Monday, June 13, 2011

Obama Administration Needs to Stand Up for Environment, Support St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway Act

The New York Times supports former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt's criticism of "President Obama’s failure to mount a persuasive counterattack to the Republicans’ 'radical' assault on the country’s environmental safeguards amounts to a 'form of appeasement.'...Mr. Babbitt’s main complaint involved Mr. Obama’s failure to do more to conserve open space and protect sensitive areas threatened by imminent development.”
I agree.
I can think of no better way to stand up for environment than to support our St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore, Scenic Coastal Parkway, Civil Rights Museum and Indigenous Native American Cultural Center.
Now is the time. See below.

New York Times Editorial (June 13, 2011)

Mr. Babbitt’s Protest

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt declared in a speech last week that President Obama’s failure to mount a persuasive counterattack to the Republicans’ “radical” assault on the country’s environmental safeguards amounts to a “form of appeasement.”

It is rare for someone of Mr. Babbitt’s stature to use such caustic language about a sitting president from his own party. But he was reflecting growing concern — which we share — that the president and his top aides have decided for political reasons to back away from the fight. In recent months the White House has been far too quiet on the problem of climate change, and its once-promising efforts to regulate industrial pollution, toxic coal ash and mountaintop mining are flagging.

Mr. Babbitt’s main complaint involved Mr. Obama’s failure to do more to conserve open space and protect sensitive areas threatened by imminent development. He was particularly dismayed by the White House’s acceptance of a Republican budget rider — pushed by the oil and gas industry — undercutting the Interior Department’s authority to identify and set aside valuable public lands for future designation as permanent wilderness.

Mr. Babbitt said Mr. Obama still represented “the best, and likely only, hope for meaningful progress” on energy and the environment, and we must hope, as he does, that the president’s temporizing is merely temporary. Even bigger fights lie ahead. The administration has proposed to limit power plant emissions of toxic pollutants like mercury and impose new rules governing power plant emissions of greenhouse gases. Any retreat from these pledges would be disastrous.

Mr. Babbitt also said President Obama should emulate President Bill Clinton, Mr. Babbitt’s old boss, who faced similar opposition after the 1994 Republican revolution but came roaring back. After wavering for a while, he seized the lead on conservation issues and threatened to veto all anti-environmental legislation. The public supported him; the Republicans retreated. It is sound advice.

St. Augustine Record Editorial:

Our view: City's 450th -- What's the best gift?


As we listened in Wednesday on a discussion by local officials with a senior National Park Service administrator to plan the first meeting of St. Augustine's 450th Commemoration Commission, reality sunk in.

As we listened in Wednesday on a discussion by local officials with a senior National Park Service administrator to plan the first meeting of St. Augustine's 450th Commemoration Commission, reality sunk in.

Our birthday celebration is really going to happen and a federal commission will help us celebrate in style.

A group of fine leaders in history, corporate America and fundraising are on the commission and ready to go. Soon we will be hearing about a date for that commission's first meeting.

Mayor Joe Boles affirmed Wednesday the goal in his message to David Vela, regional director, for the National Park Service's southeastern office, Atlanta. Community events should be the foundation and supported by the federal commission of which Boles is a member.

No doubt, we all will hear that message again and again.

Gordie Wilson, superintendent of the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas, also a federal commission member, summed it up in birthday terms. The commission should ask the community, What do you want for your birthday? Makes sense to us. Isn't the gift question the first we get asked as our own big day nears?

We saw outcomes being thought of around the room and Vela said they ranged from the celebration itself and the fundraising and friend-raising that the commission will be involved in, to the lasting impact after the party is over.

Heads nodded at his comment.

So how big should the gift be?

Bob Harper, executive director of the Lightner Museum, offered us good insight. His image of major gifts is drawn from 50 years ago. Out of the 400th birthday we got The St. Augustine Amphitheatre and the Great Cross at the Mission of Nombre de Dios.

So let's set our sights on a birthday celebration and think big when it comes to the gifts. What do you want for your birthday?

What do you want the community to look at 25-50 years from now as 450th birthday presents?

Send us your wish lists.

St. Augustine Record Letter: Letter: All-embracing 'park' -- best gift for the 450th

Letter: All-embracing 'park' -- best gift for the 450th
Created 05/27/2011 - 12:00am

Editor: Ken Burns' 2009 PBS documentary quoted Wallace Stegner, who called America's National Parks our "Best Idea."

Editor: Ken Burns' 2009 PBS documentary quoted Wallace Stegner, who called America's National Parks our "Best Idea."

For our 450th birthday, let's ask for an "emerald necklace of parks" -- St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway, with a National Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Indigenous Native Americans.

The land is already ours -- federal, state and water management district land. Let's preserve and protect more than 130,000 acres of land, in one national park and seashore, connected with trails and battery-powered trolleys.

Take the Castillo de San Marcos, Fort Matanzas, add water (county beaches, including the beach where civil rights wade-ins and arrests occurred). Add state parks, forests and water management district land in two counties and what do you have? St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore, which will capture the imagination, reconnect us with our history and nature, preserve wetlands and prevent erosion, while preserving endangered and threatened species.

A 2003 National Trust for Historic Preservation study found environmental and historic tourists spent more money -- good to grow our tourist-driven economy.

Our 450th birthday is a "teachable moment": the National Park Service will share and interpret St. Augustine's 11,000 years of history, including indigenous (Native-American), African-American, Spanish, French, Minorcan, Greek, Cuban, Haitian, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, British, American, Civil War, military, nautical, Flagler-era and Civil Rights history and Northeast Florida's contribution to American history.

