Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Jim Dykes, R.I.P.

I just learned that one of the many voices of wisdom and storytelling who helped inspire my career has died.

Knoxville, Tennessee reporter and columnist Jim Dykes taught me a lot about journalism at age 21.

Of his own newspaper, Jim said, "No matter what you say, it's still a newspaper." (Jim was one of my local advisors and sherpas when I went to East Tennessee in 1978-79 on a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant, investigating TVA coal procurement -- the quoted remark was over pitchers of beer in a dive bar, and I still remember his wit and wisdom. Jim led a Newspaper Guild "byline strike" at his newspaper when editors tried to inflict a fourth grade vocabulary on its writers -- reporters took their bylines off their stories, just as happened later at The Wall Street Journal). Sadly, there is not one chapter of the Newspaper Guild in all of Florida.

Jim introduced me to the term "mackerel snapper," a Southern Baptist term for Roman Catholic. In turn, I told Jim that he looked like Brezhnev, with eyebrows that ran together.

Reporters used typewriters in those days. Jim's office typewriter had a clipping from a religious ad in his newspaper, stating, "WHY DO THE HEATHEN RAGE?"

Jim Dykes watched in wonder as I tormented TVA and asked questions about coalfield monopoly power, Howard Baker, Kingston steam plant, antitrust violations and pervasive low quality coal fraud -- questions that eventually led to a critical 1981 GAO audit, revealing hundreds of millions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse.

Jim Dykes warned me about my alleged tendency to see "a booger in every bush," but in his heart he knew I was right. That's why he'd spend hours with me smoking his unfiltered cigarettes and sharing pitchers of beer with a know-it-all Yankee from Georgetown University at a redneck Knoxville dive bar, facetiously stating that he was "waiting out" (till 11) PM Knoxville's then nearly non-existent "rush hour" before he drove home to his dogs and his mountain residence in his native Blount County. (Jim once said he "had to die of something," when I gave one of my tedious tobacco temperance lectures, even as I bummed the occasional cigarette. And yes, Jim reportedly died of lung cancer.)

I miss him.

I just found out -- as I quoted Jim Dykes as I wrote a spirited defense of the St. Augustine Record against one of DONALD JOHN TRUMP's local strumpets: Jim Dykes died in 2011.

As JFK said in the Cuban Missile Crisis, "there's always some SOB who doesn't get the word."

Jim Dykes remembered as poignant columnist who went against the grain

Local journalism legend Jim Dykes has died at age 78. Beginning at the Maryville Times in 1965, Dykes' career included stints at the News Sentinel, TVA and the Knoxville Journal. (Bob Fowler/News Sentinel)
Posted: Nov. 18, 2011

By Robert L. Wilson

Daily journalism has the reputation of attracting — some say creating — people with more eccentricities than a character in a Mel Brooks movie.

Whether Jim Dykes fell into that category is open to speculation, but that he is a memorable and venerated member of his profession is not.

Jim Dykes, a legend of Knoxville-area journalism, a friend of the common man and a pebble in the shoe of the self-absorbed, has died. He was 78.

His death silences a voice that once entertained, irritated and educated readers of three newspapers in Knox and Blount counties, and he is remembered as a man who could see through the haze of complexity and intentional obfuscation to state the unvarnished truth with clarity and fearlessness.

"He would go against the grain," said Sam Venable, News Sentinel humor columnist and a longtime friend of Dykes. "He was a super-talented writer, just one of those who was so gifted."

Dykes' personality and career were the subjects of a lengthy piece by Jack Neely in a recent edition of Metro Pulse. In it, Dykes offers his comments — profane and profound — on a life of lifting the downtrodden and deflating the flatulent.

"I'm considered to be a grump or something; I don't think so," Neely quotes him as saying.

Grump or not, his was an imposing presence in the newsroom, with his stout frame and fearsome eyebrows. But behind his irascible character was a respect for the truth and a soft spot for those holding the short end of the stick.

"He had a streak in him," Venable said, "that would go opposite of public opinion."

The celebrated could expect Dykes to be "digging them in the ribs and kicking them in the butt," the self-described "colyumnist" said. "But when the tide of public opinion turned against them, he showed a real soft side."

Dykes' career path prior to becoming a newspaperman meandered a bit, from being a miner, logger, security guard, telephone man, actor and rodeo rider, according to Neely.

But with no prior writing experience or the ability to type, he joined the staff of the Maryville Times in 1965.

Dean Stone, the longtime editor of the Times, said he "saw a lot of things" in Dykes that spurred him to give him his first reporting job.

"He was inquisitive to find out what was going on," Stone said. "I didn't foresee he would be as good as he was."

Journalism took Dykes on to jobs at the News Sentinel, TVA and the Knoxville Journal when it was a daily, writing a column.

Preceding him at the Times was Stan DeLozier, who also was a longtime reporter for the News Sentinel.

DeLozier remembers seeing Dykes at work drinking his coffee from a Mason jar and said he was "always irreverent and unpredictable."

As evidence, he relates the time when the News Sentinel management decreed that all men in the newsroom had to wear a tie to work.

Dykes did, DeLozier said, but he did not wear a shirt. Just a tie. When the ordered was modified to include a shirt, Dykes obliged by wearing the tie with a golf shirt, DeLozier said.

Dykes also is the only reporter DeLozier remembers who quoted a hear-impaired and mute man in a crime story.

There had been a shooting near the newspaper's old building in downtown Knoxville and Dykes was dispatched to the scene. He found the deaf man and ascertained the man had witnessed the incident, and he conducted the interview by writing questions down and the deaf man writing his responses.

"He knew what it took to get the story," DeLozier said.


David Hunter: Death of Jim Dykes leaves an unfilled void
Jim Dykes, one of East Tennessee's best known wordsmiths, died on Nov. 16.

David Hunter
Posted: Nov. 22, 2011

Jim Dykes, writer, author, carver of wood, sailor, dare-devil lineman, father, husband and friend to many, went to sleep the night of Nov. 16 and never woke up. He left a void that nobody else will ever fill.

The call that came from his son, David, Thursday morning brought relief that he was no longer suffering from the monstrous cancer that finally took him down, and sadness that his voice has been silenced. We will never again have a wide-ranging, hours-long conversation about the absurdities of existence and the mysteries that fascinated us.

I know that my grief pales in comparison to that felt by his children and grandchildren, but it is real, as real as Dykes' desire to suck the last drop of meaning from life before he had to leave.

He was the reason I became a newspaper columnist more than 20 years ago after I publicly insulted him in the old Knoxville Journal for something he wrote about police in general and me in particular.

After reading what he had written in his column, I sat down and penned a parody of a Jim Dykes column and sent it to the "letters to the editor" section of the Journal, where it was published. He would later refer to the parody as my "taking off of his head in print."

Jim called me at work to let me know that he liked my style, even though he was the brunt of what I had written, then publicly acknowledged in his column that much of what I said was true — even though it was grossly exaggerated. He said he wanted to meet me and we arranged a time and place.

"You really do have monstrous eyebrows," I said by way of greeting that day. "And you have no neck," he replied. It was he who suggested I approach his editor about a column on the editorial page of his own newspaper. I was already doing a weekly column for the Halls Shopper, but Dykes said I needed a larger audience.

Soon afterwards, the two of us were swapping insults regularly in our respective columns, carrying on a mock feud — and at the same time, getting together at his home in Blount County and having lunch on a regular basis for rambling conversations.

Dykes was a big man who towered above most, and the persona he showed the world was a gruff brawler of a man who could be dangerous when upset. He really wasn't like that, though. He was a kind, compassionate man who loved his dogs and tolerated fools rather than hurt their feelings.

After the Knoxville Journal folded, he withdrew to his beloved Condorhurst, a rustic house on which he had done most of the construction, where he read his books and magazines and focused on wood carvings to a large degree. His whirligigs, mostly shaped like birds, are treasured by his friends.

There are times when words are insufficient even to those of us who have devoted our lives to them. Words are a crude way to express emotions, but that's all we have to paint a picture of a friend or loved one we'll never see again.

