Tag Archives: Pensacola

Trump stumps for votes in Pensacola

By Kenny Detwyler

Contributing Writer

In the closing week of the 2016 Presidential elections, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump returned to Pensacola for a third time. At the Nov. 2 rally, Trump made one of his final pitches to his pa

Trump's final rally in Pensacola ended with a fireworks display across the bay.

Trump’s final rally in Pensacola ended with a fireworks display across the bay.

nhandle supporters during this election cycle.

To open his speech, he appeared to parrot advice from his aids to “stay cool” and stay on message. While his speech was more toned down compared to others, it still contained the same rhetoric that his supporters came to hear; attacks on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, job creation, and another plug for the proposed border wall.

The packed Bayfront Amphitheater, which holds 10,000 was filled to capacity, something that Trump is counting on in this election. Florida’s 29 electoral votes are considered a must win for him to clinch the presidency on Tuesday.

Although Northwest Florida is usually a reliable republican strong hold, he needs to attract a larger base. To do that, he needs support from long time GOP voters, as well as a new coalition of younger voters.

“I think he will help grow the economy, so there will be more jobs for us after college,” freshman Brett Farran said.

“The president will be making decisions that impact us for the next four years, especially as a freshman, I’ll have him throughout all of college, and if you don’t vote you’re saying that you’re okay with the older generation telling you who is in charge of you, by voting, you are saying that I am going to decide who leads me.”

Those sentiments were held by other students who attended the rally.

“After passing 18-19, you start to develop your own opinion on political stuff and world issues,” senior history major Caleb Pascoe said.

“I really started listening to more of what he had to say, and even though he is a little more on the bombastic side of things, he’s starting to become a lot more professional and he’s focusing his energy in the right place.”

Pascoe also had the opportunity to drive in Trump’s motorcade to the amphitheater. He personally transported Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump.

Trump ended the event, and likely his campaigning in the panhandle, with a bang. A dazzling fireworks show over the Escambia Bay, was shown as Trump headed off to other battle ground states to sure up support in his race to the White House.

Now, as the rallies come to an end and the candidates gives their closing arguments, the power shifts to the voter.

“100 percent, no matter who you vote for, go out and vote,” Pascoe said. “It’s a right and a duty. It’s innate to the American character.

“It takes like 10 minutes; you could order a pizza, go vote, and then pick up the pizza. Just get out and vote, it’s the most American thing you could do.”

Election Day is Nov 8. and polling locations and voter info for Escambia County residents can be found here.

Martha Saunders selected as next president of UWF


Photo courtesy of UWF

By Tom Moore

Staff Writer

In a 9-4 vote, the University of West Florida announced current Provost Martha Saunders as its newly elected president during its final search committee meeting on Thursday, Sept. 15.

The meeting was held at the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Arts mainstage theater, and was also webcast live via WUWF.

The meeting was called to order by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Lewis Bear, Jr. With two board members attending by phone, a quorum was reached and the meeting opened with public comment.

After a half-hour of public comment, it became clear that the race was between Provost Saunders and Senator Don Gaetz.  Frank Ashley and Mike Sherman were not mentioned once in the public discussion.

Marc Churchwell, Chairman of the Military and Veterans Resource Center, said he is in favor of Saunders.  Churchwell said Saunders helped expand services and fund new facilities for our veterans, who make up 25 percent of our student population.

Once the public comments were over, the search committee reviewed the final candidate’s on-campus interviews.

“Each candidate performed exceptionally well and were highly qualified for the position,” committee Chairman Mort O’Sullivan said.  The discussion then went to the “three unranked candidates the search committee would forward to the board.”

Greenwood/Asher and Associates, Inc., search firm made its final evaluation and recommendations moving forward with the selection of a final candidate. After completed, the chairman called for a vote on the amendment, which failed. The board voted to move all four candidates forward to the Board of Trustees for final selection.

The Board of Trustees opened the discussion once again, and several students came forward to speak about the candidates.

Sophomore journalism major Abigail Megginson came forward with a petition entitled “Argos Against Gaetz.”  Megginson managed to get 336 signatures of students who were opposed to Don Gaetz being appointed President.

“Three of the candidates have a PhD., Gaetz does not,” Megginson said. “Three of the candidates have prior university leadership experience, Gaetz does not.  The president of the university should be a ‘hub for higher education’ to meet that position of academic excellence. Candidates need to have at least a PhD.”  Megginson went on to say that the University needs a president who will lead UWF as a small, regional university, not a large central one.

