reports at PNJ Nov. 16th.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

District 3...START YOUR ENGINES!!!

The City of Pensacola is accepting applications for the 2009/2010 PCIP Neighborhood Matching Grant Program from neighborhood associations that have been registered with the City for at least 3 months. Neighborhood groups may apply for up to $10,000 which must be matched by cash, in-kind donations or volunteer labor. The deadline for applying is 5:00 p.m. on December 11, 2008.

Neighborhoods may apply for a grant under one of two categories: a) improvements to public property b) neighborhood improvement programmatic activities; or improvements to association owned property. (You may request an application in WORD format by email to hgibson@ci.pensacola.fl.us).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Believe in Pensacola! Vote Yes on the Charter

Believe in Pensacola supporters are out in the community daily, educating voters and connecting with neighbors. We waved at various locations this past weekend in the heart of many districts around our city. Some citizens were hearing about the charter for the first time, most were excited with thumbs up and smiles from their cars. We only had one NO from a handsome couple in a red convertible.
This week ballots will be mailed to the voters in the City of Pensacola asking whether we should adopt a new charter or remain under our current form of government. While I respect the opinions of those that are comfortable with the status quo, I feel that the proposed charter will make for a better city, a more accountable leadership and provide citizens with more influence in the City's operations.
The most important change being, that under the new charter, voters will have a vote for the leader of our city, the decision maker and Chief Executive Officer. I encourage voters to grant themselves the right to elect the chief executive of their own city. You do not have that right today and you do not have a vote.

When I ran for office I promised the citizen's of District 3 I would promote term limits and a Mayor-Council form of government, both of which have been included in the proposed charter. I had long discussions with many of my neighbors and the citizens of District 3 during last year's campaign and the most asked question was who is responsible for our city's successes and failures? Who is ultimately accountable?
While our council-manager system has served us well to maintain basic services and provide infrastructure it has run it's course with regard to growth, innovation, and prosperity for Pensacola. The council-manager system is no longer effective in the highly politicized environment we find ourselves in. The problem is that the Mayor is just one of ten council members without the clout to get things done, even though the public expects more from the holder of our city's top elected post. The mayor has ceremonial duties, but not a lot of authority under the council-manager system. The mayor is not able to drive success. I have seen, during the past 10 months in office, that under the council-manager system the responsibility for problems and successes is a moving target, depending on which council members vote for a particular issue. Also, under our current form of government, decisive leadership by the mayor and city manager is extremely difficult because ,with 10 council members, each of us constantly wants the full and undivided attention of the city manager.
Here are some experiences from a mayor that has served under both forms of government and has a unique perspective of the system because he was mayor for one term under the council-manager system and then became the city's first strong mayor.
"The mayor was expected to lead the city under the old form, yet the mayor only chaired the council meeting and was but one vote," Patterson said. "The executive form created a very clear line of priority throughout the entire city operation. It is the difference between night and day. There is now a clarity of purpose and a commitment to supply the resources that the purpose requires."
I find history always helps explain the purpose and intention of our current structure:
"City manager government evolved as a reaction to corruption in the early 1900s. It's intent was to take politics out of city administration. A city manager would be a nonpolitical appointed chief executive who exercised the same checks and balances on the city council and would stand up to that body. This was a very noble concept with a fundamental design flaw: The city manager works for the council and is an at-will employee. City managers are political and have to be to keep their job. Government is a 50-50 relationship. Half is about structure and the other half is about the people in office at that time. For example: The presidency is an institution with authority granted by the Constitution that exists regardless of who holds the office. Today, corruption is mitigated with ethics rules, campaign finance laws and other effective tools".
from Jim Boren We have sunshine laws in place that mitigate corruption.
Pensacola has an opportunity to establish a system that will continue beyond the personalities of today and the highly contentious issues that we face within our current processes.
Also, the concern raised about Pensacola not being large enough to warrant a mayor-council form of government. I see this as the very way of thinking that keeps the City of Pensacola as small as it has been for decades now. It would be like parents not sending their kids to college because we weren't sure what their careers might be...Let's allow Pensacola to grow and thrive with new ways of creating our successes, with one voice and a plan that will be executed.

Now to answer my very 1st question from so many citizens. Under mayor-council government the Mayor is accountable to voters for Pensacola's successes and failures and the Mayor is ultimately accountable to each voter for the actions he or she takes.

Remember the difference: a strong mayor answers to voters. A city manager does not.

Voters hold the keys to accountability.

Let's have one voice for prosperity, a Strong Leader.

Believe in Pensacola and Vote YES for the new Charter!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Picture Perfect!!!

Parks Calendar Photo Contest

Calling all shutterbugs to create a 2010 calendar!! The Pensacola Parks and Recreation Department is sponsoring a photo contest. This contest is open to all photographers (amateur or professional) for photos of parks within the city limits. With over 90 parks, there is sure to be a winning image, see our complete list of parks and their locations.
All photos must be submitted on CD in high resolution digital format (8 inches x 10 inches @ 300 dpi) with accompanying hard copy print. Thirteen winners will receive a framed copy of their photo as well as recognition in the Pensacola Parks 2010 calendar. Contest begins, Friday October 30th and ends Monday, November 30th. All submissions must be submitted to Kathy Condon (City Hall 4th floor) by 5:00pm Monday, November 30th. For a complete list of contest rules, visit www.playpensacola.com or call 436-5670.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Trade with Cuba?

In years past, the Pensacola City Council had made efforts to establish a working relationship with Cuba to further our efforts for trade relations. “The Port of Pensacola once did a thriving trade with Cuba, and still ships frozen food there under a food-related Cuban exemption to the embargo. A Cuba with more money to spend means more business for the Port.” (Courtesy of PNJ) There has been some discussion on Council this year about reviving our efforts and working on our trade relationship again.

"Change is in the air" regarding the decades-old embargo that has stifled interaction between the United States and Cuba, a former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia said Tuesday.
V. Manuel Rocha, who is senior adviser on international business at Foley & Lardner LLP, said it's not realistic to predict how many more years the embargo will remain in place.
But he said there are changes occurring in both the U.S. and Cuba that favor the U.S. eventually lifting the embargo that dates back to the 1950s.
Rocha said it wouldn't necessarily be better for U.S. businesses if Cuba were to change its communist government. He said the current leadership of Cuba wants to ensure a "successor" form of government so future leaders maintain a connection with the revolution that brought the Communist Party to power.
He said that scenario would be comparable to how the U.S. has dealt with Communist Party-led China and Vietnam, whose top tradingpartners are the U.S.
He said the other alternative for Cuba would entail a tumultuous "transition" from the Communist Party to another form of government. He compared that possibility to the turmoil that occurred after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
"There are more McDonald's in 'successor' China than in 'transition' Russia because of the stability" in China, he said.
Cuba's top trading partner for exports is China, accounting for about 28 percent of Cuban products shipped abroad, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook. Canada is second with about 25 percent of Cuba's exports followed by Spain at about 7 percent, Netherlands at 5 percent and Iran at 4 percent.
Cuba gets 32 percent of its imports from Venezuela, 11.8 percent from China, 10.6 percent from Spain, about 7 percent from Canada and 6.6 percent from the U.S. The imports from the U.S. are for certain goods exempted from the embargo.
Rocha said Jacksonville officials should be planning for more future trade with Cuba and identify what products the city wants to target for shipment through Jacksonville's port, and then make contact with those manufacturers. He said the cities that establish those relationships in advance will be able to capitalize on increased trade.
"You don't necessarily have to take big steps," he said.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Green Standard is the New Gold Standard

