Saturday, March 30, 2013

Governor and Cabinet Must "Let the Sunshine In" At April 2, 2013 Meeting at Flagler College's Ponce de Leon Building

Our Florida Governor and Cabinet are holding a Cabinet meeting in St. Augustine on April 2, 2013:
1.  In a small room (100 people), which is named for a convicted Standard Oil Trust antitrust law violator, Robber Baron HENRY MORRISON FLAGLER;
2. At private Flagler College, on private property (heavily subsidized with state and federal funds);
3. Without public comment, except on agenda items;
4. Without provision for live TV coverage by our local Government TV, by
5. Eschewing three nearby government buildings (two City Halls and our County Commission Auditiorium).
Article I, Section 24 of our Florida Constitution was enacted by 72% of Florida voters in 1992: 3.8 million voters. 
Prior Governors and Cabinets allowed public comment on any topic, not limited to agenda items. 
Prior Governors and Cabinets held meetings in government buildings, like St. Augustine City Hall.
Call Florida Governor RICHARD SCOTT (850-717-9239, Cabinet Affairs) and the Cabinet Affairs offices of our three other elected State Cabinet members (AG PAMELA BONDI (850-245-0145). Agriculture Secretary ADAM PUTNAM (850-617-7747) and Chief Financial Officer JEFFREY ATWATER (850-413-2824).  Tell them you want public comment and to hold the meeting in a government building, not at Flagler College in a small meeting room. Let the Sunshine in!

This is one more reason why we need a Florida Constitutional Convention, to halt corruption and to preserve, protect and defend our right to Open Governent. Let us work to right wrongs. See below.

How 'We the People' can fight corruption in state

Letter: How 'We the People' can fight corruption in state
St. Augustine Record
March 28, 2013                                                                          Copyright 2013 St. Augustine Record.
What do we do about corruption in Florida, rated one of our most corrupt states?
Here in our ancient city, diverse citizens work together to solve modern problems, defeating corruption. Citizens spoke out and helped cancel the $1.8 million no-bid Mosquito Control helicopter purchase (with $81,000 deposit refund); halted four City Commissioners’ planned “business trip” to Spain; ended secretive First America Foundation (with $200,000 refund); and halted plans to dump 40,000 cubic yards of toxic, illegally dumped solid waste in Lincolnville.
But generally speaking, is Florida corruption getting worse? Last year, then-State Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, and our Legislature illegally revoked St. Johns County’s land use decision-making powers as to one absentee developer’s 607-acre property in Switzerland community. Bennett, in his closing seconds as Senate President Pro Tempore, procured last-minute legislation eviscerating “local control,” which he supposedly cherished in slashing the Department of Community Affairs.
Debating Florida voter suppression laws, Bennett said voting “should not be easy.” It’s corruption that “should not be easy,” not citizen participation. It is our government. Let’s unite to halt legislative legerdemain and Tallahassee trickery. We must re-write our Florida Constitution and laws to make it easier to expose corruption and fight Big Money’s power. How?
“We, the People” can petition for a Florida Constitutional Convention: Florida has not had once since 1968. Florida’s Constitutional Convention will create stronger, indelible ethics and Sunshine laws (including posting government contracts online and protecting public rights to speak at meetings). It’s our government. It’s our money. Freedom works. When governments hear and heed informed citizens, we all save money (and save lives).
Bennett’s last-minute legislating flummery-frenzy proves we need more Sunshine, not less. It takes a village — and the hearts, minds and souls of all Floridians — to fight corruption.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

“Coastal Park” in Our Future – So is St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore

Exciting news sometimes comes in twos.

First, County Commissioner Ronald Sanchez said at today's St. Johns County Commission meeting that the National Park Service is considering re-designating all or part of Fort Matanzas National Monument as a “coastal park.” This would allow beach driving on the Atlantic Ocean side, once again.
Several years ago, amid protests against NPS for ending beach driving, I pointed out this nuance in NPS regulations. Glad someone was listening. (Commissioner Sanchez was recently honored by an appointment to our local Selective Service Board by President Barack Obama).

Second, last year, the National Parks and Conservation Association (NPCA) sent a top staffer here for several days, looking at the potential scope of an expanded NPS presence. Federal St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission Chair Jay Kislak chairs NPCA; the mortgage billionaire is 90 years old.

Sounds like we're getting closer to a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.

What better “legacy project” for our 450th? What do you reckon?

Yes, we can!   See

St. Johns County Prepares to File Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of Special Legislation Benefitting One Developer

St. Johns County Commissioners today authorized filing of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of legislation inserted in 2012 by Florida Senate President Pro Tempore MICHAEL BENNETT. BENNETT''s sneak attack on St. Johns County took the form of -- last minute special legislation benefiting one developer, violating St. Johns County's rights to "local control" over land use, affecting only one 607 acre plot near Switzerland. 
Record article and editorial.
There will be a meeting with the developer and County staff on March 25, 2013.  Both the Florida Association of Cities and Florida Association of Counties went along with the deal, throwing St. Johns County to the wolves.  Before anyone pays any more dues to those august organizations, public officials need to question those Tallahassee organizations about their ethics and morality.

For more on BENNETT's folly, see Record article and editorial, and prior blog story here.

Monday, March 18, 2013

What's worse than a no-bid contract?

No contract at all.  Those cheesy tatterdemalion portable $3/transaction ATM machines at our St. Augustine Amphiteater (run by our County government) were NEVER the subject of ANY contract, it turns out.  While there was a Request for Proposals, it was rescinded by Amphitheater staff, as recorded in handwritten notes by the County Purchasing Department.
FDIC and the County Attorney's office are investigating these high-priced non-ADA compliant machines, from which our County has made thousands of dollars without ever having any signed contract in place.  See original story, here.

Progress in St. Augustine, Florida

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these that the belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.--Robert F. Kennedy, Day of Affirmation, University of Cape Town, South Africa, 1966.

