Friday, March 24, 2017

200 "Rich and Powerful" Volusia Coutianans Fete Embry-Riddle University's MicaPlex, named for ex-Rep. JOHN LUIGI MICA (R-BIG OIL)

Was he an egomaniac with an edifice complex, or a pathetic putrid puppet with naming rights? PORK BRRREL POLKA POLITICS yields naming rights for corrupt ex-Rep. JOHN LUIGI MICA (R-FL6/BIG OIL), who mis-represented St. Augustine in Congress 2003-2013, as lugubrious a goober as ever made a chair squeak. This' phony's entire family is crawling with lobbyists -- two brothers, his son and his daughter, 75% of whom work for Big Oil or its commercial allies. He was redistricted (again) and finally lost re-election in 2016. Fond memories of mocking JOHN LUIGI MICA's foibles here:












Embry-Riddle’s MicaPlex opens for research, job creation

Thursday
Posted Mar 23, 2017 at 10:00 PM
Updated Mar 23, 2017 at 10:18 PM
By T.S. Jarmusz
DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL

DAYTONA BEACH — Suddenly Thursday, after 10 years in the making, the John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex became a reality.

Standing before crowd of roughly 200 of Volusia's rich and powerful, the $21 million two-story glass, steel and concrete structure at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University drew praise and accolades.

It was once just a dream. Before that, a patch of grass. Now, the complex on Clyde Morris Boulevard could be home to the next great idea or tech giant.

"Years and years ago, we dreamed about this. Years and years ago, we talked about this," board Chair Mori Hosseini said at Thursday's illumination commencement. "We doubted ourselves many times, but we never stopped dreaming."

But it's more than just a fancy building or even a university centerpiece. The hybrid research center and startup business incubator represents a new future for Embry-Riddle and possibly Volusia County. It melds minds and money: bringing together scientists, business experts, venture capitalists and top staff from the university's three campuses.

More commonly called the MicaPlex, the building bears the name of former Congressman John Mica, who has supported other Embry-Riddle ventures like its NextGen Florida Test Bed, a National Aerospace System research and demonstration site.

"Kids will have forgotten who John Mica is, but what is significant about this is, you've created opportunity for those students, for our university, for our nation ... for our future," Mica said.

The complex boasts more than 10,000 square feet of flexible lease space, as well as office space, mixed-use space and cutting-edge laboratories. Researchers can use the in-house labs to study everything from drones to climate systems.

The MicaPlex is the crown jewel of a larger research park, which will focus on aviation, space, engineering and unmanned systems. The school has high goals for the project, among them becoming transitioning from teaching institute to a class-leading research university.

But it's not only about research. While having a top-notch research facility should boost the university's master's and Ph.D. retention rates, Hosseini said he's most excited about having people who grow up in the area, stay and work right here in town.

Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley called the MicaPlex a "game-changer," and said it will create high-paying jobs in the area.

After a new wind tunnel opens at the research park, when combined with the MicaPlex labs, the two projects will support more than 24 jobs with projected salaries upwards of $100,000, a university document states.

It's not impossible to think that those high-paying jobs will attract other business to the area.

New Embry-Riddle President Barry Butler said the MicaPlex could one day allow the university to become a "global engineering powerhouse" and create an opportunity for "incredible economic growth."

Local growth in the aerospace field could eventually spread down the East Coast and converge with Cape Canaveral. A 2016 PricewaterhouseCooper study ranked Florida second in the nation for aerospace manufacturing attractiveness. A U.S. Department of Labor study also ranked Florida second for aviation, aerospace and space establishments.

The technology and innovation produced at the MicaPlex could one day lead to large aerospace companies doing business in the county, Space Florida president and CEO Frank DiBello said.

The night also held a surprise announcement. Embry-Riddle created a scholarship in Mica's honor. The John Mica Honorary Endowed Scholarship for Engineering Excellence will be used to help support engineering undergraduate students, Butler said.

While the project is now reality, Butler said he wasn't about rest on his laurels.

"Now, the real work begins," Butler said.

ST. AUGUSTINE RECORD MANIPULATED BY ST. JOHNS COUNTY SHERIFF SHOAR ONCE AGAIN?








Sheriff SHOAR's mouthpiece, ROBERT LESTER McLEOD, II a/k/a "MAC McLEOD," who contends the gun recoiled forward.

So McLEOD emits oceans of emotion in a motion. When?  It was filed March 23.  Where? It was trumpeted in a page one article in the March 24, 2017 St. Augustine Record.  More page one crocodile tears for Deputy JEREMY BANKS ever even being considered a murder suspect? Where? On the front page of today's St. Augustine WRecKord!

The angry arachnid apparatchik's angry words, generating more heat than light, inflame an inflammatory story about St. Johns County Sheriff Deputy  JEREMY BANKS' motion for summary judgment in his federal court lawsuit against Agent Rodgers.

A motion for summary judgment contends there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and is governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 BANKS' motion for summary judgment in quo was filed by BANKS' loudmouth louche lawyer, "MAC" McLEOD. It was filed in BANKS' lawsuit against FDLE and Special Agent Rusty Ray Rodgers. At the urging of Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, is BANKS' lawyer trying his SLAPP case in the press? How long has corrupt Sheriff DAVID SHOAR been crowing to his cronies, toadies and fellow bellicose bullies that there would "soon" be a report "proving" Michelle O'Connell committed suicide on September 2, 2010?

It has been six years, six months and 23 days since Michelle O'Connell was shot to death.  The St. Augustine Record has neglected its duty to report the news ever since.

Sheriff SHOAR's coverup is a national scandal.
http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/two-gunshots/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/death-in-st-augustine/

SHOAR's coverup is a local embarrassment.

It's shameful that our Sheriff, in a homicide case involving one of his own deputies, refused to recuse himself, refusing to call in FDLE as his predecessors and colleagues would have done.

It's painful that our hometown newspaper has sided with a corrupt Sheriff and his minions for so long.

The Record's coverage has been execrable, influenced by advertisers and coerced by threats from McLEOD, who telephoned then-"Director of Audience and Editor" KATHY NELSON at 2 in the morning to threaten litigation over comments about BANKS' lawsuit.
http://cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2014/09/stay-calm-jeremy-banks-lawyer-threatens.html
http://folioweekly.com/SOMEBODYS-LYING-ST-AUGUSTINE-RECORD-ACTIVIST-JEREMY-BANKS,10912
https://historiccity.com/2014/staugustine/news/florida/local-newspaper-editor-lie-call-reader-47561

Last year, in one of its most one-sided stories ever, the Record quoted Sheriff SHOAR and published BANKS' incoherent attacks on the Michelle O'Connell family for seeking justice and arranging an independent autopsy, which found Ms. O'Connell's jaw was broken.  After the independent autopsy last year, SHOAR issued a 5:54 AM press release that stated:   “Molesting (sic) Michelle from her place of rest using some freelance type approach is beyond unconventional, it was reprehensible.” 

