Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Puffery on Self-Serving City Board Members: Superficial Record Article by "Development" Reporter Conceals Ethical Dilemmas

This article stinks.
The banner headline article above the fold in The St. Augustine Record on Wednesday, October 14, 2015 is headline: "Local boards struggle to keep members -- Qualifications,  an issue for PZB, HARB"
What a joke.
Not a word about the resignation of JOSEPH SCOTT CRONK, who sought demolition of Santa Maria Restaurant, after being duked into a Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) seat by duplicity of City Manager/Mangler JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E., that chess playing  Machiaveilian whose nikulturny minions thought it so cute to:
A.  Eliminate preservation activist Melinda Rakoncay from consideration, in the wake of victories over 7-Eleven and FSDB, preserving Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood Neighborhoods from destruction;  and
B.  Blockade  retired Flagler College Art Department Chair Robert Hall from consideration for years, in favor of millionaire minions.
This insider-driven asinine article in The St. Augustine Record lacks history and scholarship.
It does not present a balanced view, never interviewing the aggrieved citizens who are victims of biased, immoral, corrupt decisions by City Boards, never addressing questions raised by historic preservationists about the continuing "willful, heedless destruction of our natural beauty and pleasures," as RFK said.
"It is not enough to allow dissent, we must demand it, for there is much to dissent from."
This article is inane -- it is like a book I was assigned as a Georgetown senior, rebutting Barnett & Mueller's book, Global Reach, on multinational corporations, without ever assigning us Global Reach to read in the first place.  What goofy booby boorishness.
Distorter-reporter STUART KORFHAGE's latest inept article attempts to address our concerns about City boards, without stating what they are -- wonder why?
It does not interview anyone from Preserve HP-1, whose concerns about the former DOW MUESUM of HISTORIC HOMES being partially demolished and turned into a $500/night hotel fell upon uncaring, unethical, pressured board members of our dysfunctional HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD (after 40% of HARB members were purchased for a song by DAVID BARTON CORNEAL and perverted and converted, mutatis mutandis, into accomplice-witnesss for CORNEAL's evil privatization plan, supported by then-Mayor JOE BOLES (who met with CORNEAL on-site before the 2014 election) and City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E., who prejudged the application and told First Coast News in November 2014 that he was delighted by the DOW sell-out).
 It omits the etiology of the cancelled HARB meeting -- resignation of a HARB Board member over conflict of interest and application issues that I raised.
This hick hack article did not interview anyone critical of City Boards.
It lacks balance.
It lacks research.
It makes factual errors.
When City Hall denizens have wanted non-residents, they stuck them on Boards, including HARB Chair LEN WEEKS, a resident of St. Augustine Beach who destroyed a 211-year old building working without permits and was fined only $3600 by our weak Code Enforcement Board (after which City Attorney Isabelle Lopez hugged WEEKS).
When City Hall denizens wanted to exclude resident Melinda Rakoncay, they did not give her name to City Commissioners.
JEREMY MARQUIS and PAUL M. WEAVER, III both represented DAVID BARTON CORNEAL on the DOW PUD: both recused themselves and worked on the project, taking money and violating Sunshine laws (which contain no recusal exception). As a result of their recusal, there were only three HARB members to vote on the demolition of CARPENTER's HOUSE, by a 2-1 vote.
That issue was not discussed by STUART KORFHAGE's latest shallow article.
The article ducks and covers and ignores the fact that Board members represent clients before their own boards. Former board members like JOHN VALDES and JEREMY MARQUIS (who resigned from HARB after my request based on his very frequent recusals) are guilty of representing clients like DAVID BARTON CORNEAL before their very own Boards.
Board members and chairs have not been behaving politely to citizens.
Millionaires are dictating policy on Boards, and their spin is very much in evidence in this piece of trite trope tripe:
Print headline: Local boards struggle to keep members -- Qualifications,  an issue for PZB, HARB"
What a joke.
Online headline: Volunteers on city boards enjoy service, cope with conflicts
Posted: October 13, 2015 - 11:37pm | Updated: October 14, 2015 - 12:03am
What a joke.
This week’s meeting of the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) was rescheduled due to a lack of a quorum, highlighting the difficulty (sic) of attracting and keeping qualified (sic) people on St. Augustine’s important government boards.
Members of HARB and the Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) spend hours listening to applicants on individual building projects in the city and then make decisions or recommendations to the city commission.
