Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Commission gets preview of civil rights monument

Commission gets preview of civil rights monument

Publication Date: 04/29/08

After nearly a decade of determination, Barbara Vickers came a step closer Monday to seeing people like herself honored for their work in St. Augustine during the civil rights turmoil.

Vickers unveiled a model of the planned monument for the St. Augustine City Commission. It is to be built in the Plaza de la Constitucion to honor the "foot soldiers" who fought for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"They were called foot soldiers because they marched and fought (for civil rights)," said Vickers, the president of the monument project. "We worked for 10 years to get something placed somewhere to honor them.

"We just kept working and working until the city decided they would do it."

St. Augustine was the only place in Florida where Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested. Many fights and marches took place at the plaza.

The monument, sculpted by Brian Owens of Deltona, will be a bronze plaque, weighing about 650 pounds, placed atop a concrete pedestal. It will be 6 feet tall.

On the plaque will be the faces of a white-colored college student, a young black man, an older black woman and a teenage black woman, all the diverse faces of the movement in St. Augustine, Owens said.

"I think it's unique that St. Augustine had so many young people involved," he said.

City Commissioners were impressed and said they were glad to see the project is close to coming to fruition.

The monument will be built at the east of the plaza and cost roughly $70,000. St. Augustine resident Nena Vreeland has already donated $20,000. A group is looking for others to donate the rest of the money, Vickers said.

"When she called me I thought I was going to have a heart attack," Vickers said. "I couldn't believe it."

(Checks may be written to the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Remembrance Project and mailed to P.O. Box 164, St. Augustine, FL 32085.)

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© The St. Augustine Record

Commissioner Gardner's Newsletter re: St. Augustine Being Short of Funds

From Commissioner Gardner April 29, 2008

I’m emailing periodic reports to keep our citizens up to date on city affairs. Please email me at gardner@aug.com to add or remove your name.

Funding dominated Monday’s City Commission meeting, and one resident showed how it can be done.

Nina Vreeland was applauded on the announcement that she has contributed $20,000 to kick off a $60,000-$70,000 campaign for a St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument in our Plaza de la ConstituciĆ³n. Other projects didn’t fare as well, including restoration of the North City Water Works Building, 34 state-owned historic properties here, and the SR 312 bypass.

City Commissioner Errol Jones summed it up: “The city doesn’t have any money.”

Commissioners appeared to endorse a public-private partnership with the citizen Children’s Museum of St. Johns (CMSJ) to restore the North City Water Works building, but balked at leasing the property to CMSJ for 50 years at one dollar a year. A representative of the First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization, which oversees highway projects in this region, admitted the decades-contemplated SR 312 bypass has taken a back seat to projects in the newly developed northwest section of the county. Money is currently allotted for property acquisition on one leg, from SR 207 to SR 16, but no construction funds.

And efforts to tackle an estimated $22 million in historic property repairs appear to be stalled. The one bright spot was a comment by Commissioner George Gardner that $350,000 in planning monies may be included in this year’s state budget for the University of Florida (UF), authorized a year ago to take over management of the properties.

In other commission action, Chief Operations Officer John Regan outlined a plan to dispose of landfill transferred from the south end of Riberia Street to the city staging area on Holmes Blvd., and Planning and Building Director Mark Knight said a study for safer pedestrian crossings along the bayfront might be more complex than expected. He said one Saturday 8,000 pedestrian crossings were counted.

Foot Soldiers Monument – With completion of the design and work begun on the monument, St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Remembrance Project Chair Barbara Vickers said the citizen group will be printing brochures to continue fundraising efforts.

North City Water Works Building – Children’s museum President Kathy Weed and Board Member Susan Connor - a professional fundraiser - were encouraged to continue efforts on their plan after hearing commissioners’ concerns. Commissioner Gardner noted the enthusiasm earlier in the meeting with announcement of a $20,000 contribution to the Foot Soldiers Monument, and urged the museum group to get pledges to generate similar enthusiasm.

State-owned historic properties – The possible start-up state funding for UF appeared to further cloud the properties’ future. At a previous commission meeting, Mayor Joe Boles urged that the city seek a 99-year lease of the properties from the state and a fundraising drive by the private Foundation for the Preservation of St. Augustine, formed some eight years ago. He suggested the University would be the city’s “educational partner.”

Commissioner Gardner said County Commission Chairman Tom Manuel told him he also favors a city long-term lease, and suggested bed tax monies could be applied to some of the properties with this equivalent of ownership. The city currently has a five-year extension of the lease it executed a decade ago to manage the properties.

Gardner proposed a bed tax commitment of one cent for five years to fund renovation of Government House – “the jewel of our historic properties” – to be developed as a St. Augustine Center for History and Culture. The University of Florida estimated a $14 million renovation cost for the building. Gardner asked City Attorney Ron Brown to investigate legal options to provide the funding.

“We keep saying the properties belong to the state, or should belong to the city, or will belong to the university,” Gardner said. “They belong to the people of Florida – that’s the legislature, our county, our city, all of us. And if we keep shuffling around, the only money we’ll need for the upcoming commemorations will be for signs saying “Unsafe to Enter.”

450 planning – Commissioners ended a discussion of creating an official local 450th steering committee with no solution on how it might be done. Gardner, a member of the citizen 450 Corps that has been generating interest and ideas for the commemoration, said it will continue its work while more formal details are worked out. He anticipates a web site will soon be available for citizen input.

Holmes Blvd. landfill - Chief Operations Officer Regan outlined a draft consent order with the state Department of Environmental Protection that would dispose of transferred landfill from the south end of Riberia Street by February 2009 and establish environmental monitoring at the Riberia Street site.

Regan said costs would include $840,000 for the disposal project and $340,000 for a monitoring system and capping with clean soil and landscaping on Riberia Street. Under the plan, the material will be separated at Holmes Blvd., with clean fill transferred to a Nassau County environmental landfill for required layer separation, and remaining solid material transferred to an authorized landfill. The plan will be detailed at a public meeting May 8 in the Alcazar Room, voted on by commissioners at their May 12 meeting, then sent to the Nassau County Commission for approval.

Henry Flagler – “I think it more likely I am spending an unnecessary amount of money in the foundation walls, but I comfort myself in the reflection that a hundred years hence it will be all the same to me and the building the better because of my extravagance.”

From St. Augustine Bedtime Stories, a series of twelve 1,000-word booklets by George Gardner on famous people and events in our history, from Ponce de Leon through Henry Flagler. For the complete set at $15 plus $3 shipping and handling. Contact gardner@aug.com.

Landfill plan to go before residents

Landfill plan to go before residents

Publication Date: 04/29/08

Lincolnville residents will be the first to have a say in the city's new proposed plan to remove illegally dumped material from a borrow pit and take it to a Nassau County landfill.

John Regan, city chief operations officer, told St. Augustine City Commissioners Monday that he promised residents of the Lincolnville neighborhood they would be the first to hear the proposed plan. He'll meet with residents May 8 and then come before the commission May 12.

The plan then will be tossed to the Nassau County Commission. If approved, the city expects to begin the nine-month project in June or July, Regan said.

In 2005, the city took dirt from an old landfill site on Riberia Street in Lincolnville and dumped it into a water-filled borrow pit on Holmes Boulevard. That violated state Department of Environmental Protection rules.

The DEP fined the city and told it to remove the waste from the Holmes Boulevard site.

The city originally entered an agreement with the state to return the waste material to the Riberia site, but neighbors vehemently fought it. Residents Tony and Judith Seraphin filed a petition with the DEP on Dec. 29 against the plan, freezing the project while the state investigated, which is the usual procedure.

Under the new plan, the city will pull out the material dumped at Holmes Boulevard and use heavy machinery to screen it, sifting out any solid waste. Regan expects that about 5 percent of the material is solid waste.

The remaining 95 percent is clean soil that would be used to cover Nassau County's landfill, Regan said.

The director of Nassau County's landfill has said the plan would save him money. Nassau pays $1.50 a ton for topsoil, which is used daily to cover the landfill. St. Augustine would give the landfill 40,000 tons of topsoil and have it transported to the landfill.