No, SHOAR, it is you who are "reprehensible."

After the autopsy, McLEOD wrote a mean-spirited column in the Record attacking the grieving O'Connell family.  What a sick twisted paper.  What a Confederacy of Dunces.

The Record recently ran one good story by reporter Jared Keever about the disciplining of two malfeasant autopsy physicians this month. Good work.

But on balance, is The Record a lapdog, not a watchdog? Does it resemble the proverbial "dog that did not bark" in a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story about detective Sherlock Holmes?

Lawyers file motions every day. Perhaps maybe twice a year, the Record runs a story about a lawyer filing a motion. When it does, it generally does not do so the day after the motion was filed.

So why a 1051 word story the day after a federal court motion is filed, without any expressed effort for fair comment by Special Agent Rodgers, his counsel, his supervisors, FDLE, the Michelle O'Connell family, law professors, or anyone?

Why a news story about a motion without quoting any actual live source?

Not even a question or followup directed to BANKS' attorney?

After the autopsy physicians' discipline vote by the Florida Board of Medial Examiners, and under continuing scrutiny by the FBI, federal courts and the news media, does Sheriff SHOAR request favorable news coverage and emotional motions from his minions?

Does SHOAR still bend the ear of anyone who will still listen to his whiny excuses for misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance?

The most analytical words in today's sloppy, shallow, one-sided article are "A judge will have to rule on the motion" (as the Record reported in its penultimate paragraph).   Yer damn straight!

A motion for summary judgment contends there is "no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and is governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:

Rule 56. Summary Judgment

(a) Motion for Summary Judgment or Partial Summary Judgment. A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense — or the part of each claim or defense — on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.

(b) Time to File a Motion. Unless a different time is set by local rule or the court orders otherwise, a party may file a motion for summary judgment at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery.

(c) Procedures.

(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or

(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

(2) Objection That a Fact Is Not Supported by Admissible Evidence. A party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.

(3) Materials Not Cited. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.

(4) Affidavits or Declarations. An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.

(d) When Facts Are Unavailable to the Nonmovant. If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may:

(1) defer considering the motion or deny it;

(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or

(3) issue any other appropriate order.

(e) Failing to Properly Support or Address a Fact. If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party’s assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may:

(1) give an opportunity to properly support or address the fact;

(2) consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion;

(3) grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials — including the facts considered undisputed — show that the movant is entitled to it; or

(4) issue any other appropriate order.

(f) Judgment Independent of the Motion. After giving notice and a reasonable time to respond, the court may:

(1) grant summary judgment for a nonmovant;

(2) grant the motion on grounds not raised by a party;or

(3) consider summary judgment on its own after identifying for the parties material facts that may not be genuinely in dispute.

(g) Failing to Grant All the Requested Relief. If the court does not grant all the relief requested by the motion, it may enter an order stating any material fact — including an item of damages or other relief — that is not genuinely in dispute and treating the fact as established in the case.

(h) Affidavit or Declaration Submitted in Bad Faith. If satisfied that an affidavit or declaration under this rule is submitted in bad faith or solely for delay, the court — after notice and a reasonable time to respond — may order the submitting party to pay the other party the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, it incurred as a result. An offending party or attorney may also be held in contempt or subjected to other appropriate sanctions.

(As amended Dec. 27, 1946, eff. Mar. 19, 1948; Jan. 21, 1963, eff. July 1, 1963; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007; Mar. 26, 2009, eff. Dec. 1, 2009; Apr. 28, 2010, eff. Dec. 1, 2010.)



The Record breathlessly reports BANKS' summary judgment motion in a 1051 word news story here:

Posted March 24, 2017 05:26 am - Updated March 24, 2017 05:43 am
By JAKE MARTIN jake.martin@staugustine.com
Deputy Banks’ attorney claims FDLE agent’s credibility ‘destroyed’

Attorneys for St. Johns County sheriff’s deputy Jeremy Banks filed a motion in a federal court in Jacksonville Thursday claiming Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Rusty Rodgers “destroyed” his own credibility and asking that his defenses and pleadings be thrown out in an ongoing civil rights and malicious prosecution suit brought against the embattled agent.

An FDLE report released last March said Rodgers’ investigation into the 2010 death of Michelle O’Connell was “substandard” and that Rodgers, among other things, left details out when documenting an interview, added a word to a quote in multiple affidavits and failed to document a text message in his investigative report.

According to a news release, attorney Mac McLeod, representing Banks, seeks (by striking Rodgers’ defenses) to proceed with determining any damages “awardable” to Banks “who has endured years of false allegations he was responsible for his girlfriend’s death, which was ruled a suicide by 3 separate medical examiners and 2 State Attorneys.”

Banks sued Rodgers in 2014, claiming Rodgers worked under a theory Banks was to blame in O’Connell’s death.

O’Connell died of a gunshot wound through her mouth on Sept. 2, 2010, in Banks’ home. Banks was, and still is, a sheriff’s deputy. The gun that fired the fatal shot was his service weapon.

The death, initially investigated by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, was eventually ruled a suicide by the local District 23 Medical Examiner’s Office.

Last month, the state’s Medical Examiners Commission recommended disciplinary action for Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Predrag Bulic and associate medical examiner Dr. Frederick Hobin, both involved in the 2010 investigation. The vote came after a panel found probable cause both men violated Florida statutes and “practice guidelines” in their handling — and the office’s handling — of documents associated with the case.

Some members of O’Connell’s family have said she wouldn’t have killed herself and some have questioned the integrity of the original investigation and believe Banks is responsible, though he has denied any wrongdoing.

Thursday’s motion is the latest development in ongoing proceedings that have played out in the courts and the media since the 2010 death.

The motion, which characterizes Rodgers’ conduct as a “cancer” to the justice system, claims Rodgers “repeatedly engaged in outright misrepresentations and perjury” while testifying under oath, providing several examples.

In the motion, McLeod claims Rodgers took “extreme and unlawful measures” to make sure Banks was charged with O’Connell’s murder, despite “overwhelming evidence” and the medical examiner reports indicating otherwise. The motion also says Rodgers initially admitted in his deposition “he did not have (or even consider) probable cause” to believe Banks was “criminally culpable.”