Finally, we need an Interstate-95 interchange for West Augustine and West King Street -- call it the "here we right a wrong" interchange, remedying 1960s discrimination.

We love St. Augustine. We're blessed to live here.

Let's preserve and protect St. Augustine forever. Your grandchildren (and their grandchildren) will say "thank you" for the 450th birthday present -- parks, preservation and teaching peaceful ways, while fully realizing this economic opportunity for our collective good.

Ed Slavin

St. Augustine

St. Augustine Underground: We Need A St. Augustine National Park, Seashore and Civil Rights Museum

From the January 1, 2011 issue of St. Augustine Underground (published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which also publishes the Ponte Vedra Recorder and Clay Today):

St. Augustine’s History is A National treasure -- The time has come to bring out the big guns and protect our nationally important local heritage with the creation of The St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Coastal Parkway.

By Ed Slavin

A famous journalism professor said
that “if you’re going to tell a
story about a bear, bring on the
Here’s how to protect St. Johns
County’s bears – and other endangered
and threatened species – while growing
our economy and making life better for
your grandchildren (and their grandchildren).
2011 is critical to reviving our local
economy, creating jobs and preserving
our city’s and our county’s environment
and history.
How do we revive our depressed local
tourist economy? How do we get “out
of the ditch,” which Wall Street and
local speculators created?
By persuading Congress to enact a
St. Augustine National Historical Park,
Seashore and Coastal Parkway.
Let’s donate 13 large tracts: the
Florida Department of Environmental
Protection’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas
National Estuarine Research Reserve,
Anastasia State Park, Faver-Dykes
State Park and Fort Mosé State Park;
Florida Department of Agriculture’s
Deep Creek State Forest and Watson
Island State Forest; St. Johns County
beaches and the Nocatee Preserve; and
St. Johns River Water Management
District ‘s Twelve Mile Swamp, Deep
Creek, Matanzas Marsh, Moses Creek
and Stokes Landing preserves.
Let’s donate them to the federal government
for the St. Augustine National
Historical Park and Seashore. These
vast tracts of government-owned land
are suitable for a National Park and
Seashore – more than 120,000 acres.
In Woodie Guthrie’s words, “This land
is our land” already – it is our county
beaches, state parks and forests and
water management district land. Combined
with the Castillo de San Marcos
and Fort Matanzas, this land will make
one glorious National Park and Seashore,
making us all proud and properly
celebrating St. Augustine’s 450th
birthday (2015) and Spanish Florida’s
500th (2013).
Donating the land can save more than
$33 million over 10 years for state and
local governments; revive our economy;
create better-paying jobs with real
futures; protect our historic and environmental
heritage; teach our children
about history, beauty and nature; better
preserve our beaches; protect homes
from erosion; raise our property values;
and protect wildlife.
Let’s put people to work and draw
environmental and historic tourists,
who National Trust for Historic Preservation
and other studies say spend
more and visit longer, putting more
proverbial “heads in beds.” How? By
empowering our National Park Service
– America’s favorite federal agency. Ken
Burns’ PBS documentary rightly called
our National Parks “America’s Best
Idea.” We need one here.
Let’s teach history and nature to
future generations with a National Civil
Rights museum here in St. Augustine
and by celebrating all our history
-- 11,000 years of indigenous Native
American, African-American, Spanish,
Minorcan, French, English, Civil War,
Roman Catholic, Greek, Jewish, Protestant,
nautical, military, Flagler-era and
Civil Rights history.
Let’s preserve our endangered and
threatened species -- including right
whales (only 350 left, reportedly the
most endangered whales on the planet)
-- as well as turtles, bears, bald eagles,
manatees, beach mice and butterflies.
This Park and Seashore will rival Cape
Cod National Seashore, the Everglades,
Philadelphia and other tourist “hot
spots,” giving teachers and parents
tools to teach children lessons that will
keep them coming back for life.
Our state’s economy has suffered so
much since the Deepwater Horizon
disaster. We look to British Petroleum
to pay for it all as part of its economic
and environmental remediation to the
State of Florida.
The first step is for our governor and
legislature to agree to donate this land
to the federal government for one “public
park or pleasuring ground for the
benefit and enjoyment of the people,”
as Congress said in 1872 in creating
Yellowstone National Park.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
1. Will this park legislation violate
private property rights? No. The draft
legislation provides for donations of
government lands and donations or
sales from willing sellers. Condemnation
lawsuits are authorized only to
“preserve [historic buildings and land]
from destruction.”
2. How would the park affect local
businesses, tourist attractions and
churches? Very positively. Historic and
environmental tourists spend more and
stay longer, studies show. This will create
more good-paying jobs, in the Park
Service, kayaking, tour-guide
companies, restaurants, hotels
and guest houses. There’s
a list of tourist attractions
and places of worship in the
legislation that the National
Park Service could assist with
historic interpretation. It
includes churches where Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev.
Andrew Young spoke, working with
local residents to create our 1964 Civil
Rights Act.
3. Will this legislation take over the
government of the City of St. Augustine?
No. But St. Augustine can donate
a few parks to the cause. Our city needs
help and cannot handle the 450th celebration
alone. A greater National Park
Service presence here will help better
guide and orient millions of visitors.
The Park will help make our city a
better place – just ask the residents of
Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras.
4. What positive changes will creation
of a St. Augustine National Park and
Seashore make?
A. Increase property values and local
tax collections. Property values
increase near National Parks and Seashores.
Bed tax and sales tax receipts
will increase.
B. Grow our economy. Our local
economy is stagnant. The National
Park Service will help get us out of the
C. Reduce spending by our state, local
and water management district government
– savings of $33 million over ten
D. Increase the quality of tourism
marketing -- greatly simplified by combining
all this land into one National
E. Improve the quality of historic and
environmental interpretation, preservation
and protection. Right now, tourists
learn very little about our African-
American and Civil Rights history, for
example, or the heroic history of the
Minorcans and other immigrants to our
shores, or the endangered species that
make this area a paradise. The National
Park Service is experienced at protecting
nature and interpreting history
while stimulating tourism. A National
Civil Rights museum here in St. Augustine
will attract more school groups
and minority tourists – Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. is known world-wide
and his legacy here will attract tourists.
5. How will this affect historic reenactors?
Good jobs await them at the
National Park Service.
6. Is this legislation family-friendly?
Yes. Residents and tourists will thank
you for creating a wholesome place to
take children where they learn about
history and our environment, with a
classroom that is as big as all outdoors,
embracing 11,000 years of human history
on these shores.
7. How will this affect beach driving?
The legislation does not address
it, either way. Elsewhere, as in Cape
Cod, residents are licensed to drive on
National Park Service beaches after
proper training and can take tourists on
beach tours.
8. Is there a potential downside?
One. Proper transportation planning
is required to avoid congestion. The
draft bill requires a plan for “cost-effective,
sustainable, carbon-neutral,
environmentally-friendly means of
transporting visitors and residents to
and through the park’s locations, using
trolley cars resembling those in use in
St. Augustine, Florida, in 1928, with
the goal of reducing hydrocarbon consumption,
traffic congestion, air pollution
and damage to historic structures.”
9. When was the National Park idea
first proposed? Some 70 years ago,
before World War II.
10. What are we waiting for? You tell
Will you please help us celebrate
11,000 years of history and protect
what deserves protecting forever inviolate?
Will you please share your suggestions
about how to improve the first
draft of the legislation? Let us work together
to accomplish something we can
all be proud of for future generations
yet unborn who will say, “thank you.”
Please see

