Wednesday, July 31, 2013

St. Augustine Beach Commissioners Did NOT Pass a Tax Increase

According to the St. Augustine Record, tax increase was reportedly "passed" by vote of 2-1 on July 29th (Commissioner Pawlowski dissented). St. Augustine Beach City Charter Section 1-5(b) requires three affirmative (3) votes to carry any motion. Thus, the July 29th tax increase vote (2-1) did NOT raise taxes, as there were only two (2) affirmative votes in favor of the motion. In response, alert City of St. Augustine Beach Deputy City Clerk determined that the tax increase vote failed, and so reported to the Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue (DOR). Thank you, Ms. Benson.

Government-subsidized newspaper publishes online death threat against City officials

You would think a real journalist would not publish anonymous online death threats against government officials. You would think a real journalist would not create an online forum for anonymous threats and racist, sexist and homophobic rants, e.g. a coment in the Record today concerning “Barney (The Fruit) Frank.” The St. Augustine Record insists on giving anonymous haters bandwidth, commenting after every single article. On July 24th at 6 AM, the Record published an anonymous comment calling for St. Augustine City Commissioners and staff to be “lined up and shot” in the Plaza de la Constitucion (a/k/a Slave Market Square) for supporting the Mumford & Sons concert, complaining about the alleged rejection of family faith-centered entertainment in local venues and demanding the concert be canceled. This putative religious poster evidently thinks it's funny to suggest that government officials be “lined up and shot.” We're not laughing, and neither are the government officials. A week ago, I wrote the Record Editor Ellis and Publisher Delinda Fogel about this threatening language, asking that it be removed and the poster be identified. No response yet. Rose Kennedy's favorite Bible verse was from Matthew: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Even if you never purchased a copy of the St. Augustine Record, you're paying for it. The Record is “a newspaper of general circulation,” with a second class mailing permit. As such, it has the right – under current Florida law – to be paid for legal advertising by government agencies. No bids are required. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from government agencies flow into the newspaper's coffers each year -- announcing meetings, ordinances, zoning changes, elections, andbid opportunities. Some Florida legislators recently proposed legislation to allow ads to be placed in internet publications, a move that was opposed by the newspaper industry. One of the reasons that Florida newspapers are not more investigative may be the large checks their publishers receive from government agencies. Make waves, and someone might take away your legal advertising, some publishers fear. The same racket existed in Tennessee, where our Appalachian Observer competitors (Oak Ridger and Clinton Courier-News) were subsidized by legal ads from Anderson County government offices, making them look the other way where waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance and corruption were concerned. Since FY 2002, the St. Augustine Record has received the benefit of millions of dollars in advertising from local governments, including cities, Constitutional Officers and independent taxing districts as follows: St Johns County Board of County Commissioners $1,397,569.40 (includes Election Supervisor) St Johns County Clerk of Courts $ 666,662.27 City of St. Augustine $ 374,989.53 (more later) It's our money.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Remedying Invasions of Privacy

There are three approaches to remedying government and corporate invasions of privacy:

1. Fast:   Last Friday evening, July 19th, I called our City Manager and wrote him and our City officials, reporting a breach of privacy on the City of St. Augustine's website, exposing named local residents to breach of their personal information in the agenda packet for the July 22, 2013 meeting.  On Saturday morning, July 20th -- within some 14 hours of my reporting it -- the privacy and security breach was cured.  Thanks to St. Augustine City Manager John P. Regan, P.E., to Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline and to former Mayor Len Weeks for working to assure fast, proactive action to correct a PR staffer's  breach of privacy, which could have empowered stalkers, identity thieves and hackers. It takes a village. Good work!  Now if only our federal government were as responsive (and responsible) as our City of St. Augustine officials -- see cases 2 & 3 (below).

2. Slow:  In 1986, I noticed as a newly-trained GS-9 Attorney Advisor in hte Office of Administrative Law Judges in Washington, D.C. that every single one of our tens thousands of  U.S. Department of Labor Black Lung decisions carried the claimant coal miner's Social Security number.  I was told by our Attorney-Advisor trainers that this was mandatory, and required by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers Compensation Progams.  Every single coal miner's Notice of Hearing in every single Black Lung case that DOL ever decided bore miners' Social Security numbers.  DOL had since the 1970s, in each case, shared them with dozens of other people, includng other miners with hearings set for the same day; plaintiff and defense law firms; court reporters; the United Mne Workers and insurance companies. SSNs were routinely mailed out on thousands of documents to people with no Need to Know.  Every single Black Lung Benefits Act document, from orders to hearing transcripts, bore miners' Social Security numbers.  This promiscuous publication of SSNs was Department of Labor  "standard procedure," approved by the Solicitor of Labor himself, I was told.  DOL, founded in 1913, is 100 years old this year. DOL was long run by authoritarian, hierarchical order-followers and standpatters, people who "know not that they know not that they know not."  Thus, when I raised concerns about the use of Social Security numbers on every decision, the answer might as well have been carved in marble over the DOL building headquarters: "We've always done it this way."  In 2003, the United States Supreme Court agreed with lower courts that the decades-long DOL practice of Social Security number publication violated federal Privacy Act rights, upholding an injunction (but rejecting damages for miners).  Doe v. Chao.

3. Nonexistent:  This week, the U.S. House of Reprsentatives narrowly voted, 217-205, to reject the Amash-Conyers amendment that would have halted NSA invasions of privacy.  Thus, the House voted by a close margin, not to do anything about the National Security Agency's invasion of hundreds of millions of patriotic Americans' privacy (revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden).  Twelve members were absent.  Read the list of who voted and how.  It is very revealing.  Conservatives and Liberals united and almost won the day. Kudos to our freshman U.S. Congressman, Republican Ronald DeSantis, for supporting the NSA amendment, which was sponsored by two Michigan Congressmen, conservative Republican Justin Amash and liberal Democrat John Conyers.  Only the Republican and Democratic House leadership -- other-directed by fierce and furious lobbying by NSA and the Pentagon -- halted the voice of the American people being heard and heeded in our U.S. House of Representatives. How many of those poltroonish Representatives who refused to vote for the Amash-Conyers Amendment took the time to read the words of the Fourth Amendment?  How may of them horse-traded something else for their vote?  How many of them held their noses as they voted, knowing that Reps. Amash and Conyers are true patriots, true to our Founders' vision?  This 217-205 vote is not the last word. Instead, it is a moral victory.  Next stop: I predict that the American Bar Association might weigh in on the issue with a House of Delegates Resolution next month.  ABA has often supported protecting human rights, helping end "Jim Crow" segregation and South African Apartheid, while supporting us in our efforts to: (a) protect the rights of 3.5 million government and contractors on security clearances (Honolulu, August, 1989); (b) protect the rights of GLBT people (Denver, February 1989); and (c) protect the rights of government and corporate whistleblowers (Los Angeles, February 1990).

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Department of the Interior's Delusions of Adequacy

A cache of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveals that our government officials consider the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission to be an "odd committee," with "weird" concerns expressed in a 2011 Record column by Phil McDaniel about the Commission not being funded.
The Department of the Interior provided only $30,000 in seed funding for the Commission, which met here in St. Augustine July 18, 2011.  At that public meeting, I spoke in favor of a presentation on the proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.
There was applause from the packed auditorium at Flagler College.
Yet the 450th Commission has held no public meetings since July 18, 2011. 
It appears from FOIA documents that the Park and Seashore have not been discussed at secret meetings. 
Rather than stimulate public debate about the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, the DoI hides St. Augustine's light under a bushel basket. 
The National Park Service refuses to fund the Commission.  DOI is not funding it, either.
Congress has not passed an appropriation. Mired in schoolyard bully-style parliamentary tactics, the House of Representatives refuses to pass appropriations, instead passing "continuing resolutions."  With no line item, NPS refuses to reprogram money for the 450th.
Despite repeated contacts by former Commissioner William Leary, a former DoI staffer, money for the 450th Commemoration Commission meetings does not exist.  The 450th Commission has a nonaganerian billionaire chair, Jay Kisklak, who loves history and nature and has donated gazillions for National Parks Foundation.  Yet no private funder has written the checks to cover meeitng costs.  Why?  Kisklak has not responded to my inquiry.
FOIA documents reveal that the notion of secrecy for the 450th commission is legally untenable.  "Operational" committees are exempt from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which applies Sunshine principles to thousands of federal advisory committees, including some 117 at DOI.
DOI asserted the 450th Commission is an operational committee. But the 450th Commission isn't operating anything, other than a series of meetings in private offices and conference rooms, from which the public and press are excluded.  Why?
Congress intended the 450th Commission be covered by FACA, as evidenced by language exempting the Commission from Section 14(b) of FACA (duration), but not the rest of FACA.
Errant DOI employees in Washington, D.C. don't even have a point of contact for St. Augustinians to call about the 450th.  Why?
While the St. Augustine Record editorialized that the meetings should be opened, it has not yet filed a Federal Advisory Committee Act lawsuit, even though it has capable lawyers expert in Sunshine laws.  Why?
The St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore was first proposed by Florida's Senators and our local Congressman in 1939. 
What are we waiting for?
Our federal St. Augustine 450th Commemoration Commission must do the People's Business.
Or go out of business as Congressman John Luigi Mica's ineffectual gesture.

Here's How to Stop 7-11 From Putting Twelve Gas Pumps at "F" Failing Intersection of San Marco and May Street

1.  Diplomacy.  President Obama just nominated Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter, to be Ambassador to Japan.  Few realize it, but 7-11 is a Japanese corporation.  Contact the Japanese Ambassador in Washington, D.C.  Then ask our our Ambassador-designate, Caroline Kennedy, to explain to the government of Japan why we don't want twelve (12) gasoline pumps at a dangerous failing intersection, an evacuation route in a small town.  Let Ambassador Kennedy explain why twelve (12) unwanted gasoline pumps in the wrong place at the wrong time must no be Japan's "contribution" to the commemoration of the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine, our Nation's Oldest European-founded city, founded September 8, 1565.  The Japanese and St. Augustinians revere nature and history.  Let the Japanese-owned 7-11 donate the property as a park to the National Park Service, as part of the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.
2.  Eminent domain.  Let's the State of Florida Department of Transporation go to court and take the land by eminent domain, for use for a roundabout, as proposed by the Mobility Institute study.
3.  Occupy St. Augustine.  There's a third alternative: occupy the property with protesters, signs, musicians, artists, entertainers and supporters during the September 13-14 Mumford & Sons concert.  It would earn national media and worldwide support for the efforts of the people of St. Augustine to preserve, protect and defend our town and our way of life.
What do y'all reckon?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

St. Augustine Votes to Become Compassionate City (Again)

City Commissioners voted 4-0 to become a "Compassionate City" Monday, July 22nd.  We're the first one in the State of Florida.

