Friday, December 29, 2006

St. Augustine and St. Johns County, Florida Office Pool 2007

This Office Pool is written with tongue-in-cheek and a tip-of-the-hat, admiration and my sincere appreciation to NY Times' semi-retired columnist William Safire (sesquipedalian former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew speechwriter who coined such Nixonian bon mots as "nattering nabobs of negativism").
The venerable William Safire has been writing -- and I've been reading -- his New Year's "Office Polls" for 33 years. Mr. Safire published his 33rd Office Pool this morning.
So here's my 2007 Office Pool for St. Augustine and St. Johns County. As Mr. Safire said in a prior year, "You've got to play to win." Here goes:
1. St. Johns County Commissioner Jim Bryant will:
a. Be indicted;
b. Resign;
c. Be fired by Governor Charles Crist;
d. Go to work for clear-cutting developers, like other former Commissioners;
e. Fall asleep at County Commission meetings;
f. Try to make the County taxpayers pay for the lawyer he claimed he hired to "defend" himself against "slander," in a fit of pique at Ben Rich (now Commission Chair);
g. Write a haiku poem extolling the virtues of clear-cutting and tree-killing;
h. Leave Commission meetings early, pouting;
i. None of the above;
j. All of the above.

2. St. Augustine City Commissioners will find a new spirit of friendliness and openness as they:
a. Welcome Gay residents and tourists by banning anti-Gay discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment and education;
b. Accept WILLIAM B. HARRISS' gracious, heart-felt resignation as City Manager, resulting in a spontaneous three-day street festival;
c. Welcome artists and entertainers back to St. George Street;
d. Admit to violating open records laws and Sunshine laws, apologizing;
e. Support legislation to create a new national park, the "St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore";
f. Apologize for St. Augustine's 1964 bigotry and Philistinism, including the police riots, judicial abuses, KKK dominance of local government, arrest of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the beating of Rev. Andrew Young while police watched (all of which resulted in enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as shown in Jeremy Dean's prize-winning documentary, "Dare Not Walk Alone";
g. Find new venues to violate Sunshine laws and thumb their nose at "just us folks," whether on a plane, in Spain, in NYC, in local business's backroom or at a Rolling Stones concert;
h. All of the above;
i. None of the above.

3. Tree-killing-clear-cutting developers will:
a. Be indicted;
b. Be shown to have corrupted County and City officials;
c. Be hated by everyone in St. Augustine and St. Johns County;
d. Try to redeem themselves in public opinion by donating/selling their ill-gotten land for the St. Augustine National Park and National Seashore.

4. Federal and state law enforcement agents will conduct surprise raids on:
a. Present and former Town of Hastings officials and local developers responsible for 2005 annexations;
b. Local officials responsible for zoning decisions;
c. Local developers;
d. Local hate groups;
e. Local restaurants and hotels employing workers at subminimum wages, some undocumented illegal immigrants;
f. Other organizational targets;
g. All of the above;
h. None of the above.

5. Archaeological find of the year 2007 will be:
a. Peer-reviewed scientific journal confirmation of the location of Pedro Menendez' first settlement (in and north of the Fountain of Youth Historical Park);
b. Actual interest by City officials in saving indigenous historical sites from overdevelopers;
c. Conflicts-of- interests discovered among people boisterously blocking and putting-down indigenous archaeological preservation efforts, including WILLETT ALBRIGHT BOYER, III (who went by "Freethinker" in obscene comments on the St. Augustine Record's "Talk of the Town" website);
d. More human bodies discovered and reported by St. Augustine city employees and construction worker, despite overdevelopers' desire to conceal them and the inconvenient truths of where they wish to erect more ugly buildings;
e. New-found courage by Florida Secretary of State's archaeological staff, empowered by Governor Crist to do their jobs without fear or favor;
f. City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS and his Planning and Zoning Director MARK KNIGHT are not now and never have been archaeologist and have no training or competence to supervise the City's Archaeology Department;
g. The PR flaks of the international corporate law firm once known as JONES, DAY, REAVIS, POGUE may be related to Neanderthals, as established by his St. Augustine coal-to-gas plant "victory lap" press release (below) and DNA tests;
h. All of the above.