Dykes was one of the finest writers I have ever known, but had he never written a word he would have left a legacy of wit and wisdom for those of us who remain behind.

Jim Dykes was truly one of a kind. I will miss him a lot.

David Hunter is a former career police officer, author of 18 books and a 25-year columnist with the Knoxville News Sentinel.


In Restless Native by Chris Wohlwend
April 27, 2016
Knoxville Mercury

The first bar that Jim Dykes introduced me to was a dark, dusty dive on Gay Street, about a block away from the newspaper building. It was called Lockett’s, and according to the sign in the window, it offered more than cold beer. The place was in the business of “novelties.”

And there were numerous things inside that fit that description. The bartender, to start with—he looked as if he had never been exposed to daylight. He didn’t say much, either, but he didn’t have to. There was a parrot, named Polly, that did most of the talking, though the bird had a decidedly limited vocabulary.

But when Dykes was present, there wasn’t much opportunity for a parrot, or anyone else, to talk.

My first encounter with Dykes came when I started reading some of his work in the News-Sentinel. He was covering the courts and I had recently been promoted from copy boy to state-desk reporter at the Journal. That meant that sometimes we would be writing about the same case.

I quickly noticed that Dykes’ work was most interesting when the case he was covering tended toward the scandalous. Like most successful journalists of the time, he was quick to recognize the quirks and twists that define the best stories. And he had the chops to deliver the tale in the most compelling way. He could present lurid details in an understated, matter-of-fact way that avoided sensationalism.

Plus, he had a reputation as a hard-drinking, hard-living character, the kind of reporter immortalized in Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s great Broadway play, The Front Page.

Though we were sometimes competing, Dykes and I became good friends, having a beer at various spots around town and, later, all over East Tennessee. Though he could fit in at the swankiest gathering, I quickly learned that Dykes had more than a passing interest in places like Lockett’s. One favorite was Opal’s Tap Room on Chapman Highway, a sad spot whose owner tried to keep up with the times by featuring go-go dancers.

Dykes believed the effort was commendable and deserved our support, so we periodically stopped in to check out the entertainment. We finally gave up—every night we visited there was only one dancer, and it was always the same girl. Good reporters that we were, we introduced ourselves and proceeded to interview her. Our first discovery was that her name was not Opal. “Well,” Dykes told her, “you’re still a jewel.”

And then there were the roadhouses: bars that were out in the country.

Once, when he and I were driving a back road in the mountains east of Tellico Plains, he pointed out the weeded-up remains of such a spot, long since abandoned. “I got in one of the worst fights of my life in there,” he said. Of course, I asked what it was about. “I was in no shape to care,” he said, adding only that there “were lots of broken beer bottles.”

Another time we had just crossed back into Tennessee from Kentucky, up in Scott County, when we came upon a cinder-block building with a big sign that said “First beer in Tennessee.”

“Pull in here,” he said, so I did. Then, before he got out of the car, he paused, looking the place over. “You had better go in and get a six-pack to go. If I remember correctly, I’m not welcome here.”

Though his notoriety seemed to cover most of southern Appalachia, Dykes was most famous in the joints closer to his Blount County home, including the string of nightspots that ran up what was then state Highway 73, on the stretch from Maryville toward Townsend and the mountains.

One night, exploring the area, we went into one of those spots that met most of our criteria: the gravel parking lot featured several pickup trucks and there was a tasteful neon Pabst Blue Ribbon sign. (“Tasteful” meaning that it was non-blinking.) But when we entered, everything stopped. As non-regulars, we found that we were the center of attention. The bartender, especially, kept looking our way. Dykes was unperturbed and we found an empty table.

A waitress took our order and things seemed to get back to normal—pool game resuming, jukebox playing. But when our beers were delivered, the server wasted no time in letting us know that we should hit the highway.

“I don’t guess you all want another one,” she said, staring hard at Dykes. We took her hint and made our way out after downing our Blue Ribbon.

Of course there were other places where Dykes was welcome. One was the Duck Inn in Alcoa. Long after he had left the News-Sentinel, long after Lockett’s had closed, Dykes began writing a column for the Journal called Without a Paddle, where he frequently made fun of his fellow East Tennesseans, especially those who were involved in politics.

It proved popular with the Duck Inn regulars, and they would tell him how he nailed this congressman or that councilman. Once, he and I stopped for a hamburger and beer a couple of days after a scathingly sarcastic takedown of Lamar Alexander. Two regulars stopped by our table and told Dykes how much they agreed with his support of the Maryville native son.

He looked at them, then at me, and said, “I was being sarcastic.” They apparently didn’t understand what he meant, chuckling before taking their leave.

“Sarcasm, I guess, is wasted in Blount County,” Dykes said. “Readers like these make me appreciate Lockett’s. At least the parrot had a clear understanding of what East Tennessee politics is all about.”

About the Author
Chris Wohlwend's Restless Native addresses the characters and absurdities of Knoxville, as well as the lessons learned pursuing the newspaper trade during the tumult that was the 1960s. He spent 35 years working for newspapers and magazines in Miami, Charlotte, Louisville, Dallas, Kansas City, and Atlanta. As an editor, he was involved in winning several national awards. He returned to Knoxville in the late 1990s and now teaches journalism part-time at the University of Tennessee. His freelance pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and numerous other publications.

St. Augustine Record Rightly Blasts Reichwing Republican Speaker DIANE HAGAN SCHERFF for Lying False Statements at TRUMP 2/27 Rally

Fantastic editorial in March 1, 2017 Record exposing lying louche bully DIANE SCHERFF, St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee Second Vice Chair's material false statements attacking our hometown newspaper and encouraging a boycott.

Full disclosures:
1. The Record's parent company, MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS owned The Oak Ridger, which in the 1990s printed dozens of letters from workers made sick by decades of indoor and outdoor pollution at the U.S. Government's poisonous Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear weapons plants, including several of my clients and a worker environmental health group I encouraged and advised (Coalition for a Healthy Environment).  Those letters, and Nashville Tennessean investigative reporting, helped stimulate positive change, to wit, adoption in 2000 of the deeply flawed Energy Employees Occupational Injuries Compensation Act, pushed by fraudfeasing phony U.S. Senator FRED DALTON THOMPSON, which has pumped some $12 billion into workers' CONpensation payments to victims of cancer and other occupational diseases. Without The Oak Ridger's printing letters (including my own), EEOICPA would  not have been adopted as a palliative, a "lettuce poultice."

2. The St. Augustine Record has printed some 70 of my columns and letters since 2000. While penurious with quoting citizens opposed to developers, The Record freely prints opposing views on its editorial page.

3. The Record editorial by Peter Ellis on Sunday, November 19, 2006 gave me a spirited defense in the face of an unfair attack on me by then Mayor George Gardner, with a standing ovation by all the Commissioners, then City Manager WILLIAM HARRISS, and 75 wealthy yacht club members there to get a no-bid lease.  The Record concluded:
 we're happy that there are gadflies like Slavin in our world. They add texture to our public forums and, as in the case of the illegal dumping, get it right sometimes.So, to our public officials, we suggest you get thicker skins.
To those of you who stood up to applaud the mayor after he lambasted Slavin, shame on you for trying to stifle free speech. All of us should defend peoples right to express their views, even when they are unpopular.
And to Slavin, you may want to soften your delivery, but don't be hushed. Remember that its not important to be popular; it is important to stick to your guns.
4. I strongly disagree with the Record on several issues. It was one of a handful of newspapers that endorsed tedious tatterdemalion termagant windbag DONALD JOHN TRUMP for President.

5.  As a reader and subscriber since November 1999, I challenged MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS bankruptcy and its being relieved of $300 million in debt, because it said "nothing would change."
We lamented the declining quality of journalism and failure to fulfill the "watchdog" function our Founders had in mind.  We expressed concerns about disinvestment in covering local news.  We lost before two conservative South Georgia courts, who appeared to give Chicago bankruptcy Augusta-based MORRIS COMMUNICATIONS what Southerners call "home cookin'."  Sadly, our predictions were accurate, as the Record did not cover the September 10, 2010 shooting death of Michelle O'Connell in the home of Deputy JEREMY BANKS, thus requiring The New York Times and PBS Frontline to do the job our local newspaper monopoly refused to do.

