Monday, January 31, 2011

St. Augustine Record: Guest column: First America Foundation isn't operating in the 'Sunshine'

Guest column: First America Foundation isn't operating in the 'Sunshine'
Created 01/30/2011 - 12:00am
St. Augustine

A private foundation has taken over from the city the function of planning St. Augustine's 450th anniversary celebration, 2012-2015. The City Commission agreed and gave First America Foundation a $275,000 no-bid contract.

Our City Hall still mistrusts "we, the people."

Article I, section 24 of Florida's Constitution guarantees our right to open meetings and open records -- it was adopted in 1992 by vote of 83 percent of Florida voters (3,883,617 votes). Majority rules.

Our European forebears suffered under the yoke of secrecy and autocracy, exemplified by Cardinal Richelieu, who said, "Secrecy is the first essential in affairs of the State." In contrast, James Madison wrote that a "popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."

Florida is our nation's leader on open government laws. Florida's strong open government laws inspired then-Senator Lawton Chiles to persuade Congress to adopt the federal Government-in-the-Sunshine law.

Our Florida Constitution and laws require openness. The 450th anniversary of our Nation's Oldest City must no longer be run as a "covert operation." President Kennedy said to the American Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961: "The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it."

Lord Acton explained not only that "all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but he also said that "Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity." As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "secrecy is for losers."

It is my opinion that FAF's secrecy interferes with our City's vital mission -- meaningfully celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Spanish Florida (2013), 450th anniversary of St. Augustine (2015), 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (2014) and the 200th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution (2012).

We deserve an open, accountable process with public participation. That's what we were promised before the City of St. Augustine changed its plans and created this secret corporation on a "rush" basis, as the incorporation papers filed in Tallahassee reveal. The City's strategic vision for the 450th originally called for 40 committees of local volunteers. FAF inexplicably dropped the committees and is seeking corporate "partners."

No federal agencies or self-respecting corporate donors will want to fund an inscrutable, unaccountable foundation that breaks the law. St. Augustine does not need a secretive foundation that shows contempt for the will of 3.8 million Florida voters. As Ronald Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall: City Commissioners, "tear down this wall."

The facts are irrefragable. FAF, in my opinion, is a city agency under Sunshine and Open Records laws. Our City of St. Augustine must compel FAF to open its meetings, books and records to the public. Our City must take swift action to end FAF's secrecy and to vindicate our rights. As Justice Louis Brandeis said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."


Ed Slavin earned a B.S. in foreign service at Georgetown University and a J.D. from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

St. Augustine Record: Civil Rights Hero Stetson Kennedy Speaking Tonight at Flagler College, Documentary to Be Shown

Stetson Kennedy at Flagler tonight
Neighbors: Downtown
Posted: January 26, 2011 - 12:00am
By Irene Arriola

At 7 p.m. today, downtown resident and author Stetson Kennedy will speak as part of Flagler's Writers in Residence program.

At 7 p.m. today, downtown resident and author Stetson Kennedy will speak as part of Flagler's Writers in Residence program. The documentary "Soul of a People: Writing America's Story" will be shown, followed by a short talk. Born in 1916, Kennedy is an award-winning author, human rights activist and folklorist. The event will be at the Gamache-Koger Theatre at the Ringhaver Student Center, 50 Sevilla St. Free and open to the public, the seating is limited and is on a first-come first- served basis.

First America Foundation Refuses to Comply with Florida's Open Records, Sunshine and Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution

I attended the first First America Foundation (FAF) press conference this morning. I asked the first question of Acting FAF Executive Director Jaime Alvarez.
I stated that FAF was established for the express purpose of avoiding and evading the Sunshine and Open Records laws.
I then asked if FAF would agree to comply with Open Records and Sunshine laws and Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution.
Acting FAF Executive Director Jamie Alvarez refused to provide records or open meetings. She refused to provide minutes of Board meetings and will not post them on the FAF website.
Bottom line: FAF did not agree to open its meetings or records.
Under Florida Open Records precedents, FAF is an "agency" of the City of St. Augustine.
FAF shows contempt for the will of the people of Florida, who enacted Article I, Section 24 of the Florida Constitution, which states in haec verba:

ARTICLE I -- DECLARATION OF RIGHTS -- SECTION 24. Access to public records and meetings.—
(a) Every person has the right to inspect or copy any public record made or received in connection with the official business of any public body, officer, or employee of the state, or persons acting on their behalf, except with respect to records exempted pursuant to this section or specifically made confidential by this Constitution. This section specifically includes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and each agency or department created thereunder; counties, municipalities, and districts; and each constitutional officer, board, and commission, or entity created pursuant to law or this Constitution.
(b) All meetings of any collegial public body of the executive branch of state government or of any collegial public body of a county, municipality, school district, or special district, at which official acts are to be taken or at which public business of such body is to be transacted or discussed, shall be open and noticed to the public and meetings of the legislature shall be open and noticed as provided in Article III, Section 4(e), except with respect to meetings exempted pursuant to this section or specifically closed by this Constitution.
(c) This section shall be self-executing. The legislature, however, may provide by general law passed by a two-thirds vote of each house for the exemption of records from the requirements of subsection (a) and the exemption of meetings from the requirements of subsection (b), provided that such law shall state with specificity the public necessity justifying the exemption and shall be no broader than necessary to accomplish the stated purpose of the law. The legislature shall enact laws governing the enforcement of this section, including the maintenance, control, destruction, disposal, and disposition of records made public by this section, except that each house of the legislature may adopt rules governing the enforcement of this section in relation to records of the legislative branch. Laws enacted pursuant to this subsection shall contain only exemptions from the requirements of subsections (a) or (b) and provisions governing the enforcement of this section, and shall relate to one subject.
(d) All laws that are in effect on July 1, 1993 that limit public access to records or meetings shall remain in force, and such laws apply to records of the legislative and judicial branches, until they are repealed. Rules of court that are in effect on the date of adoption of this section that limit access to records shall remain in effect until they are repealed.
History.—Added, C.S. for C.S. for H.J.R.’s 1727, 863, 2035, 1992; adopted 1992; Am. S.J.R. 1284, 2002; adopted 2002.

Here is the Folio Weekly article from August 17, 2010, an indictment of the First America Foundation, which was set up for the express purpose of ducking Article I, section 24 of the Florida Constitution and the Sunshine and Open Records Acts:

Infernal Sunshine
St. Augustine will pay an untested business with no clear plan to put on its 450th
birthday celebration — all to avoid state Sunshine Laws
Folio Weekly, August 17, 2010

