Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"The Unwelcome Wagon" Approach to Public Participation -- How's That Working Out?

Monson Motel Owner James Brock pours muriatic acid into hotel pool occupied by J.T. Johnson and other protesters, shocking the Nation, June 18, 1964

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called St. Augustine "the most lawless city in America."

In 1963, after promising Vice President Lyndon Johnson they would hear black people's concerns, St. Augustine leaders left them a tape recorder to leave a message -- refusing to meet with them.

in 1964, Monson Motel owner James Brock pours muriatic acid into a hotel pool occupied by J.T. Johnson and other protesters, shocking the Nation, helping President Lyndon B. Johnson break a Senate filibuster and enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

On April 11, 2005, after speaking out about 15th Amendment civil rights matters, the then-City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS said, "I could have you arrested for disorderly conduct."

In December 2006, attending my first St. Johns County Legislative Delegation meeting (speaking in favor of the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore) for the first time I ever spoke at any County meeting, I was given the evil eye by three aberrant public employees -- by County Commission Chair JAMES EDWARD BRYANT's uber-secretary, Frances Neelands, by St. Johns County Road and Bridge Department Director, and Sheriff-for-Life DAVID BERNARD SHOAR.

In many ways, is it still the most lawless city in America? Jim Crow law prevails in many ways. Our City is guilty of arresting artists and musicians, harassing homeless people for plugging laptops into bandshell outlets, holding secretive meetings in remote locations and discouraging and limiting public comment (only three minutes, and not on every agenda item, as at St. Johns County, St. Augustine Beach, and other local government agencies)? Meanwhile Open Records requests are disdained while Sunshine laws are skirted. Enough.

Evidently, these "bears of little brain" think that if you're mean to people, they won't come back. It didn't work for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Robert S. Hayling, D.D.S., Ambassador Andrew Young, or anyone else. They keep thinking that if they're mean, it will give them some sort of interpsychic satisfaction. Diagnosis: they're crazy.

Case in point: trying to deny public comment at this morning's joint City-County Commission meeting (public comment was allowed after my e-mails, without any apology.

Case in point: insulting public comment speakers. Did not work for Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, Jr. He's gone. So are ERROL JONES, SUSAN BURK and other maniacal jerks (BURK famously wrote a hate letter to the Record after leaving office, accusing public comment speakers of being "rude." BURK was crude and rude, rolling her eyes from the very first time I spoke to City Commission, looking at the sky, and generally acting as if she were put-upon by having to hear from anyone who was not her relative, client, lover or campaign contributor (or several of those things).

Case in point: limiting public comment, sometimes to less than three minutes (bought-and-paid-for Historic Architectural Review Board Chair PAUL M. WEAVER, III did that to me recently, for a speaker who came all the way from Colorado to inform our debate, arbitrarily inflicting a 7:30 pm closing, and limiting me to two minutes even though there were no other public comment speakers)(WEAVER and HARB member JEREMY MARQUIS are both working for DAVID BARTON CORNEAL on his hare-brained scheme to turn the Dow Museum of Historic Homes into a $500/night suite hotel in the midst of the HP-1 historic neighborhood).

Case in point: developers, government contractors (prospective and actual), Northeast Florida Transportation Organization and government employees (any 'ole government will do), elected officials and favored people get to go on and on, yammering about nothing in particular. Twice St. Augustine Beach let proponents of no-bid contracts speak to Commissioners without time limit. That's despicable.

But if you have something to say, there's a gavel ready to bang at you. (When I spoke to HARB on May 21, you can actually hear a deputy City clerk say in the background, "35 seconds left," either to herself or perhaps to a waiting SWAT team?). That's invidiously discriminatory, and a violation of the First Amendment.

On November 12, 2014, at his last meeting as Mayor, I thanked him for his service and then asked then-Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR. for "a few extra seconds" and he responded, "I don't mind giving you a few extra seconds because after ten years, this will be the last time I ever have to listen to you." As William F. Buckley, Jr. once asked, "Why does baloney reject the grinder?"

What gooberishness. So much for Southern hospitality. These people are Philistines. The are social dominators and hick hack dictators. "They know not that they know not that they know not," as Senior Special Agent Robert E. Tyndall puts it best.

Every time I ever testified before Congressional subcommittees, I always had five (5) minutes, with more time for questions. Diverse views were heard and heeded. Congressional earings were never hidden in remote locations at inconvenient times to hide from the public.

When I cross-examined Department of Energy and Union Carbide officials before the Oak Ridge City Council about mercury pollution on May 23, 1983, I took twenty (20) minutes, live on cable tv. The Rest is History.

To those fuming furious feeble fumbling fulsome unfriendly local officials who send out the Unwelcome Wagon, How's that working out for you? Our reform mayor is beloved, your sins have found you out, and everyone appreciates what she's doing to restore democracy -- from our military veterans, to our Tea Party friends to the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, all of which she's spoken to and interacted with in the past five (5) days.

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