Senior Joseph Jackson said he feels that African Americans, and minority groups in general, are simply disregarded, and said that whomever takes the president’s job should give the minorities back their voice.

Telecommunications student Teremis Boykin said he believes UWF needs a president who really cares about the students.

“I’m just an average guy,” Boykin said. “We understand that money is important, but a true university president should not worry about money. A real president should worry about the needs and concerns of the students.”

Following public comments, the Presidential Search Committee presented its report to the Board of Trustees.

The final votes from the Board of Trustees came in with nine votes for Saunders, four for Gaetz, and no votes for the remaining candidates.

Confirmed, Trump to return to Pensacola

By Cassie Rhame

News Editor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is set to return to the Pensacola Bay Center for a campaign stop at 7 p.m. on Sept. 9.

Trump sold out the stadium just eight months ago, leaving for promising results when it

comes to predicting the turnout. But taking into account Florida’s history as a swing state,

a sizable crowd will not guarantee anything for the nominee.

According to an article on CNN’s website, the close to three million independent voters in Florida are what create its unpredictable stance. It is precedent that Trump win over the Florida Panhandle in

order to acquire the state’s vote.

His first visit brought discussion on immigration, gun rights, the proposed border wall, and a man who allegedly blocked a bullet with his pocket-sized bible.

“He made very engaging arguments pertaining to foreign affairs and the United States relationship with both Mexico and the Middle East,” said construction management major Jake Craft, who attended Trump’s January campaign stop. “I am convinced that if there is anyone that is economically savvy enough to ameliorate our current financial standing, it’s Trump.”

Craft also said that Trump could lose trust from his tendency to “crowd please.”

Other students, like junior art history major Madison Murphy, are disgruntled by Trump’s return.

A wide variety of Trump promotional items were sold in the parking lot at his January Rally. Photo by Cassie Rhame.

A wide variety of Trump promotional items were sold in the parking lot at his January Rally. Photo by Cassie Rhame.

“I wish he wasn’t coming here. I wish he didn’t visit anywhere. I wish he wasn’t running for president,” said Murphy who will not be attending the event.

The USA Freedom Kids, who performed during Trump’s last visit to the Bay Center, will not be returning.  The manager of the group, Jeff Popick, is said to be planning on suing the Trump administration regarding empty promises for future performances by the girls, according to the Pensacola News Journal’s website.

“I remember there being way more people than I thought there would be (at the January rally),” said Pensacola local Freddie Haydn-Slater. “I don’t have a strong opinion on Trump, but I will be going on Friday just to see what all goes down.”

Lines were wrapped around the stadium for his January visit, so plan to arrive early if you attend. Tickets are free, and available for reservation here.

A UWF student’s guide to summer in Pensacola

By Claudia Carlson

Staff Writer

 Pensacola Beach is just one of many options for summer fun. Photo courtesy http://www.destination360.com/.

Pensacola Beach is just one of many options for summer fun.
Photo courtesy http://www.destination360.com/.

If you will be staying in Pensacola this summer, whether it’s because you live here or are staying for classes, a job or an internship, this is the guide to help you have a fun-filled summer.

Pensacola has always been known for its beautiful beaches, but recently, Pensacola has been expanding and becoming so much more. Of course, during the summer, the beach is the No. 1 attraction, but unless you’re a mermaid, you are going to want some other activities to fill your free time.

Here is a list of the 10 things I would recommend for you do this summer to ensure that you spend it doing the best things Pensacola has to offer.

