Thursday, March 22, 2018

SJC Commission advances lobbying registration, hears Winton Circle resident concerns on bad drainage caused by reprobate Republicans' refusal to regulate developers

Three cheers for County Commissioners supporting Tom Reynolds' suggestion to regulate lobbyists. We're making progress, and more people are coming to meetings and expressing concerns, no longer afraid of Sheriff DAVID SHOAR and the developers he and his corrupt political machine have long protected from regulation.

See my comments, below.

Roundup: Commission moves forward with ban on medical marijuana dispensaries

By Jake Martin
Posted Mar 21, 2018 at 8:23 PM
Updated Mar 21, 2018 at 8:23 PM
St. Augustine Record

St. Johns County commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to move forward with a ban on medical marijuana treatment center dispensing facilities in the unincorporated parts of the county.

The county’s Planning and Zoning Agency will hear the ordinance to establish the ban at its April 5 meeting. There will be a second, final hearing before the commission on April 17.

Dispensaries are the retail component of the treatment centers, similar to pharmacies. The county is currently under a temporary moratorium on dispensaries, enacted in March 2017 and expiring at the end of the month.

The ban would prohibit dispensaries in all county zoning districts but would not prohibit cultivation and processing facilities. It also does not prohibit at-home delivery by state-licensed treatment centers.

Lobbyist regulations

Commissioners also heard an overview of lobbying regulations from around the state as well as some possible options for establishing a local lobbying ordinance.

State law provides for the registration of lobbyists who lobby the legislature, executive agencies, the Constitutional Revision Commission and water management districts. Although this requirement does not extend to local governments, state law does permit counties and municipalities to impose additional requirements by ordinance.

According to the Florida Bar’s Governmental and Public Policy Advocacy Committee, there are 11 counties and 53 municipalities that have enacted ordinances regulating lobbyist activity.

Staff recently reviewed regulations put into place by other counties that address registration of lobbyists (on an annual or quarterly basis, if at all); disclosure of lobbyists’ compensation and expenditures; reporting of contingency fees; tracking of lobbyists’ contact with public officials (typically done through visitor log or reporting outside contacts); treatment of attorney lobbyists (for example, by excluding conduct that may constitute the practice of law from the definition of a lobbyist); and/or lobbying in connection with competitive solicitations.

On the subject of regulating competitive solicitations, assistant county attorney Rebecca Lavie said there are already local ordinances that prohibit lobbying over procurement matters during blackout periods. She said the county’s Purchasing Policy defines the blackout period as beginning upon the issuance or advertisement of a bid solicitation, request for proposals, or request for qualifications, and continuing until a contract is executed.

Lavie said violation of the blackout period under the current regulations may cause a response to be automatically rejected with the violator subject to debarment of up to 12 months. She said fines or further prohibition on lobbying could be included in a lobbying ordinance.

Commissioner Jimmy Johns, who had requested that the county review some options for regulating lobbyists, spoke in favor of annual registration and collecting a registration fee to cover administrative costs.

Johns said he also wants to include language that would require lobbyists to inform who they’re talking to that they’re lobbyists and to clarify that they’re acting in that capacity.

“We don’t want them to have access to information in one capacity that they would not have in another capacity,” he said. “The overall idea is just to keep it simple, keep communication clear, so that we understand what is their intent in the course of the conversation or the topic they may be discussing — just the overall picture.”

Commissioner Jeb Smith said he appreciates transparency and accountability but wants to make sure the extra work for staff would be cost-neutral and not add too much of a burden in terms of workload.

Commissioner Jay Morris echoed Smith’s concerns and said he hasn’t had a problem identifying lobbyists in his seven years on the board.

“Are we creating a problem here?” Morris asked, while also pointing to challenges ahead with possible property tax reform and other budgetary pressures. “We’re going to be cutting like crazy, and I don’t want to put more bureaucracy in here either.”

Lavie told commissioners she could bring back a draft policy this summer. She received consensus from the board to move forward.

Winton Circle speaks

Residents from Winton Circle, speaking during the general public comment period, were less than enthusiastic about the commission’s decision earlier this month to approve spending about $180,000 on design of a fix for the neighborhood’s longstanding flooding issues. There was talk at the time of possibly recouping the costs for construction of new drainage infrastructure from benefiting residents.