St. Augustine activist Ed Slavin
(B.S.F.S., Georgetown University, J.D.
Memphis State University) first proposed
the St. Augustine National Park and
Seashore Nov. 13, 2006.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Atlanta Magazine: Andrew Young recalls beating, pivotal summer in riveting 'Crossing in Saint Augustine'

Posted 4/16/2010 11:18:00 AM Crossing in Saint Augustine" director CB Hackworth had one question for Andrew Young after watching the raw, recently unearthed footage of the civil rights icon being beaten by Klansmen 45 years ago.

I asked him, 'Why do you ever talk to white people at all?' " Hackworth recalled to Intel Friday morning.

"He just told me, 'I don't live in the past. There's plenty to work on right now.' "

As painful as it is to watch the future United Nations ambassador and Atlanta mayor being beaten, knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked, Young recognizes the importance of getting the story of that hot summer in 1964 in Saint Augustine, Florida out there.

The two-hour documentary will have its Atlanta premiere Friday afternoon at 4:15 as part of the Atlanta Film Festival at the Landmark Theatre in Midtown.

Young will oversee a post-screening panel discussion.

In what is perhaps his most deeply personal documentary, Young returns to Saint Augustine to chronicle that forgotten but pivotal intersection of the civil rights movement in the summer of 1964.

"Crossing St. Augustine" is a fascinating, three-dimensional and frightening account of how Young, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and an unbowed group of blacks and whites working together made history in Washington D.C. by crossing a Klan-lined street and requesting a cup of coffee in Florida.

But Dr. King had not sent Young to Florida to be beaten. Quite the opposite. With the Civil Rights Bill being filibustered in Congress, King had sent his aide to use his negotiating skills "to cool things off."

As Young recalls in the film: "By the grace of God, I failed."

In one of the doc's more comical moments, Young remembers walking into a Baptist Church on the night of June 9, 1964 to be greeted by fellow King aide Hosea Williams whipping the crowd into a frenzy, inspiring them to march toward the small army of Klansmen who had been deputized by the local sheriff.

"Hosea had gone rogue," Young recalls in the film.

Even as they approached King and St. George streets, Young was convinced he could reason with the mob.

Until he found himself dazed and on the ground.

Young had never seen the footage of his beating until 2006 when St. Augustine filmmaker Jeremy Dean showed him the frames that would become the centerpiece of his doc, "Dare Not Walk Alone."

"I had never seen how I got stomped," Young recalls in "Crossing."

"And then I got mad."

Things in Saint Augustine finally boiled over when black and white protesters together attempted to integrate the swimming pool at the Monson Motor Lodge and the motel's owner James Brock went berserk, throwing acid-containing pool cleaner on the movement members.

When photos of the incident hit President Lyndon Johnson's desk, the momentum to get the Civil Rights Act passed became overwhelming.

Even now, "Crossing Saint Augustine" is helping to inspire change in the Florida city that remains largely segregated.

"City leaders now see the need to acknowledge their role in history," Hackworth says. "Through this film, we're hoping for a modern-day happy ending. A happy ending 45 years overdue."