  1. The beach – You’re living in Pensacola during the summer, so take the opportunity to soak up the sun and have some fun. There are tons of places for you to eat or just hang out. You can go play volleyball at Flounders, eat at Casino Beach Bar (the food is amazing), or simply go to 17th Avendia park at the church and lay out on the beach with no tourists.
  2. Blue Wahoos games – Something that makes Pensacola so special is that we have our own minor league baseball team with a beautiful stadium right on the water. There are multiple games a week and the tickets are reasonably priced. Get a group together and you will have the best time. For tickets and more information go to: http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t4124.
  3. Dine Downtown – Downtown really has the best food in Pensacola. Two wonderful sushi restaurants — Nom and Khans – are delicious; Union Public House just opened up with fantastic burgers; Carmen’s Lunch Bar has the best eclectic tapas that you won’t get anywhere else; and Hub Stacey’s is the place for hearty, delicious sandwiches with a great atmosphere. There are so many places for any kind of appetite.
  4. Naval Aviation Museum – Pensacola is known for being a Navy town, and we have the best museum to prove it. It’s perfect for a rainy day, or one of those too-hot days. You don’t have to have a love for airplanes or the Navy; it really is just an interesting and fun attraction for all types and ages. And it is free! http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org.
  5. Historic Tours of Downtown Pensacola — Pensacola is an historic town with so much activity. The Pensacola Historic Village has multiple tours where you can see how Pensacola was during the 1700s. During the tour, guides are dressed up and doing activities that were done in the 1700s (like churning butter and cooking over a fire), recreating early living in Pensacola. There is also a ghost tour that takes you to all the haunted places of Downtown Pensacola. http://www.historicpensacola.org/plan-your-visit/tours-exhibits/
  6. Thursday nights in downtown – If you go out on a Thursday night, you will find many deals and places to go. Wild Greg’s and Seville Quarter offer admission for 18+ (instead of the usual 21+), O’Rileys has drink specials, and just in general everyone seems to go out in Pensacola on Thursdays.
  7. The forts – Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas offer tours, or a place to go fishing or have a picnic. It’s a little bit of a drive into Pensacola Beach, but it’s beautiful and full of history. https://www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-pickens.htm  and https://www.nps.gov/guis/planyourvisit/fort-barrancas.htm.
  8. Scuba diving – Experienced scuba divers will want to visit the Oriskany, which is a former aircraft carrier that was sunk 12 miles offshore to become an artificial reef. http://www.ussoriskanydiver.com
  9. Tubing in Black Water River – This technically isn’t in Pensacola, it’s in Milton, but it is so much fun to leisurely float down the river on a hot summer day. My favorite place to go is Bob’s Canoes: http://www.blackwatercanoe.com.
  10. Florida Wildlife Sanctuary – For animal lovers like myself, I would highly recommend visiting or volunteering at the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida, a nonprofit organization that provides care to injured or orphaned indigenous wildlife at 105 N. S Street. They have owls, bald eagles, turtles, etc. After they have rehabilitated the animals, they are released back into the wild. http://www.pensacolawildlife.com.

“I love staying in Pensacola for the summer,” Juliann Laird, UWF junior, said. “I am taking one summer class and I will be working a lot, but I will be relaxing on the beach as much as I can. That is what I love about summer. Even though I am still taking a class, it doesn’t feel like it. It is a lot more laid back and enjoyable.”

Pensacola is so much more than just a college town, which is what makes UWF so special. Most college towns are just that – a college town – but with Pensacola you get a really up-and-coming downtown area, the beach, as well as a lot of beautiful nature. It is the best of all worlds, which is why I believe staying in Pensacola this summer is the best way to go.



‘Listen to your heart, think for yourself’

By Mackenzie Kees

Opinions Editor

 These are some of the notecards created by Baptist Bible Bookstore found in the philosophy section at Barnes & Noble. Photo by Mackenzie Kees.

These are some of the notecards created by Bible Baptist Bookstore found in the philosophy section at Barnes & Noble.
Photo by Mackenzie Kees.

We have all seen those people on the side of the road with the signs dedicated to one or another of the various gods from modern religions. These people may force you to take one of their pamphlets, but otherwise seem (relatively) harmless. They feel the need to spread the word of God, and that’s their prerogative — but what happens when that self-appointed privilege starts to interfere with another person’s way of life?

I’m standing in the philosophy section of Barnes & Noble in Pensacola on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve been coming here for the past several months in something akin to a ritual in search of seemingly innocent little notecards.

At the size of an average business card, the notecard I find today is sticking out between pages 19 and 20 of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. It is red and bears the message: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. – John 3:18.” The phrase “is condemned already” has been underlined, and following the Bible verse there’s a handwritten message scrawled. It reads: “Why go to Hell? You Must Be Born Again!”

There are several things wrong with this scenario, the most obvious being that this little notecard does not belong in this book. It has been added by an outside party not associated with Barnes & Noble, but by another bookstore in fact, which some argue is unethical.

