Thursday, February 23, 2017

Developer-driven legislator proposes allowing speculators to seek attorney fees from opponents

State Rep. WARREN KEITH PERRY (R-Alachua) was involved in an alleged battery in  2016.   Now KEITH PERRY seeks to batter the rights of ethical resister residents opposed to dangerous development projects, by inflicting up to $50,000 of attorney fees on people who challenge developers and lose in court.  This misguided bill must fail.  It would chill free speech rights of American citizens in violation of the First and Ninth Amendments.


Capt. Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret.) wrote, on 2/23/17 9:22 AM, St Augustine Residents Count Facebook page :
Neighbors,

If the playing field wasn't already titled enough in favor of developers, here's a front page article from this morning's St Augustine Record about an effort by Florida State Senator Keith Perry (R- Alachua,Marion (northern half) and Putnam Counties) to allow "those challenged on a development plan to counter-sue for legal fees if they eventually prevail" in court. 
The bill (SB 996) sponsored by Perry would make it potentially much more costly (up to $50,000) for citizens to challenge a developer, thus making a playing field already titled in favor of developers even more so - just what we needed!
If, after reading the article, you want to express your opinion on SB 996 to Senator Perry,here is his email address: perry.keith@flsenate.gov
If you want to share your opinion with our own State Senator, here's Senator Travis Hutson's email: Hutson.Travis@flsenate.gov

Here's the link to the article:
If you cannot access the article on line, here it is in full:
Posted February 23, 2017 12:02 am - Updated February 23, 2017 04:17 am
By STUART KORFHAGE stuart.korfhage@staugustine.com
Proposed Florida Senate bill would allow developers to counter-sue for attorneys’ fees
A bill introduced by a Central Florida senator could make opposing new development a pricey gamble.
Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) has introduced SB 996, which would allow those challenged on a development plan to countersue for legal fees if they eventually prevail.
In other words, according to critics, the bill would mean opposing a development could cost a local government or community group up to $50,000. That’s the maximum award allowed in the bill.
One of the major opponents of the bill is the group 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit group that’s goal is to “create more sustainable communities and better protect vanishing natural lands across Florida.”
The group recently put out a news release that warns of the consequences of the bill. Thomas Hawkins, policy and planning director, for 1000 Friends of Florida, told The Record he’s worried the bill will keep groups from opposing bad developments.
“The bill says that anybody challenging the development permit can be the target of the developer’s lawsuit,” Hawkins said. “So that’s us opining on, who are the folks who oppose developers? It’s environmental groups. It’s growth management groups like 1000 Friends of Florida. It’s community groups.”
When reached Wednesday, Perry said he did not submit the bill to shut down opposition but simply to make it fair in a permit dispute. He said it doesn’t matter whether it’s a large development at stake or a small neighborhood dispute. The goal is to avoid frivolous suits that drain the resources of one side without a legitimate cause.
“I think everybody desires a system that’s fair to everyone involved,” Perry said. “There has to be at least some liability potential on either side. Both sides, when you go through this, there has to be some kind of fairness and balance in the system. “You can’t have people use it just to delay — whether it’s a large development or an addition on a house.”
In SB 996, the stated goal is to equalize the two parties. It says: “The purpose of this section is to diminish the deterrent effect of seeking review of, or defending against, governmental action by providing in certain situations an award of attorney attorney’s fees and costs against the state and to diminish the imbalance of consequences when seeking review of, or defending against, such challenges in administrative proceedings by providing in certain situations an award of attorney fees and costs against the party that does not prevail.”
However, Hawkins and others say the bill would actually favor the big, deep-pocketed development companies over citizens groups or nonprofits. “One of the main things that we do on behalf of our members is challenge the worst development proposals around the state,” Hawkins said. “And this bill would make it impossible for us and for community groups trying to challenge those bad developments to get into court.”
In North Florida, one of those people who devotes much of her practice to representing community groups opposed to certain developments is St. Augustine attorney Jane West. She’s currently working with the county and South Anastasia Communities Association in defense of a lawsuit challenging the denial of the Kings Grant development in southern St. Johns County. West said SB 996 would simply crush citizen opposition because it would force groups to pay for their own attorney and then possibly the developer’s attorney, as well.
“One of the few last remaining hopes for Florida is the private citizen that cares enough about where they live to get engaged,” West said. “And now we’re going to punish them by making them pay for developers’ attorneys fees? That’s pretty egregious.”
Taking on large developers can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Hawkins mentioned a controversial development that was stopped in the Orlando area thanks to the efforts of Save Orange County Inc. He also used the group Stand By Our Plan as one example that could be affected by Perry’s bill. That group is opposing a large development in Alachua County called Plum Creek.
Perry said his bill would not take away the opportunity to oppose development. It would just hold the opposition accountable if it were only trying to delay a project without valid reason. “It does say, if you’re going to file this and the courts rule what you did was invalid, you have some responsibility for that,” Perry said.
West disagreed, saying it would be another impediment — and a large one at that — to those trying to stop unsavory development in their own community.
“This is just so lopsided,” she said. “In my opinion, it sends a message that anyone who cares about real Florida … just their own neighborhood, basically is going to be far too intimidated to take action on how they feel. It’s an incredibly intimidating piece of legislation. It’s already so onerous for private citizens to raise the money to hire an attorney to adequately represent them.
“It would basically stop challenges completely in their tracks.”

If you're interested, here's a link to the "1000 Friends of Florida" http://www.1000friendsofflorida.org/


Even David Beckham would have trouble scoring on that field. Maybe Florida needs a few more friends? 
On behalf of St Augustine Residents Count,
Lee Granules

In an e-mail, First Amendment patriot Warren Cellis commented:

Lee, this onerous arrogant piece of Mepublican crap bill could be a blessing in disguise.

1. It will make more and more citizens aware of what a complete and total unresponsive to the will of the people scam the 'rule of law' has become.

2. It will not squelch now very legitimate discontent; rather it will greatly piss people off even more and heighten and intensify that discontent.

3 That so fostered more intensified discontent will cause people to put their energy where it truly belongs; outside the crooked system protesting in the streets of those who create this baloneyspeak legislation and boycotting the piggish businesses that are favored by it.

4. It will also cause more and more people to put their energy into questioning the backgrounds of these Mepublican asswipes and cause them to microscopically examine their corrupt relationships and special dealings with wealthy pig xtrevilist corporate developers.

5. It will also then create more Ed Slavins and activists like yourself. And that's a good thing Lee!

Great illustration!

Regards, thanks for all that you do and keep hammering.

On behalf of Intentionally Made Homeless and Oppressed Residents Everywhere Count.
Warren Celli

cc Ed Slavin
Hutson.Travis@flsenate.gov
stuart.korfhage@staugustine.com 

Lawbreaking Governor RICHARD LYNN SCOTT Violated Civil Rights Law?: No advertising for medical marijuana regulator job, doled out to wealthy Republican's son

Corrupt Florida Republican Governor RICHARD LYNN SCOTT treated the Office of Compassionate Use as a lagniappe for the louche son of a wealthy Republican donor. The job was not advertise. This appears to violate civil rights law. EEO principles require that government jobs be posted and advertised. This political patronage hiring stinks.