By Susan Cooper Eastman

Last week, the St. Augustine City
Commission voted to take the job of
celebrating the city’s 450th anniversary out
of the Sunshine and into the hands of a
newly created private nonprofit.
Commissioners unanimously approved a
contract with the hastily formed First
America Foundation Inc. to produce the
celebration, despite the fact that the group
has existed only since July, has never planned
even a kid’s birthday party and has offered
no specifics about how it might spend its
lump sum payment of $275,000.
Why did the city enter into the dubious
deal? Because First America Foundation is an
independent entity, and will therefore be
unconstrained by the state’s Sunshine Law,
which would require everything from the
party’s planning process to its expense reports
to be open to public view.
City Attorney Ron Brown told Folio
Weekly after the vote that evading the
requirements of the Sunshine Law is essential
if the city wants a good party. He notes that
governments are no good at wooing
corporate donors, planning slick marketing
campaigns or organizing mammoth events. It
takes a private company that isn’t hamstrung
by open meeting laws and open books. For
instance, Brown says, while AT&T might give
money to a nonprofit, it won’t give money to
a government. And it won’t discuss donations
or make commitments if those disclosures
have to be done at a public meeting.
But it’s not clear that simply passing off
party duties will exempt the First America
Foundation from the Sunshine Law. John
Rhea, director of the First Amendment
Foundation in Tallahassee, notes that the city
had already been engaged in planning the
celebration, spending more than $300,000 in
the past two years, and hiring Dana Ste. Claire
in March 2009 as executive director of The
450 Corps. Therefore, Rhea interprets the
contract with First America Foundation Inc.
as the city hiring an entity to take over a job
that it had previously been performing. And
according to the Sunshine Law, if a city hires a
private entity to perform a city function, that
entity is subject to the Sunshine Law.
City Attorney Brown doesn’t agree with
Rhea’s assessment that First America
Foundation Inc. might be subject to the
Sunshine Law. Brown argues that the city isn’t
hiring the nonprofit to perform a government
function, merely contracting with it to be a
sponsor of the celebration. And he points to a
1992 state Supreme Court case which found
that the degree of a government’s investment
in a project in part governs whether a private
entity overseeing that project is subject to
open records law. Brown also insists that the
city wasn’t obligated to put the contract out to
public bid. The city is required by state statute
to submit to a bidding process for professional
services, but Brown says that state statute only
spells out four occupations: landscape
architect, architect, engineer and surveyor.
Party planner isn’t mentioned.
The issue recalls the curtain that was
drawn across the 2005 Super Bowl planning
process by the independent Super Bowl Host
Committee. In its contract with the city of
Jacksonville, the Host Committee promised
to comply with the Sunshine Law. But when
The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
Business Journal, Folio Weekly and even
Jacksonville city auditors requested records
from the Host Committee, its lawyers
(backed by the city’s own lawyers) claimed it
was exempt (Cover Story, “Stadium Scam,” The question
was never tested in court, however, and the
Host Committee spent millions of public
dollars with no accountability.
Donald Wallis, an attorney with
Upchurch, Bailey & Upchurch, who is the
registered agent for First America Foundation
Inc., promised the organization would be
“very public” and “transparent,” but admitted
it could pick and choose what meetings
to open and what records to disclose.
Essentially, City Commissioners and St.
Augustine residents are being asked to trust
that taxpayer money will be spent wisely by
First America Foundation, and that the 450th
celebration will be something the city will be
proud of. If city officials don’t like what First
America is doing, the contract gives them the
right to terminate the deal. But it’s unclear
how city officials would determine whether
they’re happy with the group’s performance,
since they won’t be privy to its operations.
And they will have no say in how city money
is spent.
Rhea, for one, questions the Commissioners’
decision to relinquish oversight of taxpayer
dollars. “How logical is that?” he asks. “To turn
over in excess of a quarter of a million dollars
to a private organization and then be hands
off? Is that good government? That is craziness
to me.”
That craziness became clear at last week’s
meeting, when Commissioners tried to find
out even benign details about First America
Foundation before voting to give it money.
Vice Mayor Errol Jones asked who was on the
Foundation’s board of directors and if that
organization had a structure. Wallis responded
that it was “a very fair question” and that the
answer was “No.” When Commissioner Nancy
Sikes-Kline asked the Foundation to attend a
subsequent meeting to submit its bylaws and
mission statement, City Attorney Brown
cautioned that demanding such control
might compromise the Sunshine-free status
of the Foundation.
“The idea here is for us to let go,” urged
Mayor Joe Boles.
Rhea says he had a visceral reaction to any
government efforts to circumvent the Sunshine
Law. “When people are trying to avoid the
Sunshine Law, the reason the Sunshine Law is
there is for accountability and public oversight.
My immediate reaction is, ‘Why?’”
Rhea notes that open government isn’t
just about watchdogging public money.
It’s about respecting the rights given to
Floridians in the state constitution. “The
public has a constitutional right to access to
records and to meetings,” he says. “It doesn’t
really matter whether their representatives
think it is a good idea that they have access.
They have a constitutional right.”
Rhea also cautions that the city’s decision
could be expensive. Already, some local city
activists have threatened to file suit to challenge
the city’s vote. If that happens, and the suit is
successful, it would mean a lot of wasted time
and money. The contract would be voided,
along with any action taken by First America
Foundation Inc.
Warns Rhea, “It’s a very risky path.”

Susan Cooper Eastman

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sunshine State News: Congressman Mica on Moscow Airport Bombing -- A Warning to TSA

House Transportation Chairman John Mica Calls Moscow Bombing a Warning
Kevin Derby's blog | Posted: January 25, 2011 12:05 PM

Florida Republican U.S. Rep. John Mica weighed in on the recent airport bombing in Moscow, and as the newly installed chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee he said that it could have an impact in America.

“Once again, the attack in a Moscow airport arrivals area demonstrates that terrorists will continue to target aviation with their destructive, disruptive tactics,” said Mica. “The United States and every civilized nation must work together to employ every possible means to intercept, deter and prevent these murderous acts. This is another wake-up call. Now, in addition to the shoe bomber, the liquid explosive plot, the underwear bomber, and the attempted cargo aircraft attack, it is clearer than ever that terrorists will use any and all means to destroy life and disrupt the aviation industry, whether in Russia, the United States, or any other nation’s airspace. We must not let our guard down.”

Our City of St. Augustine government is now actively listening to the people

St. Augustine residents were welcomed to speak out at last night’s City Commission on the future of Lincolnville and in particular, the future of the former M&M Market, a racketeer-influenced and corrupt organization the City of St. Augustine seized from the Patel family through a civil forfeiture lawsuit. See below.
Since John Regan became St. Augustine City Manager last year, our City government has turned over a new leaf. We're getting a City government that works for us, not against us.
In 2005, when I first spoke at a City Commission meeting, citizens were treated as bothersome pests by City Manger WILLIAM B. HARRISS, who threatened me with arrest after I spoke about the 14th and 15th Amendments and the City’s discrimination in annexations and services.
It took four years, but citizen activists investigated, questioned, exposed and ran off HARRISS. Good riddance.
HARRISS was a racist. So was HARRISS’ predecessor, WILLIAM POMAR. In fact, in 1998, then City Manager WILLIAM POMAR joked that he’d like to take twelve bulldozers, hubcap to hubcap, and tear down Lincolnville. About the same time, when utility work was being done in West Augustine, a supervisor asked what he was doing there. “They’re our customers,” he said. “They don’t vote,” he was told.
The City did not always respect Lincolnville. But then the Lincolnville community organized after Akerman Senterfitt, the City’s law firm, proposed bringing 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste back here and calling it a park.
That was so wrong that no one stood up to support it – not even the Akerman Senterfitt lawyers – after we were done questioning them on January 10, 2008.
Lincolnville also organized to stop a 2 million cubic foot boat storage facility that would have been taller than the Berlin Wall, cutting off our views of the San Sebastian River. Lincolnville won two key victories in 2008. Since that time, City Hall has shown new respect for Lincolnville, and we thank you.

The spirit of bipartisanship

Our U.S. Congressman John Mica (R-Winter Park) will be seated next to Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer at tonight's State of the Union Address. See below.

I like bipartisanship. It's the American way. No progress is possible without it.

Some of my best friends are Republicans (some are recovering Republicans or RINOS or "Republicans in Name Only").

In the 1970s, when I worked for three liberal Democratic Senators while I was in undergraduate school at Georgetown, it was very common for ideologically opposite U.S. Senators to become best friends, even those who differed vehemently on the Floor. It's part of the art of politics and compromise.

Today, the FOX attack machine has made meanness the order of the day. That hurts our country.

I am proud of Rep. Mica for sitting next to Rep. Boxer. Maybe they'll talk about the St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore.

Rep. Mica's new Legislative Director, Mr. Wiley Deck, has the draft of the St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore legislation. Working together, Democrats, Republicans and independents can make this country a better place.

I still believe in a place called Hope.

Footnote: Barbara Boxer's son Doug, was my first summer law clerk when I was Legal Counsel for Constitutional Rights at the Government Accountability Project in Washington, D.C. and Sen. Boxer was in the House of Representatives. Senator Barbara Boxer has long been a champion for ethical employee whistleblowers.

Southern California Public Radio: Rep. Mica, Sen. Boxer, to Sit Together At Tonight's State of the Union Address

Democrats, Republicans to sit together for State of the Union on virtual date night

It’s starting to look like “date night” on Capitol Hill. The movement to get Democrats and Republicans to sit together during tonight’s “State of the Union” speech has created some unusual couples.

During the “State of the Union” address, Republicans sit on the president's left, Democrats on his right – but not this year. In an effort to reach across the aisle, lawmakers will sit across the aisle.

Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield says he’ll sit with Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Temecula, who heads the House Oversight Committee, will sit with his Democratic counterpart, Edolphus Towns of New York.

Democrat Barbara Boxer heads the Senate committee that deals with transportation; she’ll sit with Florida Republican John Mica, who heads the transportation committee in the House.

L.A. Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters and San Dimas Republican Congressman David Dreier will also sit together. How did the two well-dressed Southern Californians in step sartorially but not politically decide to sit together? Says Waters’ office, “He asked.”

Southern Cailfornia Public Radio: Senator Barbara Boxer to Sit Next to Rep. John Mica at Tonight's State of the Union Address

Barbara Boxer found a buddy
Jan. 24, 2011 | Kitty Felde

Another Democrat has found a Republican to sit with at the State of the Union tomorrow night.

Democratic US Senator Barbara Boxer will sit with a Republican Congressman, John Mica of Florida. She's chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He's chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. They can sit around and discuss high speed rail, gasoline taxes, and water projects together.

Senator Boxer says, “I am very pleased to sit with Chairman Mica. We both have responsibility for the transportation bill and water infrastructure legislation. We have already started working together and we thought it would be nice to sit together to show that there’s not just cooperation between Republicans and Democrats, but also between the House and Senate.”