St. Augustine, St. Augustine Beach, the Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and State's Attorney R.J. Larizza have led the way on adopting sexual orientation nondiscrimination provisions.  This makes our County more attractive for visitors, employers, musicians, artists and entertainers.  Our City's Fair Housing ordinance helped persuade Mumford & Sons to perform in St. Augustine, one of only three (3)
U.S. venues for its Gentlement of the Road Tour.

Nattering nabobs of negativism are furious at St. Augustine's civic improvements.
They were perfectly happy with Jim Crow segregation. They want artists and musicians arrested for performing on St. George Street.  They don't believe in compassion.  Their days are over.

This morning, at 6 AM, some bigot posted an online death threat -- calling for City Commissioners to lined up and shot (see below) in the Slave Market Square. 

Now, after 8 PM, the WRecKord has not kept Marcia Lane's promise at 4:30 PM to remove the offending post, which states that our City government officials be "taken out and shot in the plaza in the center of St. Augustine...."

The Record debases debate with its "Anonymice" postings, even going so far as to print some in the printed version of the newspaper.  Enough.

Bullies use the Record's anonymous commenting feature to intimidate.

Terroristic threats on the Record's website, and elsewhere on the internet, have long been one of the ways that the developers, right-wing politicians, KKK, local Tea Party elements and other Nativists in St. Johns County chilled, coerced, restrained and discouraged First Amendment protected activity. 

Now the electronic bullies switched from targeting activists to targeting our elected and appointed officials.

They've committed possible federal and state crimes, and for long enough.

Anyone with information should contact SAPD or the FBI.
Ask for the Domestic Terrorism Squad. 904-248-7000.

Death threat posted against City officials on St. Augustine Record's website--- KKK-style response to Mumford & Sons concert vote

This morning, at or about 6 AM, a death threat was posted against our City of St Augustine elected officials and City staff, on the St. Augustine Record's website.

Today at 4:18 PM, I requested that the St. Augustine Record help identify the poster, and report them to law enforcement authorities. No response yet. 

At 4;30, I spoke to Marcia Lane, who is acting on behalf of Petere Ellis during his vacation.  More than ninety minutes later, after 6 PM, the hateful death threat is still posted on the Record's website. Why?

In past years anonymous, St. Augustine Record website "Anonymice" commenters have posted death threats against activists, as have posters on and other hate sites. 

Now that our City government officials listen to the people and we're becoming a more compassionate city, the haters have shifted their anger.  Hence, they have now made death threats to our City officials. 

See my letter to the Record and the offending post (below). 

What do you reckon?
Dear Mr. Ellis and Ms. Fogel:

1. Would you please help me publicly identify the anonymous poster of the 6 AM death threat (quoted below) against our City of St. Augustine Commissioners and City staff?
2. This NIC appears to be a new one.
3. Please share all information available to you about the poster.
4. What lack of safeguards was responsible for the death threat's continued posting for ten (10) hours on the St. Augustine Record website?
5. Kindly share all identifying information wih the FBI and FDLE Special Agents in Charge and with the St. Augustine Chief of Police and the St. Johns County Sheriff.
6. I have highlighted (below) the death threat, and some factual assertions by the poster that may help identify the maker of the threat.
7. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
With kndest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Bpx 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084
(Full test of anonymous death threat posted on St. Augustine Record website below)

MSM2147 07/24/13 - 06:00 am

Oh yeah, you all work for the people of St. Augustine, FL!

The people say, "You Are ALL FIRED".

How stupid can you get and live another second.

The indidviduals who even considered having Mumford and Sons come to St. Augustine without having a plan in place should all be taken out and shot in the plaza in the center of St. Augustine for all to see who the stupid individuals who are running our city.

We are in uncharted territory with the economy of our great nation and community; the City of St. Augustine council and city mangers will take $400k to spend on an event shuttle services not to mention all the problems this event has caused.

We can not believe how low people will go for political power and self promotion.

Cancel the Mumford and Sons event!

Use the people's taxes more on the local people rather then flush $400k down the toilet. Because that is what you are doing. Flushing our money down with all the other stuff that you waste our money on.

Do you have an answer to what if a major fight or fire happens during this concert event?

The lengths you will go with a band of the world when you blow off having good family faith based events in our concert venues. Totally one sided!

"Your ALL Fired!"

Cancel Mumford and Sons Event! (unquote) (End of anonymous death threat posted on It. Augustine Record website at 6 AM this morning).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The truth about Mumford & Sons reserve fund vote

MICHAEL GOLD f/k/a "MICHAEL TOBIN" is a local political operative and hate site operator.  Today he posted an offensive "editorial" based on a materially false and misleading premise -- his untrue claim that the John P. Regan, P.E., the City Manager of the City of St. Augustine did not their disclose plans to ask Commissioners to tap reserve funds for seed money for the bus system for the Munford & Sons folk music concert.  This is not fair comment -- it is untrue.

In fact, the Mumford & Sons concert was listed as an agenda item. 

In fact, the PDF files of the City Commission backup material show the $417,000 reserve fund request, clear as day.  It was posted on the City's website on Friday, giving people three days notice.

Thus, the local hate site operator and political operative is wrong, again.  He's once again committed Lashon hara (blood libel) and perahps even actual libel, this time directed against John Regan and Mark Litzinger, our City Manager and City Comptroller, respectively. 

The local hate site operator and political operative has a warning on his Historic City News website that "the accuracy and completenesss" of his information is not to be relied on.  Ipse dixit.  This is a badge of fraud -- Historic City News is not journalism.  No real newspaper has such a disclaimer.

When MICHAEL GOLD ululates and calls two good and decent public servants "unfair, immoral, unethical" and "abusive," he must be engaged in projection. Sounds like he's talking about his own past practices, such as using and to spread lies about, blacklist, urge violence against and hold up to obscene obloquy and ridicule those people who are making this wonderful town a better place (e.g., by exposing and halting illegal dumping by the City of St. Augustine in African-American communiies and ending racially discriminatory spending practices).

Could the $417,000 have been more prominenty displayed on the agenda? Yes.

Was anything improper done? No.  The matter was on the agenda, and all details were on the city's website.

Did citizens know the reserve funds request was coming? Yes.  The reason I know that is one of them (B.J. Kalaidi) spoke about it in public comment.  Ms. Kalaidi always does her homework; MICHAEL GOLD does not.

Please note that under prior City Managers -- hick hacks who were loved by MICHAEL GOLD and his backers -- none of the City Commission's meeting backup materials were ever posted on the City's website -- local activists were told it was "too expensive."  Now that such materials are posted, some lazy people aren't reading them, then lazily telling lies about our public officials. 

That's wrong.

Mumford & Sons Logistics Pave Way for Papal and Presidential Visits

The system of busses for the September 2013 Mumford & Sons concert at Francis Field is a rehearsal for the parking and people-moving logistics that will be needed when President Barack Obama and Pope Francis visit St. Augustine in 2015.  The President and Pope are expected to visit during our 450th commemoration, honoring the place where the first Catholic Mass in North America was said on September 8, 1565, as African, European and Native American cutures interacted for the first time together.

The City of St. Augustine's system of busses and parking lots for Muford & Sons will prove itself.  One day, there will be 1928-style trolleys connecting the elements of the st. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.  But for now, busses will do the job, helping many of the 25,000 concert goers get to where they're going.

Over on the St. Augustine Record website, the "Anonymice" -- spiteful cognitive misers full of hate  -- are cluck-clucking and clicking their heels.  They know nothing about Mumford & Sons' music, or their fans.  This mellow group and their fans are exactly what our City needs -- young people who love our City and appreciate its history and beauty.

As to the "Anonymice," aren't these the same people who opposed our City's Fair Housing ordinance (amended December 10, 2012 to ban sexual orientation discrimination)?  Are these also the same people who supported racism and corruption in our City and County governments?  Are these "Anonymice" the same people who mocked those of us doing something about environmental racism (former City Manager dumping 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste in our Old City Reservoir)?
Forgive them.

And wear their scorn as a badge of honor. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Revealing Record Article (and Comments) on St. Augustine Four

Today's Record has an excellent article by Peter Guinta on the St. Augustine Four, and photos of civil rights demonstrations.  Bravo!  Keep up the good work.
The "Anonymice" comments include the usual die-hard, disgraceful reprobates -- pouting pachyderms with their racist ranting cant.
It's time to make online commenters use their real names.
No more KKK-style haters and political operatives posing behind NICs, please.

Six All-White Zimmerman Jurors Walked St. George Street, Ate at Mojo's, and Visited Ripleys, but what if........?

Visiting Mojo's Barbeque, St. George Street and Ripley's, George Zimmerman murder trial jurors visited St. Augustine for some four (4) hours one weekend while they were sequestered, the Seminole county Sheriff's Department confirmed today.

The weather was threatening and the Ripley's visit was substituted for a plan to visit the Castillo San Marco. Due to wosening weather conditions, jurors left town early.

When I last saw it, Ripley's “Believe It or Not!” Museum was one of the most culturally-biased places I have ever seen, complete with repeated ethnocentric references to “natives” and at least one shrunken head.

Thus, the jurors' St. Augustine visit was a missed opportunity.

Imagine if the all-white, all-woman jury was able to see our Castillo, oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S., which was built by slaves.

Imagine if the all-white, all-woman, Zimmerman jurors visited Fort Mose, home of the first freed African-American settlement, founded in 1738.

Or visited Lincolnville, home of the first African-American community founded by freed slaves after the Civil War, formerly called "Little Africa."

Or visited two Civil Rights monuments in our Slave Market Square (one to Andrew Young and one to the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers), memorializing the courage of the people who stood up to Jim Crow segregation, with nightly television new footage helping President Lyndon Johnson break the Senate filibuster and enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Seeing even one of those more culturally diverse places might have made the six sheltered Central Florida white women on the jury a bit more sensitive to African-Americans.