The second most obvious problem that the notecard’s creator, Bible Baptist Bookstore, does not seem to understand is that most people reading a book authored by Dawkins do not believe in a hell. As such, the message being conveyed will likely fall on deaf ears; at most it will cause annoyance and invoke incredulous feelings in its reader.

If Bible Baptist Bookstore’s intent was to spread the word of God, shouldn’t the message have been aimed at explaining the principles of Christianity instead of just a blanket condemnation against all those who disagree with them? I have only found notecards in books regarding reason, those usually favored by non-believers, which indicates that their goal was not as innocent as just “spreading the word.” The true purpose of the notecard was to tell anyone who picked up the book that they were going to hell for not believing in God.

Most religious people don’t realize that the god they believe in has more to do with the happenstance of birth than it does anything else. People raised in the Middle East tend to believe in Allah, while people born in the West are more inclined to believe in the Judeo-Christian God. Children raised in religious families are usually indoctrinated into the religion of their parents without ever being taught to question it. This perpetuates the cycle of religion being passed on from father to son and so forth, which makes it seem more like a tradition than a true belief.

I will forever be grateful to my mother for stopping this cycle in my own family. Growing up, she always told my sister Libby and I to “listen to your heart and think for yourself.” I was never told that I had to think a certain way in order to get into heaven or else I would be damned to hell for all of eternity. The way the Bible focuses on the horrors of hell could scare the bravest of children, whom are already impressionable, into believing out of fear, and believing in God simply for fear of being reprimanded in the afterlife is not an honorable reason to have faith in Him.

Without being well-informed, it would be impossible to make a reasonable decision about any religion, let alone choose one to practice. I’ve strived throughout my life to make sure that I never squander my mom’s precious gift to me by learning everything I can about all religions, so every time I see another intolerable notecard at Barnes & Noble, I can’t help but be frustrated. I have to wonder if the person behind these cards ever researched religions beyond his or her own. Did he or she even try to understand the world from another religious perspective? What makes him so intolerable to systems of belief different from his own?

As I grew up and evolved intellectually, I came to understand something important about myself: I fit in nowhere. It seems like a depressing thought, but in actuality it is incredibly liberating. I stopped trying to figure out where I fit in and simply let myself be. It was that freedom that helped me to realize I am best described as a Humanist.

As a Humanist, I believe that “human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. Humanism stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. Humanism is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.” The International Humanist and Ethical Union’s mission statement really spoke to me. It felt right.

After months of holding on to them obsessively, I’ve finally allowed myself to let go and trash the numerous notecards bearing messages of hate and fanaticism. I’ve realized that my obsession with these notecards has more to do with me trying to understand the human psyche than anger. All that is left of my former frustration and indignation is a terrible sadness, but underneath it all hope still glimmers. Hope for the future of mankind and a vision of a world that will finally free itself from the shackles of intolerance. This world will be filled with people who love each other rather than a distant supernatural father figure. It will be a world full of love, acceptance and peace.

This Saturday, April 9, the MS Walk will take place at Bayview Park to raise awareness.

By Claudia Carlson

Staff Writer


This Saturday, April 9, the MS Walk will take place at Bayview Park to raise awareness and funds to support research and life-changing services to help people living with multiple sclerosis.

Online registration for Walk MS: Pensacola is now open. The goal for this walk is to raise $26,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to help people living with MS to live as full of a life as possible.

Even if you do not know anyone with this disease, you are still welcome to come to this walk to show your support and raise funds to put a stop to MS.

“Walk MS is the rallying point for the MS Movement and gives those affected by MS and their friends and family a chance to come together to change the world for everyone impacted by multiple sclerosis,” said Laura Pemberton, Marketing and Communications Manager for the National MS society Alabama-Mississippi Chapter. “Walk MS is a celebration of progress being made as we work together to end MS forever.”

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. According to the press release for the Walk MS Pensacola, most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two or three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million worldwide.

This walk is all about raising funds for MS, but there is no fee to participate in this walk. Instead, participants are asked to raise money for the cause. Participants who raise at least $125 will receive a 2016 Walk T-shirt, with other prizes awarded for additional fundraising.

“The cost of the event is underwritten by many generous community and national sponsors,” Pemberton said. “Our goal is for every dollar raised by participants to be invested in the mission of the National MS Society.”

Even though MS is usually a debilitating disease, there will be people at the walk who are currently living with MS. This walk comes the month before National MS day on May 25, which brings awareness to the challenges those living with MS face on a day-to-day basis.

