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Monday, April 25, 2016

Sheriff Morgan: Boastful Bureaucratic Bungler

Anyone who has spent some time in the U.S. military, either enlisted or officer, knows that the military is very attentive to managing personnel.  After boot camp, you may assist the orderly room in preparing the Morning Report that eventually winds its way to the Pentagon in terms of the unit readiness report.

But, if you become an officer, you know that the military's management of its personnel is very fine grained.  Each service keeps track of how many enlisted and officers it has, their Military Occupation Specialty, their time in grade and time in service, how they are ranked compared to their peers, and whether or not the raters are too harsh or too easy over time.  Even an officer who does not work in Personnel knows how fine grained the military's understanding of its officer corps is.  It shows up on your own Fitness Report, at least it does with the Navy.

Sheriff Morgan states on his official biography that he proudly served in the U.S. Air Force from 1971 to 1994--a total of twenty-three years.  That is more than enough time for an officer to learn that personnel management is a key ingredient of the military.

And yet, if you ask the Escambia County Sheriff's Office a simple personnel question--you get a reply that is shocking and disturbing.

Here is the verbatim response I received from Ms. Medeiros, the public records officer, after she received a response from the Human Resources office:  "In response to the below request for, 'the number of sheriff deputies who have resigned from the ECSO between January 1, 2009 and March 3, 2016,' no such records exist in the Sheriff’s custody.

How do you manage a personnel system that cannot answer a basic inquiry?  How many ways can a deputy leave the ECSO?  They could die, they could retire, they could be fired, and they could resign.  I only wanted to know how many deputies had resigned.

If you do not track how many deputies resign and at what stage in their career progression at the Escambia County Sheriff's Office they resign, how do you know if something may be wrong within the system?  At what point in their careers are deputies resigning--is it after a few years or before they reach the time in grade/service requirements for advancement to sergeant?  Do they resign before the time in grade/service requirement to reach lieutenant?  Is there a problem?  Is there not a problem?  Is the ECSO experiencing an unhealthy churning of deputies or are its resignation numbers consistent with other sheriff offices in Florida?  Are deputies simply using their ECSO training and experience to leave for better paying jobs at the Pensacola Police Department or federal agencies or state agencies?  Nobody knows--least of all Sheriff Morgan.

What we do know is that when the Pensacola Police Department was given the same public records request, the response was simple and direct:  "41 Police Officers have resigned from January 1, 2009 to March 3, 2016."  So easy.  The Pensacola Police Department loses an average of six officers per year due to resignation.

I am not saying that number is high or low.  I am not saying these officers resigned for good or bad reasons.  I am not saying that the number of resignations reflects well or poorly on the leadership of the Pensacola Police Department.  But, at least the Pensacola Police Department knows that on average roughly six officers will resign every year for whatever reason.

Sheriff Morgan does not know diddley.

UPDATE 27 APRIL 2016 at 1609H:  On April 27, 2016, at 1346 hours I received additional data from Ms. Medereiros.  For whatever reason, and I will leave the speculation to others, the Human Resources division of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office stated that "167 Deputy Sheriff's [sic] have resigned.  This does not include retirements or terminations."  In other words, the Escambia County Sheriff's Office's rate of resignations is four times higher than the resignation rate for the Pensacola Police Department.  This may either be attributed to differentials in pay between the ECSO and other law enforcement agencies in Florida, or, the rumored culture of intimidation and abuse within the ECSO.  CJ's Street Report has been able to verify one rumor--a large number of resignations.  The second rumor may be a tougher nut to crack.

But, the rumors are that many deputies resign because there are better paying jobs in Northwest Florida in other agencies.  I do not know if that rumor is true.  But, a comparison of the pay structure between the Pensacola Police Department and the Escambia County Sheriff's Office suggests that a really sharp, squared-away deputy after gaining experience with the ECSO would at least inquire about a law enforcement position with the Pensacola Police Department because they do offer higher pay and a much more egalitarian pay structure.

It always difficult comparing pay structures between organizations.  They do have different ranks.  But, there are some points at which the PPD appears to pay more money for a comparable position.

PPD RANK          SALARY RANGE                 ECSO RANK*         SALARY RANGE

Police Officer       32,969--61,859                         Deputy Sheriff           34,898--52,347

Police Sergeant    64,985--73,652                         Sergeant                   44,483--66,724

Lieutenant             77,899--10% higher**             Lieutenant                 52,320--78,481

Police Capt           52,041--101,795                       Captain                     73,223--109,835

Asst Chief             52,041--101,795                       Chief Deputy            115,765--173,648

*  The corresponding Class Code for the ECSO positions are 6132, Deputy Sheriff; 6136, Sergeant; 6137, Lieutenant; 6138, Captain; 8002, Chief Deputy.
**The pay for PPD Lieutenant is 10% higher than the highest Sergeant with no maximum.

From an organizational view, the Pensacola Police Department is a much flatter organization in terms of pay than the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.

The ratio of the lowest pay in the PPD to the highest pay is roughly three to one.  In the ECSO that ratio is five to  one.  Given the lower degree of income inequality, there is probably more esprit de corps and worker solidarity within the PPD.

The other way of looking at the pay scale between the two organizations is to notice that sheriff deputies have every incentive to try to transfer to the PPD.

Between police officer and deputy sheriff, the pay is roughly comparable starting off.  There is only about $2,000 difference in the lowest starting pay, but a police officer would top out about $9,000 higher.  However, the ECSO has some intermediate positions between Deputy Sheriff and Sergeant.  A Deputy Sheriff First Class tops out at $54,965 (code 6133); and a Senior Deputy Sheriff tops out at $57,713 (code 6134).  A Master Deputy tops out at $60,599 (code 6135).  That still leaves the highest paid PPD police officer $1,000 per year better off than an apparently higher ranking ECSO deputy.

Of note, a Master Deputy is a rank achieved after 17 years of service and 600 cumulative hours of approved training.  A Senior Deputy requires 12 years of service and 400 cumulative hours of approved training.  For both ranks, an "officer may substitute up to 100 classroom hours of law enforcement college level classes for the 200 hours training required," according to the most recent Human Relations manual for the ECSO, the "Rules of the Escambia County Sheriff's Office."

However, at the first big jump in responsibility--to sergeant--the gap between the two organizations is a chasm.  A police sergeant starts at $20,000 more than the lowest ECSO sergeant.  He or she finishes at the top end of sergeant about $7,000 ahead per year.  There is a tremendous financial incentive for an ECSO deputy to leave for a job in the Pensacola Police Department or some other law enforcement agency that has higher pay.

If this is the case, then the taxpayers of Escambia County are essentially paying for all the training of sheriff deputies and becoming the feeder farm team for other law enforcement agencies.

The next big leap in terms of career progression is from sergeant to lieutenant.