We in the reality-based community are not giving up on the St. Augustine Record.

Yes, the Record is too often a "kiss-up, kick down" kind of dull fungible Southern Republican McPaper, which continually and promiscuously kisses up to rebarbative reprobate Republican Sheriff DAVID SHOAR f/k/a "HOAR." As the late New York Times Washington editor, associate editor and columnist Tom Wicker wrote in On Press (1978), too many newspapers kiss up to the local Establishment, whether tobacco companies in North Carolina or the government in D.C.

No, Ms. SHERFF, our aspiring hometown newspaper did not deserve your arachnid apparatchik paranoid delusions on Monday.  You need to apologize to the journalists at the Record, and to all of the discriminatee group members whom you and your fascist fellow ME-Publicans attacked in your self-indulgent ideological perversions on February 27, 2017, the anniversary of the Reichstag Fire.

The Record and discrimination victims. did not deserve the furious fulminating falsehoods from DIANE HAGAN SCHERFF.

The great thing about the St. Augustine Record is, in the immortal words of the late Knoxville Journal columnist and reporter Jim Dykes, "No matter what you say, it's still a newspaper." [Jim was one of my local advisors and sherpas when I went to East Tennessee in 1978-79 on a Fund for Investigative Journalism grant, investigating TVA coal procurement -- the quoted remark was over pitchers of beer in a bar, and I still remember his wit and wisdom. Jim led a Newspaper Guild "byline strike" at his newspaper when editors tried to inflict a fourth grade vocabulary on its writers -- reporters took their bylines off their stories, just as happened later at The Wall Street Journal). Sadly, there is not one chapter of the Newspaper Guild in all of Florida.]

Bottom line: I support my hometown newspaper against this silly nitwit twit
, this supercilious, shrill, gauche, louche, lying, reactionary, retromignent rebarbative Reichwing Republican sophist, snooty 'ole DIANE HAGAN SHERFF and her dumb 'ole boycott threat.

In a time of fulminating fascistic fanatics like DONALD JOHN TRUMP and DIANE HAGAN SHERFF, let's do something to make the world safe for democracy.

We, the People must support newspapers. The Washington Post's new slogan is "DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS."

To the Record: Keep asking questions. Eventually you might get the Michelle O'Connell story right -- we know The New York Times and PBS Frontline did, when you were still taking handouts from Sheriff SHOAR.  As the Record advised me in 2006:

"don't be hushed. Remember that its not important to be popular; it is important to stick to your guns."

Deceptive dimwit DIANE HAGAN SCHERFF, St. Johns County Me-Publican Executive Committee Second Vice Chair

St. Augustine Record
Posted March 1, 2017 12:02 am
EDITORIAL: Sorry, but allow a small rant

Rancor is high around the Oldest City — a symptom, no doubt, of the national chasm opened up by the presidential election and elevated in its aftermath.

From where we sit, both Democrats and Republicans are taking their parties to ugly places where innuendo replaces fact and middle ground has disappeared.

We don’t often answer attacks. But it’s tough to sit back and allow outright subterfuge to go unanswered.

A Republican Party officer attacked this newspaper, speaking at a rally on the green at the Castillo de San Marcos. Speaker Diane Scherff, rallied the crowd claiming The Record had chosen not to cover the event. “Now, if they are here, I will eat my words…”

There were, In fact, three staffers present. Photographer [Peter] Willot was shooting the event, reporter Jared Keever was covering it and digital editor was streaming the coverage live.

Ms. Scherff continued: “But they do not want to post anything really about this rally, but they put the indivisible group on the front page.”

That’s where the story of that event was placed Tuesday.

Apparently on a roll of deception, she continued: “So, if you would like to, please boycott The Record, They are losing advertising dollars and they are losing subscriptions, so why should we support a paper that doesn’t support us?”

Certainly that’s her right to voice, but both revenue and circulation are up. And Republican Party Chair William Korach has since made it clear to membership that there is no party-sponsored boycott of our newspaper.

Editor Craig Richardson and Opinion Editor Jim Sutton have spoken with the leaders of the two parties. Both claim that we’re biased in favor of the other. As a general rule, when both sides of a controversy claim newspaper prejudice, it’s doing its job correctly.

For more than a century, our sanction has been to cover “us”— to be there for the major events in our county and to be especially cognizant of the smaller ones. That may be a birth or death. It may be a no-hitter on a women’s softball team or another state championship for a football program. It’s datil pepper recipes, dance recitals and jail logs. A newspaper is irrelevant until you’re in it.

Just this week, reporter Jared Keever’s cold case story was credited with bringing to close a case of the hit-and-run killing of a 15-year-old child, Haley Nicole Smith, three years ago.

The newspaper budget includes up to $400,000 this year in sponsorships of predominately non-profit entities. We distributed $117,000 to 377 families in need — your donations to our Empty Stocking Fund.

Real community coverage includes celebrations and failures. No one likes the bad news, and we understand that. An old adage says there are only three things no on can do to the complete satisfaction of another: make love, poke a fire and run a newspaper.

We make mistakes. But without (sic) fail, we correct them the following (sic) day in print. If our subscribers don’t take us to task, it means they don’t care, so we pay attention to the differences of opinion with our readers. And we allow those differences free rein on our opinion pages.

We are not the enemy of America. We’re proud of our history here and the space we fill in the everyday lives of residents.

But the real truth about a community newspaper is that it counts on it readers for legitimacy. Your interaction creates the content. Bob Woodard once said, “The central dilemma in journalism is that you don’t know what you don’t know.”

We write only what we know about, and we thank you all for keeping us informed — honest as well.

Where are they now? JOEL BOLANTE, SHOAR'S Ex-UnderSheriff, Now Teaching "Administrative Ethics," Studying for Ph.D.

"There are animals crashing around in th forest. I can hear them, but I can't see them [yet]. -- Senator Howard Henry Baker, Jr. during Watergate, 1973.

On June 30, 2015, in the midst of pending federal criminal investigations, Sheriff DAVID SHOAR lost his "left and right arms" -- ART MAY and JOEL BOLANTE retired. BOLANTE is now a full-time faculty member at Flagler College, teaching public administration programs as an Associate Professor in the program where serial political prevaricator JOE SAVIAK is Associate Director. Among the courses BOLANTE is teaching is ethics. Yes, ethics. Can't wait for him to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the O'Connell coverup in federal court.

Here's JOEL BOLANTE's faculty page from FLAGLER COLLEGE:

Joel Bolante: Faculty and Staff
Joel Bolante
Assistant Professor
Public Administration
Research, Professional and Creative Activity:
Leadership and organizational management training for various first responder organizations and other public service agencies.
Served on selection committees and panels for the appointments of police chiefs and promotions for other command staff positions within Sheriff’s Offices and Police Departments within Florida.
Created a model Executive Staff Agreement and a model Command-Staff Relationships document that has been utilized by many Sheriff’s Offices in Florida.
Professional Profile:
Professor Bolante joins Flagler College as a full-time faculty member after more than 34 years of law enforcement service. His law enforcement leadership experience includes over 20 years at the command and executive staff levels at an agency managing a budget of more than 60 million dollars and over 800 full-time and part-time employees. He retired at the rank of Undersheriff.

Highlights of his career include the development of the Sheriff’s Organized Crime and Narcotics Unit, assignments to a federal Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigating organized criminal drug trafficking groups spanning several states, the U.S. Customs Blue Lightning Strike Force intercepting drug trafficking in U.S. waters, and many other interesting assignments in the law enforcement field.

Professor Bolante holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice (summa cum laude) and a Master of Public Administration from Troy University. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Law and Policy from Northeastern University. Additionally, he completed a wide-range of law enforcement professional development courses to include the FBI National Academy (195th Session) in Quantico, VA, the Southern Police Institute’s 90th Administrative Officers Course at the University of Louisville, and the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute’s Chief Executive Seminar in Tallahassee, FL.

Professor Bolante has taught in the Public Administration Program at Flagler College as a part-time faculty member since the program’s inception in 2003.