I am glad the juors got to see St. Augustine during their deliberations after the 22-day trial of George Zimmerman for murder of Trayvon Martin (which resulted in an acquittal by an all-white jury in Seminole County, formerly a hotbed of KKK activity, as reported by my late mentor, Stetson Kennedy).

I just wish the six all-white jurors got to walk in Andrew Young's steps on the Andrew Young Crossing Monument.  I just wish they had a chance to peer into the faces and the bas relief of our Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Monument, which stands in front of our Slave Market.

You and I can't blame the jurors or SCSO one bit for not seeing those places -- except for Fort Mose, not one of them appears on the website of the culturally insensitive St. Johns County Visitor and Convention Bureau, Inc., whose multi-million county tourism promotion contract expires September 30, 2013 at 11:59 PM.

To learn more about the secretive maladroit St. Johns County Visitor and Convention Bureau, which makes discriminatory marketing decisions, and allows discussions of pricing in its meetings, "an invitation to conclusion" that should not happen, according to the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, please see below

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Republican Legislator Wants to Abolish Mandatory Education

The only way Republican corporate oligarchs and KKK-style religious bigots can win elections is to keep people uninformed.  As proof of that essential truth, consider the fact that Huffington Post reports today that a Utah Republican state legislator, Rep. Aaron Osmond (R-South Jordan)(43 and father of five), wants to abolish mandatory education laws in Utah, which date back to 1890.
Sounds like child abuse to me.   God forgive errant Aaron Osmond for his utter Philistinism, unadorned by any appreciation for the benefits of mandatory public education for all children, and free public education for those who don't send their children to private school or home school them. T
he Utah Republican State Reprobate in quo, errant Aaron Osmond is reportedly the nephew of Donny and Marie Osmond.   Forgive him.

Changing History

July 18, 1978
It was 35 years ago that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to deny eminent domain to coal slurry pipelines.
It was my first environmental victory, at age 21.
I had just published "The Big Sluice," an 11,500 word article on coal slurry pipeline in Crossroads Magazine (formerly Coal Patrol), published by Appalachian coalfield activists formerly associated with the reform wing of the United Mine Workers of America.  "The Big Sluice" helped inform veteran coalfield reporter Ward Sinclair of the Washington Post, who published an article complete with a map showing that pipeliners intended to build thousands of miles of coal slurry pipelines (shipping crushed coal mixed with water), to be built across across privately owned land, demanding Congress vote to allow pipelines to take land by compulsion, by force of government eminent domain powers.
Big oil, coal and construction companies almost euchred Congress.
But the two articles helped avert violation of private property rights for private gain -- a grant of federal eminent domain powers to private pipelines, whichcould never be "common carriers" (obliged to take all shipments). 
The two articles helped avert an environmental disaster that would have stolen Wyoming's scarce water and shipped it with coal in slurry form to Arkansas coal fired powerplants owned by Middle South Utilities.  This would have not only depleted dry Wyoming's Madison Formation but left gazillions of gallons of dirty water -- contaminated with coal and hexavalent chromium -- to be disposed of in Arkansas.  Hexavalent chromium (chromium six) is used as a pipeline flocculent. It is the same poison that hurt all the California residents portrayed in the movie, Erin Brockovich.
The two articles helped avert antitrust, labor and transportation crise by protecting railroads from unfair competition from pipeliners and coal companies -- 30 year transportation contracts dovetailing private pipeline construction with 30 year coal supply contracts for powerplants -- illegal, antitrust law violating "tying agreements."  that would have destroyed union jobs and wrecked Western railroads.
"The Big Sluice" was reprinted in the Congressional Record (all but the bits about campaign contributions, which were excised) with an insert by Rep. Joe Skubitz (R-Kansas) opposing coal slurry pipeline eminent domain.
While researching the article, false rumors were started about me by aggressive pipeliner lobbyists, led by a former Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Bechtel, the world's largest construction company. 
I was threatened by Bechtel's head Washington, D.C. lobbyist: "If you write this artcle, you'll never get a job at the State Department."  (She knew I was an undergraduate student in the Georgetown University Edmund a. Walsh School of Foreign Service).  I was happy to tell Bechtel's head Washington coal pipeline lobbyist, "Ma'am, I don't want to work for the State Department."  [Three years later, Bechtel executives encumbered the jobs of Secretary of State (George Schultz) and Secretary of Defense (Caspar Weinberger)].
No "public interest" existed for condemning private property for cartelists' polluting coal pipelines. Thus, the vote in the House of Representatives was not even close.
A coalition of environmentalists, farmers, ranchers and railroads defeated a sinister group of electric power companies, oil companies and pipeline construction companies, which wanted Congress to let them take private land using government eminent domain powers.
The House of Representatives defeated this noisome special interest bill by overwhelming vote.
The lessons: Ask questions. Think big. Don't let big things or bad people scare you.  The Bible says at least 50 times: "Be not afraid." (First words in the first homily of the late Pope John Paul II as Pope).  Learn from others (I learned a lot from my late college roommate, Ed McElwain, who researched coal pipelines for Senator Gary W. Hart; from Lloyd Duxbury a/k/a "Dux," Vice President of Burlington Northern Rwy. (Republican, 43rd Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives); Coal Patrol Editor Thomas N. Bethell;  Washington Post reporter Ward Sinclair; and a host of experts, activists and percipient witnesses in Washington, D.C. and the West. 
Remember, as Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Yes we can! Keep askin' questions.  (By the way, this anniversary of our coal slurry pipeline victory also happens to be Nelson Mandela's birthday. How cool is that?)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Progress on African-American Tourism Marketing; More Work Remains to Reform TDC and VCB

Another sign of progress; more work remains to change TDC After years of Apartheid-style marketing, the new marketing plans of the St. Johns County Visitor and Convention Bureau for FY '2014 now includes marketing to African-Americans and honoring our Civil Rights heroes and sheroes here in St. Augustine. Bravo!
Local activists are celebrating the victory, announced yesterday by Glenn Hastings, Executive Director of the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council (TDC).
The St. Johns County Cultural Council will also reach out to African-Americans, whose heroism here led to the adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and whose courage defended the Castillo San Marco – the first freed African-American settlement wasc here, at Fort Mose.
Thank you, TDC, for correcting this imbalance – VCB literature has long excluded African-Americans and Native Americans and GLBT people and youth from its focus. St. Augustine was the first cultural melting pot, and that is our "brand." St. Augustine is America's “most diverse city and its first diverse city,” as St. Augustine Mayor Joseph Boles says. The first Hispanic, Catholic, Jewish, African-American and European women settlers arrived here on September 8, 1565. As Dr. Michael Gannon says, "St. Augustine was up for urban renewal" by the time Jamestown was (briefly) settled in 1607 and Englishment arrived in 1620. We must celebrate our cultural diversity and never again suffer or permit our county government contractors to write off entire demographic groups, as VCB hsve done for years, at the behest of cognitive miser consultants. More work remains to be done:
1. TDC must adopt a Sunshine and Open Records policy and make it binding on VCB as a modification to its contract today – VCB is wrongfully withholding records and keeping secrets, and it's going to get itself sued if it does not repent. 2. "Every contract, combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade is hereby declared to be illegal.” That's Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Price-fixing is a per se violation, and a crime. On May 14, 2013, VCB's Ph.D. outside consultant Peter Yesawich, Vice Chair of MMGY, urged 100 VCB members to raise prices. I reported this overt act to the Justice Department. The criminal section of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department told me yesterday morning, “He should never have said that” and that this was “an invitation to collusion.” TDC and VCB must report any possible past or ongoing pricefixing activity to the Justice Department under the voluntary disclosure program. It's our tax money. From this day forward, let's agree: we won't pay competitors our tax money to collude in this county. The business of St. Johns County does not include committing crimes and torts.
3. VCB's contract must be revised immediately to require adoption of Antitrust and Civil Rights compliance policies – after two months, we've learned that VCB has no Antitrust or Civil Rights compliance policies. Why? And why did it take two months to say so? To whom do they think they're talking? This is contrary to the genius of a free people. Enough misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance by this dodgy government contractor.
4. VCB's contract must be re-bid – it expires on September 30, 2013. This is not a sole-source contract and competition must be required, now. VCB's annual budget is several times the no-bid luxury Bell Jet helicopter a bipartisan group of St. Johns Countians defeated in 2007. That helicopter was a one-shot $1.8 million no-bid contract for our Mosquito Control District. Despite rumors of a contract renewal, our County would be ill-advised to think of a multi-million contract renewal for VCB – that wnould be a contract violation of public policy and illegal. Rest. 2nd of contracts, Sec. 178. I defer to the public record on that.
5. TDC must spend more on public relations and less on unfocused, addlepated advertising in Reader's Digest and Better Homes and Gardens. We need to reach out to Miami, Hispanic, African-American, Catholic, Jewish, GLBT and youth markets.
6. TDC must research, discuss, debate and report to BCC on the proposed St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, first proposed in 1939. On November 1, 2011, in a negative profile in courage, St. Johns Commissioners -- unadorned by the custormay staff and legal analysis -- heard our presentation on the Park and Seashore and voted against supporting the Park and Seashore. Why?
Some of our One-Party Rule St. Johns County Commissioners all too easily allowed themselves to be cowed by false local Tea Party apparatchik rhetoric (starting with high dudgeon accusations that a "yes" vote would be "treason").
After years, any rational County Commission debate of the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore was contaminated by its refusal to enforce its own civility rules.
The local Tea Party's noisome, noisy, obnoxious distractions of gun noises, gun gestures and hurled accusations that Park and Seashore supporters were Nazis, Communists, Hitler, Goebbels and Stalin.
Sometimes I feel like an opposum -- every day I wake up in a new world.
Sunday's gutsy St. Augustine Record ediorial on the local Tea Party ("Laughing in the face of the local Tea Party") empowers our local officals to do the right thing, and not give in to bullies.
Meanwhile, I've spoken to Tea Party members since that time -- they like National Parks, too. Come on in, the water's fine.
7. Finally, from this day forward, TDC must stand for “Times Demand Change. In secret, the VCB spends millions of bed tax dollars in a manner that may violate not only antitrust laws, but Fair Housing and Civil Rights laws and the Fourteenth Amendment.
We must do better and we can do better and we will do better, and working together, our county will start this reform today. Thank you!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Democracy Under Pressure