Statement of Judith Seraphin on “Lift Up Lincolnville” & M&M Market

I’m Judith Seraphin and I live at 102 South Street with my husband, Tony. Our family business, Global Wrap® LLC, is located at 218 Riberia Street.
We were all ecstatic that the City of St. Augustine, under John Regan’s new leadership as City Manager, has started treating our Lincolnville neighborhood with dignity, respect and consideration. We are pleased with the City’s civil forfeiture lawsuit and taking over the M&M Market. We are pleased with the new spirit exemplified in the “Lift Up Lincolnville” program.
We have a few constructive suggestions on how to improve the “Lift Up Lincolnville” program:
1. M&M Market – We need to establish a Lincolnville general store, encompassing Chill Grill and a small grocery store for the convenience of neighbors. The store needs to sell craft items, art and photography made by local residents. I have spoken with Lynn Straughan with the Cyprian Center for Expressive Arts and she is enthused and sees the vision that we can create by having a building that not only allows us to feed our stomachs but feed our souls. This building is an anchor point for Lincolnville. We are poised on the edge of change in Lincolnville and this is an opportunity we will never have again. The former M&M Market can be a friendly place for tourists to stop, get off the tour trains, and take walking tours of our neighborhood and its African-American and Civil Rights History. We need to plan carefully to
make it a success. Interested Lincolnville residents need to meet
with the City to plan what is best for our neighborhood. When this building succeeds, it will be not only a success for Lincolnville but for all of St. Augustine, something to make us all proud.

2. Zoning overlay districts to allow small stores and cafes without mandatory parking requirements. Lincolnville once had 41 African-American small businesses in 1964. None survived. We need to stimulate small business by removing illogical zoning regulations, which were copied from other Florida jurisdictions and make no sense in a walkable, livable community.

3. Recreation. Rusting playground equipment is said to have been removed some 20 years ago as a safety hazard and never replaced. Why? Davis Shores got a half million dollar skate park. Our children in Lincolnville deserve equal recreational opportunities.

4. History and Parks. The National Park Service will play a big part in reviving Lincolnville under the proposed St. Augustine National Park and Seashore, taking tourists to see the churches where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young and other civil rights leaders empowered the people of this City to change history.

St. Augustine Record: Lincolnville: M&M is key to revival -- City Commission asks residents for thoughts

Lincolnville: M&M is key to revival -- City Commission asks residents for thoughts
Posted: January 25, 2011 - 12:03am


Lincolnville residents were recently asked: "What should the city do with the seized M&M Market on Bridge Street?"

St. Augustine commissioners received a cornucopia of valid suggestions Monday night, though most speakers said the seized building be turned into a museum, market or restaurant.

Missy Hall, 66 Weedon St., didn't want to see "anything that will attract unsavory people" and asked the City Commission to make the building attractive and "consistent with the historical feel of the neighborhood."

She said it would be the perfect place for a high-quality grocery market with a core of products, but not a convenience store.

"Sell it to someone who cares about the neighborhood," she said.

David Brezing, 7 Cincinnati Ave., said there's already an authentic Cuban restaurant next door, the Chill Grill, which would like to expand into the rest of the building.

"There are people in this neighborhood who would enjoy going to this restaurant," Brezing said.

The city paid $300,000 to satisfy the mortgage on the building -- though city officials said this move saved the city 18 months in court -- and one resident, Peter Romano of 62 Sanford St., said it would take another $100,000 to fix it up and bring it up to code.

"So any business opening there would have to pay a (roughly) $3,000 a month nut," Romano said.

Some residents said the building should be sold and remain on the tax rolls. The commissioners wanted people to know that it is still on the tax rolls.

But also that they were not going to make a decision that night and that there's no rush to decide.

Mayor Joe Boles said buying property "to alleviate a social ill in the community" is "outside the core function of city government, but it is done all over. It will increase property values and rid the community of a blight. It's going to cost something to hold onto this building for a while, but it won't cost the neighborhood any more."

St. Augustine Police Chief Loran Lueders said an investigation into criminal activity at M&M began in March and ended in November with the arrest of two men and a woman and forfeiture of the building.

"(Undercover officers) bought (untaxed) cigarettes, marijuana and crack, and there was (Food Stamp) fraud," he said. "We couldn't seize the building until we connected the owners to the crimes."

There were other suggestions for the structure, such as one by Christopher Ryan Stone that the St. Johns County Emergency Services & Homeless Coalition could operate a new market there and also feed the hungry, homeless and "unmet needs of the community."

While he spoke though, a few heads in the audience were shaking no, as if unhappy with that idea.

Theresa Segal, 126 Oneida St., a city and Lincolnville activist, said she only visited M&M twice to get emergency cat food and found it "visibly neglected, dirty and overpriced. I'd like to see a market or general store there, a simple, unpretentious venture. Many residents of Lincolnville don't own cars." Several speakers pointed this out and said that is the only walkable place to buy food.

Cash McVay, 139 Washington St., also a Lincolnville activist and originator of City Sprouts, a community garden near the Willie Galimore Center, said it is obvious that the store is a market location.

"If we do this right, it will prime the pump for other commercial activity in Lincolnville," he said.

Lincolnville resident Judith Seraphin sent a letter to the commission saying that in 1964, there were 41 businesses in Lincolnville. "None survive," she wrote.

Commissioner Errol Jones said that the city must maintain the building.

"We certainly know what we don't want it to be," he said. "Whatever we do, we want to benefit the community as a whole."

Monday, January 24, 2011

St. Augustine Record: Police shut down M & M Market on Bridge Street

Police shut down M & M Market on Bridge Street
Posted: November 4, 2010 - 8:03am
From Staff

After an eight-month investigation, the St Augustine Police Department has executed a search warrant at The M&M Market, 102 Bridge St., seizing all assets and closing the business.

Arrest warrants have been signed for all three owners: Bhanubhai Patel, 61; Daxaben Bhanubhai Patel, 55; and Raj Patel, 20.

These actions are the result of a combined effort among four law enforcement agencies: the St Augustine Police Department, the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney's Office and the Florida Department of Revenue. The agencies used undercover officers, confidential informants, surveillance and a subpoena of financial records to shut down the business.

During the past 24 months, the SAPD has answered 608 calls at the M & M Market for various citizens complaints. Those complaints led to the investigation which revealed the Patels' criminal activies, a news release from the SAPD says. Activities named in the release include possession and sale of illegal narcotics, racketeering, money laundering and public assistance fraud.

The Patels have owned M & M Market since April of 1997 and reported total sales of $178,213.12 to the DOR for the first 6 months of this year. However, the investigation turned up documents suggesting they took in far more than what they reported, the SAPD said in the release.

The agencies worked together under Florida’s RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization). That act prohibits the acquisition or maintenance of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity or the collection on an unlawful debt. RICO allowed the agencies to seize the Patels' assets, valued at more than $200,000, the release said.

Friday, January 21, 2011

St. George Street is a great place to buy obscene T-shirts, but not to learn about 11,000 years of history, including our Civil Righs history

St. George Street t-shirt store exhibits obscene t-shirts purchased by Slobbus Americanus vulgaris juveniles

We need a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Scenic Coastal Parkway and Seashore. Our City's historical treasures are not being shown off to the world -- they're being hidden, as with our African-American and Civil Rights history.

See below;

Folio Weekly: Backpage Editorial by Faye Armitage -- "SAVING ST. AUGUSTINE"

