Thursday, July 27, 2017

St. Augustine Beach leaders wonder when they will get a voice on Tourist Development Council (SAR)

TDC erred by not making the decision on July 25. The Chair "pulled" the item, though five people were ready to speak, including Vice Mayor Undine George and Mayor Richard Burtt O'Brien.

Posted July 27, 2017 03:14 am - Updated July 27, 2017 03:27 am
St. Augustine Beach leaders wonder when they will get a voice on Tourist Development Council

The St. Johns County board that oversees the spending of the “bed tax” is currently without a member from one of the most popular areas with tourists. It’s an issue board leadership promises to correct soon.

The county’s Tourist Development Council (TDC) is made up of nine members who guide the spending of the Local Option Tourist Development Tax that is paid by overnight guests.

Right now, there is a vacancy on the board that is traditionally filled by the mayor of St. Augustine Beach. However, that seat has not been filled since former Mayor Andrea Samuels left office.

Normally the next mayor, in this case Rich O’Brien, would be slotted in. But after some objections by members of the community, O’Brien was not recommended to fill the position at a meeting earlier this year. And the County Commission, which has to make the ultimate decision, also delayed the approval of O’Brien’s appointment.

Since there are no other TDC members from St. Augustine Beach, the city lacks a voice. O’Brien is left wondering what he has to do in order to rectify the problem.

He has served on the TDC before without incident.

O’Brien said he thought the appointment to the board was basically a rubber stamp and has been continuously puzzled by the lack of approval. The issue was supposed to be settled at Monday’s meeting, but it was delayed until August without explanation.

“As a city, we deserve representation on the Tourist Development Council,” O’Brien said. “It’s one of the largest generators of the bed tax and we’re not getting (represented). There needs to be action taken, and it should have been at this meeting.”

Beach Vice Mayor Undine George spoke at Monday’s meeting to volunteer to sit on the board until there is a decision on O’Brien’s status.

“Why are they denying St. Augustine Beach a representative? It just doesn’t make any sense,” George said. “We generate a huge amount of the bed tax here and we have unique concerns.

“We really want to get somebody on there so our voice can be heard.”

In an email to the Record, TDC board chair Jack Peter said he understands the concerns of the St. Augustine Beach officials and that the board is addressing the issue.

“As you may know, by statute, the TDC is required to have two elected officials on the board,” Peter said. “Mayor (Nancy) Shaver is one of those elected officials.

“While it is not a requirement to have an elected representative from St. Augustine Beach, we certainly believe there should be one. The TDC requested more time to consider Mayor O’Brien, and we expect to have this resolved by our next meeting in August.”

O’Brien, who is a hotel owner, does not have anything in his background to preclude his reappointment to the TDC.

He has faced a permitting issue with his own city building officials over a setback rule, and he did pay a $200 fine to clear up a complaint with the Florida Elections Commission over campaign literature used in the 2016 election.

TDC member and St. Johns County Commissioner Jay Morris didn’t directly speak about O’Brien but said it is a priority to get the board vacancy filled. He added that he was impressed with George’s speech at the TDC meeting and wants to reach a resolution.

“We want to get that seat filled. I think it will be filled next month,” Morris said. “I think everybody wants to get it filled.”

There have also been concerns that more than half of the TDC members are Ponte Vedra Beach residents.

However, there is no law that says the distribution of seats must be based on geography.

Morris said the overall qualifications are what matter.

“I think (the TDC) has got an excellent board,” Morris said. “If you’ve got the quality, it doesn’t matter where you live. Location doesn’t mean anything; quality does.”

Shaver said she would be the first to call out the board if she thought her city was being slighted by the other members. But she’s never had to do that, she pointed out.

“There’s no bias toward any particular part of the county, no bias toward any part of the tourist industry,” Shaver said.


Marty Miller
Since the only members of the TDC who must answer to citizens for their actions are the mayors, I hope they fill the vacancy soon. Hopefully their voices will represent residents of each city when it comes to tourist related activities.

Tom Reynolds · Public relations at Self-Employed
For the RECORD Marty, St Augustine Beach Mayor is only a Token One. The Mayor is NOT ELECTED by the Voting residents. Plus the token Mayor O'Brien will only look out for Hotel Owners. O'Brien has been the behind the scenes HOTEL OWNER FRONT MAN for YEARS around here. And O'Brien will only fight the raising of the BED TAX. The tourist need to PAY MORE as you know Marty, NOT THE RESIDENTS.

Tom Reynolds · Public relations at Self-Employed
Let us not blame the TDC Board. The St Augustine Beach Commission knew they were to send over a name of a SAB Commissioner. The SAB Commission was told by a Resident (me) in January, February, March, and April of this year they needed to take care of this TDC appointment. However, the non-elected by the residents Mayor O'Brien was not available because of HIS PERSONEL BUSY LIFE. So he held open the seat until HE became available. And of course the other SAB Commissioners did the " YES YOUR MAJESTY " to O'Brien (except for the new Commissioner). Why now the rest of the SAB Commission would wan...See more

Edward Adelbert Slavin · Bete noir at Community Activist
St. Augustine Beach Commissioners inexplicably delayed recommending a new appointment for months. Then TDC and St. Johns County Commission wisely and correctly refused to confirm Mayor Richard Burtt O'Brien over ethics concerns. Thank you, TDC and Commissioners. Thank you for listening to the irrefragable facts. Ethics matters.

1 comment:

Warren Celli said...

Never have so many been led astray by so few!

Dump Pig Tourism, its the engine of the murderous corruption that has hijacked the city and the beach governments, crapped on residents quality of life, and destroyed our now scam 'rule of law'.