Once upon a time, St. Augustine Record editorials were dull and predictable, resembling the "not without" editorials at East Tennessee's Oak Ridger newspaper (local DA Jim Ramsey noted the frequence with which the Oak Ridger threw in a "not without," signalling a wishy-washy editorial).
Under Opinion Editor Ed Albanesi, the Record may be turning over a new leaf. Yesterday, I read a rare Record editorial that had something to say about free speech in our town (like Pete Ellis' November 19, 2006 editorial). Thank you! Yesterday's Record carried a thumping, thought-provoking editorial entitled, "Laughing the the Face of the Tea Party," archly mocking local political activists for their signage and ersatz colonial costumes, saying they're dumbing down debate. Bravo.
They're worse than dumbing down debate.  They've been bullies.
I remember November 1, 2011, where these Tea Party ruffians call the late Robin Nadeau, former Congressional candidate Faye Armitage, Sarah Bailey, Judith Seraphin and me "Communists" and "Nazis" in a public meeting -- complete with gun gestures and gun noises. Why? Because we asked County Commissioners to support a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.
Five craven County Commissioners drank the Kool-Aid, voting kook, voting not to endorse the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore at the behest of people who said it was all a United Nations plot.
Forgive them.
Forgive them all -- every single one of them -- the County Commissioners and the Tea Party for dumbing down debate.
Five St. Johns County Commissioners did not even enforce their own civility rules, and voted against the Park because they were afraid of the Tea Party, its gun gestures, gun noises and false comparisons to Hitler, Goebbels and Stalin. I've talked to several of the Tea Party people since their 11/1/11 public pouting session against the Park and Seashore.  I've talked to several Commissioners.
The Tea Party and I have a number of shared values -- exposing and editing free speech violations and government waste, fraud, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance.
Citizens need to be shown how to do it, civilly, without fear or favor, in middle and high school, in community education classes, and in colleges and universities. We need more heroes, and fewer zeros.
Any public officials who chill, coerce, restrain and intimidate First Amendment protected activity need to be exposed and tossed out on their keesters.
The Record itself now needs to stimulate debate, following its own advice to the Tea Party. The Record's criticism of the Tea Party is fair. Is it basically "projection?"
The Record itself is not all that intellectually stimulating, so criticizing three people with three-cornered hats (and unAmerican hates) for not being intellectually stimulating is, at best, facetious.
The Record, after all, prints Ann Coulter, laughing all the way to the bank from the money paid her by people with bizarre hates. The Record can, must and will do better -- our times demand change.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Former Mayor George Gardner's St. Augustine Report on Returning Buskers to Our Historic Downtown Streets With Sensible Regulations

2003 proposal rekindled as performer ban is increased One commissioner hesitated, another stated, "There's not one member of this commission who would not favor entertainment on St. George Street if we could regulate it," and two residents cited a 2003 proposal for regulation. But in the end, St. Augustine's City Commission Monday unanimously extended a street performer ban along Hypolita Street. Commissioner Leanna Freeman said, "I've always felt there should be a better way to regulate it," and Commissioner Don Crichlow, who served on the commission from 2002 to 2010 and is now filling in for retired Bill Leary, noted, "We're just not allowed to pick the entertainment." Residents Ed Slavin and Mark Fraser both cited a 2003 proposal by then Mayor George Gardner including controls on numbers and locations of street entertainers (buskers) and a citizen Busker Board to oversee the program. That proposal is carried on Slavin's blogspot and on the city website. The complete text is here. Commenting in Slavin's blogspot, former street entertainer and organizer Roger Jolley wrote, "The main difference is our non-profit Street Art's Guild would have operated independently, under a contract with the city so it would not use city ordinances with a criminal process of law for those who violate a non-criminal city ordinance. "Our organization worked more with the carrot and less with the stick."

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

St. Augustine Record Letter: Attend TDC meeting July 15, 2013 at 1:30 PM, County Administration Building Auditorium

Letter: Attend TDC meeting
Posted: July 9, 2013 - 3:11pm 

St. Augustine
Editor: Come see the public Tourist Development Council (TDC) meeting at the County Administration Building July 15, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. Help encourage questions to TDC and Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB) staff about open records, antitrust and civil rights concerns and spending 4 percent bed tax Category I funds.

VCB’s contract with St. Johns County expires September 30. Its contract must be subject to competitive bidding. VCB gets some $3.4 million in bed tax money this year. It’s our money – what is being done with it? Most is spent on advertising and ad agency commissions. VCB talks prices in meetings (under preliminary antitrust inquiry) and adamantly refuses to comply with public records requests.

VCB spends little on public relations and “friendraising.” The last New York Times travel section article devoted to St. Augustine was on Sept. 5, 2003. VCB’s ineffectual branding and marketing buys advertising in Reader’s Digest and Better Homes and Gardens, but eschews Miami, African-American and civil rights heritage tourists, GLBT and youth markets. Why? VCB’s dull brochure shows few black faces and no Native-Americans: it does not hail our city’s 450 years of cultural diversity. Enough.

Local residents have long been skeptical.

Ben and Jeanne Troemel wrote The Record (June 1, 1983) about “large and expensive billboards” extolling only beaches, asking “what unthinking committee or person” spent so much money on such a large and “worthless billboard.” Seeing billboards, with Ponce de Leon grasping a surfboard. Frances Neelands wrote the The Record (June 13, 1993) that they were “childish and non-creative … embarrassed to see such a billboard representing the oldest continous1y occupied city in the United States.” Agreed.

TDC must stand for “Times Demand Change.” What do you reckon?

Time to "reason together"

Last night City Commission enacted an expansion of the anti-music, anti-artist zone, based on no sworn testimony and no evidence.  Yet Commissioners all want the buskers back and all express regrets.  No one said they want to see buskers arrested, and no one denied that as a matter of discretion, artists and entertainers are no longer being arrested. Three Commissioners attended Greg Travous' memorial service, and it is time for reason to prevail over reaction. 
Suggestion: obtain help from law professors and write a constitutional busker regulation ordinance that will make us proud. 
Yes we can.
Thank you.

April 18, 2001 St. Augustine Record letter re: harassment of buskers

Letter: Let's not repeat history

Edward A. Slavin Jr.
St. Augustine
Published Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Are we condemned to repeat history? In 1964, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led demonstrations against an old St. Augustine ''tradition'' -- ''Jim Crow'' segregation. The demonstrators were right. The city was wrong. History celebrates Dr. King and the civil rights movement.

On April 1, some 100 people demonstrated against the city ordinance persecuting St. George Street artists under penalty of criminal laws. That's equal to 1 percent of the city's registered voters; some elections turn on thinner margins. The ill-advised city and manager ignore ''public opinion'' from visitors and residents alike (March 20). On April 1, The Record called for a negotiated settlement of the artist ordinance before it gets to court. That's wise advice. Losing repeatedly in the courts, the city should ''drop the oyster and leave the wharf.'' Do it now -- before the city's shame is permanently engraved in law books, along with Supreme Court decisions forever placing the stain of human rights violations on Jacksonville and Boca Raton.

Jacksonville's loony laws led to a wonderful U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Papachristou vs. city of Jacksonville, banning unconstitutional ''void-for-vagueness'' laws against ''vagrancy'' (or anything else). Justice William O. Douglas wrote the court's 1972 opinion, a monument to the genius of a free people.

A city of Boca Raton manager sexually harassed a woman lifeguard; Boca burghers unwisely appealed from a small judgment. The result in 1998: the leading Supreme Court precedent on ''hostile working environments.'' After its harasser and co-ed lifeguard locker room made history, Boca removed the lifeguard HQ sign, but not the permanent taint to Boca's name.

Once tour trains operators were harassed. Who's next? St. Augustine's ''historical'' area was long home to ''buskers.'' ''Buskers'' have a legal ''right to exist,'' just like Israel (which only a few terrorists now deny). ''Buskers'' are part of our wonderful town. Shop owners should not look down their noses at buskers, but salute them and celebrate diversity. As JFK said, ''a rising tide lifts all boats.''

Inside the Castillo? Federal property, not city streets. Colonial Williamsburg? Quite a contrast: no T-shirt shops, hundreds paid to work in costume by a mega-foundation with fat management salaries, high prices charged to enter restored buildings. Williamsburg pushed to charge admission to people walking city streets inside Williamsburg; that effort failed. Williamsburg requires anyone conducting history tours to pass an ''official history'' test (with a loophole for Williamsburg employees but not volunteers). Moonlighting Williamsburg volunteers risk arrest if they lead bus tourists for pay and ''deviate'' from the ''official history'' syllabus (talking about the Civil War?) or fail to report a tourist for violating city, state or federal laws. Sadly, no proud Virginian sued over Williamsburg's hysterical lawmaking and ''official history.''

St. Augustine is more human(e): citizens will not rest while our city violates anyone's rights. Saint Augustine said, ''An unjust law is no law at all.'' Jesus said: ''That which you do to the least of my brothers (and sisters), you do unto me.''

St. Augustine Record letter: City ousts street performers but welcomes roar of Harleys

Posted: April 8, 2012 - 12:16am
St. Augustine

Editor: In their efforts to sand smooth the rough surfaces of the Ancient City, City Commissioners have ousted singers and itinerant musicians from the streets surrounding the Historic District. Presumably the pressure for this social-cleansing came from business owners along and near St. George Street. So be it.
The irony, however, is that the same commissioners and business owners turn a deaf ear — and it surely is deaf by now — to the obscene racket made by the pseudo-tough guys, Outlaw wannabe riders of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They hammer the calm of the Plaza across from the Cathedral. Assaulting the eardrums of all present, they batter the gentle hub-bub of the St. George-Hypolita intersection. If we cared about our visitors we would insist that charming part of the city would evoke a 17th-century quiet broken only by reenacted pirate raids. Haarrgh!
It will, of course, be argued that the Harley hordes leave bundles of cash in the old town. Perhaps. Ask rather, “How much do they drive away?” How many visitors, say, after having their eardrums violated, think, “Never again!” Let’s go to Savannah next year or Clearwater.
The City Commissioners might be surprised to learn that Harleys do not roll out of the factory with that fearsome macho growl. They are specially adapted at dealerships because motorcycle dealers are convinced Harley buyers want to prove — “Mine is bigger [or louder] than yours!”
St. Augustine surely has a noise ordinance. Likewise the obnoxious Harleys are almost certainly in violation. Let’s have police enforce it. The unhealthy, offensive racket of the post-factory-altered Harleys drives away many visitors who might stay another day or so.
So, Mr. or Ms. Business Owner what would you rather have out front, a hippie guitarist, an Irish tenor or a blasting Harley?