Teaching and Related Service:
Courses taught:

Management in the Public Sector
Administrative Law
Public Policy
American Government
Administrative Ethics
Intergovernmental Relations
Survey of Public Administration
Administrative Leadership
Organization Theory

"'Every now and again, time is on our side’: Sheriff’s Office, State Attorney announce arrest in 3-year-old cold case" (SAR)

Good work by law enforcement on 2014 vehicular homicide. Still waiting on FBI and state law enforcement to do their job on the September 2, 2010 shooting of Michelle O'Connell in the home of Deputy JEREMY BANKS.  Ironic how our Sheriff and State's Attorney constantly tout their abilities to solve cold cases, when justice was denied to the family of Michelle O'Connell.  Justice delayed is justice denied.  We stand with the Michelle O'Connell family, demanding justice.  Now.

State's Attorney RALPH JOSEPH LARIZZA and erstwhile St. Augustine Police Chief  DAVID BERNARD SHOAR, who legally changed his surname from "HOAR" in 1994 and was elected Sheriff in 2004.  They covered up a homicide, which is still a "cold case" deserving of federal and state investigative scrutiny.

Posted February 28, 2017 12:02 am
By JARED KEEVER jared.keever@staugustine.com
‘Every now and again, time is on our side’: Sheriff’s Office, State Attorney announce arrest in 3-year-old cold case

CHRISTINA.KELSO@STAUGUSTINE.COM — Jo-Lee Manning walks along the westbound lane of Kenton Morrison Road on Thursday, November 3, 2016, where her daughter Haley Nicole Smith was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2013.

Haley Nicole Smith was 15-years-old when she was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking with friends on the side of Kenton Morrison road in 2013.
After more than three years of waiting, Jo-Lee Manning got a small measure of closure Monday when the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office told her that detectives had finally made an arrest in connection with a crash that killed her 15-year-old daughter, Haley Nicole Smith.

“I had no idea until 1:30 this afternoon,” she said, sitting at the back of the Sheriff’s Office squad room following an afternoon news conference.

It was there that Sheriff’s Office chief of investigations, Brian Lee, announced that Tiffany Michelle Higginbotham, who is currently serving time on other charges, is now facing a single count of leaving the scene of a crash with death stemming from the Nov. 16, 2013, crash.

Lee, flanked by Jose Jimenez and Joe McGinnis — detectives who worked the case — as well as State Attorney R.J. Larizza, credited a recent story from The Record with generating the information that led to the arrest.

That story ran in November.

“Several days later there were tips that were called into the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office which detectives were assigned to follow up on,” Lee said. “And those tips have led to where we are at today.”

Larizza acknowledged the age of the case, but said sometimes the passing of time is what is needed to make an arrest.

“Every now and again, time is on our side,” he said, before praising the efforts of the investigators and others in bringing his office a case that prosecutors can take to court.

“I would like to applaud the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and their investigative team, The St. Augustine Record, and all the folks that were involved,” he said. “Because the passage of time allowed for evidence to be developed and put together, that gives us a case that we feel comfortable taking before a jury of St. Johns County.”

As for the family, he said, “We hope that the arrest and subsequent prosecution will bring some measure of peace to them, because they have been waiting a long time for this.”

Larizza’s remarks echoed what Sheriff’s Office investigators and representatives often say about working old cases like Smith’s.

It’s time, they say, that can change the nature of an old relationship that might have kept a person quiet during an initial investigation in the hopes of protecting someone else. In other cases, it’s simply time that weighs on a person’s conscience causing them to come forward with a lead, or even a confession. Either way, it is often a phone call that can break open a case.

Generating one of those calls, and keeping interest in her daughter’s case alive, is why Manning has held a vigil every year at the crash site on the anniversary of the teen’s death.

Smith died in surgery early on Nov. 17, 2013, just hours after being clipped by a vehicle while she walked along Kenton Morrison Road with a friend and the friend’s father following a trip to the Publix supermarket on State Road 16.

The driver didn’t stop, and witnesses were only able to tell investigators that they believed the vehicle might have been a truck.

Evidence found at the scene suggested the vehicle might have been a 1984-2004 Chevy S-10 pickup, a GMC S-15 pickup, Chevy S-10 Blazer or GMC Jimmy.

A news release on Monday said investigators believe that Higginbotham was driving her boyfriend’s purple, 1995 Chevrolet S-10 the night Smith was hit.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan said after Monday’s news conference that investigators worked “several different layers of tips” leading up to the arrest, but did not say more about their nature or from whom they came.

One of the tipsters, though, “talked to us about the particular truck,” he said.

With enough probable cause from the tips, Mulligan said, investigators were able to secure a warrant to seize the truck and match its paint to paint chips found at the scene and in Smith’s clothes.

Mulligan said it was then “collaborative witness testimony” that placed Higginbotham behind the wheel the night of the crash, giving them enough probable cause to secure an arrest warrant.

Higginbotham, 29, was sentenced in June 2015 to two concurrent 3-year prison terms in connection with a 2014 robbery charge and a 2015 charge of leaving the scene of a crash with injuries.

Although a state inmate, she is currently in the St. Johns County jail where she was served the warrant on her new charge.

With her eyes red from tears following the news conference, Manning said she had been told earlier by the Sheriff’s Office that investigators may be getting close to an arrest in the case.

She was hopeful, she said, when they called her saying they wanted her to come in and talk with them on Monday. But after three years of hearing about leads that never got them close enough to an arrest, Manning said her hope was guarded as she waited to find out what they had to tell her.

It wasn’t three years, but it was another wait she had to endure.

“It seemed like an eternity,” she said.

St. Augustine, Closed Minds Behind a Closed Door -- Why?

Before City Commission meetings and during breaks, one once was able to get a bottle of water, a cookie or a cup of coffee from the anteroom behind the Alcazar Room.  Then, in the last year of corrupt Mayor JOE BOLES, City workers installed a wooden door and wooden bar between we commoners and our five exalted Commissioners.
Before City Commission meetings and during breaks, the door to the anteroom was once left open, a sign of openness.  Now, that door is always closed.  It has been ever since the August 2015 DOW PUD fiasco.
This stinks.  
What do St. Augustine City Commissioners have to hide?
When I asked City Public Works Director why the door is closed, she said, "I guess they want their privacy."
City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. is a control freak.
REGAN denies Sunshine violations.
The gentleman doth protest too much
This closed door reflects closed minds, people who don't pay attention during public comment, don't take notes, don't ask sufficient followup questions, and are letting REGAN lead them around by their proboscis.
This is Florida, with the strongest Sunshine law in the Nation.
Leave the door open, Commissioners.
You don't have a right to privacy when you're in a room with fellow Commissioners.
Circa 1978-9, an enterprising newspaper reporter from Scripps-Howard heard about a meeting involving a U.S. Senator from Tennessee.  So he waltzed right into the meeting and sat down and took notes.
Perhaps I will do that at the March 13, 2017 City Commission meeting.
Let the Sunshine in, Commissioners.
Don't ever slam the door in our faces again.
It's our door.
It's our government.
Leave the door open, please.
Thank you.

Inauguration of our beloved reform Mayor Nancy Shaver, December 1, 2014.
In violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. ignored citizen requests and could not be bothered to put in enough chairs for her supporters, who are standing (rear).
When elders and disabled people come to too-crowded Commission meetings on devious developer projects, REGAN's  staff directors won't even give up their seats at the tables in the back.  Those tab les and cushy chairs were installed by REGAN's mentor , WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS, so he could remove 70 seats and discourage, chill and prevent public participation.
How gauche and louche.
We're on to your tricky works and pomps, Mr. REGAN -- and the whole world is watching our corrupt local governments and our mendacious political boss, former St. Augustine Police Chief DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his surname from "HOAR" in 1994 and became St. Johns County Sheriff in 2004. SHOAR/HOAR is  still covering up the September 2, 2010 homicide of Michelle O'Connell in the home of St. Johns County Sheriff Deputy JEREMY BANKS.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Does Comm'r LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN Want to Buy BROUDY's Property?