“Rodgers aggressively advocated his unsupported theory Banks was guilty of murder to others, including Michelle’s family members, Banks’ employer, witnesses, law enforcement officials, prosecutors and their investigators, medical examiners and a County Judge,” the motion continues. “Among the many instances of his intentional misconduct, Rodgers manipulated evidence to suit his theory, communicated false factual representations indicating Banks’ culpability to others and knowingly omitted significant exculpatory evidence, in an effort to have the official suicide findings changed to homicide and charges brought against Banks for murder.”

The motion says Rodgers’ efforts continued after the conclusion of his investigation despite independent findings by two state attorneys’ offices that there was insufficient probable cause to bring charges against Banks for any crime.

Also under the microscope are Rodgers’ sworn statements throughout the litigation denying conversations and circumstances reported by others or making counter accusations. In his deposition, Rodgers repeatedly denied telling anyone Banks murdered Michelle O’Connell.

Rodgers at one point testified he had conveyed to others that O’Connell “didn’t kill herself” (rather than saying Banks had murdered her). At another point, he said there was a “good possibility,” based on the evidence, that Banks and O’Connell “might have been fighting over the gun and that the gun accidentally went off.” Asked to clarify his statement on the gun “accidentally going off intraorally,” Rodgers said it was “just a theory” and that he “didn’t say accidentally.”

Among the witnesses cited in the motion as demonstrating Rodgers’ “untruthful testimony,” are County Judge Charles Tinlin, St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Rob Hardwick (former state attorney investigator) and former St. Johns County deputy Scott O’Connell (Michelle’s brother, who filed a civil suit of his own against Rodgers, also in 2014).

When asked what Rodgers told him when applying for a warrant, Tinlin testified Rodgers had told him Banks “put her on her knees and shot her in the mouth with a handgun.”

Hardwick testified Rodgers’ claim he had never opined or suggested to anyone Michelle O’Connell was murdered was a “blatant lie.”

“He came into our office convinced that it was a murder we were working, period,” Hardwick said in his deposition. “It never wavered off murder from the day I met him.”

Scott O’Connell had testified: “When he told me that my sister was executed by Jeremy Banks on her knees and where she was screaming for her life, those types of things stand out.”

“Defendant’s only explanation is that everyone is lying except him,” the motion said.

Other similar instances are outlined in the 26-page motion, which also accuses Rodgers of “coaching” witnesses and trying to influence witnesses prior to on-the-record interviews in an attempt to get charges brought against Banks — and later lying about the conduct while under oath.

As written in the motion: “Defendant Rodgers’ false, misleading and inconsistent testimony throughout the discovery process is so pervasive and extreme, and involves so many material issues, it has destroyed Defendant’s credibility on all issues, significantly undermined the integrity of this action, and caused substantial amounts of time and expense in rebuttal work by Plaintiff’s counsel. Given the prevalence of his lies and their effect on pivotal issues and allegations in this case, Defendant’s misconduct unfairly hampers the presentation of Plaintiff’s claims and interferes with the Court’s ability to impartially determine whether genuine issues of fact exist.”

A judge will have to rule on the motion.

Rodgers was suspended with pay throughout the three-year investigation by FDLE, which came at the request of St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. It was reported at the time of Rodgers’ reinstatement, also last March, that he had received counseling and would receive remedial training regarding procedures for documenting investigative reports.

Comments

Michael Jones
Rodgers may or may not have operated any differently than investigators normally use in the majority of these type of investigations irregardless Michelle was executed and a grand jury presented with the latest autopsy and all previous facts would result in a homicide indictment. It is still a cover up.

Barb Smith
The only one who has lost credibility is Banks, and he did that right from the start. Remember the FB picture of him in uniform flipping the bird at the camera? If he wins this lawsuit and gets more than a nickel it will just prove that the justice system - both criminal and civil - is very badly broken.

Tammy Chapman
Hardwick??!! The very same Hardwick who supports forensic staff that determined (in another "suicide"') that the High Velocity Impact Blood Spatter on the palm of the victim's (supposed shooting) hand was caused by ... "postmortem tissue donation"??!! Evidently Hardwick believes that blood travels at 100+ mph during a postmortem... contradicting one of the top blood spatter analysts in the world!! The same Hardwick who missed the shell placement in the cylinder and then blamed it on responding officers 'clearing the weapon'. These same responding officers .., who failed to note any of this in their affidavits and is also contradicted by Samaritans at the scene? The list is a long one. This is the guy you want investigating your loved one's untimely death?? Really??!!
Hardwick doesn't analyze evidence, he ignores it or manipulates it. His complicity is staggering, and he's the last person in the world to be judging anyone's work ethic!!
Cats in a litter box.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

FL Gov. SCOTT's Sneaky Attack on Administrative Law Judge Independence

Florida does not deserve ALJs bossed by the Governor.  HB 1225 is a truly dangerous proposal would make ALJs hired hands hand-picked by the Governor. This bill stinks. One of the things that distinguishes Florida law from other states is that there is an independent panel of ALJs, not employed by the agency whose cases they decide.

I was honored to clerk for Chief Administrative Law Judge Nahum Litt and ALJ Charles P. Rippey of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Administrative Law Judges, 1986-1988.  These two ALJs and others exemplified judicial independence.  They stood like Horatio at the Bridge as a bulwark against official oppression, empowering judges at other agencies to unite in asking for a central corps of ALJs and working to resist demands for ALJ performance appraisals amidst Reagan-Bush era pressures on Social Security disability ALJs to decide cases against disability claimants.  From 1979-1995, during the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton presidencies, USDOL Chief Judge Litt protected independent ALJs from unpatriotic unseemly unconstitutional ex parte pressures on behalf of powerful employers.

Only a few years later, as Legal Counsel for Constitutional Rights of the Government Accountability Project, I was retained to represent seven U.S. Department of the Interior ALJs -- a majority of DOI ALJs -- who were challenging Reagan-Bush era assaults on judicial independence.  I wrote about their case in a peer-reviewed American Bar Association journal written for and about judges. See Edward A. Slavin, Jr., "ALJ Independence Undermined; What the Interior. Department Is Doing and Why," 31 Judge's Journal 26 (Spring 1992); "The Pecking Order," 31 Judge's Journal 31 (Spring 1992). The American Bar Association Journal dedicated a November 1991 cover story to their cause.

Judicial independence is a hot topic this week of the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
President Ronald Wilson Reagan said in an address carried live on Russian television, "Go into any courtroom and there will preside an independent judge, not beholden to any government power."
Or as Judge Gorsuch said he was told by a wise old judge, judicial independence is when the government can lose in court and accept the result."
Obviously, Florida's energumen Governor sick RICK SCOTT does not accept judicial independence.
Is he unAmerican?