Look around you and see the progress.
There’s a lot of progress in St. Augustine, of which we are justly proud.
Where once there was bigotry, there is healing.
Where once there was secrecy, there is accountability.
Where once there was pollution and environmental injustice, there is growing sensitivity that we are environmental stewards, there is only one Earth, and as JFK said at American University, "We all breathe the same air and we are all mortal."
Riberia Street is being built properly for the first time in St. Augustine’s history. The entire street is being replaced, not just the part in the white area, as once proposed.
Sewers will be provided for West Augustine, where African-American families have long suffered from health effects of septic tanks and wells.
Our city public officials are now listening to the people, instead of ripping them off and violating our civil rights.
Our county government has a long way to go, however, as does our state government (see below).
The stain and stink of corruption are still upon and about them.
Our Founders, including Thomas Jefferson, believed in the power of human beings to change.
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, let’s “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
Our City of St. Augustine in 2011 dedicated a Civil Rights Monument, to the Civil Rights Footsoldiers and a second one, honoring Ambassador Andrew Young, who led the courageous Civil Rights Footsoldiers here, changing our world for the better.
The City of St. Augustine Beach has adopted Fair Housing and Employment Nondiscrimination Ordinances protecting everyone, including Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered People.  Our Anastasia Mosquito Control District, the City of St. Augustine and Sheriff David Shoar ban sexual orientation discrimination.  St. Augustine passed its Fair Housing Ordinance on December 10, 2012.
The Commissioners of the City of St. Augustine, City of St. Augustine Beach and Anastasia Mosquito Control District and St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar all deserve credit.  That's seventeen elected officials -- and four government entities -- against sexual orientation discrimination (four more than in Jacksonville and Duval County, where homophobic miscreant misanthrope misogynists, closet KKK members and mendacious ministers railed against equality for months last year).  Our leaders here spent less time debating equality than the burghers and bigots of Jacksonville (formerly known as "Cowford") spent clearing their throats.
Let us leave Jacksonville (f/k/a "Cowford") behind, in our dust, when it comes to tourism and recruiting new enterprises, whether young startups or Fortune 500 companies -- good and decent people like to visit and work in tolerant places, and that includes creative enterprises, whether young startups or the Fortune 500.
Who knows what, if anything, our five Republican St. Johns County Commissioners are thinking on the issue. Let us leave them to worry about their Tea Party and KKK problems (Republican former County Commission Chairman Ben Rich told Folio Weekly that St. Johns County was one of the KKK's "last bastions"). 

Let us leave Jacksonville's bigotry in the dustbins of America history -- what matters to us here is that St. Augustine is moving forward.  We're becoming more tolerant and more sophisticated, as I pointed out in a St. Augustine Record column last month.
We’re looking forward to establishing a St. Augustine National Historical Park, Seashore and Scenic Coastal Parkway, to include a National Civil Rights Museum and an Indigenous American Indian Cultural Museum. www.staugustgreen.comYes we can!
In the words of the Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

NY Times Editorial Page Editor on MICHAEL S. BENNETT and Florida Voter Suppression Laws

You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Vote

Over the last few years, Republican governors and Republican state legislators have put tremendous effort into making voting more difficult. In 2011, 34 states introduced bills requiring citizens to show photo ID at the polls, and seven states have enacted those laws; thirteen states have ended same-day registration. The pretext is voter fraud—a problem, as I’ve explained many times, that isn’t really a problem at all.
At the forefront of the don’t-get-out-the-vote movement is Florida, which I suppose isn’t that surprising given the state’s inability to count the votes that were cast in 2000. Must be something in the soupy air; or maybe Florida policy-makers have grown to love the feeling of international mockery. The state has imposed new rules restricting third-party voter registration drives, which are so onerous that Rock the Vote, the League of Women Voters and the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund have had to suspend their volunteer-led programs. Attorneys from the Brennan Center for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union and two law firms filed suit to block these measures in December, and on Thursday a Florida federal judge will hear the case.

In the complaint, the attorneys argue that the law will “disproportionately harm members of minority communities, who regularly rely on…community-based groups to help them overcome barriers to registering to vote and participating in the democratic process.” They also say it will “cause disparate harm to senior citizens, students, people with disabilities, and members of rural and low-income communities.” (FL PIRG, for instances, focuses its efforts on student populations, and almost half of the students that the organization registered in 2010 were non-white.) Is it just a coincidence that these groups tend to vote Democratic?
The state must have a compelling reason to impose new restrictions despite these possible adverse consequences, right? Actually, no. Supporters are trotting out the voter fraud issue, as usual, and, as usual, it’s a complete canard. Representative Geraldine F. Thompson of the Florida House said that election supervisors “have not identified a problem with fraud.” State Senator Nan H. Rich said the bill’s champions could not “provide any proof that the integrity of our election process has been compromised.”
The only purpose, it seems, is increased difficulty. I’m not exaggerating. Here’s how State Senator Michael Bennett, the chamber’s President Pro-Tem, explained his support for the legislation:
Ever read the stories about people in Africa? The people in the desert who literally walk 200-300 miles so they could have an opportunity to do what we do? And we want to make it more convenient? .… I want ‘em to fight for it. I want ‘em to know what it’s like. I want ‘em to have to walk across town to go over and vote. I want ‘em to at least know the date of when they’re supposed to vote…. This is Florida and we should count. We do make it convenient for people to vote but I gotta tell ya I wouldn’t even have any problem making it harder.
Mr. Bennett didn’t have to look as far as undeveloped African countries to make his point. The government right here in America used to be really good at making it hard for “’em” to vote– with poll taxes and fire hoses and police dogs.
This is one of those moments when I wish I were on the Daily Show, so I could just stare incredulously into the camera.


When the Florida Department of Community Affairs was demolished by Governor RICHARD SCOTT and his rabid wrecking crew in 2011, citizens were told local officials were supposed to decide local land use.

You've got to hand it to an outspoken “conservative” Bradenton Beach businessman, Aladdin Wand Electric owner MICHAEL S. BENNETT. Although BENNETT does not live or work in St. Johns County, BENNETT effectively got to decide in 2012 that a 607 acre tract of St. Johns County gets developed as a “rural enclave,” building homes there in Switzerland, overruling our laws and our local elected officials in St. Johns County. .

Who is this guy? Why did MICHAEL S. BENNETT get to trump our laws and our elected officials? You see, MICHAEL S. BENNETT was then a State Senator, and made the motion to except developer three minutes before the deadline on the last day of the legislative session, ramming his unconstitutional, stick-it-to St. Johns County “special law” through the legislature. He did so at the behest of wealthy developer JOSEPH ANDERSONS and his lobbyist, JAMES EATON. See today's Record article
and editorial.

MICHAEL S. BENNETT is an archetypical bully. The Bradenton Times reported in 2012:
As a Florida Senator, Bennett was involved in several controversial issues, including [pushing for SB 360] the legislative effort to dissolve the state's Department of Community Affairs and efforts to defeat Amendment 4 (Hometown Democracy Act). More recently, he was at the center of Florida's controversial new voting laws. During the 2011 session, Bennett was famously quoted while defending the law, criticized as designed to suppress the votes of minorities, saying, "I don't have a problem making it harder (to vote). I want the people in the state of Florida to want to vote as badly as that person in Africa who is willing to walk 200 miles for that opportunity he’s never had before in his life. This should not be easy.” 
Footnote: In 2012, MICHAEL S. BENNETT was elected Manatee County Supervisor of Elections!

In 2011, the NY Times reported that State Senator MICHAEL BENNETT (and State Representative Peter S. Nehr of Tarpon Springs) owned interests in putative “internet cafes.”

Now, "internet cafes" are facing criminal charges -- they are fronts for illegal gambling, federal and state law enforcement officials credibly allege, with affidavits an evidence to prove it.  Political contributions from ALLIED VETERANS OF THE WORLD, INC. AND AFFILIATES are targets of ongoing criminal investigations. Seminole County Sheriff Donald Enslinger says that this is “the second wave” of a nationwide multi-agency investigation of Florida gambling, using the ruse of charities operating putative “internet cafes.” 