Christian Bax, Director of the Office of Compassionate Use at the Florida Department of Health (POLITICO)



How Florida's well-connected medical marijuana chief got his job, despite little experience
State did not advertise for director of the Office of Compassionate

By DANIEL DUCASSI 02/22/17 05:25 AM EST


TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s top medical marijuana regulator had little experience when he won a high-profile job that state officials refused to publicly advertise, but he had assets few could match: His father is a wealthy, wired Tallahassee insider and his sister works in Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

In July 2015, former Surgeon General John Armstrong signed off on a memo from current Surgeon General (then deputy health secretary) Celeste Philip asking that the department not advertise the open job for director of the Office of Compassionate Use on the basis that Christian Bax was “the best candidate for the position,” making the assertion that he had “several years of experience in navigating medical marijuana regulations.”

But it turns out Bax was the only candidate who applied for the position, and on his job application he claimed to have only about 15 months experience working part-time as a consultant in Boston doing application work for medical cannabis firms in Washington and Nevada.

In written questions submitted by POLITICO Florida, Department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri refused to address the contradiction. She insists that “based on Mr. Bax’s policy and rulemaking knowledge and experience, the department determined he was the best candidate for the position” — even though Bax was the sole candidate to apply. She refused to elaborate on how the department made that determination.

Soon after Bax was hired in July 2015 as the director of OCU, his office was beset by legal disputes alleging the method for awarding medical marijuana licenses was arbitrary. Now the office is plagued by a growing pile of legal bills.

But beyond Bax's thin resume, the state's opaque job search and the skyrocketing litigation costs, it turns out the little experience Bax claimed to have had may have been greatly exaggerated, according to recent media reports.

A recent WPLG investigative report called into doubt Bax’s claimed experience, noting that the consulting firm he claims to have co-founded, CBK Consulting, never officially existed. That report built upon investigative work done last year by free-lance journalist Angela Bacca for the Huffington Post.

There’s no evidence Bax’s alleged partnership, CBK Consulting, ever registered as a business with any government entity, according to public records and media reports. Gambineri noted that CBK was a general partnership and asserted, "For general partnerships, there is no filing requirement pursuant to state law."

However, Massachusetts law would have required Bax to register the name he and his partners were doing business as with the City of Boston, where the office was located. So if the business did exist, it’s not clear it ever operated legally under state law.

When asked what efforts the department made to verify Bax’s claims, Gambineri replied in an email, "Per the department’s usual process, we conduct reference checks for potential employees,” but she refused to elaborate or answer questions about whom the department spoke with in carrying out the background check.

When approached by POLITICO Florida about his business consulting clients, Bax walked away, refusing to answer any questions. Gambineri claims that Bax and his partners signed non-disclosure agreements with their clients, but has not provided the agreements. Nor has Gambineri produced any partnership agreement for CBK Consulting.

And in the job application the department provided in response to a POLITICO Florida public records request, Bax did not sign the certification that he was aware any misrepresentations in the application could bar him from getting the job or get him fired.

"The missing signature was not intentional," Gambineri said. "Mr. Bax has attested to his experience in other forums including in open court, under oath."

So why did Bax get his job if he wasn’t an established medical marijuana guru with years of experience?

Both the WPLG and Huffington Post reports took note of Bax’s family connections.

Bax’s father, James Bax, is a wealthy, long-time Republican political donor whom Scott appointed last year to the Public Employees Relations Commission. Coincidentally, Bax's father also was the first Secretary of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

And the younger Bax also had a friend in the governor’s office: His sister Laura. Bax’s sister sent through another governor’s office employee, Courtney Coppola, an “alternative resume” to Bax’s predecessor, Patti Nelson, Bacca reported for the Huffington Post.

And documents obtained by POLITICO Florida show that weeks after being hired, Bax went to bat for Coppola. In August, then deputy health secretary Celeste Philip signed off on a request by Bax to not advertise an open job in the Office of Compassionate Use so they could hire Coppola — with an 18 percent raise over her position job in the governor’s office.

Gambineri said Coppola "was hired based on the merits of her experience, particularly as it relates to agency rule making processes,” and notes that her $50,000 salary is less than the $51,626.90 that her predecessor made.

Meanwhile, the Department has been plagued by legal woes and ballooning litigation costs under Bax.

About a month after Bax was hired, the department signed a $275,000 contract with the law firm Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli to represent his office in licensing disputes. Bax sat on the committee that evaluated licensing applications, and those decisions have touched off a wave of litigation, and in a couple cases, leading to additional licenses being awarded.

As applicants who were denied licenses have steadily chipped away at the state’s legal positions justifying their licensing decisions, the cost to defend Bax’s office has skyrocketed. That legal contract has has grown from $275,000 to $1,275,000, with the state paying out more than a quarter million dollars to the firm last month alone.

And industry insiders say an expected ruling in one pending case could call the whole selection system into question.

Last year, the administrative law judge in that case, in a rare informational order, criticized the licensee selection process.

"The department in fact sorted by rank, but, by inverting the rankings and calling them scores, made it look as though the applicants had been scored in proportion to merit,” the judge wrote. "It should not be thought, however, that the same results would have been reached had the department actually scored the applications, as the applicable rules require, because that is not necessarily true."

He noted that, "Missing entirely from the process was any determination regarding how much quality an application possessed in relation to the others with which it was competing — a determination without which no genuine score could be assigned."

The department’s medical marijuana litigation costs are expected to keep rising, with Scott’s budget recommending that it get an additioanl $800,000 next year for legal representation for Bax’s office.

TIME FOR A DEVELOPMENT MORATORIUM IN ST. JOHNS COUNTY PENDING REFORM OF ZONING AND IMPACT FEES

At the February 21, 2017 County Commission meeting, Commissioners voted to authorize drafting of a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries pending research. Now that St. Johns County Attorney PATRICK FRANCIS McCORMACK and his staff have learned to pronounce that five-syllable word with ten letters (MORATORIUM), we need a "moratorium" on further development approvals until we can reform impact fees and property taxation. Yes we can!






Posted February 22, 2017 04:12 am - Updated February 22, 2017 04:33 am
By JAKE MARTIN jake.martin@staugustine.com
St. Johns County to use moratorium to sift through Amendment 2 rules, regulations


St. Johns County on Tuesday took cautious steps toward implementing regulations for Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana production, possession and use statewide.

With unknowns and unanswered questions about what the amendment is ultimately going to look like, commissioners were wary of proceeding with anything that could later be superseded by federal action, state law or Florida Department of Health rules, all of which are yet to be announced or finalized. Nonetheless, commissioners were in general agreement the county needs to be prepared to proceed under a number of scenarios.

Commissioners voted unanimously to direct staff to prepare and bring back language for a temporary moratorium (for a length of time yet to be determined) on all permits and occupational licenses related to medical marijuana treatment centers. Staff was also directed to research and prepare regulations regarding zoning and licensing and to determine costs to the county in terms of administration and enforcement.