St. Augustine’s small-town Spanish Colonial charm is in
danger of being ruined by schlock. We love St. Augustine
and must preserve the beauty of endangered Matanzas Inlet
sunsets, Anastasia Island beach mice, nesting leatherback
turtles, soaring families of bald eagles and frolicking schools
of manatees and whales. Florida’s First Coast deserves a first
class National Park for the 500th anniversary of Spanish
Florida (in 2013) and 450th anniversary of St. Augustine
(in 2015).
The late U.S. Speaker of the House
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill and Edward
Boland of Massachusetts made history in
1958, courageously working to protect
Cape Cod’s charm forever. Boland returned
in 1958 from a trip to Cape Hatteras
National Seashore. Within a fortnight, the
two Massachusetts Democrats introduced
the Cape Cod National Seashore Act
(backed by John F. Kennedy only after he
became president).
Commercial interests thought that a
national seashore would be bad for business.
They were wrong. Today we scoff at
the quaint story of O’Neill and Boland
being hung in effigy and booed in the Cape
Cod towns of Wellfleet and Truro, where
citizens, in their annual town meetings,
voted against the bill.
Even JFK, the Pulitzer Prize-winning
author of “Profiles in Courage,” feared local
commercial interests in Massachusetts
when it came to proposing a national
seashore. JFK later came aboard as president,
to consider the National Seashore the
best thing he ever did for Massachusetts.
Today’s visitors to Cape Cod come from
around the world to partake of its charm,
marshes, woodlands, beaches and towns
that were saved thanks to the vision of
Congressmen O’Neill and Boland.
A St. Augustine National Park was first
proposed before World War II. The idea is
five years older than President Harry S Truman’s
national health insurance proposal.
And as with national health care, Congress
too often resembles a herd of turtles trying
to write a symphony. It’s somewhat understandable
that our two busy U.S. Senators
(and Representative John Luigi Mica)
haven’t introduced a National Historical
Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway.
Legislation moves glacially, except in emergencies.
We have one now.
Our local economy is in a state of emergency.
Businesses are dying. We’re ready for
Congress to stimulate our economy and
preserve our way of life by enacting a St.
Augustine National Historical Park,
Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway Act,
supported by a diverse group of citizens,
from octogenarian environmental activist
Robin Nadeau to former Republican
County Commission Chairperson John
Sundeman to St. Augustine Democratic
Club Chairperson Jeanne Moeller, among a
growing group of people concerned about
the declining quality of the tourist experience
in St. Johns County.
A National Historical Park would preserve
and protect St. Augustine’s historic
downtown with the dignity and experience
of the National Park Service, just as parts of
Boston, New Bedford, Philadelphia and
other historic cities are preserved. It would
step into the breach left by the Florida legislature,
Secretary of State, University of
Florida and city of St. Augustine, all of
whom have been unable to repair crumbling
buildings and historic monuments. A
national historical park would preserve
downtown streets and reduce congestion,
improving the tourist experience and making
it one that longer-staying (and biggerspending)
historic and environmental
tourists will enjoy.
A national historic park managed by the
National Park Service would portray history
and nature accurately, as done in Virginia’s
Colonial Williamsburg and the
Colonial National Historical Parkway.
There could also be a National Civil Rights
and Indigenous History Museum, aimed at
telling the region’s story of 11,000 years of
human history, honoring Native Americans,
African-Americans and the Civil
Rights movement here, which helped win
adoption of national antidiscrimination
laws in 1964. The struggles on St. Augustine’s
streets and beaches, including the
arrest of Massachusetts Governor Endicott
Peabody’s mother and Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr., need to be retold and told well.
soldiers monument in St. Augustine’s Plaza
de la Constitucion, paying tribute to Civil
Rights Era activists whose efforts helped
break the Senate logjam and enact basic
nondiscrimination laws.
A national seashore and coastal parkway
designation would protect the coast from
uglification, as at other national seashores.
We have 61 miles of coast here, and the
transfer from county to federal jurisdiction
would save local tax monies and make environmental
protection a priority on beaches
where turtles land to give birth, and where
beach mice and other critters scamper.
In September, watch Ken Burns’ PBS
documentary “Our National Parks: America’s
Best Idea.” Think of how uplifting it
will be to be able to drive from Ponte Vedra
to Marineland as a tourist or resident,
secure in the knowledge that the beaches
will survive and not be turned into some
unreasonable facsimile of Miami.
Think of the economic efficiency and
environmental benefits of entrusting city
and county parks, seashore water management
district land and at least five state
parks (including Anastasia and Guana-
Tolomato-Matanzas National Estuarine
Reserve) to one world-class organization
(the National Park Service) to protect, preserve
and interpret, rather than allowing
the land to be ripped apart by greed.
Think of the good jobs that will encourage
young people to stay here, working as
National Park Service employees and contractors.
Think of historic interpreters and
environmental tour guides who are
rewarded with a federal showcase, inviting
the world to a world-class destination.
Let’s enlist Congress and the president
to help us tell our region’s rich history —
including the story of the Indians, African-
American slaves and Minorcan and Greek
indentured servants (who escaped to St.
Augustine from New Smyrna Beach, “voting
with their feet” against slavery by contract.
Indentured servitude was outlawed
along with regular slavery with the 13th
Amendment in 1865.
Think of how our tourist economy will
be stimulated and jobs created and preserved
by preserving the stunning vistas
that draw people here, not uglifying them
with massive high-rises, suburban sprawl
and unsafe homes built in wetlands.
Think of how fourth-graders now and
in the future, from all over Florida, will be
rewarded for their studies of Florida history
by helping preserve “the real Florida” — St.
Augustine and St. Johns County — forever.
It is up to us to learn from the young
and to protect Northeast Florida for families,
flora, fauna and the future. Visit for more information
and let your neighbors and national and
local leaders know what you think. 

Faye Armitage lives in Fruit Cove. In 2008,
she ran against nine-term Congressional
incumbent John Mica, receiving nearly 150,000 votes.

Lift Up Lincolnville Program to be Unveiled

Check out the City of St. Augustine's Lift Up Lincolnville program:

Times-Union: Jacksonville Seeks to Transfer Norman Studios Property to the National Park Service

Jacksonville prepares to transfer historic Norman Studio to federal park system
Source URL:

By Timothy J. Gibbons

For decades, Jacksonville activists have fought to save the old Norman Studio buildings, a connection to the city’s heyday as an epicenter of African-American filmmaking.

Now those dreams are moving a bit closer to reality: The city decided this week to take the first step toward transferring the historic moviemaking site to the National Park Service, a move that will save the almost-century-old site.

In coming days, Mayor John Peyton will ask the City Council to pass legislation that would begin the transfer process, which would eventually allow the federal government to pay for restoring and operating the buildings.

“I almost fainted when I heard,” said Rita Reagan, education outreach director for the Norman Studios Silent Film Museum Inc., a nonprofit that fights to preserve the site. “I’m just ecstatic. This is the highest and best use.”

The transfer won’t happen soon: Having a donation accepted by the Park Service is a long and involved process that will stretch on for at least two years and possibly longer.

The Park Service is interested in the gift, though, said Shauna Allen, its local chief of resource stewardship. Last year, the service did a preliminary survey of the studios and came away with a recommendation for Congress to fund a more in-depth look at the old movie studios.

“It’s a wonderful example of a resource that is significant in history,” Allen said.

The Norman Studios were built for the Eagle Film Studios back in the days when it appeared Jacksonville might become the moviemaking town that Hollywood later became.

Those dreams faded, and in the 1920s, Middleburg businessman Richard Norman bought the facility.

Norman Studios soon became one of the first moviemakers to break the color barrier, filming silent pictures with black crews, writers and casts, including black actors who portrayed cowboys, aviators and heroes.

Throughout the 1920s, Norman made a number of short films and about half-a-dozen feature films, including “The Flying Ace,” the only film from that period known to have survived.

Preserving that history is important, Allen said, not only for its local importance but for where it fits into the national narrative.

“It’s interesting for us in Jacksonville,” she said. “When you put it in the context of what was going on in the country at time, the significance grows.”

Having the federal government take over the site will allow it to be turned into the museum and educational site it should be, Reagan said.

Although the city has spent hundreds of thousands on fixing up the exterior of property on Arlington Road, the inside has not been refurbished — a project neither the city nor the museum group has been able to afford.

Fixing it up will provide an economic benefit as well as an historical one for the Arlington neighborhood where the studio sits.

“We get a tremendous number of people who want to see it,” Reagan said., (904) 359-4103

[5] -81.593597 (6337 Arlington Road, Jacksonville, FL, , us)
[6] Arlington Road&csz=Jacksonville, FL&country=us


NEW ORLEANS — The co-owner of a company whose towboat was involved in a major oil spill that closed part of the Mississippi River for nearly a week was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison.

U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle also ordered Randall Dantin, 46, of Marrero, to pay a $50,000 fine and ordered his company, DRD Towing Company LLC, to pay a $200,000 fine.

Dantin pleaded guilty last year to obstruction of justice for causing electronic payroll sheets to be deleted before the Coast Guard could review them. The company pleaded guilty to operating vessels with unqualified and overworked captains and to negligently discharging oil.

In July 2008, the DRD towboat Mel Oliver was pushing a tanker barge when it collided with a tanker ship. The barge spilled 283,000 gallons of fuel and closed part of the river near New Orleans for six days.

A Coast Guard probe found that John Paul Bavaret II, a sleep-deprived apprentice mate, was at the tug's helm without a captain at his side, a violation of Coast Guard rules.

Bavaret, 41, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a felony violation of the Ports and Waterways Safety Act and a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act. The safety act charge carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison and the clean water act violation is punishable by a maximum of one year in prison. His sentencing is set for April 27.

Ivan Vikin, special agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement program in Louisiana, said DRD Towing has a history of operating undermanned vessels with unqualified workers.

"These sentences demonstrate our commitment to hold accountable those violators who damage the environment and, at the same time, endanger their workers by placing them in harm's way," he said in a statement.