This week's bust of ALLIED VETERANS involved 49 internet cafes making $300 million for “charity,” while giving less than 2% to “charity” and enriching its now-arrested leaders, including alleged “mastermind” lawyer KELLY MATHIS, a former Jacksonville Bar President, one of 61 people charged with hundreds of crimes (including the President and Vice President of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police). The charges were initiated by the Seminole County Sheriff and a local-state-federal cooperative effort (first erroneously stated March 13th to be a mainly federal effort). 

Let's learn from these two massive scandals.  They are a synecdoche, a part that stands for the whole -- a billion dollar strip mall casino industry and the re-writing of Florida law to inflict one developer's 607 acres of sprawl on Switzerland.

Inspired by our Founding Father's vision of limited government, let's re-write our State Constitution. Think of devilish MICHAEL S. BENETT, who said voting "should not be easy.” Well, neither should whoring.  You an use others terms. How about, "doing it the Tallahassee way?"

We need to know more about what other-directed, ethically-impaired energumen like MICHAEL S. BENNETT do with their time on our dime, doing in our rights "the Tallahassee way," with its Jim Crow Law presumption that corruption always prevails, and that law enforcement will cower to power.

Not this week.  Ask the Seminole County Sheriff and his staff, who deserve great appreciation.

We must work tirelessly, as citizens, in the spirit of  Federalist Papers No. 10, regulating "factions" (Big Money) and making corruption detection and citizen participation easier, and protecting the right to vote.

Read Florida Constitution, Article II, Section 8 (Ethics) and let's see how we can improve it. Look around. 

 Talk to people. Then think positively: how do we re-write our State Constitution to right the wrongs wrought by corruption, lucre and malice in Tallahassee.

Let's start with the public's right to be heard, which the St. Johns River Water Management District wrongfully denied my late friend Stetson Kennedy (and which Florida courts have not cured under the existing Constitution's Article I, Section 24).

Think of a State Constitutional Convention (under Article XI, Sec. 4) as being our second chance – a second chance for “We, the People” to get it right – for openers, to overrule SJRWMD's sleazy silencing of Stetson Kennedy, and many other substantive evils. (Proposed legislation on the subject may pass, but is more loophole than law).

We can watchdog government. Yes, we can!

We can increase transparency and public participation. We can work to eliminate governmental waste, fraud, abuse, sneakiness, secrecy, perfidy and venality.  We can assure better checks and balances, from City Halls to the State House.

MICHAEL S. BENNETT's 2012 sneak attack on St. Johns County's sovereignty was so typical of Tallahassee's corrupt, porcine “Pork Chop Gang” satraps – they exemplify “Gotcha Government.”

It will take more than arresting a few more crooks and cronies this time. Things are getting out of hand.
Studies suggest that Florida may be the most corrupt State in the Nation. The FBI has even taken out ads in some Florida daily newspapers asking for tips on official corruption.

Ultimately, “We, the People” of Florida must solve Florida's problems – Big Money is running our government. 

We are running out of time, for as the late U.S. Attorney General Robert Francis Kennedy said, “If we do not, on a national scale, attack organized criminals with weapons and techniques as sophisticated as their own, they will destroy us.”

“We, the People” have the right to call for a Florida State Constitutional Convention at any time. Let's do so. Let's win this one for the people.  Then let's promote healing, using a State Constitutional Convention to help cure the ills of a corrupt system, saving our democracy for future generations.  It's up to us.

Let the Constitutional Convention open government, so that legislators know "The Eyes of Florida Are Upon You."  To borrow the infamous words of Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, former State Senator MICHAEL S. BENNETT (below), it is corruption that “should not be easy.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Welcoming Pope Francis to St. Augustine, Florida (on or about September 8, 2015) T

he first Roman Catholic Pope from the Americas – and our first Jesuit Pope – will soon be invited here to St. Augustine, to help celebrate the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine, including the first Catholic Mass in North America, both on September 8, 2015.
The Argentinian-born Pope Francis is humble, dedicated to social justice, rides public transportation, lived in a small apartment, and cooked his own meals. He is an intellectual who taught psychology and other subjects and earned a Ph.D
He is an empathetic Jesuit scholar, one who ministers in the slums of Argentina, who excoriated those he called “hypocritical” priests who refused to Baptize the children of single mothers, who gave birth rather than "returning: their baby "to sender." We look forward to Pope Francis visiting here and teaching us here.
When he visits in St. Augustine in 2015, perhaps Pope Francis might dedicate a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, perhaps in association with the dedication of what we hope (and pray) will be our Nation's next National Park, the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.
Yes we can!

Honoring King Juan Carlos in St. Augustine, Florida

When King Juan Carlos comes to St. Augustine next, we need to dedicate our new $1.5 million breakwater to him. King Juan Carlos is a former Olympic sailor. He restored Constitutional democracy to Spain after decades of brutal, repressive dictatorship. It worked – Spain is now a vibrant democracy, something of which we can be proud. He stood up to coup attempts in 1981 and 1982. When Spain's legislators passed Gay marriage in 2005, he signed the law, stating to the press, “I am King of Spain, not Belgium” (referring to the Belgian king's refusal to sign a similar law). There are quite enough things named for Juan Ponce de Leon, including US 1 (and now a new Bridge, without meaningful public participation in choosing the PDL name. (Enough PDL stuff already!)

King Juan Carlos deserves the honor of a permanent legacy in St. Augustine – what better way than a sailing breakwater, suggested by City Manager John Regan Monday at night's meeting? It will be seen -- visited by tall ships (including Stanley Parris' ship, which he will soon sail around the world, solo).  King Juan Carlos deserves to see St. Augustine being transformed for the better, with his name on a permanent improvement that will make our town a better place for all of us.

Time to End Motoryclist Free Parking During Bike Week -- No Empirical Data Supports City "Tradition" -- Noise Mars Peaceful, Quiet Enjoyment of ur Historic Downtown 4% of Each Year

On March 8, 2013, I requested the City of St. Augustine and its PR man (PAUL WILLIAMSON, whose department gets $500,000/year), to kindly justify its policy of providing "free parking" for "Bike Week" motorcycle owners, who get free parking around our Plaza and Cathedral Basilica.  I asked for documents and asked questions.  A week has elapsed.  The City has nothing to offer in response.

There is no justification.

No cost-benefit analysis.

No memos.

No environmental impact statements.

No historic preservationist opinions.

No City Attorney opinions.

No lost parking revenue calculations.

No policy consideration of Fourteenth Amendment violations -- why grant free parking to the Wild Bunch?.

No discussion of the disquieting, noisy cheapening and of our Historic Preservation districts with rampant noise for four percent (4%) of each year -- in March and October.  During two weeks annually we and our St. Augustine visitors are deprived the peaceful quiet enjoyment of our historic downtown. Why?

