Friday, July 28, 2006

E-mail to Bill Pence, Akerman Senterfitt (City's defense lawyer in illegal dumping case, wearing hat below)

Dear Mr. Pence:
Still have not heard back from you on St. Augustine's illegal dumping. John Regan told me in March that you would answer questions. Is the costumed photo at the url above of you? Of what materials is your costume constructed? Who made it? Do you still own and wear it?
Did you advise the City of St. Augustine to dump the entire contents of the old illegal city landfill into the Old City Reservoir? Did you advise the City not to do so?
Is that why you're remaining silent?
Do your law partners and family know about what happened here and why?
Have you notified your malpractice insurance carrier?
Does the City Manager have a criminal defense lawyer?
Thank you.
With kindest regards,
Ed Slavin

City Deadline Extended on Illegal Dumping Response

The City of St. Augustine's time to respond to FDEP's expressed dissatisfaction with oru City's flummery and dupery has been extended until August 8, 2006. FDEP has rejected St. Augustine's claim that the illegal dumping was "de minimis," along with St. Augustine's sampling plan, failure to remove the contaminants and failure to address its water pollution. Another expensive stay by City of St. Augustine counsel Bill Pence at the Casa Monica is in order, with tapxyaers paying for it. Meanwhile, the FDEP's criminal investigation of St. Augustine's illegal dumping continues.

Is democracy dying in St. Augustine, Florida?

On August 14, 2006, City of St. Augustine Commissioners will discuss taking away citizens' rights to elect our Mayor, by referendum.

As Henry Kissinger once responded to a bad football call by standing up and exclaiming, "on vot theory?"

Come speak out at the City Commission at 5 PM at the Lightner Museum and City Hall, 75 King Street. Fill out a speaker card. Democracy cannot a spectator sport any longer.

The measure is opposed by Mayor George Gardner but supported by several other Commissioners unlikely to be elected Mayor. Are they effete and insensitive elitists who think the gavel belongs in front of them? Do they think the people of our City are as unenlightened as those who burned the Declaration of Independence here in 1776 (along with effigies of John Hancock and John Adams)?

Are the developers, herders and controllers responding to the election of the putative reformer, George Gardner, in hopes of preventing a reformer from ever becoming Mayor again?

What do you think? Speak out.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Letter: St. Augustine guilty of pollution crimes?

Letter: St. Augustine guilty of pollution crimes?

Edwin L. Bricker; Olympia, Washington
Publication Date: 07/06/06

Editor: As a long-time environmental regulator for the state of Washington, I know from viewing Florida Department of Environmental Protection photographs that the city of St. Augustine and its officials possibly could be prosecuted for environmental crimes.

City managers must take personal responsibility.

It is mind-boggling to imagine what city officials were thinking when they took the contents of St. Augustine's old illegal dump and deposited it into the Old City Reservoir.

They owe you answers.

Ed Slavin represented me in my whistle-blower cases against two Department of Energy contractors, Westinghouse Hanford Company and Rockwell International. They involved retaliation against me for reporting nuclear safety concerns at the Hanford, Wash., nuclear weapons plants; the world's largest and dirtiest polluted site.

I worked undercover for Congressman John Dingell and was profiled in Ralph Nader's 1997 book, "No Contest."

Our Founding Fathers pledged "our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" for liberty. I am grateful for Ed Slavin's work in my community and in yours.

If Ed had not reported the city of St. Augustine's immoral, illegal pollution, there is no telling how much damage might have been done to your aquifer and groundwater.

I hope that the good people of St. Augustine will rise up in righteous wrath, working to change their government to protect your beautiful environment.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Letter: End tyranny, waste in our Oldest City

Letter: End tyranny, waste in our Oldest City

David Brian Wallace
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 07/04/06

Editor: I strongly agree with Ed Slavin's June 25 column, "St. Augustine: We can make it much better."

Congratulations to The Record for its recent journalism prizes, particularly reporter Kati Bexley's investigative story on the New York City junket by five commissioners, the city manager and their spouses and significant others.

Our city of St. Augustine has so much to be proud of ñ our people, nature, beauty, schools, music, art, culture, scholars and history.

