In secret, behind locked gates, our Nation's Oldest City dumped a landfill in a lake (Old City Reservoir), while emitting sewage in our rivers and salt marsh. Organized citizens exposed and defeated pollution, racism and cronyism. We elected a new Mayor. We're transforming our City -- advanced citizenship. Ask questions. Make disclosures. Demand answers. Be involved. Expect democracy. Report and expose corruption. Smile! Help enact a St. Augustine National Park and Seashore. We shall overcome!
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
It's 2019. What's next? Democracy is on the march here
The late William F. Buckley, Jr. once rather snidely quoted UN Ambassador Adlai E. Stevenson's shopworn cliche: "Ladies and gentlemen, we have the future before us." We do, indeed. It's 2019. What's next?
1. St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore: we need Congressional action on a National Park Service study amendment, requiring a local advisory committee, local hearings and options on a wonderful idea, proposed nearly in 80 years ago, by Mayor Walter Fraser and our then-Representative and U.S. Senators. St. Augustine survived two (2) hurricanes in eleven (11) months. Federal funds and Park Service status will help us resist offshore oil drilling and better survive storms. (Some State funds should be committed to help keep the Castillo and Fort Matanzas open when there's government shutdown, as the State of Arizona did in December 2018.) Some 130,000 acres of current government land can help form a barrier against flooding amid global ocean level rise.
2. We need a moratorium on big developments, with flood-prone land marked off-limits as "adaptation areas." Who owns developments? Foreign investors. Who are they? We need data on corporate ownership. We need lobbyist registration. We must end the demolition derby, end clearcutting and halt wetland destruction. Ever since we won several First Amendment and public interest victories, (including Bridge of Lions Rainbow flags and cancellation of the $1.8 million luxury no-bid mosquito control helicopter), citizens no longer fear local governments. People are winning victories. Corruption and bigotry are in retreat. Democracy is on the march.
3. Investigations of St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar. Florida's new Governor, Ron DeSantis, should immediately exercise his powers under Florida's Constitution Article IV, Section 7, by temporarily removing Sheriff Shoar. Sheriff Shoar must NOT contaminate or limit the investigation. Why did Shoar get to choose an undisclosed forensic auditor on nearly $700,000 embezzled by his own Finance Director? For five (5) years of embezzlement, where was Sheriff Shoar? Leading a campaign of hateful harassment against FDLE Special Agent Rusty Ray Rodgers -- efforts to get Mr. Rodgers fired and criminal prosecuted, while recruiting a lawyer to file a meritless lawsuit. We paid for it, subsidizing Shoar's unhinged attacks on the O'Connell family, and his falsehoods and misleading website on the O'Connell case.
4. Justice for Michelle O'Connell: Deputy Jeremy Banks deserves "clear-eyed justice," as Mayor Nancy Shaver wrote in a 2013 Record letter, recommending people ask for a federal criminal investigation. Two (2) respected jurists found probable cause that Deputy Jeremy Banks committed homicide on September 2, 2010. (County Court Judge Charles Jay Tinlin in 2011, ordering a search warrant; United States District Court Judge Brian J. Davis on March 30, 2018, Good Friday/Passover, dismissing Banks' lawsuit against FDLE Special Agent Rusty Ray Rodgers. That retaliatory SLAPP lawsuit was procured by Sheriff Shoar. Query: who paid for Banks' lawyer, and with whose funds?).
5. St. Johns County needs dogged investigative reporting and meaningful government reform. Without a business plan, Sheriff Shoar demands a $15 million training and communications center and no-bid land purchase. (Come speak out January 15th). Sheriff Shoar lied to County Commissioners about a "$2 million check" from the FBI to help pay for the center; there was NO "check." Enough. Let's put a County Charter on the ballot in 2020, including remedies for corruption, discrimination, misfeasance, malfeasance. nonfeasance, waste, fraud, and abuse. We need more checks and balances, like an independent Inspector General and Ombuds to resolve citizen and employee concerns in all local governments. Now.
As James Madison wrote, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."
We need more reality-based candidates and officeholders in Madison's spirit. Enough meanness, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery in our local government offices.