Additionally, county staff will be conducting community workshops, likely within the next month, to gauge specific concerns and interests with the new regulations.

Commissioners on Feb. 7 authorized staff to begin drafting zoning regulations for medical marijuana treatment centers. In doing so, the board essentially announced “zoning in progress.” This allowed the county to withhold building and development permits while an appropriate zoning category — as well as any other distance and premise use criteria — is researched and brought forward as an amendment to the Land Development Code. That decision still holds.

Amendment 2 was approved by 71 percent of Florida voters (and 72.7 percent of St. Johns County voters) last November and enacted Jan. 3. It allows higher-strength marijuana to be used for a wider list of medical ailments than what was previously allowed by state law. The Department of Health must promulgate rules within six months and issue identification cards after nine months, but the Florida Legislature will also have a say in the process during this year’s session, which starts March 7.

(For more on Amendment 2 and its implications for local government, see Sunday’s edition of The Record, or go to http://bit.ly/2mjeIBV.)

County Attorney Patrick McCormack told commissioners the bottom line was medical marijuana will, one way or the other, be coming to the county. Paolo Soria, assistant county attorney, said about 30 Florida counties already have moratoriums that range from 180 days to one year.

County staff had recommended a moratorium to last no more than a year in order to buy time to hash out the details of implementation and see what actions the state takes on multiple fronts.

It also remains to be seen, what, if any, differences there will be in how the Trump administration enforces federal marijuana laws versus the Obama administration.

Although the length of the moratorium is yet to be determined, staff said “a few months” should do the trick and that it would be easier to shorten a moratorium than extend one.

Staff and commissioners also expressed an interest in having things wrapped up by the Oct. 3 deadline for the Department of Health to start issuing Medical Marijuana ID cards to patients.

Implementing a moratorium will require two commission hearings, one of which will have to be after 5 p.m., unless specified otherwise by a majority-plus-one vote of the board. It will also require a hearing before the Planning and Zoning Agency. Soria said a template has been prepared and language can be brought back to the commission at its March 7 meeting.

County staff said a moratorium would not stop medical marijuana from being delivered to qualifying patients residing within the county from out-of-county suppliers.

Commission Chair Jimmy Johns said he did not want to prevent anyone who qualifies to get medical marijuana from doing so but also said he wanted a more detailed analysis of what it will cost the county to implement the pending regulations.

“We have mandates from the state already,” he said. “This needs to be cost-neutral.”

Commissioner Henry Dean not only spoke in favor of medical marijuana, stressing a need to act, but wondered aloud why they couldn’t make it even simpler for qualifying patients to obtain the treatment. He said he would like to see the pharmacies handle medical marijuana, rather than just the dispensaries, and questioned what made it different from other drugs like Percocet.

“It’s industry-driven to a large degree and that’s just my food for thought before lunch,” he said.

Tom Griffin, a Tallahassee representative for Gainesville-based San Felasco Nurseries, said the reason pharmacies cannot handle medical marijuana is actually a federal issue due to the drug’s current Schedule 1 designation. He said the industry ultimately wants its products to be offered traditionally for the sake of patient access.

San Felasco Nurseries is one of seven dispensing organizations currently authorized to grow medical marijuana in Florida.

Meanwhile, local medical marijuana proponents said people are “overwhelmingly” in support of a free market approach toward dispensing rather than through the “seven golden ticket holders” as previously chosen by the state.

One proponent from Ponte Vedra Beach told commissioners outside influences were trying to “weasel” their way into local processes and prevent smaller businesses from infiltrating the market. He asked commissioners to “break up the monopoly.”

22 hours ago
Jack (sponger) Harvell
Moratorium? You mean like what they should have done with development about twenty years ago? Before we were thirteen schools behind and they had to raise the sales tax? Like that kind of moratorium?
ReplyShare+1

16 hours ago
Wayne (mach) Hoyle
Yes. Like that one.

GREEDY DEVELOPERS DEMAND TO COUNT DRAINAGE PONDS AS IF "OPEN SPACE" IN DEVELOPMENTS



NOT SO FAST, CROOKED DEVELOPERS. This odd notion was pushed again, by developer-driven County Administrator MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK and county staff, at the behest of the "development community" -- what is that exactly? Foreign-funded secretive Limited Liability Companies and unlicensed "developers."
Enter Commissioner Henry Dean, former Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, former Executive Director of the South Florida Water Management District, an environmental lawyer with 30 years of government service. Henry Dean is against this. Joined by Commissioners Paul Waldron and Jay Morris, it appears that this idea may be halted or ameliorated.
As I told Commissioners, developers want to cram in even more homes in St. Johns County, despite having approvals for 70,000. The cynical "development community" long bossed and bullied our politics through corrupt Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, his predecessor NEIL PERRY, and PERRY's wife, SID PERRY, who ran the "Issues Group" that pre-selected all Commissioners elected here 1998-2004, while funneling millions of dollars in campaign cash into their campaigns. The crooks want to cram even more people in this beautiful place like slaves on slave ships in the 1600s.


In the words of JFK's favorite conservative British politician, Lord Falkland: "When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change."
Funnily enough, the failing St. Augustine Record's editor omitted all public comment against the proposal, by B.J. Kalaidi and me.
Wonder why?
Perhaps the revenue to the Record from government ads and from unfair and deceptive real estate ads from ugly developments from TOLL BROTHERS and other giant corporations provides sufficient incentive for the craven MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS family to pressure reporters not to cover the news without fear or favor.
That's why we need a real newspaper in this town.
But thanks to Jake Martin for trying to do his job, working for a newspaper that continues to coverup the Michelle O'Connell case,


Posted February 23, 2017 12:02 am
By JAKE MARTIN jake.martin@staugustine.com
Developers support counting improved retention ponds toward open space requirements

Should improved stormwater retention ponds count toward a developer’s requirements to provide open space within their Planned Unit Developments? How St. Johns County commissioners answer that question could have a direct impact on the densities of future and existing projects.

Commissioners are considering a change to the Land Development Code that would allow the ponds, with certain improvements and amenities provided, to account for a specified percentage of the minimum open space standard of 25 percent. Developers at Tuesday’s commission meeting threw their support behind the proposal.

Open space currently includes recreation, buffers, common areas, environmentally sensitive areas and other conservation or preservation areas providing either significant or essential natural habitat.

Assuming the necessary improvements are provided, residential developments of 10 acres or less — as well as all non-residential developments — could count 100 percent of their retention ponds as open space. Meanwhile, residential developments of more than 10 acres that provide all the necessary improvements could count 50 percent of their retention ponds as open space.

The draft language gives owners and developers a “menu approach” to providing plantings and other amenities along a retention pond so that it may serve as an “enhanced community feature,” such as wildlife habitat, a recreation amenity and/or scenic vista.

Developers said the county’s open space rule previously included stormwater retention ponds but that the provision was changed at a time where building had come to all but a standstill and no one was really looking.

Beth Breeding with the Northeast Florida Builders Association said the inability to develop the 25 percent set aside for open space, plus another 15 percent for the ponds, as required under the existing rules, has led to higher home prices.

“Developers and builders are constantly fighting to get prices down,” she said. “All we’re fighting for is to get back what we previously had.”