The project will cost St. Augustine roughly $840,000.

The city also would pay about $350,000 to cap the old landfill site on Riberia Street and monitor ground water.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Ex-Mayor Gardner's Newsletter Calls Holmes Blvd a "Landfill" -- Must Read! --City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS' Enviornmental Crime Still Unpunished

Holmes Blvd. landfill - Chief Operations Officer Regan outlined a draft consent order with the state Department of Environmental Protection that would dispose of transferred landfill from the south end of Riberia Street by February 2009 and establish environmental monitoring at the Riberia Street site.

Regan said costs would include $840,000 for the disposal project and $340,000 for a monitoring system and capping with clean soil and landscaping on Riberia Street. Under the plan, the material will be separated at Holmes Blvd., with clean fill transferred to a Nassau County environmental landfill for required layer separation, and remaining solid material transferred to an authorized landfill. The plan will be detailed at a public meeting May 8 in the Alcazar Room, voted on by commissioners at their May 12 meeting, then sent to the Nassau County Commission for approval.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let's Cut Waste, Fraud, Abuse and Bureaucracy, Starting With "Attendance Dean"

Instead of cutting teachers and needed programs, let's eliminate all of the central office bureaucrats who waste money on contracts for the likes of PBS&J. Did you know that St. Augustine High School actually has a "Dean of Attendance?" Sounds like a sinecure. The holder of the "Dean of Attendance" title is none other than St. Augustine City Commissioner ERROL JONES, the City Commissioner who claims to live in Lincolnville, who actually made the motion on November 13, 2007 to move solid waste back to Lincolnville from our Old City Reservoir.

The sere remnants of the corrupt political patronage machine established by the likes of L.O. Davis and progeny continues wasting money, while cutting schools and libraries.

Enough. We need a clean sweep on November 4th, from City Hall to the State House to the White House.

Schools cut $8M

Schools cut $8M

$2 million more cuts coming. 'protecting classroom' top priority

Publication Date: 04/17/08

St. Johns County schools are facing substantial funding cuts not only this year, but for the next two years, according to school officials.

"Right now it's $8 million less than we started this year. We anticipate we'll need to make another $2 million cut sometime after November. So it comes to $10 million less for the year," School Superintendent Joe Joyner said Wednesday.

Joyner said he expects the budget crisis to last two more years.

The current operating budget is $204 million. The budget for 2008-2009 will be around $196 million. It will go to $194 million after the expected $2 million cut at the end of the year.

The school district bases its projections on budgets approved by state House and Senate lawmakers, who began negotiating the $65 billion state budget this week.

Locally, cuts are planned in hiring and staffing, transportation services, travel, energy consumption and textbooks and instructional materials. Schools and the district office also will see major cuts in their budgets.

The cuts come even as enrollment grows. About 300 additional students, mostly in northern St. Johns, are expected to enroll this year.

While growth is slower than in past years, the new students will increase the school population by about 1.5 percent.

Despite the cuts, the district has worked to protect classroom instruction, Joyner said.

"We have to put all our resources into teaching," Joyner said.

The budget reductions facing the St. Johns District are also being played out in district across the state. Joyner said the poor economy and the passage of Amendment One, which cut property taxes as well as money to local governments, are the cause of the problem now, something not everyone is aware of.

On Wednesday, he spoke to a journalism class at Pedro Menendez High School and the first question was why he let the funding loss happen.

"People don't understand where this comes from," Joyner said.

Joyner said the "ebb and flow of the economy" have made a difference.

Property taxes and sales tax are two major sources of funding for the state and both "these elements of funding have been monkeyed with," said Conley Weiss, chief financial officer for the school system.

"As long as we have this (tax structure), we will have this problem," Joyner said.

Passed by voters in January, Amendment 1 doubles homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 and allows homeowners to transfer their Save Our Homes tax benefits from their old home to a newly purchased home. Portability only applies to homes purchased in 2007 and later, and the benefit is capped at $500,000.

"It's choices made by leadership as well that are also making an impact on education," Joyner said, noting a recent study in U.S. News & World Report article showed Florida ranked next to last out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for spending compared to relative wealth.

That means for every $1,000 of residents' personal income, Florida spends an average of $33.51. The national average is $43.34. Neighboring Georgia is ranked 13th, spending $48.21 for every $1,000.

"If we choose to have our per capital expenditures 50th, that's a choice, too," Weiss said.

Budget going 'backwards'

Joyner said it's the first time in his 37 years in education that education spending has gone backwards.

"We will focus on the classroom as a priority," Joyner said, noting cuts will be "what has the least impact on the children."

Even so, there will be fewer teachers.

Typically about 100 new teachers are hired each year, said Weiss.

This year there will be about 32 fewer teachers district wide although officials hope retirement and resignations will take care of the needed cuts. Some 14 new teachers will be needed to handle the 300 new students expected to enroll. That makes a net reduction of 18 teachers.

There are about 27,500 students in St. Johns schools.

Once the first round of cuts are made, the district will continue to look for new ways to economize in order to handle the expected $2 million shortfall after November.

The district also will delay teacher contract negotiations until the fall so that the school system will know how much money they are getting from the state.

Joyner said the district will "look at salary reductions," Joyner said. "... There's not money in a sock somewhere."

Class sizes to grow

Beginning at the first of this school year class sizes will go up at elementary, middle and high schools, although the teacher-student ratios will stay lower than Legislative-mandated averages.

There will be a drop in the number of support personnel as well. Sixty positions will be eliminated, but retirement and resignations are expected to take care of those posts.

With both teachers and support personnel, vacant positions are not being filled and a hiring freeze remains in effect for administrative and support personnel.

At the district level, vacant positions are not being filled. Administrative staff will not receive pay increases this year. Joyner said performance pay bonuses that normally are earned by about 85 percent of the staff will not be paid this year. That's a savings of about $200,000.

About 85 percent of the school district budget is spent on salaries and benefits. Reductions in the numbers of teachers and support personnel will save about $4 million.

This summer the school district will go to a mandatory four-day work week to save money.

Also, the district expects to save $1 million in insurance costs, in part because of better rates.

New schools will open

Three new schools being constructed will open this year although teachers and most personnel to staff them will be moved from other schools. Some new positions are being hired, including principals, bookkeepers, secretaries, athletic directors and head custodians. Assistant principals will be moved from other schools.

Money for construction of the schools comes out of the capital outlay budget and will not affect the operating budgets. Joyner said there will be cost savings since portable units at other schools can be closed out when the schools open and that will save money. At Bartram Trail, for instance, there are 62 portables in use.

At least $800,000 will be saved from the transportation budget, although $300,000 of the savings will be offset in bus routes for the new schools.

Students and their parents will feel some major day-to-day impacts in routines.

"We will have less services for transportation," Joyner said.

The district will no longer pay for out-of-zone busing, activity buses and operational assistance. That means students attending schools other than in their assigned area will have to provide their own rides, buses that take students homes after school activities will be canceled and bus substitute drivers will be eliminated.

Officials say grants will absorb some of the costs of the activity buses and office personnel and mechanics will serve as substitutes. Clubs and organizations can pay for the use of a bus.

New school hours

To make school scheduling more effective, middle school students will find themselves in class earlier. Home rooms and silent reading times are being eliminated, but students will still have six class periods for curriculum each day.

Beginning in August, middle schools will begin at 7:50 a.m., elementary schools at 8:30 a.m. and high schools at 9:15 a.m.

Late starts are being eliminated and all schools will go to an early release each Wednesdays. Staff development, teacher planning and parent conferences will be held on those days.

The district hopes to save about $400,000 next year through energy consumption savings. Energy Education Inc., developed an energy conservation plan that projects a savings of more than $18 million over the next 10 years.

Another $500,000 savings is estimated by cuts to the textbook and instructional materials budget. The district will stick with its current elementary reading series and delay purchase of some textbooks. Reading material will be updated with technology tools.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Repubilcans Target Libraries for Budget Cuts

Evidently dull Republicans don't want poor people bettering themselves, preferring ditch digger wages for our local service economy. That they would target libraries -- particularly the library in Hastings (majority African-American) is a stench in the nostrils of our county. We need more responsive officials in Tallahassee and the Courthouse.

