Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Letter: Romano, not Gardner, will help quality of life

Letter: Romano, not Gardner, will help quality of life

The Rev. Debbie Axen
Vice President of Lincolnville Neighborhood Association - St. Augustine
Publication Date: 10/31/06

Editor: I am writing in response to the letter to the editor on Oct. 29 endorsing George Gardner. Many cities across Florida have implemented and, more importantly, supported neighborhood associations. The writer specifically indicated that the Lincolnville Neighborhood Association (LNA) was particularly effective. This is much more due to the leadership of each and every official of LNA, since it was started, than to George Gardner. I am currently an officer of LNA.

Sure the mayor listens to us -- he is good at that. But what has he done to truly support the quality of life for the residents and neighborhoods -- in other words, we the taxpayers and we the voters?

In Lincolnville, our streets and sidewalks are in disrepair, the homeless congregate, we suffer from prostitution, drugs and crime, including most recently, a murder and arson not involving long-time Lincolnville residents. Our day care center had to be locked down, scaring our children, and residents and the Flagler students and their parents have to worry about their safety. In four years, Mayor

Gardner has not led the commissioners or city in any meaningful improvements.

Peter Romano has twice served as president of LNA -- his leadership has supported our neighborhood. The city neither funded nor empowered the neighborhood associations with dollars for communication or with specific actionable powers/responsibilities. Peter, as LNA president, approached the board of St. Francis House to urge relocation of the facility. It was Peter who went to the Zoning Commission every time another parking lot was to encroach or surround Lincolnville. Peter answers our calls and e-mails.

Peter reaches out to his neighbors to support their personal needs and their causes.

I am voting for Peter Romano. He listens to the residents of his neighborhood and he will do the same for each neighborhood.

I urge all residents and voters of Lincolnville to vote for Peter for city commissioner and mayor. We have been neglected too long! Your vote will make a difference!

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© The St. Augustine Record

Monday, October 30, 2006


GEORGE R. GARDNER: The Last Hurrah?

GEORGE R. GARDNER: The Last Hurrah?
In Edwin O’Connor’s novel/movie, "The Last Hurrah," a genial fraud, an old-fashioned machine politician loses election because he did not appreciate the changing nature of his city and its people.
Likewise, St. Augustine Mayor George GARDNER faces a tough re-election battle against Peter Romano. GARDNER’s support is lagging for St. Augustine City Commissioner, precisely because GARDNER (like O’Conner’s Mayor Frank Skeffington), failed to keep his bright promise and stopped listening to (and responding) to the people.
GARDNER asked me on New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2005) if I would call for the firing of City Manager WILLIAM HARRISS, evidently preferring me to call for what he promised his supporters he would do if elected. I declined to do so. I declined to be a bullet in GARDNER’s gun or to throw myself under a bus for him. If HARRISS is to be removed, it should be after an open public hearing, with full due process rights, a precedent to protect the rights of all City employees in the future.
Mayor George GARDNER is a third-generation politician, the grandson of four-term Schenectady, New York Mayor Mayor George R. Lunn and son of eleven-term Schenectady County Clerk Carroll "Pink" GARDNER.
Mayor GARDNER has given me pompous lectures in City Commission meetings, while never responding to 90 questions on illegal dumping. Among the pompous lectures about "politics" were that one should not talk about too many issues, one should not criticize the City Manager or politicians’ appointees, and asking if I had "lint" in my "pockets."
Mayor GARDNER’s support is like the River Platte -- "a mile wide and an inch deep." As people learn the truth about our City and abuses of employees, GARDNER’s support fades.
GARDNER’s shallow surface knowledge of governance is shocking -- on New Year’s Eve he asked me, "what’s an Inspector General." His shallowness is what one would expect from a former newspaper editor who was an editor for tatterdemalion GANNETT and the foreruner of U.S. Today. He does not like the St. Augustine Record but does not inform himself by reading the N.Y. Times. His Babbitt-like boosterism is no substitute for thought or creativity.
Mayor GARDNER’s father and grandfather ran as reformers. I did not know them. However, from watching City government for seven years, I do know that Mr. GARDNER is maladroit, having botched the management of our City from stem to stern, tolerating abuses of power, violating First Amendment rights and presiding over the illegal dumping of the entire contents of the old illegal city dump into our Old City Reservoir.
GARDNER responds to criticism much the same way as Frank Skeffington or George W. Bush -- with anger and hubris. One of Skeffington’s critics said he would do things differently if he had them to do over again. Skeffington respond, "the hell I would.’
Like Commodore Vanderbilt, GARDNER’s approach to concerns about the public interest, on issue after issue, is "let the public be damned." (See below).

Letter: Gardner lack of vision clear on 'livable' cities

Letter: Gardner lack of vision clear on 'livable' citiesAngie MaisenbergerPonte Vedra BeachPublication Date: 10/27/06
Editor: I read with great interest the article "Is city walkable enough?" I was amazed at Mark Knight's and George Gardner's response to Dan Burden's vision for walkable communities. Mr. Knight said that although Burden's view is ideal for cities, it's not always practical. Whatever does that mean -- St. Augustine is a city! And Mayor Gardner said that "Governments don't build communities, people build communities." Of course, governments can impede "livable cities" through lack of leadership and vision, and through Band-aid ordinances on density, parking, zoning and design -- which the current city commission promotes.
With more than 100 residents, I attended a presentation a year ago by the graduate students of the University of Florida on a vision for St. Augustine neighborhoods. Through maps, statistics and visuals, they presented a dynamic vision for a neighborhood with growth, amenities and beauty. Mayor Gardner was also there. I remember standing near him when he said to the Urban Planning professor that visions do not become reality. I am glad that Walt Disney had a vision; for President Kennedy's vision of man on the moon; or the Rockefeller's vision preserving Williamsburg for us. Visions do not become reality without leadership, dialogue, planning and hard work. Gardner's and Knight's responses to Burden's vision for a walkable city are clear examples of a city government that lacks leadership/vision.
Prosser Hallock said working with governments is difficult because of the codes and rules. Maybe those codes and rules should be changed based on a clear vision for the city.
So, if people are to build communities to meet their needs, government, including Knight and Gardner, need to get with the program.
And from the Gardner's comments on two occasions, I doubt that the leadership is in place for St. Augustine -- maybe it is a time to change leadership for someone who does believe that vision becomes reality -- someone like Peter Romano.Click here to return to story:http://staugustine.com/stories/102706/opinions_4165594b.shtml © The St. Augustine Record

Letter: Romano won't embarrass city as others are doing

Letter: Romano won't embarrass city as others are doing
Publication Date: 10/28/06
Editor: Our city commissioners embarrass all of us. I'm supporting Peter Romano for St. Augustine Mayor and Commissioner. Peter's our Lincolnville Neighborhood Association president. I've seen how well he works to represent us.
We need his experience and creativity. Peter's an expert on detecting financial fraud, experienced in investigating both corporate and government wrongdoing.
Peter won't cower to power. He will ask questions and expect answers. He supports electing commissioners by individual districts to restore democracy.
He won't tolerate secret meetings or illegal pollution.
People in this beautiful city are uniting to protect our history and our environment.
We must stop out-of-control "developers" from ruining our town while helping solve homelessness and poverty.
Peter spoke to a Homeless Coalition meeting and emphasized restoring dignity, teaching skills, creating jobs and cost-effective housing.
At that same meeting, Gardner talked only about himself. Gardner recently said St. Augustine "has no housing problem," reportedly walking out of a tour of decrepit housing conditions and assailing Jeremy Dean's documentary film, "Dare Not Walk Alone," as too critical. In 2005, Gardner stated he only supported "positive history." History doesn't require Gardner's approval.
City commissioners' reprehensible record of arresting artists, entertainers and musicians (who once attracted tourists to St. George Street) has ironically opened the way for beggars, who now scare tourists away. Gifted musicians must be allowed back on St. George Street, with a guild.
Our city government's hostile to small businesses, frustrating us, while favoring commercial landlords, "developers" and national chains. We should ban chain stores from our historic area (as in Nantucket and Sun Valley), and promote a more authentic, quality historic tourism experience like Colonial Williamsburg.
Government waste, secrecy, illegal dumping, Sunshine violations and other problems proliferate, without answers.
Solution: let's defeat City Manager William Harriss's political machine. Elect Peter Romano mayor and commissioner.
Judith Seraphin
St. Augustine

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© The St. Augustine Record

Friday, October 27, 2006

Give 'Em Hell at Givemhell.com

My friend J.D. Pleasant's website, www.givemhell.com affords citziens an opportunity to talk back to overbearing politicians. View www.givemhell.com for links to local people talking eloquently about national and local issues on youtube and yahoo. Weather permitting, J.D. Pleasant will be at the St. Augustine Farmer's Market at the Ampitheatre on Saturday October 28 to film more local public opinions.

