Friday, February 02, 2018

Robert Kahler, R.I.P.

Robert Kahler, 89, a 30-year St. Augustine Beach resident and civic activist, died this morning after a short illness.  Bob was an outspoken advocate for better government and opponent of corruption.   

A retired purchasing agent and sales executive from Long Island, he was a likable curmudgeon who cared for his community, He moved here some 30 year ago with the love of his life, his beloved wife Emily, a coal miner's daughter, who died in 2006.

Mr. Kahler was a lifelong conservative Republican, who preached the value of a dollar.  He would passionately support candidates who shared his values.  

He was particularly outspoken about self-serving actions by devious disgraced St. Augustine Beach Mayor RICHARD BURTT O'BRIEN.  

Last year, O'BRIEN retaliated against Mr. Kahler for First Amendment protected activity by asking that Mr. Kahler be escorted from the room.  No escort was need, but upon leaving the room, Mr. Kahler responded to the mendacious mean-spirited martinet, "Go to hell!"

Bob was also an environmentalist. Mr. Kahler is perhaps most noted for working with my late friend Robin Nadeau and other senior activists on environmental issues, including their heroic but unsuccessful efforts to try to preserve the Cooksey's Campground as a park.  

In 2002, St. Augustine Beach Commissioners corruptly voted to annex into the itty-bitty city the beautiful Old Florida Cooksey's property, with its lakes and oaks and magnolias. 

Entrenched longtime St. Augustine Beach Mayor EMMETT JOHN PACETTI and and his Commission colleagues rubber-stamped its ugly "development," allowing the beautiful trees to be destroyed for an ugly "mixed use" development called "SeaGrove."   Tacitus said, "They created a desert and they called it peace." Here, they destroyed paradise and called it "SeaGrove."  

Typical of ugly "developments" pushed by the ROGERS TOWERS corporate law firm and its late disgraced partner, GEORGE MORRIS McCLURE, a/k/a "The Prince of Darkness."

Result: more people, more traffic and declining quality of life.

Imbued with bad karma, "SeaGrove" is the place where convicted fraudfeasor LYDIA CLADEK had a fancy headquarters where she conducted her $100 million fraud in a scheme selling phony investments in high-priced interest rates, ripping off low-income consumers and rich people at the same time.  
(Formerly a "pillar" of our community, LYDIA CLADEK is federal inmate  53820-018, release date 09/21/2037, who resides in the Coleman Federal Prison with Boston mobster WHITEY BULGER and disgraced corrupt former Florida Congresswoman CORINNE BROWN (federal inmate No. 67315-018, release date 06/06/2022), who stole $800,000 from a scholarship charity).

"SeaGrove" is the place where one of GEORGE MORRIS McCLURE's most oppressive obnoxious obsequious understudies, dodgy  developer mouthpiece DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT and his St. Johns Law Group have their office, actually getting a County Commission subsidy for it -- Corporate Welfare. 

"Sea Grove" is now home to a St. Johns County Branch Library and U.S. Post office -- yes, both our county and federal government are in on it, empowering crooked developers in St. Johns County.  

After the Cooksey's battle, Mr. Kahler and his friends fought back and triumphed.  In 2002, they organized and defeated four of five City Commissioners in an epic election, whose details have apparently been deleted from the websites of both the St. Augustine Record and Florida Times-Union.

Mr. Kahler and his allies helped defeat longtime SAB Mayor-Realtor EMMETT PACETTI, et al. and three other members of the ancien regime.  They elected four (4) new Commissioners: Grace Guido, Frank Charles, Edward George and Michael Longstreet. 

The people of St. Augustine Beach in their righteous wrath, ousted PACETTI and his wrecking crew.  Their grass roots campaign  featured yard signs with simple clip art, showing a bulldozer destroying a tree, with a red circle and a slash sign.  

In an e-mail today, former St. Augustine Beach Mayor Sherman Gary Snodgrass wrote, "I am saddened by the loss of this good man. Bob Kahler had strong opinions about almost everything and had the courage to express them. He had passion and wanted to make our city a better community. Though he frequently referred to me as the worst mayor in the city's history that was okay he was just trying to stir the pot a bit. We had a very pleasant conversation a few weeks ago and agreed to meet over breakfast soon. I shall miss Bob, barbs and all. Rest in peace, old friend."

We need a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore to preserve and protect our history, nature and culture here in St. Johns and Flagler Counties.   When we get it, there need to be some trail shelters named for Robin Nadeau and Bob Kahler. 

What do you reckon?

Here's the Record article from last year:

St. Augustine Beach commissioners face heat over public comment proposal

The statement came during public comment at a St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting in early February.

