Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taking Chance

I arrived home tonight feeling great about the good work our City Council had done for our citizens and at the urging of my husband I stayed up alone and watched a TRIBUTE and true story about a fallen Marine...Chance Phelps...the HBO movie shares his journey home.

Today our Mayor spoke of the honor he had in sharing his day with 18 local service Men and Women at our Annual Navy League Military Appreciation Luncheon. In our own way this is a tribute to their service and our connection to their courage and their sacrifice...we appreciate all that each service member gives to our community, our country and our freedom and this is the best way we have an opportunity to show it.

I ask you to take the time to watch "Taking Chance" as soon as possible. I found Chance's journey home as a fallen soldier a model for how we as Americans should strive to also honor our heroes that are lucky enough to make it home alive. Look our service members in the eye and make sure they know how much you honor and appreciate them.

I can remember in 2003, while living in Germany, buying a People magazine at the Bahnhof that honored our 395 fallen service men and women and reading each name and saying God Bless You and Keep You...somehow hoping that this war would come to a swift end and no more lives would be lost.

We as Americans are faced with uncertain times and challenges that we aren't certain any of us are equipped to navigate, so I ask you this... Redirect your uncertainty and find Gratitude for the home you live in, the people you share your life with, the community you live each beautiful day in and the future that you have been given simply because someone you will never know gave their life for you to have that right.

Let's operate under this simple idea: What if by Chance, these challenges we face are a gift...let's get busy Being who we are...proud Americans, let's honor our fallen by living our lives as they did in giving their lives... certain about protecting our future.

Watch the movie and tell me what you think...peace.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Press Release from a Worthy Cause

On Thursday Feb. 26th, 6:30 - 9pm at Will Call on Palafox, my trio will be appearing at a fundraiser for a very worthy cause. Please visit www.escarosaindependenceweekend.com for all the details, but here is the gist:

The Independence Fund was established to help US soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan regain their independence and dignity. These are people who've lost legs and arms or had traumatic brain injury and need things like iBot wheelchairs, special hand crank bikes, specially equipped vehicles, prosthetics, and other devices to help them live more independent lives.

The fundraiser next week will help bring these Wounded Warriors to Pensacola for a weekend of bike racing, a motorcycle rally, a concert by wounded veteran and rising singing star Stephen Cochran (and possibly yours truly singing rock 'n' roll with Tim Spencer!) and panel appearances by best-selling authors and wounded vets themselves.

So for a suggested $100 tax-deductible donation, you can come hear one of your favorite jazz trios in a new setting, enjoy delicious hors d' oeuvres, and support a very worthy cause.

We might not all agree with the politics that got these guys to Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place, but they served their country with honor and paid a heavy price, and now we are in a position to not only honor that service but provide very real support in keeping them active and involved in society and in life. Can't you just imagine the kind of physical and emotional hardships these people must endure?

So let me see as many of your faces as possible. Visit the website above, click on and print the invitation and show up next Thursday with your donation.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Out and About

I have had the following recent meetings. Drop me an email if you would like to discuss the issues addressed at mdeweese@ci.pensacola.fl.us


  • Gulf Power - economic development and renewable initiatives

  • Sacred Heart - Tree ordinance and bike paths

  • WCOA - Update for the community; Bluffs park

  • Staff - Community overlays and land development

  • City Attorney - Bingo ordinance

  • Engineering staff - Engineering proposals; potholes and street lights

  • TPO - Marine highways and the Port of Pensacola and Future planning

  • Chamber of Commerce - Chamber initiatives and direction

  • ARC and Global Corner - Separate post to follow, these were amazing meetings and deserve attention to all the details I have learned.

Every day I learn something new about what others are doing to grow our city and make it a better place for everyone.


Road Paving Streets Announced

I am pleased to annouce that tonight the following roads in District 3 were approved for paving by the committee
  • Goya Drive from Brookshire to Summit along with Goya Court
  • Potosi Road from Flax to Spanish Trail
  • Langley from Spanish Trail to Scenic Highway
  • Bayview Way
  • Bluewater
  • Seabreeze
  • Timberland
  • Whistler
  • Penifield
  • Lavalle Lane
  • Sehoy Circle

Based on my experience walking the District during the campaign I pointed out several of these roads in major need of repair. When the City engineer checked his records it reflected many of the District 3 streets on the list haven't been paved since I was in the FIFTH grade. Im proud to have been able to get them on the list this year.