Green Development Standard
If you have chosen to reduce the burden on the environment and add value to your development project through a voluntary Florida green designation as administered by the Florida Green Building Coalition, Inc. FGBC’s purpose is to provide you with the tools and guidance necessary to help you please your customers, as well as reward and promote your efforts as a Florida friendly developer.
Why should you support a Green Development Designation?
Many property purchasers are desiring, and some insisting, that their community be earth friendly, affordable to operate, and pleasant to live in. FGBC’S Green Development Standard is a tool that will guide you and your design team through the process of selecting green features that benefit the environment while providing long-term value to the project. The standard has been developed so that it is achievable by everyone who is willing to make an effort; and yet stringent enough that it will be recognized as a statewide standard for the industry, as verified by an independent organization (FGBC). If your local municipality does not already provide incentives for developments meeting the standard, encourage them to do so.
Benefits of Achieving the Green Development Standard to...
The Municipality
The Developer
Property Purchasers
Preservation of green space
Gain valuable promotion and advertising
Reduce operating expenses
Less traffic congestion
Third-party environmental verification
Value of community amenities
Natural resource conservation, e.g., water, energy
Differentiate your development from the competition
Healthier living for employees and residents
Less water and air pollution than standard development
Potential local incentives
Pride in purchasing in a designated green community
Quicker application review process
Quicker application review process
Potential financing incentives

Show leadership in your community

How the Program Works
For each listed green feature incorporated into the development, points are awarded. Developments that acquire a minimum number of points qualify to receive the green development designation and will be able to take full advantage of the designation?s incentives. The Green Development Designation Standard Checklist and Application contain a list of the topics considered for earning points, while the Green Development Designation Standard Reference Guide explains each of the criteria in detail including benefits, associated environmental implications, how to earn points and examples. Anyone can suggest changes using the form available at www.FloridaGreenBuilding.org.
Certification Process
The developer should contact the Florida Green Building Coalition as early in the process as possible to apply for the green standard and be assigned a project evaluator. The project evaluator will interpret any questions regarding qualifying for the standard to the development team, and if desired, may be able to facilitate on-site training. The Green Development Application Form or Pre-Submittal Application will need to be completed along with an application fee. If a project is to be completed in phases, it is best to plan the project in its entirety and have the entire development certified at one time. The fee will cover the continued development of the program as well as cover expenses associated with verification and publicity of the designated development. This fee is for certifying the land development as green, referring to the horizontal development, not the vertical construction. Homes, commercial buildings and schools are evaluated under their own standards with their own processing fees. You can submit a pre-application form without having completed a full submittal. The development team is responsible for defining and describing, in paragraph form, which points, as described in the reference guide, are earned for the development. Submittals must include a site plan, any covenants and deed restrictions, and any material necessary for verifying points as described in the Reference Guide.
Modification Process
· Suggested revisions shall be submitted to the Florida Green Building Coalition, Inc. using the Modification Request Form available at the www.FloridaGreenBuilding.org web site.
· Applications shall be compiled and circulated to the Florida Green Building Coalition Green Development Committee, past applicants, and project evaluators for comments. The comment period shall be at least thirty days.
· Following the public comment period, each application and its public comments shall be reviewed by the Florida Green Building Coalition Green Development Committee, which will make written consensus recommendations to the Board of Directors for suggested revisions to the standard along with the original applications.
· The Board of Directors of the Florida Green Building Coalition, Inc. shall adopt, adopt with modification, or reject each application for change.
· Revision Cycle for the Green Development Designation Standard:
· Periodic review. At least triennially, the provisions set forth in these Green Development Standards shall be reviewed by the Standards Committee of the Florida Green Building Coalition, Inc. in collaboration with other stakeholders. At a minimum, this review shall include consideration and evaluation of changes in the law, technological innovations, and comments and requests received from interested parties.
· All applications for revision shall be disposed of on an annual cycle such that applications received prior to the last working day of June 15 are included in the application review cycle that concludes no later than September15.
· The Board shall approve any changes to the standard by the last day of October in any year in which it is to be revised.
· Any new standard shall be in placed on the web site (along with the current standard) no later than November 15.
· The effective date of any new Green Development Designation Standards shall be January 1. Only those proposals to change these Green Development Designation Standards that are received on or prior to June 15 shall be considered for the revisions to these Green Local Government Designation Standards that may become effective on January 1 of the following year

Monday, September 21, 2009

Conservation Efforts

I’d like to share with you some of the measures being taken by Parks and Facilities to conserve energy and water. The City of Pensacola has had an aggressive program in effect for several years and have realized significant savings by implementing these measures. Please keep in mind that generally speaking, funding is not available for these types of measures, conservation efforts are only implemented in conjunction with repair and renovation projects as funding is available.

1.Retrofit lighting systems to new energy efficient fluorescent and other lighting.
2.Installation of high efficiency non fluorocarbon air conditioning systems.
3.Robust inspection and preventive maintenance program for A/C systems efficiency.
4.Installation of timers and photo electric cells to control park and athletic field lighting.
5.Turn off hot water for hand washing in most City owned facilities.
6. Installation of highly efficient natural gas tankless hot water heaters in City facilities.
7. Installation of low water flow flush valves on toilets and urinals in City facilities.
8. Installation of drip and bubbler irrigation systems for shrubs and trees in landscaping.
9. Initiated a recycling program for City Hall and Field Services Center complex.

These are a few of the measures we have taken and are being implemented on an on going basis. I would like to hear from you with ideas to further our conservation efforts.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mark O'Brien said it perfectly

Mark O'Brien's O'pinions

City windfall going fast
Posted 8/15/2009 4:49 AM EDT on pnj.com
Windfalls go fast, as anyone who squandered one can attest.

The City of Pensacola is busy spending $800,000 that it will receive as the first payment on the $3.3 million it gets for selling the old Army Reserve Center on College Boulevard to Gulf Coast Regional Airport.

Thanks to this shortfall and that need, more than half the money already has been committed, and more is about to be spent.

The latest chunks include $41,000 for a variety of local agencies and $35,000 for parades in downtown Pensacola, although some council members are upset.

"I feel like we found a $20 bill and can’t wait to spend it," said Councilwoman Maren DeWeese, who objected in vain to the transactions.

In one episode, the council agreed — over the wishes of DeWeese and colleagues Diane Mack and Sam Hall — to use $41,000 to underwrite programs for numerous causes. They include $5,000 for the Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce for economic development as well as $30,000 for United Way agencies, $2,000 for St. Michael’s Cemetery and $2,000 for the July Fourth fireworks organized by the Sertoma Club.

Objections came on a couple scores.

Mack wondered if these were efforts that City Hall should undertake.
"How much of it is the proper function of this government?" asked Mack, shrugging off critics who call her "a grinch, Hard-Hearted Hannah."