*Cross references: Buildings and building regulations, Ch. 8; licenses, taxation and miscellaneous business regulations, Ch. 17; subdivisions, Ch. 23.
State law references: Fair Housing Act, F.S. § 760.20 et seq.


Sec. 16-26. Declaration of policy.
It is hereby declared to be the policy of the city in the exercise of its police power for the public safety, public health and general welfare, to assure equal opportunity to obtain adequate housing by all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, sex, place of birth, handicap, familial status or national origin, and, to that end, to eliminate discrimination in housing.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-16; Ord. No. 95-13, § 1, 3-13-95)

Sec. 16-27. Definitions.
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this article, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:
Discriminatory housing practice means an act that is unlawful under sections 16-29, 16-30 or 16-31.
Dwelling means any building, structure or portion thereof which is occupied as, or designated or intended for occupancy as, a residence by one (1) or more families, and any vacant land which is offered for sale or lease for the construction or location thereon of any such building, structure or portion thereof.
Family includes a single individual.
Handicap means that a person has a physical impairment which substantially limits one (1) or more major life activities or that he has a record of having, or is regarded as having, such physical impairment.
Person includes one (1) or more individuals, corporations, partnerships, associations, labor organizations, legal representatives, mutual companies, joint-stock companies, trusts, unincorporated organizations, trustees, trustees in bankruptcy, receivers and fiduciaries.
To rent includes to lease, to sublease, to let and otherwise to grant for a consideration the right to occupy premises not owned by the occupant.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-17)
Cross references: Definitions and rules of construction generally, § 1-2.

Sec. 16-28. Exemptions.
(a) Nothing in section 16-29 (other than subsection (b)) shall apply to:
(1) Any single-family house sold or rented by an owner provided that such private individual owner does not own more than three (3) such single-family houses at any one (1) time; provided further, that in the case of the sale of any such single-family house by a private individual owner not residing in such house at the time of such sale or who was not the most recent resident of such house prior to such sale, the exemption granted by this subsection shall apply only with respect to one (1) such sale within any twenty-four-month period; provided further, that such bona fide private individual owner does not own any interest in, nor is there owned or reserved on his behalf, under any express or voluntary agreement, title to any right to all or a portion of the proceeds from the sale or rental of more than three (3) such single-family houses at any one (1) time; provided further, that after December 12, 1983, the sale or rental of any such single-family house shall be excepted from the application of this article only if such house is sold or rented:
a. Without the use of any manner of sales or rental facilities or the sales or rental services of any real estate broker, agent or salesman, or of such facilities or services of any person in the business of selling or renting dwellings, or of any employee or agent of any such broker, agent, salesman or person; and
b. Without the publication, posting or mailing, after notice, of any advertisement or written notice in violation of section 16-29(3);
but nothing in these provisions shall prohibit the use of attorneys, escrow agents, abstractors, title companies, and other such professional assistance as necessary to perfect or transfer the title; or
(2) Rooms or units in dwellings containing living quarters occupied or intended to be occupied by no more than four (4) families living independently of each other, if the owner actually maintains and occupies one (1) of such living quarters as his residence.
(b) For the purposes of subsection (a), a person shall be deemed to be in the business of selling or renting dwellings if:
(1) He has, within the preceding twelve (12) months, participated as principal in three (3) or more transactions involving the sale or rental of any dwelling or any interest therein; or
(2) He has, within the preceding twelve (12) months, participated as agent, other than in the sale of his personal residence, in providing sales or rental facilities or sales or rental services in two (2) or more transactions involving the sale or rental of any dwelling or any interest therein; or
(3) He is the owner of any dwelling designed or intended for occupancy by, or occupied by, five (5) or more families.
(c) Nothing in this article shall prohibit a religious organization, association or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association or society, from limiting the sale, rental or occupancy of dwellings which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose to persons of the same religion, or from giving preference to such persons, unless membership in such religion is restricted on account of race, color, sex, familial status or national origin; nor shall anything in this article prohibit a private club not in fact open to the public, which as an incident to its primary purpose or purposes provides lodgings from which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose, from limiting the rental or occupancy of such lodgings to its members or from giving preference to its members.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-18; Ord. No. 95-13, § 2, 3-13-95)

Sec. 16-29. Discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.
As made applicable by section 16-28, and except as exempted by sections 16-28(a) and 16-32, it shall be unlawful:
(1) To refuse to sell or rent after the making of a bona fide offer, or to refuse to negotiate for the sale or rental of or otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap.
(2) To discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling or in provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap.
(3) To make, print or publish, or cause to be made, printed or published, any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation or discrimination.
(4) To represent to any person because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap that any dwelling is not available for inspection, sale or rental when such dwelling is in fact so available.
(5) For profit, to induce or attempt to induce any person to sell or rent any dwelling by representations regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons of a particular race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-19; Ord. No. 95-13, § 3, 3-13-95)

Sec. 16-30. Discrimination in the financing of housing.
It shall be unlawful for any bank, building and loan association, insurance company or other corporation, association, firm or enterprise whose business consists in whole or in part in the making of commercial real estate loans to deny a loan or other financial assistance to a person applying therefor for the purpose of purchasing, constructing, improving, repairing or maintaining a dwelling; or to discriminate against him in the fixing of the amount, interest rate, duration, or other terms or conditions of such loan or other financial assistance because of the race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap of such person or of any person associated with him in connection with such loan or other financial assistance, or of the present or prospective owners, lessees, tenants or occupants of the dwelling or dwellings in relation to which such loan or other financial assistance is to be made or given; provided, that nothing contained in this section shall impair the scope or effectiveness of the exception contained in section 16-28.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-20; Ord. No. 95-13, § 4, 3-13-95)

Sec. 16-31. Discrimination in the provision of brokerage services.
It shall be unlawful to deny any person access to or membership or participation in any multiple-listing service, real estate brokers' organization, or other service, organization or facility relating to the business of selling or renting dwellings, or to discriminate against him in the terms or conditions of such access, membership or participation on account of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-21; Ord. No. 95-13, § 5, 3-13-95)

Sec. 16-32. Administration.
(a) The authority and responsibility for administering this article shall be with the city commission.
(b) The city commission may delegate its functions, duties and powers to an appointed board, including functions, duties and powers with respect to investigating, conciliating, hearing, determining, ordering, certifying, reporting or otherwise acting as to any work, business or matter under this article.
(c) The city commission or its appointed board shall:
(1) Implement the provisions of this article and rules and regulations promulgated hereunder and all ordinances, codes, rules and regulations pertaining to housing discrimination.
(2) Receive, initiate and investigate any and all complaints alleging violations of this article and take appropriate action to eliminate, conciliate, prevent and/or initiate prosecution of any such violations.
(3) Provide assistance in all matters relating to equal housing opportunity.
(4) Publish and disseminate public information and educational materials relating to housing discrimination.
(5) Enter into written working agreements, as may be necessary to effectuate the purposes of this article with federal, state and county agencies involved in reducing housing discrimination.
(6) Administer oaths and compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence before it by subpoenas issued by the mayor or chairman of its appointed board.
(7) Take other informational, educational or persuasive actions to implement the purposes of this article.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-22)

Sec. 16-33. Procedure.
(a) Any person aggrieved by an unlawful practice prohibited by this article must file a written complaint with the city commission or its appointed board within forty-five (45) days after the alleged unlawful practice occurs.
(b) Upon receipt of a complaint, the city commission or its appointed board shall serve upon the individual charged with a violation (hereinafter referred to as the respondent), the complaint and a written resume setting forth the rights of the parties, including but not limited to the right of the respondent to a hearing on the matter before adjudication by the city commission or its appointed board.
(c) The city commission or its appointed board shall immediately investigate the complaint. Within sixty (60) days from the date of the receipt of the complaint, the city commission or its appointed board shall establish written report with findings of fact.
(d) Copies of the city commission or its appointed board's report shall be sent to the complainant and the respondent. Either way, within ten (10) days after such service, request a hearing before the city commission.
(e) When the complainant or the respondent requests a hearing by the city commission or its appointed board, or when the commission or its appointed board itself determines that a hearing is desirable, the commission or its appointed board shall call and conduct such hearing in accordance with subsection (i) below.
(f) The city commission or its appointed board shall carry into execution the actions specified in its report or, if a hearing is held, shall carry into execution the actions determined upon by the commission or its appointed board in the hearing.
(g) The city commission or its appointed board in its review or its hearing may determine:
(1) That the complaint lacks ground upon which to base action for violation of this article; or
(2) That the complaint has been adequately dealt with by conciliation of the parties; or
(3) That the case warrants filing charges against the offending party in the appropriate court.
In some cases both conciliation and adjudicative orders, or both adjudicative orders and initiation of court action may be indicated.
(h) If the city commission or its appointed board issues an adjudicative order to correct, adjust, conciliate, prevent or prohibit any unlawful act prohibited by this article, and the respondent refuses or fails to comply with or obey such adjudication, the commission or its appointed board shall forthwith request that the state attorney file a complaint in the appropriate court. The city commission or its appointed board shall, at all times, provide the complainant with full and timely information as to all the alternatives available to him under local, state and federal law, including assistance to initiate judicial action if desired under the circumstances.
(i) The provisions of rule 1.090, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, shall govern the computation of any period of time prescribed by this article.
(j) All papers or pleadings required by this article to be served may be served by certified mail or in accordance with the provisions of rule 1.080(b), Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-23)