My mother says "Republicans never steal anything small." Let them start cutting no-bid contracts for the likes of PBS&J, which has given illegal campaign contributions to over 100 Florida politicians, with top executives convicted of embezzlement ($35 million) and illegal campaign contributins.

Libraries to close on Sundays

Libraries to close on Sundays

From staff
Publication Date: 04/17/08

All St. Johns County libraries will be closed permanently on Sundays, victims of the state budget crunch. Also, libraries will now open later and close earlier, and the Hastings Library will close on Monday, mirroring the hours of the Anastasia Island branch library, which is open Tuesday through Thursday.

All branches will opening at 10 a.m. rather than 9:30 a.m., and close at 8 p.m. rather than 9 p.m.

The new hours are effective on May 5.

"In the current fiscal environment of tax reform and budget cuts, shifting hours is simply the only way for the library to continue offering the high quality of materials, programs and services St. Johns County residents expect from their library," said Library Director Debra Rhodes Gibson.

The Library has lost 11 staff positions during the past year, while opening the Anastasia Branch Library and expanding Bookmobile services, she said.

County Administrator Michael Wanchick said the cuts were inevitable.

"The County Commission successfully cut taxes last year, and property tax reform mandates we continue reducing taxes," he said in a prepared statement. "We are striving to do more with less, but as revenues continue to decline we must modify our delivery of services."

Gibson said many of the Library's resources are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Library's web site. Patrons may renew materials, place holds, access the Library's collection, get reference assistance through electronic books, use the ask-a-librarian service, access databases and more by visiting the self-service section of the library's web site, www.sjcpls.org.

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© The St. Augustine Record

The Power Boaters Were Pikers -- Another City Project Goes Belly Up

Hope those hokey St. Augustine Commissioners enjoyed the fete from the powerboaters who wanted to mar the view of the Castillo San Marco with their wares. They were pikers and now they've canceled.

At least St. Augustine residents got two fire hydrants on Avenida Menendez out of the deal -- the powerboaters insisted on it as part of their controversial deal. There were no fire hydrants on Avenida Menendez at the Bayfront until this month.

St. Augustine's tatterdemalion city government has a long history of projects that go belly up, leaving City Commissioners with egg on their face Add this one to the list.

St. Augustine Boat Show canceled, slow economy cited

St. Augustine Boat Show canceled, slow economy cited

Publication Date: 04/16/08

A planned boat show on St. Augustine's bayfront has been canceled, the apparent victim of a slowing national economy, officials announced Tuesday.

Show Management, producer of the event, was using the word postpone rather than cancel, but no new dates have been given for the event.

The event was slated for May 2-4.

"The all-new St. Augustine Boat Show has been postponed until further notice due to current economic conditions," Show Management of Fort Lauderdale said Tuesday in a press release.

Paul Williamson, St. Augustine public affairs director, said the company had not indicated when it might reschedule. Williamson said the event was basically a trade show depending on space being sold to companies and that apparently not enough companies had signed up.

"There's a certain point where they have to have enough spaces sold to put on the show, and I guess they hadn't reached that," Williamson said.

He said it was better to pull the plug now rather than have an unsuccessful show. Williamson says the decision leaves Show Management with an option to hold the event in the future.

Marine Industry Association of North Florida, which is based in St. Augustine, was sponsor for the show.

"It has been a goal of ours to produce a show in St. Augustine, and we will continue to evaluate dates to have a show in the future," Dane Graziano, vice president of Show Management, said. Graziano said the company was "very disappointed" not to be putting on the show.

Show Management puts on a number of large boating trade shows including the Suncoast Boat Show in Sarasota this weekend. The company was to begin bringing up large floating docks next week that would have been temporarily anchored between the Bridge of Lions and the Castillo de San Marcos.

This was to be their first show in St. Augustine. "It would either have been the first of many such shows or the last one," Williamson said, noting company officials had done market research before deciding to try the event here.

The show would not only have been on the bayfront but also at Francis Field where an enormous tent was to provide space for exhibitors. Cost to the city has been minimal, Williamson said.

There have been several major meetings to go over logistics that included Show Management, the City and Marine Industry Association.

"(The City) doesn't really produce any events. We sort of offer the staging area and offer services," Williamson said.

As part of requirements for the show, two fire hydrants had been installed for the first time on Avenida Menendez. Through an interlocal agreement, the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District had agreed to pay up to $20,000 to install the hydrants.

Williamson said the boat show was a catalyst for putting in the hydrants, but said they would be of use for other events and to increase fire protection in the area.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Censorship by the St. Augustine Record -- All the News That's Fit to Omit

Unmentioned in the St. Augustine Record's story on Fish Island (below)were public comments about the conflict of interest of City Attorney RONALD BROWN (former lawyer for PIERRE and PAUL THOMPSON, parties at interest in the case). BROWN is the former law partner of GEOFFREY DOBSON.

Also unmentioned by the Record was the favorable reception of PZB members to buying the plantation and burial place of Jesse Fish as part of the proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and National Scenic Coastal Highway. Jerry Dixon called the idea "brilliant" and that's why PZB included purchase in its vote.

All the news that's fit to omit? The Record has carried columns on the proposal, yet when it's discussed by our PZB, it doesn't cover it.

Consistently inconsistent, the St. Augustine Record needs an infusion of cash and new ownership.

Who will buy the Record from Morris Communications and run it as a real newspaper?
I nominate the NY Times, which owns the Gainesville Sun.

Fish Island dock talk set for May

Fish Island dock talk set for May

Publication Date: 04/17/08

Plans for the Fish Island dock will be revamped and presented again to the city of St. Augustine in May with the hope that after more than a year of discussions and the threat of a $9-million lawsuit that an agreement can be found.

The St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board met with Richard Maguire, the Fish Island Development LLC attorney, Wednesday for four and a half hours discussing the dock. The meeting was required by law before the developer, Jim Young of Jacksonville, can proceed with his $9 million lawsuit against the city.

The board members said they want the development change from condominiums to a blend of commercial, retail and residential with a full-service marina and dock that is open to the public.

Maguire said his client would rather work with the city then go to court, and he will bring revised plans to the board during a workshop on May 16.

The dock as originally proposed was to have been more than 1,200 feet long and about 10 feet wide. It would have been part of an upscale development on Anastasia Island south of the Mickler O'Connell Bridge (S.R. 312).

The potential lawsuit is filed under the Bert Harris Act, a property rights protection act, which gave the board 11 options to choose from for a written statement as a possible settlement.

The board chose four of them, which included modifying the density of the development, locating it on the least sensitive portion of the property and having a government entity purchase the property to ensure it is not developed.

"I would be rather be sitting down with (the developer) at the table brainstorming ideas and then just having this one project to look at that we know we don't want," said board member John Valdes.

Fish Island gave the city notice on Jan. 17 of the potential lawsuit, and the city has 180 days, which ends on July 14, to reply to the notice.

The city can either settle with the developer or look at other ways he can use the property.

Planning and Zoning denied the original project twice and the City Commission supported the board's denial.

Opponents of the project said they were concerned about safety, erosion, destruction of the environment and loss of the Fish Island vista to the public.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Meeting today on Fish Island development

Meeting today on Fish Island development

Publication Date: 04/16/08

Opponents of the proposed dock at Fish Island fear the developer and the City of St. Augustine could strike a compromise today that would permit a dock to be built in exchange for the developer dropping its $9 million lawsuit against the city.

A group of roughly 80 residents who live nearby the project don't want that to happen and is seeking to put pressure on the city.

"We hope the city doesn't cave in to the developer," said Ken Bryan, chairman of the residents who meet regularly and call themselves the Fish Island Group. "We don't want the developer to use this lawsuit as a way to scare the city."

Fish Island Development LLC will go before St. Augustine's Planning and Zoning Board today to discuss alternatives to the owner's originally proposed dock. The meeting is required by law before the developer, Jim Young of Jacksonville, can proceed with his $9 million lawsuit against the city, City Attorney Ron Brown has said.