Mayor GEORGE GARDNER Concedes "Rampant Corruption," Loses Another Debate

St. Augustine MAYOR GEORGE GARDNER conceded that there was "rampant corruption" in City Hall last night in a public debate.

GARDNER lost his cool and lost yet another debate to Lincolnville community leader Peter Romano, who is running against GARDNER for Commissioner and JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR. for Mayor.
BOLES did not attend the debate in his own neighborhood. Citizens were thus unable to ask him questions about the issues raised by senior citizens’ family members as on www.boledover.net

Mayor GARDNER was caught in tergiversations.

Unlike Boles, at least GARDNER participated in the public debate before a combined meeting of three neighborhood associations (the Lighthouse and North and South Davis Shores neighborhoods). The debate was held at the Salt Run Community Center (formerly the city-owned Lighthouse Restaurant) on October 26th from 7-9 PM.

Mayor GEORGE GARDNER and the man he only refers to as "my opponent" (Lincolnville’s Peter Romano) participated in the debate, along with County Commission candidates Ken Bryan and Ron Sanchez.
Some 30 citizens watched in amazement as Mayor GARDNER repeatedly lost his cool.

Again and again, Mayor GARDNER was caught prevaricating.

One resident complained about the misuse of the increase in the fire fee for general revenues, instead of hire pay and more firemen. She told Mayor GARDNER that "your representative was rude and obnoxious" in negotiations with the firemen. An unapologetic GARDNER conceded they negotiations were "not friendly sessions."

After GARDNER was asked about the fire fee issue, GARDNER’s statements were rebutted by St. Augustine city fireman Pete Wiley, who outlined the city’s false statements and broken promises (and worse).
Fireman Pete Wiley (whom GARDNER rudely referred to as "one of my firemen") told how an increased fire fee has NOT resulted in increased fireman pay or increased fire protection, breaking promises.

Fireman Pete Wiley even offered to show his paystubs in response to GARDNER’s flummery. GARDNER did not rebut his rebuttal, looking down.

Fireman Pete Wiley cited statistics establishing the lack of adequate firemen to put out residential fires.

Fireman Pete Wiley said there were only 8 fireman on duty in the City last night, when national standards call for at least 15 to be on duty. Mr. Wiley recited specific fires where there were not enough firemen and poor communications between and among city and county fire departments.

Mr. Wiley alleged that our City’s current fire staffing levels violate national fire protection standards.

While Mayor GARDNER claimed that the fire fee was used to buy new fire equipment, Mr. Wiley stated that in fact that fire equipment is purchased with federal grants, not fire fee proceeds.

Folio Weekly newspaper has written about how our City’s fire fees have been used as general revenue.

It appeared to observers that Mayor GARDNER’s defensive claims were knocked into a cocked hat by city fireman Pete Wiley (whom GARDNER referred to as "one of my firemen, apparently using the possessive to refer to employees, in a manner reminiscent of Standard Oil co-founders John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler).

GARDNER was openly hostile to questions about government waste and abuse, turning red and self-righteously refusing to answer me about the city’s illegal dumping into the Old City Reservoir (about which GARDNER publicly promised "answers" on February 27), deferring any answers on white collar crimes and Sunshine violations -- what GARDNER conceded to be "rampant corruption" -- to the man whom he called "my opponent."

In response to GARDNER, Mayor and Commission candidate Peter Romano made the case for financial accountability in the City government, starting with increased auditing (just as a new corporate board member would insist upon accurate books).

Peter Romano supported making St. Augustine a world class tourist destination, increasing our quality of life with public transit (trolleys).

GARDNER claimed that the $22 million parking garage was "never intended to pay for itself." In fact, city officials, including the City’s Chief Operating Officer John Regan, have repeatedly used the benchmark of $100,000 per month in revenue being required to pay debt service.
GARDNER said that the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) would help fund the garage.

Peter Romano cited page 60 of the City’s financial audit and the limitations that keep city property taxes from being used to repay the bonds.

Peter Romano said that CRAs are limited to blighted areas and that the garage is not a "blighted area."

Peter Romano said our City could have obtained federal funds to pay 80% of the cost of the parking garage if only there had been a mass transit system (trolley cars) connected to it and that the city had once again lost an opportunity to provide federal grants to fund our city’s services to tourists.

GARDNER referred to the garage as being on the "periphery" of the city and said that the city would need more parking garages on the "periphery."

Actually, the parking garage is in the heart of the city and is only a few
blocks from the Castillo San Marco, St. George Street and other historic areas.

The massive parking garage now helps obliterate permanently lands that the late Fred Francis donated for baseball fields.
Candidates were asked by one resident to discuss where they saw the city in the year 2030.

Among city candidates, Lincolnville leader Peter Romano was the only city commissioner candidate who addressed the question, talking about long range planning and the process of building a walkable, liveable city. Peter Romano underlined the need to improve the quality of the City’s history by involving "philanthropists" (as in Colonial Williamsburg). Peter Romano has stated the need to broaden our City’s historic tourism focus to include African-American, indigenous (Native American) and Civil War history, not just Spanish and British colonial history. He has stated it was prejudiced for the City not to honor civil rights pioneers.

Asked about the city’s new problem of homelessness (see article below), Peter Romano discussed the need for employment and housing, citing the example of Portland, Oregon, which provides needed job training in pallet-making and other ways of restoring dignity and citizenship.

GARDNER was testy from the start. In his opening statement, he
asserted that "my opponent" was perpetrating a financial smokescreen," but never rebutted the 22% increase in the general fund or that 88% of it was funded by property taxes, an increase unlikely to be maintained in the current real estate market.

In his opening statement, GARDNER also claimed that neighborhood associations did not exist until he created them four years ago.

GARDNER actually referred to city fireman Pete Wiley as one of "my fireman."

Sadly, Mayor GARDNER demonstrated that it only took four years for a "reform" mayor to lose touch with his base and the reasons he was elected.

Eleven days before the election, our City of St. Augustine faces a choice between cleaning up City Hall or perpetuating what Mayor GARDNER readily conceded to be "rampant corruption."

While asserting that St. Johns County was no longer in the "clutches of developers," he did not justify his votes or actions over the past four years as Mayor of St. Augustine, Florida.

GARDNER claimed that PUDs let our City control what developers did
"down to the doorknobs," but could point to no instance in which developers did not obtain exactly what they wanted from the City Commission, CITY MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS and CITY PLANNING AND ZONING DIRECTOR MARK KNIGHT.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Matrix: Wetlands of Mass Destruction (WMD) http://miami.indymedia.org/news/2006/10/6295.php

St. Augustine's and Florida's wetlands are under siege by greedy developers and unjust stewards in our local governments. For more, see The Matrix: Wetlands of Mass Destruction (WMD), [http://miami.indymedia.org/news/2006/10/6295.php]

CITY MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS and his St. Augustine City Commissioners helped create the homeless problem in St. Augustine

CITY MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS and his St. Augustine City Commissioners helped create the homeless problem in St. Augustine

You've really got to hand it to City MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS and his City Commissioners in St. Augustine, Florida.
St. Augustine City.

Successive groups of Commissioners (other than Susan Burk) repeatedly voted to evict musicians and buskers from St. George Street, using police powers to arrest talented people whom tourists flocked to hear.

They changed the "ecology" of the street, as musician Roger Jolley puts it best.

As Tacitus said, "they created a desert and they called it peace."