Louisiana's News Channel: Akerman Senterfitt Press Release About Impact of " The Most Sweeping Changes in a Generation, New Approach to Development

Real Estate Leaders Explore Transformation of Florida's Growth Management Laws

Information contained on this page is provided by companies via press release distributed through PR Newswire, an independent third-party content provider. PR Newswire, WorldNow and this Station make no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

SOURCE Akerman Senterfitt

The Most Sweeping Changes in a Generation Open a New Approach to Land Development in Florida

ORLANDO, Fla., June 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 250 real estate industry executives gathered today for an event hosted by Akerman Senterfitt and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to discuss changes to Florida's new Community Planning Act. Recently, the Florida Legislature passed sweeping changes to the state's growth management laws that were signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott on June 2. The changes significantly impact real estate development, especially in the areas of state oversight, concurrency management requirements and the overall development review process.

"The new regulations substantially reshape the future of real estate development in Florida," said Cecelia Bonifay, Chair of the Akerman Green & Sustainable Development Practice. "Much of the state oversight of development now resides at the local level. In order to put shovels in the ground, the real estate development community needs to understand this new regulatory landscape."

According to Jim Sellen, governance chair of the ULI Central Florida District Council, the changes allow for a more customized approach to development, depending on a community's needs.

"The Community Planning Act provides an opportunity for local government to shape development in a way that's best for it, rather than conforming to a cook book approach mandated at the state level," said Sellen. "One size doesn't fit all in diverse state like Florida."

The event featured a keynote address from William "Billy" Buzzett, Secretary of Florida's Department of Community Affairs. A panel of experts, moderated by Bonifay, discussed the revised regulations. Panelists included Charles DeSanti, managing partner at Kitson & Partners Communities; Valerie Hubbard, director of planning services at Akerman; Phil Laurien, executive director of East Central Florida's Regional Planning Council and Kevin Tyjeski, chief planning manager for the City of Orlando.

On Friday, similar events will be held in Miami and West Palm Beach. Spencer Crowley, a shareholder within the Akerman Real Estate Practice Group, will moderate the panel discussions. Tom Beck, director of the Florida Department of Community Affairs, Division of Community Planning will offer a keynote address at both events. Panelists include Valerie Hubbard, director of planning services at Akerman; Trish Blasi, president of Borghese Investments; Jack Osterholt, interim executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council; Francisco Garcia, director of planning at the City of Miami; and, Michael Busha, executive director of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

The Akerman Real Estate Practice Group represents clients in complex real estate transactions, development and redevelopment projects, public-private initiatives, loan recovery, and litigation matters. Recognized nationally by PLC Which Lawyer?, the group offers substantial industry experience and prominent local presence, advising corporations, developers, investors, and governmental entities, often in high profile matters.

About Akerman Senterfitt

Akerman is ranked among the top 100 law firms in the U.S. by The National Law Journal NLJ 250 (2011) in number of lawyers and is the leading Florida firm. With 500 lawyers and government affairs professionals, Akerman serves clients throughout the United States and overseas from Florida, New York, Washington, D.C., California, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Texas. More information can be found at or

Joel Staley
Senior Manager, Media Relations and Communications, Akerman Senterfitt
(407) 242-9994

Pat Tucker
RF|Binder Partners, Inc.
(212) 994-7561

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RF|Binder Partners, Inc

©2011 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.

Time to fly flags from our historic Bridge of Lions once again

In 2005, local St. Augustine Gay activists won a landmark First Amendment case against our City of St. Augustine – the result was a federal court order that saw Rainbow flags flying on our historic Bridge of Lions in honor of Gay pride from June 8-13, 2005.

Bigots fumed and picketed, while spewing 32 pages of Anonymice hate on the St. Augustine Record’s “Talk of the Town” website.

Scared-witless City Commissioners then voted 3-1 on June 13, 2005 to ban all but government flags from our bridge, with only Commissioner Joe Boles voting against.

That vote was six years ago tomorrow night. Tomorrow night, I will ask City Commissioners to consider restoring the prior policy.

Now-Mayor Boles was the only Commissioner who voted correctly twice, respecting the First Amendment. With Susan Burk, he voted to allow the Rainbow flags. In Burk’s absence, he was the only Commissioner to vote against the transparently retaliatory move to ban all but government flags from our Bridge.

Our restored $83 million Bridge of Lions should be festooned with flags for upcoming celebrations -- American, Spanish, British, Roman Catholic, Rainbow, Civil Rights (40th ACCORD), Lighthouse, Flagler College and other floags, where there is a celebration honoring or in connection with an historic person, event or place.

In honor of the upcoming monument to Rev. Andrew Young, we should fly 42 American flags from our Bridge and another seven along the Bayfront (where controversial former City Manager Bill Harriss had flagpoles removed after the federal court victory).

The City of St. Augustine is all about healing now – working to promote a national civil rights museum and finally doing right by our African-American communities of Lincolnville and West Augustine. Two Civil Rights monuments now gradce our Slave Market Square.

In the spirit of healing, our City of .St. Augustine should adopt the policy that was in effect until June 13, 2005: allowing non-profit community groups – including the 40th Accord, Lighthouse Museum, NAACP, Gay Pride, etc. – to fly flags from the Bridge for special occasions linked to our City’s history.

What do you reckon?


First America Foundation Implodes – A Teachable Moment

Our City of St. Augustine has been ripped off to the tune of $100,000 by a foundation our City Attorney recommended be set up to avoid Sunshine and Open Records laws.

Never again.