Breeding also said it would be in the county’s best interest to allow developers more density on less land because the same number of houses will be needed “regardless.”

“Then we don’t have to go sprawl,” she continued. “We don’t have to go out and build more roads that need to be maintained. It all comes down to making better use of the land we have.”

Jessie Spradley, also with the association, said a study by the National Association of Home Builders (whose purpose is to represent the housing industry) found 25 percent of the cost of a home is directly related to government regulation and fees.

“This stormwater regulation is a perfect example of how you’re adding onto the cost of a home for your St. Johns County residents when they go to buy,” he told commissioners.

Commissioner Jay Morris said he was tempted to call many of the retention ponds “small lakes,” at least the ones he’s seen in Ponte Vedra Beach, and that the purpose has been to get as many homes as possible on the water.

“We have an abundance of water and, I guess, what you’d call waterfront property,” he said, adding those lots are typically of a higher price. “They (the developers) went out of their way to make the retention ponds bigger.”

Morris said the subject of the regulation and its costs has never come up, much less been presented as a problem, in any conversation he’s had with builders or anybody else in his six years as a commissioner.

“I was amazed, when it first came up to us, that we’re even involved in it,” he said, referring to the proposed code change.

Commissioner Henry Dean said he sees retention ponds as part of the horizontal infrastructure required to deal with runoff and that he did not know what the intent of previous boards may have been to include or exclude the ponds from the open space rule.

“I have never felt that they are a part of what I would describe as open space,” he said. “I see open space as parks, preserves, for use by citizens who purchased lots or homes in that subdivision.”

Commissioner Paul Waldron, citing concerns with density and allowing more homes on projects, echoed Dean’s sentiments.

“We’re a little overcrowded now, as it stands, and this would add to it,” he said. “Plus, it would open us up for everybody to come back and ask for a variance of what they’ve already got in the plans.”

(Later in the meeting, Suzanne Konchan, director of growth management for the county, said it was not “unreasonable” to assume some applicants would come back and re-tune their PUDs and that the county has seen examples of this after previous code changes. She said there are some barriers, however, to major modifications, which would require multiple hearings before the commission and Planning and Zoning Agency.)

Commission Chair Jimmy Johns saw it differently.

“This is, as I see it, an option,” he said. “It’s not a mandate … I see this as providing an additional item for choice.”

Johns said there’s a cost associated with “amenitizing” a pond that would require developers to go above and beyond the minimum standards to reap any benefits.

Commissioner Jeb Smith said he was concerned the county risks impeding commercial development by excluding the ponds from open space requirements and that he agreed with Johns’ assessment that the change would constitute the creation of an option rather than a mandate.

Morris said whether the “option” was required or not wasn’t the issue.

“It would be used to put in more homes,” he said. “I would stay with where we are right now.”

As outlined in the draft language, developers would have to provide a 15-foot perimeter buffer landscaped with native grasses and shrubs; a design for the pond with contours and curvilinear shape for a “more natural landscaping effect;” a 4:1 slope ratio (the steepest slope for a retention pond that does not require a physical barrier such as a fence around the perimeter); as well as breaks for overlooks, wildlife viewing platforms and pond maintenance.

Additionally, ponds would have to include two of the following: location adjacent to other natural open space areas; a fountain or aeration system; a 3-foot wide perimeter trail around the pond with a gazebo, deck, bridge or boardwalk; an island within the stormwater pond with landscaping; or meandering water partition channels internal to the pond (for additional nutrient uptake).

County staff said on the one hand, the changes would provide more “flexibility” with design for developers, add amenities for residents living within the development, and create a more aesthetically pleasing environment that could double as wildlife habitat. On the other hand, they said the majority of open space could consist of stormwater retention ponds since they typically require 11 to 15 percent of a development area, resulting, potentially, in decreased upland preservation. Retention ponds are also designed specifically to manage stormwater and not designed to be recreational ponds for fishing or swimming.

Tuesday’s discussion was just for information. The board took no formal action, although Waldron indicated he would like to see more data on how regulations have affected home prices and whether removing them would result in any changes. Smith and Dean, in their closing comments, said they were committed to expanding the county’s economic base, particularly by bringing in more commercial development. They said they would like to see how St. Johns County compares with other counties in terms of recognizing open spaces and what effect any disparities in that practice might have on recruiting businesses.

On Oct. 20, 2015, commissioners directed staff to research allowing stormwater ponds as open space and to provide for specific examples of required stormwater pond improvements. At a follow-up meeting on May 3, 2016, commissioners directed staff to further refine the provisions, have them vetted by the development community and bring them back for further discussion.

Commissioners are also considering clarification language for fences, walls or hedges located on or near retention walls, berms or other grade changes, and how their heights are measured. Existing code allows for a fence six feet in height regardless of a change in grade. County staff is proposing three options that would provide clarity when measuring fence height adjacent to or upon grade changes in elevation that take into account distance from property lines and other criteria.

For commissioners to effectuate any changes to the Land Development Code would require an initial public hearing before the board, a second public hearing before the PZA for its recommendations and a third and final public hearing before the board.

Comments

PRISCILLA BENNETT
Open space, by definition, is space that is not filled. Preservation areas are not only heavily vegetated, they are also off-limits as the conservation easement do not allow paths or other pedestrian or bicycle access. How does that benefit a community?
Here's an idea- go to any community and stand next to the pond. Ask any child or even adult that comes by whether they are walking by a "horizontal engineered infrastructure element" or whether they are walking by a pond.

Joe Potosky
Open space? I think not.

Once homes are built there is no going back. Home after home after home for as far as the eye can see..

At the end of the day will it kill a developer to include acreage set aside for true open space that doesn't include retention ponds?


Yes Priscilla. I think the old fashioned word for this was balderdash. Open space means something the residents can walk through, even if it were covered in brambles.. Not a sump to drain water from where they built houses.

DON'T LET GREEDY HOTELIER KANTI PATEL CARVE UP AND DEVOUR ST. AUGUSTINE's HP-5 HISTORIC PRESERVATION DISTRICT

From Capt. Lee Geanuleas, U.S.N. (Ret.), 2/22/17 9:15 PM, St Augustine Residents Count on Facebook:
Neighbors, 

Over the next few days I will offer a number of reasons for why the Planning & Zoning Board (PZB) should not rezone the Barnacle Bill’s restaurant property from Historic Preservation District 5 (HP-5) to Planned Unit Development (PUD) for San Marco Hotel valet parking. This is the first of the series. 

Reason #1: It is vital to our city’s future to not rezone property zoned for historic preservation without an overwhelmingly compelling reason to do so.  

Why is that, you may ask? 

Well, because we are the nation’s oldest continuously occupied city. OUR BRAND IS OUR HISTORY.  This is what makes St Augustine special.  This is why people come here to visit.  

And this is why the five Historic Preservation Zoning Districts were created.  

Decades ago city leaders understood that if they did not institutionalize strong protections for certain parts of the city, then time and “progress” would eventually destroy what was left of our city’s history.  So they created the Historic Preservation Zoning Districts to protect that history and retain as much authenticity as we had left. 

