Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tea Party Members to Question Sheriff DAVID SHOAR About $27 million radio deal

In St. Augustine at the Village Inn tonight at 6 PM, Tea Party members are expected to grill Sheriff DAVID SHOAR about his $27,000,000 radio deal. It's our money.

See below.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kudos to St. Augustine Record, Jennifer Edwards, Pete Ellis and MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS for Sheriff's $27 Million Radio Story

Jennifer Edwards' outstanding investigative article (below) on Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's $27 million radio proposal was the lead article in the St. Augustine Record on Easter Sunday.

In Ireland during Easter week 1916, Irish patriots rose up against British oppressors. Here in St. Augustine 94 years later, nearly four dozen reader comments appeared below the article about the Sheriff's $27 million radio plan (click above), which may be a record at the Record.

Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, Greens, Tea Party and Coffee Party people all agree on at least three things -- governments too often waste money and they too often violate human and civil rights and allow damage to wildlife and our environment.

Reformers are empowered in our County and City, and there are now elected officials who actually listen to the people (instead of just the powerful). It gets better.

That's why America's Founders equipped our Constitution with the First Amendment, protecting the rights of the press and of the people to petition for a redress of grievances.

Last year, I saw and heard our County Administrator's budget presentation at World Golf Village, including slide(s) about the $27 million "FCC mandate." Now, thanks to Jennifer Edwards' prize-worthy reporting, it turns out that this "FCC mandate" may be a canard, as her outstanding article on the $27 million radio deal suggests.

As the late United States Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen (R-Illinois) famously said, "a billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money."

Here, we're talking about $500 per household in St. Johns County -- that's real money in this tough economy.

In the spirit of Senator Dirksen, we must review all government expenditures with a gimlet eye, and this one is no exception. It appears that FCC requirements can be met without spending $27 million, and that the County Sheriff and County Administrator have conflated the FCC requirements with their subjective preferences -- the governmental equivalent of, "but all the other kids have one, dad."

Radio equipment is sold by oligopolists, like Motorola. Oligopolists lack meaningful competition and have the market power to charge high prices.

Our local governments, like our Pentagon, need to knock off the "impulse buying" -- just because an oligopolist with powerful lobbyists and persuasive sales techniques wants you to buy something, you don't have to buy it.

It's our money.

Governments have often too often jumped at the chance to buy high-priced flubdubs from oligopolists.

Here in St. Augustine and St. Johns County, things are getting better. In particular, citizen activists persuaded our Anastasia Mosquito Control District in 2007 to reverse its ill-advised 2006 vote to purchase a no-bid $1.8 million Textron Bell Long Ranger Jet Helicopter. We overcame false AMCD findings that the no-bid purchase was somehow "sole source." Activists were even threatened with arrest by the Mosquito Control District's controversial then-Chair Barbara Bosanko, who called Sheriff's deputies to chill First Amendment rights.

It gets better.

In fact, I would argue that the purchase and cancellation of the helicopter was one of the best things to happen in St. Johns County, because it focused public attention on government waste.

Thankfully, it appears that Morris Communications has heard and in part heeded the concerns local activists expressed in seeking intervention in the MORRIS PUBLISHING bankruptcy case.

Thank you, Jennifer and Pete for a job well done!

By the way, over on the putative "news" website of the Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's political operative, MICHAEL GOLD f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN," there's no indication that the $27 million radio scandal story ever happened. www.historiccity.com

Nor is there any mention of the controversy on MICHAEL GOLD's noisome hate website, www.shamefulpeople.com, See also www.michaelgoldexposed.t15.org

Wonder why?


GOLD is not defending the $27 million radio deal today.

He is apparently exercising his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Of course, controversial MICHAEL GOLD's "Historic City News" is, like a skimpy bikini, no cover for his hateful views.

Former DAVID SHOAR campaign manager and failed City Commission candidate MICHAEL
GOLD prints regular columns from Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, former County Commissioner BRUCE MAGUIRE, and even a column from the "League of the South," which the Southern Poverty Law Center has termed a racist, neo-Confederate hate group that wants Florida to secede from the Union (and defends slavery).

December 30, 2010 HISTORIC CITY NEWS column calling for Secession and Defending Slavery: http://www.historiccity.com/2010/staugustine/news/florida/guest-column-florida-marks-150th-anniversary-8754
Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence File re: League of the South:
"What we need in the United States is not hatred": http://cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2011/01/what-we-need-in-united-states-is-not.html

St. Augustine Record: Is $27M for radios necessary? * No, says FCC, local technology expert | * Yes, say county, fire, police leaders

Published on StAugustine.com (http://staugustine.com)

Is $27M for radios necessary?
Created 04/24/2011 - 12:00am

Is $27M for radios necessary?
* No, says FCC, local technology expert | * Yes, say county, fire, police leaders

St. Johns County plans to spend $27 million to upgrade its radio system, a move it has said is prompted by a Federal Communications Commission order with a 2013 deadline.
Special to The Record

St. Johns County plans to spend $27 million to upgrade its radio system, a move it has said is prompted by a Federal Communications Commission order with a 2013 deadline.