Our City voted a poorly-worded, no-bid contract for $275,000, without defined deliverables, eschewing competitive bidding for the good-ole-boy system.

Never again.

Our City of St. Augustine for ten months privatized its history to a private, secretive, non-diverse group of amateurs who had never planned so much as a child's birthday party.

Never again.

James Madison was right.

City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN was wrong. Enough secrecy.

See below.

Guest column: First America Foundation isn't operating in the 'Sunshine'

Guest column: First America Foundation isn't operating in the 'Sunshine'
Created 01/30/2011 - 1:00am

A private foundation has taken over from the city the function of planning St. Augustine's 450th anniversary celebration, 2012-2015. The City Commission agreed and gave First America Foundation a $275,000 no-bid contract.

Our City Hall still mistrusts "we, the people."

Article I, section 24 of Florida's Constitution guarantees our right to open meetings and open records -- it was adopted in 1992 by vote of 83 percent of Florida voters (3,883,617 votes). Majority rules.

Our European forebears suffered under the yoke of secrecy and autocracy, exemplified by Cardinal Richelieu, who said, "Secrecy is the first essential in affairs of the State." In contrast, James Madison wrote that a "popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."

Florida is our nation's leader on open government laws. Florida's strong open government laws inspired then-Senator Lawton Chiles to persuade Congress to adopt the federal Government-in-the-Sunshine law.

Our Florida Constitution and laws require openness. The 450th anniversary of our Nation's Oldest City must no longer be run as a "covert operation." President Kennedy said to the American Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961: "The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it."

Lord Acton explained not only that "all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but he also said that "Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity." As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "secrecy is for losers."

It is my opinion that FAF's secrecy interferes with our City's vital mission -- meaningfully celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Spanish Florida (2013), 450th anniversary of St. Augustine (2015), 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (2014) and the 200th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution (2012).

We deserve an open, accountable process with public participation. That's what we were promised before the City of St. Augustine changed its plans and created this secret corporation on a "rush" basis, as the incorporation papers filed in Tallahassee reveal. The City's strategic vision for the 450th originally called for 40 committees of local volunteers. FAF inexplicably dropped the committees and is seeking corporate "partners."

No federal agencies or self-respecting corporate donors will want to fund an inscrutable, unaccountable foundation that breaks the law. St. Augustine does not need a secretive foundation that shows contempt for the will of 3.8 million Florida voters. As Ronald Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall: City Commissioners, "tear down this wall."

The facts are irrefragable. FAF, in my opinion, is a city agency under Sunshine and Open Records laws. Our City of St. Augustine must compel FAF to open its meetings, books and records to the public. Our City must take swift action to end FAF's secrecy and to vindicate our rights. As Justice Louis Brandeis said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."


Ed Slavin earned a B.S. in foreign service at Georgetown University and a J.D. from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis).
St. Augustine

St. Augustine Record: First America Retreats

First America retreats
Created 06/10/2011 - 11:30pm
450th foundation ends contract with city, will return money

The First America Foundation, after failing for nine months to raise money or plan events for St. Augustine's 450th anniversary celebration in 2015, voted Friday to terminate its contract with the city.

The First America Foundation, after failing for nine months to raise money or plan events for St. Augustine's 450th anniversary celebration in 2015, voted Friday to terminate its contract with the city.

Foundation Vice Chair Christine Chapman said the future of the nonprofit organization has not yet been determined, but board members planned to meet with city officials next week and discuss returning what remains of the $275,000 given to the foundation as seed money.

Chapman said the board's decision was a difficult one.

"It was not unanimous," Chapman said. "(But) since last Friday (when Chairman Don Wallis suddenly resigned), things drastically changed. It's been a bit of a blur."

Wallis resigned because he wanted the board to hire an executive director and a fundraiser, but the board didn't want to do so.

"Without a staff, (the job of chairman) is untenable," Wallis said.

The City Commission had also increased pressure on the Foundation to explain what it has done for the nine months it has been in existence.

Chapman said the board went into an organizational phase, worked on a logo and got its non-profit papers from Tallahassee.

Not enough was done

For a while Executive Director Jamie Alvarez had an assistant, but eventually that person left, and the weight of running the organization rested on her shoulders alone.

Chapman said that, despite the recent "troubled waters" with the city, Foundation board members are "caring individuals who had stepped up and volunteered because they love this city. It was a great opportunity and a learning experience for the board and community."

She said that Alvarez met with city staff weekly to inform them of the foundation's actions.

"From a board standpoint, we were doing that. (But) we learned that you have got to share your story," Chapman said. "We didn't do a good job of doing that.

"We should have made some formal statements and not just shared information."

But city commissioners had complained that they often had no idea what progress was made.

City Manager John Regan said city staff were given "general updates" weekly, though these weren't very substantial.

"The (Foundation) staff was in a very difficult situation," Regan said. "The amount of work they had to do was way beyond the capacity of any one individual. I don't know what will happen to the First America Foundation, but we'll stay positive, and we will have a 450th celebration."

Some volunteer help

Also on Friday, the St. Augustine 450 Community Corps, a non-profit group organized in 2007 by former St. Augustine Mayor George Gardner to support the Foundation with volunteer efforts, announced that it would like to move toward a more active role.

A press release Friday from board chairman Gardner said the group voted this week to generate a list of existing and new projects that could be accomplished by its cadre of 300 volunteers "from an extensive list of ideas on our web site."