St. Augustine Record: City bans performers on Hypolita Street

City bans performers on Hypolita Street

Posted: July 9, 2013 - 12:39amRelated Stories•City may limit garage sales, street performers


Guitar music can be quiet and relaxing, unless of course the guitarist knows only three songs and plays them over and over, or unless he’s squatting on the sidewalk blocking your shop entrance, or smashing shrubbery, blocking traffic or begging for money.
The St. Augustine City Commission had heard all the complaints before Monday’s meeting.
This time, on a motion by Commissioner Don Crichlow, it unanimously passed Ordinance 2013-16, prohibiting street performances on Hypolita Street from St. George Street to Avenida Menendez.
“You go down there any weekend and you can see it,” Crichlow said. “Since 2002, (street performers) have been a constant problem. There’s no other way than removing the vendors completely from Hypolita.”
He was supported by Commissioner Roxanne Horvath, who said the narrow sidewalks at Hypolita and St. George streets are dangerous for pedestrians.
“I don’t think this is the right place (for performers). You can’t enjoy them because you’re trying not to be run over by traffic,” she said.
However, Commissioner Leanna Freeman she disagreed that the ordinance was the only way to stop the problem, but added, “I’ll support it.”
The ordinance language says “unregulated performances in public places” create “a visual blight” that damages the economic retail interests” of merchants who pay property taxes.”
The ordinance will go into effect July 18, which is 10 days after its passage.
Businessman Ray Dominey, who photographs the congestion and damage by performers near his Hypolita and St. George street shop, said it’s not just businesses there who want relief from performers crowding that area every weekend.
He read a letter from Kim Kiff of Ripley’s, which said navigating their trains through that intersection “is an increasing challenge for us. When our guests get off, they disembark into a feeling of discomfort.”
Dominey also read a letter from Dave Chatterton of Old Towne Trolley Tours, who said the intersection was “a popular place for our guests to get off and shop on St. George Street. (But) with the noise from the performers and spectators, it’s extremely difficult for guests to hear our safety instructions. This is not a workable location for street performers.”
Street performers sometimes bunch up on the tiny sidewalk, leaving their arms and legs vulnerable to being stepped on or run over by a vehicle. Automobiles and delivery trucks behind tour vehicles there must wait until performers move before driving through.
Mark Frasier of St. Augustine said street performers have been an issue for “two decades. You’ve had many legal battles over this. Send this ordinance back (and) do some research on it” and present it again, he said.
Ed Slavin, a St. Augustine activist, asked the commission to reconsider.
“As St. Augustine said, ‘An unjust law is no law at all,’” Slavin said.
Bruce Labona of Black Parrot Candy said he’s been a store owner in St. Augustine for 18 months.
“It’s been the most positive experience of my life,” he said. “But (street performers) add nothing to the experience of St. Augustine.”
Pointssponger2 07/09/13 - 06:20 am 71City to consider Ordinance 2013-17.
The Record has learned that the city will at it's next meeting consider Ordinance 2013-17, prohibiting breathing on Hypolita St. Breathing will be permitted in the city only if you purchase a breathing pass that can be obtained at City Hall, or at oxygen stations to be installed at the hundreds of parking meters that now be found throughout the ancient city, thanks the city commission who's job function is to look after the best interests of the residents.

Raymond Monk 07/09/13 - 06:54 am 61Street performers.

I have never had a problem with street performers as long as they do not block bussiness entry's. we are fighting over a musician trying to earn a buck that may slow down traffic. How about anyone who slows down traffic, anyone who blocks a door. Why a musician is the target. You want a to call a musician a blight on the city, yet transients can take up seating space on st George street while they sleep. The transients one of them yours truly witnessed sleeping on a bench urinating on himself down his lig and onto the sidewalk. This is a blight on the street. The musicians should be allowed to apply to obtain a permit with regulations as to where they can perform, how loud they can play. A permit that can be revoked if rules are violated.

I myself believe the musicians ad to the allure of St. George st.
However the transients are discussing, rude, and block the few seating areas there are on the strip, begging for money, digging in the trash for smokes. Remove them from the area of town that keeps the tax revenu flowing. Give the musicians permits as to when, and where.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

IN HAEC VERBA: March 24, 2003 Busker Regulation Proposal of Then-Mayor George Gardner

Draft Plan for St. Augustine Buskers

The following draft plan was distributed by Mayor George Gardner during the March 24, 2003 meeting of the St. Augustine City Commission.

(Note: The term "busker" is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online) as: "a person who entertains especially by playing music on the street.")

Draft Plan for St. Augustine Buskers (Street Performers)

The following plan was developed from input by St. Augustine residents, businesses and visitors, internet research of busking regulations of other cities, and guidelines of busking guilds and organizations.

Most cities reflected the previous, uncontrolled, St. Augustine experience. One city—Vancouver—surveyed 42 cities before developing a plan. Its findings:

Many buskers are talented and their performances add life, color and interest to our streets. The entertainment they provide is often an enjoyable experience for the public. However, loud, repetitive and lengthy performances by buskers with limited or questionable talent can be a source of annoyance and distraction to those who live and work nearby; and complainants are unable to get the buskers to leave the area when their level of endurance has been reached.

Some examples of problem situations include:

• An amplified mariachi band playing at the same location for several hours;

• A harmonica player, who only knows one song, playing in front of the same store all day.

Surveys were conducted of 42 other cities and organizations as well as local buskers. The results indicate that the majority of municipalities successfully regulate busking through a permit system and that most buskers support a recognized permit program.

Here is an overview of the survey results:

• 69% of respondents reported they have street entertainers in their city.

• Only 14% of respondents regarded street entertainers as a problem in their cities.

• 60% of respondents did not regard street entertainers as a problem.

The following elements are proposed for debate on a busking ordinance for St. Augustine.

• A busking permit system and visible identification badge display

• A citizen Busker Board to oversee the program

• A paid or volunteer monitor to regulate busking on the streets

• Provision that any business or resident may request no busking near their location

• A busker time limit of one hour at the same location each day

• A rotation of buskers to adjacent historic streets

•"Higher risk" buskers would be required to carry appropriate liability insurance

• A Busker’s Code of Conduct

1. The busking policy of the City of St. Augustine is governed by a Busking Board and regulated on the city’s streets by a monitor.
2. Buskers are required to have a permit issued by the city, which is not transferable, and a badge, which must be displayed by the busker at all times while performing.
3. Permit fees are established to cover costs of administration.
4. Buskers in higher risk performances, as determined by the board, shall be required to carry appropriate liability insurance.
5. Permit issuance may be limited—by judgment of the Board—to avoid congestion in the downtown areas.
6. Any act, including a duo or group, shall require one permit, subject to the Board reserving the right to limit the maximum number of buskers to be included in any one permit.
7. Buskers shall not perform so close to one another as to interfere with the other’s performance.
8. Buskers must locate themselves and their audience where they are not obstructing the flow of pedestrian traffic or any business entrance, and will respect the right of businesses to operate without undue disturbance by entertainment outside their premises.
9. Owners and Occupiers of property in busking areas have the right to decline buskers in their immediate area, in general by written request to the city, or on a daily basis by requesting that the busker move, or by contacting the monitor to move the busker to an alternate location.
10. Buskers shall not occupy any one location for more than one hour in the same day.
11. To enhance the visitor experience throughout the downtown, Buskers agree to alternate, for each period of performance, between St. George Street and other downtown locations. Other locations include Cuna, Hypolita, Treasury, Charlotte, Spanish, Cordova and Aviles Streets, Cathedral Place, Avenida Menendez, the Plaza and the Visitors Information Center.
12. Buskers must abide by all municipal by-laws and all federal and state statutes and regulations while performing.
13. Amplification of performances, the use of drums, recorded or broadcast music is not permitted, except by special permission of the Board.
14. The use of sharp or dangerous objects is prohibited (i.e.: juggling knives, chain saws or flaming objects).
15. Buskers are permitted to encourage donations. However, buskers may not aggressively solicit donations, or sell performance-related or other merchandise.
16. Busking under this policy does not include sales of merchandise or services.
17. Buskers must be of good conduct, character and appearance while performing. Buskers are requested, insofar as feasible, to wear clothing reflecting various periods in the city’s history.
18. Buskers may be restricted during special events in the downtown area. Buskers are expected to respect the space allocated to City-approved special events and to move if requested by the City, the event organizer, or the monitor.
19. The Board reserves the right to refuse to grant, to suspend or to terminate any permit issued with respect to any busker performance in accordance with the provisions of the city code or this policy

Congratulations, Bob Samuels (Folio Weekly bouquet)

Congratulations to Bob Samuels, outgoing St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, for winning a bouquet from Folio.  (They send actual bouquetsm but the brickbats are merely metaphors.).

Now SABCA needs to open its books to its members, and stop excluding past and potential members (e.g., ex-Mayor Ed George and Commissioner Undine Pawlowski).  SABCA is a 501(c)(3) and must comply with the law -- no Tammany Hall poli-tricks, please -- you must be non-partisan and transparent.

Glad to see Folio Weekly actually cover something in St. Johns County for a change.  Ever since the untimely departure of Anne Schindler, Susan Cooper Eastman and Walter Coker, Folio has been a shadow of its former self, exchewing anything here, preferring articles about beer to uncovering government wrongdoing. 

Welcome back, Folio: I hope you will cover the meeting of the Visitor and Convention burau at 1:30 PM on Monday, July 15, 2013 at the County Administration Building.  See below.

