Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 11, 2005

Photo credit: J.D. Pleasant

Photo credit: J.D. Pleasant, et al.

Twelve years ago tonight, I was threatened with arrest for "disorderly conduct" by City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS.  I had pointed out during public comment -- at the very first St. Augustine City Commission I ever attended since moving here in 1999 -- that our Nation's Oldest City's constant annexations at the behest of "developers" were illegal.  They were diluting minority voting strength, violating the Fifteenth Amendment.

HARRISS was a corrupt, venal, evil man.  HARRISS thought it was cute to deposit a landfill in a lake, and not tell City Attorney James Patrick Wilson, Esq., who resigned in 2006 rather than work for coverup artists, whose environmental crimes probably put his law license at risk.

HARRISS "retired" in 2010, going to work for the St. Johns County Sheriff, advising SHOAR as he was orchestrate the coverup of the Michelle O'Connell case for corrupt Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994, and whom HARRISS fund-raised for in his City Hall office when SHOAR was SAPD Chief.

Not once did the cynical, maladroit publishers of the St. Augustine Record ever print one critical word about hateful HARRISS, or all of his works and pomps.

We, the People, have achieved dozens of public interest victories since 2005, including getting the landfill removed from the lake, and a federal court First Amendment victory requiring rainbow flags to fly on our Bridge of Lions from June 8-13, 2005.

And on the Fifteenth Amendment violations (which reduced African-American voting strength from 25% in 1964 to less than  12% today: No more residential annexations are anticipated, as then-Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES told County Commissioners on November 20, 2013, at a joint City-County meeting.  The Constitution lives.

My father taught me, as JFK's father taught him, that you must stand up to people with power or they will walk all over you. Venceremos!

Keep asking questions.

Demand answers.

Request documents.

Attend meetings.

Speak your mind.

Expect democracy.

Here's my 2016 guest column from Historic City News:

Guest Column: Time for everyone to say “enough”

Guest Column: Time for everyone to say “enough”

Ed Slavin
St Augustine, FL
St. Augustine has come a ways from the days of Jim Crow segregation, but official oppression still persists.
On April 11, 2005, I spoke for the first time to the St. Augustine City Commission about civil rights concerns over illegal annexations and Fifteenth Amendment violations.
Then-City Manager William B. Harriss barked at me after the meeting, saying “I could have you arrested for disorderly conduct!”
There have been dozens of victories that include the cleanup of a landfill the city dumped in a lake, state fines, Rainbow flags on the Bridge of Lions, election of Mayor Nancy Shaver, protection of Fish Island, halting numerous inappropriate developer projects and creation of the Dr. Robert S. Hayling Freedom Park to be dedicated April 22.
Now, let us permanently end the lawless culture of fear, smear, retaliation, secrecy and corporation-coddling:
  • St. Augustine is still following Draconian Harriss-era rules limiting public comment. Local governments are still hassling people on Open Records requests.  Public comment must be heard on every single agenda item as it is at St. Augustine Beach, St. Johns County, and the Anastasia Mosquito Control District.
  • Government employees deserve strong whistleblower protections.
  • Citizens must not be arrested for peaceful picketing, “plein air” painting, or playing music.
  • Federal courts have repeatedly ruled the City of St. Augustine is violating the First Amendment in its treatment of our artists.  Mayor Nancy Shaver has said “our streets are not lively,” but four Commissioners would not budge. Result?  Yet another First Amendment ruling against our City, this time by U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis.  As attorney Tom Cushman wrote in the Record, “Enough.”
  • Some city and county government offices disdain Open Records requests.  They create inflated, facetious cost estimates and have poor communication skills. Responses from the St. Augustine “Public records custodian” are unadorned by anyone’s real name. This lawbreaking must stop. Now.
  • Sheriff David Shoar unsuccessfully tried to have FDLE’s 2009 Special Agent of the Year, Rusty Ray Rodgers, fired in retaliation for his dogged investigation of the September 2, 2010 shooting of Michelle O’Connell in the home of his deputy, Jeremy Banks.  Shoar claims the death is a suicide.  Rodgers never ruled Banks out as responsible for the death.  Rodgers has been reinstated, but bizarrely blacklisted from working cases in St. Johns County.  Shoar seethes because the truth was reported by The New York Times, PBS Frontline, Dateline-NBC, Folio Weekly, and Dr. Phil.
Enough Nixonian dirty tricks and rebarbative lawman politics. Enough retaliation, secrecy, mendacity, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.
What’s next?  We are officially a “Compassionate City.”
Speak out.  Attend government meetings. Ask questions.  Demand answers.  Request documents. Expect democracy. Support and encourage honest people to become our next Sheriff, State’s Attorney, City and County Commissioners and state legislators.  Say “enough” to corruption.  Help foil the devious developer-driven demolition derby of our town and county.  Help drive the money-changers out of the temple of our democratic republic.
It’s up to everyone to say “enough.”  And let’s finally preserve and protect this glorious, magical, beautiful, special place forever — for your grandchildren and their grandchildren. Let’s enact the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore (staugustgreen.com), first proposed in 1939 by Mayor Walter Fraser and Senator Claude Pepper, et al.

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