Friday, August 11, 2023

Little or No Jacksonville-St. Augustine "Intergovernmental Cooperation" on Proposed Commuter Rail?

Does this malarkey possibly remind you of the Beatles' song, "making all their nowhere plans for nobody??  The maladroit Jacksonville Transportation Authority (sic) and its August 9, 2023 commuter rail meeting here in St. Augustine left much to be desired, starting with no video in the midst of 98 degree F. heat emergency.  

I just wrote St. Augustine Mayor Sikes-Kline and Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan:

Dear Mayor Sikes-Kline and Mayor Deegan, et al:
1. Would you please be so kind as to disclose by close of business tomorrow (August 11, 2023), all documents on the planning process for the proposed commuter rail line, and kindly place them on the Jacksonville and St. Augustine cities' respective websites, including but not limited to any: 
A.  Any proposed contracts, memoranda of understanding (MoUs) or agreements for putative public-private partnerships? 
B.  Communications with developers and lobbyists?
C.  Communications between and among our local and state governments, our elected officials and staff?  
D.  Meeting minutes?
E.  Public participation plans?
F.  Intergovernmental coordination and cooperation (or the lack thereof), as evidenced by the maladroit August 9, 2023 meeting, with no video -- an overt act freighted with indifference, or animus, toward our First Amendment rights.
G. 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VI, and ADA draft and final compliance plans on public participation. 
If none exist, please so state. 
It's our money.
2. Never forget, ladies and gentlemen: You work for us, and not the other way around, 
3. No response from two City staffs to my telephone requests for cooperation. Mayors Deegan and Sikes-Kline: Please feel free to respond today,
4. Thank you for JTA's scheduling an August 9, 2023 information session at St. Augustine City Hall on transit-related  development and the proposed Jacksonville-St. Augustine commuter rail line. This is a ten (10) year project, supported with copious quantities of federal funds. (It's our money.)  As JFK reminded us, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
5. Sadly, unfortunately, this first step was taken clumsily, as if wearing two left shoes.  In the midst of a heat emergency, both cities violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Both avoided public scrutiny, with no video, unlike all JTA, City of Jacksonville and City of St. Augustine meetings held in the same room.
6. In violation of Title VI, the JTA St. Augustine-to-Jacksonville commuter rail consultant presentation was not made available on video, despite the fact all City of St. Augustine and JTA meetings are televised. The St. Augustine City Clerk told me by phone on the morning of August 9, 2023, that it was JTA's meeting.  That is not an affirmative defense under ADA law.
7. My request for video live-streaming were ignored by both cities.  Why? ADA requires access.
8. JTA and our City of St. Augustine (CoSA) are both recipients of copious quantities of federal funds. Both afre governed by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- made possible by the courage of one thousand people in St. Augustine civil rights protests, including neighbors and friends here in St. Augustine.  
9. The Dr. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested here on June 11, 1964 for seeking a seat in a segregated restaurant, calling this "the most lawless" place in America.
10. JTA has the same conflicted lobbyists as influential developers.  
11. Does this conflict of interest contaminate the process? 
12. What was the role of those conflicted lobbyists in formulating the JTA presentation and hiring its consultants?
13. As Senator Robert Francis Kennedy would ask his advance man, Mr. Jerry Bruno, "Who advanced this trip?" 
14. The JTA program apparently plumped for one or more skyscrapers near planned future train stations in St. Augustine.
15. Historically, for almost 100 years, the people here in St. Augustine and St. Johns County don't desire any more skyscrapers: our City and County laws prohibit them, and for good reasons.
16. Controversial 1927 erection of a six-story bank building in historic downtown St. Augustine aroused popular indignation. 
17. Avaricious, mendacious Jacksonville real estate development interests, JTA and their Atlanta consultant would be well-advised to follow my grandmother's advice: "Drop the oyster and leave the wharf."
18. JTA and the City of Jacksonville apparently do not have St. Augustine's unique historic preservation and environmental protection needs in mind.  To whom does JTA think its talking, cloaked in secrecy, without video?  What ails them?
19. From this day forward, Jacksonville and JTA must treat our Nation's Oldest City with dignity, respect and consideration. 
20. No more JTA St. Augustine meetings without video live-streaming.  No excuses.  This is our town, our County, our State and our future -- don't you dare leave us in the dark again. 
21. JTA must go back to he drawing board and work with St. Augustine, St. Johns County, the City of St. Augustine Beach and our other local governments, and with our local neighborhood, civic, civil rights and other groups.  Now.  No excuses.
22. We deserve a "no surprises" government, in the eloquent words of our heroic former St. Augustine City Mayor, Nancy E. Shaver (2014-2019), who served honorably for 1550 days, only having one (1) ex parte meeting with developers during that time. No more secrets.
23. Let's create a democratic planning process second to none -- one that listens to We, the People, instead of colluding with wealthy special interests, while treating our City of St. Augustine and St. Johns County citizens as objects to be manipulated by conflicted developers and their lobbyists.  
24. The City of Jacksonville must no longer consider itself to be superior to the City of St. Augustine.
25. The City of Jacksonville is not St. Augustine's "Big Brother."   
26. Please call or write me today.
27. In 2020, I was proud to share a table at our St. Augustine Willie Galimore community center with our Democratic then-candidate for Congress Donna Deegan when I also ran for another local office. 
28. Jacksonville Mayor Deegan is beloved. I am proud of Mayor Donna Deegan.  But I am ashamed of JTA. 
29  Thus, I expect the August 9, 2023 joint and several civil rights violations by our two (2) cities will end. Both must correct their lawbreaking. Now. Failing that, my HUD Title VI complaint will follow.  
30, Thank you, in advance, Mayor Deeagan and Mayor Sikes-Kline, for honoring your oaths under our State and U.S. Constitutions and laws. No more secrets, please.  No more lawbreaking. 
Please feel free to call me to discuss.
Thank you for all that you do! 
With kindest regards, I am, 
Sincerely yours,  
Ed Slavin
Box 3084 
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084
(904) 377-4998


Anonymous said...

They should have high speed rail all over Florida by now. Every state should have this. Gee, I wonder why we will all be dead before this happens? Wouldn't be conservative politicians not wanting to spend money and keep red areas red would it? Wouldn't be just sheer failure to adapt to modern times and climate change like Europe would it? Wouldn't be fossil fuel industry would it? By God these Republicans are dogs. Nothing can get done because of them unless they see they can personally make money.

Anonymous said...

I live in Saint Augustine. The only thing that would cause me to use this is a way to get to the JAX airport. Getting to Walmart/University and 210? Gimme a break. This is not a political thing - it just has to meet a real need.