From left, LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN (divorce lawyer); ROXANNE HORVATH (architect and newly elected Chair of Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council); Mayor NANCY SHAVER; Vice Mayor TODD DAVID NEVILLE, a/k/as "ODD TODD," who has a sordid history of First Amendment violations; and Commissioner NANCY SIKES-KLINE.
After the meeting, it was NANCY SIKES-KLINE who gave a vapid stand-up interview to bored "reporter" KEVIN CLARK of faux Fox News. (This cynical Fox reporter had no time to speak with me and learn about the City of St. Augustine's lawbreaking history, preferring sensationalism about panhandlers. How gauche and louche).
MICHAEL KAHN, $25,000 attorney, was AGAIN hired by City of St. Augustine, this time to draft a panhandling ordinance. City of St. Augustine has two (2) staff attorneys.
Why was KAHN hired? Because he's a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and sells his services to gullible Commissioners? St. Augustine City Attorney ISABELLE LOPEZ is maladroit and apparently can't write an ordinance.
Lazy louche LOPEZ wasted more money on outside counsel.
Meanwhile, the hearing surfaced a problem with public urination and defecation, which NONE of our Commissioners picked up on.
Why won't City provide 24/7 restroom access and comply with Americans with Disabilities Act restroom access requirements?
I wrote Mayor Shaver and City, asking them to direct ex-Mayors Boles and Weeks to open our City-owned 81 St. George Street restrooms 24/7. If they listen, chalk it up as another problem solved. If not, will there be ADA litigation?
As Anatole France wrote, "How noble the law, in its majestic equality, that both the rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing bread!"
SAPD Chief BARRY FOX answers softball questions lobbed by bored, boring $25,000 contract lawyer MICHAEL KAHN, a/k/a "CONMAN," who did not prepare his witnesses, does not know how to conduct direct examination without leading, and whose only purpose is to make money from gullible governments.
As Mayor Nancy Shaver told me in November 2018, KAHN's marketing plan is to sell his services as a "loss leader," then make $300/hour money when our City inevitably gets sued, to defend "his" ordinance.
In 2006, City Attorney James Patrick Wilson quit; he later told the City of St. Augustine Beach interview, "I worked there for fourteen years. They put a landfill in a lake. They didn't ask me and they didn't tell me, and I figured it was time to move on.
Notoriously pro-developer City Attorney ISABELLE CHRISTINE was initially hired as City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN's understudy. Neither one was hired after a statewide search. Both LOPEZ and BROWN were hired as a result of Sunshine violations, without EEO/AA searches or advertising in the Florida Bar Journal. When you hire incompetent attorneys as a result of social and political connections, you get more of the same -- corruption and lawbreaking.
To City Attorney ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ, maladroit Mayor NANCY SHAVER, Vice Mayor "ODD TODD NEVILLE," Commissioners LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN, ROXANNE HORVATH and NANCY SIKES-KLINE: As Robert Kennedy once wrote to segregationist Senator James O. Eastland (D-Mississippi): Repent now, there's still time." In the words that RFK said to a redneck California Sheriff and District Attorney, "I suggest you read the Constitution of the United States." Watch videos here:
Testimony without cross-examination is like kissing your sister through a screen door. These five Commissioners did not allow the public to speak after KAHN's dull, boring, sonorous meaningless presentation, which took two hours on February 26, 2018. What a waste. What a sham.
No one even picked up on the fact that bathrooms close at 9 PM. Sick. Truly shameful sham of a process:
1. February 26, 2018 "Hearing" was pitiful. Watch video here. No public comment allowed--illegal. Why?
2. St. Augustine City Attorney can't write an ordinance, so we hired an outside lawyer, Michael Kahn, for $25,000.
3. Prior City Commissioners created this problem by criminalizing art and music on St. George Street, emptying the places buskers filled, thus creating the panhandling opportunity. Cool musicians like Sam Pacetti and Tommy Bledsoe got their start on St. George Street. Criminalizing music and art there turned St. George Street into "one giant t-shirt shop," in words of Cathy Brown, former PZB member and longtime Council on Aging Director. Sad Result: cool stores owned by locals disappeared. Greed is destroying our City's charm. Enough
4. When we first visited (1992) and moved here (1999), St. George Street was hip and cool.
5. Then misguided Commissioners rubber-stamped Kahn's unjust laws, erasing authenticity.
6. Kahn created anti-artist, anti-musician ordinance that created the panhandling problem. Now he's hired to solve the panhandling problem his anti-artist ordinance created! Conflict of interest? Kahn won't solve problem he created, because he won't admit the truth.
7. Reminds me of character in Mario Puzo's The Godfather,who ran overweight trucks, damaging roads, and then was hired to repave those roads What a racket!
8. City Manager John Regan, and attorney Michael Kahn, ignored First Amendment concerns I expressed to them in November -- unanimous Supreme Court decision in McCullen v. Coakley -- banning 25 foot distance limitations on First Amendment rights outside of Massachusetts abortion clinics Why?