Planning and Zoning could offer new ways for the owner to use the property, or suggest modifications to the original plan.

Planning and Zoning denied the original project twice and the City Commission supported the board's denial.

The dock was to have been more than 1,200 feet long and about 10 feet wide, Mark Knight, city planning and building director, has said. It would have been part of an upscale development on Anastasia Island south of the Mickler O'Connell Bridge (S.R. 312).

Bryan's group has been meeting since the dock first went before the city a year and a half ago. Ponte Vedra Attorney Deborah Andrews has done pro bono work for the group and sent a letter to the Planning and Zoning Board asking that they continue to deny the project.

The city has already won a round in court against the developer.

Circuit Judge Michael Traynor ruled in February that the Planning and Zoning Board's and the City Commission's denial of the dock in May and June was legally sufficient.

"The city was found to have complied with the law," said Bryan, a candidate for the St. Johns County Commission. "If the developer wants to take this to the next level then he should go ahead, not use it as a way to threaten the city."

Fish Island gave the city notice on Jan. 17 of the potential lawsuit, and the city has 180 days to either settle with the developer or look at other ways the developer can use the property.

If a resolution is not found during that time, the developer can then move forward with his lawsuit.

Fish Island could also offer a proposal for new dock to the Planning and Zoning Board, Brown said.

The developer claims the city's denial of the project will cause $2.7 million in value loss to the property and $6.2 million in value loss of future marina sales, totaling $8.9 million, according to court documents.

Opponents of the project said they were concerned about safety, erosion, destruction of the environment and loss of the Fish Island vista to the public.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

End of the Demolition Derby? -- "Hysterical Preservatonists," Indeed!

Last night's City Commission vote (below) may signal the end of the demolition derby with our history and culture.
It may also signal the decline and fall of the regime of WILLIAM B. HARRISS, who made coddling speculators his occupation and avocation.
It may also signal that concerned citizens really do matter now.
When Jerry Dixon called concerned citizens "hysterical preservationists," he showed that the ancien regime has lost its grip on reality.
"Hysterical," indeed.

Commission votes down plan for hotel

Commission votes down plan for hotel

By Kati Bexley
Publication Date: 04/15/08

The next time the proposal for a hotel whose construction would demolish seven homes in downtown St. Augustine comes up, it will likely be in a courtroom.

St. Augustine City Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to uphold the Historic Architecture Review Board's denial of the demolitions, which are necessary to construct the hotel. And they also turned down the request of a Planned Unit Development for the project.

But this isn't the last the city will hear of the hotel, said Jerry Dixon, the project architect.

"After tonight, there's no holding back. We'll take it to court and it will cost the city millions," he said. "It's a property rights issue. We will win."

Property owner Donna Wendler requested to demolish the seven homes on King and Oviedo streets to make way for an 80-room hotel.

Wendler has said she needs to demolish the homes because of economic hardship from rising cost in taxes and insurance. It would also take an enormous amount of money to bring the homes up to city code, Dixon said.

The commission acted as an appellate court and reviewed the Architecture Review Board's decision without allowing public comment or any new details on the project.

Commissioner Don Crichlow said the Review Board had two questions to answer: if the demolitions would be detrimental to the city, and if there was unreasonable economic hardship to renovate the homes.

"They said, yes, it's detrimental and no it's not unreasonable in terms of cost," Crichlow said. "I cannot see that they erred in that decision based upon the evidence provided."

The other commissioners agreed and there was little comment further.

The commission then listened to an hour-long presentation of the proposed hotel for a request of a Planned Unit Development.

The commission then took public comment for more than an hour, with most speaking against the hotel plan.

"I work for a developer and I'm married to an architect. I'm not against change, but I'm against this project," said Cathi Oakes, president the Flagler Model Land Neighborhood Association. "Mrs. Wendler's not without options for her investment."

There were some supporters of the project in the audience who wore stickers of a drawing of the hotel that read below it, "I support the King Street Art Boutique Hotel."

"If these houses, which aren't in great shape and need help, if they aren't used for a hotel that would bring in tourists and be an asset to the city, then what will they be used for?" Judith Seraphin said. "No one has answered that question."

The development would back up to residential homes, and Mayor Joe Boles said he didn't believe the development was worth the erosion of the neighborhood's character.

"For the life of me I cannot justify the intrusion on this residential neighborhood," he said.

Commissioner Errol Jones said he was against the project, but wasn't sure it would win in court.

"If we lose in the final analysis then we have to pay the bill. We'll have to pay by collecting from each and every one of you", he said speaking to public sitting in City Hall. "The money will come from you all and every one of the commissioners up here because the city won't have the money to pay it."

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© The St. Augustine Record

Seen and Obscene -- RANDY BRUNSON -- Birds of a Feather Flock Together!

Controversial developer RANDY BRUNSON was in the courtyard outside St. Johns County Commission last night, showing himself and belatedly trying to obtain petition signatures. Those signing his petition to run against County Commissioner Ben Rich included City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS' hey-boy, JOHN REGAN. Hanging out with them was DAN SULLIVAN, ex-BA for a notoriously racist union in Philadelphia, PA (International Union of Operating Engineers, with a noisome history of recruiting members' children and grandchildren and stiffing minorities and women)

Rep. John Mica Endorses Prfimary Candidate Against Reformer Ben Rich, Republicans Seethe

Controversial 7th Congressional District U.S. Representative JOHN MICA has endorsed 25-year old Mark Miner, a former aide to County Commissioner Ben Rich, to run against Rich. The endorsement of a primary candidate by a sitting Congressman is rarer than hens' teeth. Our Congressman so dumb he didn't tell St. Johns County Republicans he was visiting last year. Mica loves Big Oil and hates honesty and integrity, as evidenced by voting against investigating Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Now he's come out against Ben Rich. Republicans and Democrat will remember MICA's arrogance come November 4th.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Uninformed NANCY KLEIN Wants to Run For Commissioner?

NANCY KLEIN is quoted in today's St. Augustine Record as saying that she "can;t' (sic) even file (with the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections) until the seat becomes (sic) open." Not true. People can run for any seat, even if it has an incumbent. Klein WON"T run until she knows if Mayor JOSEPH LEROY BOLES, JR. will run for Mayor, thereby resigning from his Commission seat.

NANCY KLEIN told me recently that the City's illegal dumping was a "mistake."
No, it's not.
It's an environmental crime, a tort and a stench in the nostrils of the Nation. NANCY KLEIN's answer flunks the laugh test (and the smell test). If elected, will KLEIN be a lickspittle for the City Hall machine? It is one that she has allegedly assiduously served, managing and writing speeches for the last two Mayors (GEORGE GARDNER and JOSEPH LEROY GOLES, JR.), two of the most unkind, uncouth public officials ever to grease a chair with silk suits and smirking looks. Pretend reformers who would up thralls for controversial City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS now seek to replace themselves with the likes of KLEIN. Voters deserve a choice between Tweedledes and Tweedoedums including KLEIN, who works for land planner KAREN TAYLOR.

KLEIN would be no more independent of the current political machine than a lapdog. Meanwhile, the Record article (below) also reports that GEORGE GARDNER will retire.

That's not news. He promised he would not run again when he was last elected in 2006.
What IS news is that GARDNER is planning to keep that promise -- at least he kept one.
Now don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out. Say "Goodnight, GEORGE GARDNER."

AMCD Did So Discuss County Takeover Tantrum -- Record's Reporter Was AWOL

AMCD Did So Discuss County Takeover Tantrum -- Record's Reporter Was AWOL

Shallow coverage by the St. Augustine Record, faced with budget cuts by Morris Communications,reached a new low yesterday as reporter Peter Guinta reported that Mosquito Control Commissioners' Saturday planning meeting did not discuss "the elephant in the roonm, e.g., County Commission Chair Thomas Manuel's scheme to take over the independent, nonpartisan public health agency.

In fact, the takeover plan was discussed, at this and other meetings, but not covered by Guinta. My notes reflect Ginta left at 10:15 AM and returned at 11:15 AM, and that the discussion of the county takeover plans was during his absence.