No written justification, memos, cost-benefit-analysis or thoughtful policy consideration. None.  Zilch. Nada.


The "Bike Week" free motorcycle parking decision was made without much thought, circa 2005.  It was was apparently based upon then-Commissioners' subjective preferences.  This was typical of the discredited, disrespectful decrepit good-ole-boy decision-making style during the Reign of Error of our former City Manager, WILLIAM B. HARRISS.

HARRISS is gone.  Yet is he still influencing events?

Our estimable City of St. Augustine spokesman PAUL WILLIAMSON was present at the creation of HARRISS' free parking policy.  PAUL WILLIAMSON is not talking.  He has the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment.  

For the past week, PAUL WILLIAMSON has ducked written questions and documents about Bike Week, providing no answers and no documents whatsoever.  PAUL WILLIAMSON  provided no information and no answers whatever --  while simultaneously offending democracy by emitting a snippy E-mail he blames on City Attorney RONALD WAYNE BROWN, who claims the E-mail was "legally required." (BROWN still has never had a performance evaluation, after five years on the job and despite   pledges that he would be evaluated).

Earlier today, WILLIAMSON stated in our CIty's weekly "News and Notes E-mail, stating it was a "tradition" to have free parking for "Bike Week."

That's one hideous "tradition."

Bike Week in st. Augustine's Historic Preservation neighborhoods is hellish for the non-bikers -- loud, obnoxious, ugly, trashy and crass -- a noisy "Wild Bunch"invasion of our "sense of place" in our Nation's Oldest City.   They're noisy and they scare horses, dogs and people (both children and adults).

Tradition?  People dying from malaria, yellow fever and smallpox due to government inactions were once "traditions," as once were people subjected to genocide, slavery, segregation and lynchings.  But we don't want those "traditions" back, either.  Do we?  We wouldn't listen to anyone rationalizing those plagues as desirable.  Would we?

Calling something "traditional" is  no substitute for thought.  In the words of the late United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., it is "disgusting" to have no other reason or a rule or law that it was "laid down during the reign of Henry IV."  But the reign of WILLIAM B. HARRISS?  How narcissistic.

Having Bike Week during two weeks each year in St. Augustine is like inviting ants to a picnic. Noisy ants.
Rich guys who never asked for free parking and don't need it.

Listen to the rumble and grumble of hundreds of noisy motorcycles during the twice-annual Bike Week and contemplate the words of the poet: "The world is too much with us, late and soon.  Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.  We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon." 

Let our muffler-impaired, often helmet-less motorcyclist guests enter and leave this quiet town the back way, using the parking garage.

Let us not invite our noisy "Bike Week" guests to vroom-vroom-vroom their way around our historic downtown all day without helmets, making walking and driving hazardous, sometimes getting killed and killing themselves (and others) as occurs so often and  forseeably in Daytona Beach, Florida and other "Bike Week" venues across America and in St. Johns County earlier this month.

Let the "Bike Week" guests show respect  Let the bikers kindly walk, saunter or sashay down St. George Street (and adjacent streets) like everyone else.  They don't need to have the rent-free use of our Plaza de la Constitucion, in front of our Cathedral Basilica to hawk their wares or show off their possessions.  How crass.

WILLIAMSON wrote the "tradition" includes an "unofficial display of a wide variety of motorcycles from around the county (sic) making it an attraction (sic) for visitors."  That's spin, not data.

WILLIAMSON's assumptions are contrary to the historic character of our downtown.

We don't consider noisy metal objects in our Nation's Oldest City's Historic Downtown to be the least bit "attract[ive]."

We don't consider dozens of imotorcyles parked at the Plaza to be compliant with Department of the Interior standards, or the reasonable expectations of an historic city.

Does anyone else?

The city has again created yet another problem at the Plaza.  Now it is with excessive noisy visitor parking -- that's why we have a $25 million Visitor Information Center parking garage (and the interest bills to show for it). Let's look to motorcycle enthusiasts to pay their fair share from now, instead of giving them any more "free rides" and uglification and nois-ification of our downtown. 

Enough "gaming the system" to grant government favors for owners of noisy vehicles.

Let us not invite noisy and even noisome nuisances to drive and park in our narrow historic streets.  And let us not give those nuisances them free parking by our historic Cathedral Basilica!

On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, the night Pope Francis was named, anyone wanting to pray in and enjoy our 1797 St. Augustine Roman catholic Cathedral Basilica had to breathe hog-smoke and step around $25,000 motorcycles to do so.  How distracting.  How unnecessary. How gauche. How inauthentic.

After a week without any data or answers, PAUL WILLIAMSON asserts vague public benefits from free parking for noisy machines, doing so in the City's March 15, 2013 "News and Notes."  In response to my March 8, 2013 E-mail, WILLIAMSON has had no documents, no answers and no data.

I reckon PAUL WILLIAMSON suffers from both: (A) a surfeit of logical fallacies and (B) acalculia (an inability to perform mathematical functions), both of which are not uncommon ailments. It sounds like WILLIAMSON sorta thinks he's still working for WILLIAM B. HARRISS and the Chamber of Commerce, unable to process information for our City leaders and citizens.  HARRISS and WILLIAMSON used Jim Crow Law to outlaw painting and singing on St. George Street, hating creativity, basing their law-breaking lawmaking on "obstruction of traffic." At the same time, they welcomed traffic-obstructing motorcyclists.  Expecting HARRISS and WILLIAMSON to make logical sense is asking too much, I reckon -- what do you expect from a pig but a grunt?.

WILLIAMSON is kinda stuck on himself, writing on his Linked-in page that he is "An effective communicator in both the written word and all public speaking forums. Especially skilled in issue development and information delivery and marketing through print, the electronic media and face-to-face meetings; special project management, from concept to completion, including those involving meeting management, marketing of issues, products or programs, and all aspects of public relations."  Except he can't answer questions or provide documents on Bike Week.

We in the "reality-based community" reject nonsense, cant and flummery from government.  This is our government.  It does not belong to PAUL WILLIAMSON or motorcycle riders (or groups or gangs of them).  It is up to us, not them.

Let's insist our leaders base City of St. Augustine public policy on real facts and good science.  OK?

Let's reject and be done with oleaginous PAUL WILLIAMSON's rote invocation of "tradition," one without factual foundation.  If it were ever to be deemed by some to be a "tradition"  it is one that is only eight (8) years old, in a City that is more than 447 years old!  That's not much of a "tradition." But do remember the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes: how "disgusting!"

Let the ostentatious "idle rich" and their noisy machines violate eardrums and aesthetics elsewhere.   Not in our Historic District, please.

Let the visiting motorcycle enthusiasts park somewhere besides the Plaza.  Let them pay like everyone else. They can afford it.  There is no public benefit, only burdens on the rest of us to endure their nasty noise.  In the words of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, "Not one penny for tribute."