However, there is no order requiring the county to go to a brand new system, which county officials now acknowledge.

Rather, the FCC regulation requires only that the county go to narrowband technology, something county and law enforcement officials agree they could do for millions of dollars less by reprogramming much of its current equipment and replacing the rest.

Still, the county plans to go forward with the new system, called an 800 megahertz digital system, saying it's necessary to get all county public service organizations on the same system and to talk to all surrounding counties except Putnam County, which is on narrowband technology.

"This is a process that we've been wrestling with for years, ever since I've been in administration," said Assistant County Administrator Jerry Cameron. "There just aren't any easy answers."

He said the county would have to finance the $27 million project and pay for debt service out of the county general fund.

The county originally requested about $36 million in federal and state money for the project, but the price has since dropped to about $27 million.

Cameron said the county received just $250,000 in federal funding to help it comply with the FCC requirement.


The FCC has ordered all public safety and business industrial land mobile radio systems to convert to a narrower band by Jan 1, 2013. It has not ordered the more expensive 800 MHz radio system, according to FCC documents.

"The 800 MHz is not part of the narrowbanding at this point," said John Daly, Florida frequency coordinator for the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.

Daly said that as long as the county equipment was manufactured in the last 10 years, it could be reprogrammed.

Cameron said the reprogramming would still cost half what the new system would. Fire Rescue officials agreed that it would be costly.

"We could install more sites and more repeaters to boost up the (current) system," said Jeff Prevatt, Fire Rescue chief of fire prevention. "But just for the fire department alone that would cost $8 million. The Sheriff's Office (upgrade) would cost somewhere near $15 million."

That money would go to replace or program all the departments' handheld radios as well as reprogram radio towers and other equipment.

But one area communications professional questioned that price tag.

"Oh my gosh!" said Michael Murphy, owner of Jacksonville-based Murphy Communications. "No, it doesn't sound right, because they can use existing equipment. They can utilize much of their existing equipment and it just takes a couple minutes to reprogram one of these radios.

"If they have 1,000 radios to be replaced in the county and it costs them $1,000 each, that's $1 million," Murphy added.

Murphy said he does not do business with the county and has no financial interest in whatever system the county adopts.

Murphy, who said he used to be a radio technician for the FBI and has been in the business "for many years" said he became concerned over the issue when he heard Cameron speak about it on a local radio station.

"I wouldn't say it was a waste of money, but some of the information out there was misleading," Murphy said.


Another reason the county wants to go to a new system is so all in-county departments, and several surrounding counties, would be able to communicate to each other -- a problem now for both Fire Rescue and the Sheriff's Office.

"We've had a number of emergencies when deputies have not been able to communicate, some when the fire service was out in Flagler Estates on a brush fire," Cameron said. "They were unable to communicate on a repeater. If we reduce that any further" it could cause serious problems, he said.

He also said that going to narrowband could further reduce the ability to communicate, a point echoed by Col. Art May, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office director of support services.

He said the office already has experienced problems communicating. He gave as an example a 2009 incident in which a Crescent Beach man brandishing a handgun was shot by deputies.

One group of deputies had already arrived at that scene and established a rapport, but they couldn't communicate with the backup who arrived on scene later, he said. The backup officers fatally shot the man, Jackie Byron Beasley, after he pointed the weapon at them.

"It's amazing that (the current) system is working," May said. "But sooner or later, it's going to fail, and it's going to fail big."

He said that every engineer he's consulted about taking current equipment to narrowband has said that the signal gets weaker.

But Murphy, the communications business owner, said any difference would be "negligible."

"You wouldn't even notice it," he said.

May disagreed.

"How would you like to be a firefighter in a (burning) building and unable to get a fire truck or officer on the other end?" May said. "Or a deputy with someone shooting at him trying to call for backup?

"Nobody's trying to put something over on (taxpayer)," May said. "This isn't for toys. It's so when someone calls, they get someone."

May said that the current system also does not allow departments from other counties to communicate with St. Johns County personnel when they come here to help, a process called mutual aid.

Murphy said those benefits come with a recurring price.

Lake County, which just installed the type of system St. Johns County is contemplating, must pay $1.6 million a year to maintain its new system.

May said that cost is not unusual for some types of systems. He added that the county would offset some or all of that cost by renting space on the county's towers to cell phone carriers.


Prevatt of Fire Rescue also believes reprogramming would lower the quality of the current system.

"The current system works well on mobiles (vehicle-mounted systems) but not as well with the hand-held radios," Prevatt said. "Decreasing that (range) and making communication worse is just not acceptable."

He said that other organizations would also need to upgrade, including the cities of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach, the School Board and the utilities department, among others.

"But then we'd still have 1970s technology," Prevatt said. "We're going to have to spend money either way. Going to the new technology made more sense ..."

The county makes another argument for the new system.

It applied for FCC licenses for 15 channels on the more expensive system. If it doesn't upgrade by October, it loses the channels.

But Cameron said the county's going to lose the channels now, either way.