Plan would let governor pick administrative judges

By DARA KAM
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 22, 2017......... One case involved a tiny horse track where an employee waved a red rag to start a "race" between two aging nags.

Another centered on whether pari-mutuels could continue to offer popular "designated-player" poker-style games at card rooms throughout the state.

And a third focused on a dispute between a public hospital system and an industry giant over building a new medical center in Doral.

The cases are just a sample of the skirmishes at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, where nearly three dozen judges weigh in on state agency actions on matters ranging from the mundane to the colossal.

In recent months, administrative law judges have sided against gambling regulators, health officials and other state agencies for exceeding their authority or failing to do their jobs correctly.

Now, lawmakers are considering giving Gov. Rick Scott the authority to appoint the judges, who would also be limited to serving a maximum of eight years --- unless they get fired by the governor.

The proposed overhaul, which has remained under the radar, would essentially give Scott control over the judges who decide whether the governor's agencies are acting properly.

Proponents maintain that the changes would instill "transparency and accountability" into the administrative hearing process, while critics contend the revamp could potentially allow agencies to run roughshod over the public.

House bill sponsor Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, told the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee this week that administrative law judges, hired by the agency's chief judge and treated as career-service employees, effectively serve lifetime terms, regardless of their performance.

"There's no turnover whatsoever. There's no accountability. There's no election process," Fitzenhagen said before the panel's 12-3 vote in favor of the measure (HB 1225). "What we're endeavoring to do here is create more transparency and accountability."

But Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican who voted against the bill, questioned whether the appointment process, and the ability of the governor to ax judges for unspecified reasons, would put a damper on the administrative judges' oversight of executive agencies.

The proposal "is going to undermine their willingness and their independence to say no to an agency," said Eisnaugle, who, like Fitzenhagen, is an attorney.

"Agency overreach is one of the biggest problems we deal with," Eisnaugle said. "We need to put more checks on agencies, not fewer. … An administrative law judge is one of the few opportunities that Floridians have to fight back against an agency that's out of control."

Currently, the director of the division is the agency's chief judge, who answers to the governor and Cabinet and must be confirmed by the Senate.

The notion of limiting the tenure of administrative law judges comes as House Speaker Richard Corcoran pushes a constitutional proposal that would restrict appellate judges to serving a maximum of two consecutive six-year terms.

Under Fitzenhagen's proposed bill, the governor would pick administrative law judges from a list of three nominees offered by a statewide commission. The governor would appoint three members to the nominating commission, and each member of the Florida Cabinet --- the attorney general, the chief financial officer and the agriculture commissioner --- could each appoint two commissioners.

The judges would be appointed to four-year terms, but could be removed by the governor "for cause." Before a judge's term expires, the nominating commission would conduct a review to determine whether his or her performance was satisfactory. Judges would be limited to serving two terms.

Robert Cohen, who serves as chief judge of the Division of Administrative Hearings, told the House panel that he undergoes an annual review when he is reappointed by the governor and Cabinet.

Cohen, who was hired by the governor and Cabinet 12 years ago, said he welcomes "more transparency” but provides a detailed review every year to his bosses.

"I get grades from the Cabinet members," Cohen said.

Cohen also said that, under the current system, administrative law judges are not susceptible to outside influence by the governor, which protects petitioners and judges.

If judges nearing the end of their terms want to be reappointed, "somewhere in the back of my mind might be swimming around that I can't be fair and impartial" when ruling against executive agencies, Cohen said.

"If a member of the public challenges an agency rule, then why would you want the agency deciding whether this rule is good or bad? The agency has already decided this rule is good," Cohen said. "We don't have any independent or special or God-given powers. … We are bound to follow the law and apply the law to the facts of the case before us. And that's where it ends."

Bill Pfeiffer, a former administrative law judge, called the proposal "very dangerous in the long term."

"While I have huge respect for this governor and don't think he would place his finger on the scale of fairness or justice, it opens the door very wide for any future executive to completely control all future outcomes in any challenges to an agency," he said. "The public should be outraged."

Will developers' "upscale" private beach club violate civil rights laws?

Dodgy TWIN CREEKS developer building 14 acre "lagoon" as "private" refuge for rich white guys in "upscale" community.   County keeps allowing speculator-developers to avoid, evade and neglect their legal duties to provide affordable housing.  Might this malign neglect violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act?  The Fair Housing Act?  Does "development" reporter Stuart Korfhage's dupey developer stenography and hagiography get any dupier?




Beachwalk, with its Crystal Lagoon centerpiece, celebrating groundbreaking today



 Comments

An upscale neighborhood anchored by what is essentially a 14-acre swimming pool is no longer just a concept with artists’ renderings.
The new community in northern St. Johns County has a name (Beachwalk) and, more importantly, a real expectation that people will be living there before the year is out.
“This isn’t just a concept. This is what we’re building,” developer John Kinsey said.
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Kinsey and others associated with the development are in town today to celebrate the groundbreaking of the community, which is part of the original Twin Creeks development.
The project is being done by Art Falcone’s Encore Capital Management and Twin Creeks Development.
Bringing the man-made lagoon into the project was something Kinsey and Falcone talked about years ago. And it’s just part of the unique character of the community.
Kinsey said the architecture, landscaping and amenities will be different from any other community in the area.
“It’s a departure from what you see everywhere you go,” he said. “When we started working on the whole idea of Beachwalk two years ago, Art and I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that this area didn’t need more of what is being built and sold in every other community.”
At more than 1,000 acres, Beachwalk will contain about 1,000 homes and a 175,000-square-foot retail village that will provide waterfront dining and shopping.
The Crystal Lagoon will be surrounded by white sand beaches, including a private beach club on the north shore of the lagoon. The beach club will include a restaurant, several bars, a fitness center, an 18-hole miniature golf course and Laguna Dog, a splash park for the dogs of the community.
“We are excited to break ground on our largest lagoon in Florida,” said Uri Man, CEO, Crystal Lagoons U.S. East, in a release. “The developer is using the Crystal Lagoon to create a vibrant waterfront dining and retail experience that will revitalize the community and attract tourists and visitors alike.”
Although the groundbreaking is today, much of the work on the community has already been done.
Kinsey said the lagoon will be filled in July, and homes could be sold as early as the fall.
Man-made lagoon will anchor new residential community, retail complex on C.R. 210

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Philadelphia, PA Prosecutor RUFUS SETH WILLIAMS Indicted for Corruption, Bribery Fraud (NYTIMES)


RUFUS SETH WILLIAMS, Philadelphia, PA DA RUFUS SETH WILLIAMS indicted by a 23 person federal grand jury and will be judged by a federal court jury. (Photo: Uptown Magazine).