No more free riders, please.  Our Nation's Oldest City is about history and authenticity -- not trashy Bike Week.  Let Bike Week patrons park away from our Cathedral Basilica from now on, please!

What do you reckon?

 Photo credit: J.D. Pleasant (and a cast of thousands). Former City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS (a/k/a "WILL HARASS") is gone -- so why does PAUL WILLIAMSON still act like he's City Manager, blocking Open Records requests and arrogantly insisting that "Bike Week" free parking is good for our community?  It's long past time for PAUL WILLIAMSON to go, and with him his slothful work habits and bad attitude toward democracy.  Like BAGHDAD BOB and SADDAM HUSSEIN, PAUL WILLIAMSON and WILLIAM B. HARRISS were two of a kind -- HARRISS is gone. PAUL WILLIAMSON needs to be gone, too. 

St. Augustine Amphitheatre Concertgoers: Beware Ripoff $3-5/Transaction Fee to Use St. Johns County Government/Monopoly ATM

St. Johns County is under investigation by FDIC for consumer protection law and antitrust law violations, possible price-gouging and Americans with Disabilities Act violations.  The subject: two two broken-down plastic ATMs at the St. Augustine Amphitheater, which cost consumers a minimum of $3/transaction to use, an unusually high ATM fee that has already brought the County thousands of dollars in revenue.

The ATMs -- two portable broken-down, antique, plastic, portable, free-standing machines -- have small hard-to-read screens bathed in a sun's southern exposure by daylight -- the ATM screens are difficult to read, lacking sufficient ADA accessibility for our sight- and hearing-impaired Amphitheater guests.

The County's St. Augustine Amphitheater's expensive $3/transaction machines have a monopoly -- by posted Amphitheater rule, ticket holders cannot leave and return to the concert.  The $3/transaction fee is price-gouging of a captive audience.  It is unconscionable, and a breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing that is implied in law in any contract.  Is s this any way for St. Johns County government to treat our St.Augustine visitors during the 500th anniversary of Spanish Florida this year?  Or the 450th anniversary of the City of St. Augustine in 2015?  or the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in 2014?

How little self-respect do these County officials have that they would lower our City's reputation just to gouge every ATM customer that ever visits our Amphitheater and Farmer's Market? How greedy.

The SJC-approved fees are $3/transaction, plus the additional $2 your own bank probably charges -- that's $5 to get $100 from your account, which would be free of charge at your own bank.

I asked COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR MICHAEL WANCHICK for the records back on March 12th -- he passed it off to his staff without even a courteous acknowledgement, with his staff sending only an airy form letter.  Update: as of 11:30 PM on March 15th: all they've provided is a printout showing SJC's income from the ATM fee scheme.

What does SJC have to hide about the 2007 RFP and sequelae?

Still no purchasing records yet from SJC oligarchs on their monopolistic, price-gouging ADA-violating ATM machines.  It's almost Midnight.  St. Augustine Amphitheater patrons beware!  Matchbox 20, Bob Dylan,
Billy Idol, Alan Jackson, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, Imagine Dragons, Eddie Palmieri, OAR, Hall & Oates, Gamble Rogers Folk Festival,Ted Nugent, Styx, Smashing Pumpkins, Third Day, REO Speedwagon, Juan Siddi Flamenco Theater, Yo Gabba Gaba Live, et al.: you might wish to question these satraps about picking the pockets of your fans, your crew and maybe even yourselves!

Update:  Bank Atlantic's ATM machines list Sky Processing and MetaBank for contact information -- it's right on the front of the ATMs.
Neither Sky Processing nor MetaBank are shown  by the website of the Florida Secretary of State as ever being authorized to do business in the State of Florida. Sky Processing is based on Chicago.  Iowa -based MetaBank has  been involved in past deceptive trade practices, as found by a cease and desist 0rder issued by the Office of Thrift Supervision (since subsumed by the Comptroller of the Currency).
When I called Sky Processing this afternoon and asked about the $3/transaction fee, a New York based technician answered my question, "Why  not?"  Sounds like Cowboy Ethics to me.  What narcissism.

It is long past time for the apparently illegal ATMs owned by companies apparently not authorized to do business in the State of Florida get busted/investigated -- anyone who ever used these ATMs deserves a full refund of the confiscatory and possibly illegal fees. Since neither Sky Processing nor MetaBank is authorized to do business in the State of Florida, the ATM contracts with St. Johns County may be void ab initio as against public policy under F.S. 607.1501 and the Restatement of Contracts, 2d (Section 178, Contract Violation of Public Policy). What do you reckon?
Here are the offending ATMs, brought to you by St. Johns County Administrator since 2007:

UPDATE (March 18, 2013): 
Q: What's worse than a no-bid contract?
A:  No contract at all.  
Those cheesy tatterdemalion portable $3/transaction ATM machines at our St. Augustine Amphiteater (run by our County government) were NEVER the subject of ANY contract, it turns out.  While there was a Request for Proposals, it was rescinded by Amphitheater staff, as recorded in handwritten notes by the County Purchasing Department.  
FDIC and the County Attorney's office are investigating these high-priced non-ADA compliant machines, from which our County has made thousands of dollars without ever having any signed contract in place. .

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fiat justitia ruat caelum

That's Latin for "Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."  See below on convenience casino busts and our Lt. Governor, JENNIFER CARROLL, whose resignation was announced this morning. 


Florida Lt. Governor JENNIFER CARROLL resigned her office today after she was interviewed in her office by Florida Deparment of Law Enforcement (FDLE) criminal investigators.

CARROLL's resignation takes place amidst federal actions arresting five people in two states and searching and shutting down some 51 "convenience casinos," or "internet cafes" as part of  "Operation Reveal Deal." 

These are a few of the opening busts after a six-year gambling investigation by federal law enforcement agencies. The gambling dens have signs that say things like "Copy, Fax, Print, Surf the Web."  The second wave of criminal charges may include related political corruption.

As a Republican state representative from Jacksonville, Lt. Governor JENNIFER CARROLL once introduced legislation benefiting her public relations firm client, ALLIED VETERANS OF THE WORLD, INC. AND AFFILIATES (ALLIED VETERANS), which would have legalized its putative “internet cafes,” which are allegedly illegal gambling dens.  

Under the Florida Constitution, it looks like it was illegal for then State Representative CARROLL to represent clients before the legislature, but she did it anyway. Florida Constitution Article II, Section 8(e). JENNIFER CARROLL did it anyway.  

Then-Rep. CARROLL later claimed her staff filed the bill without her knowledge in the Florida State House of Representatives in Tallahassee. [That dog won't hunt.  Dodgy corporate types sometimes try to blame their actions on their staffs.  Yet this may be the only time in history when a legislator renounced a piece of legislation with her name on it  and tried to pin the blame for the legislation on her staff.   (Before being elected Lt. Governor, CARROLL also materially altered and backdated a lease in seeking business contracts from the City of Jacksonville).