The starting pay for a PPD lieutenant is $25,000 more than an ECSO lieutenant ($77,899 versus $52,320).  And, the lowest paid lieutenant in the Pensacola Police Department makes only $1,000 less than the highest paid lieutenant in the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.  There is also an interesting anomaly in the ECSO pay scale, that is probably an optical illusion.  But, the starting pay for the lowest lieutenant is $14,000 less than the highest paid sergeant within the ECSO.  It is probably an illusion because there must be some payroll adjustment to avoid a sergeant taking such a serious pay cut in order to advance in grade.

Thus, the data suggest ECSO sergeants and lieutenants have strong financial incentives to leave for the PPD or some other comparably paid law enforcement agency.  And if this in fact happens, then again the ECSO is the feeder farm team for other law enforcement agencies.

At the top end of the organizational structure, the starting pay for a PPD captain is $21,000 below the starting pay for an ECSO captain.  An ECSO captain also makes about $8,000 more at the top end.

And, at the number two position, the starting pay for the Assistant Police Chief in the PPD is roughly half the starting pay as the ECSO's Chief Deputy ($52,041 to $115,765).  Again, there must be adjustments in pay for the PPD in terms of starting pay.

But, at the level of high-end pay, the ECSO Chief Deputy tops out at $173,648, while the PPD Assistant Police Chief tops out at $101,795.  Why is there a $72,000 difference?  Why does the ECSO overpay its number two relative to the PPD, while simultaneously comparatively underpaying its deputies that actually do the real work of the department and who are out on the street?  Here is where the greater difference in income inequality could cause resentment and suggest to deputies that they should leave.

Of course, we do not know if deputy sheriffs, sergeants, and lieutenants are resigning from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office because Sheriff Morgan apparently does not keep track of that data.  We do not know if relatively inadequate pay for these lower ranks causes an undue number of resignations.  The pay structure data suggest that this could be the case.

The Escambia County Board of Commissioners and Escambia County taxpayers have a right to know if there is a correlation between resignations of deputies and pay structure.  They may have a right to know, but they will never know because Sheriff Morgan--who should know better from 23 years in the Air Force that personnel management is fundamental to a well-run military--does not bother to collect data on yearly resignations.  The fact that the ECSO cannot provide that data but the Pensacola Police Department can suggests that Sheriff Morgan does not want to collect any data that would call into question the illusion of a well-run Sheriff's Office.  And, the fact that ECSO deputies are paid relatively much lower than comparably ranked PPD officers, suggests that ECSO deputies, sergeants, and lieutenants have ample financial incentives either to seek jobs in the PPD or some other law enforcement agency.  We are thus left with repeatedly hearing rumors of resignations and the churning of deputies, but without proof--just as Sheriff Morgan would apparently prefer.

Friday, April 22, 2016

ECSD On School-to-Prison-Pipeline Problems and Solutions


On April 18, 2016, the Education Committee of the Pensacola chapter of the League of Women Voters, headed by Paula Montgomery (MD), held a fourth (fifth if you count the December 2015 showing of the film "Paper Tigers") forum on the School-to-Prison Pipeline.  This time, Superintendent Malcolm Thomas had six representatives of the Escambia County School District (ECSD), plus a non-employee specialist, provide presentations and responses to audience questions.

The ECSD representatives included: Steve Marcanio, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction; Lesa Morgan, director of High School Education; Vicki Gibowski, director of Middle School Education; Teri Szafran, director of Exceptional Student Education; Dr. Lisa Joyner, director of Student Services; Avis Schirato, specialist with SEDNET; and Vickie Mathis, director of Alternative Education.  Linda Maletsidis, director of Elementary School Education did not participate.

A CJ's Street Report summary article of the four previous forums (including the film) also contains links to the three previous forums as well as links to external sources of information.

This SPP forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Coffee Party.  Previous forums were also sponsored by the Escambia County Youth Justice Coalition, the National Association of Social Workers, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union.


This editorial comment does not express the views of the League of Women Voters or any current or past sponsors of their School-to-Prison Pipeline forums.

One thing to keep in mind as you listen to the video presentations from Escambia County School District staff is how wedded they are to a language that reflects a commitment to market-based solutions.  This is not always clear, but it is there.  For example, both Vicki Gibowski and Teri Szafran speak in terms of each school or campus deciding what to "embed" or "practice" instead of having a district-wide policy.  For example, Szafran in her talk (video 27), discusses how principals will decide what lessons of the Trauma-Informed Care of the movie "Paper Tigers" might be appropriate to embed on their campuses with their faculty.

Gibowski (video 53) briefly touches upon site-based management versus district-wide management.  Site-based management is a labor-intensive process.  Escambia County's practice has never been examined for actual results by the state of Florida.  Nor does there appear to be any scientific studies of the ECSD's Site-Based Management practice.

In fact, there is scant scientific evidence that it is of any practical value in improving student or school outcomes, according to a review study published by the National Academy of Sciences (1996).  Anita Summers and Amy Johnson concluded, "First, there are overwhelming obstacles in the way of evaluating the impact of SBM on student achievement. There is virtually no empirical or statistical evidence in the literature. SBM programs exhibit many different designs, and few identify student achievement as a major objective. The focus is on organizational processes, with virtually no attention to how process changes may affect student performance.  Second, the handful of studies with some controls and statistical data provide no significant support for the proposition that school-based management will increase student achievement" (see pages 92-93).

The second aspect of this market-based philosophy is the discussion of how children make "choose" to misbehave.  Gibowski, who is responsible for Middle School Education, in video 26 talks about students "make bad choices" or "make better behavorial choices" or "make some poorer choices."  This is not a correct way of understanding children's behavior.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline's second discussion of  the criminal justice system's role also focused on the cognitive abilities of children.  As discussed in the CJ's Street Report article:  "As part of the panel discussion, the sponsors showed a 17-minute TedX Jacksonville Talk by attorney Hank Coxe.  The main point of the video, "When will your child be eligible for parole," is that while juveniles may know the difference between right and wrong, their brains have not physically developed to control their behavior.  The criminal justice system nationwide, but particularly in Escambia County, is unprepared to deal with juveniles who may commit violent crimes or other serious crimes as juveniles.  Instead, they are transferred into the adult criminal justice system, put into traumatic solitary confinement, and given adult-level punishments.  For a further discussion of Hank Coxe's video presentation with a transcript, see the discussion between Hank Coxe and attorney Gray Thomas at Metro Jacksonville."

In short, children do not make behavioral "choices" because their brains have not developed enough to make such rational choices.

The third point to keep in mind is that the Escambia County School District is a "Potemkin" school district, at least according to the presentations below.

What I mean is that the Superintendent simply will not tell Escambia County's parents and taxpayers the truth:  the school district is woefully underfunded and its personnel, while well meaning, sincere and dedicated, and its programs somewhat innovative, are simply overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems it faces.

If you to the website and look at per pupil expenditures for the United States and all 50 states, you understand the magnitude of the shortfall.  The latest data goes to Fiscal Year 2013.

The national average for total spending is $10,700 per student.  Florida's average in Fiscal Year 2013 was $8,433.  Between Fiscal Year 2008 and Fiscal Year 2013, Florida's per student expenditures declined 14.6%.  According to the most recent proposed education budget for Florida, the Pensacola News Journal reported that the education budget rose $71 to $7,178 per student.