Philadelphia was long been a corrupt cesspool, as Lincoln Steffens found in The Shame of The Cities.

Read indictment here.


Read USDOJ press release and New York Times article:

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Philadelphia District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams Indicted On Bribery And Extortion Charges

Also Charged with Defrauding Nursing Home, Family Friends

PHILADELPHIA – A federal grand jury today returned a 23-count indictment charging Philadelphia District Attorney Rufus Seth Williams with bribery, extortion, and honest services wire fraud in connection with tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of concealed bribes that he received from two business owners in exchange for his agreement to perform official acts. The indictment also charges Williams with defrauding a nursing home and family friends of money earmarked for a family member’s care.

The charges were announced today by Acting New Jersey U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick, along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster, Philadelphia Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd of IRS-Criminal Investigation, Philadelphia Office; and Special Agent in Charge Marlon V. Miller of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Philadelphia.

Williams, 50, of Philadelphia, is charged with 10 counts of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery contrary to Pennsylvania law (the “Travel Act counts”), two counts of Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right, five counts of honest services wire fraud, and six counts of wire fraud. He will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on a date to be determined.

“The indictment alleges that as District Attorney, Mr. Williams compromised himself and his elected office by standing ready to help those who were willing to pay him with money, trips, and cars,” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said. “Mr. Williams’ alleged willingness to compromise his position of public trust in exchange for private financial gain is all the more unfortunate given that he was elected to protect the interests of the people of Philadelphia as their chief law enforcement officer.”

“The alleged misconduct, as specifically laid out in this indictment, is brazen and wide-ranging, as is the idea that a District Attorney would so cavalierly trade on elected office for financial gain,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Harpster said. “The immense authority vested to law enforcement has to be kept in check, and that requires decision-makers and leaders with a steady ethical compass. When elected or appointed officials stray from their sworn oaths, they must be held accountable. Combating public corruption remains the FBI's top criminal priority."

According to the indictment:

From July 2010 to July 2015, Williams solicited and accepted a stream of bribes from two business owners in exchange for Williams performing and agreeing to perform official acts for the business owners and their associates. In order to conceal these illegal arrangements, Williams filed false and misleading personal financial statements for the years 2012 through 2015, which intentionally omitted references to the valuable items that Williams received from the business owners during those years. After Williams learned of the federal investigation, he amended those financial disclosure statements to list many of the items listed in the indictment, excluding a pre-owned 1997 Jaguar he received in June 2013.

The Unlawful Arrangement with Business Owner #1

From July 2010 through May 2015, Williams allegedly solicited and accepted a number of valuable items from an individual identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #1,” including an all-inclusive vacation to Punta Cana worth $6,381, a custom sofa worth $3,212, a $502 dinner at a Philadelphia restaurant, a $7,000 check, approximately $2,000 in cash, a Louis Vuitton tie worth $205, an iPad worth approximately $300, a Burberry watch, and a Burberry purse for Williams’ girlfriend.

In exchange, Williams agreed to help Business Owner #1 with security screenings when Business Owner #1 returned from foreign travel. On numerous occasions, Williams contacted a Philadelphia police official in order to pressure and advise the police official to assist Business Owner #1 with those border encounters. On March 15, 2013, Williams met with the police official and Business Owner #1 and asked the police official to help Business Owner #1 avoid secondary screening. That same day, Williams accepted a $7,000 check from Business Owner #1. Williams also repeatedly offered to write an official letter, under his authority as the District Attorney, on behalf of Business Owner #1 to pressure and advise the police official to assist Business Owner #1 with the border encounters.

Williams agreed to assist with criminal charges brought by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office against Business Owner #1’s associate, an individual identified in the indictment as “Person #1.” Between Feb. 1, 2012, and Feb. 5, 2012 – while on the Punta Cana vacation paid for by Business Owner #1 – Business Owner #1 asked Williams to help with Person #1’s charges, and Williams agreed. On Feb. 8, 2012, just days after returning from Punta Cana, Williams received a text message from Business Owner #1 listing the docket number and hearing date for Person #1’s case. The text message stated that Person #1 would “take any punishment” but “just doesn’t wanna do jail!” Williams responded with a text message stating: “I will look into it.” Moments later, Williams asked about a second anticipated trip to Punta Cana paid for by Business Owner #1 and stated “I am merely a thankful beggar and don’t want to overstep my bounds in asking...but we will gladly go.”

When Business Owner #1 sent a text message in September 2012 again asking Williams to assist Person #1, Williams responded with text messages saying, among other things, “It seems like he has the possibility of having it thrown out or continued ... if it gets continued I will then ask for the file and see what can be done to make it a county sentence...”

The Unlawful Arrangement with Business Owner #2

From March 2012 through July 2015, Williams solicited and accepted from a Philadelphia bar owner identified in the indictment as “Business Owner #2” approximately 16 round-trip airline tickets to Florida, San Diego, and Las Vegas for himself, his girlfriend and members of his family. Williams also solicited and accepted from Business Owner #2 a 1997 Jaguar XK8 convertible and at least $900 in cash.

In return for the benefits that he received from Business Owner #2, Williams appointed Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office in November 2012, including issuing an official badge, writing an official letter of appointment, and giving certain assignments to Business Owner #2 as Special Advisor. At the time, Business Owner #2 was on federal probation resulting from a June 2010 federal tax conviction.

In May 2013, Business Owner #2 requested that Williams write an official letter, as the Philadelphia District Attorney, acknowledging Business Owner #2’s appointment as Special Advisor to his office. On May 10, 2013, Williams provided the letter to Business Owner #2. In June 2013, Williams accepted the Jaguar from Business Owner #2.

On June 2, 2014, Williams issued a second official letter to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in order to influence a then-pending hearing to revoke or suspend Business Owner #2’s California liquor license.

In July 2015, Williams obtained a police accident report at Business Owner #2’s request. During this time, Williams sent text messages to Business Owner #2 saying, among other things, “I wish I could help more,” “Can I be a greeter or celebrity bartender to work off my debt…?” and “…I was serious about just doing whatever I can to help you guys!”

The Fraud on the Nursing Home and Family Friends

From February 2012 through November 2013, Williams allegedly diverted a relative’s pension and Social Security payments to pay for his own personal expenses instead of applying them to the relative’s nursing home costs, as was his obligation under agreements with the nursing home. Williams also falsely told a nursing home employee his relative spent the pension and Social Security payments. In addition, after accepting $10,000 from friends of his relative intended to cover expenses for the relative’s nursing home care, Williams spent the money on his personal expenses instead.