DeWeese felt the council should not use the money from the property sale for these causes. She noted that many employees are going on their second year without a raise.

Councilman Ron Townsend defended the expenditures as investments in community services.
"All of these services provide quality of place, quality of life," he said.

Council members got another jolt when City Manager Al Coby informed them that parade-organizers refused to contribute any more money to help defray the costs of police officers and other city workers needed for downtown events. He said the city could absorb the $35,000 cost by taking the money from the property sale, which will leave the city with a net of barely $250,000 from the first year’s payment.

Deputy Mayor Jewel Cannada-Wynn was taken aback by the stubbornness of parade organizers. She feels the parades contribute little to the downtown economy yet absorb a large amount of city money.

She turned to Coby and said, "They just wanted the city to pick up the costs?""Yes, ma’am," Coby said.

Mack, however, said the city should take a harder line and put the onus on the parade supporters.

"They’ll find a way if they want those parades," she said.

Finance Director Dick Barker said the economy eventually will improve.
"Everything runs in cyles," he said, assuring council members that finances will get better in time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Urbanism

The concept of new urbanism is age old in other countries. In Europe there is not sprawl into rural areas just for the sake of low cost land. Forests are only forests, and fields are simply that without man made enhancements. No Billboards to clutter the landscape...just the best of nature for your eyes to enjoy. Cities are well planned and highly functional, allowing for pedestrian traffic throughout.

On another scale, new urbanism is planned development and creates usable communities. Please take a look at the following and let me know what you think.

The New Urbanism is a reaction to sprawl. A growing movement of architects, planners, developers, and others, the New Urbanism is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create human-scale, walkable communities. New urbanists take a wide variety of approaches — some work exclusively on infill projects, others focus on transit-oriented development, still others are attempting to transform the suburbs. Many are working in all of these categories. The New Urbanism includes traditional architects and those with modernist sensibilities. All, however, believe in the power and ability of traditional neighborhoods to restore functional, sustainable communities. The trend had its roots in the work of visionary architects, planners, and developers in the 1970s and 1980s that coalesced into a unified group in the 1990s. From modest beginnings, the trend is growing to have a substantial impact. More than 500 new towns, villages, and neighborhoods are built or under construction in the US, using principles of the New Urbanism. Additionally, hundreds more smaller-scale new urban projects are restoring the urban fabric of cities and towns by reestablishing walkable streets and blocks in communities throughout the US.

On the regional scale, the New Urbanism is having a growing influence on how and where metropolitan regions choose to grow. Large-scale planning initiatives now commonly incorporate new urban planning ideas — such as walkable neighborhoods, transit-oriented development, and sociable, pedestrian-scale streets. Form-based codes and better-connected street networks are two instruments by which new urban ideas can be implemented at the scale of the region.

Principles of the New Urbanism

Seven key principles have been identified by Richard Bernhardt, a leading new urbanist who heads the Nashville-Davidson County Planning Department in Tennessee.

1. The basic building block of a community is the neighborhood.

2. The neighborhood is limited in physical size, with a well-defined edge and a center.
The size of a neighborhood is usually based on the distance that a person can walk in five minutes from the center to the edge — a quarter-mile. Neighborhoods have a fine-grained mix of land uses, providing opportunities for young and old to find places to live, work, shop, and be entertained.

3. Corridors form the boundaries between neighborhoods — both connecting and defining the neighborhoods. Corridors can incorporate natural features such as streams or canyons. They may take the form of parks, natural preserves, travel paths, railroad lines, major roads, or a combination of all these.

4. Human scale sets the standard for proportion in buildings. Buildings must be disciplined in how they relate to their lots if public space is to be successfully demarcated. Because the street is the preeminent form of public space, buildings are generally expected to honor and embellish the street.

5. Providing a range of transportation options is fundamental. For most of the second half of the 20th Century, transportation agencies focused almost exclusively on optimizing the convenience of automobile travel, and dealt with transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists as little more than afterthoughts. We must give equal consideration to all modes of transportation to relieve congestion and to provide people with useful, realistic choices.

6. The street pattern is conceived as a network, to create the greatest number of alternative routes from one part of the neighborhood to another. This has the effect of providing choices and relieving vehicular congestion. The streets form a hierarchy, from broad boulevards to narrow lanes and alleys.

7. Civic buildings (town halls, churches, schools, libraries, museums) belong on preferred sites such as squares or neighborhood centers, or where the view down a street terminates. Such placement helps turn civic buildings into landmarks and reinforces their symbolic and cultural importance.

For more “Think Green” ideas visit our website at www.wfrpc.org/environmental-education.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Council Strategies

Each council member has ranked a listing of potential strategies to address our recent goal setting session. Ranking from 1 to 5 is given with 1 being the most important. We will discuss the rankings at next weeks Committee of the Whole meeting and finalize our initiatives and focus for the remainder of our term.

Goal 1: Sustainable Govt

1. Appoint a Taxpayer Advisory Committee on the Budget by Oct. 1, 2009 in preparation of the FY 2011 budget.
2. Ensure that our employee compensation packages are in line with local employers and provide incentives for employee innovation which reduces costs.
3. Enhance SBE program as recommended by MGT study to encourage participation of local businesses in city work.
4. Enhance Council Goals on our city website with additional information on each goal including actions taken, timeline, future actions to be taken, and staff contact info.
5. Agenda for committee meetings to state which goals are being addressed by proposed actions and cite specific strategy being used.

Goal 2:Public Safety

1. Address connectivity for pedestrians and bikes throughout the city and with in our larger parks and mapping areas on our city website.
2. Increase xeriscaping and native planting in parks to reduce maintenance, fertilizer, pesticide use.
3. Early warning system for the city.
4. Streamline financial and other operations by increasing online usage (online bill pay, electronic pay stubs, online RFP submittals).
5. Identify the worst intersections for red light violations and put in a pilot program of camera surveillance and ticketing ( funded by private firm)

Goal 3: Annexation
1. Develop data sheet comparing cost/benefit of city services to cost of living in the county. (MSBU/MSTU/insurance, etc.) …most will be surprised that cost/benefit may more often than not prove annexation worthwhile for property owners.
2. Compile a list of individual properties and blocks with split jurisdictions, non-city properties on streets only serviced by city.
3. Explore different approaches to annexation.
4. For those areas where it is in the city’s best interest to pursue annexation, get the citizens involved and informed as to the benefits of being a city resident.
5. Identify enclaves.

Goal 4: City aesthetics
1. Enhance LDC to better manage commercial usage along major roadways. i.e. Waste containers, buffering near residential areas and aesthetic requirements.
2. Establish and Enforce community overlays to protect our heritage, our neighborhoods, and natural resources.
3. Develop plan for under grounding utilities with priority given to downtown and main thoroughfares.
4. City Website add a Neighborhoods edition each month and expand the Mayor’s beautification award into all districts. Post pictures and bio of owners.
5. Develop a schedule for phasing out advertising bus benches and begin installing landscape-quality benches at bus stops where they are most needed.