In other words, even with the trivial increase of $71, the proposed 2016-2017 Florida education budget is still $1,255 less than it was in Fiscal Year 2013, when it had already declined 14.6% from the Governor Crist level to the Governor Scott level.  In Fiscal Year 2013, Mississippi spent $8,130 per student.  In short, under a Republican legislature and Republican governor, Florida is probably now spending less per student than Mississippi--a state with one of the lowest Gross Domestic Products in the country and a state known to be one of the most regressive in the nation.  When you are competing with Mississippi to be among the very worst in terms of per student spending, you have reached rock bottom.  Go Gators!

That Republican voters routinely send Republicans to Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. suggests either that they do not know what their elected Republican officials actually accomplish once there (cut budgets), or, they simply do not care, or, they cannot comprehend that budget cuts hurts their families directly.  But, what we can actually infer is that elected Republican officials do not care about children.

All the Republican happy talk about supporting family values and protecting children is just mendacious verbiage for rubes.  If Republicans valued the family and children, it would be reflected in the education budget.

In short, the Escambia County School District is dealing with the same magnitude of problems--lack of jobs with a sustainable living wage, unmet physical and mental health problems, nutrition shortfalls, and crime and violence--with significantly less resources.

And that is the truth that Superintendent Thomas will not tell the parents and taxpayers of Escambia County.  Superintendent Thomas would rather tell the voters that he would like to get it on with the Virgin Mary than to tell them he needs to raise money through taxes to educate their children.  Instead, the ECSD reaches out to the business community for partners to provide services, goods, or other donations.

So, instead the Superintendent gleefully participates in another dog-and-pony show called Achieve Escambia, the subject of the last blog post.

Why is it a dog-and-pony show?  Because as I explained, one of Achieve Escambia's principles is "eliminating disparities," while its mission is to "align our community resources so everyone is empowered to achieve success."  Those two aspirational statements clearly imply that resources will be reallocated or redistributed from the haves to the have nots within the district.  But, the school district is woefully underfunded.  It essentially has no resources to redistribute.  Nor was there any discussion in the Achieve Escambia unveiling of increasing resources for the school district.

Consider the following data from the presentations to get an idea of how few resources the school district has to meet the conditions of its students.

In video 25, Lesa Morgan stated there are 4 graduation coaches for seven high schools.

In video 27, Teri Szafran noted that of the school district's roughly 40,000 students, 15% or roughly 6,000 have some kind of disability.  The district manages to put up to 60 students in placement--meaning only 1% of the disabled students are helped.

In video 28, Lisa Joyner stated that there are two mental health counselors for the secondary education level.  She also mentioned the social workers, but only in the context of stating what they do, not how many there are.

In video 35, when asked about social worker resources, the actual number of social workers was again not stated--though I understand there are only 7 or 8 for 40,000 students.  Szafran noted there are 22 "behavior coaches," and much of the discussion was spent on "training."

In video 27, Szafran also stated that the film "Paper Tigers" was shown to "all administrative staff last week" and that they were talking to principals about how to study that Trauma-Informed Care and "what might be appropriate to embed on their campuses with their faculty."  The statement sounds positive and wonderful, unless you actually saw the film and attended the expert discussion (Lisa Joyner was a panelist).  You do not cherry-pick practices and think they are going to work.  For the "Paper Tigers" panel discussion see this CJ's Street Report.


Steve Marcanio.  Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction since January 2012.  Previously, he was the principal of Belleview Middle School and director of Middle School Education.

Lesa Morgan.  Director of High School Education.  An ECSD employee for 33 years.  She has a BA and MA from the University of Florida.  She has been a teacher, curriculum coordinator, principal, and director of Workforce Education.



Vicki Gibowski.  Director of Middle School Education.  BA in Special Education and a MA in Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida.  She has served as a special education classroom teacher, Intervention Specialist, Assistant Principal at Brown-Barge Middle School, and Principal at Bellview Middle School.  She has worked for the district for 23 years.

Teri Szafran.  Director of Exceptional Student Education.  BA degree in Liberal Arts and a MA degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Kansas.  She also has a Specialists degree in Educational Leadership from UWF.  She was worked for the ECSD for 22 years and has been a speech language pathologist, a speech language diagnostician, an educational staffing specialist, and the ESE Program Planning Coordinator.

Lisa Joyner.  Director of Student Services.  PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of West Florida.  BA in Interdisciplinary Social Science from UWF, MA in Counseling and Psychology from Troy University, and, a Specialists degree in Educational Leadership from UWF.

Avis Schirato.  Specialist SEDNET.  She has a BA in Criminal Justice from Texas Woman's University and a MA in Special Education with state endorsement in Emotional/Behavioral disorders from the University of North Texas.  She has served as an ESE teacher, a department chair, and SEDNET specialist.  She has worked in the district for 2 1/2 years.  For more on SEDNET see

Vicki Mathis.  Director of Alternative Education.  She has a BA in Middle Grades Science and Social Sciences from West Georgia College, a MA in Elementary Education from UWF, and certification in Educational Leadership from UWF.  She has been an elementary school teacher, teacher of Special Assignment in the Department of Alternative Education, and an Assistant Principal.



Lesa Morgan, Video 25:  District Data on Progress.

In 2008, there were 17,007 Out of School Suspensions (OSS) involving 6,903 students.  For 2014-2015, there were 6,151 OSS involving 3,140 students, a decline of 64% in OSS and a 55% reduction in the number of students.  There was an 80% drop in expulsions.  The graduation rate rose from 57% in 2010 to 72.7% in 2014-2015.  She also talked about initiatives at the high school level, 4 graduation coaches, 43 middle and high school academies, and the Judy Andrews Second Chance program.

Vicki Gibowski, Video 26: Discipline Intervention Matrix, Phoenix Program, and Success Academy.

Talked about children "choose" to misbehave, "make bad choices," "make better behavioral choices," and "make some poorer choices."

Teri Szafran, Video 27:  15% students with disabilities and "Paper Tigers" film.

Lisa Joyner, Video 28:  Social Workers, School Counselors, Lakeview Center, Positive Behavior Support.

Avis Schirato, SEDNET, Video 29:  Grant from FL Department of Education.  Train 1,400 teachers and staff, plus more than 700 parents.  No mention of metrics of success.

Vickie Mathis, Video 30:  Charter schools, Camelot Academy contract, ICare program, Pace Center for Girls, and "make positive choices."  Also Drug & Alcohol Residential Treatment Center, E.C. Jail, Juvenile Detention Center, and Escambia Boys Base.