Perhaps he was covering another story or meeting with a source. But he didn't interview AMCD Chair Jeanne Moeller before filing his story.

If you leave meetings early, you miss a lot.

Morris Communications: we deserve better local coverage, starting with gavel-to-gavel coverage of all local government meetings, including a list of all business items (in agate type if need be). In the words of the late Tennessee publisher H.V. Wells, Jr., "what you don't know can hurt you."

Mosquito Control identifies priorities for future

Publication Date: 04/13/08

ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH -- The board of the Anastasia Mosquito Control knows it faces real challenges for 2009 -- a possibility of three new members, centralization and modernization, all while tax revenues keep getting cut.

The board met in a day-long workshop Saturday with a professional facilitator who is helping the district map its priorities for 2009 and onward.

Marilyn E. Crotty, director of Florida Institute of Government at the University of Central Florida, led a cooperative discussion that produced a clear list of three priorities, such as whether to open a new base facility, whether to renovate the existing facility on Old Beach Road, and whether to close the Ponte Vedra Beach and Hastings facilities and move those offices to district property off State Road 208.

Crotty was hired to prevent the tumultuous in-fighting, rudeness and chaos that marked the 2008 budget hearings.

"We'll list the priorities now, then your staff will be challenged to come back with a work plan with budget figures in them," she said.

The list contains one hot potato the board must face this year -- purchasing a helicopter.

Chairwoman Jeanne Moeller said at the beginning, "If we're going to establish a budget with taxpayer dollars, we should put our hidden agendas on the table."

Board member John Sundeman dismissed the earlier disputes.

"Small boards are like marriages, you have good weeks and you have bad weeks," he said. "This process is going to determine the future of Mosquito Control."

Former board chairwoman Barbara Bosanko agreed, adding, "We're a blended family. We have some internal housekeeping issues we need to clean up. So it's good we get it out and put it on paper so we can see it."

The board has two members who have said they will not run in November -- Linda Wampler and Emily Hummel, and one, Barbara Bosanko, who said she hasn't decided whether to run again or not.

One elephant-in-the-room issue not discussed was the St. Johns County Commission's desire to hold a referendum and find out if the voters want to continue with the district or allow the county to absorb it into its structure.

Another issue that will almost certainly be contentious down the line is whether the district needs an aerial spraying program.

The board's list of large priorities includes: communications and education, personnel, fiscal, service delivery and facilities. With that done, Crotty expected to go into further detail.

"You're going to find more things to agree with than not," she told the board.

Hummel said she enjoyed the open dialogue. "This is the first time we've had a chance for all of us to speak our minds," she said.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Hysterical Preservationists" vs. Landraping, Wetlandkilling, Browbeating Specualtors

Hysterical Preservationists" vs. Landraping, Wetlandkilling, Browbeating Specualtors

Thanks to Jerry Dixon for letting the cat out of the bag about those who would remake our town into Boca Raton or something else ersatz and upscale. Dixon used the phrase "hysterical preservationists" in his column (below) today.

St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board member Jerry Dixon is the architect for a project that would "demolish" seven historic homes on King Street in favor of a new hotel, modeled on Henry Flagler's home (destroyed by developers several decades ago).

Conflict of interest? A previous ethics complaint against St. Augusitne City Commisisoner Donald Crichlow, another architect, was summarily dismissed by Florida's moribund Ethics Commission without investigation, apparently based on a small town exception to fundamental ethical principles articulated in Matthew and Supreme Court precedent alike ("A man cannot serve two masters."). Dixon must disclose all investors in the hotel project (or else how can we judge if he has other conflicts of interest from which he must recuse himself?)

As to the hotel, both sides have shown an unwillingness to talk and compromise. If the hotelier were to take the seven homes and move them to another location, her proposal would be more palatable. The homes could be used for affordable housing in West Augustine, for example, or used as part fo the Historic Tours of America's Old Jail complex of restored homes. The hotelier only expresses the willingness to give the homes away.

Some of the claims made by the hotelier and her crew seem incredible. Did she acquire all these contiguous properties for the purpose of being a landlord to college students? Did she do any economic studies? I doubt it. Purchasing these homes adjacent to one anther is pregnant with the inference that she would eventually seek to tear them down for something bigger.

The HARB is charged with protecting historic houses, and is entitled to some deference in interpreting the rules that govern. If Dixon doesn't like the rules, he should run for the City Commission and seekt o amend them..

"Hysterical preservationists," in Dixon's view, don't have a right to plan our city -- that right only belongs to property owners. Courts have repeatedly rejected such views. People have rights -- not propety. No one is proposing to "take" the hotelier's land "without compensation." That;'s rubbish. She has the right to seek compensation under hte Bert J. Harris, Jr. Private Property Protection Act if she is unsatisfied with tonight's vote.

Apparently HARB would not support the project even if the homes were removed and preserved. That logic should be questioned at tonight's meeting. Other historic homes were allowed to be moved, a number to the HARB Chair's Historic Tours of America Old Jail complex. Why is the hotelier in quo being treated different than other applicants?

Is it because her name is not Patel, her lawyer's name is not McClure, and she is a woman? Are local government officials sexist when women seek permits for buildings, traditionally an all-male domain? Is the hotelier another victim of discrimination by our Nation's Oldeet City?

Are City decisions on "development" being made by people "talking without listening," in Simon & Garfunkel's words? On this one, there appears to be room for compromise. If I were a City Commissioner, I would reject the hotel unless: (a) all seven historic homes were satisfactorily moved at the owner's expense, to be used for affordable housing; and (b) the hotelier pledged to pay employees a living wage, hire a racially integrated, diverse workforce, and respect collective bargaining rights.

Rose Kennedy's favorite Bible verse was "to whom much is given, much is expected."
Too many local hotels and restaurants pay low wages, mistreat employees and exploit the sweat of their brow, with little evidence of desegregation. Walk up St. George Street and notice how few African-American employees work in any of the stores there (many in city and state owned buildings).

Anti-union notions reign, as demonstrated by a Chamber of Commerce website that brags on a docile, unorganized workforce. One local employer actually bragged on "Talk of the Town" that he fired every employee who talked about forming a union and would close his/her business if a union were ever voted in.

Labor standards are so low in St. Augustine that local governments, roofers and construction companies failed to provide basic failed to provide fall protection. OSHA fined a pesticide company that had employees working on the American Legion Hamblen Post roof recently.

A Tennessee state environmental manager once told his subordinate manager that he owned his brain for 7.5 hours per day and if he told him to jump off a roof, "you jump off the roof."

Too many employers literally ask their employees to jump off a roof for them.

If the hotelier can offer concessions on preserving the houses for housing and being a good example for treatment of workers, she deserves consideration tonight. Otherwise, I would vote against the propsoal.


Guest Column: At what time does history stop?

Guest Column: At what time does history stop?

St. Augustine
Publication Date: 04/14/08

On Monday, April 14, the St. Augustine City Commission will hear an appeal by Donna Wendler on her proposed removal of some turn- of-the-century houses and proposed construction of an 80-room hotel on King Street. It is a project that will change a portion of King Street; much as other developments have changed the face of St. Augustine over the past 400- plus years.

In the early 1900s St. Augustine had its second discovery as a winter retreat. Henry Flagler is most remembered by his hotels that remain today as icons of our history. However, long before the Ponce de Leon Hotel was even under construction there were dozens of hotels operating in St. Augustine. On King Street, the following hotels once existed: The Buckingham Hotel, Hotel Alhambra, and the Hotel Granada.

At what time does history stop? The proposed King Street project is more than just history; it's about current zoning regulations and property rights.

The proposed hotel site consists of four structures on King Street and three structures on Oviedo Street. 132, 134, and 136 King St. are former railroad boarding houses. These properties are zoned CL-2 and the zoning code presently permits a 50- room hotel. The residences are 131, 133, and 135 Oviedo St. have been converted into student apartments. These properties are zoned RG-1 and the zoning code presently permits a 30-room hotel.

A PUD (Planned Unit Development) was presented in order to tie the proposed hotel design to the demolition request.