It's a tragedy that our city government so poorly serves our city's people. It discriminate against African-Americans and gays, while refusing to discuss a Living Wage Ordinance. It rubber-stamps sweetheart contracts and wastes money on junkets to New York City, Germany and Spain.

Since I moved to St. Augustine, I've noticed apathy is ending. It's about time.

A bit of our city's soul died earlier this year when our city manager and his cronies polluted our Old City Reservoir with the contents of the old illegal city landfill.

Ed Slavin blew the whistle on the pollution, reporting it to the U.S. government's National Response Center; which referred it to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; which began a criminal investigation.

I've known Ed Slavin for 17 years. In 1983, as a young weekly newspaper editor, Ed obtained the Department of Energy's declassification of the world's largest mercury pollution event in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Ed has helped reform the nuclear weapons complex and other tyrannies, holding governments and corporations accountable and investigating abuses of power for three decades.

Ed has rightly been speaking out on St. Augustine city government issues.

We must protect the rights of our citizens and government employees and end the tyranny and waste at City Hall.

As Ed said in this column, we get to "overthrow" our city government "every two years."

Register and vote.

See www.cleanupcityof

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© The St. Augustine Record

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

St. Augustinians Rightfully Expect A LOT From Our City Government -- Listening, Openness and Thought (LOT):

As St. Augustine Record columnist Peter Guinta wrote in Editor & Publisher magazine, this is a "small but cosmopolitan city." Our City has all of the colors of the Rainbow and we celebrate our diversity. We love St. Augustine "thattaway," whether we're born here or moved here.

Our City government must be made more responsive to our diverse citizenry and its reasonable expectations of fairness.

230 years ago, our American Founders dedicated their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the cause of Liberty. Those values have been neglected by City leaders who are indifferent to public opinion and wasteful of public funds.

Our City has taken too many major actions without adequate planning and thought. We have a right to expect a LOT from our government -- Listening, Openness and Thought (LOT). Instead, Commissioners don't listen well, our government lacks openness and our leaders are lacking in thoughtfulness. Every neighborhood has seemingly shared the same experience -- citizens too often being treated disrespectfully by their City Commissioners whenever citizens speak out on neighborhood concerns. Commissioners have been noticed rolling their eyes and looking at their watches while they prevent citizens from sharing facts to counter developers and even frustrating the use of photos and videotapes on the City-controlled cable TV broadcasts.

Our 440 year old City's government has grown too big for its britches. City officials are too often cynical and TIRED, full of Timidity, Irritability, Rejection, Excuses and Delays (TIRED).

St. Augustine needs fresh ideas and a new start.

Faster than a speeding developer's dump truck, our Ancient City is losing its character. Are we losing our right to enjoy our City's peaceful, quiet beauty?

As several Commissioners said in the past, as candidates, our Commission is a "rubberstamp." Is our Nation's Oldest City's future decided in secret?

Is our City's future t-shirts and chain stores in our historic downtown? Can the future of St. Augustine be made nobler and more faithful to peoples' traditions and small town values (learning from the example of Colonial Williamsburg)?

St. Augustine stands at a crossroads. Please see below.

21 Ideas for Putting People First in St. Augustine, Florida in the 21st Century:

Will our government of our City of St. Augustine start to "put people first?" Will citizens be represented on our City Commission? Shall our City "put people first" by:
1. Listening: Listening to citizen concerns, learning from citizens' experience and concerns, and protecting citizens from possibility of City government waste, fraud, mismanagement, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance or abuse of power?

2. Halt Wasteful Spending: Instituting zero-based budgeting (ZBB), with an eye toward restraining wasteful City spending on White Elephants and Junkets (WEJ)(like parking garage, NYC and European trips) and Overpriced Objects and Commodities (OOC)(like buying gasoline on the spot market based on telephone price quotes, not long-term contracts)?

3. Information Transparency: Securing your "right to know" about City government, including an Online Reading Room for all documents given to Commissioners (as the County has)?