VIDEO 33 and 34:  School-to-Prison Pipeline and elementary schools.  Answer: Joyner and Szafran, then Morgan

 Video 35:  Social Worker Resources.  Answer Schirato, Marcanio, Szafran, and Gibowski

 Video 36:  In-School Arrests.  Answer:  Gibowski and Marcanio

 Video 37:  In-School Arrests.  Answer: Mathis data and Marcanio

 Video 39:  Camelot Curriculum Results.  Answer: Mathis, Szafran, and Marcanio

Video 40:  Disciplinary Reassignment.  Answer:  Morgan and Marcanio

Video 41:  Disciplinary Reassignment and Help for Parents.  Answer:  Morgan and Schirato

Video 42:  C.A. Weis Elementary Community School.  Answer:  Marcanio and Mathis

See also

Video 43:  Parental Focus and Funds.  Answer:  Gibowski, Szafran, and Schirato

Video 44:  Black Male Role Models.  Answer:  Morgan and Mathis

Morgan:  As everyone knows, there are lots of well paying jobs that do not require a college education.  Our career academies are geared towards non-college-bound students.

Editorial Comment:  This is flat-out contradicted by the evolution of the economies of the southern states.  The Progressive magazine reported:  "[T]he South is now often abandoned by U.S. firms which find even lower wages, more repressive control over labor, and generous subsidies from Third World governments.... This recent 'offshoring' has left the South peppered with dying factory and textile-mill towns that have lost their main employers and face a grim economic future with few prospects of escaping pervasive poverty..."

Video 45:  Arrests and Racial Disparities.  Answer:  Gibowksi and Morgan

Video 46:  Hiring Black Teachers and Principals.  Answer:  Gibowski

 Video 47:  School Bullying.  Answer:  Mathis

Video 48:  Judy Andrews Second Chance School.  Answer:  Morgan

See also

Video 49:  Trauma-Informed Care.  Answer:  Szafran and Marcanio

Video 50:  Matrix Use and "Paper Tigers" movie upcoming showing.  Answer:  Gibowski and Szafran

Paper Tigers movie at First United Methodist Church, tickets at EventBrite:

Video 51:  De-Escalation in the Classroom.  Answer:  Gibowski and Marcanio

Vision 2020, laptops in classroom and take home for students and families.

Video 52:  Traumatic Experiences.  Answer:  Schirato and Joyner

Video 53:  What Changed? Reference Video 25.  Site-Based Management.  Answer: Morgan and Gibowski

Video 54:  How to contact ECSD panelists for more information.  Answer: Marcanio

Video 55:  Closing Statement by Paula Montgomery and Community Outreach by Keyontay Humphries, ACLU

Tuesday, April 12, 2016



The "Vision" for Achieve Escambia is: "Every Generation Achieves Success--Cradle to Career."

The "Mission for Achieve Escambia is:  "To align our community resources so everyone is empowered to achieve success."

On April 11, 2016, the "Backbone Convenors" of Achieve Escambia--United Way, the University of West Florida's Haas Center, and the Studer Community Institute, with additional funding from Gulf Power--unveiled Achieve Escambia (AE), a community structure/process that began in Cincinnati with Strive Together, a non-profit subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks.  The Navy Federal Credit Union was also a major sponsor, if not funding source, of the community strategy conference.  The conference lasted four hours and did not cover the materials as in-depth as the organizers would have wanted.  There were at least 248 participants from local government, local education, business, non-profits, faith-based, media, and law enforcement (Chief David Alexander).

The conference featured two consultants: Kathryn Merchant, a senior fellow with the national Strive Together network where she serves as an advisor to more than 60 communities, and, Hany Elena White, senior manager for Partner Progress at Strive Together, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks.  Both have extensive experience in working with communities to achieve goals.

The Achieve Escambia process began about six months ago with a working group creating a draft framework to unveil today for more comments from interested members of the community.  Many of the framework drafters attended today's conference.

The key to this education reform effort, called "cradle to career," is a concept called "collective impact."  Collective impact refers to bringing together a coalition of organizations, known as "stakeholders" in the non-profit lingo, having a central coordinating organization, but relying upon numerous committees and networks to effect change.  The objective is to have all organizations and networks working to achieve core primary goals that are measured across organizations the same way.

A distributed article on "Collective Impact" in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by John Kania and Mark Kramer, emphasized five key conditions for success exhibited by similar groups around the country:  a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support organizations.  Other Strive Together efforts have started in Indianapolis, Houston, Richmond VA, and Hayward CA, and will start in Portland OR, Fresno CA, Mesa AZ, Albuquerque, and Memphis.

By common agenda is meant agreement on "primary goals," even though groups may disagree on other aspects of the education problem.  Unlike other education reform efforts that put the school at the center of policies, Strive Together puts the child at the center.  This represents a paradigm shift.

There are four key principles that inform Achieve Escambia/Strive Together's theory of social action: engage community expertise and voice; eliminate disparities; build a culture of continuous improvement; and, leverage existing assets.

There are five major outcome areas for Achieve Escambia: every child achieves school readiness (kindergarten); every student achieves academic success (math and reading in elementary school); every student achieves graduation (high school); every learner achieves readiness for a desired career (post-secondary completion); every adult achieves economic self-sufficiency (employment).

The conference emphasized that trust was a "prerequisite for creating results."  Trust meant that other people were perceived to be sincere, competent, and reliable.  Essentially, words should match actions.  At that point my fellow attendee, Grace McAffery, president of Latino Media Gulf Coast, told me that politics, race, ethnicity, and religion usually divided administrators from the community.

The Black community in Escambia County already knows the decades of political campaign promises that are ignored once candidates are elected.  The Black community already knows the government programs that are not implemented, or, if implemented, do not achieve the desired results.  The Black community needs no reminding that it barely has a voice on the elected bodies and its interest in surviving and not being poisoned to death are often times not acknowledged.  And the Black community needs no lessons on the continued existence of racial disparities on almost every key political, economic, education, health, criminal justice, or environmental indicators in Escambia County.  The Black community needs no reminding that institutional racism persists.

In short, in order for Achieve Escambia to move forward and achieve success, the Black community and other "minority" communities (see below) need to be included in the process.  These other communities need to buy-in into the process and not be included in a token fashion.  If Achieve Escambia wants local folks to take "ownership" of the process as "stakeholders," then they actually have to have real, tangible, visible ownership and stakeholder roles.

That said, there is a great deal of potential in Achieve Escambia.  It will take time.  There will be fits and starts.  It will take time for all groups to learn to trust.  It will take time to adjust funding.  But, this "collective impact" is a strategic model that has achieved results elsewhere in the country.  If those lessons learned can be incorporated into the Achieve Escambia process model, we may begin to see progress.  If trust, inclusion, and realignment of resources are pursued in a meaningful way, there can be hope that this "collective impact" approach might succeed.  One of the speakers noted that the creation of Baptist Hospital was the result of a similar community process.  We also have the successful example of Baptist Health Care Corporation and Sacred Heart Health System collaborating with community groups to launch the Partnership for a Healthy Community.

A More In-Depth Look

Let's take a closer look at the Vision and Mission statements.

The "Vision" for Achieve Escambia is: "Every Generation Achieves Success--Cradle to Career."

The "Mission" for Achieve Escambia is:  "To align our community resources so everyone is empowered to achieve success."

