Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Making Government Work Here

In 2007, I suggested one-day-per-week garbage collection. Our City of St. Augustine will soon follow the suggestion, accompanied by large recycling containers on wheels, after a pilot program. No longer will our City pay a cartel for recycling: government employees will do it at a lower cost, competently, without missed pickups and spillage. Cheaper, better, with no price increase, although tipping fees have increased by more than 23%.

During 2006-2007, St. Johns County considered a contract with an inexperienced company, Signature Events, Inc. of Ponte Vedra, to operate the Amphitheater. The county decided not to contract out Amphitheater management, and county employees have done an admirable job, saving money and making our Amphitheater one of the finest small venues in the Nation, according to Pollstar Magazine. Our Amphitheater staff and city staff recently pulled off the coup of the century, helping save the 450th from mediocrity and failure. (Signature's bogus breach of contract lawsuit was rejected in 2009 by Circuit Judge J. Michael Traynor, who held that there was no contract, only an agreement to negotiate).

In 2010, our City of St. Augustine attempted to outsource the entire 450th commemoration to a secretive nonprofit that was established under City auspices for the express purpose of avoiding and evading Sunshine and Open Records laws. Eighteen of us hired Holland & Knight and we stopped them. The 450th was run by government employees, not a secretive organization.

In 2014, we elected Nancy Shaver as St. Augustine Mayor. Mayor Shaver questioned contracting and planning for the 450th, resulting in the combined brains and talents of our city and county, including Amphitheater Manager Ryan Murphy and St. Augustine Police Chief Loran Lueders, pulling off a nearly flawless party for our city's 450th birthday, with almost 100 musical acts.

Not outsourcing the 450th, not outsourcing the Amphitheater, asking questions, electing an ethical Mayor were the keys to our 450th success.

Holding governments accountable. Making governments work. Halting secrecy. Assuring transparency. Asking questions. It's what we do here.

It takes a village.

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