Goal 5: Education opportunities
1. Consider Councilwoman DeWeese’s Pensacola Promise proposal.
2. Establish an Education Committee and have a quarterly briefing to council from ECSD, PJC, UWF.
3. Work with stakeholder groups to explore creation of city charter/ magnet school.
4. Facilitate and encourage city employee volunteering in education
5. Youth Council

Goal 6: ED Directives
1. Partner with Chamber to hold Supplier Conferences for renewable energy companies to attract new industry at our PORT.
2. Establish a Port Development Plan for Renewable Energy and Green Collar Jobs.
3. Initiate green programs including becoming a Florida Green City, creating a dark sky ordinance, piloting integrated pest management, and encouraging recycling, reduction, and reuse of waste for both residential and businesses ( including recycling goals for commercial franchises and recycling cans in parks.
4. Have shovel ready sites available to the ED strategy
5. Market unused and underused city property on the city.

Goal 7: Quality of Place
1. Create a walkable/bikeable community by creating an inventory of existing sidewalks and plan for upcoming construction, design citywide bike map, and ensuring that areas that should attract high amounts of pedestrians (near schools, links between neighborhoods, etc.) are safe and inviting to pedestrians.
2. Hold property owners accountable with a “Bring it to the street campaign” enforcing care and maintenance of city easement and city right of ways.
3. Invite HOA’s to attend council committee of the whole to address their needs and discuss ideas for improving their neighborhood.
4. Evaluate density of public parks and plan for the sale of under used parks with proceeds improving the entire parks system.
5. Identify public areas in need of trees, prepare a phased tree planting plan, and complete implementation of the first phase by April 30, 2010.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Planned Growth for Pensacola

The following information was forwarded to me from a local planner and it shows the logic and advantage to having planned and purposeful growth. Our city is wrapping up or comprehensive CRA plan and recently passed a resolution supporting Mixed income/ Mixed use housing in our urban core and the surrounding areas within the city.

The City of Pensacola is perfect for a major redevelopment plan including both residential & commercial improvements due to the major areas being transformed in the next two years. The Vince Whibbs Community Maritime Park and the Relocation of the Waste Water Treatment plant create a renaissance of sorts for our city. We are awakening from an Industrial hangover, opening up our waterfront to our citizens and recreating our focus as a city on what we want to be in 20 years.

Alternative Development Standards are one possibility for our city to look at in our efforts toward green construction and sustainable development. Enjoy the following information and let me know your thoughts.

Alternative development standards (ADS) allow for more flexible requirements for road widths, building specifications, zoning uses and densities, and rainwater management that support smart growth objectives.Development standards are the regulations, requirements and by-laws by which developments must abide. Development standards are often antiquated, over-prescriptive and cost prohibitive.

Development patterns affect infrastructure and service costs, often resulting in pressure to increase taxes, find new revenue sources or cut services. Development can also have an undesirable impact on the environment and result in conflicts between community aspirations and traditional development. In response, many communities are exploring different ways that municipal infrastructure can be designed, constructed and maintained. Alternative land development patterns can result in buildings, streets, neighborhoods and entire communities that look and function much differently than in the past.
Alternative Development Standards (ADS), often called smart growth, complete communities and green development, are less expensive, less wasteful and more environmentally and socially sensitive than conventional practices.

Communities designed using ADS are:
· more compact
· have mixed-use zoning (e.g. residential mixed in with commercial)
· encourage a variety of housing types
· friendly to pedestrians, bicycles and transit
· less material- and labor-intensive for capital infrastructure and servicing.

Widespread use of ADS can:

· reduce dwelling unit costs by 25 to 40%
· protect ecosystems during infrastructure construction and maintenance
· increase community interaction through housing clusters and mixed-use zones
· reduce energy use by building transportation infrastructure for walking, cycling and transit · reduce per-capita production of greenhouse gases by 30 to 50%
· preserve natural habitats and ecosystems through native landscaping & design
· provide cost-savings to developers by relaxing parking requirements in developments
· improve local business by increasing local residential activity

How alternative development standards are used:
Projects based on ADS focus on the needs of residents and minimizing impact on regional and site-specific ecosystems.
Characteristics include:
· open space adjacent to clustered mixed-use neighborhoods
· a mixture of shops, attached homes and apartments above retail stores
· recreation and employment at a scale that encourages walking
· grid-pattern streets
· narrower road widths
· smaller lots

Development standards span a number of local government responsibilities. The following are some areas where the potential of ADS can be promoted:

Planning

Official Community & Neighborhood plans and zoning (clustering, lot coverage, lot size, minimum yards, performance standards, density bonusing and mixed-use)
Other bylaws and guidelines (tree protection, heritage conservation, etc.)
Covenants and development agreements
Approval process (speedier approvals for smart growth developments)
Programs (Tree Trust)
Financial and other incentives/barriers (development cost charges)
Engineering road right-of-way standards (narrower roads, traffic calming measures)
Pavement standards (permeable pavement)
Bike-way and pedestrian standards and materials
Parking standards (cash in lieu, relaxed standards, maximum requirements)
Rainwater standards (on-site handling, permeability, combining with parks and green spaces, Protecting environmentally sensitive areas
Construction standards (erosion control)
Waste water standards (community septic, solar aquatic systems, etc.)
Financial and other incentives/barriers
Parks and Green space
Open space dedication requirements
Stream stewardship standards
Conservation of natural features
Recreation, school and cultural facilities integration
Cluster development to preserve/create green space
Risk Management methods of reducing risk and liability for innovation
Senior government funding for demonstration projects

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dear Santa

Recently, a misguided Santa's helper brought his personal basket of coal to share with our City Council members in an effort to further his cause...Winterfest of Pensacola. While I can appreciate his passion, I was shocked at the careless use of Santa to bring his message before council and how it further complicates an already deep issue.

While council was amending the 1987 ordinance that limits the use of Plaza Ferdinand as a passive park, Winterfest was not the reason for doing so and is only one small issue along with many larger issues that surround the rewriting of this ordinance.

Southern cities traditionally have passive parks in their downtown's to create a sense of place, a special location, a park that highlights the history and beauty of that city. Charleston SC, Savannah GA, New Orleans LA, Mobile AL, this is just a few yet they represent some of the most beautiful southern cities...they are beautiful simply because of their parks.

Plaza Ferdinand is one park out of 96 that we as a city uphold to be the best we have to offer. It's limitations of passive use maintain it as the beauty it is, and allow us to take pride in the history of our city. To open the park to daily & active use would diminish the park and it's historical beauty.

Further, we have traditions and a code of conduct in many parts of our lives, we wear business clothes while working, uniforms while defending and protecting our community. We have a nice outfit for church. All places have a certain dress code and this code is what sets the tone. Council meets in chambers and creates a sense of place for our citizens...imagine just meeting in the street, unorganized and haphazard...not upholding ourselves to the best we can be.

Holding Plaza Ferdinand above the norm, perfecting it's beauty and keeping one "jewel of our city" as passive park for all to enjoy is not only tradition, it is essential in maintaining a visual confirmation of how special our city is.

Winterfest began with an idea in 2001 not a location. Plaza Ferdinand has worked well until now and we need to explore other options. I noticed while reading their website that the Polar Express is featured in the tour. Our Plaza DeLuna, with it's circle, is perfect for the North Pole just as in the movie. We have plenty of free parking and perfect access for buses, there is a new concession with public bathrooms, and the choir has an amphitheatre to perform in.

