Saturday, September 07, 2019

"County, city should pass the seven-generation test." (Ed Slavin, Sunday, September 8, 2019 St. Augustine Record column on 454th anniversary of our City's founding)

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Here's my 454th anniversary column in the Sunday, September 8, 2019 St. Augustine Record,
"County, city should pass the seven-generation test:"

County, city should pass the seven-generation test
By Ed Slavin / St. Augustine
Posted at 9:42 PM
St. Augustine Record

On our City’s 454th anniversary, Sept. 8, let’s take stock of our past and future. There is much to be thankful for here:

• We saved 32 Grenada Street, 1880 Victorian by City Hall — preserved and protected as a local landmark.

• We saved 7 Bridge Street. There’s a conservation easement indoors/outdoors, and HP-1 zoning survives as a bulwark.

• We saved Fish Island. Vice-Mayor Leanna Freeman called it a “miracle.” The burial place of orange plantation and real estate buccaneer Jesse Fish and his slaves will now be a park, preserved forever. As playwright Tony Kushner wrote in “Angels in America,” miracles occur through politics.

What’s next?

Let’s preserve our 1955 Florida East Coast Railway station. Let’s save our 3,000- to 4,000-year-old Native American site north of SAHS.

Hurricanes are bigger. The ocean level is rising. Flooding of our neighborhoods and streets is becoming the “new normal.” We will survive, but we must act.

There are 31-plus St. Johns County neighborhoods with bad drainage due to poor planning — officials granting approval to destroy wetlands and clear-cut trees.

Before World War II, Sir Winston Churchill spoke against “appeasement,” stating that “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”

St. Augustine just survived another hurricane, our third since 2016.

Optimists founded our town Sept. 8, 1565 — 454 years ago. Some 22 generations of St. Augustine residents survived hurricanes, European religious wars fought on our shores, pirates, wars against Native Americans — having our town repeatedly burned to the ground, more hurricanes, the Civil War, tourists, scammers, monopolists, Henry Flagler, slavery, exploitation, racism, segregation, lynchings, corruption, and organized “crimes against nature” by developers (which former St. Johns County Commission Chair Ben Rich Sr. once called “worse than any carpetbagger”).

Minorcans and Africans in generations before us endured oppression and bondage, surviving slavery and indentured slavery-by-contract, mosquito-borne diseases and starvation.

Our Nation’s Oldest City has the Nation’s oldest town plan (1573). It was drawn for the generations, and still guides us today.

Let’s apply the “seven-generation test” to all who would modify this magical place. How would each proposal affect our quality of life, our precious historic, cultural and environmental heritage in seven generations?

Let’s finally enact the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, first proposed 80 years ago by Mayor Walter Fraser, Sens. Charles Andrews and Claude Pepper and Rep. Joseph Hendricks. Let’s protect 130,000 acres of land our governments already own, in two counties, preventing it from being bulldozed, polluted or hornswoggled away from us.

Let’s enact stronger state and local laws protecting the environment. Let’s plant trees, including mangroves as part of natural shorelines. Let’s restore wetlands and oyster beds to protect us from hurricanes.

Let’s enact a legal moratorium on big developments and comprehensive plan changes.

Let’s stop secretive developers’ devastating destruction of forests and wetlands, flora and fauna. As John Muir wrote, “These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.”

Let’s adopt countywide lobbying registration and ethics ordinances.

Mayor Nancy Shaver refused to meet with zoning applicants, except on one occasion. Too many officials meet secretly “ex parte” with developers. Enough. Let’s require officials to videotape their conversations with developers. If they don’t, who can ever trust them?

Let’s eject money-changers from the temple of our democracy. Let’s show “temple destroyers” the door — they won’t destroy our town and God’s country.

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