Sec. 16-34. Hearings before the city commission.
(a) When a hearing is required before the commission or its appointed board, as specified in section 16-33(e) above, the commission or its appointed board shall schedule the hearing and serve upon all interested parties a notice of time and place of the hearing. The hearing shall be held promptly, but not less than fifteen (15) days after service of such notice and of the commission or its appointed board's written report (section 16-33(d) above).
(b) The parties, or their authorized counsel, may file such statements with the city commission or its appointed board, prior to the hearing date, as they deem necessary in support of their positions. The parties may appear before the commission or its appointed board in person or by duly constituted representative and may have the assistance of attorneys. The parties may present testimony and evidence, and the right to cross-examine witnesses shall be preserved. All testimony shall be given under oath or by affirmation. The commission or its appointed board shall not be bound by strict rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law or equity, but due process shall be observed. The commission or its appointed board shall keep a full record of the hearing, which records shall be public and open to inspection by any person; and upon request by any principal party to the proceedings, the commission or its appointed board shall furnish such party a copy of the hearing record at cost. The constitutional rights of the respondent not to incriminate himself shall be scrupulously observed.
(c) The city commission or its appointed board shall make a finding of fact, and a determination of action to be taken (section 16-33(g) above).
(d) The city commission or its appointed board may issue subpoenas to compel access to or the production or appearance of premises, records, documents, individuals, and other evidence or possible sources of evidence relative to the complaint at issue.
(e) Upon written application to the city commission or its appointed board, a respondent shall be entitled to the issuance of a reasonable number of subpoenas by and in the name of the commission or to the same extent and subject to the same limitations as subpoenas issued by the commission or its appointed board itself. Subpoenas issued at the request of a respondent shall show on their face the name and address of such respondent and shall state that they were issued at his request.
(f) Witnesses summoned by subpoena of the city commission or its appointed board shall be entitled to the same witness and mileage fees as are witnesses in proceedings in the state courts. Fees payable to a witness summoned by a subpoena issued at the request of a respondent shall be paid by him unless he is indigent, in which case the city shall bear the cost of the fees.
(g) Within ten (10) days after service of a subpoena upon any person, such person may petition the city commission or its appointed board to revoke or modify the subpoena. The commission or its appointed board shall grant the petition if it finds that the subpoena requires appearance or attendance at an unreasonable time or place, that it requires production of evidence which does not relate to any matter under investigation, that it does not describe with sufficient particularity the evidence to be produced, that compliance would be unduly onerous, or for other good reason.
(h) In case of refusal to obey a subpoena, the city commission or its appointed board or the person at whose request it was issued may petition for its enforcement in the appropriate court.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-24)

Sec. 16-35. Other remedies.
Nothing in this article shall prevent any person from exercising any right or seeking any remedy to which he might otherwise be entitled, or from filing of any complaint with any other agency or any court having jurisdiction.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-25)

Sec. 16-36. Report to real estate commission.
If a real estate broker, a real estate salesman, or an employee thereof has been found to have committed an unlawful practice in violation of this article, or has failed to comply with an order issued by the city commission or its appointed board, the commission or its appointed board shall, in addition to the other procedures set forth herein, report the facts to the state real estate commission.
(Code 1964, § 8 3/4-26)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joy cometh in the morning, the scripture says

Joy cometh in the morning, the scripture says.

And there is good cause for joy this morning.

John F. Kennedy was sworn in as President 50 years ago today,working with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to protect human rights.

Barack Obama was sworn in as President two years ago today. He's doing an outstanding job as President.

Two years ago today, St. Augustinians celebrated the swearing in of our First African-American President in our Slave Market Square (a/k/a Plaza de la Constitucion), watching the inauguration on large projection televisions. What a wonderful day it was.

One thousand people packed the Square, as two solitary KKK protesters at the northeast edge of the square drew the attention only of biased reporter Jessica Clarke (from First Coast News) -- the three were the only unhappy faces that day on the Square.

Two years ago today,St. Augustinians celebrated at the Excelsior School, a museum that once housed a Jim Crow segregated African-American school.

There is much work to be done to continue the journey we began in 1776.

So roll up your sleeves, confident that human progress continues.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

St. Augustine Record: City needs bicycle friendliness

Our view: City lacks bicycle friendliness
Posted: January 19, 2011 - 12:00am

One would think that St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city with a slower pace than larger cities, would be one of Florida's most bicycle friendly communities. If all that bicyclists are looking for are leisure rides in quaint neighborhoods amid slower traffic, then it is. But if bicyclists want paths to carry them through the city itself and beyond, well, good luck.

And if bicyclists are also looking for trailheads -- rest areas for cyclists and pedestrians -- St. Augustine doesn't have them either. The closest is at Vilano Beach.

St. Augustine City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline is on the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization's governing board. She was surprised at the lack of St. Augustine facilities and paths as she reviewed countywide transportation maps and the state's transportation project priority lists.

"There's this gaping hole -- no real trails through St. Augustine," she said with astonishment.

That's hard to believe when we see so many bicyclists inside the city limits on the mainland or Anastasia Island. But, we also did not see paths, route signs or trailheads either. We saw bike racks in the Plaza de la Constitucion that have been there for decades, signs pointing to public restrooms downtown and parts of bicycle paths on state highways inside the city limits.

Sikes-Kline has the support of the TPO and on Saturday, a consulting firm will be in St. Augustine to hear local views at two locations. What people, cyclists or not, have to say to the consultant, will weigh on a forthcoming plan.

To get started, go to the TPO's website at Look under "Help identify bicycling routes in St. Augustine." Saturday's meetings are at the farmers market at the Amphitheatre, 9 a.m. until noon, and at the picnic area adjacent to the city's parking garage entrance, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., by Swing Park.

Come prepared. Download the TPO's bicycle plan input form and a bicycle base map and bring them with you. You can also send them in to the DOT if you can't make the meetings. It's important to get your views on the record.

For example, the state's 2060 Transportation Plan lacks specifics for bicycle strategies. That was a disappointment to Jeff Holhstein of the Florida Bicycle Association First Coast Chapter and Mark Loeb of the Urban Land Institute. The state Department of Transportation responded to their comments last October by saying that bicycle trip strategies are seen as goal areas in the plan's sections on community livability, environmental stewardship, safety, security and connectivity. But what Holhstein and Loeb found were only only four references in the plan of which three were definitions. The state DOT also said that it welcomes suggestions on how to make bicycle strategies part of 2060's plan implementation, another opportunity for your input. Take that as your cue.

For now, help fill St. Augustine's need for a bicycle trail plan for the future. It's time to be a problem solver; St. Augustine's bicycle friendliness is at stake.

St. Augustine Record: Civil rights legacy needs greater visibility

Our view: City's civil rights history gains more visibility

The civil rights legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in St. Augustine is gaining more visibility. It should because the city played a pivotal role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.

King marched in St. Augustine and preached his message of equality for all in Lincolnville churches in the final days leading up to the June 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act by Congress. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law July 2. St. Augustine's role is validated by Ambassador Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor and a key member of King's inner circle. He says St. Augustine was the last staging ground that led to the Civil Rights Act passage. That's a key point in our history, too.

If 1963-64 were pivotal years in the civil rights movement, 2010 elevated the city's civil rights history when the Florida Cabinet pardoned the St. Augustine demonstrators who were arrested in that era. Many of those still living, including Dr. Robert B. Hayling, the father of civil rights in St. Augustine, were present for that Cabinet action in December.

The 40th ACCORD Freedom Trail presented by Northrop Grumman Corp. is complete. For years, historian David Nolan lamented the lack of visible recognition of the painful civil rights era and overall black history in St. Augustine and St. Johns County. Now there are 31 markers; 30 sponsored by Northrop Grumman and one by Beth Levenbach, ACCORD member from Lansdowne, Pa.

The city of St. Augustine is moving on a rehabilitation project for Lincolnville including new sidewalks and infrastructure. Plans are becoming reality for rehabbing Riberia Street, which leads from King Street into Lincolnville.