Makes sense, doesn’t it?   

Now, a developer claims he cannot build an underground garage for a hotel he received permission to build eleven years ago. So, he is asking for approximately six percent of the HP-5 district to be rezoned from HP-5 to PUD for his valet parking lot.  

As you can see in the diagram below, when this new six percent is added to the almost 15% that was carved out of HP-5 for his hotel, about ONE FIFTH of HP-5 will have been eliminated, and with it the protections that HP zoning affords to the HP-5 district itself AND its role as a buffer to commercial encroachment into the adjacent North City and Abbott Tract National Register Historic Districts.
​​Simply put, the Historic Preservation Zoning Districts are the foundation upon which rests our city’s claim to historical significance.  They should not be carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey for the benefit and profit of a developer.  Any rezoning from HP to PUD (or anything else) should be done only for the most compelling of reasons. Sorry, hotel valet parking just doesn't cut it.
 
Preview of Reason #2: The proposed rezoning violates the requirements of the city’s Comprehensive Plan 2030.

Stay tuned (and no waiting to binge read...)!

On behalf of St Augustine Residents Count,
Lee Geanuleas

First Amendment hero Warren Celli, prevailing plaintiff in Celli v. City of St. Augustine, responded in an e-mail:
Lee said, "Why is that, you may ask?

Well, because we are the nation’s oldest continuously occupied city. OUR BRAND IS OUR HISTORY.  This is what makes St Augustine special.  This is why people come here to visit. "


Lee, as one who is totally fed up with gangster city hijacking tourism this rationale is pure baloneyspeak! Are your true colors being revealed here or have you just bought into the excessive Saint Augustine Wreckit corporate Big Tourism propaganda?

Many of us want to conserve our history because we value it solely for what it is. We value it for the peace and serenity that it provides us as a community. We value it because it allows us to preserve, study, and consider the sins of our past and thereby make amends and set a new direction for us all to live harmoniously with one another. Our long and rich and sometimes sordid history also allows us to set an example to the rest of the world by working towards a fair and measured redemption in our local human interactions. To be a true beacon of hope for a peaceful brighter future.

That is what makes Saint Augustine special Lee.

We resent the corporate baloneyspeak that offensively depersonalizes us all and labels us and our history as an effing BRAND!

We resent our real specialness being hijacked and our buildings being torn down and eliminated for gangster Big Tourism's CUSTOMERS — they are not "visitors" Lee — they are customers!

We resent being turned into a state alcohol and tobacco cartel boisterous, noisy, criminal infested joint!

We resent the extreme divisiveness that gangster tourism has visited upon our once beautiful city!

I suggest you rewrite and resend this first missive Lee.

It has ZERO appeal to me and many other residents I am sure.

Regards, and thanks for all that you do.

On behalf of Intentionally Made Homeless and Oppressed Residents Everywhere Count.
Warren Celli

cc Ed Slavin

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Davis Shores Town Hall on Hurricane Matthew, Infrastructure and City Response

There were more questions than answers last night at R.B. Hunt Elementary School, as City of St. Augustine officials faced a packed cafeteria full of hurricane victims feeling victimized by the City government and FEMA. There was time for some 22 questions.

Some were answered helpfully, as when the nuances of FEMA's 50% rule were intelligently explained.

Some were answered incompletely or inadequately, such as SANDS President and former City Commission candidate Susan Rathbone's question about the abrupt shutoff of water to Anastasia Island, apparently violating Florida law and without seeking a court order. Our efforts to seek answers will continue.

Our Nation's Oldest City's pain after a Category 3 Hurricane hit is shared by City staff and Commissioners, several of whose homes were filled with sewage and storm surge waters from Matanzas River and Salt Run. Planning snd Building Director David Birchim is having his home lifted up to be higher than the flood zone. Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline is having her home demolished and rebuilt.

Residents are conscious that global ocean level rise is here -- routine "nuisance flooding" happens now. Investments in storm sewer and sanitary sewer systems are coming, but more work is needed on sea walls and coastal erosion control, which would be given a coherent framework by the proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore legislation. http://www.staugustgreen.com/draft-legislation.html

In addition to City staff, four elected officials attended -- Mayor Nancy Shaver, Commissioners Nancy Sikes-Kline and Leanna S.A. Freeman, and County Commissioner Henry Dean, an environmental attorney and former Executive Director of the St. Johns River Water Management District and South Florida Water Management District. No one from FEMA attended. In questions and private conversations, residents expressed exasperation with the feckless fed feebs at Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), whose wrongful denial of flood insurance claims and threats to people questioning them should be referred to the FEMA Inspector General.

Hurricane Matthew's aftermath represents a crisis of confidence in government, which too often demonstrably fails to protect and serve.

But on the positive side, I see real growth among most City officials. Before the storm, some were still on October 6, 2017 "frozen in the ice of their own indifference," as FDR said, quoting "the immortal Dante." Let the healing continue.

Could empathy be breaking out? Will the people's suffering ennoble them, leading us to make this a better place?

Thanks to our incomparable reform Mayor Nancy Shaver, we weathered this storm without the flummery, dupery and nincompoopery that long characterized City Hall in the itty-bitty city, a place where bigotry and political corruption long presided.

People are asking questions, demanding answers and expecting democracy.

How cool is that?




Christina Kelso (SAR)

Here's the Record article on last night's meeting:

Posted February 22, 2017 01:02 am
By SHELDON GARDNER sheldon.gardner@staugustine.com
Davis Shores residents look for answers at city town hall about Hurricane Matthew

People stepped up to a microphone in the middle of a crowded building at R.B. Hunt Elementary School on Tuesday night, seeking answers and relief for people recovering from Hurricane Matthew.

The town hall meeting, hosted by the city of St. Augustine, focused on the hurricane’s impact to city infrastructure in Davis Shores — and what projects are underway.

But questions from the crowd of more than 100 people turned also to construction rules, sewage backups, routine flooding and why the city shut off water service before the hurricane.

One person asked whether the city will continue to allow people live in cars or campers on their property as they restore their homes, though the emergency declaration that allows the emergency living conditions is set to expire in April.

City Manager John Regan indicated the city would find a way to extend that deadline.

People also questioned the “50-percent rule.” The rule basically says that if the value of repairs to a house exceeds 50 percent of its value, the house has to be brought up to code. That could mean having to elevate a home, which for some could lead them to choose demolition.

David Abraham, of Davis Shores, said his house was spared but he has seen other homeowners wrestle with whether to demolish or elevate their homes, and have insufficient insurance money to build a new home. He asked whether the rule could be waived.

“You’re going to create a neighborhood where there are people who are having to leave or where houses are being left to mold and fester while the rest of us watch them,” Abraham said.

David Birchim, planning and building director, said it’s not a local rule, and not enforcing the 50-percent rule could put the city’s participation in the federal flood insurance program in jeopardy if the city were to get audited by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said.

The city has been working with homeowners who are dealing with repairing and rebuilding, both those affected by the 50-percent rule and others.

“This was a big … life-changing event that occurred. … But we’re working very, very hard to keep everyone in their homes,” Birchim said.