One resident said proper drainage should have been in place before the first house went up, but the project still somehow got county approval.

“We’ve been paying for drainage we don’t even have,” she said.

Another resident, Sue Bergeron, took issue with the county’s stance that since the developer and engineer for the project are deceased, there are limited options for recourse. She said the developer lived on the street from 1991 until he passed in 2015.

“For 24 years, he lived there while neighbors called to complain to the county and beg for help,” Bergeron said. “He was not forced to complete the original drainage plans. He was not fined, and his property was not levied.”

She said there were too many errors over too long a time to warrant pushing the cost solely onto Winton Circle homeowners through a Municipal Service Benefit Unit, calling it an “unconscionable hardship.”

County engineers are expected to come back to the board later this year with plans for construction of new infrastructure for Winton Circle, which is anticipated to cost between $1.4 million and $1.7 million.

There are about 40 homes on Winton Circle, which is a half-completed project that was halted by the county about a decade ago when its drainage infrastructure was deemed insufficient. Officials have said the design of the infrastructure system at Winton Circle is not something that would ordinarily be approved today.

The neighborhood’s flooding issues resurfaced after Hurricane Irma and subsequent storms, but it is only one of many problem spots throughout the county.


Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Rank 0
Corrupt St. Johns County government's reckless feckless failure to enforce drainage requirements for 24 years is a badge of fraud and corruption. FBI Corruption Task Force must investigate. Our County Administrator, Commission and PZA ALL lack sensitivity to the legal rights of residents to environmental and consumer protection. I support Catherine Hawkinson Guevarra, Democrat, for St. Johns County Commission, seat 4, currently encumbered by a snooty louche lame duck (retired RPM International EVP JAY MORRIS, typical amoral fungible dull Republican developer defender).« less

Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Rank 0
1. Medical marijuana vote makes ALL Commissioners look dotty.
2. Failure to act on Buc-ees makes them ALL look cowardly--NO discussion of using eminent domain to save WGV! Wonder why?
3. Thanks to 5 Commissioners for moving forward on lobbying registration--this is LONG overdue!
4. Thanks to watchdog Tom Reynolds for suggesting lobbying registration, back in 2014!
5. Lame duck JAY MORRIS (R-Ponte Vedra/RPM International), dull developers' tool, shed crocodile tears about cost of lobbying registration. What malarkey!
6. Lobby registration will expose/counterbalance corporate power & influence
7. County spends MILLIONS in corporate welfare subsidies for rich fatcats--like developers, the Professional Golfers Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Players Championship and proposed "pig in a poke" purchase of land from JAXPORT. But JAY MORRIS can ONLY take umbrage at money for regulation of corporate lobbyists.We need the strongest lobbying registration possible, thank you!
8. ENOUGH of retiring Seat 4 Commissioner JOHN H. "JAY" MORRIS. ENOUGH SJC graven image worship of cartels/corporations. Windbag MORRIS is an emetic ideologue--a morally bankrupt developer cat's paw, status quo defender and boorish bully-misanthrope.
9. He CONSTANTLY brags about his corporate experience as EVP of RPM International, a polluting multinational corporation, which paid $60+ million to settle USDOJ False Claims Act qui tam whistleblower case. RPM overcharged government customers and provided shoddy roofing materials.Results: bad, leaking roofs at University of Florida Shands Hospital Gainesville & elsewhere. See
10. I support Catherine Hawkinson Guevarra, Democrat, for County Commission, Seat 4.« less
  • 26 minutes ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Rank 0
To JAY MORRIS (R-Ponte Vedra/RPM International): what is the "cost" of lobbying, political corruption, waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, flummery, dupery, nincompoopery, sprawl, tree-clearcutting & burning, wetland-filling, wildlife-killing? What is to be done about corrupt, other-directed St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR? How long will sleaze be empowered by incurious all-white, all-male, all-Republican St. Johns County Commissioners and all-white, all-male, all-Republican PZA? Justice for Michelle O'Connell.« less

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