Friday, April 28, 2006
St. Augustine's Earth Day is at the Ampitheatre tomorow, Saturday from 11-3. See Compass magazine.
Now the City Attorney claims they may have to ask the Court reporter to "do" another Shade Meeting transcript if his staff can't find it by Monday. The City Attorney has not apologized for losing public records.He won't answer questions and (as is his custom) sent a series of unresponsive, hostile, churlish E-mails to me, as late as 11:35 PM yesterday. I wear his scorn as a badge of honor. At 1 PM, our City lawyers and managers will be meeting with FDEP officials on the City's illegal dump sites. Rushing from one scene of reckless endangerment to another, City officials can't refute what Dr. King said: St. Augustine is the "most lawless" city in America.
Working on my monthly column for Out in the City, I requested two days ago the Marshall Burns Shade Meeting Transcript from June 2003. The City Attorney referred me to the Clerk's office. The Clerk's office was never provided with the Shade Meeting Transcript. Two days later, I'm still waiting on the Shade Meeting Transcript.Our City Police Department beat an African-American man, making him a C-4 quadriplegic.Our City agreed to pay him $2.5 million.Taxpayers are paying $1.5 million (in installments). Insurance paid $1 million.When a city settles a lawsuit, all Shade Meeting Transcripts must be made public.The people have a right to know.Is the City of St. Augustine still, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "the most lawless" city in America? Our City Attorney is long on pejoratives, long on excuses but short on performance. We have a right to read the Shade Meeting Transcript, without further delay.The City Attorney's telephone number is 825-1052, area code 904.His name is JAMES PATRICK WILSON and he works for you (supposedly).We're waiting, Mr. WILSON. Let's see the Shade Meeting Transcript, please, sir, today. Thank you.
Mr. William Pence, the City's environmental attorney (from Orlando) is in St. Augustine this morning. http://www.akerman.com/public/attorneys/aBiography.asp?id=396 We trust that the City's circa $500/hour environmental lawyer slept well at the splendid Casa Monica Hotel last night. www.casamonica.com. Thus refreshed, at City expense, we look forward to answers from Mr. Pence. He is meeting with FDEP officials in Jacksonville today at 1 PM on 20,000 cubic yards of illegal dumping by the City of St. Augustine, which Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the "most lawless" city in America. Left word for Mr. Pence at the City Attorney's office earlier this morning. Efforts to reach Mr. Pence for comment have been unavailing. Mr. Pence, we're still waiting for answers to the 77 questions on the City's illegal dumping. Please answer the questions today. Thank you, Mr. Pence.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Our beautiful City welcomes millions of American and overseas visitors annually. Welcome. Let me welcome you to "Clean Up City of St. Augustine, Florida," which also welcomes visitors, including recent visitors from four continents. Visitors include people from St. Augustine and St. Johns County, Northeast Florida, every region in America, as well as Spain, United Kingdom, Argentina, Italy, Canada, the Czech Republic and Malaysia. Watch this space. This blog is only twelve days old. Our City is over 440 years old. Democracy is a wonderful thing, its wonders unfolding right here, before your very eyes. As a wise man in Oak RIdge, Tennessee once said to me, "we've got nowhere to go but up." Soon we hope to show you more about the Nation's Oldest City that will help us to learn together and to become (in the words of John Winthrop and Ronald Reagan), "a shining city on a hill," a beacon of understanding, tolerance and honest government. We welcome your suggestions and expertise on solving our environmental, development and authorarianism problems here in St. Augustine. We welcome our City's answers to questions, e.g., on dumping of 20,000 cubic yards of contaminants in the Old City Reservoir.
Unwelcome Attitude Greets Citizens Asking to See Purchasing Records at City of St. Augustine, Florida City Hall
Should there be more (or less) open competitive bidding in government purchasing by City officials? Is it acceptable that our City buys gasoline on the spot market, by obtaining "telephone quotes" from three good-ole-boys every time one of the City's tanks needs filling? Other jurisdictions have long-term contracts and obtain substantial discounts. Why isn't our City using competitive bidding more to spend its $45 million annual budget for 13,000 residents? How much money could more competitive bidding save you?Why was the City Attorney so hostile April 26 when two citizens asked to see more purchasing records? Why would he threaten people with arrest if we did not leave (after sharing no actual purchasing records), send us to another office (for a document that office did not have), yell at City employees, then (for good measure) run to the elevator yelling at us, pressing the elevator button after the door had closed, causing the door to open and continuing the "argument" that he had started earlier?Why is he so pugancious and surly? This is the same man who made it his mission to kick artists and entertainers off St. George Street. How unhappy he seems.Why does the City Attorney become so unhappy whenever people ask to see their government records? Does he think they're his personal records and not yours?Why is the office of the City Attorney of the St. Augustine, Florida so indescribably unenlightened in comparison with other City offices and other government agencies? Other offices are friendly and gracious when records are requested.Why wasn't there an up-to-date Purchasing Manual in the Purchasing Office (which yesterday had only a ten year old copy, dating back to the days of Mr. Pomar's time as City Manager)?Why are thirteen different (13) offices doing purchasing and keeping purchasing records?Do we need an Inspector General to root out misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance in City purchasing?Do we need IG investigators and auditors as a check on the City Manager's power?What do our City Attorney's and City Manager's offices have to hide with their hostile hauteur directed against inquiring citizens?It's our money. P.S. The next day, April 27, we went back to the purchasing office to begin examination of purchasing records. The staff was polite and records requested were being provided. The difference was that City of St. Augustine City Attorney JAMES PATRICK WILSON was not in the room. As poet Robert Frost would say, "and that has made all the difference."