Here we go again -- another artist suppresing Nuremberg Law

There is so much to be proud of in our City of St. Augustine since John Regan became City Manager. The list is long.
But tomorrow night, City Commissioners are being asked to extend the zone of anti-music, anti-artist, anti-busker discrimination, exclusion and add to our City's ignominy created by William B. Harriss, erstwhile City Manager. Enough.
These ordinances are addictive, and appeal to Tinpot Napoleon social dominators -- people who see the government as a bullet in their guns.
Let's tell the merchants and commercial landlords to stop creating problems.
Let's tell them to talk to their neighbors -- to get along with the buskers, instead of stalking them with cameras.
Let's tell them to make requests if they don't like the musical selections.
Let's tell them to call the 7th Circuit mediation program, instead of the SAPD.
Stop criminalizing art, music and entertainment.
Stop referring to landlords and merchants as "residents" and buskers as "them" (or as "Gypsies" or "vermin," as in the recent past).
Stop dividing "us" from "them."
Stop dividing young from old.
Stop dividing rich from poor.
Stop dividing us.
Stop making St. Augustine look like a sick place that is still run by hick hacks -- the people who ruined our 400th celebration with racist bigotry seen worldwide.
As Bill Clinton said (in another context), "they're themming us to death."
We don't need "Jim Crow" laws attacking the First Amendment (again).
We don't need Nuremberg Laws make it a crime to make a living.
These are working people, and this is an anti-worker ordinance.
As the Supreme Court's DOMA decision proved, founding lawmaking on hatred is like building a castle out of sand in the tidal zone in a hurricane -- they lose.
If they pass this ordinance, it should and will be overturned by a federal judge
The City of St. Augustine should and  must make available City property, such as the courtyard of the Casa de Hidalgo, for buskers.
The City of St. Augustine must welcome buskers, as in then-Mayor George Gardner's March 24, 2003 plan (reprinted above).
No more discrimination and First Amendment violations, please.
Likewise, the hideously walled Spanish Garden, run by the St. Augustine Foundation, must at last be re-opened to the public, including street musicians.  It is public property, given to the people of Florida, and it is being wrongfully fenced off as the world's dullest private park, selectively used as Foundation bosses desire, as are other properties formerly owned by our State of Florida. 

Ronald Reagan said at the Berlin Wall, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."   In Ronald Reagan's spirit, our City must say, "Mr. Proctor, tear down this wall."

RECORD EDITORIAL PAGE'S FULSOME FILLER: Three "Anonymice" on St. Augustine Record editorial page

In the print version of today's St. Augustine Record (SAR), in the lower right column  of  the Opinion page, there are three (3) SAR website postings reposted, every single one of which is anonymous. 
Some "Anonymice."  SAR   website posters who frequenty attack others, hiding behind anonymity, bad taste, bad grammar and bad spelling.  They're often racist, sexist, misogynist and homophobic.
Who decided to print anonymous opinions in a printed newspaper? 
How low can you go? 
As in the days of the St. Augustine Record's (SAR's) hateful "Talk of the Town," it strongly appears that some of these "Anonymice" posters may be politicians (one of the "Anonymice" even calls itself "politico").
Letters to the SAR editor are required to be signed and verified by address and telephone call (now evidently except when some of the august "Anonymice" are selected to appearn the printed page, unidentified).
This opinion anonymity on the Editorial Page is unseemly.  It is gauche. It is entirely unworthy of any American newspaper -- it is almost scraping the bottom of the barrel.  That feat is, however, achieved weekly, accomplished every Monday, when Ann Coulter's column runs in the SAR -- often longer than any other column -- hateful, predicatable ad nauseum, ad hominem (through her PR agency, William Morris, Ann Coulter in 2008  refused to debate me after she called John Edwards a "faggot."  Whipping up bigotry, Ann Coulter is laughing all the way to the bank.  And the Record takes our money and pays for her, while censoring local opinions and putting the
"Anonymice" on the printed page of this morning's paper. 
What a disgrace.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Is Record suppressing local opinion in favor of syndicated canned claptrap?

Is “freedom of the press” only for those who own one?

How many local letters to the editor does the St. Augustine Record suppress and why?

There's a healthy debate today on the St. Augustine Record website about the number of locally-generated letters and columns the Record has been suppressing lately. What's the answer, please?

Some days, there are no local letters at all. Kindly share your data with your readers, who are bored of Ann Coulter other cognitive misers and bigoted cretins.

Kindly share statistics concerning rejection rates at other newspapers owned by Morris Publishing, and academic/survey data on other newspapers.

Some local newspapers treasure reader opinions and publish oodles of intelligent letters – the Williamsport, Pennsylvania Sun-Gazette comes to mind.

Other newspapers seem almost threatened by local opinion leaders, as when the Record has arrogantly stated it does not need local columnists on national issues (then selectively prints conservative local columnists on national issues).

The Record's recently suppressing readers' letters and columns is pitiful, a sign of the bully, Chain Gang Journalism variety -- one whose weakness known as control freakery about printing dissenting views.   Enough.

The Record's errant control freakery reminds me of certain Tinpot Napoleons trying to suppress public comment in government meetings – like in 2005, when William B. Harriss threatened me with arrest for disorderly conduct or in 2007 when Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County Chair Barbara Bosanko (wife of former County Attorney Dan Bosanko) called the Sheriff on former U.S. Army Captain Don Girvin and I for criticizing her no-bid helicopter purchase.  Harriss left office.  Bosanko's helicopter scheme imploded.

As St. Augustine Record Editor Peter Ellis editorialized November 19, 2006, "to our public officials, we suggest you get thicker skins."

Enough censorship and intimidation of First Amendment protected activity, please. Let freedom ring!

Friday, July 05, 2013

Sins of Omission

On Memorial Day 2013, the commanding general of the Florida Air National Guard gave a speech at the St. Augustine National Cemetery. He left out the Civil War – in giving the history of our Nation's military, he completely skipped over the Civil War, talking only about wars against foreigners and terrorists, though there were Civil War dead buried beneath our feet, including a number of Civil graves marked U.S.C.T. – U.S. Colored Troops – African-Americans who fought to preserve, protect and defend the Union.

A request for a copy of this Air National Guard General's Memorial Day speech yielded the disturbing datum (by E-mail from his assistant) that the General did not keep a copy on any computer, and that he disposed of the paper copy “on his way to the airport,” (he is a commercial pilot). A request for a video or audio tape has not yet been acknowledged.

Why in the world would a U.S. General write a Memorial Day speech omitting the sacrifices of both sides in our Civil War, omitting those who gave their lives for equality, and (to top it all off), unlawfully destroy a government record, to wit, the only copy of his speech (in possible violation of state and federal laws)?  Was he afraid of offending KKK members?

The General in quo is an Air Force Academy graduate. He needs to leave speech-writing and speech-giving to politicians – neither one is his forte.

This is not the first time a speech by a Florida National Guard General has shown gross insensitivity – its Commanding General once told a Flagler College Auditorium First America audience that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

A former Florida National Guard Commanding General planned a Stealth aircraft flyover for his departure ceremony (until I reported it to the Inspector General in the Pentagon). The Florida National Guard is headquartered here in St. Augustine, and journalistic scrutiny is long overdue – real journalists and real newspapers, please note.

On Independence Day, the St. Augustine Record carried a front page article about Sandra Parks' ancestor having fought (and lost his arm) in the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg 150 years ago, on the Confederate side. There are multiple photos, and more photos on the Record's website. It was a herooic story, but included nothing about the purpose and effect of the Civil War (and no balance with Union heritage in the Civil War).

Also, on Independence Day, the Record did not print the text of the Declaration of Independence, which other U.S. newspapers reprint on July 4th. The Record still evidently prefers printing ranting cant from Ann Coulter to stimulating thinking about the sources of our freedoms, which are under attack by large organizations favored by the Record's columnists..

In 1776, our Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all “are created equal” and “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights” including the “right to :life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Let us dedicate ourselves to living our Founders' dreams, and to improving the quality of debate here in St. Augustine and St. Johns County, where the KKK and Caudillos long ruled.  Expect democracy.

Perhaps next Veterans Day or Memorial Day will see a woman or African-American or GLBT enlisted veteran speak who was not and never was a military officer ---someone who exemplifies and appreciates diversity and equality.

As suggested by its reader survey, perhaps the Record will soon dump Ann Coulter and other crabby conservative columnists, making room for more thoughtful voices, like yours and mine (and Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman).

What do y'all reckon?

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Dr. Hayling and Healing

St. Augustine Vice Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline, Mayor Joseph Boles and Commissioner Roxanne Horvath yesterday made Dr. Robert B. Hayling, D.D.S. "the most honored man in St. Augustine hisory" in the words of former State Senator Tony Hill, an aide to Jacksonville's mayor. 

Referring to the unfinished agenda of civil and human rights in America, civil rights leader Dr. Hayling advised the ACCORD luncheon, "Never ever give up."

Like Nelson Mandela, Dr. Hayling's quiet dignity and refusal to be bitter promotes healing. 

Dr. Hayling, a dentist, moved here from Meharray Medical College in Nashville in 1960.  He organized local youth and elders into a formidable civil rights movement.  In response, the KKK killed his dog and broke his hands  -- he was beaten, hospitalized for two weeks, shot at (his pregnant wife was nearly killed) and he and his family were intimidated enough to depart St. Augustine, where he started the first integrated medical professional practice in 1960.

Dr. Healing noted that there are still "evil people out there intending to do great harm," warning activists to keep working.

Referring to National Security Administration (NSA) surveillance of Americans in America, Dr. Hayling said that he did not believe "any government needs al the information gathering on all of us," stating there are "some things governments do not Need to Know about each and every one of us."  Data gathering technology threatens to turn us into "robots," without "individuality," Dr. Hayling said.

Dr. Hayling said that thanks to the courage of all in the St. Augustine Movement, he was pleased that -- as opposed to 50 years ago -- when he drove from Lauderhill to St. Augustine, he was able to eat at restaurants and use rest rooms -- a right legally denied African-Americans by statute and police force until 1964 under the Florida Legislature's "Jim Crow" segregation laws, which was overruled by Congress and the President in enacting the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

The courage ofDr. Hayling and other "Civil Rights Foot Soldiers" -- and events here in St. Augustine -- helped President Lyndon B. Johnson break the U.S. Senate filibuster, as Johnson's tape recordings reveal.

Civil Rights are rooted in the Golden Rule, Dr. Hayling said: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Before the presentation luncheon, I greeted Dr. Hayling and asked if he knew that he has the same birthday as Robert F. Kennedy (November 20) -- RFK was born in 1925 and Dr. Hayling was born in 1929.  Dr. Hayling didn't know that.

That's okay, because when I moved to St. Augustine in 1999, I did not know about the St. Augustine Movement, or Dr. King and Dr. Hayling and Rev. Young and the St. Augustine Four, or the largest mass arrest of rabbis in American history, or the arrest of the Massachusets Governor's mother, or the muriatic acid poured into the Monson Hotel pooll, or the beach wade-ins and beatings at St. Augustine Beach.