"Obviously, we aren't going to be able to make that deadline," he said. He said the county could just reapply, provided the channels are still available.

"There's a high demand for channels," he said.


-- Reporter Peter Guinta contributed to this story.



What County Administrator Michael Wanchick has said about going to an 800 MHz system:

* "Due to an FCC mandate, the county will not be permitted to use its current obsolete radio system after Dec. 31, 2012."

* "Construction of the interoperable (new, more expensive) radio system must begin in fiscal year 2012, unless the FCC grants an unlikely extension."

-- County's 2010 slide show presentation

What the county says now:

* "We've got a good bit of equipment, particularly the fire department equipment, that can (be reprogrammed) to meet the requirement."

* "If we go to narrowbanding (with the current system), we will spend probably almost half of that $27 million (cost of new system) just to comply and have a radio system that works less well."

-- Assistant County Administrator Jerry Cameron on Thursday


Desired vs. required

* The county would like to construct a 800 megahertz radio communications system and to put all public service agencies, including public safety, on the system. That system type is digital. Officials say it would allow more users on the system, provide clearer in-county communication and communication with all surrounding counties except for Putnam County, which is not on an 800 MHz system.

It would also allow Fire Rescue and the Sheriff's Office to more easily pinpoint their firefighters and deputies using GPS or other technologies.

* The Federal Communications Commission mandate requires only that the county go to narrowband, a system in which the channels in the radio spectrum are half the size they used to be. The system is analog and exists at 512 MHz and lower frequencies.

Critics argue that going to narrowband makes for a weaker signal, thus making it harder for public safety workers to communicate, and that reprogramming or upgrading is nearly as expensive as going to a new system.

The main advantage for this system is compliance with the FCC requirement.

Source: FCC documents, county officials, communications experts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the final date for wideband operation?

A: All radios must be narrowband by Jan. 1, 2013.

Q: Are we forced to move to 800 MHz?

A: No. Narrowbanding does not require moving to another frequency band.

Q: Will we have to purchase new radios?

A: Depends. Most radios purchased in the last 10 years are already narrowband capable.

Q: Can I operate on a secondary basis if I do not meet the January 1, 2013, deadline?

A: No. The FCC will consider any radio equipment that does not meet the 12.5 kHz efficiency standard to be in violation of FCC rules. You may be subject to daily fines and cancellation of your license if your agency is not in narrowband by Jan. 1, 2013.

Q: Does narrowbanding require me to convert to digital equipment?

A: No. Licensees can operate in either analog or digital formats as long as you operate at 12.5 kHz efficiency.

Source: Oklahoma Office of Homeland Security


What St. Johns County Sheriff's Col. Art May said on why a new radio system is needed:

"How would you like to be a firefighter in a (burning) building and unable to get a fire truck or officer on the other end? Or a deputy with someone shooting at him trying to call for backup?"

What Michael Murphy, owner of a communications business in Jacksonville, said on why the county does not need a new radio system:

"They can use existing equipment. They can utilize much of their existing equipment and it just takes a couple minutes to reprogram one of these radios. If they have 1,000 radios to be replaced in the county and it costs them $1,000 each, that's $1 million."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Click here to sign online petition to support St. Augustine CIvil Rights Museum, National Park and Seashore proposal

For more information on America's next National Historical Park and Seashore, please go to www.staugustgreen.com to learn about the St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore.
Please sign the online petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/st-augustine-civil-rights-museum-national-park-seashore/
Please ask your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and online friends to sign.

Associated Press: Historic City Can't Afford Its Past (From 2005)

St. Augustine: Historic city can't afford its past
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) — Here, in the nation's oldest city, history has become a burden.
March 18, 2005

By Amy Sancetta, AP

It's not that locals don't appreciate their hometown's long, colorful past. To the contrary, many are fiercely proud that their city, founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1565, is the oldest, continuously occupied settlement of European origin in North America.

Richard Bowers, for one, bristles whenever he hears people chatter on about the Pilgrims being America's earliest settlers. "Listen," the Flagler College professor sniffs, "by the time the Pilgrims arrived, St. Augustine was ready for urban renewal."

This city possesses one of the oldest and largest collections of historical structures in the country — no fewer than 1,200 are listed in the National Register of Historic Places — and a large number of colonial-era buildings than would rival those of Williamsburg, Va.

"Oldest, oldest, oldest, first, first, first — there are an awfully lot of oldests and a lot of firsts in St. Augustine," says Susan R. Parker, a historian with the Florida state Division of Historical Resources. "Wherever you step, history is under your feet."

Which, as it happens, is precisely the rub: This place has SO much history, SO many surviving structures of historical significance, not to mention undiscovered buried artifacts, that experts say it could take tens of millions of dollars for the city to acquire and preserve them all.

Raising that kind of bullion might be doable — in a New York City, say, or a Chicago. But this is St. Augustine, population 14,000, where money for preservation must come from a relatively meager property tax base — 6,590 parcels of land, according to the St. Johns County tax appraiser's office.