Let wealthy land monopolists build their own parking facilities, and not burden the people of St. Augustine with them. Keep your eye on Commissioner LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN. She's LEN WEEKS' toady.


Speaking in code, did Commissioner LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN (R-PROCTORVILLE), a divorce lawyer signal at the February 27, 2017 Commission meeting her desire of City burghers to BUY the Broudy's Liquor and grocery property on U.S. 1 for parking?  She talked of property on U.S. 1, San Marco and Anastasia Blvd increasing in price, and that if "we" want it, "we" need to consider buying it now before it increases again.

When LSA FREEMAN says "we," she generally speaks for her gauche louche Chamber of Commerce pals and in particular, for the man who guided her first campaign, CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, JR. a/k/a LEN WEEKS, ex-Mayor.

LEN WEEKS is partner with disgraced, defeated, ethically impaired ex-Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, Jr. a/k/a JOE BOLES in the 81 St. George Street sweetheart lease of City property at below market rates for FLORIDA CRACKER CAFE and SAVANNAH SWEETS.

WEEKS destroyed of Don Pedro Fornells House at 62A Spanish Street, working without permits and was fined only $3600 for this crime against history.

WEEKS' pompous economist father-in-law, DAVID TRESCOTT GEITHMAN, wrote in 2014 of the "need" for the City to build ANOTHER parking garage to subsidize his antique and estate sale business, conveniently located in City Hall, with rent below market rates.  Why?  No good reason, apparently, but he's WEEKS' father-in-law.

As I wrote in November 2014:

Dr. DAVID TRESCOTT GEITHMAN benefit from one of those below-market rate City of St. Augustine City ? Linked-in lists him as an owner-manager of a Lightner Museum Courtyard antique store at 75 King Street, Churchill & Lacroix Antiquaire. 

City records show DAVID TRESCOTT GEITHMAN pays a mere $564.81 for 430 square feet (sweetheart deal with City Manager WILLIAM BRUCE HARRISS' minions in 2009, with C.P.I. adjustments; lease expires 2018).  

DAVID TRESCOTT GEITHMAN needs to remember the old economic wisdom of Milton Friedman: "There's no such thing as a free lunch." 

And in the words of JFK's Ambassador to India, acerbic descriptive economist John Kenneth Galbraith, "the most important piece of wisdom in economics is knowing what you do not know."

St. Augustine Record articles and columns reveal that GEITHMAN is a global warming denier, right-wing Republican and married in Las Vegas in 2011 to a St. Augustine Record inside sales employee.

God bless him! Fancying himself an expert witness (or witless), abusing his UF Economics Ph.D., not disclosing his City lease deal, making darkly emotional and manipulative arguments for a subsidy to his antique business hobby and the businesses of his pals, perhaps including Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR. and ex-Mayor CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, Jr., perhaps among his classmates at UF.

We don't need any more big city parking garages in our small historic downtown, Professor DAVID TRESCOTT GEITHMAN.

The witness (or witless) is excused.

Oddball, other-directed divorce lawyer FREEMAN said during the 2016 campaign that she is "invested" in St. Augustine.  She rents her solo practitioner law office from developer PIERRE THOMPSON, grandson of the founder of The St. Augustine Record, who on October 11, 2001, destroyed a bald eagle nest tree on Fish Island, leading to a federal court guilty plea for violation of the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Watch the tape of the February 27, 2017 City Commission meeting during Commissioner's comments.

Is the purpose of City government to bring in still more tourists?

Mercantilism for greedy merchants?

Or is to work for the people?

You tell me.

Twenty years ago, there was a federal court bribery scandal involving Broudy's and a local politician,  Commissioner Richard White.

Some people have short memories and ethically impaired souls.  Does LEANNA FREEMAN suffer from both disabilities?

We don't need to spend public funds building more parking lots, do we?  Let the rich guys build them, if any are to be built at all.

As Mayor Shaver suggested, wouldn't residents be better off with more ad valorem property taxes from commercial properties, rather than going on a tear and building parking lots for WEEKS et pals?

Why should the City residents subsidize merchants by joining the City Manager, a/k/a "Minister of Propaganda" in his egotistical "Edifice Complex?"

At the January 23, 2017 City Commission meeting during a recess, City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. was flummoxed, and tried to explain to me that the City did not endorse the page of the (unnumbered) report in which overpriced consultant LITTLEJOHN sounds like it wants to represent the City in real estate negotiations with Broudy's Liquors or other landowners for development of an intermodal transportation facility -- definitely not in the scope of secretive LITTLEJOHN's work:

Phase 2 will identify a handful of sites for targeted redevelopment and initiate the conversation with suitable developersThese sites will serve as catalysts for the surrounding areasinciting a paradigm shift through good design, promoting a walkable, bikeable city, embracing the unique character of St. Augustine

(Red in original, to match REGAN's red face when I finally got to ask the question privately, having been refused permission to ask a single question.)

You've got to watch these guys.  Every single day of our lives.

That's why the FBI Corruption Task Force is investigating St. Johns County corruption.

UPDATE: Here's the St. Augustine Record article, unadorned by any mention of Broudy's (St. Augustine Record advertiser):

Posted February 28, 2017 05:15 am - Updated February 28, 2017 06:16 am
By SHELDON GARDNER sheldon.gardner@staugustine.com
‘Satellite parking’ could be part of St. Augustine traffic solutions

Buying lots for satellite parking might be on the table for the city of St. Augustine, but it’s just a discussion at this point.

Commissioner Leanna Freeman suggested Monday at a commission meeting that the board discuss whether the city should acquire properties outside of the city’s core for parking. She said residents have supported having parking that keeps visitors out of neighborhoods.

Property that is available now likely won’t be available for long or at the current price, she said. Commissioners supported exploring the idea as the mobility process moves along.

The main issue is keeping visitor parking out of neighborhoods. Residents in Davis Shores have dealt with overflow parking from commercial areas and at times noisy visitors and trash being left behind, Freeman said.

“So this is growing, growing, growing into all of our neighborhoods,” she said.

One part of the city’s mobility project, which City Manager John Regan talked about at Monday’s commission meeting, focuses on improving the city’s parking policies overall.

With events in 2016, the city tested a shuttle system with parking lots on the outskirts or outside of the city limits. Arrangements had to be made for the lots because they aren’t city property.

Mayor Nancy Shaver said the mobility effort will help the city understand what’s needed and what solutions will work best.

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline said she wanted to think about the issue, and she said that she sees building parking lots with tax dollars as “building economic development for the business community, and not so much for the residents.”

As part of the mobility update, Regan talked about the new mobility program office with engineer Reuben Franklin Jr. at the helm and with Mobility Coordinator Xavier Pellicer III on staff.

After creating a strategic plan for mobility, the city is working on 11 areas from the plan. Of those, the focus now is on truck loading zone changes, improving pedestrian and bicycle friendliness in neighborhoods and street improvements, redoing the residential parking system, and “optimizing” the city’s parking business plan.

Looking at the parking business plan will help the city with questions like whether to switch to hourly rates at the city parking garage or to extend enforcement times for city parking meters, Regan said.

Revamping the business plan will also help the city be more proactive about things like satellite parking, he indicated.

“When we designed the garage we designed it to handle peak load,” Regan said. “Really what we’re saying in mobility is that we’re converting the garage to handle more of a base load, and satisfying peak load through satellite parking systems. It’s a major shift.”

The city’s also working on mapping out other parts of the mobility strategic plan, Regan said.

Officials also mentioned a study about the possibility of having some type of shuttle circulate St. Augustine Beach, St. Johns County and St. Augustine.

Details on the study will be presented to commissioners in St. Johns County, St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach, said Martha Graham, public works director.

“The next step would be to discuss how the three entities as well as private partnerships might organize themselves to talk about implementation and funding,” she said, adding that federal transportation dollars are “very dried up … so it would need to be funded by the entities that partner and benefit from the program.”

In other business

Commissioners unanimously voted to increase dockage and electricity rates at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, effective April 1. The move also creates two new rate categories for vessels greater than 100 feet.

