Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Salesman for e-scooter multinational corporation courts support for "my ordinance"

Four business-friendly Republicans on St. Augustine Beach City Commission gave salesmen for two multinational corporations, Frog and Bird, an hour to plump for special interest legislation. Then I asked questions for two minutes. I asked for extra time and was given only 10 seconds. Then I was threatened for being "disruptive" by St. Augustine Beach's unelected "Mayor," Undine Celeste Pawlowski George.

Commissioner Maggie Kostka was absent.

But when St. Augustine Beach City Commission meets again on November 4, 2019, they need to answer the questions and concerns of the Commissioners, Chief Robert Hardwick, City Manager Bruce Max Royle and me

As Otto von Bismarck said, most people don't want to watch laws and sausages being made. I've been doing it since 1974 when, as a Georgetown freshman, I went to work for Senator Ted Kennedy, then Senator Gary Hart and then Senator James R. Sasser.

  • It's wrong to allow greedy multinational corporations to write our laws here in God's country,
  • It's wrong for Jacksonville's ineptly-run TV news and NPR radio affiliate, WJCT, to deviate from journalism standards by allowing a PR-generated one-sided piece on the E-scooter issue.  (WJCT is so maladroit that reporter Bill Bortsfield called Mayor George the "Mayor of St. Augustine," repeating the segment at least four times after I telephoned its putative news director, Jessica Palomobo).
  • It's wrong for St. Augustine Beach "Mayor" Undine Celeste Pawloski George to arrogate to herself the determination of how much time to give to advocates for one side of a legislative debate, swear in no witnesses, and then attempt to chill, coerce and intimidate my free speech rights.

I'm sorry, ma'am, but you're wrong.

You are shallow, callow and out of your league, Mayor George.

You are an embarrassment.  As a lawyer, and as legislator, you stink on ice.

While I supported you and your husband when you campaigned, you're too much like disgraced ex-Mayor ANDREA SAMUELS, a/k/a "ANGRY ANDREA," a louche legend in your own  mind,

Our Founders, and generations fought, were wounded and died for our free speech rights. They include my dad, Ed Slavin, Sr., who volunteered the day after Pearl Harbor commenced World War II.  My dad won three Bronze Stars with the 82nd Airborne Division in three combat jumps in North Africa, Sicily and Normandy. My dad taught me, as JFK's dad taught him, "If you don't stand up to people with power, they walk all over you."  When I'm threatened by dull Republicans, it's like water off a duck's back.  My first ancestor came to America in 1849 -- her entire family died in the potato famine and she came over with a neighbor.  I'm not afraid of authoritarians, or Republicans.  And as FDR once said, in Philadelphia in 1944, "I'm an old campaigner, and I love a good fight." (My mom was in the audience at Franklin Field when FDR spoke, one of his last campaign events. He said, "I felt the crowd, and it warmed me."

Hoping for a good crowd on November 4 at St. Augustine Beach to discuss E-scooters, including the alternative of banning them, as in the seaside city of Delray Beach, Florida.

From my seat, it appeared that City Commissioners were increasingly skeptical, but their cabining public comment reflects animus toward First Amendment protected activity,  Enough of that, witches.

St. Augustine Beach considers e-scooter pilot program
By Christen Kelley
Posted at 4:59 PM

Visitors to St. Augustine Beach could soon be scooting down A1A — with a few rules.

St. Augustine Beach officials are considering regulating the use of electronic — or e-scooters — that have become wildly popular in cities around the country. The proposed ordinance would allow for scooter-renting vendors to set up shop in the city.

The scooters are rented through a mobile app and are tracked via GPS. Prices vary, but they usually cost $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute to ride. They typically go 15 mph and do not require pedaling or kicking.

Representatives from Bird and Frog e-scooters presented their business ideas to city commissioners Monday night. Their goal is to expand throughout St. Johns County so people can ride the scooters from the beach to the fort and beyond.

Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis passed a law giving e-scooters the same rights as traditional bicycles. Now more cities are regulating — and even banning — e-scooter rental programs.

While e-scooters can provide an eco-friendly alternative to cars, they’re increasingly controversial. The rental scooters are designed to be left anywhere, and some cities claim they’re unsightly and pose a hazard to pedestrians.

“Having these scooters dumped just anywhere is just chaos to me,” Commissioner Margaret England said. “We just can’t have them dumped anywhere.”

In the city of St. Augustine, there’s a temporary ban preventing “mobility device sharing programs,” like Frog and Bird from launching without permission. When the moratorium was put in place in June, officials in the historic city said they didn’t have plans to change that.

St. Augustine Beach city attorney Jim Wilson says as it stands, the e-scooter rentals are already allowed within city limits.

“Right now there are no regulations against them, so it’s an open season and the fact that the vendors have come to the city requesting something, it’s like they’re asking for regulation because they’d rather not be prohibited,” Wilson said. “And if they came in and dumped the things on the street immediately, the most likely response from the city would be to prohibit them altogether.”

Commissioners discussed specific rules that vendors and riders would have to follow such as:

Restrict scooters to bike lanes and paths, except for certain sidewalks that are wide enough to accommodate them

Limit the speed, possibly at 12 mph

Require helmets

Require riders to be 18 or older and have a driver’s license

Require scooters to be docked or returned to designated areas after use — on city property or in front of businesses that allow it

Limit scooter use to certain hours, possibly between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Police Chief Robert Hardwick expressed his concern that there would just be too many scooters in such a small town. He suggested rolling out a pilot program to see if e-scooters are a right fit for the city, starting with two vendors and 75 scooters each.

“I think maybe after we do the pilot program, we do a joint meeting with the county and the city of St. Augustine to see what their interest is with the data we provide, to see how that expands, because it’s going to affect everybody,” Commissioner Dylan Rumrell said.

In a survey the city put on in August, residents were slightly split on the issue, but the majority voted in favor of some type of regulation.

“In my opinion, done properly e-scooters could help relieve parking issues and the need to drive gas-guzzling cars to and from 5 to 10 minute trips helping with mobility issues on the island,” one resident wrote in the survey.

Others were not as thrilled.

“Allowing an e-scooter company in will be a headache for pedestrians and drivers and an eyesore for those strewn all about the area,” another one wrote.

Commissioners agreed to take things slow and figure out exactly how they want to implement the program.

The commission did not take action on the proposed ordinance yet, and are expected to discuss it further at the Nov. 4 meeting.

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