As Harry S Truman said: "The only thing new under the sun is the history you don't know."  Thanks to the St. Augustine City Commission and ACCORD for preserving, protecting and defending our history and human rights.

St. Augustine Record article at:

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Check out the cool lighting on our Bridge of Lions

Thanks to Commissioner Donald Crichlow, and donors to be determined, tonight's experimental bridge lighting will soon embrace the entire Bridge, in any color (including Rainbow colors), at the flip of a few switches.

Kudos to St. Augustine Beach Commissioners I:-- Protecting the First Amendment Rights of law enforcement officers, at last

Last night, St. Augustine Beach Commissioners agreed with Chief Robert Hardwick – there will be fifteen (15) law enforcement officers and two support staff. No one is being fired. There will be no retaliation in violation of officers' First Amendment rights to raise matters of public concern. There will be no County takeover of the SAPD. The vote was unanimous. Thank you for listening, and thank you for supporting the First Amendment. Happy Independence Day.

Our police officers have the right to raise public concerns and to make reports and to attend Commission meetings.

Our Constitution in its majesty confers those rights. The Beach Commission now respects them.

Thank you.

Kudos to St. Augustine Beach Commissioners II -- Questioning the St. Johns Visitor and Convention Bureau and Its Strategy,Tactics, Practices and Procedures

Last night,. St. Augustine Beach Commissioners, led by Mayor S.. Gary Snodgrass and Commissioner Brud Helhski, agreed with me that tough questions need to be asked of our St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau, which has refused to answer questions or provide documents, even on its Antitrust and Civil Rights Compliance Policies.

At a future St. Augustine Beach City Commission meeting, VCB Executive Director Richard Goldman will have the chance to answer questions he has avoided and evaded since May 17th – questions about VCB's branding and marketing strategy, including questionable decision not to advertise in Miami, not to advertise our cultural diversity and tolerance, and refusal to reach out to GLBT, youth, African-American and Hispanic tourists for St. Augustine's 450th anniversary, while advertising in Reader's Digest and Better Homes and Gardens. There has not been a New York Times travel section article on St. Augustine since September 5, 2003 – a yellowing copy is on the bulletin board at the Bunnery on St. George Street.

Perhaps Beach Commissioners will want to put Mr. Goldman under oath, under penalty of perjury, e.g., when they ask pointed questions about possible Antitrust and Civil Rights violations.   Thank you!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Come Speak at July 15, 2013 St. Johns County Tourist Development Council Meeting on Visitor and Convention Bureuau's Maladroit Marketing Schemes

Come see the public TDC meeting at the County Administration Building (Taj Mahal) on July 15, 2013 at 1:30 PM. Watch democracy in action. Help encourage TDC to ask questions of TDC staff, and of the VCB. VCB currently has a contract with St. Johns County that expires at 11:59 PM on September 30, 2013.
The contract requires competitive bidding and will be re-bid, according to Tourist Development Council Executive Director Glenn Hastings.
Under the three-year contract, VCB gets some $3.4 million in bed tax money this year, most of which will be siphoned to multinational advertising agency MMGY or spent on advertising and agency commissions. It's our money – what is being done with it?  See below.

BRANDED – Does Outdated Tourism Marketing Threaten to Sink 450th Commemoration?

By Ed Slavin
(c) Copyright 2013

“Tourism is everybody's business,” was long the motto of the national tourism business. Is a long history of waste and maladroit marketing and lost opportunities endangering the success of our City's 450th anniversary in 2015 and of the commemoration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (2014) and 500th anniversary of Spanish Florida (this year)?

It's Our Money

Our St. Johns County local option "bed tax" money – there's a 4% tax on short term lodgings – is spent on tourist promotion (Category I); arts, cultural and special events (Category II); and beaches and recreation (Category III). People have been questioning its effectiveness for a quarter of a century, especially advertising (Category I).

Bed Tax Passed on Fourth Try

Thrice county voters rejected a Tourist Development Act bed tax on tourists. In 1986, they finally approved a bed tax on short term lodging, and innkeepers started collecting it in 1987. Tens of millions of bed tax revenues have been collected spent for more than 25 years, with the idea of putting “heads in beds,” but with what result?

Hotel occupancy rates still average only 59%.

What are the spenders of our Category I bed tax money doing to embrace our cultural diversity and our environment and to provide quality tourist experiences, consumer protection and good jobs at living wages?

Tourist Development Council

The St. Johns County Tourist Development Council (TDC) is an arm of St. Johns County government, headed by a seven-person Board.

Visitor and Convention Bureau

St. Johns County Visitors and Convention Bureau, Inc. (VCB) was founded in 1994 by Virginia Whetstone, local motelier and chocolatier. Vanderbilt economics alumna Virginia Whetstone is most noted for erecting a wooden fence at her Anchorage Motel, with the fence fastened onto the Bridge of Lions, blocking the view of Matanzas Bay (Florida DOT has ordered its removal). On the other side of the Bay, in our Historic District,at the Bayfront Motel in 1981, Virginia Whetstone's father, Henry Whetstone, Sr., proposed a five-story glass walled condominium. Virginia Whetstone remains at VCB member to this day.

Some 250 VCB members pay $100/year to promote their business interests as a 501(c)(6). As VCB Executive Director Richard Goldman wrote in an E-mail refusing to provide any documents to us: “VCB ACTIVITIES DIRECTLY BENEFIT THE TOURISM RELATED BUSINESSES INCLUDING TOURISM DEVELOPMENT TAX COLLECTORS. INDIRECTLY, ITS ACTIVITIES STIMULATE VISITOR SPENDING AND COLLECTION OF MORE SALES RELATED TAXES AND FEES THAN WOULD BE COLLECTED FROM RESIDENTS ALONE.” (Capital letters in original).

July 15, 2013 TDC Meeting

Come see the public TDC meeting at the County Administration Building (Taj Mahal) on July 15, 2013 at 1:30 PM. Watch democracy in action. Help encourage TDC to ask questions of TDC staff, and of the VCB. VCB currently has a contract with St. Johns County that expires at 11:59 PM on September 30, 2013. Under the three-year contract, VCB gets some $3.4 million in bed tax money this year, most of which will be siphoned to multinational advertising agency MMGY or spent on advertising and agency commissions. It's our money – what is being done with it?

MMGY Invited Price Increases at VCB Meeting

MMGY is the world's largest tourism marketing consultant. MMGY's Vice Chairman, Dr. Peter Yesawich, a Ph.D. psychologist, advised VCB attendees to raise prices at a May 4, 2013 Worlde Golf Village report on the state of the “tourism industry (sic).” This invites illegality.

Preliminary Criminal Antitrust Inquiry Opened

A preliminary inquiry is underway by the the criminal section of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. concerning possible price-fixing conspiracy – discussing pricing in meetings, which could be a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, forbidding “every contract, combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade.”

VCB Faces Antitrust Liability

As it is, VCB could be hauled before a Federal Grand Jury and indicted for antitrust violations.

VCB could also be sued by tourists in a class action antitrust and discrimation case, and they might win – some of the proceeds might be used to start a Tourist Club to protect against consumer fraudsters (like motel owners who advertise jacuzzis when they haven't worked in months, or who raise rates or cancel reservations after rooms are booked, as the Howard Johnson motel did to a wedding party after Mumford & Sons announced its concert, blaming a computer).

Other Florida Tourist Businesses Know Better Than to Talk About Pricing

Outside the VCB, other businesses know better than to talk pricing with each other: the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association expressly forbids any price discussion for good reason. Pricefixing, market division and bidrigging conspiracies are federal felonies: criminal antitrust violations are punishable by ten year prison terms, $100 million corporate fines and $1 million in individual fines (fines can be increased to twice the amount conspirators gained from illegal acs, or twice the money lost by victims of crime, if either amount is over $100 million)..

VCB Refuses to Disclose Any of Our Documents,. County Still Footdragging

I asked VCB Executive Director Richard Goldman for a copy of VCB's Antitrust and Civil Rights Compliance policies on May 20, 2013. Goldman and VCB refuse to provide any documents whatever, in apparent violation of the Florida Open Records Act, which covers records of government contractors like VCB, which has government members (who voted until 2003), a government function and was housed in the County Administration Building until 2009. St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick, St. Johns County Attorney Patrick McCormack, and the St. Johns County Commission have not directed VCB to respond, although VCB member Priscilla Bennett, a/k/a Rachel Bennett, appears to have gone to bat for VCB in lobbying the County Attorney's office on my Open Records request.

VCB Seems to Be Against New Tourist Attractions

VCB has refused to take a position on the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.

VCB is unfriendly toward other proposed tourist attractions, refusing to cooperate with one developer, dodging telephone calls and refusing to share data.

TDC Members Rightly Questioning VCB About Nearly Everything

Meanwhile, astute TDC members – including three government officials and people with significant tourism and other business experience – have rightly begun questioning every single line item, every expenditure and every assumption.

At their June 17, 2013 meeting, TDC members publicly complained about a lack of long range planning.

This comes in the wake of the fiasco of the County's $300,000 “Tourism Master Plan,” which was developed by an international consulting firm after a “quick driving trip” around St. Johns County, as the St. Augustine Record reported September 24, 2008. It initially recommended a water slide park, eschewing African-American, Hispanic and GLBT history.

VCB Fails to Promote St. Augustine's Strengths

Our Oldest European-founded City in America is about to observe its 450th birthday. It's worth celebrating cultural diversity in a cool place – Mayor Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. calls it “our first diverse city.” America's first Roman Catholics, first Jews, first slave and free African-Americans and first Hispanics arrived here on September 8, 1565. America's first Greeks, Italians, Menorcans arrived two centuries later. Polyglot Spanish St. Augustine survived starvation, pirates, invaders, genocide, wars, arson, slavery, and segregation. Today, St. Augustine has embraced tolerance and historic preservation – the first freed slave community was here in 1740 and Jim Crow segregation was ended by the courage of the St. Augustine Movement.

Despite 450th and 500th, VCB Not Advertising in Miami, Refuses to Say Why

None of this has made much an impression on cynical VCB, which is not advertising in Miami, despite the City of St. Augustine's strategic plan to maximize Hispanic tourism from families sharing their heritage. The 500th anniversary of Spanish Florida and 450th anniversary of St. Augustine require outreach to people in Miami – we're not advertising there. Why?