The Madeira and Sebastian Inland Harbor Planned Unit Developments now have extended deadlines because of state law that allows development orders to be extended because of emergency declarations by the governor, such as for Hurricane Matthew. The new completion date for Sebastian Inland Harbor PUD is Oct. 19, 2029, according to the city. That date for the Madeira PUD is June 29, 2029. The issue wasn’t something the City Commission could control.


Meanwhile they continue to dig that traffic congestion hole deeper by advertising for more and more visitors with no place to put them. Who does this benefit? The tour trains mostly and those with paid parking. Is it worth it to the rest of St. Augustine's citizens to be stuck in gridlock so that these few business owners can rake in some extra tourist dollars? The cure is not extra parking, the cure is fewer people and vehicles coming here. Think how much less budget the city might need if tourist levels were kept to a manageable level. But all they can focus on is more heads in beds and more parking fees. If crowds are so large on a regular basis that we require satellite parking, then we have a big problem, yet they continue to dig that hole deeper.

Satellite parking, buy land now, before the price goes up and keep cars out of town.

Jack (sponger) Harvell
Floyd, too late. The prices are already inflated and they will tax the tar out of you also.

Marty You are right on the money and as First coaster says, "follow the money".

Wayne (mach) Hoyle
Is that a $115,000.00 Little John Engineering recommendation?

NY Times has, um, uh, suggestions for duh, DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT & um JAMES GEORGE WHITEHOUSE

The New York Times has some speech therapy suggestions that might be helpful for people who must listen to the drivel emitted by, um, uh, duh, developer mouthpieces DOUGLAS NELSON BURNETT and JAMES GEORGE WHITEHOUSE (far left and far right, back row above), spoiled entitled brats who formerly worked for St. Johns County, the City of St. Augustine and the late devious developer lawyer GEORGE McCLURE will say and do anything. As they argue meritless positions, they will also, uh, say um and uh so often it defies belief.  These two ST. JOHNS LAW GROUP lawyers' uh, assinine, uh arguments for, uh, landraping clear cutting foreign-funded ethically challenged scalawags are even more annoying when you calculate the extent to which they um and uh their verbose way through City and County Commission meetings. I've heard them use these verbal flatulence fillers hundreds of times an hour. We've even counted them. As a young lawyer in an earlier life, I once suffered from such verbal tics, until friends helped me overcome it.

So, Um, How Do You, Like, Stop Using Filler Words?

FEB. 24, 2017

Verbal fillers such as “like,” “so” and “you know” are common but can become problematic when overused to the point of distraction.

So, how do you, like, um, stop using verbal fillers that can make you sound, you know, nervous or not so smart?

Is there a name for this?

Communications experts describe “um,” “aah,” “you know” and similar expressions as discourse markers, interjections or verbal pauses.

They often occur when we are trying to think of the next thing we are going to say, Susan Mackey-Kallis, an associate professor at Villanova University who teaches public speaking, said in an email.

When stakes are high or we are nervous — in a job or media interview, or during a speech, presentation or conference call — we tend not to breathe as much and we talk faster, so our words get ahead of our thoughts, Lisa B. Marshall, a communications expert and the author of “Smart Talk: The Public Speaker’s Guide to Success in Every Situation,” said in an interview.

In some cases, the phrases are used to signal that you are about to say something and that the person listening should not interrupt, or that you are going to say something you want to emphasize, said Emily Tucker Prud’hommeaux, an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a leader of its Computational Linguistics and Speech Processing Lab.

“In fact, if you listen to someone use ‘like,’ you’ll sometimes notice that the next noun or verb or adjective that comes along sounds more prominent,” she said in an email. “You want the listener to pay attention.”

Does this make me sound stupid?

In short, everyone relies on verbal fillers.

Ms. Marshall said she had not seen any research attributing speech patterns to certain demographics but had noticed that “like” is used heavily by the younger generation, “so” by those in their 30s and “uptick” or “upspeak” — ending a declarative sentence in such a way that it sounds like a question — by women in their 20s and 30s.

Ms. Mackey-Kallis said “like,” as a speech affectation of young speakers, is perceived as “cool” or “generational speak.”

“You will notice that ‘like’ often infects the speech patterns of 20-somethings more so than the speech of 40-somethings,” she wrote.

“The use of the verbal pause ‘like’ conveys social solidarity among members of this age cohort, but is perceived as less intelligent by older listeners.”

If everyone does it, what’s the harm?

“Once you start into the pattern, it becomes a crutch,” Ms. Marshall said. It is not uncommon for people to use filler phrases such as “like,” “so” and “you know,” but it becomes a problem when the phrases are overused to the point of distraction.

She compared it to vulgarity: The occasional use is acceptable but when too frequent, it loses its meaning and signals to listeners that the person speaking is lazy about language.

It also matters when the speech “disfluency” occurs, Ms. Marshall said. If it happens before a thought is expressed, the speaker is more likely to be perceived as lacking confidence or competence, or as being unprepared. If it happens in the middle of a thought, the speaker is judged less harshly.

Speakers who are well known in their professions but overuse verbal pauses are still perceived as credible because they have built a reputation. Audience members will chalk up those habits to just the way they talk, Ms. Marshall said.

For instance, when Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court spoke, his “discourse was nearly always crammed with fillers,” Sean P. O’Rourke, director of the Center for Speaking and Listening at Sewanee: The University of the South, in Tennessee, noted in an email.

But newcomers who use as many interjections as seasoned professionals will be seen as less credible because they do not have the years of experience.

Andy Mangum, a speech instructor at Brookhaven College in Dallas, said in an email that “so” had become the new “like.”

“I noticed it happening frequently in interviews,” he said. “People are asked a question, and they preface their answer with an elongated ‘soooo. …’ It used to sound intelligent. Now, not so much.”

How do you, like, stop it then?

Awareness is the first step, Ms. Marshall said. She recommended that clients record themselves in conversations and listen to the recordings five minutes a day for two weeks.

“Trust me, after a week of listening, or recording and listening, you’ll have become acutely aware of your specific problems,” she wrote in a blog post. “You need to be able to hear your disfluencies in your mind before you blurt them out.”

Speakers need to relax and take a deep breath when finishing a thought. A focus on breathing will make it more difficult to introduce a wayward expression.

Substitute silence for the verbal fillers, Ms. Marshall added. That might be awkward at first, but it is better to have a moment of quiet than a distracting “you know” or “um.”

Ms. Prud’hommeaux suggested a more hands-on approach: “If no one has come up with it yet, maybe we need an app that would shock you whenever it hears you say ‘like.’ Or hire a friend to punch you whenever you say it.”

Democracy dies in darkness

Is City Pricing Citizens Out of Zoning and Demolition Appeals? (SAR column)

Another great column in this morning's St. Augustine Record on roadblocks to reform -- hasty, nasty ordinances passed 3-0 on February 13, 2017, an early Valentine's Day present for the likes of ex-Mayor CLAUDE LEONARD WEEKS, Jr., who on September 25, 2014 destroyed 62A Spanish Street, working without permits and was fined only $3600, after which City Attorney ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ hugged him during a recess of the St. Augustine Code Enforcement Board.
This obnoxious barrier to entry to appeals is unprecedented in any other City, according to the Florida League of CIties, whose counsel knew of no other Florida city with such an onerous, expensive requirement set up as a roadblock and obstacle in the way of citizens opposing development orders.
This odiferous requirement is yet an example of "Jim Crow law" by the embattled Establishment here in our Nation's Oldest City Saint Augustine said "an unjust law is no law at all." Record columnist Stephen Cottrell agrees with me -- the unjust laws passed by St. Augustine City Commissioners on February 13, 2017 are unjust laws. They attempt to chill coerce and punish First and Ninth Amendment protected activity by requiring you to hire a certified court reporter and pay for documents to appeal from unjust zoning and historic preservation decisions, unless you are "indigent." How cruel is that? City Attorney ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ is a developer shill, as is City Commissioner LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN (R-PROCTORVILLE).
Both are lawyers and should know better.
So should our beloved reform Mayor Nancy Shaver and Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, who voted for the stupid laws. Let's hope someone moves to reconsider before the City gets sued and gets yet another First Amendment judgment against it in federal courts. Venceremos! We SHALL overcome!
Here's Mr. Cottrell's February 27, 2017 column:

Posted February 27, 2017 12:02 am
By STEVE COTTRELL Public Occurrences
Is City pricing us out of appeals? (print headline)
City Commissioners should utilize City’s website (online headline)

(Curmudgeon – noun, someone who gets annoyed easily, especially an old person.(Ital)


Yes, it’s true, I have a tendency to get annoyed easily –– especially when I see government doing the opposite of what I think is fair and reasonable. And as I approach 75, I guess I’m viewed as an old person by most standards.