Now HARRIS & Co. have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Rousting buskers has created a homeless problem on St. George Street, with beggars taking the place of musicians.

If you owned a store, would you rather have a violinist in front or a beggar?

Could there be a better illustration of the depths of selfishness and small-mindedness that unites the petty burghers who run the bloated $50 million City of St. Augustine city government?

Could there be a better problem of the "law of unintended consequences" than the beggar problem here?

Influential commercial landlords, who allegedly overcharge small businesses, were truculent, arrogant, and eager to arrest buskers, angry that they weren't receiving rent from the buskers.

Now those commercial landlords have made St. George Street dangerous, reaping the whirlwind, with beggars instead of buskers.

First Amendment law appears more protective of begging than it does musicianship.

Does being the City of St. Augustine mean never having to say you're sorry?

Does being the City of St. Augustine mean never having to say you're sorry?
Our City has:
1. Arrested musicians and buskers,
2. Welcomed noisy motorcyclists, giving them free parking
3. Voted to raise parking meter fees for the rest of humanity
4. Wasted millions on a white elephant parking garage,
5. Destroyed historic buildings, including the Monson Motel where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested in June 1964
6. Destroyed indigenous Native American archaeological sites
7. Destroyed neighborhoods
8. Disposed of the entire contents of the old illegal city dump into the Old City Reservoir,
9. Disdained even discussing a living wage,
10. Refused to talk about trolley cars, a moratorium on growth and other reforms to save our city. See below.
What do you reckon?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Who IS JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR.? http://www.boledover.net


Twelve former St. Augustine Mayors have endorsed JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR. to be St. Augustine's next Mayor. That's a lot of Mayors -- every single living former Mayor of the Nation's Oldest City.

A soon-to-be-thirteenth former Mayor (current Mayor, GEORGE GARDNER), who stands accused of sexual harassment, has impliedly endorsed JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR. by not seeking re-election as Mayor (and changing plans in response to BOLES running against him for his four-year seat by seeking the two-year Commission seat.

Wonder why?

Now it turns out that Commissioner JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR. is allegedly involved in a senior citizen signing away to his third wife property allegedly owned by the senior with his children, with BOLES writing the Florida Bar that it would somehow be "insulting" if he inquired into the soundness of mind of a man he says "purportedly" signed a deed.

For more on JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR. and the family's allegations, watch http://www.boledover.net, including .wav files and BOLES' defense to litigation and a formal Florida Bar complaint.

In response to concerns about our City's illegal dumping of 20,000 cubic yards of contaminants into the Old City Reservoir, BOLES is one of the most loyal defenders of CITY MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS, angrily saying he was "tired" of dissent about illegal dumping and other subjects and voting to give HARRISS an award in the midst of a pending DEP/EPA criminal investigation. See below

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Who I'm supporting this Nov. 7 and why

Who I'm supporting this Nov. 7 and why

St. Augustine
Publication Date: 10/22/06

Montana's former governor candidly said she was a "lapdog for big industry." Governments need more watchdogs, fewer lapdogs.

"Reform" St. Augustine City Commissioners became lapdogs for wrecking-crew-developer-speculators and monarchical City Manager, William B. Harriss.

After 12 years as St. Augustine's first/only full-time city attorney, James Patrick Wilson suddenly resigned October 12th. Wonder why? On Friday the 13th, city commissioners held an unannounced meeting about replacing Wilson.

FDLE must investigate and prosecute repeated violations of Sunshine laws (including recent meeting recess/ dinners, NYC and European travel).

City Manager Harriss and Company are smug, retaliatory and contemptuous of our people, neighborhoods, and our concerns. They're lapdogs, with no watchdogs (not even an annual performance appraisal, as former Commissioner Reardon urged in 1998).

All commissioners (including Mayor Gardner) spent your money on a plaque-award to Harriss in the midst of a DEP/EPA criminal investigation.

Obstructing justice?

Mayor Gardner is now bragging on this city's annexation record. That dog won't hunt.

Longtime Realtor Gardner and longtime property lawyer Boles are both lapdogs and cognitive misers.

They've only empowered City Manager Harriss, along with illegal dumping in our Old City Reservoir; the destruction of historic buildings (like Monson Motel's civil rights history); reversing a $15,000 tree-killing fine; wasteful spending including white elephant oversized parking garage destroying Fred Francis Field; planning to add 10 percent to our city's population building atop arsenic-contaminated land; destroying wildlife; willy-nilly rubberstamping annexations and ugly buildings; and repeatedly violating First Amendment rights of artists, musicians, entertainers and gays.

Gardner actually brags of attending 36 churches, but he, Crichlow and Jones responded to a federal court by voting to ban all community organizations (including churches) from flying flags on our Bridge of Lions to mark their public events, voting for only "government flags."

We've had enough.

Active citizens make the difference. Working together, diverse citizens can turn once-captive governments into effective, compassionate governments.

I'm supporting Lincolnville leader Peter Romano for both mayor and commissioner.

Our city government is a mess, a waste of $50 million annually -- as much as one-third waste, while doing little for average citizens. Why does St. Augustine cost much more to operate than St. Augustine Beach and other similarly sized cities?

Our unconcerned St. Augustine commissioners junket while speculator-developers laugh all the way to the bank. Commissioners are narrow-minded, refusing to discuss a living wage, growth moratorium, trolleycars/mass transit, an inspector general, ombudsman, fair treatment for St. George Street artists and entertainers, reconciliation, annexation of West Augustine. They lack vision.

I voted for Mayor Gardner, a huge disappointment. Only 10 St. Augustine voters provided Gardner's mayoral margin in 2002. Gardner means well, but he's ineffectual and has lost touch.

Why would 12 former mayors endorse Joe Boles to be mayor? Why does Boles say the mayor's job is "ceremonial" and that the only reason he should be elected mayor is his "sense of humor?"

We're not laughing. Speculator-developers are laughing all the way to the bank. Does Boles have undiscussed conflicts-of- interest, like commissioner/architect Donald Crichlow, who also represents clients before city board members?

These aren't easy times and this is not an ordinary election. Our nation, state, county and city are perplexed by similar problems ñ corruption, special interest influence, destruction of workers and families, exporting of jobs, destruction of the environment and wildlife, dishonesty, divisiveness, appeals to prejudice, manipulation of elections and diversions from the truly important issues of the 21st century.

Enough mediocrities mucking up. We need real leaders with vision and common sense. I support and recommend:

1. Re-electing Sen. Bill Nelson, electing Jack Chagnon of St. Augustine Beach as our congressman, defeating entrenched lapdog U.S. Rep. John Mica, the big oil lobby's best friend in Florida.

2. Electing Rep. Jim Davis governor.

3. Electing Ken Bryan county commissioner.

4. Electing Peter Romano mayor and commissioner.

Let's reform Congress, Tallahassee, the courthouse and city hall, with your help. It's our community, city, county, country and planet.

It's our money.

It's your children's future.

Don't just vote on November 7th -- activate everyone you know!

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© The St. Augustine Record

Letter: Boles is arrogant, vote for Romano to save city

Letter: Boles is arrogant, vote for Romano to save city
Publication Date: 10/22/06

Editor: Land-raping speculators are ruining our city and county.

On January 9th, St. Augustine City Commissioner Joe Boles voted to put a strip mall and condominiums where there are unexamined Indian villages, risking floods and vehicle accidents near three schools, risking children's safety. Commissioners voted 3-2 to destroy history, falsely claiming Indian sites were protected.

We asked to show videotapes and photos, including Lewis Speedway underwater during football games, school functions and parent pickups. Looking toward the planning director, Mr. Boles shook his head "no'' at our request. In response, staff then claimed there were technical problems with video equipment and city staff needed to have viewed them first. They kept cable TV viewers and commissioners from seeing just how dangerous Lewis Speedway is when it's flooded due to speculators destroying wetlands.

Speculators rule the roost. City staff walked away and let lawyer George McClure paw through and read our speaker cards before they were passed to the mayor. I was shocked.

Commissioners no longer bother to swear in speculators or city staff during public hearings.

While citizens are limited to three minutes, speculators and lawyers get to take as much time as they want to and are allowed the last word.