As for infrastructure, the city’s sewage pump stations were damaged by flooding, and some need to be replaced, said Bill Mendez, engineering division manager. The city also plans to raise pump stations and equipment to minimum flood elevations.

Also, the city plans to install 17 backflow prevention valves help keep water from backing up and flooding Davis Shores, said Reuben Franklin Jr., a city engineer.

As part of the flooding during the storm, the sewer system overflowed and some people reported that raw sewage contaminated their homes.

Martha Graham, public works director, said what overflowed was mostly water that had gotten into the system and some sewage.

When asked if there would be a way to prevent that happening in a future storm, Graham said the potential would still be there.

Susan Rathbone, of Davis Shores, asked why the city shut water off to the area before the hurricane hit.

Graham said if a water main broke during the storm, no one would have been able to get there and fix it. Also, the city needed to protect its water supply to be able to fight fires after the storm.

“We could potentially have lost the entire water system, the entire water supply for the city,” Graham said.

Monday, February 20, 2017

KKK BUSTER: New Book on Civil Rights Hero Stetson Kennedy, My Late Friend and Mentor






Excited to learn about new book by Dr. Peggy Bulger on my late friend and mentor, Wm. Stetson Kennedy.  

The New York Times obituary is here.

Here's the column I wrote about Stetson after his death in 2011, at age 95:

Guest column: Stetson Kennedy was a true hero, ahead of his time
Posted: September 4, 2011 - 12:49am
By ED SLAVIN
September 4, 2011 - 12:49am
Copyright 2011
St. Augustine Record

My friend and mentor, Stetson Kennedy, died last Saturday at the age of 94. Stetson was a true American hero, of whom Studs Terkel wrote:

"Stetson Kennedy, in all the delightful years I've known him, has always questioned authority -- whether it be the alderman or the president. He has always asked the question 'Why?' Whether it be waging a war based on an outrageous lie or any behavior he considers undemocratic, he has always asked the provocative question. In short, he could well be described as a ''troublemaker'' in the best sense of the word. With half a dozen Stetson Kennedys, we can transform our society into one of truth, grace and beauty."

Nearly six years ago, I was introduced to Stetson Kennedy by our mutual friend, David Thundershield Queen (now-deceased Native American advocate) at Stetson's birthday party at Beluthahatchee. Stetson impressed me with his courage, intellect and dogged determination. I enjoyed the pleasure of his company, whether talking about life or poring over FBI documents. Stetson was a kindred spirit. I was humbled and flattered when Stetson called me "Stetson Kennedy, Jr." upon our second meeting.

I had lunch with Stetson Kennedy earlier this year, at Athena (local Greek Restaurant, across from the former Slave Market, where two civil rights monuments now stand). I asked Stetson if he knew where our City Manager was that day. "I don't usually follow him," Stetson said. I told him that City Manager John Regan was visiting three Civil Rights Museums, then on his way to meeting our former UN Ambassador Andrew Young, to discuss a National Civil Rights Museum here. Upon hearing the news, Stetson Kennedy was so proud -- he almost cried. Our City of St. Augustine has come so far in such a short time, and Stetson Kennedy got to see it all. Stetson exemplified Mahatma Gandhi's precept: "Be the change you want to see in the world."

Stetson Kennedy was proud that our Nation's Oldest European-founded city will soon have a National Civil Rights Museum, thanks to the courage of the people who demonstrated here in 1964, including Ambassador Andrew Young.

Stetson Kennedy lived to see an African-American elected president of the United States and another African-American elected to be mayor of Jacksonville, Florida. That's where it all began for Stetson, as a young boy who heard about his African-American nanny raped by vicious Klansmen, retaliation for asserting her rights on a Jacksonville bus. Kennedy helped end the Klan as he knew it: the motto of his life might be "Eracism."

Stetson Kennedy's ideas live on, in the spirit of the character Tom Joad from John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath: "I'll be all around in the dark -- I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look -- wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build -- I'll be there, too."

Stetson Kennedy didn't live nearly long enough to see all of his goals achieved, but he pointed the way for future generations. He was a true hero, ahead of his time. As Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Bernard Malamud wrote in The Natural, "Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don't know how far we can go."

*

Ed Slavin received a B.S. in Foreign Service, Georgetown University; a J.D. from Memphis State University, now University of Memphis, and is a leader on environmental justice issues.

-------------

Here's what I blogged on the occasion of his 95th birthday later that year:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


Stetson Kennedy's 95th birthday

Stetson Kennedy would have been 95 today, October 5, 2011. We miss him.

The St. Augustine Record carried excellent editorials and articles about his heroism, including good coverage of Sunday’s memorial service, and graciously printed my column (above and below).

However, I was annoyed to see that not one local politician – not one – attended the memorial service. Ordinarily, St. Johns County politicians attend all sorts of church, business and philanthropic events. As Brian Wallace once said of a former Mayor, “he’s everywhere – even at the opening of an envelope!”

Not one elected public official was to be seen at Stetson’s memorial service.

I reckon he was too radical for some – his values of human rights and environmental protection might scare them. The KKK is still alive, as Stetson Kennedy told a gathering at the Southeast Branch Public Library last year – he was asked what happened to the men and boys who were throwing rocks at black people at the Slave Market in 1964 during civil rights protests. “Some of them are still around, working for the City and the County,” he said.

We’re getting a National Civil Rights Museum here in St. Augustine, thanks to the persistence of former UN Ambassador (and Atlanta Mayor) Andrew Young and St. Augustine Mayor Joe Boles. When I told Stetson Kennedy about this plan earlier this year, he almost cried. His life has helped transform our country, and that's a good thing.

Stetson Kennedy encourages us to do our best.

In fact, I just looked inside his book, Grits and Grunts -- Folklore Key West (republished with WPA photos last year). Stetson Kennedy wrote, "Here's to Ed Slavin -- a full time and over-time freedom fighter! Salud!"

We shall overcome. And we have!

Dr. Peggy Bulger, Ph.D. with the late Wm. Stetson Kennedy

Posted February 19, 2017 03:02 am | Updated February 19, 2017 08:00 am
By Charlie Patton
New book looks at the life and work of activist, journalist and folklorist Stetson Kennedy
Florida Times-Union

Peggy Bulger and Stetson Kennedy. (Provided by the Library of Congress)

Not long after she had arrived at the Stephen Foster Center in White Springs in 1976 to serve as Florida’s first State Folk Arts Coordinator, Peggy Bulger encountered the work of the Florida Writers’ Project’s Folklore Unit.

She was impressed by the research gathered and was especially impressed with Stetson Kennedy, who led the folklore unit as they worked on what became “Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State,” published by Oxford University Press in 1939.

She remembers telling Alton Morris, a University of Florida professor: “I am so amazed by the work of Stetson Kennedy. It’s really too bad he’s dead.”

Morris informed her that not only was Kennedy alive and well, he was living nearby in Jacksonville.

“As we say in the South, I was gobsmacked,” Bulger wrote in the introduction to her 1992 doctoral thesis, “Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural Advocacy.”