9. Kahn will be paid $300 an hour WHEN we get sued, IF his proposed ordinance is enacted.
10. Come speak out against this harebrained scheme Monday, March 26, 2018
11. Inept Record story omits general public comment opposed to this ordinance.Why?
12. Reporter SHELDON GARDNER routinely omits public comment. Why?
13. Does GateHouse share Morris Communications antipathy toward government watchdogs?
14. Will GateHouse-Austin kindly review meeting tapes?
15. A homeless man spoke during general public comment, criticizing City's lack of compassion. Why not quote him?
16. Article oddly reports homeless "going to the bathroom." In fact, public elimination of body wastes.
17. Wonder why? City-owned restrooms at 81 St. George Street close at 9 PM! They're supposed to be maintained by ex-Mayors Len Weeks and Joe Boles. See Folio Weekly cover story about below-market rate rental, based on "maintaining restrooms." Folio's reporting on one-sided lease terms helped lead to Mayor Boles' 2014 electoral defeat:http://folioweekly.com/THE-BLOGGER-THE-LEASE-AND-THE-ST-AUGUSTINE-MAYORS-RACE,10719 I've filed an Americans with Disabilities complaint on February 28, 2018 with City ADA Coordinator Todd Grant.
18. Mr. Kahn's scanty "evidence" does NOT support first reading vote
19. Plural of "anecdote" is NOT "data."
20. As Jesus said, "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me." But five Commissioners voted for flawed draft ordinance, w/ scare headline, scaring tourists w/ demagoguery & pettifoggery
21. Are rich people enlisting middle class people to attack poor people, attempting to distract your attention from real issues, e.g., greed, corruption, destruction of charm, history, nature and culture? Enough
22. The St. Augustine Record's incomplete, inept, insensitive coverage of the twin itty-bitty cities of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach stinks on ice. Record must cover what matters, e.g., the continuing coverup, 2010-2018, by St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar, State's Attorney Ralph Joseph Larizza, et al., of the fatal September 2, 2010 shooting of Michelle O'Connell in the home of Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Banks, termed a "suicide," before the sun rose the next morning. See NY Times, PBS Frontline.
At the center of this created crisis, this circus, this faux Fox News style controversy, remember the name of the major malefactor of great wealth whose unclean hands contaminate this flawed scapegoat legisliation -- the man who locks the restrooms the City owns at 9 PM.
His name is CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR., and this energumen ex-Mayor who destroyed a 211-year old building illegally (fined only $3700) thinks he's Republican Lord of All He Surveys. Your attendance at the March 26, 2018 second reading of the proposed panhandling ordinance will help direct the future of our City -- are we run by fascists? You tell me.
Here's the Record's inadequate 556 word story, with a sensationalistic headline quoting the disgraced former Mayor of St. Augustine Beach, who is responsible for closing public restrooms at 9 PM, then publicly stigmatizing homeless people for defecating and urinating.
‘It’s not safe for our community’
St. Augustine commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to move forward new panhandling restrictions.
A second reading and public hearing is scheduled for March 26.
St. Augustine business owners and police officers testified at the meeting that panhandling and vagrancy issues have raised health concerns and other fears.
Attorney Michael Kahn, whom the city hired to craft a new panhandling ordinance, questioned witnesses at the City Commission meeting as he built a case for the new regulations. Kahn previously wrote ordinances for the city on adult entertainment, street vendors and street performers.
The proposed panhandling rules add distance-based requirements, such as banning panhandling within 20 feet of a parking lot and business entrances and exits, and within 100 feet of a daycare or school.
Even with the restrictions in place, about 98 percent of the city would still be open to panhandling and begging, said Todd Grant, deputy public works director who prepared a map of how the restrictions would apply. Much of St. George Street and other commercial areas would be off limits.
The city stopped enforcing its panhandling rules that limit where people can panhandle following a decision by U.S. District Court in Tampa that found that panhandling is protected by the First Amendment. Aggressive panhandling, such as repeatedly asking for money, is still prohibited.
An increase in vagrancy and panhandling led to outcries from business owners and residents in 2017, and City Manager John Regan called the situation a crisis.
On Monday, Police Chief Barry Fox, described a few marijuana-related arrests of panhandlers in the past month or two. Officer Kasey Keen described seeing a man who had urinated on himself while sitting on a public bench.
Officers also said that they’ve seen packages left behind, which has caused complaints from people concerned about possible explosives. Also there are concerns about drugs getting into the hands of children.
Business owners talked about people sleeping and using the bathroom around their properties, and about customers being intimidated.
Brian Funk, owner of the bed and breakfast 44 Spanish Street Inn, said the vagrancy issues have gotten worse. He said he’s personally been asked for money and has been called names after politely declining to provide money. He also said his customers have expressed concern and in some cases have been intimidated by vagrants.
He recalled seeing a guest walking down the street alone one night with two panhandlers following her. Funk said he stepped out and brought her into his office, and she was crying.
“They had been saying some things to her, and she kept saying ‘leave me alone,’” Funk said. “She asked me to lock the door. She was that scared.”
Downtown business owner Len Weeks, a former mayor, showed photos of people sleeping behind trash cans at his business and one of a man leaning against a nearby wall and urinating.
“This is someone that’s urinating ... That’s the front steps to my office. That is the wall to the restaurant next door to my office,” Weeks said, later adding that he’s not against homeless people.
He said a couple of people have passed away, including one vagrant he showed in photos. He asked for commissioners to do something to improve the current situation.
“What’s going on with panhandlers, it’s not safe for them [and] it’s not safe for our community,” Weeks said.