Things will get worse because of 250 new homes proposed for Lewis Speedway.

Things will also get worse if Mr. Joe Boles is elected mayor. In my opinion, the entire commission and staff are arrogant and dismissive and reckon themselves above the law. If Mr. Boles is elected mayor, I believe he would favor wetland-filling speculators, while violating the peoples' rights and destroying nature (as at the contaminated Old City Reservoir).

I respectfully urge you to support Peter Romano for mayor and commissioner, shaking your heads "no'' (in disgust at condescending arrogance). Vote to save this city.

Sherry Badger

St. Augustine

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© The St. Augustine Record

Thursday, October 19, 2006


St. Augustine City Commissioners must ask Dobson & Brown for a complete list of clients before considering hiring them as interim City Attorney. Here's the list of Dobson & Brown's "representative clients" in Martindale-Hubbel Legal Directory include:
1. North Florida Corporation (formerly)
2. City of St. Augustine
3. City of St. Augustine Beach
4.Town of Hastings
5. St. Johns County
6. St. Johns County Water and Sewer Authority
7. St. Johns County Tax Collector
8. St. Augustine Beach St. Johns County
9. St. Johns County Clerk of Courts
10. St. Johns County Industrial Development Board
11. St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Authority
12. Anastasia Mosquito Control District
13. St. Augustine Ocean Resorts Cooperative, Inc.
14. Secret Oaks Owners Association
Village of Solano
Homeowners' Association
15. St. Augustine Ocean Tennis and Racquets Condo Association
16. Beach Homes at Villages of Vilano Condo Association
17. Surf Club Condo Associations I
18. Surf Club Condo Associations II
19. Surf Club Condo Associations III
20. Crescent Beach Condominium Association
21. Beachers' Lodge Condominium Association
22. Atlantic East Condominium Association


City Commissioners must ask Dobson & Brown for a complete list of clients before considering hiring them as interim City Attorney. Asked for a complete client list of clients, DOBSON & BROWN's Geoffrey Dobson said October 18th:
"That is normally. as you should be aware, confidential."
"We do not represent developers in front of any governmental body."
"I'm not going to answer that question."
"Our client list of who we represent is regarded as a confidential matter -- we cannot disclose that -- we will neither confirm not deny representation of any particular" client.
"I have not attended any meetings of the City of St. Augustine for a long time."
"We have represented property owners ... you can take all of this down."
"We have represented property owners before the city ... we have not represented what you would label developers."
"What's your definition of a speculator? ... We don not represent flippers."
Mr. Dobson was then asked if his firm listed "representative clients" in Martindale-Hubbel Legal Directory. Yes, he said, reading the list, which includes:
1. North Florida Corporation (formerly)
2. City of St. Augustine
3. City of St. Augustine Beach
4.Town of Hastings
5. St. Johns County
6. St. Johns County Water and Sewer Authority
7. St. Johns County Tax Collector
8. St. Augustine Beach St. Johns County
9. St. Johns County Clerk of Courts
10. St. Johns County Industrial Development Board
11. St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach Authority
12. Anastasia Mosquito Control District
13. St. Augustine Ocean Resorts Cooperative, Inc.
14. Secret Oaks Owners Association
Village of Solano
Homeowners' Association
15. St. Augustine Ocean Tennis and Racquets Condo Association
16. Beach Homes at Villages of Vilano Condo Association
17. Surf Club Condo Associations I
18. Surf Club Condo Associations II
19. Surf Club Condo Associations III
20. Crescent Beach Condominium Association
21. Beachers' Lodge Condominium Association
22. Atlantic East Condominium Association
How did Dobson & Brown become involved in temporarily replacing City Attorney JAMES PATRICK WILSON, who resigned October 12? "Mr. Harris called Mr. Brown," Dobson said, asking D&B to "provide a proposed engagement letter."
Asked about the Friday the 13th meeting without prior notice, Mr. Dobson said, "I don't know if it violated or didn't violate the Sunshine law... that's a ridiculous question."
Asked about representation about developers like Robert Graubard, Mr. Dobson said, "we do not represent Mr. Graubard ... I don't think I've represented Mr. Graubard .... I don't think Mr. Brown has."
Asked whether they represented Mr. Graubard in 1998, Mr. Dobson said, "1998 is six (sic) years ago." (It was actually eight years ago).
Mr. Dobson said, "we try to stay away from a lot of real estate -- not geared to do real estate work."
Mr. Dobson said he had "absolutely no idea" about law enforcement target letters."
Mr. Dobson asserted that the City's water wells "borrow pit" (a/k/a Old City Reservoir) were closed in the 1970s due to "problems with heavy metals" from "junkyards" and "salt water intrusion."
Mr. Dobson said that if there were criminal charges as a result of the "alleged pollution,"
he "would not represent the individuals" due to "potential conflict of interest with the public." Mr. Dobson said he has "not done criminal defense in 20 years."
Mr. Dobson and city officials have had "no discussion about the alleged dumping." saying so three times.
Asked if he had anything to add, Mr. Dobson said, "I'm not adding anything to anything."
"I have been a governmental attorney in private practice since 1964. I have represented a number of cities." He was General Counsel for the Florida Department of Transportation 1971-76. "I have no interest in being a full-time governmental attorney."
Asked how he liked Tallahassee, Mr. Dobson agreed it was turning into a big city.
"I don't like big cities," Mr. Dobson said.
Asked what he thought of what developers are doing to our City of St. Augustine, Mr. Dobson said it would be "inappropriate to comment on my personal opinions on anything. I keep my own private thoughts to myself."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006



Our City Commissioners apparently violated the Sunshine Law Friday October 13th, deciding to designate the law firm of DOBSON & BROWN, P.A. (RONALD W. BROWN and GEOFFREY DOBSON as our City Attorney, one day after the resignation of City Attorney JAMES PATRICK WILSON, who abruptly resigned on October 12th. (See article below).
DOBSON & BROWN simultaneously represents
A. Real estate speculators;.
B. The City of St. Augustine Beach;
C. The Town of Hastings. www.lawdb.com
Conflicts of interests are to be scrupulously guarded against. See, e.g., United States v. Mississippi Valley Generating Co., 364 U.S. 520, 548 (1961)(the "Dixon-Yates" case involving TVA rivals' conflicts of interest), citing Matthew 6:24 -- "no [person] can serve two masters," holding that laws and rules preventing conflicts of interest are aimed "not only at dishonor but at conduct that tempts dishonor."
DOBSON & BROWN obstructed efforts to learn who held options on Town of Hastings properties before a massive annexation was voted last year.
DOBSON & BROWN's designation shows our City lacks common sense, unadorned by an understanding of basic principles.
DOBSON & BROWN's designation as the City's attorney is null and void due to our City's Sunshine violations.
Efforts to obtain the draft minutes of the Friday the 13th meeting are unavailing.
A message left for MAYOR GEORGE GARDNER has not been returned.
Our City has offered to sell us Mr. JAMES PATRICK WILSON's resignation letter for fifteen cents, refusing to fax it.
In the words of the American diplomat Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, "not one cent for tribute.
City Commissioners must drop the oyster and leave the wharf, drop DOBSON & BROWN's designation, and leave Assistant City Attorney Robin Upchurch in place until after the election and FDLE andGrand Jury investigations of the Sunshine violations unfold.
As is customary under CITY MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS, our City has broken the law (again and again). Why in the name of all that's holy would you hire a law firm with conflicts of interest to advise our City at this critical stage, in the midst of rapacious developers and a criminal investigation of our City's illegal dumping?
It now appears that not one City Commissioner is actively protecting the public interest.
These Commissioners are undeserving of public support.
They're unwise and unjust stewards of environmental protection.
Enough of their profligacy and superficiality.
Their loose-as-a-goose approach to regulation, their nonexistent oversight, their material misrepresentations, require thorough investigations. (See below).
Mr. BOLES does not deserve to be Mayor and Mr. Gardner does not deserve to be Commissioner.

Because we really do love the City of St. Augustine, we must clean it up.

