Saturday, January 07, 2017

Beach Farmer's Market Outrage Typifies Anti-Worker Policies in St. Johns County

"Government is a customer service organization." -- Mayor Nancy Shaver.   

Yet some other officials remain insensitive to "customers," particularly workers.

Consider eight facts:

1.  St. Johns County Administrator Michael David Wanchick's unilateral ukase, maladroitly ending of St. Augustine Beach Civic Association's Wednesday Farmer's Market.  On December 1, 2016, Mr. Wanchick wrote SABCA President William Jones, refusing to recommend extension beyond July 31, 2017 of use of the St. Johns County Ocean Fishing Pier parking lot for the farmer's market.   Messrs. Wanchick and Jones told no one, including dozens of vendors (or Civic Association board members).  Why?

Hundreds of people depend on income, and buy products, from our lively local farmers' markets.  Yet the poorly-drafted 2007 contract disclaims  "third party beneficiaries," allowing Wanchick to notify no one but Commissioners, who remained silent.  Why?

Commissioners never discussed Wanchick's letter.  Copying them on the it embroiled them in possible Sunshine violations -- was this an example of illegal "polling?"  Why not announced publicly?  Administrator Wanchick is an autocrat.  His brandishes elitist contempt for both farmer's' market customers and vendors -- valued tourism workers.

Other anti-worker policies:

2. Refusal of local governments (other than Mosquito Control) to adopt whistleblower policies.

3. Refusal to provide an Inspector General or Ombuds.

4. Denying living wages to teachers, first responders, et al. amidst pervasive racism and sexism, while hiring underpaid day laborers for unpleasant tasks like trash collection.

5. City of St. Augustine's animus against artists and musicians -- tourism workers.  Federal courts repeatedly ruled that First Amendment rights are violated by criminalizing art and music.  "Our streets are not lively," saith our beloved reform Mayor, Nancy Shaver.   In 2015, four uncollegial Commissioners refused to discuss reform. Resulting: yet another federal court order finding the City violated visual artists' constitutional rights.  Trial in Bruce Kevin Bates v. City of St. Augustine (Bates II) is July 3, 2017 will help expose landlords' decadent decades-long fatwa against street artists and musicians.  Greedy commercial landlords disdain "buskers" (tourism workers) not paying them rent or tribute.  Ousting artists altered the ecology of once-cool St. George Street, turning it into  "one giant t-shirt shop," says PZB member Cathy Brown.  The University of Florida actually erected six "No Trespassing" signs in Loring Park, at behest of our City Attorney.

Greed is destroying charm, ambience and local culture. Tourism workers' right to make a lawful living is imperiled by imperious policies -- like the attacks on our Wednesday Farmer's Market and historic area artists and buskers.  "An unjust law is no law at all," said Saint Augustine.

6. All-Republican St. Johns County Commissioners permit deletion of affordable housing from approved developments, including Nocatee.  The richest county in Florida disdains affordable housing for our essential workers. This is an injustice to our teachers, first responders, hotel, restaurant and retail workers, whose friendly underpaid hard work helps make this a special place.  Increasingly, workers are forced to commute from other counties because of lack of affordable housing.

7. St. Augustine Beach's branch library is closed both Sundays and Mondays, typically tourism workers' days off.

8. Public transportation's a bad joke.  No Sunday busses? Busses often late? The skeletal system is not worker-friendly.

Enough flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.

Workers must organize.  Fellow citizens: help halt government waste and violations of our constitutional rights.

We've won some 60 public interest victories since 2005.  We elected Mayor Shaver.  We won reversal of St. Augustine Beach's unconstitutional 2012 vote to fire all seventeen policemen -- retaliation for union organizing protected activity and ten blowing the whistle on their Police Chief; in 2016, voters defeated the prime mover, Andrea Samuels.

Notice to labor-baiters:  "We, the People" are watching.

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