My table consisted of the aforementioned Gloria McAffery; Rev Dr Tyler Hardeman (Antioch Baptist Church); Pastor Carl Reeves (Greater Mount Lily Missionary Baptist Church); Amy Lavoy, assistant county administrator for Escambia County; and, Manette Magera, executive director of Learn to Read.

The key terms that drew the attention of our table were: Every, Our, Community, Resources, Everyone, and Generation.

These key terms are inclusive.  There is no ambiguity with words like "every" and "everyone" and "our."

But, is it so not ambiguous?  Does it include immigrants, both documented and undocumented?  Does it include the Black community?  Does it include the LGBT, especially the young transgender students who are the special focus of community hatred across the country?  Does it include Muslims--Americans, immigrants, and refugees who have endured demonizing rhetoric and hate crimes since 2001?  Does it include the Jewish community?  Does it include the homeless, particularly homeless one- and two-parent families with school-age children?  And while there are several slides including the "faith-based" communities, what of the secular, the humanists, the atheists, or other spiritualists?

It is very easy for a group of community elites to write "Every" and "Everyone" when the unstated, subconscious, implicit bias is "every" white person, perhaps even "every" white Christian person.  Now, I am not saying that anyone drafting the strategy document for Achieve Escambia is a racist.  I am not saying that the language in the draft document is racist.  We all have subconscious biases as part of our "operating system."

In fact, the statements are admirable and drew support apparently from everyone attending the conference.  Our table voted 6-0 in favor of the Vision and Mission statements.  The question is not, are the Vision and Mission statements noble.  The question is whether or not the words "Every" and "Everyone" are as inclusive as the common meaning and understanding would lead a reasonable person to believe.

The word "generation," suggests that the community's inclusion goes beyond those who just graduated from college, or who joined the military, or found a (hopefully) well-paying job at a living wage.  But, does the word "generation" also include older adults who may need to learn how to read, or those returning citizens who have just been released from prison?  Is "generation" as expansive as it needs to be to include "everyone" or is it restricted to cradle to young adult?

And then there is the Mission statement:  "To align our community resources so everyone is empowered to achieve success."

On virtually every indicator one would care to analyze, Black folks, inside and outside of Escambia County, lag behind whites and Latinos, where there is comparable data.  There are racial disparities in terms of income, wealth, home ownership, education attainment, job mobility, medical treatments, health outcomes, being imprisoned, being stopped-and-frisked, and being subjected to toxic poisoning from industry, to name just a few areas of concern.  There are abundant social science studies on implicit bias by teachers and police officers that negatively affect Black youths, both boys and girls, and teenagers.

Even within Escambia County there are racial disparities in education.  Some of these disparities have been touched upon in previous CJ's Street Report articles on the School-to-Prison Pipeline based on community information events featuring the League of Women Voters, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Association of Social Workers, with the support of the Pensacola News Journal (Here, Here, Here, and Here).  But there are others.  Everyone in the Black community knows that School Superintendent Thomas closed local neighborhood schools in Black neighborhoods and bused the children to schools out of their neighborhoods.  Everyone in the Black community knows that school resources are not equal across schools.

Our table suggested that the five Outcome Areas already discussed needed an additional Outcome Area called Resource Redistribution, with the Data Team figuring out how to measure, monitor, and report to the community that "our resources" are being re-aligned so that "everyone is empowered to achieve success."

If one of the principles of Achieve Escambia's theory of social action is "eliminating disparities," and racial disparities can be shown empirically to exist, and the goal of the Mission statement is to "align our community resources," there is a very strong implication that resources are, in fact, going to be redistributed and reallocated.  And, if "community resources" are going to be realigned, then it stands to reason that this realignment should be stated as a goal, given metrics to be measured, and put on the Studer community dashboard so that everyone can see what progress, if any, is being made to achieve the Mission statement's goal of "aligning our community resources."  In other words, the community needs to see that Achieve Escambia is putting its money where its mouth is.

So, does the Mission statement regarding "align our resources" really mean there will be efforts to redistribute and reallocate "community resources" from the haves to the have nots?

And then there is the "Accountability Structure."

At the center of the Accountability Structure is an Executive Leadership Council.  The purpose of this Council is to set "overall strategy for the partnership, committing resources and addressing political barriers."  There is also a Community Transformation Council which essentially consists of "deputies" to the Executive Leadership Council.  Working with them are the "Backbone Convenors."

The rubber-meets-the-road work is done by Collaborative Action Networks (CANs) and Support Teams.  A CAN "organize around a community goal and change practice 'on the ground' to improve that outcome."  Support Teams consist of subject matter experts on the following teams:  Data, Funding, Community Awareness, Diversity, Faith-based, Parent, and Education.

The draft slide for the Executive Leadership Council consisted of 20 senior leaders from business, education, city and county government, law enforcement, non-profits, and faith-based groups.

The only person that could be identified as Black on the ELC is Chief David Alexander, Pensacola Police Department.  Every other person on that strategy and resource-allocating Council is most likely white.  There were no Civil Rights organizations included in the draft Council.  The NW Florida AFL-CIO is excluded from the Council in the draft.  There are no organizations representing the LGBT or the homeless on the Executive Leadership Council.  Not one imam (mosque) or rabbi (temple) appears in the draft document.

How is Achieve Escambia going to engender trust--where words match actions--when significant portions of the Escambia County community are not included in leadership positions that determine strategy, allocate resources, and overcome political barriers?  Significant communities in Escambia County do not want to be given fait accompli decisions they had no role in formulating.  That does not engender trust.  In fact, that appears to be the old paradigm in Escambia County.  In this instance, "Every" and "Everyone" does not appear to be very inclusive.

In the conference presentations there were three other slides on Trust: "Actions that Generate Trust; Actions that Maintain Trust; and, Actions that Repair Trust."  In a community where historically trust has been scarce and fragile, inclusion at all levels of the process of the named group types excluded from the draft Executive Leadership Council--to ensure transparency and accountability--would appear to be a prerequisite to generating, maintaining, and repairing trust.  Inclusion and Trust go hand-in-hand and it is difficult to see how restrictions on inclusion would not negatively effect trust and thus achievement of Achieve Escambia's ambitious and worthy goals.

Indeed, on one Achieve Escambia slide, Trust is a "Prerequisite for Creating Results."

But, this is not a fatal flaw.  Achieve Escambia is a work in progress.  The presentation to the Escambia County community was designed to elicit constructive comments and criticisms so that the process can be improved and strengthened.

Indeed, the entire Strive Together process is predicated upon data collection, evaluation, lessons learned, and then moving forward with new ideas and concepts so that improvement is continuous.  This is called "Continuous Improvement."  Thus, the criticisms voiced at the conference were apparently well received and understood to be constructive.