Change is sometimes hard to accept, yet we need to imagine the possibilities when change presents itself. Plaza Ferdinand can still be decorated by the DIB for Christmas, we can stroll through it on our way to Plaza DeLuna and enjoy all the beauty that it has to offer.

Imagine

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jumbo Shrimp

I wanted to share some thoughts about our City Council Strategy & Goal Setting session that was held today. I found our facilitator, Dr. Lee, to be very engaging and he set the tone for an engaging and productive meeting. I was pleased that each council member had the opportunity to share their goals one-on-one before today's meeting. As a result of these meetings Dr. Lee had the opportunity to formulate 7 Strategy Statements for us to discuss and finalize.

We will now take time at our next Committee of the Whole to set a time-line for applying our goals to each Strategy. Dr. Lee facilitated some discussion about our new strategies being applied to all agenda items in the future. If this suggestion were to be used, staff will be required to analyze all potential agenda items and much like their recommendations, give commentary as to how the item relates to our council strategies. ( A move in the right direction)

Interactive Government, this is where the Jumbo Shrimp comes in. I would like to see our strategy statements posted to the city website with an additional weblink for each that explains the details of that strategy, specific goals and a timeline for action. I also asked that the goals have an interactive component that staff would update accomplishments, actions taken and give dates for discussion of further action toward accomplishing each goal.

This concept would give citizens complete access to our council process and make our strategies and goals a living, breathing entity instead of a list that council refers back to at the end of our term to see if we hit our mark. We could also have a monthly Goals Check at the first meeting of every month. This would facilitate meaningful and purposed discussion between council members on a regular basis.

Too often we continue making decisions based on outdated information and we need to move toward a more accountable and transparent process. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Goals

Council will be working one on one with our goals and strategy consultant this week. Next week we will have our goal setting workshop on the 30th.

I have forwarded the following ideas for discussion at my Friday meeting. Each goal is multi-dimensional and creates opportunities in many areas to further our city's growth and development.

My personal goals

1.Establish an Education Funding Committee to evaluate scholarships through Pensacola Promise that will be used as an economic development tool. (10 minute Power Point Presentation on Pensacola Promise.)

2 .Improve Quality of Life through neighborhood partnerships and our existing parks system also focusing on pedestrian/bicycle connectivity throughout the city.

3. Create opportunities and locations for Mixed Income/Mixed-Use housing in our Urban Core.

4. Create a multi-use plan for the Port of Pensacola and transition to a Renewable Port Focused Business Plan

5. Create opportunities to internally consolidate, outsource and re-task City departments and staff for better efficiency and improved communication with our citizens while furthering our cost saving efforts.

I will also suggest that we have a goals check-up at the 1st meeting of every month where we talk about our efforts and accomplishments on goals and allow input from the public. This will allow for council to have meaningful discussion with each other on regular basis and keep our goals in the forefront.

Please forward me your thoughts on the 5 areas I have identified for discussion.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Proposed Interlocal kills Pensacola's Promise

After endless hours of effort by Promise supporters,UWF staff, PJC staff and many community members, on Monday, City staff has proposed the elimination of the primary & ongoing funding source of Pensacola's Promise. The proposed interlocal agreement will back door the funding source and reallocate the funds, that would be available in 2013, to a revision of the ECUA wastewater plant relocation agreement. The current interlocal agreement is between the CRA and ECUA not the City.

In 2007, the CRA entered into an agreement with ECUA to provide $19.5 million over a number of years to fund the portion of the wastewater treatment plant within the CRA. In his memo to Council, then City Manager Tom Bonfield expressly stated that under the agreement the City had no obligation to pay any amounts toward this agreement. The 2007 agreement stated that if CRA TIF funds were insufficient to cover the annual ECUA obligation (AFTER PAYMENT OF THE MARITIME PARK BONDS) then the amount due in that year would merely roll over to a year that additional TIF funds were available. Due to Amendment 1 passing subsequent to the ECUA agreement, TIF revenues in the CRA were dramatically reduced and the potential exists that TIF revenues would not cover both the CMPA bonds and the ECUA agreement.

Staff is presenting in Monday's Finance committee meeting a new interlocal agreement with ECUA. The new agreement with ECUA expressly states:
  • the effect of this agreement is intended to fully release the CRA and any
    claim upon the Tax Increment Revenues Under Chapter 163, Florida Statutes from any
    obligation to make payments to the ECUA
  • the intent of the parties is to effect a novation and full replacement of the
    City in the place of the CRA on all obligations that CRA may have to ECUA under the 2007 Agreement

Staff proposes using the funds currently appropriated to repay a debt issue of the City that is paid off in 2013 to cover any TIF shortfalls in the CRA agreement with ECUA.

First, why should the City assume an obligation to ECUA for funds legally deferrable under the current CRA interlocal agreement?

Second, the debt relief that the staff proposes be used to pay the CRA's obligation are the same funds necessary and identified to fund Pensacola's Promise.

On Monday, I will be asking that the proposed ECUA interlocal agreements be tabled or returned to staff pending the Councils goal setting session later this month. The Pensacola Promise deserves a chance to be presented formally to Council before being buried with hasty decisions.

There is no rush on the ECUA agreements. Under the current agreement, they are secondary to the CMPA position for TIF revenues and no payments are due for over a year at best.

I hope that the potential of guaranteeing every child in Pensacola a chance to go to college can be given an opportunity before we commit to giving our citizen's money away to another governmental entity that is neither required under existing agreements nor really needed as news articles report the project is under budget.

During our CMP Bond workshop I already expressed my concerns based on historical data for CRA growth that the CRA revenue projections are too low and create a problem. Mr. Barker assumes a lower than normal growth rate for a conservative estimate thus creating a shortage in funding.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Here is the Council presentation for Pensacola's Promise

I have attached a summary of the proposed scope and finances of the College Tuition Program. A few notes:

  • The Northwest Florida industry focus clusters are shared by the Chamber as well as State Economic Development organizations.
  • The proposal as is only reflects 2 years of college for City high school graduate /residents
  • It assumes that 100% of City of Pensacola graduates WANT to go to college.
  • It assumes that the number of graduates grows at 2% per year in the City.
  • It assumes "bright futures" use those state benefits.
  • Student numbers come from the Florida Dept of Education
  • Graduation rate comes from the Florida Dept of Education and ECSB
  • Bright futures numbers also come from the Department of Education
  • Tuition rates come from PJC per semester hour
  • Tuition is estimated to grow at 7% per year
  • State match is assumed at 50% which is conservative based on discussions with PJC staff
  • City funds are limited to the $3.3 million from the airport sale and $2.1 million annually once the current debt obligation of the City is extinguished.
  • It assumes no earnings of the City's surplus from investments.

As you will see providing at least a 2 year education to every child in the Pensacola City Limits that graduates from a public school is POSSIBLE and even generates a surplus to go toward additional education. Study the numbers. Think of the possibilities. Remember that implementing this plan calls for NO additional tax revenue on the citizens.