4. Truly Open Meetings and Transparency (TOMAP): Providing at least one annual Town Listening Meeting, while establishing a fully functioning City website that includes City documents and on-demand "streaming video" access to City meetings, 24/7?

5. Protecting our Environment: Stopping our City's long-secret illegal dumping, holding managers accountable and conserving our trees, quiet streets, waterways and precious cultural, historic and environmental heritage while increasing City recycling, energy conservation, use of alternative fuels, walkability, bicycling, disabled access and sports venues?

6. Worker Protection: Protecting workers' ability to live where they work?

7. Saving on Utilities, Energy and Other Variable Costs: Investigating possible ways of saving our City and residents tax dollars and extending the savings to residents as well.

8. Solving Health Care Crisis: Investigating the possibility of single payor health insurance for all residents of our city and county, as Cape Cod (Barnstable County, Massachusetts) is considering? Our county's high infant mortality rate amidst great wealth and great poverty requires action.

9. Encourage Environmental Parks, Bicycling and Walkways: Consider adding more all-walking streets -- helping encourage higher paying jobs and, prosperity for small businesses, families, artists, musicians, historic re-enactors, entertainers and vendors?

10. Protecting the Middle Class and Working to Solve Poverty: Raising labor standards and helping workers afford to live where they work, while working to help homeowners keep and repair their homes by obtaining federal community development grants and working to assure affordable housing?

11. Preserving History: Preserving our Ancient City's Native American, Spanish, British, American and nautical history and culture: How do we stop creeping ugliness and destruction of historic and scenic values and burial sites and water pollution?

12. Hurricane Preparedness: Working to improve flood control while enhancing emergency preparedness for hurricanes and other disasters (especially including disabled, senior citizens, students and low-income people)?

13. Creating Greenbelts, Greenspace and an Emerald Necklack of Parks, Managing Growth and Halting Careening, Out-of-Control Ugliness: Can our City do a better job protecting the quality of life and our neighborhoods from speeding trucks, toxic hazards, noise, ugly condo buildings, McMansions, speculators and overdevelopers(a/k/a "flippers")?

14. Protecting Human Rights: Protecting civil and human rights in housing, education, employment, public accommodations, law enforcement and government services, assuring full disabled access to our City, ending de facto discrimination and the "glass ceiling" in City government hiring/ promotion/employment, and assuring balanced memberships on City boards and commissions and fair employment practices?

15. Reconciliation: Healing divisions and honoring our City's historic civil rights pioneers (and hate crime victims) by promoting reconciliation and brotherhood and equality, with discussion of appointment of a Reconciliation Commission and discussion with West Augustine residents of annexation and apologizing for historic wrongs by our City?

16. Employee Free Speech Rights Protection: Guaranteeing protection for all city employees' rights to do their jobs without fear or favor by protecting whistleblower and free speech rights?

17. City Commission Accountability: Providing for annual performance appraisals for City Manager and other municipal managers and supervisors and considering changes to City Charter?

18. Open City Manager Selection Process: Increasing oversight and limiting powers of City Managers and providing for open selection process and search committee for selection of next City Manager, City Attorney and other top positions?

19. Citizen Oversight: Appointing an independent Inspector General, Ombuds (citizen advocate) and Law Enforcement Review Board - all reporting directly to City Commissioners to help eliminate waste and lawsuits?

20. Community of Scholars and Artists (COSA): Increasing public display of artists' work in present and planned public buildings, remove barriers to artists performing, e.g., redressing the St. George Street artist, musician and entertainer ordinance and working to ease "Town vs. Gown" tensions with Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and Flagler College, while helping St. Augustine build upon its reputation as a community of scholars and artists?

21. WIFI Network: Investigating the possibility of a Wireless Internet (WIFI) network for our City, helping grow small business and tourists and encouraging students using the Internet, reducing costs of communicating for our City, our employees and our citizens, building on St. Augustine's growing reputation as a community of scholars and a place of learning? (New Smyrna Beach, Florida and many other cities have done it.)

As JFK said, "a rising tide lifts all boats." I would greatly appreciate hearing your thoughts on these 21 ideas for the 21st century in St. Augustine.

What do you think?