“The National MS Society mobilized people and resources so that everyone affected by multiple sclerosis can live their best lives as we stop MS in its tracks, restore what has been lost and end MS forever,” according to the Walk MS Pensacola press release. “Last year alone, through our comprehensive nationwide network, the Society devoted $122.2 million to help more than 1 million individuals connect to the people, information and resources they need.”

“It’s not too late to get involved,” Pemberton said. “Most people start their fundraising the week of the walk, so there is still plenty of time to make an impact. Your participation in Walk MS helps ensure no one ever has to be diagnosed again.”

To participate or volunteer for this walk visit www.walkMS.org, call 855-372-1331, or email fundraisingsupport@nmss.org.

If you participate in this event, don’t forget to show your support with the hashtags created especially for this event: #walkMS and #WalkTogether,


Graffiti Bridge: Pensacola’s voice for the people

By Mackenzie Kees
Opinions Editor


An historic look (circa 1935) at the 17th street underpass fondly known as “Graffiti Bridge” by locals.
Photo courtesy of Florida Memory.

The purpose of a landmark is essentially straightforward: to mark the land. This is done for several reasons, but mainly landmarks are used as navigational points. However, in this modern age, landmarks have become more and more passé with the spread of technology. Google Maps and other apps now are considered the norm for getting directions. So where does that leave landmarks?

Pensacola’s “Graffiti Bridge” is one such landmark, but it refuses to grow obsolete. It’s true that CSX Transportation has been using the bridge’s rails for many years, but that is usually more of a hindrance to locals than a help. If that were the bridge’s only purpose, the interest would likely be nonexistent. But it does have another purpose: aesthetics.

The 17th Street underpass is more than just a bridge; it is a way for people to communicate, to share ideas, hopes, fears and everything in between through the use of artwork. Some people abuse this gift to spread hate, but the general goodwill of most Pensacolians always overwhelms the haters.

Graffiti Bridge is not only a palette for artwork, either. It also inspires it.

One Pensacola resident harnessed this inspiration to create a book consisting of Graffiti Bridge images, taken over the span of a year. “What [the naysayers] taught me was that even though somebody’s story is covered up and changed, it’s really never gone, and that’s the same with people,” said Rachael Pongetti, the photographer behind the 365-day project. “People’s lives and their stories are written on that bridge, and they tell something important, and even though it’s gone in a matter of a few hours, it’s really not gone; it simply became a layer.”

Pongetti, a UWF graduate, has been an art instructor at both Pensacola State College and UWF. She’s also worked with PACE Center for Girls and the Pensacola Museum of Art. Pongetti’s book “Layers” is expected to come out sometime in the next few months, but no official date has been confirmed.

“I consider spray painting the bridge a right of passage,” said Cody Lonon, a UWF senior majoring in Health Science. “It’s something that everyone does at least once in high school or in college. If you haven’t, you’re one of few.”

“Tagging” Graffiti Bridge has become a tradition for locals, so much so that the Pensacola Police Department does not interfere when the bridge is being painted. They have been known to show up to supervise, but overall they are encouraging. It is the only place in Pensacola where graffiti can be painted legally.

The bridge is in a constant state of flux, because it is always changing. Pongetti said she feels that this is one of the best aspects about Graffiti Bridge. It allows for freedom of expression through the use of images and words. Pensacola residents are encouraged to leave their own mark on the beloved Graffiti Bridge and add to the multiple layers already there.


Another day, another version of the Graffiti Bridge.
Photo courtesy of Pensacola Graffiti Project.

“Graffiti Bridge serves as a platform for expression. It is a stage to express political views, a billboard to inform of upcoming events, and a canvas for street artists,” Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward III said in a statement to First City Art Center, which hosted an exhibition of the book’s photos in April 2015.

The Graffiti Bridge has its own Facebook page where you can keep up with the new artwork on a daily basis. You can see a time-lapse video that Pongetti made on YouTube. For more on Pongetti’s project, visit her website.


Amtrak is a possibility for Pensacola, but would it benefit UWF students?

By Sara Agans
Staff Writer


Pensacolians might get another choice for transit in the near future.
Graphic courtesy of https://nextcity.org

All aboard? An Amtrak train stopped in Pensacola on Friday, Feb. 19, for the first time since Hurricane Katrina (2005) to gauge the interest of reopening the stop.