To view the presentation click the following link.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/15167961/Maren-Online

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Found Money

In the spring of 2001, with a 2 year old and our second baby on the way we made some decisions for the future while we had a sum of "found money" in hand. Funds came partly from the sale of my Jeep CJ 7 that I no longer needed as a mother of 2, and partly from a gift in my father's will after he died earlier that year.


Now with 2 babies and one income, we needed every penny of what we had in hands just to cover our current commitments yet we took ALL of the funds and invested in Florida Prepaid College. At that time we purchased the plans as 2 & 2 plan first in junior college then on to university.


For our little German souvenir ,also known as Lumpy, we once again took every penny of our savings, emergency funds, tax refunds, IOU's, coupons, garage sale proceeds and all the spare change in the junk drawer ( more than you imagine) and invested in his future. We have a house full of used furniture and generous hand me downs from friends, we make it work with what we have.


My point is this, we made the decision to take the hit now for a known investment we needed to make in our children's future. It was not comfortable and we could have used the money for expenses in our daily lives, yet we can now rest well and know our investment was a good one.


Pensacola has "found money" in the sale of the College Blvd property and yes we could just insert the funds right into the general fund and cover daily operations, yet years from now we will never know the difference and the $3.3 million will be long forgotten.


OR


We can make an investment in the children of this community, an investment in our future for the future. The funds have a multiplier effect just by investing in education. The pride that families will feel to live in a community that is investing in their future. The solid workforce we will have to offer new businesses. The magnet our city will become to surrounding areas simply by having an educated workforce as one of our tools for economic development. The increase in population and property values has shown to be true the Kalamazoo plan and can reverse our exudus of citizens.


In a meeting this week, someone said to me if we as a city would just make an investment in our citizens it could cure so many problems we face today...just to invest in their lives in a positive and productive way. How better to give hope and peace of mind to our families here in Pensacola??


The portion our city would give to fund these scholarships can be matched by grants already available from the state. The plan is solid and merits our continued investigation. After 2 failed efforts with the city manager for space on the agenda, I published my presentation to the web, printed 12 copies and at the very end of the meeting,during council communication, gave my fellow council members my presentation. Most members were already packed to leave, most tired from the previous benefits and pension discussion, yet they listened and heard the possibilities this plan has to offer. I will make a formal presentation during our Goal Setting Session in June and continue to investigate the numbers and meet with educators throughout our community.

Please contact me if you have any ideas to further this effort.

Take Pause

Today we took pause to honor our Pensacola Police Officers killed in the Line of Duty
Roll Call of Heroes
J.W.R. Gordon September 22, 1889
John Yelverton June 3, 1899
William Burnham March 18.1906
J.D. Carter April 4, 1909
C.F. Bazzell March 16, 1932
Clinton A. Green February 26, 1938
Archie Bowman August 19,1938
Herbert Tommy Hatcher January 15, 1939
Louis J. Champa May 27, 1951
Curtis Neal Jones June 27, 1980
Amos Cross September 12, 1980
Stephen A. Taylor October 19, 1982
Glenn Rowe Austraw February 26, 1997
Well Served Peace Officer. May you Rest in Peace.
Today take pause to say a quiet Thank You to all that have lost their lives in the line of duty. I honor their commitment to our community and know the sacrifice all of our men and women in uniform are making every day. Pensacola has a top notch group of officers doing their work to make our city a safe place to not only live but thrive in. They have families too yet each day they wear the uniform and go protect our community...they are our Peace Officers.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Guest Blogger: Jeff DeWeese

Maren asked if I would take the time to share my experiences regarding the setup and effectiveness of our local economic development efforts based on my experience with the start-up of the General Electric Plant on Scenic Highway. Being fairly active in the Pensacola Chamber I see the current efforts made to recruit new business to Pensacola. My experience of having been on the receiving end of the economic development process during my time with GE however offers a little different perspective.
I was one of the first people hired when the plant was purchased from Westinghouse in 2000. The purchase entailed numerous local economic incentives including property tax abatement, workforce training funds, tangible and sales tax abatement and substantial assistance by PJC.
By far, the incentive most valued by GE was the workforce development incentive offered by Workforce Escarosa and Pensacola Junior College. Tax abatements are common and not a differentiator to companies these days. Education and commitment in the area to training the needed workforce was the major value perceived by GE.
GE has plants all over the world, but many are staffed by employees with no post high school education and who receive on-the-job training to perform a specific role or function. Many of these plants such as in Schenectady, New York have been in place for as long as 75-100 years. Being the progressive company it is, when GE purchased the Pensacola site, GE Human Resource management decided that in order to make the maximum return on investment the Pensacola site needed the most dynamic and adaptable workforce in the Energy sector.
When Westinghouse closed the Pensacola plant in 1998 it laid off 650 Pensacola area workers. As part of the layoff, Westinghouse offered employees a college tuition assistance program. Most Westinghouse employees DID NOT ACCEPT THE OFFER.
When GE bought the plant, in order to ensure a workforce that was self directed, had the ability to work in many areas of the process, had the capacity to learn new and different skills such as Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing, GE insisted that each new hire have AT LEAST an Associates degree in order to interview. Therefore, MOST of those laid off by Westinghouse were ineligible even to interview for the new high paying jobs. Once in place the 181 GE employees at the plant formed one of the best labor forces in GE and rapidly equalled the output of the Schenectady plant's workforce in Generator manufacturing. The employees needed less management oversight, less engineering direction, and had a much greater capacity to see the entire process and find the most cost effective means to produce the product.
Once the power generation bubble burst in late 2001, GE had insufficient orders to keep 2 generator plants active. Due entirely to the education, adaptability and self directed nature of the Pensacola workforce, GE transitioned the plant from generator manufacturing to the manufacturing of wind turbine blades. The two processes are as different as night and day. Once again the local GE employees had the capacity to learn new concepts and techniques, most of a much more precise and unforgiving nature as mistakes in blade manufacturing can cost $20,000 to $30,000 each. The plant continued to be a shining example of adaptability.
Finally, due to the rapid rise of the wind turbine market in the last few years, the plant has had to adapt once again into wind turbine generator assembly. The plant has had 3 major shifts in the last seven years. The Pensacola workforce and its ability to rapidly change is discussed and admired throughout all of General Electric.
This success was created by a Company demanding an employee with the capacity to learn new and advanced concepts and a workforce development incentive built around education not tax give aways.
When Maren began talking about the Kalamazoo plan, I immediately saw the natural benefit it would provide our community based on my GE experience.
Alabama offers tax breaks, invests pension funds in new developments and spends the millions of taxpayer funds needed to attract the Billion dollar investments. Unfortunately the State of Florida will not assist Northwest Florida with these types of programs.
I see few Pensacola graduates using the proposed plan to go straight to UWF. Due to UWF admission requirements most would actually be covered under Bright Futures anyway. I see the major beneficiary being kids in Pensacola who graduated from high school but with less than a B average. I believe these kids without this program will merely enter the workforce and begin working in whatever job they can find. The program Maren proposes will allow them to acquire additional skills in areas that interest them, training and education that will make them more attractive to both local employers and new businesses.
Finally, instead of investing substantial City tax dollars in chasing the elusive elephant to relocate to Pensacola, we would be stepping out to invest City dollars, in City residents, to attend City colleges. Dollars that in turn will be spent by the College in salaries and benefits that are pumped back into the local economy.
I for one think that based on my experience and history, her idea shows a track record of success and should be aggressively explored.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

WHAT IF?