It certainly doesn't help that 38% of all land in St. Augustine is off the tax rolls.

The Old City, for example, a 22-block district on the edge of Matanzas Bay, is a random miscellany of "501C3s" — IRS code for tax-exempt institutions, which include a cathedral, four churches, a Franciscan monastery, a convent, the 1808 City Gate (complete with causeway over what formerly was a moat), Flagler College, the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, the headquarters for the Florida National Guard and a national cemetery.

Here, too, is the country's oldest fort, the Castillo de San Marcos (begun in 1672, finished in 1695), which was built by Spain to fight off pirates, hostile natives, the French, the British and, later, South Carolinian forces.

Florida used to ante up millions of dollars each year to preserve St. Augustine's treasures, but now that the state has a huge hole in its budget, that's history, too.

Costumed guides welcome visitors to Castillo de San Marcos, the nation's oldest fort built by Spanish settlers around 1675 to fend off pirates, hostile natives, British, French and, later, South Carolinian forces.

In a different age, perhaps, the state's disinterest might not alarm preservationists. Today, however, there is this troubling fact: on average, one historic structure is now demolished each month in St. Augustine, located about 40 miles south of Jacksonville.

To the north, the city of Jacksonville is bursting its seams, extruding Home Depots, Best Buys and Burger Kings, setting off a development tsunami that is washing over St. Augustine and driving up land prices. The problem is exacerbated by the growth of Flagler College, and the resulting increased demand for student housing and parking lots. Finally, aging Baby Boomers are flocking here, looking to retire in a low-key, authentically historical setting.

There is an added complication: St. Augustine is a place where anyone can buy a historical house, completely remodel the interior, and live in it — or, if one chooses, tear it down.

Homes built before 1821 do have a bit of protection. According to St. Augustine's demolition ordinance, the city can order new homeowners to wait one year before touching anything. In theory, that gives the city the opportunity to buy and preserve the structure.

But in practice, officials say, the city doesn't have the money to buy colonial buildings, some of which are valued at several million dollars. And once an owner has waited a year, there's nothing the city can do to stop a demolition.

Several years back, a group of prominent citizens, including Ronnie J. Hughes, publisher of the local newspaper, The St. Augustine Record, started a foundation to raise seed money to help the citizenry buy and restore historic structures.

Unlike in Williamsburg, however, no great benefactor has come forward; and the state of Florida has shown no interest, either. (In Colonial Williamsburg, John D. Rockefeller Jr. bought many historic structures, including 70 colonial buildings, between 1926 and 1928.)

This makes Hughes nervous. With development pressure building in St. Johns County, Hughes figures the city has 10, maybe 15 years to acquire the most important, threatened properties and keep them from being transformed by a carnival of neon and cinderblock.

"And the clock is ticking."

Susan Parker, with a squint and a smile, halts before the house at 46 St. George Street. On this morning, she's taking a visitor through the Old City, showing off the city's "crown jewels."

In 1821, she says, there were 300 buildings in the city. A century later, just 36 of those structures had survived, including this one, the Arrivas House, built for a Spaniard named Don Ramundo de Arrivas in 1748.

Parker is saying, "This one was all set to be demolished. Destroyed forever. Can you imagine that? Well, thank goodness it didn't happen. In the early '60s, the state of Florida stepped in and rescued this one from the brink."

Her eyes skip over the facade. For a house that's 256 years old, it doesn't look a day over 30: the coquina walls appear sturdy, its wraparound porches on the second story, which hang over the street like dark, Spanish eyebrows, seem solid in repose.

Parker, moving on now, passes the entrances of some whitewashed, Spanish colonial reconstructions. They've been fashioned into trinket and T-shirt shops, craft stores, a pub, a gallery, a boutique that sells glass figurines.

"It's sort of a pity," she says. "This street ought to be a little less about selling stuff and more about heritage."

To maintain the old structures, she says, the city has four sources of revenue: museum admissions, museum store sales, grants and gifts, and income from renting commercial property. The city is the biggest landlord on St. George Street.

"We'd like to see more historically oriented shops," Parker says. "You know, antique stores, bookstores, maybe a nautical shop." For now, though, the bottom line has the upper hand: T-shirt and key chain merchants may be tacky, but they pay the rent on time.

Atop the Castillo de San Marcos, on the broad gun deck, Parker recalls a time when this fort was the northernmost outpost of Spain's New World empire.

"The king of Spain kept a garrison here — 300 soldiers — to offer cover and protection for the silver fleets that rode the Gulf Stream all the way home. See, straight out there? From that point, the Stream veers east and goes ZZZZIIIPPP! toward Europe."

The south side of the fort had what may be the first flush toilets in the New World — a couple of latrines washed out twice a day by the tide.

The Spanish, she says, weren't the only ones to leave something behind in St. Augustine. Prince Achille Murat, the short, portly nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte who married George Washington's grandniece, boarded at a coquina dwelling here in 1824 (The Murat House has been preserved.); William Dean Howells, the American writer, wintered here at a Colonial Revival home in 1916. (It, too, has been restored.)