First America Foundation, Inc., the organization charged with planning and putting on the major events of the city's 450th birthday celebration, 2012-2015, has designated 2014 to honor the 50th anniversary of St. Augustine's role in the civil rights movement.

Flagler College will soon launch over the Internet the digital archive of the interviews done for the Andrew Young Foundation's production of Crossing in St. Augustine, the story of the city's role in the movement. The archive was donated to the college by Young. Parts of the archive will begin to be posted on Web in February, Black History Month, said college officials.

Fort Mose State Park continues to welcome visitors and recognize the nation's first free black town established in the 1730s as the city's northern defense line.

Excelsior Cultural Center and Museum thrives in the former Excelsior School in Lincolnville, a tribute to the tenacity of the Friends of Excelsior to tell the story of that community.

St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church celebrates its centennial in February. Rehabilitation of its former school building is under way thanks to Friends of St. Benedict the Moor, another tenacious citizens group, and the Diocese of St. Augustine.

The former Echo House, an education center inspired by the late community leader Rosalie Gordon Mills, is working toward becoming an educational center sponsored by St. Paul AME Church and grounded in a community wide effort.

Alumni and friends of Florida Memorial University -- relocated to Miami in the late 1960s -- rehabilitated the Lewis Memorial Arch and saved it from further disrepair. Now located at Collier-Blocker-Puryear Park on West King Street and Holmes Boulevard, the arch is a tribute to the longtime black college. Many educators from around the state earned their teaching degrees from Florida Memorial from the early 1900s into the 1960s on the West Augustine campus.

Considering the city's significant civil rights history, Mayor Joe Boles has organized a committee to explore the feasibility of a civil rights museum.

There's great potential for more projects to illuminate St. Augustine's black history. The good news is that with support already shown throughout St. Augustine and St. Johns County, not just within Lincolnville or the black community, King's message of working together is being heard.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

St. Augustine Record: Sandra Parks on stopping government funds to private schools with "vouchers"

Guest column: Stop funding private schools with state vouchers
Posted: January 16, 2011 - 12:00am


On Tuesday, Jan. 18, the Florida Board of Education will meet in Pensacola to hear appeals from 35 counties regarding $43 million in fines for failure to comply with the class-size amendment. While St. Johns County schools comply with class-size requirements, the same policies that prevent other school districts from meeting this unfunded voter mandate also limits the quality of education in our county.

In 1997 Florida ranked 29th nationally in state funding for education. Then, about 60 percent of school funding came from the state, largely from sales taxes paid by all Floridians and our visitors.

Today Florida is among the lowest states in the country in public education funding. Only 38.5 percent comes from the state with 54 percent paid by local taxes.

For the last decade the Legislature has shifted the cost of public education from widely-distributed state revenue to local property taxpayers. When the public referendum rolled back property taxes and the housing market collapsed, local school districts were thrown into a financial crisis that made it impossible for many counties to comply with unfunded mandates.

Since 2002, while cutting state funding or failing to keep pace with the growing costs of public education, the Florida Legislature authorized more than $500 million to fund Corporate Tax Credit vouchers to send students to private schools, 85 percent of which are religious schools. For the 2010-2011 school year alone, up to $140 million of diverted tax money is awarded to private schools with no public accountability, no FCAT, no requirement for accreditation or teacher certification.

Although St. Johns County has no failing schools, 144 local students K-12 attend private schools on CTC vouchers. Step Up for Students, the organization that administers CTC, reports that only five percent of these students would attend private schools without the vouchers. Using that estimate St. Johns County schools lost more than $930,000 in state revenue -- the $6,843 per student that St. Johns County would receive if those 137 students attended public schools.

Florida citizens must evaluate how these funding policies affect the quality of the education that our students receive. Gov. Rick Scott proposes yet more privatizing of Florida education. Most of our local legislators have supported these policies, including Rep. Bill Proctor and Sen. John Thrasher, two of the most influential legislative leaders in education policy.

The Legislature has a "paramount" constitutional responsibility to fund a public education system, including implementation of the class-size amendment. Yet it consistently relies more on local taxpayers to fund public schools and instead gives more than $100 million each year to schools with no public transparency or accountability. Is this trend in public education funding what we want our legislative delegation to pursue?


Sandra Parks is an author and former St. Augustine City Commissioner. She was educated in St. Johns County public schools and holds degrees from Florida Southern College, the University of South Florida, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

St. Petersburg Times: Eric Deggans calling upon CNN and other media to STOP giving homophobes free air time, publicity and other valuable prizes

My Thoughts on MLK Day: When Will News Media Stop Enabling Anti-Gay Activists?

The holiday celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth is always an occasion to think about issues of equality in American society.

So this morning, I find myself thinking about CNN and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

GLAAD, the activist group which advocates for equal treatment of gay people, released a petition earlier this month demanding CNN stop giving airtime during stories and debates on gay issues to experts whose only qualification is that they are opposed to homosexuality.

The group cites the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg as an example of what they call the "anti-gay industry," a network of pundits whose primary goal is advancing the notion that gay people don't deserve the same rights as other Americans. By pairing them with people who have actual expertise when discussing issues such as the military's don't ask, don't tell policy, GLAAD says, CNN is elevating their hurtful rhetoric.

This idea brings up an important question when considering press coverage of such issues: When does a news organization exclude the haters?

Put another way, when should news organizations conclude that purely anti-gay sentiment is prejudice that they should no longer support?

Back in Dr. King's time, when debates over issues of civil rights were covered by the media, they also dutifully included those who favored segregation or denying black people the vote or banning interracial marriage. But eventually, the news media concluded that such views were prejudiced and stopped presenting them as equal arguments -- reasoning that treating racists like equal participants in such debates only granted them a power they should not have.

So when will media take similar action with anti-gay activists?

It seems a simple question. Either there's an open question about whether being gay is harmful or hurtful -- and no reputable psychologist or mental health professional says there is -- or there isn't. And if the act of being gay isn't harmful, then why are otherwise reputable news organizations giving voice to people whose only expertise is their continued resistance to the mainstream acceptance of homosexuals?

CNN doesn't bring on a member of the Ku Klux Klan for expert commentary when talking about the status of Black people in America. So why are they bringing on people from groups opposed to gay rights to debate gay rights issues? (Here's an essay I wrote seven years ago about why gay rights is the new civil rights struggle.)

Don't get me wrong; if there's someone with actual expertise on the other side of an issue -- say, a military commander who opposes the end of don't ask, don't tell -- interviewing that person makes sense. But I agree with GLAAD when they say that bringing in anti-gay activists simply reinforces the notion that the debate over the appropriateness of gay sexual orientation is still an open question.

And given the fact that homosexuality is legal, not classified as a mental illness or sexual dysfunction, and gay people are allowed to do things like marry and adopt kids in many states, I would say that question is pretty much answered.

Of course, I know why they won't do such a thing. Despite the logic of the situation, lots of people still oppose gay rights; which means such a decision could produce a serious backlash and may feel like taking a side during a still-contentious issue.

Still, perhaps CNN -- and other media outlets worldwide -- could consider honoring Dr. King today by changing its policies. Because, as I think about the history of America's civil rights struggles, I'm reminded of all the newspapers which had to apologize for how they gave into prejudice and racism while covering Dr. King's work more than 40 years ago.

CNN could avoid a similar apology by acting now. Maybe, just once, we could learn from our worst history instead of repeating it.

To read more of my thoughts on TV, media and society, see my blog, The Feed, by clicking here.

Gainesville Sun: University of Florida Found to Have Violated Open Records Law

January 14th, 2011 01:35pm
UF ordered to release student government records

by Nathan Crabbe

An Alachua County circuit court has ordered the University of Florida to release student government meeting records.

UF graduate Frank Bracco had sued the university for failing to make make records of Student Senate meetings public. He claimed UF was violating the state’s public records law, while the university argued that it was barred from releasing the records under federal student privacy law.

Acting 8th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Victor Hulslander ruled this week in favor of Bracco’s argument. Bracco said he hopes the ruling clears up confusion on the issue.

The university’s argument would have allowed it to keep records private of any committee that includes a student and even the Board of Trustees, he said.

“It’s a slippery slope argument,” he said.

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said the university supports transparency in Student Senate meetings, and is reviewing the decision along with its obligations under federal privacy law.

Herald-Tribune: UF Accused of Violating Open Records Laws With "Tobacco Science" Report on Fertilizer Runoff

LYONS: Is secret fertilizer report 'tobacco science'?

By Tom Lyons

Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 3, 2011 at 5:56 p.m.

Rainy-season fertilizer bans are supposed to reduce runoff pollution from Florida lawns into wetlands, lakes, bays and other waterways.
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The fertilizer industry hates those bans, of course.