Hopefully, more individuals and organizations will join Achieve Escambia's Facebook page.  Anyone with ideas and concepts, or wanting to know more or how to help, send an email to  They are building a website at

This blogpost covers just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.  The four-hour presentation by a host of presenters from different organizations filled a book one-quarter of an inch thick.  Perhaps, once the Achieve Escambia website is operational, they will post the slides or post the video they took of the conference.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


"Contamination affects everyone.  It does not discriminate as to who it affects.  If you breathe the air, drink the water, if you have contact with contaminated soil, you will be affected by these chemicals.  But the people who are impacted more by the negative effects are the people of color and low income communities with the least resistance and limited resources.  And these injustices must stop."  Francine Ishmael, executive director, Citizens Against Toxic Exposure, Pensacola, Florida


On April 3, 2016, the ad hoc Committee for Environmental Justice in Escambia County hosted an event in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s live and memory of his assassination forty-eight years ago.  Dr. King was murdered one day after supporting a sanitation workers strike in Memphis.  It is therefore fitting that we dedicate this remembrance day to environmental justice.

The bedrock finding of environmental justice is that communities of color are disproportionately affected negatively by siting decisions for chemical plants, industrial facilities, coal-burning power plants, toxic waste storage facilities, and toxic waste treatment plants.  Health disparities persist between whites, Blacks, and Hispanics even after controlling for income, education, and insurance coverage.  Health disparities between whites and Blacks in Escambia County exist.  There should not be race and class disparities.

In September 2009, the University of West Florida's Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Remediation released its final report, "Assessment of Environmental Pollution and Community Health in Northwest Florida."

One part of the report (page 51 pdf) examined air pollution from three different sources--fine particulate matter (PM), ground level ozone, and air toxics--with the "air quality risk" in that order.  Fine particulate matter was the "greatest" health risk as well as imposing the "highest per person per year [health] costs."  Two of the many chemicals of concern in this category are sulfate and organic carbon, both of which were "large" fractions of the total fine particulate matter.  Using the latest data and sophisticated modeling, the UWF researchers identified four "Risk Zones" in Santa Rosa and Escambia counties.

The Georgia Institute of Technology's preliminary assessment of the health effects of fine particulate matter, ground-level ozone, and air toxics issued in December 2007 noted that "roughly half of the mass is inorganic with sulfate being the largest contributor."  The Georgia researchers also noted that "sulfate is often associated with coal combustion" (page 6 pdf).  The organic fine particulates, both primary and secondary, have multiple unspecified sources.  Thus, the named facility for inorganic sulfates is Gulf Power's coal-burning Crist Plant.  However, the data suggested that sources sulfur dioxide came from Florida (16%), Alabama (24%), and other states (43%), which includes 10% from Tennessee (page 11 pdf).  And, the Institute's researchers calculated that fine particulate matter cost $1,838 in per capita annual health costs while ground level ozone cost $952.  Air toxics cost $1.02 per person per year (page 4 pdf).  Thus, reductions in sulfate particulates would depend upon reductions or eliminations of coal-burning in other states, in addition to Florida.

In other words, fine particulate matter discharged from point-sources imposed additional health risks on individuals and communities, as well as health cost expenditures for individuals and the community.  And, keep in mind that Escambia County can barely afford these extra costs.  The Partnership for a Healthy Community's 2012 "Comprehensive Assessment" reported (page 7 pdf) that of Florida's 67 counties, Escambia County "ranks 18th in total population, but 24th in per capita income, and 63rd in government expenditures for health services."

Risk Zone 4 in Escambia County (page 42 pdf) is "near Cantonment in Escambia County about 10 km northwest of Downtown Pensacola in the vicinity of a large pulp and paper manufacturing operation.... This risk zone partly overlaps with Zip codes 32533 and 32534.  Zip code 32534 has worse rates than its matching Zip codes for some cancer-related causes of mortality in African Americans.  Both Zip codes have worse mortality due to birth defects."  The high risk in this Risk Zone, or Sacrifice Zone, if you will, was due to "methanol, acetaldehyde, benzene and xylene, which are used as chemical solvents in the pulping operation."

The unnamed facility in the UWF report is International Paper, the latest pulp and paper polluter that began in 1941 as the Florida Pulp and Paper Company.  In 1946, it became the St. Regis Paper Company.  In 1984, it was purchased by Champion International, and in 2000 it was bought by International Paper, according to the Friends of Perdido Bay's "A Brief History of Perdido Bay" by Jim Lane.

The UWF study also examined mortality rates from COPD, stroke, and lung cancer (page 59 pdf).  In terms air pollution and death rates, the researchers found that "All the mortality rates are significantly positively associated with proportion blacks, people age 65 or above, poverty rate, and air pollution from both mobile and point sources."  Mobile means vehicular traffic and point sources are specific polluting facilities like International Paper, Gulf Power's coal-burning Crist Plant, and other sources.

In August 2009, the University of West Florida "Integration" study (page 17 pdf), examined the relationship between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) averaged at the census tract level and measurements for "population density, percent whites, percent non-white, poverty rate, industrial employment, and educational attainment."  The researchers found a "spatial relationship exists between the location of TRI sites and two of the variables (i.e. population density and industrial employment) but this does not seem to lead to greater exposure of any racial group to emissions."

Translated into English, it means exposure to toxic releases was linked to living in proximity to a toxic release point and working in a toxic facility or industry.  That it was not linked to "any racial group" means that we--white, Black, Latino, Asian, First Peoples--are all exposed, as long as we live in proximity to the toxic release point.


How did all this environmental pollution and negative health effects come about in Escambia County?  It would be easy and tempting to dismiss the answers as the work of "radical environmentalists" or dismiss me as a "democratic socialist" because I am on the steering committee of Pensacola for Bernie Sanders.

But, the real, definitive answers came from your neighbors--the ones you go to church with, attend events at the Sanger Theater with, who coach girls soccer or coach Little League baseball, or shop with you or buy goods from your stores.

The answer comes from the 1999 Special Grand Jury for the First Judicial Circuit.  It was the Chief Judge at the request of State Attorney "who found it in the public interest: (1) to inquire into factors that are affecting, or that are likely to affect, the area's air and water quality; and (2) to assess the efforts of regulators in protecting, maintaining, and improving the area's air and water quality" (page 1 pdf).  There are 224 pdf pages in the report.  The Special Grand Jury's report heard "testimony, reviewed documents, and carefully weighed and considered the totality of all the information presented to us.  This involved taking the sworn testimony of more than one hundred witnesses, including scientists, engineers, biologists, chemists, economists, businessmen, government officials, and citizens; reviewing hundreds of maps, diagrams, studies, reports, and records; and weighing and evaluating conflicting information, and the interests, of those involved."

In terms of surface water (page 1 pdf), the Special Grand Jury concluded, "The causes are various, but degradation is the result primarily of discharges by industry (especially the pulp and paper mill and chemical factories), sewage treatment plants, and stormwater runoff."

In terms of ground water supply (page 2 pdf), your empaneled neighbors concluded, "it has been widely contaminated and will be further contaminated.  The causes are several, but they are largely the result of poor controls or practices by industry and business that allowed spills, leaks, or
discharges of toxic pollutants to contaminate the surficial aquifer and many of our drinking water wells, both public and private."