In the early 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. staged civil rights sit-ins in St. Augustine. In 1964, he attempted to eat at the whites-only Monson Hotel and was arrested. Parker slows her gait, then stops. "That," she says, pointing across Avenida Menendez, to a construction site across the road, "is where the hotel once stood."

In a block-long, rectangular lot, workers are putting the finishing touches on the Hilton Garden Inn Monson Bayfront Resort. It's a series of two-story wooden structures, painted in pastel colors, quite in keeping with the colonial style of the Old City.

The problem, Parker says, is that the Hilton added a new, underground garage on the site. In doing so, it removed tons of soil that contained Spanish and Indian artifacts, some four centuries old, and afterward poured a concrete foundation, entombing what little was left.

Some artifacts were recovered by volunteers who worked, intermittently, for three years before the garage was built. They found a 1750 square-bottomed bottle, probably used to hold ale; an 1850 rubber statuette of the Virgin Mary cradling a baby Jesus; bowls, plates, tumblers and goblets from the 17th century.

However, Carl Halbirt, the city's staff archaeologist, estimates that 90% of the archaeological treasures beneath the Monson property perished.

Bill Adams, director of this city's Historical Preservation and Heritage Tourism department, opens a Ziploc bag and spills 302 years of American history out on to a 17th century table.

This nugget is a cast-iron grapeshot, about the size of a golf ball. Adams says, "We moved a 1915 house, the Peck House, that was sitting on a British siege line dug in 1702 across the street from the fort. And this was lying right there, plain as day."

He picks up another plastic bag, shakes out a brass button. It came off the waistcoat of a Spanish soldier — in 1720. He selects another Ziploc and pours out a U.S.-pattern dragoon sword hanger, from the Second Seminole War in 1833.

"All this came from just one small area, off the surface," he says. "Imagine what we'll find when we start digging." He reaches for another bag. "Want to see something really valuable?"

He holds up a shiny, square object. "Look at this. A chinstrap buckle from a U.S. soldier's cap. This is 180 years old. The whole colonial city is full of this stuff." He composes himself. "This is tangible evidence of who we are as a people. This proves it — it's not just words in a textbook."

Unfortunately, these treasures — and thousands more like them — are sitting in boxes and dusty drawers, waiting to be analyzed, cataloged, curated.

St. Augustine has enough money for one staff archaeologist, Halbirt; and he is so busy trying to salvage artifacts from sites that are to become parking lots, hotels or student dorms, he's got no time for historical analysis.

The result, Adams says, is treasure without context.

Between 1959 and 1997, when the state funded preservation in St. Augustine, a veritable think tank of historians handled the analysis. That stopped, though, when the legislature turned off the cash.

It still steams Hamilton Upchurch, a local lawyer and preservationist who, from 1977 to 1985, was a member of the Florida Legislature. In his estimation, $10 million is needed to get a serious preservation campaign off the ground, although, "to be truly effective on a Williamsburg scale, you're looking at $80 million to $100 million, easy."

Adams, the city's preservation director, says if restoration money doesn't arrive soon, all Americans will be the losers.

"Ultimately, the attrition of time will wear away at these national treasures," he says, "and they'll gradually disappear, like footprints in the sand."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

Click here to sign online petition to support St. Augustine CIvil Rights Museum, National Park and Seashore proposal

For more information on America's next National Historical Park and Seashore, please go to www.staugustgreen.com to learn about the St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore.
Please sign the online petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/st-augustine-civil-rights-museum-national-park-seashore/
Please ask your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and online friends to sign.

St. Augustine Underground: We Need A St. Augustine National Park, Seashore and Civil Rights Museum

From the January 1, 2011 issue of St. Augustine Underground (published by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which also publishes the Ponte Vedra Recorder and Clay Today):

St. Augustine’s History is A National treasure -- The time has come to bring out the big guns and protect our nationally important local heritage with the creation of The St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Coastal Parkway.