But considering that yesterday I married the love of my life –– finally, after an engagement that blossomed in the summer of 1967 –– I sure don’t feel like an old person. Not even close.

As I watched the St. Augustine City Commission conduct its Feb. 13 meeting, however, the cantankerous curmudgeon in me soon rose to the surface.

Two votes in particular seemed to me to be financially punitive, aimed at average citizens who might like to appeal a decision made by a city board.

Here’s what the commission is considering:

n If either the Historic Architectural Review Board or Planning & Zoning Board arrive at a decision you feel is inappropriate and you would like to appeal that decision to the city commission, your appeal is welcomed at City Hall.

Well, sort of.

Adoption of Ordinances 2017-01 and 2017-02 will require that a

verbatim transcript of the hearing that led to the appeal be provided

to the city commission, noting, “It is the responsibility of the

appellant to obtain a complete record of the hearing from the city

clerk and to retain a certified court reporter to transcribe the

hearing at appellant’s cost.”

So, assuming for the moment that the item you would like to appeal had three hearings at either HARB or PZB, (which would not be unusual with large projects or complicated historical properties), and the total time spent on the item was, say, five hours, then the required transcript, created by a certified court reporter, will likely cost you several hundred dollars; maybe more.

The commission justifies that kind of expense for average citizens by asserting, “the availability of a transcript for an appeal is commonplace in the judicial system and helpful to the City Commission acting in its appellate capacity.”

Although the city commission hears appeals in its appellate capacity, it’s a bit of a stretch to claim, “the City Commission for the City of St. Augustine finds that it is in the best interest of public health, safety and general welfare that the following amendments be adopted.”

It then describes specific language for the two proposed ordinance amendments.

What I find unfair and unreasonable is the commission’s decision that citizens (except for those declared legally indigent) must hire a certified court reporter to prepare a verbatim transcript of portions of public meetings that every commissioner can watch and listen to on the city website.

That’s right, folks –– the city commission wants citizens desiring to appeal a board decision pay hundreds of dollars to a certified court reporter for a verbatim transcript of a hearing that any commissioner can sit at home and watch online. Plus, pay for copies of related documents that are kept at City Hall.

It seems like an end-run aimed at limiting appeals to those people with a bank account that most of us don’t enjoy, and has nothing whatsoever to do with preserving the public’s health, safety and general welfare.

Should there be an administrative fee for citizens wanting to appeal decisions from HARB or PZB? Sure, but not some nebulous, unknown amount determined by how long the applicants –– along with their attorneys, as well as proponents and opponents –– speak at public meetings, or the time taken by board members asking questions.

I have a suggestion:

Since city commissioners receive $16,708.11 a year and the mayor $22,277.47 for what amounts to supplemental income for most (if not all) of them, I think the commission needs to deep-six the certified transcript idea and start using the city’s own website and files to review –– on their own time –– the public record of HARB and PZB decisions that have been appealed.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Do you?

Steve Cottrell can be contacted at cottrell.sf@gmail.com

Sunday, February 26, 2017

GUEST EDITORIAL: "Why can’t just 'Willie’ be enough?" by Dr. Leonard Pellicer, Ed.D. (SAR)

Excellent guest editorial in The St. Augustine Record today by Dr. Leonard Pelllicer, Ed.D. re: St. Augustine since Desegregation. I'm glad the Record ran those photos on page 2, but why not do what editor Marilyn Thompson did at at the Lexington, Kentucky Herald Leader -- finally report what the Record did not report in 1963-64?

GUEST EDITORIAL: Why can’t just “Willie’ be enough?
Leonard Pelter
St. Augustine Record
February 26, 2017

I want to thank The Record for publishing the ongoing series of pictures during Black History Month relating to the racial unrest that plagued our city during the early 1960s. While I can’t say that I enjoyed looking into the ugly face of racism each morning, I do appreciate being reminded of where we came from and how far we still need to go in order to provide all Americans with equal protection under the Constitution.

I feel blessed to have grown up in St. Augustine in the 1950s and ‘60s; for those in my generation it was the “sweet spot” of American culture, our very own little American Graffiti.

Of course, I didn’t grow up as a member of the black community where things were separate, but certainly not equal. When I think back on those days, I can’t believe I was so unattuned to what it was like to be black in a segregated society. There were no black children in the schools I attended and I didn’t even know any black people. Members of the African-American community were routinely forced to endure unimaginable, dehumanizing indignities, by being denied equal access to both public and private facilities not to mention equality of job opportunities, education, housing, medical care — the list is endless.

Perhaps the most egregious part of the black/white divide during those days was that, for the most part, white society didn’t see anything wrong with the status quo. I’m ashamed to admit now that I never questioned the social order. Like almost everyone else I knew, I assumed that things were exactly the way they were supposed to be, or as Robert Browning put it, “God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.”

Of course, like many generations of children before, I had been socialized to accept the status quo by people who I trusted and loved.

A good friend, J. David Smith, in his book, “In Search of Better Angels,” suggested that prejudice is a kind of disease that we catch from others:

Prejudice is a form of mental illness —I ’m convinced of it. Unfortunately, it is often a form of shared mania that results in great hurt to those who are objects of its madness. Most people with other forms of mental illness are dangerous only to themselves. Prejudice is different. Its primary symptom is hatred of others and those who are hated are at high risk of being hurt.

It would be wonderful if we, as a society, could get beyond our differences so that they would no longer divide us, but rather serve to make us stronger. If we want to live in the best world possible, it will never be enough to simply tolerate differences, we must accept them and, ideally, come to celebrate them.

We live in a very divided country within a very divided world and need to be reminded from time to time that we are getting better, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

The pictures in The Record this month are solid evidence of growth and I have great confidence that we will continue to grow in the future.

I was student teaching back in the late ‘60s when the “black pride movement” came into vogue. My supervising teacher wanted to be sensitive to the black students in our class so one day she asked an African American student, “Willie, tell me honestly, do you prefer to be called colored, negro or black?” Without hesitation, the young man responded, “Can you just call me Willie, Mrs. Peterson?”

After Trump’s immigration order, anxiety grows in Florida’s farm fields (WaPo)

St. Johns County, Florida farmers and farm workers are afraid of what happens when ICE deports our farm workers. Who will provide for their families? Who will pick our crops? You tell me.

(Visit St. Augustine)

After Trump’s immigration order, anxiety grows in Florida’s farm fields

By Robert Samuels February 25 at 5:46 PM
The Washington Post

Rumors about deportation raids started to circulate around the fields again, so Catalina Sanchez and her husband began to calculate the consequences of everything they did.

Cirilo Perez, 36, had to go to work because the tomato crop was getting low, and he needed to pick as much as he could as fast as he could. Sanchez’s medical checkup would have to wait — going to a clinic was too risky. What they fretted most about was what to do with their daughter Miriam — a natural-born citizen in the third grade — who they worried would come home one day to an empty trailer.

“When she leaves, I wonder if it will be the last time I see her,” Sanchez, 26, said on a recent evening.

As President Trump moves to turn the full force of the federal government toward deporting undocumented immigrants, a newfound fear of the future has already cast a pall over the tomato farms and strawberry fields in the largely undocumented migrant communities east of Tampa.

Any day could be when deportations ramp up; that, to them, seemed certain. No one knew when or where. And so the community here is in a state of suspension. Children have stopped playing in parks and the streets and businesses have grown quieter, as many have receded into the background, where they feel safe.

“It’s all gringos here,” said Maria Pimentel, owner of the community staple Taqueria El Sol, who said she had never heard so much English in her restaurant in her life. Business had plummeted, she said, because her Spanish-speaking customers were “scared to come out of their house.”