Bob Kahler, a Beach resident and regular attendee of the city’s meetings, stood behind the lectern, addressed St. Augustine Beach Mayor Rich O’Brien, and ended his comments by telling O’Brien to “go to hell.”
In response, O’Brien had Kahler escorted out of the room by a police officer.
The issue, it seems, didn’t end with Kahler’s eviction or the meeting’s close. At their next meeting on March 6, commissioners debated whether to adopt a resolution that would limit the number of times people can speak. Commissioners put the issue off until April 3.
Some residents — and some outside officials — believe the resolution is uncalled for, a swipe at free speech and an effort to tamp down comments that are critical of commissioners and staff.
Indeed, some on the Beach commission disagree on the matter, but those in favor say it’s simply intended to make meetings more efficient — and that it’s got nothing to do with the content of public comments.
“Because of the increased public comment at the meetings, most of which is by a few individuals, our ability to get things done has become limited,” O’Brien said. “Public comment is important to us, but we’re not trying to eliminate public comment. We’re only trying to balance it so that we can get the work of the people done.”
Under existing rules, people can comment for three minutes on virtually any topic that comes up at a meeting. That’s in addition to a three-minute comment period per person allowed under general public comments.
Under the proposed change, commenters would only be able to speak during the general public comment period and during items that require a public hearing. Also, the mayor could decide to extend the floor to a member of the public at another time, but that wouldn’t be required.
Vice Mayor Undine George and Commissioners Maggie Kostka and Margaret England support tapping the breaks on the resolution.
George said during a phone interview with The Record that she believes the timing of the resolution is more about critical public comments than efficiency. Limiting comment on “non-substantive” issues like scheduling of events or meetings would be acceptable, she said. But limiting public comment to public hearings and a public comment period is too restrictive.
“I think we’ve had some efficiency issues, but I don’t think we should be putting all the blame on that to the citizens,” she said.
Over the last several years, “more of a fuss” has been made about critical comments from the public, she said. When she is the target of such comments, she has accepted the fact that she signed up for the job.
“I don’t think that staff or the commissioners are entitled to be immune from unprofessional comments,” George said.
But O’Brien has pushed back against people who directly address a commissioner instead of the commission as a whole, which is what sparked the contention with Kahler on Feb. 6.
The discussion was about whether the commission should support the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association’s management of the Wednesday farmers markets at the beach. Kahler pushed for details on the organization’s finances and asked if the mayor had a problem with that. O’Brien asked him to address the commission as a whole and eventually gaveled him out as the exchange escalated.
Ed Slavin, a local resident and regular speaker at both Beach and St. Augustine City Commission meetings, says St. Augustine Beach has one of the best sets of policies for public commenting in St. Johns County — in its current form.
But he doesn’t support the changes, in part, because they’ll force people to make public comment in anticipation of what might be said on an agenda item.
St. Augustine Beach wants to switch to a system like St. Augustine’s, with fewer opportunities for public comment.
“They [the city of St. Augustine] don’t let you comment on a resolution or a presentation or a first reading of an ordinance,” Slavin said.
Part of the Beach’s problem with efficiency is disorganization, Slavin said. Agenda items aren’t well supported by staff research, and the backup material isn’t well-developed, he said. Slavin also said commissioners let vendors, like Florida Power & Light Company and others, make lengthy presentations at meetings that take up chunks of time.
Also, the Beach could reduce the items on their agenda by meeting twice per month, but they choose to meet only once per month, Slavin said. He also noted that meeting minutes no longer include what people say during public comment, a change that appears to have occurred in the middle of 2016.
“It’s a shibboleth thing about length of meetings,” he said.
Like O’Brien, Commissioner Gary Snodgrass said the effort is not about limiting free speech and that the proposed changes are fair and in line with the law. He said he values public comment from people who are connected to an issue or have expertise.
“What’s not helpful, though, is for people who feel compelled to speak on every issue, whether they have any relevant [perspective at all],” he said, adding it’s the same four or five people.
“As a result, the meetings lose their efficiency,” Snodgrass said. “They lose their effectiveness. In many cases … we’re not able to complete the meetings.”
When asked who those four or five people are, he responded via email that he wouldn’t name them “because you know who they are since you attend our commission meetings.”
The proposal to cut down on public comment has its critics outside of the commission’s chambers.
Barbara Petersen, president of Florida’s First Amendment Foundation, said state law requires commissions to allow people to speak on anything that will be voted on, and law also allows for rules to help with the orderly progression of meetings.
Restricting comment to just public hearings and a public comment period raises concerns, she said, adding that she thinks it “violates, at the very least, the spirit and intent of that requirement in law.”
Such a procedure doesn’t give people a meaningful opportunity to speak on certain items if they have to speak before such a discussion has even started, she said.
“I don’t know what commissioner ‘Jones’ is going to say. I don’t know what staff is going to say. My ability to comment is diluted. Maybe it’s even worthless. … It’s not allowing comment within the context of the discussion by my elected representatives,” Petersen argued.
An alternative is for commissioners, while still having an open mic period at the meeting, to spread a certain block of time to everyone wishing to speak on a matter, and giving more time for controversial issues and less time for non-substantive issues — it doesn’t have to be three minutes per person, she said.
Someone else who is experienced with First Amendment issues is local attorney Tom Cushman.
Cushman successfully defended Beach resident Tom Reynolds against an injunction for protection against stalking that O’Brien sought last year — as part of O’Brien’s request, he cited a time when O’Brien had Reynolds removed from a meeting during public comment for what O’Brien described as “yelling” and “disrupting” the meeting. The judge dismissed the case, finding that many of the activities in O’Brien’s allegation were protected by the First Amendment.
Cushman voiced concern about the proposed changes.
“I think if these rules are strictly enforced it will have exactly the effect they want it to have, which is to curtail the public from any kind of meaningful public comment on what the commissioners are doing,” Cushman said.
Regardless of opinion, the goal of the policy is efficiency, some said.
Snodgrass said the meetings have begun to drag on, and the commission needs to be able to address issues that could affect the health, safety and welfare of residents.
“I don’t want to stifle anyone’s right to speak,” Snodgrass said. “I want an efficient, effective meeting that’s handled where we can address issues in a timely way.”

1 Comment
Edward Adelbert Slavin · 
St. Augustine Beach resident Robert was like Horatio at the Bridge, always standing up for citizens' free speech rights. He will be greatly missed. Bob Kahler, R.I.P.

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