That thesis, with a new introduction by Ben Brotemarkle, executive director of the Florida Historical Society, a new epilogue by Bulger, and an supplementary essay by Paul Ortiz, recently has been published as a trade paperback by the Florida Historical Society. The Florida Historical Society had previously postumously published “The Florida Slave,” Kennedy’s eighth book, in 2011, the year he died.

After learning Kennedy, who had been only 22 when he was named head of the Folklife, Life History and Social/Ethnic Units of the Florida Writers Project, was alive, Bulger sought him out. The relationship enriched her life from the moment she met Kennedy, then 62, in 1978, she said.

“Stetson was an amazing mentor,” said Bulger, who served as director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress from 1999 to 2011 before retiring to Fernandina Beach.

In 1985, she took a one-year leave of absence from her work as Florida’s State Folk Arts Coordinator to complete course work for a doctorate in Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania. When she mentioned to Kenneth Goldstein, her professor at Penn, that she was friends with Stetson Kennedy, he too was “gobsmacked.”

Like Bulger, Goldstein had assumed Kennedy was dead. He immediately suggested Kennedy as the subject for Bulger’s thesis. She began extensive interviews in 1988 and submitted her thesis in 1992. It covered Kennedy’s life from his birth to his return to Florida from Europe in the early 1960s

For Kennedy folklore played important roles in both oppressing people and fighting the oppressors.

“Any oppressed people will have a protest lore, and folk culture represents whatever struggles are going on within the society — whether the lines are racial, economic or religious,” Kennedy once said. “… My self-appointed job has been to make as much use of protest lore as I possibly could, in all of the struggles that were taking place.”

Kennedy used much of the material that had been gathered for the Florida guide to write his first book, “Palmetto Country,” published in 1942 as part of the American Folkways Series.

“The impulse to both embrace the South and expose its faults would run through ‘Palmetto Country’ as Kennedy celebrated traditional Southern folklife and reported on political, economic and social realities that he hoped to change,” Bulger wrote in her thesis.

Following the publication of “Palmetto Country,” Kennedy moved to Atlanta to take more action to battle against “homegrown racial terrorists.” He would live a double life for the next six years. As Stetson Kennedy, he worked as a labor organizer and crusading journalist.

As John Perkins, he became a member of more than 20 hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan and the Columbians. Perkins would feed material he and another Klan infiltrator had gathered to the state authorities, to the influential syndicated columnist Drew Pearson and even to the producers of the “Superman” radio show, who created a story arc in which Superman battled the Grand Dragon.

In both feeding material to the “Superman” producers and later writing his book “I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan” Kennedy was “using folklore to expose the Klan and make them look ridiculous,” Bulger said in an interview.

Eventually Kennedy would reveal the fact that he was Perkins when he testified in a trial against the Columbians in 1948.

“Kennedy’s Atlanta days were both dangerous and courageous — some would say foolhardy,” Bulger wrote in her thesis.

Some of the material Kennedy gathered during his Atlanta years went into “Southern Exposure,” a straight-forward journalistic look at Southern hate groups published in 1946. He then incorporated both the material he had gathered and the material the other infiltrator had gathered into “I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan,” first published in England in 1954.

In a footnote to her thesis, Bulger wrote: “Kennedy combined his personal experiences undercover with narratives provided by John Brown in writing ‘I Rode with the Ku Klux Klan’ in 1954.”

She described the book itself as “a vivid reconstruction of Kennedy’s days undercover in the Atlanta Klavery and it reads like a good detective novel — but the story is true.”

But the novelistic approach eventually came back to briefly haunt Kennedy. When the book was reissued in 1990 by the University of Florida Presses, as “The Klan Unmasked,” he included a brief note opposite the table of contents thanking various people including “my fellow anti-Klan agent ‘Bob,’ who has risked his life many times …”

Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt celebrated Kennedy in their 2005 bestseller “Freakonomics.” But historian Ben Green, who had quarreled with Kennedy, convinced them that Kennedy had greatly exaggerated what he did. In a column they wrote for the Jan. 6, 2006, New York Times, which carried the headline “Hoodwinked,” they attacked Kennedy’s credibility.

The Times-Union examined his papers at the the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, a branch of New York City’s public library system in Harlem, and concluded that while Kennedy had used material gathered by others in his book, he had also clearly infiltrated both Klan meetings and the meetings of the Columbians, against whom he testified in court.

In his introduction to Bulger’s book, Brotemarkle writes: “Much has been made of Stetson’s creative choice to integrate information obtained by another KKK infiltrator and additional interviews with Klan members with his own experiences, presenting them with one narrative voice. The accuracy of the information in his book cannot be effectively challenged, just the style in which the facts are presented.”

In an epilogue she wrote last year for the book, Bulger said, “I was shocked and saddened that a 93 year old activist and lifelong civil rights advocate could be treated so poorly and pilloried in the press without proper documentation.”

She concludes that epilogue by writing: “Studs Terkel, the renowned historian and author, was friends with Stetson Kennedy for decades. He perhaps put it best when reflecting on the impact of Stetson’s life for all of us in the 21st century — “With half-a-dozen Stetson Kennedys, we can transform our society into one of truth, grace and beauty.”

“Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Cultural Advocacy” can be purchased at Anastasia Books, 76A San Marco Ave., St. Augustine; or by going to amazon.com.

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413
Book signing by Peggy A. Bulger of “Stetson Kennedy: Applied Folklore and Ccultural Advocacy” 2 p.m. Saturday at Mandarin Historical Society and Museum, 11964 Mandarin Road



Sandra Parks, Stetson's widow, with his KKK robes before they were sent to Smithsonian


TRUMP PLANS TO FAVOR POLLUTERS

Despicable. Let the environmental lawsuits begin against President DONALD TRUMP under the Administrative Procedure Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Let justice roll down like a mighty river, as Amos said in the Bible.

Energy and Environment
Trump to roll back Obama’s climate, water rules through executive action

By Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson February 20 at 6:43 PM
The Washington Post


President Trump signs an executive order while surrounded by small-business leaders in the Oval Office on Jan. 30. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
President Trump is preparing executive orders aimed at curtailing Obama-era policies on climate and water pollution, according to individuals briefed on the measures.

While both directives will take time to implement, they will send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production and economic activity even when those activities collide with some environmental safeguards. Individuals familiar with the proposals asked for anonymity to describe them in advance of their announcement, which could come as soon as this week.

One executive order — which the Trump administration will couch as reducing U.S. dependence on other countries for energy — will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities. It also instructs the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing.

A second order will instruct the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to revamp a 2015 rule, known as the Waters of the United States rule, that applies to 60 percent of the water bodies in the country. That regulation was issued under the 1972 Clean Water Act, which gives the federal government authority over not only major water bodies but also the wetlands, rivers and streams that feed into them. It affects development as well as some farming operations on the grounds that these activities could pollute the smaller or intermittent bodies of water that flow into major ones.

Trump has joined many industry groups in criticizing these rules as examples of the federal government exceeding its authority and curbing economic growth. While any move to undo these policies will spark new legal battles and entail work within the agencies that could take as long as a year and a half to finalize, the orders could affect investment decisions within the utility, mining, agriculture and real estate sectors, as well as activities on the ground.