By Ed Slavin

A famous journalism professor said
that “if you’re going to tell a
story about a bear, bring on the
Here’s how to protect St. Johns
County’s bears – and other endangered
and threatened species – while growing
our economy and making life better for
your grandchildren (and their grandchildren).
2011 is critical to reviving our local
economy, creating jobs and preserving
our city’s and our county’s environment
and history.
How do we revive our depressed local
tourist economy? How do we get “out
of the ditch,” which Wall Street and
local speculators created?
By persuading Congress to enact a
St. Augustine National Historical Park,
Seashore and Coastal Parkway.
Let’s donate 13 large tracts: the
Florida Department of Environmental
Protection’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas
National Estuarine Research Reserve,
Anastasia State Park, Faver-Dykes
State Park and Fort Mosé State Park;
Florida Department of Agriculture’s
Deep Creek State Forest and Watson
Island State Forest; St. Johns County
beaches and the Nocatee Preserve; and
St. Johns River Water Management
District ‘s Twelve Mile Swamp, Deep
Creek, Matanzas Marsh, Moses Creek
and Stokes Landing preserves.
Let’s donate them to the federal government
for the St. Augustine National
Historical Park and Seashore. These
vast tracts of government-owned land
are suitable for a National Park and
Seashore – more than 120,000 acres.
In Woodie Guthrie’s words, “This land
is our land” already – it is our county
beaches, state parks and forests and
water management district land. Combined
with the Castillo de San Marcos
and Fort Matanzas, this land will make
one glorious National Park and Seashore,
making us all proud and properly
celebrating St. Augustine’s 450th
birthday (2015) and Spanish Florida’s
500th (2013).
Donating the land can save more than
$33 million over 10 years for state and
local governments; revive our economy;
create better-paying jobs with real
futures; protect our historic and environmental
heritage; teach our children
about history, beauty and nature; better
preserve our beaches; protect homes
from erosion; raise our property values;
and protect wildlife.
Let’s put people to work and draw
environmental and historic tourists,
who National Trust for Historic Preservation
and other studies say spend
more and visit longer, putting more
proverbial “heads in beds.” How? By
empowering our National Park Service
– America’s favorite federal agency. Ken
Burns’ PBS documentary rightly called
our National Parks “America’s Best
Idea.” We need one here.
Let’s teach history and nature to
future generations with a National Civil
Rights museum here in St. Augustine
and by celebrating all our history
-- 11,000 years of indigenous Native
American, African-American, Spanish,
Minorcan, French, English, Civil War,
Roman Catholic, Greek, Jewish, Protestant,
nautical, military, Flagler-era and
Civil Rights history.
Let’s preserve our endangered and
threatened species -- including right
whales (only 350 left, reportedly the
most endangered whales on the planet)
-- as well as turtles, bears, bald eagles,
manatees, beach mice and butterflies.
This Park and Seashore will rival Cape
Cod National Seashore, the Everglades,
Philadelphia and other tourist “hot
spots,” giving teachers and parents
tools to teach children lessons that will
keep them coming back for life.
Our state’s economy has suffered so
much since the Deepwater Horizon
disaster. We look to British Petroleum
to pay for it all as part of its economic
and environmental remediation to the
State of Florida.
The first step is for our governor and
legislature to agree to donate this land
to the federal government for one “public
park or pleasuring ground for the
benefit and enjoyment of the people,”
as Congress said in 1872 in creating
Yellowstone National Park.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
1. Will this park legislation violate
private property rights? No. The draft
legislation provides for donations of
government lands and donations or
sales from willing sellers. Condemnation
lawsuits are authorized only to
“preserve [historic buildings and land]
from destruction.”
2. How would the park affect local
businesses, tourist attractions and
churches? Very positively. Historic and
environmental tourists spend more and
stay longer, studies show. This will create
more good-paying jobs, in the Park
Service, kayaking, tour-guide
companies, restaurants, hotels
and guest houses. There’s
a list of tourist attractions
and places of worship in the
legislation that the National
Park Service could assist with
historic interpretation. It
includes churches where Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev.
Andrew Young spoke, working with
local residents to create our 1964 Civil
Rights Act.
3. Will this legislation take over the
government of the City of St. Augustine?
No. But St. Augustine can donate
a few parks to the cause. Our city needs
help and cannot handle the 450th celebration
alone. A greater National Park
Service presence here will help better
guide and orient millions of visitors.
The Park will help make our city a
better place – just ask the residents of
Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras.
4. What positive changes will creation
of a St. Augustine National Park and
Seashore make?
A. Increase property values and local
tax collections. Property values
increase near National Parks and Seashores.
Bed tax and sales tax receipts
will increase.
B. Grow our economy. Our local
economy is stagnant. The National
Park Service will help get us out of the
C. Reduce spending by our state, local
and water management district government
– savings of $33 million over ten
D. Increase the quality of tourism
marketing -- greatly simplified by combining
all this land into one National
E. Improve the quality of historic and
environmental interpretation, preservation
and protection. Right now, tourists
learn very little about our African-
American and Civil Rights history, for
example, or the heroic history of the
Minorcans and other immigrants to our
shores, or the endangered species that
make this area a paradise. The National
Park Service is experienced at protecting
nature and interpreting history
while stimulating tourism. A National
Civil Rights museum here in St. Augustine
will attract more school groups
and minority tourists – Rev. Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. is known world-wide
and his legacy here will attract tourists.
5. How will this affect historic reenactors?
Good jobs await them at the
National Park Service.
6. Is this legislation family-friendly?
Yes. Residents and tourists will thank
you for creating a wholesome place to
take children where they learn about
history and our environment, with a
classroom that is as big as all outdoors,
embracing 11,000 years of human history
on these shores.
7. How will this affect beach driving?
The legislation does not address
it, either way. Elsewhere, as in Cape
Cod, residents are licensed to drive on
National Park Service beaches after
proper training and can take tourists on
beach tours.
8. Is there a potential downside?
One. Proper transportation planning
is required to avoid congestion. The
draft bill requires a plan for “cost-effective,
sustainable, carbon-neutral,
environmentally-friendly means of
transporting visitors and residents to
and through the park’s locations, using
trolley cars resembling those in use in
St. Augustine, Florida, in 1928, with
the goal of reducing hydrocarbon consumption,
traffic congestion, air pollution
and damage to historic structures.”
9. When was the National Park idea
first proposed? Some 70 years ago,
before World War II.
10. What are we waiting for? You tell
Will you please help us celebrate
11,000 years of history and protect
what deserves protecting forever inviolate?
Will you please share your suggestions
about how to improve the first
draft of the legislation? Let us work together
to accomplish something we can
all be proud of for future generations
yet unborn who will say, “thank you.”
Please see www.staugustgreen.com