6. Florida Governor Charles Crist will:
a. Support legislation endorsing Gay civil unions;
b. Fire local public officials convicted of Sunshine violations;
c. Wage war on government corruption.

7. St. Johns County Commissioners will hire a new County Administrator who:
a. Does not have four grandparents in local cemeteries;
b. Will lead and inspire confidence in governmental integrity;
c. Knows how to stop public corruption;
d. Has experience in investigations and putting handcuffs on criminals;
e. Will know who's been naughty and nice;
f. Will be selected through a valid, national search without fear or favor of local political bosses, based on competence.

8. St. Johns County Election Supervisor Penny Haliburton will:
a. Be sued for First Amendment violations for using churches for 2/3 of all of St. Johns County's polling places;
b. Be investigated for favoritism to incumbents;
c. Be investigated for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws;
d. Announce her retirement;
e. All of the above.

9. St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar will:
a. Announce formation of an Environmental Crimes unit;
b. Fire at least three law enforcement officers for misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, drunkenness and/or corruption;
c. Announce an end to anti-Gay policies (flaunted in the Organized Crime Unit threatening two women for planning to protest the March 15, 2005 anti-Gay hate rally at the World Golf Village Convention Center), becoming the first governmental unit in St. Johns County to announce it won't discriminate against Gay employees;
d. All of the above.

10. Three out of five St. Augustine City Commissioners will:
a. Shock everyone by standing up to developers, with or without spinal implant surgeries;
b. Vote to hold a public hearing on what ex-Mayor GEORGE GARDNER admits is "rampant corruption," changing procedures and adopting reforms;
c. Vote to place webcams at the Old City Reservoir so we can watch the "cleanup";
d. Vote to contest the FDEP fines for dumping in the Old City Reservoir of the contents of the old illegal city dump, saying dumping 30 million pounds of contaminants into a prime bass fishing spot was somehow "inadvertent," "de minimis" and or "de micromis";
e. Adopt transparency policies, placing all agenda item memos and proposals on the website;
f. Start meeting with voters, instead of ducking our E-mails and phone calls.
g. Announce they are not seeking re-election, joining in Commissioner GEORGE GARDNER's post-election Sherman-like statement;
h. Propose consolidation of the City and County governments;
i. All of the above.
j. None of the above.

11. The first local "development" to go belly-up amid talk of recession and disintermediation will be:
a. CHESTER STOKES' evisceration of the arsenic-contaminated Ponce de Leon Golf Links;
b. ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD's effort to turn a 3000-4000 year old indigenous American Indian village next to St. Augustine High School into condos and a stripmall;
c. ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD's effort to turn Conch House Marina into condominiums (a project called "one sweet monkey" by the family that sold the Conch House to GRAUBARD);
d. Sebastian Inner Harbor;
e. Nocatee (a knockoff of the DeSoto County town with an Indian name that already bears Florida zip code 34268), rubber-stamp approved by compliant St. Johns County Commissioners for the Davis family and the PARC group under the discredited days of the St. Johns County Commission's ancien regime under Jim Bryant (like the late Louisiana Governor O.K. Allen, Huey Long's puppet, of whom it was said that a leaf once blew in Allen's window and he signed it);
f. None of the above.

12. St. Augustine City Commissioners will admit that they erred when they:
a. Banned all but government flags from the Bridge of Lions;
b. Violated the Sunshine law to hire a new attorney and ban venders from the Slave Market Plaza at a December 22, 2006 meeting that was noticed only to cover low-income elderly tax relief, after they had promised the State's Attorney not to violate the Sunshine law any longer;
c. Voted 3-2 (Commissioners Burk and Gardner dissenting) for "brownfield" tax credit subsidies for CHESTER STOKES' Ponce de Leon Golf Course;
d. Thought they made a mistake once but found out they were wrong.

13. St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS will be publicly revealed to:
a. Be a known Republican;
b. Have interesting digital photographs of City Commissioners during NYC's 2005 "March madness" (more than $8100 Sunshine violating March 2005 NYC trip);
c. Have done secret favors for every single City Commissioner, including ordering up a tiny street, allowing one Commissioner to invest in a friend's business;
d. Have warned City Commissioners privately that it would be illegal and that they would get our Nation's Oldest (European-founded) City both caught and fined if our Nation's Oldest (European-founded) City dumped the contents of the old illegal city dump in the Old City Reservoir;
e. Have invoked the Fifth Amendment;
f. All of the above.