Wendler had hoped that modeling the hotel design after Henry Flagler's St. Augustine residence "Kirkside," formerly located a few blocks away and demolished in the 1950s, could become a positive addition to the neighborhood.

In late 2005 the city adopted a new demolition ordinance covering any structure older than 50 years. Wendler and her family purchased five of the seven properties beginning in 1998 and previous to the 2005 ordinance. Proof of unreasonable and undue economic hardship due to functional obsolescence, was presented. However, it was the Historic Architectural Review Board's opinion that all of the properties had historic significance and HARB voted to forever deny her the right to remove these structures.

These structures suffer economic hardship due to age, property taxes and insurance requirements. The buildings have had major modifications to their original architectural features, lack adequate insulation, have rusted plumbing. Wood rot and termites have taken their toll.

I find it interesting that the seven buildings that HARB and a few hysterical preservationists insist are historic treasures were created as the result of decisions by private owners who had control over their own land. But according to HARB, the only way to protect the past achievements of private property is to strip current property owners of almost all control over their land, business, and homes.

Politicians and bureaucrats must learn to respect the most historic treasure in this country, the Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights declares that private property shall not "be taken for public use without just compensation." The preservation police are preventing the natural flux of change and suppressing potentially new beauty and innovations arising from individual decisions about their own property, which may, 50 years hence, be regarded as even greater national landmarks.

This case has captured the attention of the National Coalition for Property Rights, and a national property rights legal foundation. If the City Commission upholds HARB's legal denial of personal property rights without due compensation this case will end up in state and federal courts.


Jerry Dixon is the project's architect.

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© The St. Augustine Record

City decides on hotel project, home demolitions today

City decides on hotel project, home demolitions today

Publication Date: 04/14/08

St. Augustine City Commission will decide today whether to give final approval of a hotel whose construction would demolish seven homes on King and Oviedo streets.

But the Florida Trust Historic Preservation is against the project and added the homes to the state's 2008 list of the 11 most endangered properties, according to a letter given to the commissioners late last week.

"With the redevelopment of the historic San Sebastian area of your City, and particularly with the Florida East Coast Railway buildings coming under the stewardship of Flagler College, the retention of the Model Land Company buildings is important to this entry corridor to the City of Saint Augustine," Trust President Mark Tarmey wrote in the letter.

The city's Historic Architecture Review Board has already turned down the demolitions, and the commission also will determine today if that should be overturned.

Donna Wendler is asking the City Commission for a Planned Unit Development to build an 80-room hotel along Oviedo and King streets. The Planning and Zoning Board has denied her request, but the commission passed it on first reading.

The commission will hear the appeal of the Architecture Review Board's denial of the demolitions before the PUD request.

Members of the public will have a chance to speak at the meeting.

Many residents who own homes on Oviedo and King Street, as well as others in the nearby Flagler Model Land Company neighborhood, have objected to the hotel, saying it would ruin their community's charm and clog their streets.

Wendler has said she needs to demolish the homes because of economic hardship. She can no longer afford the rising costs of insurance and property taxes of the old homes, and she said it would take an enormous amount of money to renovate the homes, Wendler has said. She believes building a hotel would not only help her, but also revitalize King Street and bring in money for the city.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Friday, April 11, 2008

Editorial: Salary cut proposals for key state officials makes sense

Editorial: Salary cut proposals for key state officials makes sense

Publication Date: 04/11/08

In an election year elected officials are reluctant to raise taxes. They never want to go back to the home district with a tax increase. Rather they want as much of a tax cut as possible.

This week, the two chambers of the Florida Legislature came up with an innovative idea: cut their own salaries. The Senate also recommends salary cuts for Gov. Charlie Crist, Attorney General Bill McCollum, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.

In the Senate's $65.9 billion version of the 2009 budget, adopted on Wednesday, the salary cuts would amount to 10 percent for each official and save nearly $600,000. The House of Representatives' $65.1 billion version, approved on Thursday, proposes 2.5 percent cuts in the salaries of legislators only.

Gee, can these people we elect to sit in the big chairs afford it? We hope so.

We hope the Senate's proposed 10 percent cut is not a ploy to negotiate a minimal percentage in the conference committee by starting out with a cut four times higher than the House proposal. The Legislature has to adopt a state budget before the annual session ends May 2.

The Senate's plan proposes to take the $586,426 from the salary cuts and put it back into the state's early learning programs. That's especially commendable because these children are the ones that need early education intervention.

The Legislature has to reduce the current $70 billion state budget by $2 billion to $3 billion because state revenue forecasters predict lower tax revenues in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The rationale for the proposed salary cuts makes sense. Sen. Mike Fasano, R- New Port Richey, is the proposal's sponsor. In an Associated Press story in Thursday's Record, Fasano said, "If we're asking everyone else to have to cut their budget, we in the Legislature should do exactly the same." He's right.

We'd like to see more innovative thinking like Fasano's when the budget conference committee is convened.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

County out of river hearing

County out of river hearing

Publication Date: 04/09/08

St. Johns County has been barred from participating in an upcoming public hearing that will review Seminole County's plans to withdraw 5.5 million gallons of water daily from the St. Johns River, a state judge ruled this week.

But County Attorney Patrick McCormack said Tuesday that he'll file a more detailed motion within 10 days so the county will be at the table when the issue is discussed.

"Obviously, this is an opportunity for St. Johns County to amend our petition and meet the concerns of the administrative law judge, and we certainly intend to do so," McCormack said.

The City of Jacksonville, also barred due to an insufficient petition, also will refile.

Seminole had filed a motion Monday to dismiss both entities from the hearing. The judge agreed because they are more than 100 miles north of the withdrawal site of Yankee Lake.

Jacksonville attorney Michael Howle, who represents the watchdog St. Johns Riverkeeper, said representatives from both county and city will be at the hearing in October.

"They can generate a lot of paper, but Seminole County isn't going to dismiss their way out of this case," Howle said. "The judge wanted (St. Johns County and Jacksonville) to plead their case with specificity. His order, which was only two paragraphs, invites the city and St. Johns County to remedy defects in their positions."

In essence, state Administrative Law Judge J. Lawrence Johnston ruled that St. Johns and Jacksonville's request to be included failed to show how losing a tenth of an inch of water from the river could hurt, since both are more than 100 miles north of Yankee Lake.

Tampa attorney Ed De La Parte, representing Seminole County, said, "The law requires them to show an adverse impact of immediate sufficiency and that the (adverse) impact is not speculative or far-fetched. It's not surprising they found it hard to show that."

Neal Armingeon, St. Johns Riverkeeper, admitted the petitions need to be reworked, but said the bigger issue is the district's long-range plans for St. Johns water withdrawals.

"That 5.5 million gallons per day is just the first step for securing 84 million gallons per day," Armingeon said. "Of course they didn't start off with (the full) 84 million."

De La Parte has 30 years experience in water resource issues, including serving as general counsel for Tampa Bay Water during the years-long and legally contentious "Water Wars" of the 1990s between St. Petersburg, Tampa and Pasco County.

He said the St. Johns River Water Management District has studied the river's minimum flow levels for 10 years and added that there have been hundreds of workshops on the issue.

"Public suppliers (of water) will have metered intakes, which are certified to be 95 percent accurate," he said. "There won't be overpumpage."

The Yankee Lake Watershed spans 18.1 square miles in Seminole, with 13 named lakes and ponds and two named rivers, plus streams and canals.

Seminole County's groundwater usage along with that of Orlando, DeLand and Volusia County is already too high and will be exhausted soon. So the county applied for and got a permit to build an $80 million plant to process river water.

Armingeon said it's "insulting" that Seminole wants 5.5 million gallons per day "to water grass."

"I no longer trust scientific reports coming from the Water Management District staff," he said. "There is a continued cooking of numbers by the district. The percentage of accurate numbers is zero."

Some private studies by private hydrologists in Pasco County do contradict the district's numbers and claim their "minimum flow levels" are too low. But De La Parte said all of the district's scientific papers are reviewed by scientists not employed by the District, presented at public hearings and adopted.

The current controversy began after Seminole County applied for its processing plant in 2004, he said.