I would not have known the condition of those streets unless I had been in the District meeting my neighbors.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bingo is Back!

At the next Council meeting, the zoning change from C-1 to C-2, which under the City staff's determination would be required for a BINGO operation to open in the City near 9th Avenue and Tippen, is up for its second reading. I can not support this measure. I feel that the operation is not only undesirable at this location near our airport as noted in previous posts to this blog but may not be legal under Florida Statutes as presented.

Chapter 849.0931 2(b) of the Florida Statutes states " It is the express intent of the Legislature that no charitable, nonprofit, or veterans' organization serve as a sponsor of a bingo game or instant bingo conducted by another, but such organization may only be directly involved in the conduct of such a game as provided in this act."

This legislative intent is not how BINGO was presented to Council. Council was told by the applicant that he with his partners would operate the BINGO Parlor (not the not for profits themselves) and that money would be given to the not for profits listed. It is my recollection that he even went as far as saying there is no way the not for profits could lose money. Under my reading of the statutes the not for profits must actually operate the BINGO games and its members must be present when its BINGO is played.

I have documentation that BINGO in Escambia County is being run contrary to Florida Statutes. What is done is a "rental agreement" is prepared and signed by the not for profit. My example goes as far as having a cover letter which states the NFP must simply sign and the BINGO PARLOR will begin playing BINGO for them. My concern is the BINGO as presented to Council would be similar to the noted operation and therefore not meet the legislative requirement.

I will be proposing that the Ordinance as presented be tabled until such time as the City Attorney can review the operation as presented for legality including contacting the listed not for profits and making sure they solicited the applicant to run the BINGO for them and not vice versa. Further, our City Attorney should review his findings with the State Attorney's office to get their concurrence as to the legality of the operation as presented.

Legal not for profit BINGO has a great place as a fundraiser but it should not be solicited to NFP's by for profit entities looking to skirt the laws of the State of Florida.

PEDC

This week council voted on board appointments and I am honored to have been chosen to represent council on the PEDC along with Councilman Hall. Following is an update from Charles Wood highlighting our current efforts.
EDA Increases Tech Park Application Funding – We received a notice from the Federal Economic Development Administration that they were going to increase the amount of funding we can apply for from $1 million to $2 million for the infrastructure costs on the technology campus. While this is not “money in the bank” yet, it will make a significant impact in funding infrastructure construction.

Targeted marketing with Florida Trend – We put the finishing touches on a cover wrap for Florida Trend magazine that will be sent to 300 targeted businesses around the country highlighting the recent awards by Pensacola-Based Brand Asset Digital (see attachment). They have been ranked as a top start-up of the year by Music Ally and were awarded the “product of the year” by the Distributed Computing Industry Association for their P2P (that’s peer to peer) search, giving advertisers the ability to target and connect their branded content directly to consumers via P2P search.

Meeting with the State Office for Tourism Trade and Economic Development (OTTED) – I had a very good meeting last week with Dr. Dale Brill who heads up OTTED. The meeting included economic development directors from Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville, and Brevard County. Not only was Pensacola at the table (which alone is a good thing), but the group made recommendations that could cut review time for the state’s Qualified Target Industry tax incentive by 2 months or more and could reduce the approval time for the Governor’s “quick” action closing fund by several months as well. Many thanks should go out to Susan Story who provided me with input on these issues. She has been heavily involved in economic development efforts at the state level as the past Vice-Chair of Enterprise Florida, Chairman of the Florida Chamber and the Florida Council of 100.

Pensacola is headed in the right direction, we just need to unify all of our smaller initiatives into one powerful group. Right now, we have the opportunity to evaluate our efforts as a city and reinforce our current position for creating a stable and thriving community. I am looking forward to sharing more ideas and possibilities with you in the coming weeks.

Full Bloom

If this were a garden, it would now be in full bloom.