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

Column in St. Augustine Record, June 25, 2006

St. Augustine: We can make it much better

By Ed Slavin
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 06/25/06

In Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 1983 and in St. Augustine, Fla., in 2006, the stories were similar. In Oak Ridge, nuclear installations perpetrated the largest mercury pollution event in world history -- 4.2 million pounds, declassified on May 17, 1983.

In 2006, our city of St. Augustine polluted our Old City Reservoir, where people bass-fished and swam for decades. Violating St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) orders -- dumping even after criminal investigators arrived Feb. 27.

Former EPA Regional Administrator John Hankinson calls the city's coquina lake "an open sore straight down to the aquifer/groundwater."

Current City Commissioners ran as reformers, promising not to "rubber-stamp" City Manager William Harriss. Now they're on his team, junketing to NYC, Spain and Germany.

Amid a criminal investigation, commissioners in March presented Harriss an award, expressing "confidence", later terming dumping a "mistake."

Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) photos show bedsprings, tanks, old refrigerators, pipes, electrical cable, toilets, metal, plastic, asphalt -- 20,000-cubic-yards of unpermitted contaminants from our city's old illegal dump on Riberia Street -- dumped in water.

That's enough to fill in six Olympic size swimming pools six-feet-deep (or cover a football field 11.2 feet).

On Feb. 24, Mayor George Gardner told me that he was told that the dumping was "clean fill." Even if that were true, it would have been illegal, violating SJRWMD's orders. Furthermore, "there are no bedsprings in clean fill," as retired EPA regulator John Marler says.

Our city's secrecy and 20,000-cubic-yards of unpermitted water pollution symbolizes a crisis of spirit.

Just how secretive?

Our city refuses to web-post commission agenda-packet documents on its Web site, unpersuasively claiming it's "too expensive." What dupery and flummery. St. Johns County Commissioners and SJRWMD web-post such documents. Congress and legislature web-post bills/reports.

Our city is too secretive. We need government watchdogs.

That's why SJRWMD, Miami-Dade County, state and federal agencies all have independent inspectors general. Our city and county need them, too. We need open national searches for the next city manager (with annual performance evaluations).

What other reforms should we consider?

Let's protect employees against retaliation, protecting the flow of information. Let's investigate our city's $45 million budget. Let's remedy its lack of planning. Let's reform purchasing. We need more competitive bidding and energy conservation. Can we start buying gasoline intelligently; by long-term contract (not spot market phone quotes)?

Can we use hybrid vehicles and recycled cooking oil fuels instead of diesel (like SJC)? Can we use GPS monitoring for vehicles?

Time-Warner cable TV's city franchise expired in 2004. Can we seek better deals, including wireless internet (WiFi) to attract sophisticated visitors and small businesses? City Commissioners voted a questionable new 10-year lease, ignoring public hearing witnesses -- every single one of whom testified against Time Warner.

Traffic snarls our city. Time to discuss trolley cars, as in 1920s? Our city gets only about $50,000 in federal grants annually; it missed the deadline for a $1 million state grant to fix City Hall/Lightner's roof. Can we do better to preserve history and promote heritage tourism?

Commissioners voted for stripmall/condos north of SAHS, preserving only part of a 3,000- to 4,000-year-old archaeological site. The developer-consultant's archeology report wasn't first provided to government archeologists.

Let's preserve 10,000 years of history with an emerald necklace of parks.

JFK said, "a rising tide lifts all boats." Let's help create good jobs; raising living standards. Let's consider a Living Wage ordinance, like other Florida jurisdictions.

Let's respect/protect diversity and human rights/lives with equality/ fairness in hiring/services and disaster planning -- including evacuation help and pet-friendly shelters.

America was founded to put people first. "We the people" are sovereign. We deserve "government of the people, by the people and for the people," in Lincoln's words.

Ask questions. Demand answers. Expect democracy. See

Think globally, act locally.

Help change history right here in our Nation's Oldest City. Let's elect reformers (and watchdog them).

St. Augustinians get to overthrow our government every two years.

(Slavin is a former practicing attorney and a frequent and outspoken critic of city policies and politics).

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