The Special Grand Jury (page 2 pdf) observed that pollution had really economic, social, and health costs that fell on local residents:  "pollution has impaired surface waters, destroyed fish and wildlife habitat, and reduced the number and diversity of aquatic species; pollution has contaminated the groundwater, and many of our public and private wells, which are used for drinking, irrigation, and other needs; air pollution has imposed risks to our health, restricted outdoor activity, and added to the impairment of surface waters.  These circumstances threaten the overall health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the community and the natural resources essential to a good quality of life."

The Special Grand Jury (pages 2-3 pdf) found that "regulators in general" and specifically Florida's Department of Environmental Protection "did not" act to protect, maintain, and improve the environment.  In fact, the Grand Jury observed that "Instead of acting to protect, maintain and improve the environment, regulators have done more studies, duplicating previous work. They have substituted studies for action, because studies are less costly, and less controversial, than acting to improve or restore the environment."

Specifically, the "Northwest District of the Department of Environmental Protection failed to properly implement and enforce the environmental laws, rules and regulations. The district office succumbed to political, economic, and other pressures, allowing regulated businesses, industries and individuals to pollute the area's air and water."

In other words, local residents, looking to the Department of Environmental Protection to protect the environment and them, instead found that the Florida DEP allowed aggressive industrial polluters like Champion International and other companies, which created six highly toxic Super Fund sites inside Escambia County, three of which are out of control inside Pensacola (Creosote Works, Escambia Wood, and NAS Pensacola), to pollute for profit with legal and financial impunity.

The 1999 Grand Jury also observed (page 3 pdf) that "local government officials were too often more interested in promoting and protecting the current interests of industry and business, especially the homebuilders, without any attempt to fit those particular interests into a community plan that allows for rational and sustainable development. In doing so, they do not seem interested in conserving or protecting the area's natural resources and have even scoffed at those who do."

In 2004, a second Special Grand Jury focused on ground water contamination and placed specific blame on industry and regulators for allowing contamination to continue without remedial cleanup actions.

The second Grand Jury declared as a matter of found fact (page 1 pdf): "Industry is the principal source of ground water contamination, especially in the southern part of the county, where numerous wells have been contaminated by industrial discharges. The most contaminated industrial sites are the Superfund sites. In Florida, only Dade, Hillsborough and Broward Counties have more Superfund sites than Escambia County.  Although these sites were proposed for clean up years ago, clean up has not occurred at most of them."

The 2004 Grand Jury found that industry had shifted all the costs of environmental cleanup on to the taxpaying public (page 2 pdf)--in a very poor county: "At heavily contaminated sites, such as the Escambia Treating and American Creosote Works sites, the costs of contamination have been shifted to the public because the polluting companies closed their businesses and abandoned their properties. Recently, private suits were brought against the owners of the Escambia Treating and Agrico Superfund sites to recover damages for private property owners from the polluting companies."

And, the Grand Jury further observed (page 3 pdf) that as a result of lawsuits by private citizens, records were uncovered showing that "Conoco, and other companies, delayed efforts to determine the extent of contamination, apparently to minimize financial liability. In addition, records show Conoco, and other companies, avoided responsibility for restoring the soil and ground water by persuading regulators to allow them merely to cover contaminated soil and allow pollutants to flow with the ground water and discharge into Bayou Texar and Pensacola Bay."

Not only did these large corporate polluters severely damage the county's environment and subsequently the health and well-being of nearby residents, as well as imposing costs to cleanup their widespread mess, but the City of Pensacola and Escambia County incurred additional lost revenue and the risk of urban sprawl as sections of the territory were unfit for human habitation (page 3 pdf): "The economic costs associated with soil and ground water contamination involve forcing neighborhoods to close, imposing a well construction moratorium, and removing hundreds of acres of city land from productive use and the tax rolls. The loss of use of the Superfund properties, in the heart of the city, for housing, business, and education likely will involve development of other county property and urban sprawl."

The 2004 Grand Jury report also noted (page 4 pdf) that "Corporate owners of the Agrico site have been able to avoid paying for clean up by using consultants who persuaded government officials to approve the least expensive remedy.  EPA predicts that after 70 years of human inaction, nature will correct the damage done to the ground water; no prediction is made, however, about the effect of natural attenuation on the soil.  Further, the damage to the lives and properties of those individuals injured, and the damage to Escambia County and the City of Pensacola will never be remedied by the EPA natural attenuation plan."

In other words, after contaminating an area in central Pensacola that could be used for housing and shops to generate extra tax revenue, all the Serious People decided that do nothing for 70 years would solve the problem.  That is called Cost-Free/Penalty-Free Pollution.

The 2004 Grand Jury was scathing in its review of the actions of regulators at all levels of government (page 3 pdf):  "We find that local, state, and federal government authorities, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the Escambia County Utilities Authority failed, individually or collectively, to: monitor ground water sufficiently; notify customers and the general public of water quality violations at multiple wells in southern Escambia County; restore ground water resources at Superfund sites; and prevent future ground water contamination."

Like the 1999 Grand Jury who found that regulators allowed polluters to study the problem ad infinitum and ad nauseam without accomplishing anything, the 2004 Grand Jury rebuked (page 4 pdf) the Environmental Protection Agency for studying Escambia County's Super Fund sites:  "The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Protection have not been sufficiently concerned with the health, safety, and welfare responsibilities they bear, or the consequences of their decisions. EPA has failed, after fifteen years, to delineate the extent of the contamination at the Escambia Treating Superfund site. Instead, EPA continues to 'study'' the extent of ground water contamination as a prerequisite to any clean up. Until recently, the health effects of the contamination have been largely ignored by federal and state authorities."

The 1999 Grand Jury report also noticed that because regulatory agencies had failed in their sworn duty to protect citizens from assault by toxic weapons from corporations, that "Citizens' Groups" (page 116 pdf) had been forced to intervene in self-defense.  The Grand Jury noted, "In response to the failure of government to perform its regulatory duties and uphold the public interest with respect to the environment, a number of citizen groups have formed....Friends of the Prairie, Friends of Perdido Bay, Santa Rosa Sound Coalition, Citizens Against Toxic Exposure, Bay Area Resource Council, Escambia County Citizen's Coalition, Citizens Planning Responsibly, and others."

The 1999 Grand Jury report noted (page 4 pdf) that it is up informed and involved citizens to provide local elected officials and regulatory bodies with goals and have them formulate plans.  Said our neighbors, "In our inquiry, we saw that government action must be based on a goal or an objective. Without an ultimate goal, government action is not regulation, but merely work to no end. Perhaps more important, if we, the people, do not set a goal together for our government, then the interests of a few, powerful individuals or groups will do so."

Thus, MLK Jr's Day of Remembrance: Environmental Justice stands in an unbroken line from the 1999 Special Grand Jury report.  Among the groups participating were Friends of Perdido Bay and Citizens Against Toxic Exposure.  They were joined by Earth Ethics/Earth Action, Communities United in Environmental Justice, the Wedgewood Home Owners Association, the Northwest Florida American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (NW FL AFL-CIO), the Florida NAACP Environmental Justice Committee, the Tanyard Neighborhood Association, the National Movement for Human and Civil Rights, and CJ's Street Report.  The Southern Christian Leadership Conference supported but could not participate.  The Pensacola chapter of 350 Action supported the event.