It’s a system that allows for unique projects — and the city is so small that most projects are different — to get a public review. At the same time, those who might object are also afforded the opportunity to present their case.
And it all happens in front of a board of residents volunteering their time and expertise with the intention of giving every applicant a fair look.
“These boards are the engines that drive the cars,” said John Valdes, who has served on PZB and HARB. “The work gets done at the board level.”
The problem is keeping a viable board in place to do the work. The members often have to wade in on difficult, contentious issues like the recent development of the former Dow Museum property.
At the same time, they have to avoid conflicts of interest while doing business in a small city that only has so many qualified architects, builders, historians, etc.
“The volume is increasing and with the volume comes a greater strain on the board and the issues of conflicts and a quorum come up,” St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver said. “They (the boards) are critical. PZB, to me, is very much about livability. HARB is where we are protecting our history.”
Shaver and others are concerned about having a quorum for every scheduled meeting, and the commission is poised to look at who should be considered for positions on the board in order to keep them viable.
“It’s a challenge to find people who are willing to serve,” she said. “Having those boards at full strength is just really important (because of) the decisions they make. We take who we are seriously. We try to protect (the city’s) heritage the best we can.”
Currently, HARB candidates are expected to have “either thorough training and/or experience in history or related fields, archaeology, architectural history, historic architecture or art history,” according to the city website. They don’t have to live in the city limits, but most candidates are city residents.
Those who don’t have professional degrees but have special interest or knowledge will be considered “when such appointment is determined to be in the best interest of the city.”
HARB rules on applications for Certificates of Appropriateness in Historic Preservation (HP) districts 1-5; on building permits on property abutting HP districts 1-3; and on applications for demolition permits for structures 50 years old or older within the city limits.
The PZB rules on zoning exceptions and variances, hears appeals of any decision of the Planning and Building Department and makes recommendations to the city commission on the rezoning of land or changes to the Comprehensive Plan.
Membership on that board is fairly diverse, but members must live in the city and most have some professional experience in real estate or construction.
Valdes said there actually is no shortage of intelligent, qualified residents to serve on PZB or HARB. The trouble is getting people who are willing to sit through the long meetings and deal with the flak that sometimes comes with making tough decisions.
“It’s actually imperative that the boards are populated by people who are knowledgeable and are unbiased and can be objective and fair and do what’s best for city at large, not for just one neighborhood,” Valdes said.
It’s also best if the member isn’t doing work for anyone with a major project on the horizon because it will trigger a recusal.
Former HARB member Jeremy Marquis, president of Marquis Halback Inc. landscape architecture and design firm, said the conflicts are often more perceived than real.
He said any idea that he or board members he knew would join a board to work some kind of financial advantage “couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
Marquis said his only goal for serving on HARB was to serve the community, and he knows his fellow volunteers felt the same way.
"Do we want to celebrate that commitment to get involved, or are we going to criticize?” Marquis said.
Yes, JEREMY, we're going to criticize: it's the American way, and if you want to be celebrated, try male modeling.
Both Marquis and Valdes said their time on the boards was rewarding even if consumed a great deal of their time and energy. Marquis had to cut his term short several months ago because of commitments to his young and growing family.
Local civil engineer Grant Misterly said he enjoyed the same sense of accomplishment as Valdes and Marquis through his volunteering. He served six years — two terms — on PZB, ending in 2013.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “I got a lot out of it. I felt like I was giving back to the community.”
He said conflicts are going to happen in such a small area, but he said that’s the price to pay for having local, interested people making key decisions that affect the city.
“If we try to eliminate the possibility of conflicts, then we have also limited the pool of choices to retirees and people who don’t work locally,” he said. “That is a pretty small group of in a town of 13,000 people. These board positions are the gate keepers to our city, and if we limit our choices too severely, we may not be able to watch all the gates.”

-- FBI Assistant Director  Mark Felt (a/k/a "Deep Throat" confidential source) to 
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during Watergate, 1972 

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