"Where has North Florida been in all the discussion and debates?" De La Parte asked. "No one has produced any evidence to say that this withdrawal will harm the river."

At the State Road 44 bridge in DeLand, the water flow has been gauged at 2 billion gallons per day, he said.

Armingeon said North Florida might have indeed been late coming to awareness discussion about the river's fate.

"There never was a meeting in North Florida about this. We now know how serious they are," he said. "This isn't about a tiny percentage of the river. This is about millions of gallons of water."

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© The St. Augustine Record

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Does St. Augustine Beach Mayor Have Conflict of Interest in Voting on Beach House Rentals -- He's a Hotelier!! (Owner of Fiesta Motel)

Mayor Richard O'Brien has a conflict of interest. As the Supreme Court has said, quoting Matthew, "a man cannot serve two masters," particularly where one is economic self-interest.
If the ordinance is adopted, it may be an antitrust violation, as it affects interstate commerce. Since the City of St. Augustine Beach has no antitrust immunity -- none having been conferred by the Legislature -- there could be triple damages (and attorney fees) for antitrust violations awarded by a Federal court judge and jury.

Does St. Augustine Beach Mayor Have Conflict of Interest in Voting on Beach House Rentals -- He's a Hotelier!! (Owner of Fiesta Motel)

Mayor O'Neill has a conflict of interest. As the Supreme Court has said, quoting Matthew, "a man cannot serve two masters," particularly where one is economic self-interest.
If the ordinance is adopted, it may be an antitrust violation, as it affects interstate commerce. Since the City of St. Augustine Beach has no antitrust immunity -- none having been conferred by the Legislature -- there could be triple damages (and attorney fees) for antitrust violations awarded by a Federal court judge and jury.

More "spin" from City Hall

See Record story below. What passes for political analysis at the Record would never have passed muster anywhere else, whether at the Washington Post (or the Appalachian Observer):
1. It's early -- too soon to say that Jones will likely be re-elected.
2. Nope, Mayor JOESPEH LEROY BOLES, JR. must run for Mayor if he wants to stay Mayor. He must resign to run under Florida law. He stays a Commissioner if he doesn't run for Mayor. If he runs for Mayor and he's not elected, he's gone.
3. The only incumbent seat that's safe is DONALD CRICHLOW. SUSAN BURK is retiring. Four of five Commission seats -- and City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS' Nixonian death-grip on power -- are up for vote on November 4th.
As Tom Wicker's journalist character (Richmond P. Morgan) states in his great American political novel, "Facing the Lions," "anything anybody's got to sell you ain't worth buyin'" Our political machine has obtained two (2) misleading stories in this week's Record. When will the Record investigate and stop with PR spin for malfeasance?

Jones to seek re-election

Jones to seek re-election

Publication Date: 04/08/08

St. Augustine City Commissioner Errol Jones, 65, will seek re-election.

If he wins, which seems likely because he doesn't yet have an opponent, and completes his term, he will have served 10 years on the commission.

Jones is a dean at St. Augustine High School. He hopes to be re-elected so that he can see through several projects that started during his tenure, including the Bridge of Lions rehabilitation project and the San Sebastian Harbor condominium and hotel development.

"We're also dealing with (budget) cuts from the state and we have to continue to provide quality to our constituents with the cut in revenue," he said.

He also wants the city to create a 10-year plan to address infrastructure problems in the city, including replacing cobblestone streets.

City Commissioner Susan Burk has announced that she will not seek re-election. Commissioner George Gardner, whose term expires this year, has not announced his intentions. The other two commissioners, Mayor Joseph Boles Jr. and Vice Mayor Donald Crichlow, are in the middle of four-year terms and will not be up for re-election until 2010.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Monday, April 07, 2008

Akerman Senterfitt's Campaign Contribution to Rep. William L. Proctor Two Days After Vote Approving Return of Waste to Lincolnville

On November 13, 2008, St. Augustine City Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a Consent Decree allowing illegally dumped solid waste to be returned to Lincolnville from the Old City Reservoir, where it was illegally dumped without permits.

On November 15, 2007, State Representative William Proctor (R-St. Augustine) received a $500.00 contribution of corporate funds from the large corporate law firm of Akerman Senterfitt, which represents the City of St. Augustine in the Consent Decree with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP, a/k/a Don’t Expect Protection), and sequelae.

The list of contributions to Proctor contains the usual suspects of Republican big money contributors, many of them apparently “bundled” or given at fundraisers, or otherwise given on the same date.

The Akerman Senterfitt contribution stands out as there are no other contributions on that date. The "temporal nexus" to the City of St. Augustine’s outrageous approval of Akerman Senterfitt’s plan to repatriate waste to Lincolnville – two days – demands answers.

What did State Rep. William Proctor know about St. Augustine’s illegal dumping scandal and when did he know it?

What discussions has State Rep. Proctor had with Mayor JOSEPH LEROY BOLES? BOLES is a putative Democrat who’s supporting Republican Proctor, and has in the past.

The controversial Consent Decree has imploded. See below. Residents will not allow the waste to be brought back to Lincolnville, our historic African-American community (founded in 1866). See also the Folio Weekly cover story of January 24, 2008.

Rep. Proctor, City officials – you have the right to remain silent, but we wish you wouldn’t. What involvement do our legislators have in the ongoing coverup of St. Augustine's illegal dumping?

Nassau County may take waste material

Nassau County may take waste material

City seeks deal to remove illegally dumped dirt

Publication Date: 04/07/08

St. Augustine could soon enter into a deal with Nassau County to take illegally dumped waste material to its landfill, ending three years of the city wrestling with how to handle the issue.

"I would like to see this happen. I'm ready for it," said Lee Pickett, Nassau County landfill director. "But the agreement still has to go before our county commission. They have the final say."

St. Augustine will give Nassau County a draft interlocal agreement this week that will then go before the Nassau County Commission in about a month, said John Regan, St. Augustine chief of operations.

In 2005, St. Augustine city staff took dirt from an old landfill site on Riberia Street and dumped it into a water-filled borrow pit on Holmes Boulevard. That violated state Department of Environmental Protection rules. The DEP fined the city and told it to remove the waste from the Holmes Boulevard site.

The city originally entered an agreement with the state to return the waste material to the Riberia site, but neighbors vehemently fought it. Residents Tony and Judith Seraphin filed a petition with the DEP on Dec. 29 against the plan, freezing the project while the state investigated, which is the usual procedure.

Residents worried that material was toxin-filled and hazardous, but Pickett said that's not the case.

"(DEP) is for us taking this material, and our site won't take hazardous material," Pickett said pointing to a large sign stating this at the entry to his landfill. "I think this stuff just got a bad name from the beginning. I don't think it's as bad as everyone thinks."

A letter from Greg Strong, DEP district director in Jacksonville, written March 13 endorses the city's proposed agreement with Nassau County and outlines the procedures the city must use to clean the material.

Some of the public said the state was using the city's test results of the waste material and they wanted an outside source to sample it. The Seraphins still want independent testing done. Regan has offered to have the city pay for it, but he hopes the new agreement with Nassau would resolve the issue.

Under St. Augustine's plan, the city will pull out the material dumped at Holmes Boulevard and use heavy machinery to screen it, sifting out any solid waste. Regan expects that about 5 percent of the material is solid waste. The remaining 95 percent is clean soil that would be used to cover Nassau County's landfill, Regan said.

Pickett said the plan would save his landfill money. Nassau pays $1.50 a ton for top soil, which is used daily to cover the landfill. St. Augustine would give the landfill 40,000 tons of top soil and have it transported to the landfill.

The project will cost St. Augustine roughly $800,000.

In addition, the city also would pay about $350,000 to cap the old landfill site on Riberia Street and monitor ground water, bringing the total cost to about $1,150,000.

If Nassau County Commission agrees to the plan, the St. Augustine City Commission will also have to approve it before it becomes final, Regan said.