Trump, who signed legislation last week that nullified a recent regulation prohibiting surface-mining operations from dumping waste in nearby waterways, said he was eager to support coal miners who had backed his presidential bid. “The miners are a big deal,” he said Thursday. “I’ve had support from some of these folks right from the very beginning, and I won’t forget it.”

Bloomberg reported several elements of the executive orders Friday.

The greenhouse-gas limits on existing power plants, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, represented a central components of President Barack Obama’s climate agenda. The regulations, which were put on hold by the Supreme Court and are being weighed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, direct every state to form detailed plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from such sources as coal-fired power plants, enough to decrease carbon pollution by about one-third by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

Trump repeatedly criticized these and other rules aimed at reducing fossil-fuel use as an attack on the U.S. coal industry. Myron Ebell, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who served on Trump’s EPA transition team, said the president “is fulfilling his campaign promise” by directing key agencies to shift course. Ebell warned, however, that undoing these rules “will take time. It could take days, months and years.”

Could Trump undo Obama's prolific environmental legacy? Play Video3:16
President Obama has used his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to create national monuments 34 times, more than any other president. With an incoming Trump administration vocally opposed to Obama's executive actions on many issues, will those monuments continue to stand? The Post's Juliet Eilperin explains. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
[A call to ‘modernize’ a coal leasing program that’s cost taxpayers billions]

One measure — lifting the moratorium on federal coal leasing — could take immediate effect. That freeze has been in effect since December 2015, and last month the Interior Department proposed major changes to a program that guides coal exploration and production across 570 million publicly owned acres.

Days before Obama left office, the Interior Department issued a report saying the federal government should explore options that include charging a higher royalty rate to companies, factoring in the climate impact of the coal being burned through an additional charge to firms and setting an overall carbon budget for the nation’s coal leasing permits. But the new administration has expressed little interest in pursuing these policies and appears to be opening up the option of coal leasing again without any preconditions.

The House has already passed legislation that would eliminate a BLM rule curbing the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations on federal land. The resolution, which needs Senate and presidential approval to take effect, uses the 1996 Congressional Review Act to reverse one of the final rules the Obama administration issued. While Trump administration officials have discussed whether to address methane regulation in the upcoming executive order, it may not be included in light of Congress’s recent action.


Separately, Trump and his deputies are reopening a question of water policy that has bedeviled government officials from both parties for two decades. Two Supreme Court decisions that came down during the George W. Bush administration, in 2001 and 2006, spurred uncertainty over exactly which bodies of water fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction. The Bush administration worked on drafting regulations to address the issue, but once Obama took office the EPA began rewriting them. The current rule gives the federal government wide latitude to protect smaller tributaries as well as some, such as wetlands, that may be dry periodically, on the grounds that they still need to be preserved as critical water supplies.

But groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation argue that the new restrictions could require farmers to pay significant fees to gain federal permission for filling in areas on their property and could halt some operations altogether.

Hunter and angler groups, however, have expressed concern about any rollback of the rule, which they say will preserve wetlands and other habitat that is crucial for outdoor recreation.

“If they have a better way to do it, we’re all for it,” said Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “But we want to make sure the wetlands and streams covered in the Obama rule can be covered in whatever they develop as a replacement. That’s our bottom line.”

TBT: Tampa has one of the worst public transit systems in America, but St. Augustine and St. Johns County's System Is Far Worse

Among the largest American cities, Tampa has one of the worst public transit systems in America, with workers spending hours to commute to jobs they could drive to in 20 minutes if they owned a car.  CLICK HERE.

St. Johns County has a really poor public transportation system but the failing St. Augustine Record refuses to cover the story.  

Our miserable excuse for a transit system is run by the Council on Aging, with a million dollars in federal and county funds a year, and a system that doesn't run on Sunday, has only five or six busses a day, does not run on time, and is incapable of getting workers to jobs reliably.

Thanks to longtime COA President JOE BOLES, dishonest, disgraced, defeated, erstwhile ex-Mayor of St. Augustine, for this pitiful transit system that ill-serves our residents who don't own or drive cars.

Enough.






SJCFD Saves Injured Owl, Arrogant Sheriff SHOAR Tried to Claim Credit

Kudos to the St. Johns County Fire Rescue service for saving an owl and to Historic City News for reporting the facts. No thanks to controversial St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, whose staff attempted to claim credit.  Ethically challenged SHOAR and his orotund, overpaid mendacious minions, including brother-in-law CHARLES MULLIGAN, PR "spin" meister, deserve to be thrown out the door with SHOAR on the respective keisters. HCN reports:





A word to the wise about discarding trash






If summer ever returns, the Historic City news desk will no doubt get at least one report of a sea turtle caught in discarded plastic rings thrown into the water by a thoughtless fisherman, or some other animal whose had an unfortunate run in with litter that was not put in its proper place.
Today, however, it was a wise old owl who had given up on ways to free itself from a twisted fishing line. The bird was found perched high in a pine tree near Turnbull Creek; with the wire caught in its talons and looped around its face, beak, and wings.
The owl managed to perch itself high in a pine tree near Turnbull Creek, where it was spotted and reported to 9-1-1.  St Johns County Fire Rescue Engine 16 responded to the scene this morning to attempt to rescue the bird from its otherwise inaccessible location.
Firefighter Chris Naff, once protected in turn-out gear and heavy gloves, could then safely remove the owl from the tree and free it from the tangled line.
“The owl was safely transferred to the care of Animal Control,” Lt. Jeremy Robshaw reported. “As always, Special Operations can mean many things for First Responders and we try our best to always be prepared and ready for the challenge.”
Carelessness with human litter, especially on our beaches, riverways and many outdoor trails, can quickly become the deathtrap that kills another animal. Use designated trash receptacles, where provided, or collect your litter and take it with you to your next stop.
Assisting Naff were Firefighter Lance Robinson and Captain Marc Grabert, shown. Good job, well done. Photos contributed by St Johns County Fire Rescue.

One online commenter opined that if SHOAR'S SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT were involved, there would have been helicopters, tasers and flash bang grenades, rubber bullets launched at the crowd, an eight-hour standoff with the SWAT team in the Sheriff's armored personnel carrier.

SHOAR's Facebook page stated:

Sometimes it's not only Taking Care Of People, it’s Taking Care of our Feathered Friends.
Cpl Masters took a call for service on an owl that was in distress, being seen tangled up in fishing line and stuck in a tree. CPL Masters had the caller call in on 911 so we could better pin point the owls location. Deputies Delucca and Dobbs arrived on scene and after multiple attempts, they knew they were going to need assistance and St. Johns County Fire Rescue was requested.
Once approved by their battalion chief, they responded and assisted w/ the rescue of this beautiful bird. Awesome job by all.
Nice to have happy endings and even nicer when the units share photos to the dispatchers and they get to see firsthand the results of their efforts!!!!


BOTTOM LINE: We need honest law enforcement, not a lapdog -- an Inspector General here in St. Johns County, as in other counties, to investigate waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.