Wednesday, August 14, 2019

St. Augustine Commission highlights: City approves Cuna Street license agreement. (SAR)



Former New Orleans businessman, moved here, worked deals with ex-Mayor CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR.

ARBIZZANI has a dodgy reputation in the real estate business.

Two years of secret negotiations with City "Manager" JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E.

No resume, no curriculum vita, no background investigation.

One appraisal.

ARBIZZANI made his deal with City staff, his willing accomplices on privatization of part of Cuna Street.

ARBIZZANI never brought or needed a lawyer, and used the City's own landscape architect, JEREMY MARQUIS, for the design.

You can call it a "Public Private Partnership," but I call it a Sicilian-style five finger discount giveaway of the public trust, to wit, Cuna Street, with City Attorney ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ GIVING THE GREEN RIGHT, approving a license agreement with loopholes big enough for organized corporate crime to fit through.

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline seemed drained, weak, resigned, if not threatened, not pursuing her concerns as at prior meetings. Color her colorless.

No passion on protecting the public interest on the current Commission.

No tough questions from Commissioners, whose other members include lapdog JOHN OTHA VALDES, for whom LOUIS JOHN ARBIZZANI threw a lavish 70th birthday party at the Treasury.

Not even an appearance at the podium for ARBIZZANI, generous local campaign contributor to corrupt St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR Ibn 1994."'

No followup questions on ethics legislation, e.g., questioning or closing the local ethics loopholes that permitted longtime City and UF JEREMY MARQUIS (MARQUIS LATIMER HALBACK) to work for both the City and ARBIZZANI.

Dull St. Augustine Record coverage. NO INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING HERE. Another Sheldon Gardner story, slow-talking her way through incomprehensible decisions by the itty-bitty City Commission.

Blurred ethical lines: JEREMY MARQUIS and MARQUIS LATIMER & HALBACK works for City, UF, developers.

St. Augustine Commission highlights: City approves Cuna Street license agreement

By Sheldon Gardner
Posted Aug 13, 2019 at 3:43 PM
St. Augustine Record

St. Augustine commissioners tackled a range of issues at Monday night’s regular meeting. Here are a few highlights:

• Commissioners approved the license agreement between the city and a firm run by local businessman John Arbizzani for use of part of Cuna Street. The license agreement has been updated since its first appearance before the City Commission.

The agreement will allow Arbizanni to use Cuna Street between Charlotte Street and the bayfront for outdoor dining in exchange for monthly payments, help paying for streetscape improvements and other conditions.

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline voted against the agreement, which allows on-street dining until 12:15 a.m.

“I think that’s not street dining. I think that’s street drinking,” she said.

• St. Augustine commissioners approved a resolution setting the fire assessment fees, which apply to almost all structures in the city regardless of taxable status and help pay for fire services. Some state and federal properties are exempt.

The fees will increase from $0.0589 to $0.0689 per square foot for residential structures and from $0.1075 to $0.1257 per square foot for non-residential structures. The fees will cover about half of the city fire department’s budget, according to city budget director Meredith Breidenstein. The fees will be in effect in the next fiscal year, which will begin Oct. 1.

• Commissioners approved the Florida Agricultural Museum’s proposal to acquire the Meldrim Cottage at 91 Coquina Ave., a “classic example of a Florida ranch style house,” according to the city.

The city purchased the house in Davis Shores along with land as part of an effort to create a park in the area and make flooding improvements. The city offered $5,000 to help move the building so that it can be preserved.

• Commissioners approved a resolution to end regular Commission meetings no later than four hours after they begin, unless a majority of commissioners vote to extend a meeting.

• On behalf of the Florida Inland Navigation District, district Commissioner Carl Blow presented a check to the city for $625,000 to help with the cost of repairing damage to the city marina from Hurricane Irma.

• Commissioners approved a resolution allowing exception to a rule that prohibits events on Francis Field on consecutive weekends. The resolution will allow events in March and April, such as the St. Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival and St. Augustine Lions Seafood Festival, to be on consecutive weekends if necessary.

“These four events have become an expected cultural and entertainment addition to the city’s busy spring season, and each one has its unique scheduling criteria on which it attributes its success,” according to city Public Affairs Director Paul Williamson.

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