Pursuant to a 130-page search warrant signed by a federal judge in Oklahoma City two days ago, Federal and state agents have reportedly raided and shut down 51 alleged Florida illegal gambling dens owned by  ALLIED VETERANS OF THE WORLD, INC. AND AFFILIATES (ALLIED VETERANS) bust.  

The ALLIED VETERANS "convenience casino" gambling dens allegedly paid out as much as $15,000 in "sweepstakes," which allegedly violates state and federal gambling and racketeering laws.  The search warrant application indicates the dens are connected to and may be alter egos of an Andarko, Oklahoma business that was raided,

Many of the "convenience casinos" or “internet cafes” reportedly have computers that are really slot machines, and are unadorned by a single keyboard to access the internet.

There allegedly exists a massive gambling empire here in Florida, with the "ALLIED VETERANS OF THE WORLD, INC. AND AFFILIATES (ALLIED VETERANS) World Headquarters: right here outside St. Augustine, at 1965 State Route 16. 

Among those whom have reportedly been arrested are 
C. Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President NELSON CUBA and 
D. ALLIED VETERANS' corporate lawyer, Mr. KELLY B. MATHIS (he was formerly Jacksonville Bar Association President and he advertises "common sense solutions" on his law firm website).  

As ALLIED VETERANS' lawyer, Mr. KELLY B. MATHIS, Esquire on January 31, 2011 signed a 49-page federal court First Amendment civil rights lawsuit brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and alleging First Amendment and civil rights violations by Seminole County in banning sweepstakes/gambling cafes. MATHIS was arrested yesterday, as federal agents shut down 51 allegedly illegal ALLIED VETERANS internet gambling cafes. Federal agents reportedly accuse the alleged fraudsters of using veterans' causes to misappropriate hundreds of millions of dollars of money meant for homeless veterans, with less than 2% of funds raised allegedly going to charitable causes.

ALLIED VETERANS sued Seminole County in federal court in 2011, claiming its constitutional rights had been violated by Seminole County Commissioners passing Ordinance 2011-1 on January 11, 2011, effective Rebruary 2011.  In its lawsuit, filed by Jacksonville and Gainesville attorneys, led by "Trial Counsel" KELLY B. MATHIS, et al., ALLIED VETERANS claimed in a February 1, 2011 federal court complaint to have been founded in 1979 to “promote veterans causes,” claiming “advocacy, fundraising and donations to veterans health care facilities” as its purpose. Federal agents now allege otherwise, and the joint federal-state racketeering investigation continues, with Seminole County Sheriff and State Attorney General assisting.    

This federal fraud and racketeering investigation comes after the successful federal criminal prosecution of St. Augustine Beach based fraudfeasor LYDIA CLADEK, whose LYDIA CLADEK INC. was found by a federal court jury to have been a $100,000,000 fraud involving stolen investments in a scheme to profit from 28% interest rates on car loans to low-income consumers. LYDIA CLADEK will likely reside in a federal penitentiary for the rest of her life.

In any eventual jury trial on the racketeering charges, it is possible that ALLIED VETERANS may be explicitly or impliedly found to have filed a fraud upon the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in its February 1, 2011 lawsuit against Seminole County.  The suit claimed that ALLIED VETERANS was not an illegal gambling business.  It elaborately describes a lengthy, detailed, elaborate set of seemingly innocent facts that would (if true) make the cafes legal, again, IF they had actually been true. 

Two federal trial and appeals courts refused to provide injunctive relief pending the outcome of the Seminole County case, which was eventually joined in by other internet cafes. 

Again, ALLIED VETERANS' lawyer in that case, Jacksonville business and insurance company lawyer KELLY B. MATHIS, has reportedly been arrested as part of the racketeering investigation, in which Lt. Governor CARROLL was interviewed yesterday.  Other corporate lawyers should worry.

A Vanderbilt University Law School graduate, arrested ALLIED VETERANS lawyer KELLY B. MATHIS was a litigator who tried medical malpractice and business cases.  On a "dare," MATHIS reportedly once ran a marathon wearing a suit: he told the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2004, upon leaving larger law firms and starting his own law firm as a solo, that "Somebody once told me, if you want to hit a home run, you have to swing hard." KELLY MATHIS said he liked the competition in law, and "You've got to give 100%.  It's not just you that's at stake. It's the reputation of the client.  It's the money of the client, their faith in the system."  MATHIS said that "Part of it is, can you outwork and outsmart the other attorney....It's also being a sherpa, guiding clients through an intricate process." He continued that, "most important, you want to prevail for a just cause. If you have a client that needs a resolution, you want to give them a favorable resolution.  If you can't, then they don't need you."  MATHIS claimed that he did not want to practice "door law," a local Bar nickname for lawyers who "take anything that walks in the door."

It appears that lawyer KELLY B. MATHIS may have gotten the federal government's attention by filing the ALLIED VETERANS' federal civil rights lawsuit attacking Seminole County Commissioners' right to regulate "convenience casino" gambling.  It also appears that, in hindsight, MATHIS practically dared  prosecutors to persist, when he told the Orlando Sentinel in 2010, "There has not been a successful prosecution yet," citing a Marion County jury acquittal of an internet cafe on state charges. The charges against MATHIS and his alleged co-felons are federal charges.

The NY Times reported in 2011 that there then were more than 1000 Florida internet sweepstakes cafes and that the industry grosses more than $1 billion per year. The Times reported that two state legislators then owned internet sweepstakes cafes – State Rep. PETER NEHR (R-Tarpon Springs) and then-Senator MICHAEL BENNETT (R-Manatee County).

Opponents say the Florida "convenenince casino" or internet sweepstakes cafe gambling industry -- encourages compulsive gambling and attracts armed robbers.  A single strip mall "convenience casino" draws in as much as $100,000 weekly, the Times reported.  There was an armed robbery at one in Seminole County, the Times reported, and a patron called police to report the armed robbery from the women's room, saying she was "at the casino." (This was ALLIED VETERANS Post No. 167, which sued Seminole County over its ordinance in the federal court case filed by MATHIS).

This billion dollar Florida sweepstakes cafe gambling industry is one that our State Senator John Thrasher  would like to declare a “moratorium” against. Perhaps there should be a total ban -- what do you think?

Without a Florida Lt. Governor to help "carry water" for them, this latest Florida organized crime business looks like it will soon by dying on the vine, like the “pill mills” that State Attorney General Pam Bondi and Palm Beach County State's Attorney Dave Aronberg have worked to eliminate. 

Lt. Gov. JENNIFER CARROLL was a rarity – an African-American woman snowed by Republicans. They are about as rare as hens' teeth. Her departure leaves a vacancy for a Republican token Tallahassee.
There will be teeth gnashed and champagne cried in by Republicans -- and organized crime lobbyists -- in Tallahassee tonight. Probably at the same tables in the same restaurants and bars.  