“Rooting out public corruption remains one of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s highest priorities,” IRS Acting Special Agent in Charge Gregory Floyd said. “Today’s indictment underscores our commitment to work in a collaborative effort to promote honest and ethical government at all levels and to prosecute those who allegedly violated the public’s trust.”

“Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice public officials who betray the trust of the community by engaging in unscrupulous behavior,” Marlon V. Miller, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia, said. “The public places an enormous amount of trust in elected officers, as such, they should be held accountable to a higher standard of conduct. HSI is pleased with the results of this criminal investigation and the collaborative efforts between our agency and our counterparts at the FBI and IRS.”

Each of the Travel Act counts is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The Hobbs Act extortion under color of official right and the wire fraud charges are punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Each count carries a potential fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of a total of $54,466, representing the sum of $34,146 worth of bribe proceeds and $20,320 worth of fraud proceeds.

Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Harpster; special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Floyd; and special agents of the HSI Philadelphia, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Miller, with the investigation leading to today’s indictment. He also thanked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio, for its participation in the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recused his office from the investigation involving the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the matter was assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. Two prosecutors from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania office were assigned to the case, subject to the supervision of prosecutors in the New Jersey office.

The government is represented by Deputy Chief Eric W. Moran of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and Chief of Appeals Robert A. Zauzmer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Vineet Gauri of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Philadelphia Prosecutor Indicted on Corruption Charges
By JESS BIDGOOD
The New York Times
MARCH 21, 2017

R. Seth Williams, the embattled district attorney for Philadelphia, was indicted Tuesday on bribery and fraud charges, a remarkable turn for the city’s top prosecutor, who was considered a rising Democratic star before he became embroiled in scandal and ethics violations.

A 50-page, 23-count indictment accused Mr. Williams of accepting lavish gifts — including trips to a Dominican resort, Burberry accessories, checks for thousands of dollars and a custom sofa worth $3,212 — from businessmen for whom he was willing to do favors. The indictment also accused Mr. Williams of diverting money from a relative’s pension and Social Security for his personal use.

“Mr. Williams was willing to compromise his position of public trust in exchange for private financial gain,” said William E. Fitzpatrick, the acting United States attorney for New Jersey, who announced the charges.

A spokesman for Mr. Williams, Cameron Kline, declined to comment on the indictment. “The D.A. is not in the office today because he is spending time with his family,” Mr. Kline said.

Mayor Jim Kenney called on Mr. Williams to resign.

“It is disheartening to see yet another elected official give the public a reason not to trust us,” Mr. Kenney said.

Mr. Williams has already paid a $62,000 fine to the city’s Board of Ethics after failing to disclose more than $160,000 in gifts. Last month, he told reporters he had ended his run for a third term.

“My decision to accept gifts and fail to report them brought much embarrassment, shame and adverse publicity to me and, unfortunately, to the office for which I love,” Mr. Williams, 50, said last month. “For this, I will always hold deep regret in my heart.”

But according to federal prosecutors, Mr. Williams’s problems went beyond a failure to disclose.

The indictment said he had accepted gifts, including trips to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and items worth thousands of dollars, from a businessman who asked him for favors.

“I am merely a thankful beggar and don’t want to overstep my bounds in asking … but we will gladly go,” Mr. Williams wrote in a text message, which the indictment said referred to one of the trips.

Several months later, the businessman followed up with questions about a friend’s case. According to the indictment, Mr. Williams responded: “In the future always give me at least a week to help a friend ... I have no problem looking into anything … I can’t promise I will drastically change anything once it has gotten to the trial stage but I can always look into it.”

The indictment also claimed that Mr. Williams accepted numerous flights and even a 1997 Jaguar from a second businessman, whom he named a “special adviser.” He also wrote a letter to further his friend’s business interests, it said.

The indictment does not name the businessmen, but it notes that one of them gave Mr. Williams a gift of $7,000 in 2013. The settlement with the Ethics Board mentions a gift of $7,000 in the same year from Mohammad N. Ali.

Before he was elected district attorney in 2009, Mr. Williams was an assistant district attorney and the city’s inspector general — charged with rooting out corruption. He drew national attention early in his term by reducing penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

And he got caught in the drama surrounding Pennsylvania’s now-disgraced attorney general, Kathleen G. Kane, when some of his prosecutors were found to be involved in lewd email chains that Ms. Kane had uncovered when they worked for the attorney general’s office. He pursued charges that Ms. Kane had dropped against Democratic lawmakers because, she said, they were racially motivated.

“He came in with a lot of promise, and he, of his own mechanizations, messed it up,” said Linn Washington, a professor of journalism at Temple University who has covered criminal justice in Philadelphia for several decades.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, the acting United States attorney, said investigators had not uncovered information that cast doubt on the work of other prosecutors in Mr. Williams’s office.

But observers like Mr. Washington said the accusations could cascade through the city’s criminal justice system.

“It will cast doubt on the character of the prosecutions, because this is not just corruption where he’s putting money in his pocket — these are allegations that money was taken to change results in the justice system,” Mr. Washington said. “It’s going to raise a huge red flag over the office and what it operated under.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

DEATH PENALTY -- 100 Legal Experts: Scott Violated Constitution by Removing Prosecutor Aramis Ayala

Governor RICHARD LYNN SCOTT did not have the power to remove Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala in a death penalty case. So say some 100 legal experts.



Gov. Scott doesn't have authority to remove Aramis Ayala, legal experts say



More than 100 legal experts — including two retired Florida Supreme Court chief justices — wrote Gov. Rick Scott a letter on Monday saying he overstepped his bounds by removing State Attorney Aramis Ayala from the Markeith Loyd case.
Scott removed Ayala last week after she said she would not seek the death penalty against Loyd, who is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, and Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton.
Former Chief Justices Harry Lee Anstead and Gerald Kogan — both of whom have raised questions about the death penalty in the past and were appointed by Democratic governors — signed the letter along with other current or former judges, prosecutors and law professors.
Other notable names are Gil Garcetti, the former Los Angeles County district attorney who oversaw the O.J. Simpson murder case and Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project,
They wrote that Scott’s executive order was “unprecedented” and “deeply concerning.”
“We believe that this effort to remove State Attorney Ayala infringes on the vitally important independence of prosecutors, exceeds your authority, undermines the right of residents in Orange and Osceola counties to the services of their elected leaders, and sets a dangerous precedent,” the letter states.
The letter writers say they didn’t all agree with Ayala’s decision but did think that she had the authority to make it.
By removing her, Scott “undercuts the decision-making powers” of a local elected official.