Trump has repeatedly cast undocumented workers from Mexico as “bad hombres” and “lower-skilled workers with less education who compete directly against vulnerable American workers.” Trump made clear during his campaign that “those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only: to return home and apply for reentry like everybody else.”

In the early days of his administration, Trump has begun to follow through on those promises. Earlier this month, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency arrested 680 people across the country. The agency has also become aggressive about attempting to detain undocumented migrants who have been jailed by local authorities. As of Friday, it has issued more than 42,000 detainer requests this year, 35 percent higher than the year before.

ICE described its actions as “routine” and lambasted those who labeled them as “raids” because nearly 1 in 4 of those arrested had no criminal records.

Activists and residents here said they saw at least six people taken away on Feb. 2 during a search for someone accused of selling fake Social Security cards in nearby Plant City, the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.” The next day, the number of migrant children who stayed home from school surged by 40 percent, according to statistics from the local school district.

There were crackdowns under President Obama, as well, but local activist Norma Rosalez said people generally trusted him to target only criminals and potential terrorists. Obama also offered protection to “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country at a young age — but teenagers were now afraid to apply to the program, Rosalez said, over fears that an application would lead an immigration officer straight to their door.

The changed environment made many wonder what would happen to the north this spring and summer, when workers normally move on to Georgia to pick peaches or to Michigan to pick peppers. Many thought they would now stay put. It was safer that way.

“We look at it like this: The country can either import its workforce or import its food,” said Dale Moore, executive director of policy for the Farm Bureau, which lobbies for easing restrictions to get foreign workers for agriculture.

“We’ve been fighting for this for years, but immigration has a different flavor with Donald Trump,” Moore said.

Growers here rejected Trump’s notion that farmworkers were competing with American workers, and hoped he would see more nuance to the issue.

“You can actually make a good living — $15, $20 an hour if you’re good at this — but the truth is Americans don’t want to do this work,” said one prominent Florida farmer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he feared Trump’s administration would target him for speaking out.

One recent night, Sanchez got a Facebook message saying that raids were going to happen either that day or the next. Another friend told them about a police car checking vehicles in a nearby town. Someone else talked about seeing an ICE officer shopping at Walmart. There was a meeting for concerned parents in a nearby subdivision, but they wondered whether it was a trap.

“Is it safe?” Sanchez asked Maristela Hinojosa, a community coordinator for the Hispanic Services Council who organized the meeting. She had received so many similar calls that she considered canceling.

Hinojosa held the meeting and, not long after Sanchez and Perez took their seats in the back, she locked the doors to make people feel safer. When there was a knock, she responded with, “Quien es?” before opening the door.

This was the sort of lesson Hinojosa emphasized to the attendants. Don’t just open the door. If there is an ICE agent on the other side, don’t open it at all. She told them about their right to remain silent. She handed out tiny cards that were to be handed over to anyone who stopped them, explaining that they did not speak English and would like a lawyer.

Perez immediately put the card in his wallet. “I feel like this is something I could do,” he said with a rare touch of empowerment. He had met Sanchez working in the fields and together they had young Miriam and, now, a baby named Gustavo. They tried to avoid the topic with their children.

“I don’t like what I’m doing, but I do it to make a living, and I find joy in that,” Perez said after the meeting. “It was the choice between a full life for my children or a life of empty stomachs.”

The couple began to cry. Miriam walked up to hug her father. Perez pulled out his cellphone and tried to change the subject.

“Do you want to see videos of working on the farm?” he asked his daughter.


There were similar sessions going on throughout the county, with community leaders focusing on helping families with American children. Lourdes Villanueva, director of programs for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which runs Head Start programs for migrant families throughout Florida, said she was surprised how popular they were — and how unpopular school had become.

Usually, there were waiting lists for migrant children to get into preschool, but after the election enrollment dropped by 43 percent. Staff at the Head Start center in nearby Dover began stacking cabbages and bananas on flatbeds outside so the farmworkers had food to take home when they picked up their children, since many of their parents were afraid to go to the grocery store.

Now Villanueva watched lawyer Diana Castro drill some of those parents on how to stay safe.

“Can I see your purse?” Castro asked a woman in the front row.

When she opened it, Castro said, “No. Nunca consienta en nada.” Don’t consent to anything.

Also, don’t run.

Don’t carry false IDs.

Practice the phrase, “Am I free to go?”

“Don’t try to get pity from them, because they are not trying to help you,” Castro said. “They are just trying to do their jobs.”

Villanueva handed out a stack of documents that asked parents to name an emergency contact who would have authority to take custody of their children in case they were sent back to Mexico.

“No matter what, we should be prepared,” Villanueva said.

The next day, Irene Lara and Paulina Martinez put on red shirts and climbed into a white van for a different kind of search.

With Trump's changes, the deportation process could move much faster VIEW GRAPHIC
As migrant recruiters for the school system, their job was to look for farmworker families who had not sent their children to school. They never inquired about their immigration status.

The recruiters helped to double the number of migrant children attending public school within two years, according to Carol Mayo, who supervises a program serving 4,000 students.

Nowadays, families were less likely to ask about school lunch and more likely to ask how they could get a lawyer or get in touch with the Mexican Consulate. One of her newest staffers even caused a scare when he drove to a trailer park wearing sunglasses. The dwellers began screaming as they ran inside and as laundry flew off clotheslines.

“I’m not immigration!” the new recruiter recalled screaming to calm them down.

Lara thought she had mastered how to find migrant workers. She would glance at people’s knees to look for clumps of dirt or under their cuticles for stains from strawberries. She would demurely speak with them in Spanish, then try to impress them by telling them about the day she picked 81 flats of strawberries when she worked on the farms herself.

But, on this day, she and Martinez set out for a strip mall that farmworkers frequent and saw no one. They drove to a nearby strawberry field, where typically she could spot the silhouettes of bent-over strawberry pickers in the distance. The grove was relatively empty.

Lara looked at Martinez and said: “I don’t think we’re going to find anyone today.”

They traveled next to a trailer park near one of the biggest strawberry fields in Plant City. As they drove into the lot, men jumped into cars with tinted windows and license plates from Tennessee, Wisconsin and Michigan. One driver wore a mask over his face.

“It’s Day Without Immigrants protests, it’s the talk about raids, it’s the fear of strangers, it’s everything,” Lara said. “People are scared, but their children still need help. It’s better for them to be in school.”

They made one final stop at St. Clement Catholic Church, where more and more migrants had been showing up for Mass on Sundays. Pulling in, she saw something she had not seen all day: a man walking out of a building on the church campus with dirt caked on his jeans.

“Que paso?” she asked.

The man explained that representatives from the Mexican Consulate had set up in a recreation area of the church. The consulate had come to help undocumented migrants fill out paperwork for their American children so they could apply for dual citizenship. It was a last, desperate move for those who might get deported.

“I don’t want to leave her with strangers,” the man said to Lara.

Inside, parents sat in plastic chairs waiting to meet representatives who sat with a stack of paperwork on foldout tables. Some families came with bags filled with documents. Some had no proof of origin at all.

Kayla Gonzalez, 10, sat on the floor as her mother watched her baby brother.

“I think Trump is bullying people by the color of their skin and he should show love to people more and make better life choices,” Kayla said. “I love my parents, and I don’t understand why the government would want to take them away.”

Kayla’s mother, Perla Ocampo, 34, sells Mary Kay products; her father sells fruit.

When Kayla raised her fears about Trump with her mother, Ocampo said she had no good answers.

“I am a woman of faith,” Ocampo recalled telling her daughter about Trump’s plans. “We just have to trust that there is a reason we are living through this, and hope that this moment would open his heart and see the truth.”

If not faith, then the law. Ocampo tried to remain calm. But Trump’s America had so unsettled her, she felt forced to seek help from the country she ran away from 16 years ago. It was an America in which her American daughter was now looking to also become a Mexican citizen, so she could join her family if she came home from school one day to find an empty home.

They prayed it would never happen. Maybe it never would. But if it did, they wanted to be ready.