14. The "upscale" $70 million Sebastian Inner Harbor public-private partnership of hotel, condos and marina will earn nationwide headlines when it is revealed:
a. City Commissioners pressured City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS to speed the 4.1 acre wetland mitigation by dumping the old city dump contents in the Old City Reservoir;
b. The Atlanta Gas Light "cleanup" was incomplete and no records exist showing that the contaminated soil was disposed of properly because EPA did not supervise it properly;
c. Some city officials stand to profit from the project, directly or indirectly;
d. It falls behind schedule and loses investors;
e. It opens on time as scheduled, with buskers, musicians and entertainers taking their rightful place, surpassing Key West's legendary Mallory Square sunset celebrations nightly, re-establishing St. Augustine as a destination for artists, entertainers, musicians and buskers (and tourists who enjoy them).

15. Controversial State's Attorney John Tanner will:
a. Announce that he will not seek re-election, endorsing former Public Defender candidate Bennett Ford (his St. Johns County chief assistant) to take his place on the ballot as the candidate of the local political machine;
b. Travel on an airplane without trying to take his gun;
c. Prosecute the City of St. Augustine and its Commissioners for Sunshine violations;
d. Prosecute the City of St. Augustine and its Commissioners for open records violations;
e. Announce he is leaving Daytona, moving to Clay County and announcing his candidacy for Sate's Attorney against Harry Shorstein;
f. Answer press and public questions and return telephone calls.

16. The St. Augustine and St. Johns County Airport Authority will:
a. Take federal funds for something useful;
b. Hire a new manager based on a national search;
c. Finally allow scheduled airliners to land;
d. Charge rich guys to land their airplanes;
e. Condemn (steal) more homeowners' land for rich guys' airplanes;
f. Make Northrop Grumman pay more for its use of the airport;
g. Eliminate ad valorem property taxes for rich guys' airplanes;
h. Issue self-serving press statements and insult critics.

17. Developer lawyer George McClure will:
a. Legally change his name to "Snidely Whiplash," inspired by his uncanny resemblance to the character in "Dudley Do-right";
b. Legally change his name to the "Prince of Darkness," inspired by his secret admiration of the James Mason character in Paul Newman's movie, "The Verdict";
c. Represent environmentalist-citizens fighting tree-cutting developers (albeit in a county far, far away);
d. Appear before local governmental bodies without wearing a silk tie, in recognition of the fact that his law firm now bears his own name (instead of Rogers Towers);
e. Take less than 15 minutes to make his case for done-deal zoning favors (saying he now believes it's only fair that his clients should have no more than 3 minutes to which development opponents are limited);
f. Sue government officials for civil rights violations for disapproving a developer's project.

18. Flagler College will:
a. Announce its plans to annex the entire City of St. Augustine and take it off the tax rolls;
b. Hire faculty members without respect to their political views;
c. Recognize faculty rights to academic freedom;
d. Recognize Flagler College's unofficial Gay-friendly student group and announce a policy against discriminating against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered (GLBT) students and employees;
e. Ban the use of the "N" word in all Flagler College classes, including those that are attended by St. Augustine and County police officers, instituting a diversity policy and sensitivity training;
f. Raise faculty salaries to levels competitive with UF and FSU;
g. Grant eligibility for tenure to Flagler college faculty members;
h. Announce plans to seek American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation for a new law school;
i. Give up on plans to start an ABA-accredited law school when someone reads the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools and ponders that it might mean implementing items b,c,d,e,f&g;
j. All of the above.

19. The first civil rights lawsuit brought by a federal agency against a local government agency in St. Johns County during 2007 will be:
a. EEOC employment discrimination lawsuit against St. Johns County over hiring of the new County Attorney;
b. Justice Department suit against the City of St. Augustine for job discrimination (59 of 59 white police officers), hiring new City Attorney without notice to the public, and 55-year record of annexing white areas while refusing to annex West Augustine;
c. The Department of Health and Human Services for racially segregated nursing homes receiving government funds;
d. HUD for racially-segregated real estate offices and advertisements showing only white homeowners;
e. City of St. Augustine and State of Florida, for failing to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act with proper disability access to historic St. George Street properties;
f. City of St. Augustine, for leasing St. George Street properties to discriminator employers who refuse to employ African-Americans;
g. St. Johns County, for refusing to appoint Democrats to its committees, as former County Commissioner Mary Kohnke has charged;
h. Other.