What follows are video presentations of the speakers at the event with a short write-up of key points.


Lee PRYOR, NW FL AFL-CIO, master of ceremonies

The NW FL AFL-CIO is proud to sponsor events like this through the years.  The labor movement remains concerned about voter suppression, civil rights violations, Black Lives Matter, toxic environments, and health and safety standards in neighborhoods.

Rev Dr Calvin AVANT, Unity in the Family Minisry, and, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice

Opening prayer
Wedgewood shared the national stage with Flint, Michigan at the latest Deep South Center's conference.

Mayan Dance Introduction

Mayan Blessing Dance

Mayan Thank You to Dr King Jr

Tony McCRAY, Florida NAACP Environmental Justice and Climate Change Committee

Coal plants emit arsenic, lead, other heavy metals, carbon dioxide, and methane.  We face increasing number of storms with increasing severity.  Dillard University (HBCU) recently held a conference on climate change.  Wedgewood and Flint shared the national stage.  Wedgewood is surrounded by 11 landfills.

Francine ISHMAEL, Citizens Against Toxic Exposure (CATE)

CATE was founded by her late mother in 1992.  Their neighborhood is sandwiched between two Super Fund sites.  CATE was responsible for achieving the third largest environmental relocation and first for an African American community.  The EPA moved 358 households and later an additional 50-plus households.  CATE works with the University of West Florida, Florida A&M University, and the University of Florida at Gainesville.

"Contamination affects everyone.  It does not discriminate as to who it affects.  If you breathe the air, drink the water, if you have contact with contaminated soil, you will be affected by these chemicals.  But the people who are impacted more by the negative effects are the people of color and low income communities with the least resistance and limited resources.  And these injustices must stop."  Francine Ishmael, executive director, Citizens Against Toxic Exposure, Pensacola, Florida

Dr. Gloria HORNING, Communities United in Environmental Justice

The Wedgewood Community is fighting 11 landfills plus a concrete crusher that will send silica into the atmosphere near four schools, plus rattle homes at least one mile away.  The county must stop giving permits to dumping grounds.  The NW bureau of the Department of Environmental Protection allowed the Rolling Hills dump to operate 8 straight years while having the 17 violations without being fined.

"It doesn't matter what color you are.  It's going to impact you.  Those landfills are impacting our waterways; its right next to wetlands; and, not enough attention is coming to it.  We fight very hard to keep in the front of everyone....We need your help though.  We need everyone's help."

"We need your voices, so that these communities that were there first can start to live in a new and clean environment."

Judy COOK, Wedgewood Home Owners Association

"I can't breathe."  Has lived in Wedgewood since 1974.  You should drive to Wedgewood after a rain.  We are just trying to live.  Most houses have been paid for.  That's why they can't leave.  They can't afford to buy another house.  Children and adults have sand sores.  "We are sick and tired of being sick and tired."  "Help us in any way you can."

Judy COOK, sings "Amazing Grace"

Dr. James Scaminaci III, CJ's Street Report

I spoke on behalf of Friends of Perdido Bay, headed by Jackie Lane, as a last minute substitute.  She was unable to attend, having missed a connecting flight.  My remarks are only a brief summary of the issues this valiant group has fought over and the array of forces aligned against them.  However, the Introduction above highlighting key points from the 1999 Special Grand Jury provides an excellent overview.

The October 2015 Friends of Perdido Bay newsletter captures the intersection of how economic power, political power, regulatory capture, and environmental destruction.  Essentially, the rigged economic system corrupts the political system and leads to unregulated and unpunished environmental destruction at the expense, in terms of physical health, mental anguish, lost property values, and increased public spending for environmental remediation--the core findings of the 1999 and 2004 Special Grand Jury reports.

Wrote Jackie Lane in October 2015:  "While we have had very little success in cleaning up our bay, we can not say we haven’t tried.  It is unfortunate that we have had to continue to fight for our bay and our property values when we have environmental agencies which are supposed to do this for us. Both environmental agencies in the states of Florida and Alabama, and the EPA are well aware of the damage the paper mill is causing in our bay.  They do nothing because of the influence of money on the political system. Perdido Bay could be a poster child for 'corruption of money' on the political system. More than not doing anything, the environmental agencies have gone out of their way to cover up the damage.... Environmental agencies no longer test for parameters which would show damage to Perdido Bay.... If you don’t look, you don't see the problems.  But, the decline is very obvious to residents who have lived on the bay for many years.  Environmental regulators have 'no skin' in the game other than their jobs, and their jobs depend on their bosses who depend on the
politicians for funding.  That is the way it works."

Marilyn LOWE, Tanyard Neighborhood Association

We lived next door to the sewage plant downtown.  There is still a pumping station.  It is a serious problem.  Our neighborhood has endured this for fifty years, since the 1960s.  We can still smell the sewage in our area.  When there is a flood, you can see the waste in the area.  Residents believe there are still toxins coming out of the ground.  People have gotten sick, had cancer, and died.  Nobody wants to represent us.  We need to send a message to the politicians that they need to listen to us.

"We need someone to care about us instead of pushing it on the back table and making it ok.  We need to tell them it is not ok to come into our communities and set these plants here and toxins coming out of the ground and making people sick."

This morning I learned my son has two percent lead in his body.  We are sick from environmental pollution.

Ellison BENNETT, National Movement for Human and Civil Rights

All members of the national board walked or worked with Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Anybody who lived in Escambia County and say they did not know this was a problem forty years ago is lying."

Everybody should be compensated for their medical bills, and pain and suffering.  We must stand together against the pits and the ECUA regarding the storage tanks on Palafox.  ECUA holds meetings at two o'clock knowing that local people cannot attend.  The entire ECUA board should resign.  They are not serving the people.

"The only way we are going to win this fight is if we stand together."

Mary GUTIERREZ, Earth Ethics/Earth Action, poem


I am from my Father the Sun,
My Mother the Earth, from
them I take only my existence
and because of them I am whole.

I stand barefoot on the ground,
nourishing my senses and my soul,
I am one with the earth.

As the wind blows through my hair,
She speaks to me in the softest of tones.
Save me.

I must oblige for I am
the land, the water, the air.
We all are.
Yet we have forgotten
that all things are one.
And that each of us is
brother and sister.

There can be no peace when there is injustice.
There can be no love when there is only hate.
There can be no resolution without first conflict.

We must protect what sustains and gives us life.
We must protect each other.

We are strong and courageous,
we always have been and always will be,
it is part of our flesh and bone.
They can never take that away from us.

We are ready to fight to protect
our families, homes, and communities.
Fear us, for the time has come. Fear me.

United we stand to end this legacy of hate and injustice.

We are one and we are taking back what is ours.

Lee PRYOR, Goodbye and Thank You