Monday, May 09, 2011

City of St. Augustine Turning Over A New Leaf

Joy comes in the morning, the scripture says. Saturday morning brought joy -- great news about our environment and our historic Lincolnville community. See below. Where once there was an illegal city dump, there will soon be a ten acre park.
Thomas Jefferson’s’ favorite spot in America is at the confluence of two rivers in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.
Here in St. Augustine, the spot where two rivers converge was long an illegal dumpsite. Now it has been capped and protected with the remains of the temporary Bridge of Lions. This is resourceful and efficient.
On this spot, tourists will one day enjoy the view of two rivers.
On this spot, there may soon be a solar energy farm, providing power to the sewage treatment plant, cutting our City’s massive power bill to FP&L, and moving toward renewable energy and carbon neutrality.
Once upon a time in America, our City of St. Augustine, Florida once had putative City Managers and putative leaders who did not give a fig for our environment or our civil rights. The people, in their righteous wrath, stood up to them. I was proud to be a part of that movement from the first time I attended a City Commission meeting, in April 2005. I told then-Commissioners they were systematically violating the Fifteenth Amendment with their reflexive annexations of all-white areas at the behest of developers, while refusing to annex West Augustine areas lacking water and sewer utilities (as documented by Jeremy Dean’s film, “Dare Not Walk Alone.”) The response was hostility, with WILLIAM B. HARRISS, our then-City Manager, telling me “I could have you arrested for disorderly conduct.”) HARRISS was an ethically impaired City Manager with no class – a developer driven tinpot Napoleon. HARRISS is not missed.
Our City has learned from HARRISS’ Environmental Racism and habitual violations of the First Amendment and Civil Rights. Our City has learned from the experience of illegal dumping and tens of thousands of dollars fines from our Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Our City has learned that the people are watching and that “here, sir, the people govern,” in Alexander Hamilton’s words.
Our City is now working to heal the ancient wounds of Jim Crow segregation which still hurt.
Now we have a City Manager (John Regan) and City leaders Mayor Joseph Boles, Vice Mayor Leeana Freeman and Commissioners Errol Jones, Nancy Sikes-Kline and William Leary) who are committed to protecting and advancing both our environment and civil rights.
Now we are in a time of healing.
Riberia Street is being paved, drained, sidewalked and bulkheaded for the first time ever.
Our Slave Market Square will soon have two civil rights monuments.
Our City is no longer dumping on Lincolnville and West Augustine.
Six cheers!
Now is the time to work together for the St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore, and the National Civil Rights Museum.
Our grandchildren -- and their grandchildren -- will thank us.

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