I am speaking of Morris Court II and III. This new community is a joint project with the City of Pensacola, The Area Housing Commission and Carlisle Development Group that has now opened it's second and third phase of apartments to complete it's community project for affordable housing in our city.
Morris Court replaces much needed housing for our city residents that was lost during Hurricane Ivan. There was 26 million contributed in federal and local funding that allowed this community to be built and still be affordable for the citizens of Pensacola.
The surrounding heritage oaks, playground and pathways connecting each living area give such a sense of peace and connection with each other.
As I have said before, "neighborhoods are where our lives happen" and Morris Court is rock solid, creating a comfortable and pleasing environment for all ages. With this stable and welcoming community in place, citizens can focus on being a family, connecting with their neighbors and in turn have a better chance of thriving in our community.
We need more of this kind of endeavors in areas around downtown to support or work force and our retirees. Communities are based on each of us sharing our lives with each other and this is a prime example. Go take a look at this new community on Godfrey Street just South of Baptist Hospital and Lakeview Center.
Congratulations Pensacola, this is another success story.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Analysis of Barker Projections

I have been reviewing the financing projections prepared by City Finance Director Barker and presented to Council at our recent workshop. First, let me say that Mr. Barker is an exceptional City Finance Director with a knowledge of municipal finance that I do not have, nor will I ever have. What follows are my observations of the differences between the financing plan presented in 2007 and the financing plan presented at the recent workshop. My overall comment is that the projections are unrealistically conservative.
The key assumptions in Mr. Barker's projections from 2007 to 2009 are:
  • The change in growth rate of CRA TIF revenues. Under Mr. Barker's current model, CRA TIF revenues will not return to their 2007 levels until 2016 (8 years from now). While CRA revenues have declined in the past, no such example of a continuing slump in market value has existed since the foundation of the CRA even in down markets. Additionally, Mr. Barker's assumptions do not account for large developments that will occur at both the Maritime Park site and across the street at the Sewage Treatment Plant site. These two projects alone with Studer's $12 million dollar office building, a planned hotel project at the CMP and whatever is built on the WWTP site will bring significant TIF revenues to the CRA, not to mention the increased values to the commercial properties in the surrounding areas.
  • The difference is too big. As presented last week Mr. Barker's projections reflect annual TIF revenues in the CRA will be $554 million less over the next 36 years than he predicted in 2007. (2007- $ 934 million from 2009 through 2044 compared to 2009-$385 million for the same period)
  • The CMP Proposed Debt. In 2007 Mr. Barker proposed a debt amortization that reflected adjusting principal and interest payments that paid substantially more principle in the near term allowing for smaller payments in the outer years. In the current model due to the substantially less TIF revenues, Mr. Barker assumes a more straight line amortization with principle and interest payments being consistent throughout the loan period. To date a change to straight line amortization has not been explained.
  • Wastewater Plant Financing - We have waited so long to begin this project that the funds committed to the sewage treatment plant relocation have actually come due before the CMP debts will begin. In the 2007 plan, the CMP debt repayment preceded the WWTP obligation by two years. I remember the opponents of the Park stating the stink of the plant would keep people away. It appears that due to our lethargic progress on the CMP the plant will be closed and removed prior to the Park opening. Mr. Barker stated he would be investigating adjustment to the WWTP finance plan to better accomodate TIF revenues.

While short term financing has its place, I believe we should have been moving ahead with the bond before now. When challenged in August 2008 as to why the City had not been actively pursuing bonds after the then City Council approved an alternative funding source in the wake of a potential Strand decision, Mr. Barker stated “It’s really just an alternative that we gave the council, the timetable depends on when the environmental is through,” says Dick Barker, city finance director. “We will be ready to go about 60-90 days after we get everything cleared (meaning the environmental, etc.). I’m thinking it’s going to be at least next spring, but if it’s ready to go before then, we’ll be ready to jump in and get started.”

I just hope that the staff's delay in moving forward with securing a bond prior to now doesn't end up costing the CRA the $17 million Mr. Barker now projects. I look forward to clarification as to why short term financing is preferred and if it subjects the CRA to additional interest rate risk on this project. Additionally, I would like for the cities bond counsel to brief our City Council on the current state of bond markets and what he thinks he sees in the future.