“Amtrak, which is a company that owns and operates passenger trains, is considering the possibility of passenger trains again,” said Rick Harper, assistant vice president for UWF’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement. “Amtrak would run trains along Central Gulf Coast and Northern Florida, including Pensacola. These trains would allow passengers to connect to other train services in places like New Orleans and Jacksonville.”

Harper also said this could benefit UWF students who live in areas close to where the trains will stop.  For instance, it might be convenient to ride a train back home from Spring Break instead of driving. However, Harper said most students might still find it more convenient to drive, whether to save the expense of a train ticket or because driving is usually faster.

“Amtrak has to figure out whether they can attract enough passengers to make it profitable to run the trains in our area,” Harper said.

A couple of students shared their responses when asked how many trips they would take over the next 12 months on Amtrak if the fares for a round trip were $50, $75 or $100.

Nicole Mills, a UWF senior majoring in telecommunications, estimated she would take three to five trips by train, because she said it would be a nice experience. If the fare for a round-trip was $50, Mills said she would take maybe five trips; if the fare price was $75, then three trips; and for $100, maybe only two trips.

David French, a UWF junior majoring in journalism, said he might take between five and 10 trips over the next 12 months. If the fare for a round-trip to Orlando was $50, French said he would easily take more than 10 trips; for $75, at least five trips; and for $100, probably no more than three.

Stephen LeMay, UWF visiting associate professor in the Department of Marketing and Economics said in the 1970s, when Amtrak first started advertising, they oversold their service – meaning they promised luxury performance the system could not provide.

“Consequently, they attracted a large number of one-time riders,” LeMay said. “They promoted luxurious cars and pleasant conditions, not to mention on-time arrivals and departures. They delivered rail cars that smelled like bad gas station bathrooms, 15-hour late arrivals, and other problems.”

LeMay said that this time around, the problems seem to be fixed. The big issue for UWF students will be whether the service fits the needs of the students. If the schedule does not work, LeMay said students are likely to ignore the service. If the schedule does work – the train will depart from Pensacola at 9 a.m. on Friday, arrive in Orlando sometime in the early afternoon, and return around 9 p.m. Sunday – students could visit Disney World or Universal Studios for the weekend.

“Personally, I would like to see the service succeed, but it will depend on frequency, time of day and reliability,” LeMay said.

For more information on current Amtrak routes, schedules and services click here.

The food truck debate rages on: Council votes down ordinance once again

Tom Moore

Contributing Writer

 Food trucks were voted down again at Thursday’s City Council meeting. Some food trucks, including Nomadic Eats, were temporarily allowed at City Hall on weekends during the month of January. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Eats Facebook Page.

Food trucks were voted down again at Thursday’s City Council meeting. Some food trucks, including Nomadic Eats, were temporarily allowed at City Hall on weekends during the month of January.
Photo courtesy of Nomadic Eats Facebook Page.

The war rages on. The City Council continues to debate. The community holds its collective breath, and at least 50 local entrepreneurs wait to purchase their licenses to open shop and start hawking their respective wares. Now in its third year, the debate about food trucks in Pensacola is still a hot topic.

Thursday night’s City Council 4-4 stalemate vote did nothing to alleviate the tensions between the proponents and opponents to what has turned into one of the hottest, longest-running, most controversial ordinances in the Pensacola City Council.

Randy Russell, the owner of food truck Nomadic Eats that operates at Pensacola State College, said, “This is really a hard business. On a very good day I do $300 to $400 dollars of business. That’s me being busy and working really hard.”

The last time the Pensacola City Council voted in January, it approved the ordinance on its first reading. It needed only to approve it once more in a final vote for the ordinance to be passed. However, the council could not muster the five votes needed.

Many community leaders have weighed in on issue, including University of West Florida’s Vice President for University Advancement Brendan Kelly.

In an interview Thursday with WEAR-TV Channel Three reporter Jackalyn Kovac, Kelly said he would like to see the city adopt a system echoing what other cities with historic cities have done. “Part of the investments we’ve made in downtown Pensacola and our mission as a historic trust, is to preserve what makes the fabric of a historic district special. And that is to have a place that doesn’t have all the trappings of modern day life associated with it.”

Kelly is not alone in his opposition. Many others, including local business owners, oppose the food trucks, because they believe the trucks will cause unsightly traffic in the downtown area.