20. The first successful environmental crime prosecution (or guilty plea) in St. Johns County in 2007 will be:
a. City of St. Augustine for illegal dumping of the contents of the old illegal city dump into the Old City Reservoir;
b. PIERRE THOMPSON for his admitted role in the October 2001 cutting-down of a bald eagle nest-tree (statute of limitations extended by agreement)(see below);
c. ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD for wetland-filling;
d. Florida Department of Environmental Protection for obstruction of justice in covering up City of St. Augustine's illegal dumping, delaying word of the proposed $47,248 in fines/penalties until exactly one week after the November 7, 2006 election;;
e. St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) and FDEP for covering up developers' willful destruction of wetlands;
f. A nonagenarian peace activist for allegedly spitting on the sidewalk;
g. An insouciant Yankee tourist for dumping an ashtray full of cigarette butts from his SUV onto the floor of the City's White Elephant Parking Garage;
h. An overweight, sweaty, South Georgia tourist for taking his shirt off in front of the Castillo.

21. Worst local government scandal:
a. Extending City of St. Augustine water and sewer to developers miles away from City borders;
b. Outgoing Anastasia Mosquito Control Commissioners' "Christmas present" -- buying gold-plated, brand-new, six-seater, $1.8 million Bell Helicopter without "flyoff," competitive bidding or specifications;
c. City of St. Augustine for massive underused parking garage on site Fred Francis' will provided for baseball fields;
d. City of St. Augustine for converting old firehouse into utility bill-paying and tour guide test-taking building for over $500,000, in order to prevent future construction of any parking garage behind the Lightner Museum building at behest of influential architect;
e. FDEP and State's Attorney John Tanner for refusing to prosecute City of St. Augustine for illegal dumping of old city dump contents into Old City Reservoir;
f. Politically well-connected St. Augustine law firm and local governments for hiring it when it takes no notes when it investigates employee allegations of governmental misconduct, while representing both "developers" and virtually every single government entity in St. Johns County;
g. State of Florida and the Save our Bridge Committee for the high-priced $77 million reconstruction of Bridge of Lions and construction and demolition of a temporary bridge;
h. City of St. Augustine's globegirdling Sunshine violations junkets at your expense, unprosecuted by State's Attorney John Tanner and Florida Department of Law Enforcement;
i. Dilution of minority voting strength by constant annexation of City of St. Augustine (50 annexations in 55 years), refusal to annex West Augustine, 1998's conversion of County Commission apportionment to five elected at large (from seven by Districts), and at-large election of St. Augustine Commissioners (with no 15th Amendment and Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed by Justice Department Civil Rights Division yet).
j. Developer influence from City Hall to the Courthouse to Tallahassee to the White House;
k. School Board for even considering proposal by developers to lease schools;
l. Local governments for lack of competition in purchasing and de facto sole source procurement;
m. Low voter turnout;
n. Lack of adequate local daily newspaper space given to serious investigative coverage of government/politics, including items a-n, above;
o. Lackadaisical television news coverage of local St. Johns County news by the likes of the tatterdemalion, monopolistic "First Coast News" and local Jacksonville PBS affiliate's "Week in Review" program;
p. "Just us folks" for empowering all of the above and letting ourselves be taken advantage of decade after decade, deal after deal, election after election;
q. All of the above.

22. Biggest local land deal of the 21st century will be:
a. Proposed consolidation of City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County governments;
b. Proposed merger of the city governments of the City of St. Augustine and City of St. Augustine Beach;
c. Transfer of city-and state-owned properties and developers' undeveloped properties for the "St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore."

My predictions (for whatever they're worth): 1(b,d,f); 2(e,f); 3 (d); 4(h); 5(a); 6(a,b,c); 7(all); 8 (a,d); 9(a); 10(g); 11(c); 12(d); 13(a,d); 14(e); 15(a&b); 16(h); 17(d); 18(h); 19(h); 20(b); 21(q); 22(c). What do you reckon? Happy New Year!

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