Because we really do love the City of St. Augustine, we must clean it up.
MAYOR GEORGE GARDNER's campaign yard signs beg voters to support him for Commissioner because they (or he) love St. Augustine.
We all do.
That's why we need reform, not empty promises.
For four years, GEORGE GARDNER never delivered on his many promises of reform.
Instead, GEORGE GARDNER's empowered and enabled:
A. ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION AND CRIMES (as in the City's 20,000 cubic yards of dumping in our Old City Reservoir -- "clean fill" does not include bed springs and the entire contents of an old illegal city dump on Riberia Street);
B. CITY GOVERNMENT WASTE (including a $50 million budget, with 22% increase in the general fund and $22 million underutilized parking garage);
C. CITY MANAGER WILLIAM B. HARRISS, refusing to discuss the need for an Inspector General and internal controls;
1. GARDNER's unconstitutional May 23, 2005 vote against flying Bridge of Lions (BOL) Rainbow flags, a violation of the First Amendment violation that was reversed by United States District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. June 7); and
2. GARDNER's June 13 vote to ban all but government flags from our BOL, preventing St. Augustine community groups from ever again flying flags on BOL to commemorate their events.
As Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote, when "government becomes a lawbreaker," it promotes disrespect for the law, and anarchy. Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 478 (dissenting)(1928). As Dr. King said (see below), is this the "most lawless" city in America?

Monday, October 16, 2006

The whole world is watching and we shall overcome.

Readers of this blog in the past 48 hours include people in Beijing, China Argentina, as well as federal and state law enforcement officials. The reader in Beijing was searching for "the ways to clean up the city." Let us count the ways -- we've got voting, journalism, activism and litigation, to name four. The crisis of the spirit demonstrated by the illegal pollution requires basic change in the government of the Nation's Oldest City, founded in 1565.

Our City of St. Augustine has rightly earned the attention of federal and state law enforcement for over four decades, since desegregation orders during the 1960s. What happened in St. Augustine led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said St. Augustine was the the "most lawless" city in America.

Today, St. Augustine's municipal government is still a lawbreaker, with contempt for environmental, open records, sunshine, civil rights and open government laws. When I asked some 90 questions of our City Manager, City Attorney and City Commissioners commencing February 24 -- regarding the dumping of the entire contents of Riberia Street's old illegal city dump into the Old City Reservoir -- Mayor George Gardner promised on February 27 "answers" at the City Commission meeting. No "answers" have been provided by our City. Our City's contractor and counsel have instead provided flummery. (See below).

Our City Commissioners held a meeting on Friday the 13th regarding the resignation of City Attorney James Patrick Wilson. There was no notice. FDLE is now investigating that meeting, and a pattern of possible Sunshine violations by our City, to include those taking place in NYC and Europe. (See below).
Those who pollute, discriminate and retaliate will be held accountable. Our cause is just.

Our citizens are entitled to better government, which works for all hte people and serves as a just steward of our environmental heirtage and 10,000 years of history.

As the ancient equitable maxim says, "let justice be done though the heavens fall."
"Keep your eyes on the prize," as the spiritual put it best. As President Johnson told a joint session of Congress in 1965, "we shall overcome."

City attorney resigns

City attorney resigns

From Staff Reports
Publication Date: 10/14/06

Jim Wilson, St. Augustine's first full-time city attorney, has resigned to pursue the private practice of law.

Wilson tendered his resignation on Thursday, according to City Manager Bill Harriss.

Wilson was city attorney for 12 years. Harriss said Friday that Wilson has agreed to be available to the city for consulting work through Jan. 31.

"He's been talking about it, but he did not give me a letter till Thursday," Harriss said. "Jim is one of the best governmental attorneys I've seen. It's a shame. We are going to miss him."

Because the city attorney is hired by the City Commission, Harriss said he asked for a special meeting on Friday so the commission could act and determine the next step.

The commission met and directed Harriss to contact the firm of Dobson and Brown to be the interim city attorney until a search can be conducted for a successor.

Geoffrey Dobson was the city's attorney as part of his private practice for years prior to Wilson being hired. Dobson and his partner, Ron Brown, already do contract legal work for the city when needed, Harriss said.

He said he talked with Brown and asked him for a letter of engagement so that the commission can act on it at its Oct. 23 meeting.

The interim city attorney will be in charge of the office, and Robin Upchurch, assistant city attorney, will run the day-to-day operations, Harriss said.

Under the city's organizational structure, the city attorney reports directly to the City Commission while the assistant city attorney reports to Harriss.

He said that's because the commission has to be able to direct the city attorney in legal matters regarding the city commission's actions.

No timetable has been set for a search for Wilson's successor, Harriss said.

Wilson could not be reached for comment.

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Letter: Columbus was brutal, not deserving of holiday

Letter: Columbus was brutal, not deserving of holiday

Publication Date: 10/11/06

Editor: It's not OK to officially honor Christopher Columbus, Ponce de Leon or Pedro Menendez, unless one considers massive theft of land, slavery, brutality, physical and cultural genocide to be acceptable!

The Spanish "discovery" of La Florida, the "flowery land" in 1513 by Juan Ponce de Leon, wasn't an act of genius. Lucayan (Taino) natives from the Bahamas were quite familiar with the Florida coast, a land they called "Cautio." Ponce wasn't just looking for the fabled "Fountain of Youth," although there was an interest in curative waters spoken of by the Caribbean-Taino because syphilis was raging in the Spanish colonies.

Ponce's greatest interest in Florida was in acquiring gold and Calusa Indian slaves destined for a life of servitude and misery in West Indies Plantations.

Earlier, Ponce had played a leading role in brutalizing and enslaving the Taino (Arawak) people of Hispaniola, along with Christopher Columbus, following Columbus' return voyage to Hispaniola in 1493. Even Ponce's dog, Becerrillo, got in on the slaughter. Becerrillo achieved "fame" in the Indies as a slayer of Arawak men, women and children and was paid a soldier's wages in stolen gold.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded the settlement of St. Augustine in September, 1565 next to the Timucuan town of Seloy. Now, the city is disgracefully rushing to allow a developer to cover and build-over this magnificent, historic Timucuan site. How shameful and disrespectful of local history!

If the city continues to cover up these important indigenous sites, perhaps city leaders feel they won't have to start to explain the murder and theft required to invade and conquer them or reveal the extensive cultural contributions of these First-Nation peoples.

While not the bloodthirsty-butchers that Columbus and Ponce were, Menendez imposed forced labor and cultural genocide (Encomienda) on the Timucua.

According to Jerald T. Milanich, curator in archeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, "One cannot forget that the mission system was part of an insidious colonial empire, an empire that ultimately destroyed the very people the Franciscans sought to save."

Menendez murdered in the "name of god" -- the Calusa leader Carlos II and 20 of his principal men, and Kiskiack Indians at Chesapeake Bay -- predominantly for resisting coercive attempts to convert them to Spanish-Catholicism.

Menendez also slaughtered 245 surrendered French Huguenots at the infamous Matanzas "massacre" Inlet after telling them "he was bound to pursue them with a fire and blood war to extermination," for the "crime" of being Protestant ñ not Catholic.

Menendez also ordered the execution of a gay, French-Lutheran interpreter of the Guale tribal language, because he was "a Sodomite and a Lutheran" ñ in what's likely the first documented anti-gay, hate crime in North America! Gays were respected and honored by most historic, Indigenous societies.

There's no good reason to continue to honor historic-terrorists ñ Columbus, Ponce and Menendez ñ to the exclusion of honorable, historic figures. Why not honor the best ñ instead of the worst ñ of any culture? St. Augustine could begin to interpret its history in an honest, respectful and inclusive manner that honors a diverse cultural heritage that is the real America.

Continuing to officially-honor historic Spanish murderers, thieves, homophobes and slavers is disgraceful and presents pathetic role models for our children in the present.

David Thundershield Queen

St. Augustine

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Where else in the history of America in the 21st century?