St. Augustine activist Ed Slavin
(B.S.F.S., Georgetown University, J.D.
Memphis State University) first proposed
the St. Augustine National Park and
Seashore Nov. 13, 2006.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thanks to Secretary of the Interior for Appointing Diverse Commission -- But the Secretive First America Foundation Bears Watching for FACA Violations

April 18, 2011

Honorable Kenneth Salazar,

Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W. via fax to 202-208-6950

Washington, D.C. 20240


Dear Secretary Salazar:

Thank you for appointing diverse members of the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission, established by PL-111-11,
§7404. On July 15, 2009, I wrote you a letter, requesting that the membership be "fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed." 5 U.S.C. App., §§ 5(b)(2), (c), 9(c), 10(a), (b), (c). FACA implementing regulations define "balance" to mean a "cross-section of interested persons and groups with professional or personal qualifications or experience to contribute to the functions and tasks to be performed". 41 C.F.R. § 105-54.204. Thank you for rejecting the prior City Manager’s antique notion of appointing only “affluent” or “influential” members. Thank you for appointing “persons with expertise in national parks, civil rights, ethnic studies, museums, geography, ecology, history, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, tourism, business, and other relevant fields,” as I requested in the July 15, 2009 letter. Thank you for respecting FACA and our history.

I am writing today to request that you and your staff carefully monitor the Commission to assure that it is not compromised by possibly illegal involvement with the First America Foundation, Inc., a group that is violating Article I, § 24 of our Florida Constitution, which requires Open Records and Government-in-the-Sunshine. If the Commission were ever to “utilize” any of FAF’s work, it would then bring FAF under the Federal Advisory Committee Act under the “utilization test” of FACA. 5 U.S.C. App. 2 §3(2)(C). Please ask the FAF to “let the sun shine in” before the Commission’s first meeting. Please don’t allow the Commission to become embroiled into any violations of FACA or Florida’s Sunshine laws, which were adopted by 83% of the voters in Florida in the 1992 General Election (more than 3.8 million Floridians).

Please join me in calling on FAF – a recipient of $275,000 City funds in a no-bid contract – to open its secret meetings and open its secret records to the public instanter. Thank you.

With kindest regards, I am,

Sincerely yours,

Ed Slavin
P.O. Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084
904-829-3877 (o)
Clean Up City of St. Augustine

pc: Honorable Susan Sher/Honorable Michelle Obama
Honorable Bill Nelson Honorable Earl E. Devaney
Honorable Melinda Loftin, Honorable Cass Sunstein
St. Augustine Record Ponte Vedra Recorder Folio Weekly Times-Union
City of St. Augustine First America Foundation Hon. Nahum LItt
Rev. Ron Rawls, NAACP Mr. J. T. Johnson Ms. Andrea Young

Text of July 15, 2009 letter to Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar re: St. Augustine 450th and Federal Advisory Committee Act Compliance

July 15, 2009
Honorable Kenneth Salazar
Secretary of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W. via fax to 202-208-6950
Washington, D.C. 20240


Dear Secretary Salazar:

Congratulations on your appointment by President Obama. We appreciate your support for our National Parks. The Omnibus Parks bill calls for you to appoint members of the “St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission.” PL-111-11, Sec. 7404.

Pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), 5 U.S.C. App. 1, I request an inquiry into the selection process of the 450th Commission members. In a recent City of St. Augustine Commission meeting (July 13, 2009), it was disclosed to the public that City officials, with participation from the Governor and local Congressman are working together on making committee member recommendations to you. A city official, Mr. Dana Ste. Claire, said the City government wants to recommend St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission members who are “affluent” and “politically influential.” Mr. Ste. Claire further stated he wanted to name to foreign Ambassadors, from Spain and Great Britain.

FACA requires chartered committee memberships to be "fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented and the functions to be performed." 5 U.S.C. App., §§ 5(b)(2), (c), 9(c), 10(a), (b), (c). FACA implementing regulations define "balance" to mean a "cross-section of interested persons and groups with professional or personal qualifications or experience to contribute to the functions and tasks to be performed". 41 C.F.R. § 105-54.204. Being “affluent” or “influential” is not a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for federal employment or appointment to a FACA Commission.

I request that you make no appointments until you and the Inspector General: (a) Evaluate the purpose of the Commission and its proposed composition/operation; (b) Take steps to ensure that the Commission has the genuine expertise and independence necessary to develop meaningful recommendations that will honor St. Augustine’s 11,000 years of human history.