They asked that Scott reverse his decision and return the case to Ayala.
On Monday during Loyd’s court hearing, Ayala said she may appeal Scott’s decision.
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
You can read the letter here.
dharris@orlandosentinel.com, 407-420-5471 or @DavidHarrisOS

Bridge of Lions Opening Times May Change, Thanks to City Pursuing USCG Rulemaking Procedure



Good action, long delayed by City Hall denizens, who long ignored citizen suggestions. Case in point: in 2009, when WILLIAM HARRISS was City Manager JOE BOLES was Mayor of St. Augustine, I suggested the City do what it has now done -- trigger a rulemaking procedure by the Coast Guard. First, my 2009 letter; then, the March 21, 2017 St. Augustine Record article on the City following my 2009 suggestion:


Ed Slavin September 23, 2009 letter to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard
Dear Commandant:

I hereby respectfully petition the Commandant of the Coast Guard to change the regulations for the opening of the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida, effective upon the reopening of the restored historic bridge later this year.

I request that to conserve energy and to decrease traffic snarls during commuter hours, there be no bridge openings between the hours of 7:30 AM and 9:30 AM and 4:00 to 6 PM, Monday through Friday (except on holidays and in the case of actual emergencies).

During reconstruction of the old bridge, it has become appzrent that there are long waits by commuters for bridge openings during commuter hours. This results in dozens of people being delayed for small boaters who could adjust their schedules. This also results in unnecessary, preventable emissions and pollution in our Nation's Oldest European-founded City. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Spanish in Florida (2013) and the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine (2015), we need to clean up our town and its image, starting with a St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway.

We urgently need to adjust the bridge opening schedule on weekdays so that our downtown is attractive to tourists from around the world.

I further request that the Coast Guard environmental affairs office study the effects upon energy consumption and traffic tie-ups of bridge openings at other locations, with an eye toward reducing gasoline and diesel consumption.

Respectfully submitted,

Ed Slavin
Clean Up City of St. Augustine
www.cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085

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Posted March 21, 2017 04:40 am - Updated March 21, 2017 04:43 am
By SHELDON GARDNER sheldon.gardner@staugustine.com
City of St. Augustine asks for U.S. Coast Guard’s help in easing traffic congestion


The times could be changing for the Bridge of Lions.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which controls the bridge’s operating schedule, is looking for public comments about whether to adjust how often the bridge closes to vehicle traffic and opens to boating traffic.

As it stands, the bridge opens for boat traffic on the hour and half hour from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, except for 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. on weekdays that aren’t federal holidays. Outside of those times, the bridge opens on-demand for boats.

Those on-demand times cause more frequent bridge draws and add to traffic congestion, city officials said.

So the city is asking the Coast Guard to extend the every-half-hour operating schedule from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily and also to stop the bridge from opening at 3:30 p.m. on the weekends and on federal holidays.

“The idea behind it is to at least extend it further into the evening so it’s not opening whenever there’s a commercial vessel … to provide a little more rhythm to the city,” said Reuben Franklin Jr., the city’s mobility program manager.

Details on the plan are in a recently published notice from the Coast Guard in the Federal Register. The plan will be open for public comment through May 17.

The comments will help the Coast Guard determine whether to make changes at all or whether to tweak the city’s plan, said Michael Lieberum, Coast Guard bridge management specialist.

The guard has raised some concern about part of the plan.

“Amending the twice an hour opening schedule to a 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. period should not have an unreasonable impact on navigation,” according to the notice. “However, amending the bridge operating schedule to exclude a 3:30 p.m. opening on weekends and federal holidays may have a negative impact to the public, as there are many tourists in vehicles and vessels in St. Augustine during these periods.”

If the plan does move forward, it still has to go through another round of public comment once the proposed rules are final, he said.

If the guard supports the changes, getting from here to a revised scheduled at the Bridge of Lions will likely take more than a year, he said.

Lieberum said the Coast Guard approaches these types of requests with caution. Typically, the Coast Guard doesn’t issue an “advance notice” like they are in this case.

Sometimes changing a bridge opening schedule can actually make traffic worse, he said.

“You have to judge all this together,” he said. “It’s easier to say changing the bridge will make traffic better. It’s not necessarily the case.”
Have Comments?

To review the notice and to submit comments, go to regulations.gov and search for docket number USCG-2016-0723. Comments and related materials are due by May 15. For questions, contact Timothy Fosdick with the U.S. Coast Guard at 904-714-7623 or timothy.p.fosdick@uscg.mil.

Comments

Jeff Waltz
You know the most dumb thing I ever saw was they built a bridge right next to the bridge of lions rebuilt the bridge of lions and then tore the temporary bridge down. They could have just left it there so that they could have just left the bridge of Lions open to boat traffic all the time.

Kevin Fogarty
Building a permanent sister bridge would have eased downtown traffic and avoided the expense of building and then removing the temporary bridge.

Jim Stephens
The bridge operators need to be held to account when they open the bridge outside the specified times. It can be very annoying to time a bridge crossing so as to avoid an opening and then get caught when the bridge operator opens the bridge at a random time like 2:45pm. It has happened to me several times.

Jack (sponger) Harvell
They had their chance and screwed it up. Let the boats wait instead of the teeming hordes, locals and turistas alike, in contrast to watching the sailboats crawl by unscheduled and indifferent while stuck on or at the entrance to the bridge, at rush hour...which is all the time at this point..

Dward Farquart
Wonder how the "Save Our Bridge" folks feel now !?! We had the chance to replace the old bridge with a high rise that would eliminate the bridge openings all together but they killed that so we could enjoy the view from the bridge while we wait for it to open.
Remember, that waterway was there way before we put a bridge over it.

Caren Grant
That beautiful bridge needed to be saved. When you live in a city that's more than 450 years old, it's par for the course that you may have to tolerate less than ideal traffic situations in order to preserve the history and beauty. I would not want to see a sister bridge and definitely not a high rise bridge unless it was located out of view from the old city waterfront.
I think the new plan makes sense. If you don't like getting caught in traffic in or on the Bridge of Lions, use 312. Or, you could just put your car in park, relax for a few minutes, and take photos of the view.

Dward Farquart
I have lived here since before the 375th birthday of the city. The bridge has always been a source of contention for those of us that have to make a living in this town. Would suggest that some of you late comers who enjoy history so much, visit Pensacola and view their bridges...they were founded in 1559...

Nigel Owens
Suggestion 7:30am-9:00am No Bridge openings. 9:00-3:30 Open on demand. 3:30pm-5:00pm No openings. 5-9 hour/half hour. All other times open on demand.