And that industry, as the Herald-Tribune reported, has funded research with surprising results. Results that some lawmakers are touting as they fight the seasonal bans.

Turns out -- or so the University of Florida study concludes -- that seasonal bans actually increase fertilizer pollution.


Me, too. But the theory is that seasonal bans inspire homeowners to pile on the fertilizer the rest of the year, causing even more runoff.

Well, maybe. But Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton hit it on the head when he told a reporter his thoughts about the industry-funded study.

"It's tobacco science," he said.

He referred, of course, to all those years when scientists funded by tobacco companies looked and looked and looked, but couldn't find any health risks associated with smoking.

In the early 1970s I spent a spring and summer doing farm labor on research crops for University of Florida agriculture professors. No review team contacted me to check on a researcher's methods or honesty. But I could have verified that long rows of carefully tagged corn plants had been pollinated by hand, and plots of wheat, rye and oats had been tagged and notes carefully taken when it was harvested with a hand scythe, and so on. All seemed up and up.

And yet, had I tried later to see what peer reviewers wrote in pre-publication assessments of a researcher's findings on, say, corn blight resistance, I would have been surprised. The reviewers' words -- critical or otherwise -- would have been off limits.

I thought publishing scientific findings was about revealing all, to show that everything is on the level. Not quite, it seems. And not in the case of that surprising fertilizer study. As the Herald-Tribune story revealed, peer review documents on UF's industry-funded research on seasonal lawn-fertilizer bans have not been released, and won't be, despite a reporter's formal public records request.

Did the eight researchers impress other academics assigned to check their work, or did reviewers rip them and point out gaping holes in their methodology? Did reviewers laud the surprising findings, or see signs of cherry picking data to support a desired outcome?

The assessments are a total secret. We can't even judge whether the reviewers themselves were cherry picked. They haven't been identified. Peer review, it turns out, is done anonymously as well as privately.

That helps reviewers be frank, no doubt. But who cares, if we have no idea what they said or whether they were heeded?

Surely Florida's open records law should apply. It is not as if the study's authors were doing dry academic work with no thought of influencing policy and politics. They hawked their conclusion to lawmakers, saying it "should be of intense interest to those interested in developing ordinances for preventing nutrient pollution."

Step right up and buy a bottle. No need to check the ingredients. It's all scientific.

Tom Lyons can be contacted at or (941) 361-4964.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Controversial study says fertilizer bans are harmful


Published: Monday, January 3, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 10:20 p.m.

University of Florida researcher George Hochmuth is sick of defending his research, which is at the heart of a simmering battle over how much fertilizer people can put on their lawns during the rainy summer months.
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"I think it's unfair and unprofessional to be charging good scientists who have their heart in the right place," says Hochmuth, an environmental science professor. "The science is almost being held hostage."

Hochmuth and a team of seven researchers at UF's Institute for Food and Agricultural Studies have been lambasted by environmentalist groups and other scientists for their study that suggests banning fertilizers in the rainy season does more harm than good in the effort to keep pollutants out of waterways.

Titled "Unintended Consequences Associated with Certain Urban Fertilizer Ordinance," the study was published in March 2009 amid virulent debate at the Capitol -- and at the request of industry lobbyists.

Though critics have been loud in their indictment of the study, which the institute acknowledges was funded by the fertilizer industry, it has been used at government meetings statewide to slow regulation.

Now Sarasota County, which in 2007 enacted the first strict fertilizer ordinance in Florida, has taken aim at the IFAS study.

"It's tobacco science," said County Commissioner Jon Thaxton, who is leading the way at the county to compel researchers to release documents associated with the study.

"At best, it's an unsubstantiated opinion piece, but that's not what they're using it for," claims Thaxton, who in 2007 was appointed to Gov. Charlie Crist's Florida Consumer Fertilizer Task Force to provide recommendations to the state.

"They're using it and calling it science and taking it to Tallahassee to write laws with."

Since Sarasota passed its fertilizer restrictions, 40 other cities and counties in Florida have passed similar ordinances. At the same time, legislators have tried but failed to pass a law that would pre-empt the local ordinances and weaken the restrictions on fertilizer use.

Such legislation is certain to be introduced again this year when legislators meet in March, said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton.

"I can assure you there will be a war," said Bennett, who co-sponsored a bill last year that would have pre-empted local regulation of certain kinds of fertilizers. The bill ultimately was not approved by legislators.

As Bennett acknowledges, his stance will depend on what he hears from the experts on the subject, namely researchers at IFAS.

Access denied

Like several experts interviewed, Thaxton has been a long-time supporter of IFAS and, as a county commissioner, advocated to retain funding for an extension researcher here.

But the fertilizer study, he says, could mean sweeping changes in state environmental policy, and should be placed under a microscope.

"If there's something wrong with my ordinance, we need to see the data," Thaxton said, "so I can change my ordinance."

But UF and IFAS denied an open records request from the county to release pre-publication reviews of the study by independent scientists. A subsequent analysis by County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh concluded the school did not have grounds to deny the request for such peer reviews.

An identical request made earlier by the local chapter of the Sierra Club was also denied, as was a similar request by the Herald-Tribune.

"The scientific review process is confidential," said Jack Payne, a UF senior vice president and director of IFAS. "You have colleagues criticizing colleagues. If you put the names of reviewers in the public, you open them up to criticism."

Payne emphatically defends the study as hard science.

But last month, after the Herald-Tribune made calls to researchers, IFAS removed the study from its website.

When asked why the institute would unpublish a study it views as scientifically sound, Payne said, "Maybe that wasn't the best strategy."

This is the first time the institute has ever unpublished a study because of criticism, Payne said.

"I'm pulling it only because the paper that's going to replace it is even stronger," Payne said, referring to a new study that is expected this year. "I am trying to show our critics that I'm listening to them."

Critics abound

That residents might overload their lawns with fertilizer before the start of a summer ban was one of the paper's main points.

Such "unintended consequences" could increase fertilizer pollution in local waters, IFAS has told local governments statewide, and could escalate concerns of red tide and algae bloom off Florida's coast.

Hochmuth says his team denies allegations that he has lobbied alongside the turfgrass industry.

"We're not trying to badmouth blackouts," he said.

IFAS's opposition to summertime fertilizer blackouts was sparked by Sarasota County's 2007 ordinance, said Jack Merriam, water resources manager with the county.

"In Gainesville, they have been somewhere between hostile to local government fertilizer regulation, to at least critical," Merriam said. "I personally have never really understood why."

Sarasota County is specifically mentioned in the study as a potential area of concern.

To date, Merriam says, Sarasota County has not experienced any negative effects mentioned in the study.

"I have characterized it as a kind of indictment by innuendo," Merriam said. "I have to assume that there is not adequate science to it."

Mike Holsinger, a local environmental science consultant who worked for 19 years at the Sarasota IFAS extension office, calls the fertilizer study "disheartening."

"The whole gist of the publication appears, to me, to be to please the turfgrass industry or something," said Holsinger, who has done contract work for the Sierra Club.

With the next legislative session set to start in two months, the debate over the local fertilizer ordinances -- and Hochmuth's research -- is heating up again.

"We know that some of the ordinances are bad," said Bennett, who has not decided if he will introduce a new fertilizer bill in the spring.

Bennett said he has not read the IFAS study, but was surprised to hear the institute had unpublished it.

"Why would you pull it if you defend the science behind it?" Bennett asked.

Thaxton says it was about time IFAS removed it.

"You just don't get to say something without ultimately having to defend your methodology," he said. "If they are going to use this in Tallahassee, I'm going to be bold and say it's not worth the paper it's written on."

Gainesville Sun: UF researchers accused of junk science on fertilizer runoff study

anuary 3rd, 2011 03:31pm
UF researchers take heat for fertilizer study

by Nathan Crabbe

University of Florida researchers are under fire for a study critical of policies banning fertilizers in the rainy season.

Sarasota County and 40 other municipalities in the state have passed such policies. UF researchers have been lambasted for their fertilizer industry-funded study that suggests the bans do more harm than good in keeping pollutants out of waterways, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

“It’s tobacco science,” Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton told the paper. “At best, it’s an unsubstantiated opinion piece, but that’s not what they’re using it for.”

The study has been used at government meetings statewide to slow regulation, according to the paper. UF environmental science professor George Hochmuth, a member of the UF Institute for Food and Agricultural Studies research team that conducted the study, defended the research.

“I think it’s unfair and unprofessional to be charging good scientists who have their heart in the right place,” he told the paper. “The science is almost being held hostage.”

State lawmakers tried but failed to pass a law last year to pre-empt local ordinances and weaken restrictions on fertilizer use. The legislation is expected to be introduced again. In the meantime, Thaxton is trying to compel researchers to release documents associated with the study.