Gardener said, "It doesn't take a foundation to revise our tour guide training and testing program. It doesn't take a major corporation contribution to begin a beautification program in our historic district and throughout our city."

Gardner could not be reached Friday night.

His release also said, "The 450 Community Corps board stressed that its role is to complement, not compete with, future plans to commemorate the city's anniversary in 2015."

'Not quitters'

Chapman said one of the last steps that the First America Foundation board was doing -- before the vote Friday -- was identifying the "deliverables," those events needing to be funded by private, corporate or public donors and what those donors would get for their money.

"We'll need to meet with the city face-to-face and talk to them about the contract and return the money," she said.

Recent reports said the Foundation spent roughly $100,000 of the $275,000 they received.

Apparently, the Foundation is not disbanding. It will continue to exist as a corporate entity, just not one with a contract with the city.

"We need to take care of business, next week as an executive board and then as a full board," Chapman said. "We're not quitting. Nobody's quitting on that board."

Folio Weekly re: "First America Foundation" Sunshine Folio Weekly re: "First America Foundation" Sunshine Violations -- August 17, 2010

Infernal Sunshine
St. Augustine will pay an untested business with no clear plan to put on its 450th
birthday celebration — all to avoid state Sunshine Laws

By Susan Cooper-Eastman

Last week, the St. Augustine City
Commission voted to take the job of
celebrating the city’s 450th anniversary out
of the Sunshine and into the hands of a
newly created private nonprofit.
Commissioners unanimously approved a
contract with the hastily formed First
America Foundation Inc. to produce the
celebration, despite the fact that the group
has existed only since July, has never planned
even a kid’s birthday party and has offered
no specifics about how it might spend its
lump sum payment of $275,000.
Why did the city enter into the dubious
deal? Because First America Foundation is an
independent entity, and will therefore be
unconstrained by the state’s Sunshine Law,
which would require everything from the
party’s planning process to its expense reports
to be open to public view.
City Attorney Ron Brown told Folio
Weekly after the vote that evading the
requirements of the Sunshine Law is essential
if the city wants a good party. He notes that
governments are no good at wooing
corporate donors, planning slick marketing
campaigns or organizing mammoth events. It
takes a private company that isn’t hamstrung
by open meeting laws and open books. For
instance, Brown says, while AT&T might give
money to a nonprofit, it won’t give money to
a government. And it won’t discuss donations
or make commitments if those disclosures
have to be done at a public meeting.
But it’s not clear that simply passing off
party duties will exempt the First America
Foundation from the Sunshine Law. John
Rhea, director of the First Amendment
Foundation in Tallahassee, notes that the city
had already been engaged in planning the
celebration, spending more than $300,000 in
the past two years, and hiring Dana Ste. Claire
in March 2009 as executive director of The
450 Corps. Therefore, Rhea interprets the
contract with First America Foundation Inc.
as the city hiring an entity to take over a job
that it had previously been performing. And
according to the Sunshine Law, if a city hires a
private entity to perform a city function, that
entity is subject to the Sunshine Law.
City Attorney Brown doesn’t agree with
Rhea’s assessment that First America
Foundation Inc. might be subject to the
Sunshine Law. Brown argues that the city isn’t
hiring the nonprofit to perform a government
function, merely contracting with it to be a
sponsor of the celebration. And he points to a
1992 state Supreme Court case which found
that the degree of a government’s investment
in a project in part governs whether a private
entity overseeing that project is subject to
open records law. Brown also insists that the
city wasn’t obligated to put the contract out to
public bid. The city is required by state statute
to submit to a bidding process for professional
services, but Brown says that state statute only
spells out four occupations: landscape
architect, architect, engineer and surveyor.
Party planner isn’t mentioned.
The issue recalls the curtain that was
drawn across the 2005 Super Bowl planning
process by the independent Super Bowl Host
Committee. In its contract with the city of
Jacksonville, the Host Committee promised
to comply with the Sunshine Law. But when
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
Business Journal, Folio Weekly and even
Jacksonville city auditors requested records
from the Host Committee, its lawyers
(backed by the city’s own lawyers) claimed it
was exempt (Cover Story, “Stadium Scam,” The question
was never tested in court, however, and the
Host Committee spent millions of public
dollars with no accountability.
Donald Wallis, an attorney with
Upchurch, Bailey & Upchurch, who is the
registered agent for First America Foundation
Inc., promised the organization would be
“very public” and “transparent,” but admitted
it could pick and choose what meetings
to open and what records to disclose.
Essentially, City Commissioners and St.
Augustine residents are being asked to trust
that taxpayer money will be spent wisely by
First America Foundation, and that the 450th
celebration will be something the city will be
proud of. If city officials don’t like what First
America is doing, the contract gives them the
right to terminate the deal. But it’s unclear
how city officials would determine whether
they’re happy with the group’s performance,
since they won’t be privy to its operations.
And they will have no say in how city money
is spent.
Rhea, for one, questions the Commissioners’
decision to relinquish oversight of taxpayer
dollars. “How logical is that?” he asks. “To turn
over in excess of a quarter of a million dollars
to a private organization and then be hands
off? Is that good government? That is craziness
to me.”
That craziness became clear at last week’s
meeting, when Commissioners tried to find
out even benign details about First America
Foundation before voting to give it money.
Vice Mayor Errol Jones asked who was on the
Foundation’s board of directors and if that
organization had a structure. Wallis responded
that it was “a very fair question” and that the
answer was “No.” When Commissioner Nancy
Sikes-Kline asked the Foundation to attend a
subsequent meeting to submit its bylaws and
mission statement, City Attorney Brown
cautioned that demanding such control
might compromise the Sunshine-free status
of the Foundation.
“The idea here is for us to let go,” urged
Mayor Joe Boles.
Rhea says he had a visceral reaction to any
government efforts to circumvent the Sunshine
Law. “When people are trying to avoid the
Sunshine Law, the reason the Sunshine Law is
there is for accountability and public oversight.
My immediate reaction is, ‘Why?’”
Rhea notes that open government isn’t
just about watchdogging public money.
It’s about respecting the rights given to
Floridians in the state constitution. “The
public has a constitutional right to access to
records and to meetings,” he says. “It doesn’t
really matter whether their representatives
think it is a good idea that they have access.
They have a constitutional right.”
Rhea also cautions that the city’s decision
could be expensive. Already, some local city
activists have threatened to file suit to challenge
the city’s vote. If that happens, and the suit is
successful, it would mean a lot of wasted time
and money. The contract would be voided,
along with any action taken by First America
Foundation Inc.
Warns Rhea, “It’s a very risky path.”
Susan Cooper Eastman