Under our Florida Constitution, it looks like the choice of a new Lt. Governor is one given to Florida Governor RICHARD SCOTT (himself no stranger to fraud charges: we remember his billion dollar Medicaid fraud settlement). Federal and state law enforcement officials are holding a press conference at 3 PM today, after which Governor SCOTT will answer questions.  Stay tuned -- it's going to be a bumpy night.

Here's two questions for Florida Governor Richard SCOTT:

1. Under our Florida Constitution, it looks like it was absolutely illegal for State Representative JENNIFER CARROLL to represent clients before the legislature she was serving in, but she did it anyway, introducing legislation to benefit them as an industry by legalizing their operations. See Florida Constitution Article II, Section 8(e).  JENNIFER CARROLL did it anyway. She later claimed her staff filed the bill without her knowledge. How can the Constitutional provisions on Ethics be strengthened?

2.  How long must Florida be the butt of TV late night comics' jokes for its legendary, Louisiana-like corruption? What are "We, the People," going to do about it?

These are serious questions for all of us on this painful day.
Please read (below) our Florida Constitution Ethics provision (adopted in 1998), and contemplate why the JENNIFER CARROLLS of the world --- and the special interests that they front for -- get away with stealing our democracy. 
Think about how our Florida Constitution can be reformed to strengthen ethics provisions.  
What do you propose? 
What do you reckon?


Here's Article II, Section 8 of the Florida Constitution

SECTION 8. Ethics in government.—A public office is a public trust. The people shall have the right to secure and sustain that trust against abuse. To assure this right:
(a) All elected constitutional officers and candidates for such offices and, as may be determined by law, other public officers, candidates, and employees shall file full and public disclosure of their financial interests.
(b) All elected public officers and candidates for such offices shall file full and public disclosure of their campaign finances.
(c) Any public officer or employee who breaches the public trust for private gain and any person or entity inducing such breach shall be liable to the state for all financial benefits obtained by such actions. The manner of recovery and additional damages may be provided by law.
(d) Any public officer or employee who is convicted of a felony involving a breach of public trust shall be subject to forfeiture of rights and privileges under a public retirement system or pension plan in such manner as may be provided by law.
(e) No member of the legislature or statewide elected officer shall personally represent another person or entity for compensation before the government body or agency of which the individual was an officer or member for a period of two years following vacation of office. No member of the legislature shall personally represent another person or entity for compensation during term of office before any state agency other than judicial tribunals. Similar restrictions on other public officers and employees may be established by law.
(f) There shall be an independent commission to conduct investigations and make public reports on all complaints concerning breach of public trust by public officers or employees not within the jurisdiction of the judicial qualifications commission.
(g) A code of ethics for all state employees and nonjudicial officers prohibiting conflict between public duty and private interests shall be prescribed by law.
(h) This section shall not be construed to limit disclosures and prohibitions which may be established by law to preserve the public trust and avoid conflicts between public duties and private interests.
(i) Schedule—On the effective date of this amendment and until changed by law:
(1) Full and public disclosure of financial interests shall mean filing with the custodian of state records by July 1 of each year a sworn statement showing net worth and identifying each asset and liability in excess of $1,000 and its value together with one of the following:
a. A copy of the person’s most recent federal income tax return; or
b. A sworn statement which identifies each separate source and amount of income which exceeds $1,000. The forms for such source disclosure and the rules under which they are to be filed shall be prescribed by the independent commission established in subsection (f), and such rules shall include disclosure of secondary sources of income.
(2) Persons holding statewide elective offices shall also file disclosure of their financial interests pursuant to subsection (i)(1).
(3) The independent commission provided for in subsection (f) shall mean the Florida Commission on Ethics.
History.—Proposed by Initiative Petition filed with the Secretary of State July 29, 1976; adopted 1976; Ams. proposed by Constitution Revision Commission, Revision Nos. 8 and 13, 1998, filed with the Secretary of State May 5, 1998; adopted 1998.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Ann Coulter and the St. Augustine Record Debate --- 16 Ways for the Record to Be Read Again

Readers write back and forth in the St. Augustine Record about Ann Coulter. She's an overpaid agent-provocateur and a bad TV performance artist, who once dated Bill Maher. Ann Coulter is what she appears -- Ann Coulter is a devious right-wing lawyer with a potty mouth and a stack of crazy beliefs that loons will buy at the drop of a hat whenever she writes a putative “book,” of the kind my mother would always call a “non-book.” I challenged her to a debate when I was Out in the City columnist, after she called Senator John Edwards a "faggot" Ann Coulter's publicist, William Morris Co., never responded. "Why does baloney reject the grinder," as William F. Buckley once asked (of someone who would not debate him). The late conservative Buckley's National Review fired Ann Coulter for bigotry after 9/11, which only helped to build her fanatic following. When Ann Coulter's father died, Ann Coulter wrote a column that paid tribute to his union-busting acumen. She's a hater and a bully who formerly clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge. She's no dummy. She's laughing all the way to the bank with her nostrums, laughing at the rubes and lugibrious goobers who read, believe and pay for those nostrums.

In recent letters to the editor, Record readers made the point that the Record prints Ann Coulter to "sell newspapers." Sure enough. It works.

There are other, better ways to sell newspapers than printing bigoted rants against Gays, Democrats, unions and progressives. I can think of at least 16 of them this morning. 

If the Record really wanted to sell newspapers, it would do the following:
  1.  Print a Peter Guinta column at least once each week. Peter Guinta is a sage reporter whose weekly column was canceled by the Record when he offended people (e.g., made them think). His last column was simultaneously pro-marijuana legalization and pro-gun owner rights – libertarian and principled. He's an experienced reporter whose own employer censored his words, while running Ann Coulter (and paying oodles for the privilege over the years). . There is no principled reason why Morris Communications cannot promote a reporter to columnist and print his column in all their newspapers – self-syndication beats paying for the Ann Coulters of the world.

  2. Rehire fired political cartoonist Ed Hall and restore local political cartoonists to the Opinion pages. The Record wrongfully fired Ed Hall under tortious pressure from the School Superintendent and his cronies, including the Arts Council's then-President, Phil McDaniel (who wrote a bloviating cartoon of a guest column, complaining about Ed Hall's cartoon depicting a generic Florida School Superintendent as being fat and bloated on a big salary, while cutting arts and music. The cartoon was not about the School Superintendent, but to flex his political muscle, our School Superintendent and his thin-skinned cronies saw to it that Ed Hall's wonderful cartoons would never run in the Record again – that is a chilling effect and you need to apologize to Ed Hall and rehire him.
    3. Question government officials more often, and cover government meetings gavel-to-gavel, with details on all actions on the website (or in smaller agate type the way we did at the Appalachian Observer). Shallow surface reporting is like a thin gruel. We deserve a banquet of news, not mere crumbs.