St. Augustine’s indigenous American Indian history dates back 11,000 years. St. Augustine is the site of America’s first free African-American settlement (Fort Mose) and heroic June 1964 anti-segregation demonstrations led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which helped lead to the 1964 Civil Rights Act (the 50th anniversary is in 2014). Dr. King said the City of St. Augustine was the “most lawless” city in America. Dr. King used the leverage of St. Augustine’s 400th anniversary celebration to win needed changes.

Sadly, the government of our City of St. Augustine remains “lawless.” Federal courts have remedied the City of St. Augustine’s First Amendment violations that were directed against visual artists, Gays and Lesbians. State environmental regulators have fined the City over overt acts involving what many of us consider to be a pattern of environmental racism. Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) has fined the City of St. Augustine for illegal dumping of 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste in our Old City Reservoir (the City tried unsuccessfully to bring it back to the historic African-American community of Lincolnville). FDEP also brought an action against the City for illegal dumping of semi-treated sewage effluent in our saltwater marsh in Lincolnville (a pipe was leaking, with hundreds of feet of pipe missing – City Commissioners were told by the City Manager, but never told the public until a complaint was filed).

Will you please ask your staff to kindly inform those who are making St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission appointment recommendations – including Governor Charles Crist, Congressman John Luigi Mica and St. Augustine City Manager William B. Harriss -- that FACA governs Commission appointments and that FACA requires a “fairly balanced” Commission? Limiting Commission participation to the “affluent” or the “influential” violates FACA.

St. Augustine’s 450th Commission needs Americans with expertise in national parks, civil rights, ethnic studies, museums, geography, ecology, history, anthropology, archaeology, sociology, tourism, business, and other relevant fields.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
P.O. Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084
904-829-3877 (o)
Clean Up City of St. Augustine
pc: Honorable Susan Sher/Honorable Michelle Obama
Honorable Bill Nelson
Honorable Earl E. Devaney
Honorable Melinda Loftin,
Honorable Cass Sunstein
St. Augustine Record Ponte Vedra Recorder Folio Weekly Times-Union
City of St. Augustine
Rev. Ron Rawls, NAACP

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'

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).

On Riberia Street in St. Augustine, Florida, Construction Starts on "Here We Right a Wrong" Street Today

Joy cometh in the morning, the scripture says.

This morning is especially joyful for residents of Lincolnville.

City of St. Augustine officials broke ground today for the $10-11 million Riberia Street drainage, bulkheads, sidewalks and paving. ALL of Riberia Street will be fixed.

This never would have happened without City Manager John Regan and local activist residents, who did not take "no" for an answer.

A prior city manager wanted to stop work on Riberia Street at Bridge Street, and fix the rest of the street in the sweet bye-and-bye (presumably using the proceeds of bake sales, which is what was required for the Footsolders Civil Rights Monument, to be dedicated May 14th.

In response to the City's illegal plan to stop at Bridge Street (think "Division Street America" or the Mason-Dixon line), activists informed the City that this would violate the Fourteenth Amendment (Equal Protection). Buttons were prepared -- RIberia Street: Fix it == ALL or None."

Activists did not give up, returning again and again to urge that the street be paved properly.

In response, the City floated a bond issue. I am proud of the growth that I have seen in our City government since April 2005, when I attended my first City Commission meeting. In playwright Tony Kushner’s words, in Angels in America, “only in politics does the miraculous occur.”

I am prouder than ever to live in St. Augustine, Florida today.

Lincolnville (formerly Little Africa) was founded by freed slaves in St. Augustine, Florida, locus of the first slaves brought to what is now the United States of America, back in 1565. See Judith Seraphin’s letter in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine (below).

From now on, you can call Riberia Street by its new nickname – “here we right a wrong street.” The $10-11 million Riberia Street improvements will be a de facto monument to the courage of the civil rights Footsoldiers, whose neighborhoods were denied equal expenditures under prior City Administrations.

Our City now respects and understands Environmental Justice. Six cheers!

Riberia Street construction evidences the continuing vitality of our American Founders vision. In the words of Alexander Hamilton, "Here sir, the people govern." ALEXANDER HAMILTON, remarks at the New York convention on the adoption of the federal Constitution, Poughkeepsie, New York, June 27, 1788.—Jonathan Elliot, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution…, vol. 2, p. 348 (1836, reprinted 1937).

Next stop – Congress and DOT need to order an Interstate 95 (I-95) interchange serving West Augustine, West King Street and downtown St. Augustine, thereby relieving traffic congestion. There we will right another wrong. That can be done as part of the St. Augustine National Historical Park, National Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway Act, an earlier draft of which may be read here: www.staugustgreen.com.

We shall overcome.

To invoke the Latin name of the historic museum that once housed a segregated high school in Lincolnville: “Excelsior” (onward and upward)!

Riberia Street (courtesy of City of St. Augustine, Florida)

Photo credit: Marie Bermudez-Phillip