“If the trucks proliferate, they will damage the brick and mortar, property tax-paying restaurants and be a blight on the great streetscape and charming ambiance we now have,” said Wilmer Mitchell, president of Seville Quarter.

“Those of us who have worked for years developing the area and taken the financial risks necessary to buy the land and build the buildings, and who pay major property taxes and license fees every year, should never have to face an ordinance which would permit competitors with little stake in the game to drive up, park near us and compete with us from a free space on the streets we helped make popular.”

In defense of food truck operators, Russell said, “I don’t think we pose much of a threat to the brick and mortars. Not at $300 to $500 a day.”

“I don’t like any hasty decisions and sometimes important decisions take time,” Kelly told the Pensacola News Journal. “So whatever time it takes to make the right policies for this city and where we are trying to go makes the most sense to me.” (Taken from a PNJ story on Feb. 11, 2016.)

Councilwoman Sherri Myers did not go along with the views of the opponents. She was particularly opposed to the idea that local business owners and residents somehow needed “protection” from the food trucks.

“I don’t think that it’s the role of the government to guarantee businesses success,” Myers said.

Johnson and Myers both also called out the University of West Florida Historic Trust for its last-minute objections to the ordinance.

“As much as this has been in the press, it concerns me,” Myers said, referring to the concerns raised only last week by UWF officials.

“I don’t think anyone is opposed to the business per se,” said Mike Guildy, who lives in the historic district downtown near Seville. “I think the ultimate goal of the council should be to find a place for the food trucks to operate and dedicate that place where they want to come.”

Credit card skimmers on the rise in Pensacola: Buyers beware

Claudia Carlson

Staff Writer


A recent hike in credit card skimmers around the Pensacola area has residents thinking twice before using their credit and debit cards at gas stations and even some restaurants.

In an age where technology is at its most advanced, there are more ways for criminals to get your personal information and credit cards today than ever before.

Skimming is a way for thieves to steal credit card information and use the stolen information for themselves. Skimming occurs most often wherever credit card payments are accepted – most frequently in bars, restaurants and gas stations.

Skimmers are notorious for being attached to gas station pumps due to the frequent use and no identification necessary.

“My credit card was once skimmed at a gas station,” said Don Lott, UWF alumnus. “There was an attachment over the credit card machine, but it didn’t look any different, so I didn’t notice. After getting charges on my card from Canada, I contacted my bank. I was fighting with Regions for three months about the fraudulent charges before I was able to get my money back.”

Credit card skimming is becoming easier to do and harder to trace. New technology can scan credit cards before you even hit the credit card machine. It can be hidden anywhere on someone, and the numbers can be scanned before the card is even swiped. “Skimming at restaurants also happens frequently, especially since customers often leave their credit card for the server to pick up, process, and return a few minutes later. In these cases, a portable card reader is perfect because it is small enough to fit in the server’s pockets or apron.” (PrivacySense.net reported on Jul. 14, 2015.)

“I first heard about skimmers in connection with gas pumps,” said Charlotte Gordon of Pensacola. “I thought that people would attach them to gas pumps, but I realize now that any credit card machine can be compromised. I had my credit card number taken at a local restaurant. I’m pretty sure it was from this particular restaurant because I know of nine other people who had it happen to them after eating at the same restaurant.”

When called for a comment on such reports, a server at the restaurant said she had no comment and would forward the call to a manager, but the call was disconnected.

Each report of fraudulent charges on a card leads to a police investigation into the activity. When Frank Patti III’s card was skimmed two weeks ago, his bank told him that a police investigation is being conducted with suspects in mind. A police officer for this case was unable to be located for comment.

To access a credit card skimmer, a person needs only to Google it, and links to websites where one is able to purchase a skimmer appear. The easy accessibility to such a machine may be an answer as to why there has been such an increase in credit card fraud lately.

Have you had your debit or credit card skimmed before? Tweet me your thoughts: @claudcarlson.



Shown is the difference in ATM machines when a skimmer is added. If you don’t know what to look for, you may not even be able to tell when a skimmer is attached. An ATM machine or gas station credit card machine should be flat, if it looks bulky or like there is anything attached, do not use the machine.
Photo courtesy of http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/

card reader

Above is an example of a “Proximity Card Reader,” aka credit card skimmer. It can be purchased online for only $187.
Photo courtesy of http://store.amgtime.com/hardware/