    4. Run longer stories. Too often, several stories flowing from a government meetings are printed in dribs and drabs, over days. Tell what you know, when you know it, instead of waiting for an opening in your tiny “news hole,” which grows smaller and smaller and smaller year by year by year.

    5. Invest in long-term enterprise journalism and investigative reporting. Start uncovering the rocks in governments, businesses and non-profits. For openers, Flagler College has two undisclosed plans, which presumably involve expanding further into St. Augustine and further reducing our tax base – please investigate. Our St. Johns County government has a $600 million/year budget, and its operations are not covered well. I reckon our Tea Party friends' suspicions are probably right – there is potential waste, fraud and abuse in every government. GO FIND IT – do your jobs.

    6. “Dance with the ones that brung you” – every new Record Publisher ends up moving here (or not moving here), while associating socially with the same influentials and advertisers, joining boards with them, hanging out with them. The Record Publisher's and Editor's pals' views should not dominate the news. Remember that readers make the Record what it is – the Record needs to think of the public interest, reporting the news rather than ignoring it to benefit the special interests (e.g., tree-killing “developers,” including national home building firms and ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD, all of which were allowed to behave "worse than any carpetbagger," in former County Commission Chairman Ben Rich's words, destroying what we like about our area, while avoiding news coverage and criticism),

    7. Reach out to young people. Increasingly, young readers (e.g., by definition, anyone younger than me), don't like and don't read newspapers very much. This is your fault, dear editors and publishers, your newspapers lack a certain hipness and coolness. Listen to young people and let them tell you what they would like to read – news, not fluff (just like the rest of us).

    8. Do market research and focus groups. Learn and use statistics.

    9. Develop self-insight.

    10. Start listening to people outside your narrow band of associations – there are more people to be listened to than the ones you may encounter at Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and Flagler Hospital Board of Directors. 

    11. Plan on developing more of a sense of humor. 

    12. Embrace, as a sobriquet, “The Mullet Wrapper” (which locals have called the Record for decades. Use it in advertising and make clear you are trying to rise above the bad reputation.

    13. Quit being so dull and pompous – it's a newspaper, not a church newsletter or the newsletter from some gated community.

    14. Quit ignoring news you don't like – the rote omission of progressive local environmental and human rights victories from the news pages indicates a possible bias (akin to that brandished when the Record Editor once wanted to omit Democratic Congressional candidates from a League of Women Voters forum).

    15. Remember that democracy is about all of us – let us in on all of what you know and can prove – people say the “best way to keep a secret in St. Augustine is to tell the St. Augustine Record.” No more secrets – report what you know.

    16. Stop printing government and corporate handouts (press releases), which are almost never identified as such, and acting like you hung the moon when you do (“Special to the Record,” indeed – harrumph!)
    What do you reckon?
    Ed Slavin
    Box 3084
    St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

Thursday, March 07, 2013

NY Times: Secretary of the Interior Nominee Sally Jewell Advances in Senate Confirmation Hearing

Interior Dept. Nominee Is Questioned on Public Land Use

WASHINGTON — Sally Jewell, President Obama’s nominee for interior secretary, deflected many of the questions she faced at her confirmation hearing Thursday but made clear she supports expanded oil and gas development on public lands and waters, including exploratory drilling off the North Slope of Alaska and seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Leaning into oil and gas development is an important part of the mission of the Bureau of Land Management and also of the Department of Interior,” Ms. Jewell said, one of the four times she used a phrase popularized by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook and author of “Lean In,” a book on the challenges confronted by women who are executives.
Ms. Jewell, chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc. in Seattle, also faced questions on climate change, protection of endangered species, energy development on Indian lands and her role as a board member of a national parks advocacy organization.
The questions were generally polite from Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Ms. Jewell’s responses were for the most part noncommittal. She referred frequently to the need for balance between exploitation of federal lands for resource extraction and preservation of wilderness.
She also said climate change was real, but dodged questions about whether she supported a carbon tax to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for the warming planet. “A carbon tax is not something that would come before me, and the president has made it clear he is not pursuing a carbon tax at this point,” Ms. Jewell said.
She said she supported Mr. Obama’s so-called all-of-the-above energy strategy, including increased production of oil and gas as well as renewable energy on public lands.
Several Republican senators questioned her about her association with the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy organization for employees and visitors at national parks. Ms. Jewell is vice chairwoman of the board of directors of the group, which frequently sues the department over land-use decisions, parks policy and employee rights. Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, said her work at the group was “unsettling” and demanded a pledge that she promise to recuse herself from any legal or regulatory matters involving it.
Ms. Jewell said she was one of 30 board members and had no authority on matters of litigation. She said that if she were confirmed and issues involving the conservation organization arose she would consult with Interior Department ethics officers before taking any action.
Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, noted that Ms. Jewell’s résumé cites her work as a young woman as a construction worker on the Alaska oil pipeline, as a petroleum engineer in Colorado, as a commercial banker for 19 years and as chief executive of a billion-dollar company.
“My question is this,” Mr. Alexander said. “How’d you get appointed by this administration? You sound more like a nominee of a Republican administration.”
“I thought you were going to ask, ‘Why can’t you hold a job?’ ” Ms. Jewell responded.
Many of the committee members asked about home-state issues. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the senior Republican on the panel, said she was concerned about a recent Fish and Wildlife Service decision to block the building of a gravel airport access road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in the Aleutian Islands. Ms. Murkowski called the decision an example of federal overreach.
“We need you to affirm that public lands provide not just a playground for recreational enthusiasts,” Ms. Murkowski said, “but also paychecks for countless energy producers, miners, loggers and ranchers.”

Los Angeles Times: Vote on New Secretary of the Interior Could Be As Early As Next Week,0,6969963.story

High Country News ("For people who care about the West") re: Secretary of the Interior Nominee Sally Jewell

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Birtherism Emitted On Local Republican Apparatchik's Hate Website --

An editorial on the local Republican apparatchik's website ("Historic City News") cleverly satirizes the typical American who uses, wears, drives and buys all-foreign products and wonders why jobs are hard to come by in the USA. The editorial then goes off the deep end -- it ends with a not-so-clever, unsubtle, racist, Birtherism attack on President Obama, stating the President was “made in Kenya.” That's not funny – it's a kiss-up to racists in our local Republican Party and Tea Party , who continue the false allegation President Obama was born in Kenya.  The Grand Dragon would be proud; the rest of us are appalled.  It is especially appalling because the "editorial" -- attributed to "News Desk" is plagiarized from multiple sources on the Internet. E.g., This was not the first time the "Historic City News" website has plagiarized -- when controversial City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS "retired," the website printed the City's hagiographic press release in haec verba without identifying the source. Such is often the case -- government and corporate press releases are printed without attribution.  This is not journalism. 
The "Historic City News" website even contains a Gerald Ford quote -- falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson, the same false misquotation a local Tea Party faction misquoted to our St. Johns County Commission November 1, 2011 in connection with the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.
Plagiarism and misquotation are intellectually dishonest.
What do you reckon?