Douglas Jordan
I don't think the proposed change will negatively impact vessel navigation too much, but I am not so sure it's going to help vehicle traffic that much. The real problem, in my opinion, is that the city is attracting too many visitors with cars. I think a better solution is to have parking facilities outside the downtown area and offer free trolleys (make the hotel, shop and restaurant owners pay for it) to bring tourists into the historic district. Too many cars the past 3 years, thanks to all the Top 10 lists. It saddens me to see a city I love so much turned into Disney World.

Douglas Jordan
In my opinion, the bottom line is this: The problem is too many cars, not too many boats.




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Drawbridge Operation Regulation; Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, St. Augustine, FL
This Proposed Rule document was issued by the Coast Guard (USCG)
For related information, Open Docket Folder
Action
Advance notice of proposed rulemaking.
Summary
The Coast Guard is seeking comments and information concerning a proposal to change the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions across the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, St. Augustine, Florida. The City of St. Augustine is concerned that vehicle traffic is becoming exponentially worse with each passing season and that on-demand bridge openings are contributing to vehicle traffic backups. The proposed modification would extend the twice an hour draw opening period from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and preclude the bridge draw from opening at 3:30 p.m. on weekends and Federal holidays.
Dates
Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before May 15, 2017.
Addresses
You may submit comments identified by docket number USCG-2016-0723 using the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. See the “Public Participation and Request for Comments” portion of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for further instructions on submitting comments.
For Further Information Contact
If you have questions about this notice, call or email MST1 Timothy Fosdick, Sector Jacksonville, Waterways Management Division, U.S. Coast Guard; telephone 904-714-7623, email Timothy.P.Fosdick@uscg.mil.
Supplementary Information
Table of Abbreviations
CFR Code of Federal Regulations
DHS Department of Homeland Security
FR Federal Register
NPRM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
ANPRM Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
§ Section Symbol
U.S.C. United States Code
A. Public Participation and Request for Comments
We view public participation as essential to effective rulemaking, and will consider all comments and material received during the comment period. Your comment can help shape the outcome of this rulemaking. If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this rulemaking, indicate the specific section of this document to which each comment applies, and provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation.
We encourage you to submit comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. If your material cannot be submitted using http://www.regulations.gov, contact the person in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section of this document for alternate instructions.
We accept anonymous comments. All comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov and will include any personal information you have provided. For more about privacy and the docket, you may review a Privacy Act notice regarding the Federal Docket Management System in the March 24, 2005, issue of the Federal Register (70 FR 15086).
Documents mentioned in this ANPRM as being available in the docket, and all public comments, will be in our online docket at http://www.regulations.gov and can be viewed by following that Web site's instructions. Additionally, if you go to the online docket and sign up for email alerts, you will be notified when comments are posted or a final rule is published.
B. Regulatory History and Information
In 2015, the City of St. Augustine approached the Coast Guard with a recommendation to amend the Bridge of Lions operating schedule. Shortly thereafter, a meeting was held with the City of St. Augustine, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), bridge owner, and the U.S. Coast Guard to seek improvements to reduce the vehicle traffic backups at the intersection of A1A, the Bridge of Lions, and Avenida Menendez. During the meeting, FDOT agreed to work with the City traffic engineers to develop better traffic signaling techniques to reduce the vehicle traffic backups. In May 2016, the City of St. Augustine proposed an amendment to the bridge operating schedule to reduce vehicle traffic backups in the affected area. The City would like to extend the 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. twice an hour opening schedule to 9 p.m., daily and preclude the bridge draw from opening at 3:30 p.m. on weekends and Federal holidays.
The current operating schedule, as published in 33 CFR 117.261(d), reads as follows: Bridge of Lions (SR A1A) bridge, mile 777.9 at St. Augustine. The draw shall open on signal; except that, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. the draw need open only on the hour and half-hour; however, the draw need not open at 8 a.m., 12 noon, and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday except Federal holidays. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Federal holidays the draw need only open on the hour and half-hour.
In accordance with Nautical Chart 11485, 37th Ed., Nov. 2014, the Bridge of Lions has a vertical clearance of 18 feet in the closed (down) position at mean high water and a horizontal clearance of 79 feet. Additionally, there is a note on the chart stating “Strong tidal currents run perpendicular to the Bridge of Lions opening. Vessels engaged in towing and pushing operations are advised to transit the bridge opening during slack tide and, if necessary, breakdown the tow in small units or use adequate tugs.” In regards to the Bridge of Lions, the U.S. Coast Pilot 4, Chapter 12, Edition 47, 2015 also states “Caution is advised because the tidal currents, particularly ebb, run at right angles to the bridge. It is advisable to drift large tows through this opening at slack water. Normal flood currents of 1 knot and ebb currents of 1.5 knots may be expected. Several mishaps involving the bridge being hit by vessels, which have lost maneuvering control during periods of ebb currents, have occurred. Caution is advised when transiting the area.”
The original Bridge of Lions was built in 1927 and replaced in 2010. The new bridge was completed with no modifications to the vertical or horizontal clearances; therefore, there was no impact to the number of bridge openings due to vessel traffic.
C. Basis and Purpose
The legal basis and authorities for this ANPRM are found in 33 U.S.C. 499, 33 CFR 1.05-1, and Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1. The Coast Guard is considering a change to the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions across the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, St. Augustine, Florida. The Coast Guard received a request from the City of St. Augustine to modify the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions in an effort to decrease vehicle traffic backups caused by the significant increase in vehicle traffic combined with the on-demand bridge openings. The purpose of this ANPRM is to solicit comments on a potential proposed rulemaking concerning a request to change the operating schedule for the Bridge of Lions.
D. Discussion of Proposed Rule
Amending the twice an hour opening schedule to a 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. period should not have an unreasonable impact on navigation. However, amending the bridge operating schedule to exclude a 3:30 p.m. opening on weekends and Federal holidays may have a negative impact to the public, as there are many tourists in vehicles and vessels in St. Augustine during these periods. Additional input will be required from the City of St. Augustine to understand why this particular time was selected. It will also be essential to determine whether any commercial vessel operators would be directly impacted by amending the bridge operating schedule.
E. Information Requested
To aid the Coast Guard in developing a proposed rule, we seek any comments, whether positive or negative, including but not limited to: The impact on vessel traffic and/or marine businesses in the area when extending the twice an hour opening; any potential negative impact to vessel traffic or marine businesses of not opening the bridge between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.; whether the extension to 9 p.m. of the Bridge of Lions twice an hour opening schedule would reduce traffic congestion and; if traffic congestion would be reduced if the bridge did not open between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends and Federal holidays.
Dated: March 9, 2017.
S.A. Buschman,
Rear Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard, Commander, Seventh Coast Guard District.
[FR Doc. 2017-05071 Filed 3-14-17; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 9110-04-P