Our recent budget workshop reflected how pitiful the City's commitment to economic development actually is. We have thought of economic development as money donated to the Chamber... Commit and forget.

We have to start thinking differently about how we not only exist in this new economy, but how we can thrive and attract the kinds of business and new residents that will grow our community. We now have excellent colleges and universities yet are one of the poorest and most undereducated areas in the region and turn away students each year for lack of funding...this gap continues to grow and residents continue to leave the area for better access to education and more employement opportunities.

What if the City of Pensacola could find a solution to decreasing property values, a solution to an undereducated workforce, a means of making Pensacola a premier spot for economic expansion of current businesses and a hot location for prospective businesses and an area that those outside the City(who use our services and infrastructure without paying for them) were excited to be annexed into the City of Pensacola?

What if we could make ourselves the envy of all of America and it would not cost the City an extra dime of new tax money? What if in these hard economic times, when it is hard to put food on the table, we all knew our children's or grandchildren's future was set out in front of them...taken care of!

I am not dreaming...nor is this idea original. Pensacola, let's copy Kalamazoo!!!

Kalamazoo Michigan has adopted a policy that every child educated in the city limits of Kalamazoo (the school district is the same as city boundaries) can attend college and his tuition is covered. City of Pensacola residents ,educated at public schools, would benefit from this type of plan.

How can we do this when our budget is tight and there is limited funds for our future?

This past year PJC graduated 1700 students but turned away 1500 others for inability to pay tuition. These 1500 people now are not acquiring the skills to advance in a meaningful career, making less than even one year in college would give them. They will more than likely live in the City but not live in appreciating housing. Many City, County and State services will try to assist them in developing a skill or finding a job. Education is what provides opportunity!!

How do we pay for it? Simple. Students that live in the City will be guaranteed tuition to either PJC of UWF. At PJC either an Associate of Arts (university prep) or Associate of Science (a skilled profession). Funds would go to the School directly. Students with bright futures or other scholarships could apply the benefit to books. The max amount per student is fixed. The money stays in our community providing jobs, benefits and growth. Sorry but if you don't live in the City limits NO BENEFIT! Want to grow and learn, want your kids to have a better future, buy property in the City and LIVE here.

Where does the money come from? Also simple. This past week the Council passed a sale of airport land for $3.3 million over the next 4 years ( $900K, $800K, $800K, $800K) There's our foundation. It isn't in the budget recently presented and therefore is found money. In 2011 Mr. Barker pointed out that we will finish paying for a bond issue that frees up approx. $3 million per year of General Fund money. There's the annual amount.

We have talked about waterfront parks and economic incentives. Those moneys are hoping that outside investment comes to town by the lure of the concept. Why not invest in our own citizens and if others come fine, but if they don't we have made ourselves a better community.

I have plenty more on this topic and will presenting more in the weeks ahead. Please check back here and research what Kalamazoo has done.

Pensacola, we CAN do this and not raise taxes. We CAN do this and make ourselves better. We CAN do this and give our kids a brighter future. Just think YES and don't jump to no. Just think What IF?

Scenice Bluffs Park...What a difference 3 hours can make!

District 3 citizens along with off duty Pensacola Firefighters and Parks and Recreation employees spent Saturday morning cleaning, cutting, clearing and pruning the Scenic Bluffs Park. What a difference in only 3 hours!

We cleared seven areas in key locations where illegal activities have occurred in the past. The clearing of dense areas improves safety and gives visitors a visual path to walk throughout the boardwalk. Police will now be stepping up their undercover and uniformed officer patrols and enforce closure of the park at DUSK.

Residents of Dover Landing and Inverness joined in. Dover Landing had just completed their PCIP landscaping project yesterday and were looking to "Pay it Forward". CJ Lewis , having recently reclaimed his city park on Forest Glen in Scenic Heights, also helped clean the low growth areas down by Pensacola Bay.

The firefighters jumped in with chain saws and brush trimmers and cleared some otherwise untameable areas as only heroes can do, many of them having just come off a 24 hour shift.


Total cost of yesterday to the City...ZERO! The Parks and Recreation team, along with Director Dave Flaherty,volunteered their time on Saturday to bring their expertise and knowledge to our project.

A community came together to make their City a better place to live. Neighbors made new friends, visitors from Kentucky, North Carolina and Louisiana marveled at the natural beauty and the amazing clay bluffs. People who use the park regularly saw that others care enough to donate their time for their park. Reggie Slack, former Auburn Quarterback and Pro Football player, was doing his regular jogging and stair-climbing workout yesterday and wants to get involved and possibly do the first Bay Bluffs Boot Camp workout classes.

While another Pensacola waterfront park is getting all of the headlines, District 3 is committed to making OUR waterfront park the best it can be. Come check it out this week and hike the entire boardwalk. The view is amazing, the workout can't be beat and you will hopefully leave feeling refreshed and relaxed from all the natural beauty.

We will host nature walks, "A Coffee and A Sunrise" and many other events in the coming months so let me know what your interests are and let's "Get Out...Way Out" at our 50 Acre Bay Bluffs Park.

Thank you to the following volunteers that gave a few hours of their weekend to make Pensacola a better place to live. You made a BIG difference! Revonda Stewart, Karen Harper, Mr. & Mrs. Gee, CJ Lewis, Jennifer Simmons, PFD engine 1 -Simmons, Longsworth and Daehn, John Chapman,Chad Dunn, Chett Lyuker, Jeff Wilmoth, John Jones III, Cliff Ragsdale, Leroy White Jr., Hugh Patroni, Martin Stugeon, Mark Snyder, Chris Eadler, Chuck Sansom, Larry Bruner, Neil Jones, Nathan Edler, Kim Agmiar, Frank English, Art Boykin, Larry Williams, Eric Johnson, DeWeese Family.

See you at the Bluffs!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Line in the Sand

I have returned from a great Spring Break with my family. We went to Virginia Beach where I lived for 3 years before moving home. Jeff sits on the Board for a defense contractor in the area and had meetings. I took the chance to share a bit of my past with the kids and explore some of the changes that Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area has experienced over the past 2 decades. They are 20 years into their revitalization program, to say there is progress is an understatement. More on this soon. It's exciting stuff...

When I returned , council had our General Fund workshop. To say I was disappointed would also be an understatement. The County, the School Board and other government entities are forecasting at least a 7% decrease in property taxes and our staff submitted a budget with tax revenue flat and equal to last year. While staff stated they did not want to speculate on proposed decreases at this time I pointed out that we are fooling ourselves if we think a decrease is not coming. No one else would join me in rejecting the proposed General Fund budget to the next step. Although the vote was a straw poll, I stated that we are only creating a crisis in the coming months in the eyes of our citizens.

Let me be clear. What was passed was a start at best and will not be the budget going forward. If you are like the DeWeese's you have seen your property values decrease 10-20-30% in a last year. To think that real estate assessments will be level is an illusion and unrealistic.