Is Local Right-WIng Radio Station WFOY Failing to Serve The Public Interest?

For years, radio station WFOY has suffered from a de micromis news department, de maximis propaganda streams, and low-quality signal, which is not targeted on land. Much of WFOY's signal is wasted on the ocean. Cetaceans being highly intelligent creatures, I seriously doubt that they would listen even if they had radios.

Radio station WFOY's FCC license expires on February 1, 2011. Has it served the public? Does it provide equal access for community concerns? Is it serving the public interest, convenience and necessity?

To be continued.....

St. Augustine Record: Sidewalk for Young dedicated -- Symbolizes struggle for 'human decency and respect'

Applause erupts as Andrew Young, center, nears the Plaza de la Constitucion in preparation for the dedication of the Andrew Young Crossing monument on Saturday morning. Pictured, from left, are Donna Dobbs, J.T. Johnson, Carolyn Young, Andrew Young, Bishop Felipe Estevez, St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles, former U.S. Sen. George McGovern and Diane Spoden. By DARON DEAN, [1]
Sidewalk for Young dedicated -- Symbolizes struggle for 'human decency and respect'

Created 06/12/2011 - 12:09am

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young walked the same path Saturday that he'd taken on a hot June night in 1964 when his group of 300 marchers -- headed for the Plaza de la Constitucion -- was attacked by a white mob and Young was beaten down several times by racist thugs.

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young walked the same path Saturday that he'd taken on a hot June night in 1964 when his group of 300 marchers -- headed for the Plaza de la Constitucion -- was attacked by a white mob and Young was beaten down several times by racist thugs.

Each time, however, Young stood up and kept going.

This Saturday, he was St. Augustine's guest of honor, invited to speak at the dedication of "Andrew Young Crossing," a 25-foot-long granite, coquina and bronze monument built by the city to commemorate his courage, leadership and non-violence.

"They were not really bad people," Young, now 79, said of his attackers. "They were God's children, too."

The purpose of the civil rights struggle was "to seek the human dignity and respect that allows us to live together as brothers and sisters and not perish together as fools," he said.

The monument features bronze castings of Young's shoes walking over four coquina sidewalk panels, each five feet long and six feet wide. Each panel is named after a different civil rights goal written in bronze letters: freedom, non-violence, equality, justice.

Each panel also features a pertinent quote from notables such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson, in addition to Young.

Designer Jeremy Marquis of Halback & Associates, St. Augustine, said it represents following Young's steps or walking with him into the future. Marquis volunteered his services for this design.

"Fred (Halback) and I realized that his generation knows the Andrew Young story, but mine doesn't know," said Marquis, who is in his 20s. "This is all about memorializing the story for future generations."

The dedication

From the Casa Monica Hotel, down a closed-off King Street, Young walked to the monument about 10 a.m. to the cheers of a waiting crowd.

He then walked down the Crossing panels, reading some of the quotes aloud.

Notables in audience included Martin Luther King III; former St. Augustine native and Freedom Rider Hank Thomas of Atlanta; Billye Aaron, wife of home run king Hank Aaron; civil rights leader Cora Tyson; the Rev. Ron Stafford; former U.S. Sen. George McGovern; St. Augustine hotelier Kanti Patel; and Bishop Felipe Estevez of the Diocese of St. Augustine.

City Commissioner Errol Jones, who had initially made a motion in March to build the monument, introduced Young, first thanking the "unknown persons who spent many hours and evenings marching in St. Augustine for justice.

"In 1965, our 400th year, there was a dark cloud over this city. St. Augustine was two separate communities," Jones said. "In 2015, as we approach our 450th, we say, 'Never again!' 2015 will be a very inclusive year and the celebration will include all our citizens. This is a new day."

Young, smiling, said, "This more than makes up what happened (to me) here. If blacks (in St. Augustine) had not dedicated themselves to non-violence and had done evil for evil, the entire civil rights movement would have been set back a half century."

He cited the Birmingham bombings, one of which took the lives of four little girls, and the assassination of President Kennedy as examples of the violent times.

"We didn't come here naive. We know this was a struggle we'd have to repeat over and over," Young said.

"But it was an honor and privilege to join the people of St. Augustine who had already suffered so much."

The surprise

To Ruth Lowery, 84, of St. Augustine Shores, the day was already beautiful.