Estimable City Attorney JAMES PATRICK WILSON Is No Gentleman, A Bad Example for Citizens and Visitors in Our City of St. Augustine
The man who spent ten years perpetrating St. George Street artist exclusion laws (resulting in First Amendment violations); who advised against flying Rainbow flags on the Bridge of Lions (resulting in a finding of First Amendment violations); and who justifies anything any developer ever wants to do is CITY MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRIS' right-hand clone, JAMES PATRICK WILSON. Today, JAMES PATRICK WILSON came to the City of St. Augustine Purchasing Office in response to routine requests to view documents on asphalt, automobile and vehicle, attorney, engineer, environmental and other consulting work contracting (and shade meetings). City of St. Augustine CITY ATTORNEY JAMES PATRICK WILSON was decidely unpleasant, yelling, insulting, bordering dangerously on assault and battery and false arrest, when two citizens went to view records on purchasing practices. WILSON demanded we list all the documents we wanted to see. He provided none of them, demanding we leave and come back later upon threat of "arrest." One man tried to snatch away a ten-year-0ld Purchasing Manual (not the current version) before we had finished reading it. The lady who took our request refused to shake my hand (as WILSON refused last year). After we had left the office, WILSON then stormed down the hallway after us. He was yelling. We were in the elevator, the doors closing, closing closed. Then WILSON pushed the elevator button, forcing us to endure his continuing tirade. I thought that WILSON wanted to hit me and was grateful to have a witness. WILSON was trying to continue an argument he had started earlier. We will be back. If it takes United States Marshals to compel the City of St. Augustine to obey the law (as in the 1960s), what Dr. King called "the most lawless city in America" will start to treat citizens with respect instead of disdain, derision and derogatory language. We need a City government that protects people, instead of developers and contractors.
The "five crises of nation-building" are identity, legitimacy, penetration, participation and distribution.We face those five crises in Iraq.We face them in America.We even face them here in St. Augustine, the only city I can think of (other than NYC and Miami) that thinks it has a foreign policy. St. Augustine is insecure as to its identity. Its government lacks legitimacy. Its government cannot penetrate (cannot make its will be done when developers are concerned, even on a 3000-4000 year old archeological site, with work contracted out to private archeologists). Its government does not welcome participation but discourages it, even ordering a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) upon filing of Dr. Hines' open records lawsuit, seeking to discourage such litigation by citizens. The benefits of citizenship are poorly distributed, with city burghers unwilling to discuss a Living Wage ordinance.Next time anyone condemns a Third World country like Iraq for lacking progress, remember the City of St. Augustine. Founded in 1565 (the same year that Ivan the Terrible founded the forerunner of the KGB), St. Augustine must be more democratic. Let's clean up the City of St. Augustine, Florida.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Dr. King said St. Augustine was "the most lawless" city in America, as first reported by John Herbers in the New York Times on June 6, 1964. On April 24, 2006, St. Augustine City Commissioner Joseph Boles, a lawyer, moved to seek to force a citizen to pay the City's attorney fees for what he termed a "frivolous lawsuit" to "make sure we don't encourage these kinds of lawsuits. Commissioners did not discuss the nature of the lawsuit. The case, brought pro se by Dr. Dwight Hines, Ph.D., a retired Jacksonville University professor, seeks to order the City's mandatory compliance with records laws, sometimes called "Sunsine laws." The text of Dr. Hines' lawsuit may be read by scrolling to the bottom of the blog and clicking on the first comment. As the formerly reform City Commissioners prove to be authoritarian, hierarchical facsimiles of their predecessors, they rush to justify the actions of City-Manager-for-Life WILLIAM B. HARRISS. Last night's vote is an act of defiance and ugliness. The fact that all Commissioners went along with Commissioner Boles' amendment shows conscious parallelism -- it's the Commissioners against the public interest. As they have no excuse for police abuses that resulted in a man being left a quadriplegic -- or 20,000 cubic yards of contaminants dumped in the old City reservoir -- they show themselves to be hostile to the culture of life. They represent a cult of personality, death, secrecy and unaccountability. Whether polluting our land and water or rubberstamping the City Manager (and developers' plans to destroy the beauty and archeological integrity of the Red House Bluff), their ukases never cease to amaze. Several of them ran for election using the word "rubberstamp." They have become what they decried. The new boss is the same as the old boss -- Mr. Harriss, coronated without competition on April 13, 1998.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Is our City doing enough to promote the arts? Where are the the displays of local art in City Hall? Where is our City government's heart? Arresting a 79 year old woman for painting on St. George Street? Adopting TOSGSAAESO (see below)? Breaking Commissioner's word to restore the artists and entertainers to St. George Street? This is unacceptable. We can do better.