Where else in the history of America in the 21st century has an American government annexed arsenic-contaminated land and platted houses on it without proper investigation or remediation? Our City of
St. Augustine's arsenic-contaminated development of the arsenic-contaminated Ponce de Leon Golf Course could add 10% to our City's population. See http://staugustine.com/stories/012206/new_3590391.shtml
Former President Warren Harding enjoyed the Ponce Golf Links and picked his cabinet here in St. Augustine. President Harding's beloved Ponce is now being destroyed.
Former President Warren Harding's Ohio Gang would have recognized the type of government that our City of St. Augustine has endured.
The ghosts of Warren Harding and his Ohio Gang are watching the bunch who run our City of St. Augustine -- they invent and perpetrate the shames of the City, from illegal dumping to destruction of wildlife habitat, nature and wetlands..
Do St. Augustine burghers listen to what you think of their odd notion of "development?"
Do those opposing waste and massive projects cast their pearls before swine?
Do those incumbent politicians pretending to support neighborhoods lack vision?
Are they ineffectual?
Are they uninformed?
Are they phony reformers who never intended to reform anything?
Have they lost their way?
Do they lack backbones?
Do they lack assertiveness?
Do they lack preparation?
Do they lack persistence?
Do they fail to perform oversight of City operations?
Are they in the tank with City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS?
What do you think?
Vote on November 7 for Peter Romano for Mayor and Commissioner.

Letter: Worker safety is still an important concern

Ed Slavin
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 10/09/06
Editor: As Saint Augustine wrote, "an unjust law is no law at all." unjust laws and unjust stewards in our governments are causing preventable deaths (not just in Iraq), while wasting your money on junkets and flubdubs. Callous governments kill.
Gov. Jeb Bush abolished Florida's worker safety division in 2000, abrogating all of its rules and closing its doors. Now city, county and state government employees (including first responders) are unprotected. They can "hang from roofs from a string," says a federal OSHA inspector.
For millennia, roof fall deaths have been prevented with lifelines/barriers.
On September 8th, a county employee died, falling through an FCTI skylight. No Florida laws protected him.
On August 28, roofers were working at the Visitor Information Center (VIC), unadorned by harnesses, hardhats or other safety gear ñ clambering quickly around the VIC's pitched, plywood-covered roof, at risk of falling, 14 feet to a debris field, while risking nail gun deaths to workers in harm's way below. Videographer J.D. Pleasant e-mailed photos to OSHA, which is investigating city contractors. Several years ago, the Public Works Department promised to protect employees, who were unprotected roofing the Lighthouse Restaurant (now a community center).
Our city government actually annexed and platted homes on an arsenic-contaminated golf course without proper testing/remediation first. Geologist Dr. Alfred Hirsch told commissioners on Oct. 13, 2003 their actions were unprecedented. Uncaring city commissioners claimed arsenic was not the city's concern.
Last year, Mayor George Gardner and Commissioner Donald Crichlow told Folio Weekly our city has "no oar in the water" when Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison slashed tour train and Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum employees' pay/benefits. They refused to call Mr. Pattison (whom I got on the telephone in 30 seconds).
In 2006, FDEP found city managers violated environmental laws, even refusing training to workers before putting them in harm's way, sorting through 20,000 cubic yards of old landfill waste, high in arsenic and other toxic contaminants ñ a cubic yard for every Lightner Museum treasure. Will our city's official-dumpers be indicted, as in Clay County?
Federal officials kill workers by neglecting safety, even on the roof of the U.S. Department of Labor. On July 19, 1989, a roofer driving an ATV died in a 47-foot fall from DOL's roof in Washington, D.C., overlooking the Capitol ñ nearly killing Alan C. McMillan, OSHA's Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor (now head of the National Safety Council). It took hours for investigators to arrive ñ OSHA had exiled Washington construction inspectors to Baltimore. OSHA managers could see reckless roofing practices on DOL's roof for weeks before the fatality.
It's wrong for governments to shred rights to safe, nonretaliatory workplaces.
As in 1776, Americans today confront brazen-faced authoritarians, symbolized by the Tennessee state environmental manager who told "his" employees, "You're the state's for 7 1/2 hours per day and if I tell you to jump off the roof, you jump off the roof."
Nobody should be expected to die or surrender human rights for a thoughtless, reckless employer. Nobody should be taxed to support waste and mismanagement.
Our city's bloated budget is now $50 million, with a 22 percent general fund increase. Our City's underutilized $22 million parking garage is too big (like one in Spokane, which was misled by the same organization our city consulted, leading to Spokane's out-of-court-settlements). St. Augustine commissioners ignored warnings from financial expert Peter Romano on the parking garage, with only Commissioner Donald Crichlow curtly responding by e-mail ("That's not happening here").
Governments are captive to special interests, unconcerned for people. Locally, "reformers" reformed nothing, betraying supporters.
On Sept. 11, 2006, Mayor Gardner fondly remembered "developers" were once called "city fathers," saying we must "cooperate."
In response to public questions since my June 25 Record column, "St. Augustine: We can make it much better," our mayor and vice mayor admit, "There's no dialogue here." The city won't answer questions on unsafe practices, illegal dumping, junkets, Sunshine and First Amendment violations. See www.cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com Vote to put people first, treasuring the lives of living, breathing people, protecting them from preventable deaths, venerating the culture of life. As County Commissioners Karen Stern and Bruce Maguire learned on Sept. 5, we're disgusted with developer-coddling. We support honest government and reject what CNN's Lou Dobbs calls "the race to the bottom."
I support Lincolnville's Peter Romano for St. Augustine mayor/commissioner, Justice Department retiree Ken Bryan for county commissioner and Rep. Jim Davis for governor. On Nov. 7, let's celebrate independence and restore competence, compassion and decency, from St. Augustine to Tallahassee to Washington.
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Residents speak against brownfield

Residents speak against brownfield

Publication Date: 10/10/06

The St. Augustine City Commission held its first public hearing Monday on whether to allow a developer to receive a tax break to clean the contaminated former Ponce de Leon Resort property.

"I think it's morally wrong to ask taxpayers to pay for this," said Bob Frohardt, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident, one of two people who spoke at the hearing.

The former Ponce site on U.S. 1, north of the city, covers 419 acres of which 284 acres are contaminated with arsenic. It was used for weed control on the Ponce golf course from 1916 to 2003.

Attorney Dan Richardson, representing the developer, asked the commission Monday to designate the former Ponce property a brownfield site. This is the second of three presentations Richardson will make to the commission.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection offers the brownfield program as an incentive to redevelop contaminated sites. The program includes tax benefits for the property owner.

Frohardt said the developer, Stokes & Company, was aware of the contamination when it bought the property. He said the developer told the commission "I'll take care of it. I don't need any help."

"Now he's saying, 'wait a minute. I have problem,'" Frohardt said. "I think it's wrong to apply this (brownfield program) mid-stream to bail him out."

Richardson said the developer already has a consent agreement with DEP to clean the site. He said it was Environmental Protection who suggested the developer apply for the brownfield program.

City resident Janet Craig also spoke against the development entirely, and wore a shirt that read, "Save The Ponce." Craig is part of a group who originally opposed closing the historic golf course to build a development, more than four years ago.

Commissioner Joe Boles had Richardson clarify the tax benefits developers can receive from the program.

"I think some people thought this meant the state would pay for the cleanup, but that's not the case," Boles said. "It seems there's more to this."

The developer could receive corporate income tax credit from Environmental Protection's state fund, Richardson said. The developer can only apply for money spent cleaning the site.

Environmental Protection audits the projects and decides what qualifies as tax credit, ensuring the money was used for cleanup and not on development, Richardson said. Each brownfield site developer can qualify for up to $500,000 in tax credits. But the amount is capped at $2 million for the state, Richardson said.

"So the state can say you don't have to pay $500,000 in taxes," Boles said.

Commissioner Don Crichlow said Environmental Protection told him that since the brownfield program began in 1998 the most money ever requested in one year from projects was about $1 million.

"There was an issue raised (by the public) that there could be more worthy projects than this one," Crichlow said. "To date, there have been no other applicants this year (for tax credits)."

The commission did not make a decision on the brownfield designation. The development must have its approval to become a brownfield site.

The commission will hold its final public hearing on the issue on Nov. 13.

