Cart before the Horse?

Next Friday, Jan. 28 George Hawthorne will announce at City Hall at 1 p.m. his acquisition of Brownsville Middle School for his P.A.T.H ((Providing Avenues To Hope) one-stop facility. He will be asking local officials to work with him. Shouldn’t he have gotten approval, or at least buy-in, from law enforcement, city, county, state and federal officials before he signed his contract with Superintendent Thomas? I understand how difficult it is to get all the potential “partners” to the table for a discussion, but I don’t understand the rush to purchase without written support from the Escambia County Commission, Pensacola City Council, United Way, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office or the Brownsville community.

According to Hawthorne’s Strategic Plan, the Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce(GCAACC) and Diversity Program Advisors, Inc. (his company) will make this offer today to local officials:

“GCAACC and DPA would provide resources to support the
implementation of the P.A.T.H. Program if the Escambia/Pensacola
stakeholders agreed to change how they currently address
Escambia/Pensacola’s violent crime, at-risk youth and gang problems.”

Each Escambia/Pensacola stakeholder would focus on balancing crime
prevention and law enforcement with community enrichment and economic
development. Also, commit to using community organizations and faith-
based groups to ultimately assist in sustaining the work.

Additionally, DPA would establish a One-Stop Center facility that would
provide full-time operating facility for the P.A.T.H. Program, funded by
various public and private sources, with direct access to senior political and
police leadership. This operating facility would provide community-based
facility located in the targeted area for the delivery of P.A.T.H. Program
service-delivery. The One-Stop Center will provide operating facilities‖
for each participating agency or organization for the delivery of their
respective services. These P.A.T.H. Program service providers‖ would also
ensure that the data and information generated by the effort would be
collected and shared. Each participating agency will remain independent,
but will receive support from the P.A.T.H. Program ―operating resources‖ and
provide support or assistance to the P.A.T.H. Program clients and
collaborating stakeholders.”

I am not for or against this proposal without more details. The community needs more specifics, especially on the funding, budget, staffing, expertise of staff and public reporting aspects of this venture. DPA is a for-profit organization formed by Hawthorne in December 2009.

Hawthorne did post on this blog that DPA is not going to give the land to Habitat. Instead he wrote “we are still exploring the option to co-develop the excess property to assist Habitat fulfill its ARRA neighborhood revitalization grant.” He is putting his own capital into the project (which explains for-profit status) and “bringing in additional equity and debt from potential “program partners” of the P.A.T.H. Initiative.”

Hawthorne estimates that it will only take $200,000 – $300,000 to renovate the Brownsville Middle School.

Can George Hawthorne implement these plans? That will be the question. Unfortunately he carries the burden of past grand plans that ended in arrests and convictions: Thelma Manley (Front Porch), Darnell Sims (Youthbuild Pensacola) and John Wyche (Escambia County Land Trust). It may not be fair to Hawthorne, but the past decade was littered with pretenders who took money and used it for their own needs and not for those for whom it was intended.

However, just because Hawthorne’s plan is ambitious does mean it can’t be successful. However, more details and safeguards are needed to ensure we actually help those he calls “Pensacola’s least and left out.”