Here is a reprint of the very first day's posts on this blog, April 12, 2006:
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
JAMES PATRICK WILSON, our estimable City Attorney, demands we appear in person at offices to beg for documents, playing a cat-and-mouse waiting game. He wants us to "sell" us documents -- pay 15 cents per page for paper copies. This was my first request:
Dear Mr. Williamson:
Would you please be so kind as to place the complete contents of each of the Commissioners' agenda notebooks on the COSA website in PDF format, as SJCBCCC does? This online reading room procedure is also used by numerous federal and state agencies.Also, please send me the City's annual EEOC report in PDF format, as requested Tuesday.
Now, 55 days later, we're still waiting for a St. Augustine Online Reading Room to be established. We're still waiting for the City's EEOC report to show up. This is the same City that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called "the most lawless City in America," one where Jeremy Dean's documentary, "Dare Not Walk Alone" shows the institutional racism continues, a place where 59 of 59 police officers are white in a City that is 15% African-American. City officials say they're "tired" of "disgruntled citizens" criticizing "their" City Manager, WILLIAM B. HARRISS. Democracy is not beanbag. Those whose ideology is "don't make waves" do not belong in a community that is home to many surfers. Those whose Weltanschaung is "you can't fight City Hall" would perhaps be more comfortable in someplace other than St. Augustine, where voters get to overthrow our government every two years.
Dear Mayor Gardner and Commissioners:
Will our City staff and counsel please discuss installing 24/7 video cameras at the Old City Reservoir, so that citizens, DEP, SJRWMD, EPA, et al. can all watch the Superfund site cleanup on the City's website, and kindly assure that no further dumping or illegalities occur? Do y'all agree that our City has "poisoned the water in this reservoir, and [that] the reservoir cannot be cleansed without first draining it of all impurity[?]" See, e.g., Mesarosh v. United States, 356 U.S. 1 (1956). When will the cleanup begin? How much will it cost? Who will pay? It has been 34 days since I first asked you written questions -- we await answers. I sincerely look forward to hearing from you by close of business today.
With kindest regards, I am,
"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."
Speech to American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961
Florida's Department of Environmental Protection has issued orders -- our City has requested extensions. Some 77 questions on the illegal dumping that I have asked our City officials since February 24th have gone unanswered.
20,000 cubic yards of illegal dumping by City of St. Augustine City officials is symbolic of a crisis of spirit and lack of trust by our leaders in the people's right to know here in our Nation's Oldest (European-settled) City, founded in 1565.
This beautiful City has 10,000 years of history and is blessed with artists, scholars, actors, musicians, actors, entertainers, historians, tourists, restaurants, hard workers, retirees and progressive activists.
We need full disclosure and we're going to get it. Over 440 years after its founding, does St. Augustine deserve a government as warm and decent as her people and climate?
What do you think?
Will you help us clean up our Nation's Oldest City?
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084