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© The St. Augustine Record

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

When in the course of human events, an Election Supervisor acts like a tinpot Napoleon, he deserves to be spanked

See bio of Republican dirty trickster, Seminole County Election Supervisor and St. Johns River Water Managment District member Michael Ertel (below), as lugubrious a goober as ever made a chair squeak.
Below that, please see CUCSAF's news analysis and today's story from the Orlando Sentinel about how the Seminole County Election Supervisor's Unwelcome Wagon tried to keep off the Seventh District ballot our Democratic candidate Faye Armitage -- an economist and soccer mom who supports single payer health insurance and opposes government by the billionaires, of the billionaires and for the billionaires.
Ertel's s impotent gesture failed.
This stupid fratboy prank deserves a spanking -- the voters will speak in November.

Who Is Michael Ertel? -- Ratpack Dirtry Trickster Michael Ertel's Self-Serving Bio Reveals He is a Former PR Wiener for Banks, County, U.S. Army

Michael Ertel
was appointed the Supervisor of Elections for Seminole County on February 7, 2005 by Governor Jeb Bush. He was subsequently elected in November, 2006 by the voters of Seminole County. Governor Charlie Crist selected Ertel to serve as the chair of the Florida Citizen Review Group for the Department of State transition effort.

Since his initial appointment, the office has made significant improvements in services to voters and candidates under the office's new mission statement: Efficient Elections -- Excellent Service -- Fiduciary Conservatism -- Voter Confidence.

Prior to becoming supervisor Ertel spent eight years in the U.S. Army and was in the public relations field for 12 years, with stints as a public affairs representative for the U.S. Army during the Los Angeles riots, Macedonian, and Bosnian operations. In 1998 he became Seminole County government's first community information professional, guiding communications for the county government. After that, he was the director of public relations for a 185-location bank. In 2002 he completed the Harvard Program on Negotiation module on crisis communications titled How to Deal with an Angry Public. In 2003, PR News magazine named him as one of America's fastest rising communicators by presenting him the 15 to Watch Award.

His community involvement includes serving as an Executive Board member of the Central Florida Council Boy Scouts of America, a board member on the Seminole County Boys and Girls Clubs, and as the 2005 president of the Orlando-area chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Ertel is the District 6 representative (Orange, Seminole, Lake, Volusia, Brevard, Osceola counties) on the Legislative Committee for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.

Mike is a homegrown elected official, attending Red Bug, Sterling Park and English Estates elementary, Tuskawilla middle and Lake Howell high schools before attending the University of Maryland University College. He enjoys racquetball and Revolutionary history and the music of the Rat Pack. He and his wife Suzanne live in Oviedo.

BELOW is a link to an emetic collection of photos from ERTEL's website:

Florida Repug-Thug Michael Ertel Tries to Violate Voting Rights – It Didn’t Work

Florida Repug-Thug Michael Ertel Tries to Violate Voting Rights – It Didn’t Work

Yesterday, March 31, 2008, is a date that will live in infamy in Florida’s gerrymandered Seventh Congressional District. Please see the Orlando Sentinel story below, for which five reporters shared the byline.

In 2005, Michael Ertel was appointed by tatterdemalion Governor Jeb Bush.to be Seminole County’s Election Supervisor. In 2007, Ertel was named by Governor Charles Crist to the St. Johns River Water Management District. Yesterday, Michael Ertel pulled a typical Republican dirty trick by lying about the time of day, claiming that Democrat Faye Armitage was two minutes late in delivering her petitions to run against controversial Big Oil Congressman John Mica (R-7th Congressional District).

In fact, it strongly appears that Democratic Congressional candidate Faye Armitage arrived at 11:59 – as verified by two people (one Democrat, one Republican) to whom she was talking on her cellular telephone when she arrived.

Republican apparatchik Michael Ertel was triumphant in holding up a piece of paper claiming it was a timestamp from a timeclock.

Michael Ertel admitted to Channel 13 that he had worked on reconfiguring the timeclock. This admitted resetting and material alteration of a timeclock may constitute election fraud and requires investigation.

Michael Ertel denied to me yesterday that he has ever met John Mica.

Michael Ertel deserves to be investigated by federal prosecutors for violating voting rights.

Anti-democratic energumen Michael Ertel deserves to be thrown out of office by the electorate and indicted by a Grand Jury for election fraud. He is represented by the same lawyer and law firm that has represented Governor Jeb Bush and other Republicans, including those who have gerrymandered legislative and Congressional District. Are attorney Trevor Michael and the law firm of Gray Robinson guilty of a conflict of interest in representing both Republicans and the Seminole County Election Superviserr? What do you reckon?.

Adolescent Michael Ertel deserves voters’ scorn and mockery, because despite his Republican dirty trick, Faye Armitage has more than enough signatures to be on the ballot – nearly 6000, when only 4800 were required (and 214 were at issue in Seminole County) Ertel was crestfallen and disappointed when Ms. Armitage told him that.she did not need the 214 petitions to be on the ballot. How sad when the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee can’t raise any money. How said when Republican dirty tricks don’t work any more because of the outpouring of voters who wanted to see Faye Armitage on the ballot. Faye was able to get 20% more than the required number of signatures – despite the corrupt restrictions on petitioning by the likes of Post Offices, gated communities and shopping malls – even the St. Johns County Farmers’ Market (the latter was rightly overruled by our county officials.

Hint: This is a very corrupt city and state with a snobbish Republican Congressman (John Mica), who acts like an enabler for oligopolists and the oleaginous, especially Big Oil..

With your help, we’re going to clean up the City of St. Augustine and we’ll soon have a new Congressman and state representatives who won’t be protecting City of St. Augustine political boss WILLIAM B. HARRISS and his crummy cronies.

Noted for corrupt politics, Florida Republicans are desperate to hold on to Rep. John Mica’s seat. Ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, Mica is the king of sleaze and pork, dispensing earmarks to his campaign contributors while voting against higher federal minimum wages (even after Floridians raised ours in 2004 by constitutional amendment). Ex-Senator Paula Hawkins’ erstwhile Chief of Staff, Mica is the only Florida Congressman who supports offshore oil drilling, which would destroy Florida’s tourism economy and beaches. Mica once called President Clinton a “little bugger” on the House Floor, ruled out of order. Mica once compared welfare recipients to alligators (as in “do not feed the alligators”). The Washington Post reported Mica’s loutish behavior after Democrats took the House, pouting and leaving a meeting because his chair wasn’t fancy enough (even after he was brought another chair).

Republican punk Michael Ertel appears guilty of the same kind of flummery and dupery that led to Florida’s 2000 stolen election. He needs a Grand Jury subpoena. He must no longer be represented by Gray Robinson, which has a conflict of interest.

We will be watching the likes of miscreant Michael Ertel. Democrats need to be all over Ertel like a chicken on a junebug. Please fax reports to 904-471-9918 or call 904-471-7023. Again, please see the Orlando Sentinel story below, for which five reporters shared the byline.

Ed Slavin

Clean Up City of St. Augustine

Box 3084

St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084


904-471-9918 (fax)

Mica foe: I wasn't 2 minutes late



Mica foe: I wasn't 2 minutes late

April 1, 2008

-Time got away from congressional hopeful Faye Armitage on Monday morning as she rushed to turn in her petition in Seminole County. Armitage is running for the District 7 congressional seat held by John Mica, R- Winter Park. Her petition was turned in two minutes late, according to the supervisor of elections for Seminole County, and thus will not be counted. Armitage insists she was on time.

The mishap doesn't mean Armitage can't be on the ballot. Election laws state that a candidate needs to collect signatures from 1 percent of registered voters from the district they want to represent. Armitage has enough signatures without counting the ones in Seminole, she said. If the petitions are not approved, she can pay a qualifying fee that will put her name on the ballot.

The Jacksonville Democrat traveled from Jacksonville toSeminole County to register to run for the seat. Armitage said she has proof that her cell-phone clock read 11:59 a.m. when she handed over her papers.

However, Michael Ertel, the county's supervisor of elections, said he has time-stamp documentation that shows that her papers were filed after 12:02 p.m. He said his office's clocks are synchronized with the U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock.

Susan Jacobson, Gary Taylor, Sandra Pedicini, Daphne Sashin and Tammie Wersinger of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.