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Letter: Don't give Ponce owners brownfield designation

Letter: Don't give Ponce owners brownfield designation
Walter C. Daniels
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 10/06/06

Editor: I do not feel that the city of St. Augustine should approve the request by Stokes & Co., to declare the former Ponce de Leon golf course property a Brownfield Site. The developer knew from the start that there was arsenic contamination on the site. When he asked the city commission to approve his proposed development, he downplayed the significance of this.

The stated intent of the Brownfields Redevelopment Act is to encourage the redevelopment of abandoned commercial and industrial property. The Ponce was neither of these. Section 376.82, (1) of the acts limits participation in the Brownfield program to "any person who has not caused or contributed to the contamination of a Brownfield site on or after July 1, 1997.'' The contamination problem was benign until the developer disturbed the golf course land. He did this because he could not place 749 homes on the property without using the golf course land. He especially wants to use the half mile of the golf course that borders the marsh on the west side of the Tolomato River. This is no doubt where he intends to build the most expensive homes in the development.

If the developer is given any financial incentives under the Brownfields Redevelopment Act, he is the only person who will benefit. This would result in the developer being able to maximize profit through a reduction in his overall costs, and a reduction in tax revenue lawfully due to the state of Florida. I applaud the efforts of any business that strives to maximize profit. I do not, however, feel it should come at the expense of the taxpayer.

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Letter: Ponce project will be environmental disaster

Letter: Ponce project will be environmental disaster

Robert E. Ulanowicz
St. Augustine
Publication Date: 09/27/06

Editor: Ponce Associates LLC is requesting that the city of St. Augustine endorse its application for support under Florida's Brownfields Act to subsidize the cleanup of the former Ponce Golf Course (Arsenic still on U.S. 1 property, St. Augustine Record, Sept. 21.)

Although the request is posed as a positive environmental action, the cold truth is that they are asking to use public monies and credits to ensure unseemly profits from a project that will be an environmental travesty.

In an effort to maximize profits, the developer wants to crowd a very large number of single-family dwellings onto the tract, with distances between units as small as 15 feet.

This is undesirable sprawl at its worst, and it greatly reduces aquifer recharge because of the large area of impervious surface presented by houses and roads. Most of the remaining area will become suburban lawns, which require copious water and contribute fertilizer and pesticides to the groundwater at rates that exceed virtually all other uses.

The same number of new city taxpayers could be accommodated if housing units were aggregated into a few multi-family units, separated by large natural areas chosen to coincide with where contaminants are present in highest concentrations.

Such open spaces would maintain aquifer recharge, avoid contact exposure by the new residents and significantly diminish the costs of remediation.

Such a plan might even increase the amount of affordable housing so lacking in our area.

A few weeks ago, St. Johns voters demonstrated forcefully that they are fed-up with chicanery between public officials and developers.

If the developer insists on continuing with his damaging proposal, he should have to shoulder the entire cost of the required cleanup.

Only if he were to make radical changes to bring his plans more in line with the public good and environmental harmony should any thought of city endorsement be entertained.

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Letter: Still believes in saving the Ponce golf course

Bob Frohardt
S. Ponte Vedra Beach

February 27, 2004

Editor: I strongly believe that the Ponce golf course has important historical significance to both the city of St. Augustine and to the history of golf. I continue to believe that it should be saved. However, I understand that it may not be realistic to try to force the owner to operate a golf course if he really does not want to do this.

But, the current owner purchased the property under a Planned Unit Development that clearly called for a golf course. The PUD was initially approved, and later modified, with the golf course always a part of the development. An important function of the golf course within the PUD was not only to serve as a golf course, but also to provide a large amount of open space, much of it along the environmentally sensitive marshfront and river. This open space has provided roosting space for the hundreds of endangered wood storks, roseate spoonbills, ibis, great blue herons and other species of birds that have used this property for years. This open space was a major feature of the PUD. It is doubtful whether or not the initial PUD would have been approved if the plan had been to eliminate the golf course and all the open space along the environmentally sensitive waterfront.

While it may not be practical to force the owner to operate a golf course, the open space must be protected. It saves some of the last sensitive waterfront land in North Florida; it provides significant open space for future residents of the development; it saves many large, ancient, irreplaceable oak trees; it provides roosting space for the many birds; it reduces the severity of the arsenic contamination problem by keeping the contaminated land as open space rather than making it into residents' yards; and it is consistent with the density, and the look and feel of all the PUDs that have been in place for this property since 1988.

If the owner wishes to totally change the nature of the PUD and turn this beautiful, environmentally sensitive open space into just another housing development, he should be required to take this major change back through the full legal process, and basically apply to put a new PUD in place that reflects this. His proposed Madeira development plan is not consistent with the PUD; it should not be approved.

Trace levels of contamination found in Gainesville aquifer

Associated Press
September 8, 2003

GAINESVILLE -- Trace levels of contamination from a federally regulated waste site have been detected in the Floridan aquifer, two miles from the wellfield that draws drinking water for 135,000 residents.

Most groundwater experts, environmental health officials and Gainesville's publicly owned utility agree that an immediate health threat does not exist.

But they do say more testing is needed to determine the full extent of the pollution at the Cabot Carbon-Koppers site, and additional steps may be required to remove the contamination from the aquifer.

A wood treatment facility has existed at the site since 1916. A two-month investigation of soils and groundwater beneath the Superfund cleanup site concluded that chemicals used in wood preservation _ including arsenic, naphthalene, acetone and benzene _ had migrated into the aquifer 156 feet below. Prolonged exposure to those chemicals can lead to bone marrow damage, anemia and cancer.

The field investigation was completed in June by TRC, a national environmental engineering firm. It was prepared for Beazer East, a Pittsburgh-based company that briefly owned the site and is now responsible for its cleanup.

The chemicals detected were found in relatively low concentrations _ arsenic, for example, was measured as high as 30 parts per billion. Federal drinking water standards currently limit arsenic to 50 parts per billion, although public water systems will need to comply with a 10 ppb standard starting January 2006.

Still, the discovery of harmful pollutants so close to Gainesville's drinking water source is alarming, officials said.

"It's gotten our attention," said Kim Zoltek, director of water and wastewater for Gainesville Regional Utilities.

The site lies within the "capture zone" for the Murphree Wellfield, where 15 wells take water from the Floridan two miles northeast of the Superfund site, said Brett Goodman, the utility's senior environmental engineer for water and wastewater.

Eventually, all groundwater within the "capture zone" has the potential to be sucked from the Murphree's pump stations, although that could take years or decades, he said.Two monitoring wells have already been drilled between the wellfield and the Koppers site, and eight to 10 more are planned.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized the site as a national Superfund priority in 1983, a designation that earmarks federal resources for cleanup of the country's most-polluted sites. Cleanup of the site began in the early 1990s.

"The fact that we have now detected these chemicals in the Floridan under the site, that is going to require a whole new look for the cleanup operation," said Chris Bird, director of the county's environmental protection department.

Information from: The Gainesville Sun, A TARGET="_top" HREF="http://www.gainesvillesun.com

Letter: Ponce golf course issue brings cheers and jeers

Letter: Ponce golf course issue brings cheers and jeers

Bob Frohardt
S. Ponte Vedra Beach

July 8, 2003

Editor: One of the city's hotly debated issues, the final development plan for the Ponce de Leon property, was finally brought to a vote at last Tuesday's Planning and Zoning meeting. The pros and cons of this have been debated since the first attempt to bring it to the board for a vote in March of this year.

The Planning and Zoning Board has appeared split on this question for some time, with some members clearly supporting the developer from the start, some members with deep concerns causing them to not favor the developer's plan, and some members on the fence with concerns that were less deeply entrenched.

Having watched this with some interest, here are some CHEERS and JEERS for those involved.

CHEERS to Chester Stokes for managing this split board well by asking that the plan not be brought to a vote in June when one of his staunchest supporters on the board was not present at the meeting and by asking for a vote on Tuesday when one of the members who had expressed the deepest concerns was absent due to a medical problem.

JEERS to the process which allows only the developer to be able to ask for an item to be tabled, and to the board for allowing this to happen and not insist on having all members present for the debate and vote on an issue as important to the community as this one.