She said she greatly admired Young, adding, "He's an inspiration to everyone."

Brought to the luncheon by a friend, she was talking about the charms of the town.

During the Civil Rights years, she said she was raising her twin girls.

"That's all I could do. They were two years old," she said. "My three friends rode the Freedom Bus from Newark, N.J. They were so scared, but they did not get hurt."

Just then, a man bent down to talk to her, smiling.

She conversed pleasantly for a minute, then asked politely, "Who are you?"

The man said, "Martin Luther King III."

Lowery began to cry, overcome with emotion.

Her strawberry-colored hat fell off, her face streaked with tears.

"I love St. Augustine," was all she could say.

The book

Young's entourage was selling many copies of his 1996 book, "An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America," which he said was never promoted by his publisher, PA Inc., a division of HarperCollins.

He said, "I wrote this book because I needed money. I had three kids in college and the mayor of Atlanta's salary at the time was $50,000. I made $6,000 a year from the SCLC, so I was literally broke."

He said he was too busy to go out and promote the book.

"This book came from someone who was inside the room when most of the decisions were made," he said.

Former ABC producer and videographer C.B. Hackworth, a close friend of Young's, made several DVDs for the ambassador, and said that one especially would interest the public.

Margaret Mitchell, the author of the novel "Gone With The Wind," was "judged pretty harshly" by the black community because of her descriptions of slaves in her book, Hackworth said.

The film describes Mitchell's secret financial backing of Dr. Benjamin Mays, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, her support for the training of 40 black doctors and the first black hospital in Atlanta and her financial support for the Civil Rights Movement.

Mays later became a mentor for Martin Luther King Jr. Young also knew Mays.

Hackworth's DVD is called "A Secret as Simple as Black and White."

Actress Joanne Woodward came out of retirement to do the voice of Mitchell, he said.

"The secret's come out of the past decade, but not in this much detail," he said.

Recalling the attack

Someone asked Young why he kept getting up after he was knocked unconscious and beat again and again.

"It was part of our discipline," he said. "You never let violence stop a movement. You never stop. If one person falls, or even is killed, someone else must take their place." He stood up to try to reason with the crowd, he said. Thugs swung at him and he dodged. One attacker tried to kick him in the groin, but the kick hit his leg instead, giving him a large bruise.

"I kept talking. I never stopped talking," he said. "A state trooper said to the crowd, 'Let them through.' They did so. I don't know who (that trooper) was. His wife wrote me a note to tell me, but the note somehow got lost. I'd love to know his name."

In the end, he said, nothing really hurt him badly.

"I was just knocked out quick," he said.

Fellow marcher James Jackson of St. Augustine went to Young to absorb some of the angry blows.

Jackson said that the marchers had been trained to do that.

"It was a protective measure. The next person was supposed to take some of the punishment off someone being beaten," Jackson said. "I got kicked a couple of places that weren't too nice. If I see someone being beaten, I'm going to go there and try to protect that individual."

Jackson later worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the Rev. Willie Bolden in Macon, Ga., in the election of Lyndon Johnson.

Reluctant warrior

At the end, Young said, "I didn't want to go with Martin Luther King. I wanted to go somewhere nearby where I wasn't going to get beat up. But I couldn't keep away from what was happening. I got drawn into it."

St. Augustine Record Editorial: Our view: Welcome and thanks, Ambassador Young

Our view: Welcome and thanks, Ambassador Young
Created 06/10/2011 - 8:14pm

This day forward, St. Augustine's civil rights history is alive and very much well in St. Augustine, as it should be.

And today, Ambassador Andrew Young will be publicly recognized for his efforts in helping get the federal Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.

At 10 a.m., the Andrew Young Memorial will be dedicated in the city's Plaza de la Constitucion. It's a fitting tribute to Young and the civil rights movement, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., here in the 1960s. The monument is a 25-foot linear sidewalk that includes actual footprints of Young making his way to the gazebo in the center of the plaza. As you walk along the sidewalk, inspirational sayings from Young, King and President Lyndon B. Johnson are embedded in granite.

Over the years, the survivors of the civil rights movement -- the heroes and the sheroes -- have celebrated their heritage in the community with markers on key homes and businesses where leaders of the fight for equality lived and worked more than 50 years ago; with special speakers and ceremonies in various churches throughout St. Johns County; and a field day for families.

An annual luncheon on the federal holiday in January honoring King has filled the dining hall to capacity wherever the event is held. Northrop Grumman's sponsorship of 30 markers on the 40th ACCORD's Freedom Trail plus another by Beth Levenbach, an ACCORD member, showed the community at large that the quest for civil rights took a huge toll on those who fought for their freedoms.

The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Remembrance monument was unveiled on May 14 in the plaza. It is located near the old Town Market, also known as the Slave Market. Controversy still rages over whether slaves were sold there. Barbara Vickers and her committee raised more than $70,000 in donations for the project to honor the community civil rights activists.

Again, we say thanks to the Foot Soldiers committee.

The St. Augustine City Commission and city staff get full credit for bringing the Andrew Young Memorial to life and the Andrew Young Crossing at the intersection of King and St. George streets next to the plaza. It was where Young was beaten up as he approached the plaza by an angry white mob on June 9, 1964. It's far past time that the city's civil rights history has a firm anchor for all to see.

We thank the city for its efforts and Halback Design Group for donating the design. We will always remember Ambassador Young's willingness to step forward and put his life on the line for the rights of others, including many St. Augustine and St. Johns County residents.