Archive for June, 2014

Florida: Give us your tired, your poor, your service workers

Small communities have always faced “brain drain,” as many of their most educated young people leave for big cities, bright lights and the promise of bigger paychecks.

But the shift could be getting more extreme. A new study indicates that highly educated and skilled people are focusing on a relatively few large cities while people who lack education are drawn to communities heavily dependent on tourism and the service industry.

In Florida’s case, this means that Miami’s base of educated people is growing while those with only a high school degree or not even that credential are bound for Tampa, Fort Myers, Sarasota and Daytona Beach.

These findings come from Richard Florida, head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. His research team found that Miami’s population, for example, saw its rank of educated people grow and less educated residents shrink.

“Lower-paid workers are being priced out, and the jobs than can attract new residents are reserved for the most educated,” he wrote on — incidentally, a great site if you want to see snapshots of what’s happening in cities around the world. “These very different migration patterns reinforce the ongoing economic and social bifurcation of the United States.”

His research on this topic is limited to only one year, so it’s far from omniscient, but Florida says his data “effectively track the current net flow of people — that is, the ability of metros to both attract and retain American workers.”

Florida’s study includes a look at people with professional and graduate degrees, those with potential for the most growth. “There have been significant net inflows of educated people to the true meccas of knowledge work: Seattle, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Denver, San Jose, Austin and Portland, as well as the banking hub of Charlotte.”

Did you notice that no city in the Sunshine State made this list?

Floridians have another problem: We may be working again, but many of us aren’t making the money we once did.

Independent economist Elliot Eisenberg notes that the total number of working Americans recently began to exceed the number of workers before the recession began, but “the quality of the new jobs is not great.

“While food service, social assistance and home healthcare have seen the largest increases in employment — 3.1 million jobs collectively — high-paying sectors like manufacturing, construction and government are collectively employing 3.6 million fewer persons than before the start of the Great Recession,” he wrote.

Tourism still brings money and people to Florida, but those service jobs don’t pay the money and benefits once delivered by the construction and government jobs that have vanished.

Consider this one more reason why Florida doesn’t make the grade with bright young people.

Mark O’Brien is a writer in Pensacola. Column courtesy of Context Florida. June 23, 2014

Standard parental warnings apply to GM, Obama and the Blue Angels, too

Frustrated parents often ask their misbehaving children this question, “When are you going to learn your lesson?”

It’s the lesson that philosopher George Santayana phrased so eloquently, “People who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Let’s start with General Motors, where apparently no one ever learned the lessons of Watergate, which include the adage, “It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” which dooms you to public contempt.

GM executives knew about a fatal problem with an ignition switch on the Cobalt. But instead of correcting it, they kicked the problem around various echelons of the manufacturing giant without addressing it in public and perhaps averting some of the deaths.

Then we have Barack Obama, who seems to have taken his eye off the ball for his second term. Amidst much manufactured fanfare, Obama traded five terrorists in Guantanamo for Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who left his post as a sentry in Afghanistan.

I have no problem rescuing Bergdahl. He’s one of ours, even if he proves to be damaged goods; we Americans try to never leave one of our own behind enemy lines. And remember President Ronald Reagan trading arms to Iran for hostages 30 years ago? Ransom deals seldom are pretty. I’ll let the military and others sort fact from fiction and then make a judgment about Bergdahl. I also will wait to see what, if anything, the freed terrorists do in the future.

Still, Obama had no sensible reason to hype the situation. Doesn’t he remember the irony of the “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background when President George W. Bush erroneously claimed an end to fighting in Iraq?

Closer to my home, Pensacola, a former head of the fabled Blue Angels was reprimanded recently for promoting an unprofessional atmosphere full of sexual innuendo in the Navy’s flight demonstration team.

Has no one heard of Tailhook, the scandalous 1991 Las Vegas gathering of Navy and Marine aviators, when dozens of women were pawed, leading to the end of many offenders’ military careers?

Apparently not Capt. Greg McWherter — until recently the president of the Tailhook Association, no less. McWherter let Blue Angel pilots keep pornography in their taxpayer-bought, $19-million aircraft and allowed a homophobic, lecherous atmosphere at work, investigators alleged.

These blunders — GM, hostages, Blue Angels — were perpetrated not by rash teenagers but by people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.

This brings to mind another saying that parents often shout at their children: “You’re old enough to know better!”

Mark O’Brien is a writer who lives in Pensacola. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Fun in ‘store’ for girl-less guys, guy-less girls

Just in time for summer, several new stores and services have opened to help residents and tourists alike enjoy Pensacola to the fullest. Check out these imaginative—and imaginary—offerings:

•”He’s got game” — This service helps men who are unable to meet women on their own. The agency lets men rent dogs, always a conversation starter with women. For a small upcharge, the dog can be equipped with a scarf, although no other clothing will be allowed. (Real men don’t make dogs wear stupid clothes.)

Or sign up for the deluxe plan and rent a cute toddler (toilet trained) who will call you “Uncle” Bill so the woman realizes you are single. Simply point to a woman and the trained toddler will smile winningly at her. Call ahead to reserve a child who already has had his nap for the day.

Get special maps for “target-rich environments” where you’re most likely to meet single women—dog parks, shoe stores, wine and ice cream sections in a grocery store near you, and much, much more.

•”Wedding Bell Blues”—Poor single ladies, June is the month for weddings, and all your single friends are walking down the aisle except you. We have a solution. Book a month-long tour anywhere in the world— anywhere but your friends’ weddings.

The out-of-town trip gives you a legitimate reason to skip the wedding season and all those inconsiderate biddies clucking their tongues and saying, “Don’t worry, honey, you’ll get a man someday.”

Bless their hearts, while they snicker at the brides maid’s ugly dress, you will be relaxing under a Cancun umbrella, sipping margaritas and writing snippy remarks on the Facebook wedding posts.

•”No, No, Noah”: This valuable business program will teach you how to succeed in local real estate and politics.


Learn key phrases like, “Flood of 2014? Never heard of it.”

“We don’t need no stinkin’ infrastructure, you liberal tree-hugger.”

“The retention ponds were built to state specifications, and we don’t care if the State of Florida is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cheap Construction R’ Us.”

Take this class and you will soon speak the lingo of the Tea Party and good ol’ boys everywhere.

• “Loud and Proud”: Here’s a store that sells bullhorns so you can vent at your fellow motorists who drive you crazy.

Put down your window, put the bullhorn to your lips, and roar: “Don’t throw that cigarette out the window!”

“Hey, use your directional signals!”

“Yo, a yellow light means slow!” Really want to get their attention? Buy the roof-mounted amplified system to point out the many driving flaws seen daily on the streets of Pensacola. Maybe you will even get the attention of cops who see this stuff and just look the other way.

Special: Armored plating and bulletproof windshields can be provided for your vehicle.

•”Old Man Drivel”: Tired of hearing cranky old codgers complaining about kids these days?

This firm will find examples of these very same guys being lazy, stupid and moronic when they were young. It will equip you with all the facts you need to remind the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating Out) that as young men they too weren’t exactly hard-working rocket scientists either.

The only difference is that they did dumb stuff before the Internet captured their capers forever. Simply give their buddies a couple beers and they will spill the dirt on their pals, and then you can remind Calvin Curmudgeon that he too did stupid stuff.


“Splash!” magazine, June 2014