Guest column: Eminent domain bill tarnishes Proctor's legacy
Rep. Bill Proctor has a bill going through the Legislature (House Bill 1037/Senate Bill 1348) which gives unrestricted eminent domain, the power to take people’s homes, to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, and deletes Florida Statutes regarding local oversight and requiring FSDB to cooperate with local government and the community. Several people, including myself, traveled at 3:30 a.m. to speak against the bill before the House Economic Affairs committee meeting on Feb.1.
As reported, after extensive discussions on previous bills, public comment on his bill, last on the agenda, was limited to 30 seconds per speaker. Though all were in opposition the bill passed committee and will continue on to the House calendar.
Despite having pre-promised their votes, many on the committee were clearly uncomfortable with the disingenuous arguments by sponsor Rep. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, and Proctor for giving FSDB the power to take historic homes — particularly when they admit there is no need. Student enrollment is down and the current campus is sufficient.
In closing Proctor challenged, “Give me a logical reason why …(FSDB) should not have eminent domain.” Our local delegation, prepared with many conclusive reasons, were not given the chance to answer.
Proctor then said, “…it must be because the kids are blind, and deaf and disabled, and that’s a pretty sorry reason.”
That statement was shamelessly manipulative, reprehensible — and illuminating.
Having listened to Proctor slander the neighborhood in two committees, misrepresent his opinions as fact, and justify past poorly conceived land “acquisitions,” that statement made it clear that his argument was not about the needs of the school, nor did it reflect a sincere interest in the children.
Funding the needs of FSDB students — education, housing, services — is not the question. State allocations to the school flow virtually unencumbered, devoid of discrimination based on the kids being blind, deaf or disabled. FSDB receives money unimaginable to regular public schools due to those disabilities.
This bill is about Proctor’s want, not FSDB’s need. It is his intent is to shut down any opposition to that “want” which is rooted in a strong sense of entitlement, by any means necessary, including exploiting the disabilities of the students, destroying historic structures, and sacrificing the interest of his actual constituents, the people of St. Augustine.
Why should the school be given eminent domain when there is a conclusive history, based on audits from the State Auditor General, of financial mismanagement, waste of public funds, violation of law and disregard for the city of St. Augustine’s efforts to protect the historical components that are at the core of its economy?
The intentional deception Proctor has employed in the past, and in pursuing the passage of this bill indicates complete disregard for the city of St. Augustine and should generate fear in homeowners throughout the community, that FSDB will gain the power to claim their homes, against their will, with no oversight whatsoever.
This bill also damns a positive relationship between FSDB and the community that has long embraced its students and its mission.
Proctor said the only reason he ran for the Legislature was to get this bill through. He’s used his seniority in the Legislature, not to benefit his constituents, but on this bill.
Proctor has accomplished important things in the community. However, the respect once his due, will now be forfeited by this eminent domain bill. Proctor will be remembered not for his achievements but for his deception and in his denial of his own community of St. Augustine.
Lisa Parrish Lloyd said she grew up in Nelmar Terrace. She is active with Memorial Presbyterian Children’s Ministry and Betty Griffin House. A graduate of Florida State University, she worked in legislative offices and has written for various publications.
The one that already was tarnished by his unflagging efforts to dismantle public education and villify teachers?
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” - Upton Sinclair