In the proposed GF budget we have already eliminated all Human Services yet maintained 40K for the Arts Council. I have a fundamental problem keeping one and cutting the others. In this economy we must be fair and balanced and above all else realistic about what our taxpayer's funds are supporting.

In reviewing the budget I can not find many more non-employee costs to cut. Sooner or later we must face the reality that we can no longer afford to maintain an 892 person workforce with all the benefits, compensation and retirement they currently receive. That is 892 families, some of my family, dear friends and people I know to love serving this city. We are all in this together and must ALL make some sacrifice in the coming year. We need to be creative, flexible and think of new ways to sustain our city.

At it's core, this issue is about what a city and it's tax base can support. We have city government to provide services and keep our citizen's safe. The reality is also a human issue that wraps around our discussions... peoples jobs and livelihood are involved and their sense of well being too. Everyone in Pensacola has been touched in some way by the free fall our national economy has taken and these same citizens can not sustain the level of employment and benefits currently offered to employees of our city.

The DeWeese's have lost most of our retirement and had no pay raise in 2 years, pensions were never a consideration in our retirement plan since most companies have eliminated them and shifted to more reasonable investments in their employee's future.

How can government expect to maintain this higher level of funding with the limited funds we are expecting over the next 2 to 3 years. What is committed already is not even on the table, we must stop the free fall our city dollars are in and get smart about the future.

Longevity, DROP and overtime are all areas for immediate consideration in an effort for all to participate in right sizing our budget.

I have not met one person that works for our city that does not wake up every day and work toward making our city the best it can be. They bring passion and commitment to their work and their teams. There is no question about their contribution or value to Pensacola.

We must work together to find our path through this crisis our city is facing. I look forward to your comments and insight. I would like to have some meetings with District 3 residents over the next few weeks. However, I ask that your suggestions respect the service and commitment of our city employees, but bring real world solutions to our real world problem. Each and every one of us can make a difference in this process...let's get to work.

Monday, March 16, 2009

1st Quarter Recap

Three months into the term and I wanted to recap a few accomplishments and some areas of frustration as to the speed of government.

Accomplishments

  1. PCIP Neighborhood Beautification Funding for all District 3 Projects (not to mention all projects city wide), this is the best partnership we have with our citizens.
  2. Helping many District 3 neighbors with potholes and street lighting repairs.
  3. Meeting with every conceivable community group to understand their issues and concerns and how to better connect them with each other for success.
  4. 2009 Road pavings for many roads off of Scenic which had not been paved since I was in middle school.
  5. Opposition to Bingo due to its proposed structure and location; A proposed ordinance is in development and due for a vote before council soon.
  6. Working closely with Fire and Police Departments to gain greater understanding of their issues and challenges. Everyone should take the time to thank these folks for what they do on a daily basis, courage and honor are just the beginning of their jobs.
  7. Moving the dial on cleaning up our Bluffs Park area and making it a place we can all enjoy(stay tuned)
  8. Joining the board for PEDC ( Pensacola Escambia Development Commission) and working on many economic development ideas within the community.

Frustrations

  1. Delay associated with the Maritime Park agreement approval process.
  2. The proposed lack of amenities promised to our Citizens in the current Maritime Park plan.
  3. Being in office 3 months and we STILL haven't addressed the 800 pound gorilla in the room (PENSIONS and the Budget)
  4. The lack of communication between our Fire & Police and the City Staff. It's time for all of us to think about OUR city's basic needs and plan for it's future.
  5. Why we need a consultant for every measure before council or committee (Abramson, Dr. Lee, Maygarden, Diversity, etc.) We know our City better than any out of town expert.
  6. The hurdles that seem small but are almost impossible to overcome in moving toward consolidation of any services with other government entities.
  7. The recurrent inability of those that do not live in the City Limits to acknowledge that City of Pensacola citizens PAY for our City services. Over 19 million is paid to the county by city tax payers each year; We pay for our City Services above and beyond that amount.

On the horizon:

Pension workshop April 2nd where we will BEGIN to tackle the tough issues in front of our city with regard to our pension liabilities and how to fund them. I have many ideas to present and look forward to hearing from you with your possibilities.

Maritime Park Vote April 9th.

Budget Briefings 2nd week of April. We will work on our budget over a 3 month period and I value your ideas and opinions and need your presence during this process.

Continued investigation of ways to streamline and consolidate services both within our city structure and with other government agencies. We already have many consolidated services in place and they operate at a cost savings for our citizens.

Please stay involved in our process and keep emailing me, calling me or stopping me at the sports fields, I have enjoyed the first 3 months and look forward to the rest of our 2 years together.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

General Pension Possibility

Take a look at this article By Rick Outzen from IN Weekly... let me know what you think.

Outtakes by Rick Outzen

INVEST IN PENSACOLA
This is a radical idea, one that really requires people thinking "outside of the box." Why don't we have the city pension funds invest in the Community Maritime Park by buying the bonds?
The city general, fire and police funds total nearly $200 million. They lost $43 million of their value in the 2007-2008 fiscal year by investing in the stock market. Dick Barker, city finance director, recently told the Pensacola City Council that the pension funds have lost another $40 million since Sept. 30, 2008.
The CMP bonds would have a fixed rate of return and no risk. Pensacola would be investing in itself.

THE ALABAMA MODEL
The state of Alabama already does this. The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), which provides pension benefits to retirees through the Employees' Retirement System, the Judicial Retirement Fund and the Teachers' Retirement System, includes the government employees, teachers and judges, and has invested from 2002-2008 $854.3 million in state and local projects and in Alabama companies.
Those $854.3 million in capital expenditures had statewide impacts of $1.947 billion in output, $620.9 million in earnings to Alabama households and 19,225 direct and indirect jobs. State and local governments benefited, too, with increases in state income taxes ($20.4 million), state sales taxes ($10 million), and county and city sales taxes ($12.5 million).
In 2007 alone, investments by the Alabama state pension funds helped provide 5,836 jobs and $245 million in payroll in the state. The study of the Retirement Systems of Alabama by the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama found that average annual pay for those 5,836 jobs was $42,046, more than 14 percent above the state average of $36,751 in 2007.
The investments include the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Bell Microproducts, Daniel Corp., GKN Aerospace Services Alabama, Mercedes Benz U.S. International, Navistar Diesel of Alabama, U.S. Steel and Wise Metals.

CALIFORNIA DOES IT, TOO
Alabama isn't the only state where pensions are invested in the state. The study, "The Economic Impacts of California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) Investments on the California Economy," by California State University showed the significant economic impact of similar pension fund investments on that state's economy, adding approximately $8.5 billion to California's economy. The investment dollars injected by CalPERS into the California economy generated over 124,300 jobs in 2006.
The Alabama State Retirement System has invested $180 million in downtown Montgomery, a fact CMP opponent C.C. Elebash pointed out in a January 2009 letter to the editor. The RSA owns eight downtown buildings in Montgomery, which has a baseball park on its riverfront.
Pensacola needs the estimated 1,500 jobs that the Community Maritime Park will create. The city also needs the "win," a project that will excite people and restore confidence in the local economy.
The city pension funds are sitting in accounts doing little for the taxpayers who have paid the millions to fund them. Why not invest in ourselves?