Friday, May 01, 2015

Strong Support for Reform Mayor Nancy Shaver

St. Augustine commissioners look ahead after tension
Posted: April 30, 2015 - 11:27pm


Several months after the mayoral election, supporters of St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver are satisfied with her work. But it hasn’t come without tension on the City Commission.

“So far, so good,” said resident Alice Long Owens.

Owens is a member of 300 Concerned Citizens, a group organized before the mid-term elections. The Rev. Ron Rawls, who spoke on behalf of the group at this week’s City Commission meeting, said the group was able to shift momentum in the 2014 election and would be more powerful in 2016.

He encouraged the mayor to do what she was elected to do, and he encouraged the other commissioners to ask questions.

“We worked hard and organized a group of forward-thinking people in a short period of time to ensure that there would be a voice at this dais that had the intestinal fortitude to ask the tough questions,” Rawls said.

Rawls declined to comment Thursday for this story.

A few members of 300 Concerned Citizens are satisfied with Shaver’s approach and some commissioners said they are focused on the work ahead.

But there has been disagreement and controversy on the commission for weeks.

In March, Shaver requested an audit of the 450th contracts. Shaver drew rebuttal from Commissioner Leanna Freeman when Shaver said she didn’t want the commission to be embarrassed any more. At another meeting, commissioners supported a limited contract review with Shaver and City Manager John Regan focusing on three specific contracts. The focus of that conversation has shifted to improvements in contracting processes on a broader scale.

Moving forward

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline told The Record last week that Shaver needs training, and that Shaver “needs to stop campaigning and start governing. It’s brewing an undercurrent of distrust.”

Freeman followed by writing: “Bullying tactics and intimidation efforts are at an all-time high, and I hope that (Sikes-Kline’s) comments do not prompt personal attacks. Today’s atmosphere is new to those of us who have for years expressed differing opinions and participated in emotional debate: But who, at the end of the meeting, wished our colleagues a “good night” and meant it.”

Rawls, pastor of St. Paul AME Church on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, encouraged Shaver to stay the course in his remarks during the public comment portion of Monday’s commission meeting.

“I’ve been hearing that the mayor needs to learn how things are done and that she’s guilty of stirring things up, which is another way of saying she is disrupting the status quo,” he said. “It appears that our elected officials and salaried leaders are concerned about being embarrassed by the exposure of past mistakes. Madam mayor, I stand here today to encourage you to keep doing what you were elected to do.”

Sikes-Kline said Thursday there is work to do, but she believes bringing the community and the commission together is possible.

“We’re all doing the best we can to keep moving forward, doing our jobs, working with the community ... ” she said. “ ... It would not serve the community well if we all had like minds,” she said.

Looking ahead, not back

Freeman said upcoming projects and other work are the focus.

“I think there’s enough work to keep us busy that we don’t need to be focused on personality issues, and I don’t think that we are,” she said.

Commissioner Todd Neville and Vice Mayor Roxanne Horvath were not at Monday’s meeting.

Neville said he believes the commission should have training and team building. But he said the commission is going in the right direction.

“We’ve gotten some really good things done,” Neville said.

Shaver said the commission has a lot of work to do. Among the work are budget priorities such as infrastructure, mobility/parking and zoning.

“I think we have a really good commission,” Shaver said. “ ... We’re going to disagree. Things are going to be messy at times. From my perspective absolutely none of it is personal.”

Horvath could not be reached Thursday for comment.

The future

Owens, who had not heard Rawls’ comments, said she appreciates Shaver’s openness. She attended a forum Shaver held recently at a local cafe, which she said gave residents a chance to comment on concerns and get feedback directly.

She said 300 Concerned Citizens supported Shaver in 2014. The group is diverse and includes people from all over St. Augustine, Owens said.

“We’re basically a bunch of concerned citizens that (were) interested in the betterment of the community as a whole,” she said.

Greg White, chair of the West Augustine CRA Steering Committee, has participated in 300 Concerned Citizens. He supported Shaver’s work on the commission thus far.

“In my opinion she’s certainly asked the tough questions. To her credit, she made herself available, she listens well and she responds to the questions that are put before her. I think we’re very pleased with her performance thus far,” White said.

Telling it like it is

Gwendolyn Duncan, a Flagler County resident, grew up in Lincolnville. Her family has been there for generations, she said. She has participated in 300 Concerned Citizens, and she supported Rawls.

“I’m just so happy he made those comments,” Duncan said. “The commissioners needed to hear that.”

Duncan is also president emeritus of ACCORD, The Anniversary to Commemorate the Civil Rights Demonstrations Inc.

Duncan said Shaver has a “Herculean job” ahead of her on the commission. Duncan said she senses opposition from other commissioners toward Shaver.

“I see a lot of disrespect when I watch the meetings online,” she said.

Duncan supports Shaver. Among other things, she said there is more transparency regarding 450th spending.

“She seems to be doing a good job so far,” she said.

Rawls told the commission that the 300 Concerned Citizens was able shift momentum in the 2014 elections with only three months of preparation. And the group will have a greater impact in the 2016 elections.

“If you allow this city to fall back into a silent system that protects status quo, I can assure you that we will put forth our best effort to change it in 2016,” he said.

He said if need be the group will unite with other groups who expect transparency.

Shaver said she took Rawls’ comments overall as a push by the 300 Concerned Citizens for continued transparency.

“He was affirming what, quite frankly, many people have said to me over the past few weeks, that good governance and transparency (are) important,” she said.

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LocalColor 05/01/15 - 10:04 am 10Seriously?
Do these people genuinely believe that they've successfully swept their $3.5 million "450th" disaster under the rug? It's not going to be *quite* that easy nor are the voters of CoSA *quite* that stupid. Keep after 'em, Mayor Nancy!!!

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