So I asked MMGY Media Group Director Cyndy Murrieta at the May 14, 2013 meeting why VCB was not advertising in Miami. Murietta condescendingly told me to ask her after the meeting. I requested a public answer, then and there. Then Murrietta said “I'm being heckled.” I am still waiting for an answer. Murrietta proclaimed that instead of Miami, St. Augustine is targeting “affluent” tourists, in Augusta, Savannah, and Atlanta in Georgia and in Orlando and The Villages in Florida, and advertising in Reader's Digest and Better Homes and Gardens. Wonder why? VCB won't say.

VCB Continues History of “Jim Crow” Segregation Continues, De Facto

Until 1964, St. Augustine and St. Johns County motels and restaurants were segregated by state law – “Jim Crow” segregation. Local residents made history with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Revs. Andrew Young and Hosea Williams and Dr. Robert Hayling, DDS Our local heroes made national headlines here in St. Augustine. None of this is reflected in VCB St. Augustine tourism materials.

“Absence of Black Faces,” Stores Close at 6:00 PM

In 1994, focus groups found an “absence of black faces” in St. Augustine tourist literature. They also complained about stores that close at 6 PM, with VCB founder Virginia Whetstone, proprietor of a St. George Street candy store, saying she was afraid of “crime.” No empirical data supports this claim: St. Augustine has some 59 police officers for a city of 13,000 souls and 12.3 square miles.

VCB Still Treating Some Tourists as “Strangers”

Tourism has been an engine of the local economy since the 1800s. Tourists were originally referred to in St. Augustine as “strangers” – the term “tourist” did not emerge until the 20th century. VCB is still treating as “strangers” African-Americans, Hispanics, young people and GLBT people. VCB's actions are illegal and offensive.

No Quality Standards

University of Florida Geography Professor Ary Lamme blasted St. Augustine's tacky tourist traps in his 1992 book on historic preservation. There were TDC discussions about establishing quality standards for hotels and restaurants in 1997, but they failed.

Our City is plagued with low-quality motels that don't provide what they promise, leading to bad memories for tourists – non-working jacuzzis and other conditions adverse to quality. Our local governments do not adequately regulate motels.

Still No Marketing to African-Americans

St. Augustine's unique African-American and Civil Rights history will draw tourists. State Representative Alonzo Reddick of Orlando chaired the House Tourism and Economic Development Committee for four years, told Margo Pope, “I think that if more blacks were aware of the black history of St. Augustine, it could become the tourist mecca for black history.” This would create jobs and opportunities. (February 4, 1995 Record). St. Augustine is still missing those opportunities.

“One of Best Kept Secrets”

In 1995, Kevin Stark, General Manager of the Association of Tennis Professionals, said St. Augustine was “one of the best kept secrets” in Florida. While this is no longer true – with our City making many national and world lists – it's still true about our Civil Rights and African-American history.

Discriminatory Marketing Materials

For decades, possible illegal discrimination – Civil Rights and Fair Housing violations – have been committed in St. Johns County real estate marketing of tourism. Real estate ads (printed in the St. Augustine Record) and billboards (erected by CBS, Gannett and other billboard companies) showed only white families. Precedents, including a case brought by a law professor against Mobil Oil's real estate subsidiary, suggests this exclusionary literature is illegal.

In this, the 500th anniversary of Spanish Floroda, VCB's current expensive St. Augustine tourist literature shows no photos of Native American Indians, with 199 photos of white people, only eleven (11) photographs of African-Americans (most of what appear to be happy slaves), and four (4) Hispanics.

VCB Not Marketing Civil Rights History, or to GLBT Tourists

VCB is also not reaching out to GLBT tourists, even though our City recognizes sexual orientation as a protected class in Fair Housing law, and by federal court order, Rainbow flags flew on our historic Bridge of Lions for six days in 2005 in honor of GLBT Pride week.

There's nothing about Civil Rights or GLBT people in our tourist literature – no photos of Dr. King and Rev. Andrew Young, no mention of the Andrew Young and Civil Rights Footsoldier memorials in our Slave Market Square, no mention of St. Augustine to the adoption of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Harry Truman said “the only thing new under the sun is the history you don't know.” The amount of history VCB does not know and does not share is simply staggering.

VCB Not Reaching Youth Market

Brand marketers look to build brand loyalty in college. In our town, some business owners don't want young people. That's why they hounded artists and entertainers off St. George Street, costing millions of dollars over two decades. In 1987, Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Coralee Pomar told the St. Augustine Record, “we don't go around to college campuses asking people to come here.” That's still true. At the May 14, 2013 VCB meeting, 1565Today Publisher Brian Nelson asked Yesawich about the youth market and Yesawich said it might not be very lucrative and could dilute the city's image, and claimed that Colonial Williamsburg had tried but failed to court the youth market.

Grammy-winning Mumford & Sons disagrees with Yesawich & Co: in September, they're holding one of only three U.S. “Gentlemen of the Road Concerts” here, at Francis Field, in downtown historic St. Augustine. Every hotel room was booked the first weekend after the announcement. Mumford & Sons like St. Augustine's diverse history and culture, our protection of GLBT people in our Fair Housing ordinance, and they must have noticed all the surf boards and kayaks on the local waterways and roads

Rich History Lacking in “Historic Coast” Marketing

Sadly absent from the tourist literature is the richness of our history – this is not Disney, but our consultants work for Disney and some 200 other tourist businesses, which is troublesome on loyalty and antitrust grounds.

VCB has not disputed the facts.

We are hiding our light under a bushel basket.

St. Augustine Marketing, Branding Seriously Flawed for Decades

Our branding here in St. Augustine has been seriously flawed for decades, and is still in need of uplift.

The ratio of spending on attracting tourists is roughly 40 dollars on advertising for every one dollar on research. Public relations – which brings good news coverage – is ignored by VCB. There has not been a single article about St. Augustine tourism in the New York Times travel section since September 5, 2003 – go to the Bunnery on St. George Street and you can see the yellowed article on the bulletin board.

Ad agencies make money on commissions, and cannot show results. They emit numbers, but they get commissions whether their marketing approaches make sense or not.

Decades of Citizen Concerns About Low-Quality Marketing

For decades, St. Augustine residents have raised concerns about the low-quality marketing paid for with bed tax dollars – 1950s “Jim Crow” marketing still excludes, offends and excludes African-Americans, Hispanics, GLBT people and young people.

Two St. Augustine couples wrote of St. Augustine tourism billboards displayed throughout South Florida..

On June 1, 1983, after visiting South Florida, St. Augustine residents Ben and Jeanne Troemel wrote in a letter printed the St. Augustine Record about the “large and expensive billboards” extolling only beaches, asking “what unthinking committee or person” spent so much money on such a large and “worthless billboard.”

Ten years later, in 1993, St. Augustine residents Frances and Robert Neelands saw St. Augustine billboards, with Ponce de Leon grasping a surfboard. Mrs. Frances Neelands (later for twelve years administrative aide to County Commissioner James Bryant) wrote a pithy letter in the St. Augustine Record June 13, 1993 that the billboards were “childish and non-creative,” stating she was “embarrassed to see such a billboard representing the oldest continous1y occupied city in the United States.”

Are Our Bed Tax Dollars Wasted?

Twenty years later, are our Category I bed tax dollars are still being wasted? Is money being squandered on bad advertising with bad taste, excessive advertising commissions, elitist studies of the richest 50% of Americans?

Is our branding contaminated by the subjective value preferences of MMGY and Dr. Peter Yesawich, a Ph.D. psychologist consultant, both of whom work for Disney and other large organizations?

Our marketing does not reflect our City's values – historic and environmental preservation, human rights and equality.

TDC Ad Gave 800 Number for Erotic Phone Line

In 1996, expensive brochures targeting rich white golfers were distributed by VCB to The Players Championship, bearing an erroneous 800-number for an erotic telephone talk service line!

History of Bed Tax Funds Misused

Bed tax money has been misused, including payments to the Association of Tennis Professionals and World Golf Village to locate here. Bed tax money has been abused for lavish advertising contracts, to subsidize public tours of private Flagler College, and even to send school children on trips – the St. Augustine High School Jazz Band in 1997.

For two years, TDC's advertising contract was illegal, with its contract with the Zimmerman advertising agency of Tallahassee reportedly not approved by the St. Johns County Commission (St. Augustine Record, December 15, 1995).

History of Sunshine Violations

Over the years, Margo Pope and the St. Augustine Record documented Sunshine violations that plagued the Tourist Development Council, held without public notice. They also documented abuses by the former contractor for tourism promotion, the Chamber of Commerce, and the successor entity, the Visitor and Convention Bureau.

$20,000 Junket for Chamber

In 1995, the Chamber of Commerce spent bed tax money on a $20,000 trip to Brazil, Argentina, Montreal and London. That junket helped lead to the Chamber losing, and VCB getting, the county tourism contract. At the time, it was said TDC meant “Times Demand Change.” But what changed?

We Need More “Friendraising,” While Ending “Jim Crow” Marketing

The University of Florida's Vice President, Ed Poppell, refers to “friendmaking” rather than “fundraising” as UF's goal – TDC needs to adopt his vision. VCB is needlessly offending African-Americans, Hispanics, Youth and GLBT people. They are our City's future

“Jim Crow” marketing and hiring practices must end.

We're not doing enough to attract the “heritage tourists” (“history buffs”) and the “eco-tourists” (formerly known as naturalists) to St. Augustine. They spend twice as much money, twice as much time, and they enjoy our city more than random tourists bouncing back after Disney, which businessman Richard Pounds once called a “giant vacuum cleaner.”

To attract more heritage and environmental tourists, we need a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore, with trolleys connecting current state parks and beaches.

We'd be better off spending money on public relations and grass roots lobbyists to accomplish that goal, than doing the same old things and expecting different results – ads in Readers' Digest and Better Homes and Gardens.

No Statistics on Worker Wages

Our tourism workers are grossly underpaid, some perhaps illegally. Yet a plethora of acronym-laced VCB statistics provided to TDC each month say nothing about the wages or welfare of employees, or whether any of them are being paid adequately to make money for the tourism industry.


The Tourist Development Council – TDC – will address these issues on July 15, 2013, as they set the year's tourism budget. Come speak out at 1:30 pm at the County Administration Taj Mahal..

As former City Commissioner Sandra Parks says, “A budget is a moral document.”

Let TDC stand for “Times Demand Change.”

Ed Slavin
Clean Up City of St. Augustine, Florida
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084