JEERS to the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board for his lack of objectivity and obvious bias, as he alternated between bored stares and angry glares whenever an opponent of the developer's plan was addressing the board. He was all smiles whenever one of the developer's entourage was presenting.

JEERS to the board members who passed the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the citizens to the Water Management District, the Corps of Engineers and/or the Environmental Protection Agency, with the assumption that they would "do the right thing" about the arsenic contamination on the property, rather than insisting the plan be approved before they signed off.

CHEERS to all those residents who understood the historical significance of the Ponce property and the Ponce de Leon golf course, and have fought to save it.

CHEERS to all those who understood the environmental impact of losing all the open space and wildlife habitat when the golf course is plowed up to build an extra 200 houses.

CHEERS to all those that appreciate the difference between a 100-year-old live oak that is just under 20 inches in diameter which will be cut down, and the one which is one and one-half inches in diameter which will be used to replace it and count as a one-for-one replacement.

JEERS to the Planning and Zoning Board for not asking for more protection than the minimum that the laws require, which is the action called for with a Planned Unit Development such as this.

JEERS to Chester Stokes who, despite his protestations to the contrary ("It's not about the money." and "I've tried from the start to find a way to save the golf course."), obviously has no desire or intention to ever save the course by selling it to the city of St Augustine unless he can exact an exorbitant price.

CHEERS to the City Commission for trying, in the face of all this, to still find a way to buy the course without having to spend any current city dollars.

Letter: City leaders set the tone

Letter: City leaders set the tone

F.R. "Pete" Grant, president, Save the Ponce
St. Augustine

January 30, 2004

Editor: Dear Mayor and Commissioners: Eleven months ago over 3,000 citizens of St. Augustine, and almost 1,000 more visitors to the city, signed a petition asking you to not approve the current development plans for the Ponce de Leon property. Most of these signers do not play golf, but they saw the reasons not to allow 749 houses on 419 acres of pristine woodland and prime marshfront property. These signatures were collected in just two weeks. At the time we felt this was a sufficient number to show the will of the people of St. Augustine and discontinued efforts to collect signatures as a show of good faith toward the developer, whom we thought was negotiating in good faith with the city to find an equitable solution.

I can understand why Ponce Associates wants to place 89 lots along the sensitive marshfront. The golf course was profitable, but not as lucrative as selling 89 marshfront lots and leaving town with money. Eliminating the open space and putting in additional 200 houses is not the development plan that you approved for this property in 2001. Just because the developer wants to improve his profit margin, you are not required to allow such a drastic deviation from the PUD.

You are being called on to make a decision that will set the tone for what type of St. Augustine you want. Even though we only have a population of 12,000, millions of tourists visit yearly. You can only maintain this level of interest by carefully continuing to guard the scenic environment and the history that these visitors are searching for. They don't come to visit subdivisions! I am certain that those who crafted the tree ordinance never envisioned it being used to justify the stripping of the majority of all natural habitat and destruction of 4,000 mature trees.

From watching the news recently, it is apparent that the county is struggling with growth and the impact on taxes even as I write this. For example, Commissioner Marc Jacalone recently said he would never have approved a certain development if he had known all the details of what was required to make the land suitable for the approved development. It is not wise to approve development on land that is known to be arsenic contaminated when no one has seen the remediation plan. Next, there is the impact of the airport on local residents, and facing increased costs and ill-will from the public as the airport expands. Yet the city is contemplating adding residential units in the northern portion of the Ponce property which abuts Araquay Park -- in the same area where Director Ed Wuellner states that the airport will expand further in the future. This does not mention that actions which impact the airport may have significant negative impact on Northrop-Grumman. And, of course there is all the discussion of impact fees and how to make residential development pay its fair share. These same issues the county is attempting to address are the one imbedded in the Ponce development.

This piece of property represents a significant addition, greater than 10 percent, to the city, both in terms of land base and potential population increase. Thus, it also represents a significant addition to the infrastructure and service cost born by city and county taxpayers.

Making appropriate decisions on the proper use of this land should be the outcome of proper planning. This includes the Comprehensive Plan and the Planned Unit Development. Both of which are being violated by the current development plan. While the commission has made many important decisions, it is possible that the city may never again have to make a decision of this nature and magnitude. Don't shortcut the planning process, even under threat from a developer. While some would say that the city does not have the right to decide how property is utilized, on the contrary, it is clear from state and federal court decisions, as well as city ordinance and PUD guidelines, that the city is charged with protecting the rights of the property owner but also protecting the interest of all citizens of the city, and guiding land development to its best usage.

Residential development is, at best, a break-even proposition for the tax base and therefore, revenue increase is not a reason to approve this development, yet it is the only one I have heard from the city staff. The proposed residential development will only drain the city's coffers. Whereas historic and eco-tourism brings revenue (and jobs) to the city, with little cost of providing public services. Please carefully consider your decision

Nation's Oldest City: President Warren Harding enjoyed historic golf course

May 26, 2003
When President Warren G. Harding vacationed in St. Augustine, the chief executive spent much of his time golfing at the St. Augustine Links (now Ponce de Leon Golf course). Harding spent 19 winter seasons in St. Augustine, first coming to our town before he was well known or held elective office.
With his election to the Presidency in 1920, Harding's presence here brought national news reporters and high government officials to our town for weeks at a time. In 1921 Harding stayed several weeks at the Hotel Ponce de Leon (now Flagler College). He formed his Cabinet at discussions both in the hotel and on the golf course. President-elect Harding left St. Augustine only a few days before his 1921 inauguration. In those days the ceremony was held in early March.
Wilfred Reid, pro at the course, hoped that Harding's enthusiasm would result in more attention for the sport of golf and perhaps a competition among national-level officials like the British Parliament had. Reid and his crew worked hard to make sure that Harding and his fellow golfers found "6,288 yards of green velvet carpet" when they arrived.
Harding golfed as much as possible, some days playing 36 holes. During one of those games, Lloyd Crichlow, father of City Commissioner Donald Crichlow, caddied for Harding. In 1923, when the yacht bringing Harding to St. Augustine arrived here about 6 p.m., Harding made sure that his golf clubs were the first thing taken off the boat. He went directly to the golf course and finished 10 holes before dark.
While Harding was playing his last games of golf in St. Augustine in March 1923, Donald Ross was completing plans for the expansion of the course to 36 holes. But Harding would not get to enjoy golf in St. Augustine again. He died in office four months later in August 1923.

Letter: Golfing with nature

Letter: Golfing with nature
Gail H. Compton, Wildlife Discoveries
St. Augustine
Editor: More words on the Ponce de Leon Golf Course. I agree with George Jacunski's statement (March 3) that the Ponce Golf Course has never been marketed properly. Not only is this golf course rich in history, it's rich in natural beauty and wildlife.
In the past, I led nature walks for Elderhostel programs held at the Ponce Resort and we sighted wood storks, hawks, bald eagles, loggerhead shrike, rosette spoonbills, snowy egrets, great egrets, great blue heron, little green heron, quail, osprey, kestrels, great horned owls, ibis, fox, river otter and wildflowers. Space is too short here to name all the plants and animals seen on and around the Ponce golf course.
"Nature" golf courses are quite the rage around the country. Not only are they designed to be environmentally friendly, but golfers come from around the country to enjoy the side benefits of playing golf in beautiful natural settings. Several such golf courses close one day a week for maintenance and while the golfers are off for a day bring local naturalists in to conduct nature walks, encouraging programs for the public in nature observation. The resort itself would be ideal for state, regional and national conventions and symposiums for nature and environmental organizations. In fact, the resort is losing a bet if it is not already participating in the Nature Festival May 4-6.
It's about time the St. Augustine area recognizes that nature lovers also spend money on lodgings, meals, gifts, transportation, historic attractions. One of the new places to recognize nature's drawing power is the Alligator Farm which now boasts of "A native bird rookery" on its billboards, as many people visit the Alligator Farm to see birds as to see alligators.
I hate to see us lose an historic and nature-rich golf course just when St. Augustine is waking up to nature tourism. The Ponce Resort and Golf Course has many friends -- golfers and nature lovers.