Monday, December 18, 2017

"SCROOGE CITY" SCREWED AGAIN?: Is City of St. Augustine giving "significant encouragement" to Scrooge-like vigilantes allegedly stalking homeless, panhandlers?

So the place of artists and musicians in St. Augustine has been taken by panhandlers.  Wonder why?

Ask SCROOGE-like City burghers like disgraced former City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS and ex-Mayors JOE BOLES and LEN WEEKS, who worked with ROBERT "MAC" McLEOD, II (JEREMY BANKS' lawyer) the Chamber of Commerce for years to oppress artists and musicians on St. George Street, wasting millions on legal fees and City government workers' times.  Federal courts have repeatedly struck down aspects of the laws, but the prohibition on St. George Street performers remains.

Now, businessmen claim a "crisis" with panhandling, partly the result of not rigorously enforcing existing laws.

So, hesto presto, the City has decided to "do something," which includes hiring a conflicted lawyer and possibly giving "significant encouragement" to vigilantism.  That's so wrong.

First mistake: Self-promoting, self-aggrandizing First Amendment "expert" MICHAEL KAHN conned the City of St. Augustine to hire him to write a panhandling ordinance.  Commissioners ignored KAHN's conflicts of interest in having written the "great victory" anti-artist, anti-musician ordinances that freed up space on St. George Street, now taken over by panhandlers.

Second mistake: the City and KAHN have announced that a Facebook group, "ST. AUGUSTINE VAGRANT (sic) WATCH GROUP," would be developing "the record" for the City's eventual ordinance.

Is that group degenerating into an angry mob of misguided people, inveighing against individuals they do not know, making false statements, bragging about gun-toting and intimidation.  This could be stalking.  It could also be seen as unChristian, unkind, uncouth, uncool, counterproductive.

Dickensian Scrooge-like behavior ("Are there no workhouses? No jails?")

I've asked the City for records and to disavow the actions of a few vigilantes:

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin
To: bfox ; ilopez ; dmay ; dgalambos ; michael ; jregan ; lfountain ; tburchfield
Sent: Mon, Dec 18, 2017 1:11 pm
Subject: Request No. 2017-695: Stalking by members of St. Augustine Vagrant Watch Group page on Facebook; stalking, gun-carrying, threatening behavior

Dear Mr. Regan, Chief Fox, Mr. Burchfield, Mr. Kahn, Ms. Galambos, Ms. May and Ms. Lopez:
1. Please send me the City of St. Augustine's screenshots and downloads of the "St. Augustine Vagrant Watch Group" Facebook page.  This is the very Facebook page to which the City has delegated responsibility for gathering information and creating a "record" for lawmaking, which the City has stated it is "monitoring."

2. Please send me any criminal, civil or administrative complaints about anyone  associated with the Facebook page allegedly stalking people in our historic downtown, e.g., using the page to discuss certain group members' invitations or imputations of gun-toting, patrols, surveillance, defamation, invitations to illegal destruction of personal property or other forms of vigilantism in violation of Florida and federal criminal and civil rights law.
3. Please send me any clarification, suitable for publication, that the City of St. Augustine does not endorse vigilantism, libel or violence -- or indemnify anyone for it -- by inviting people to report facts on panhandling. 
4. Please send me any legal opinion(s) or insurance communications as to whether the City of St. Augustine and its key employees might potentially face legal liability for giving "significant encouragement" to possibly illegal activities by members of the "St. Augustine Vagrant Watch Group" page on Facebook.
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

Here's the Historic City News coverage on the hiring decision and Facebook group:

From Historic City News:
Kahn: Ordinances so effective that they’re not sued on

Monday’s meeting of the St Augustine City Commission included a discussion on how to legally justify a tougher panhandling ordinance, presented by Constitutional Law Attorney Michael Kahn of Melbourne, Florida.
During the prior commission meeting Kahn introduced himself to the commission suggesting that he would be available to provide a legal solution to crisis-level complaints by residents, tourism interests, and the city’s downtown businesses. Kahn’s presentation was short on details and long on cataloging his many decades of legal prowess.
Mayor Shaver, and at least initially, Commissioner Leanna Freeman, herself an attorney, suggested that the commission not jump from the pan into the fire until they each had an opportunity to review the substance of the proposed contract. But, the commission room was filled that night with citizens prepared to fight the city manager if he did not direct the police department to step in and remove the growing population of beggars from St George Street.
The commission approved $86,000 from reserves to cover $25,000 in ordinance development costs and to add eight more shelter beds at St. Francis House, expanding the ability of police to resume enforcement of public sleeping prohibitions. If alternatives, other than jail, are not available, police cannot arrest someone simply for sleeping in a public park.
Kahn’s record with the City has not been stellar. Historic City News readers will recall that he was the author of the ordinance to regulate creative artists in the city — a ham-handed effort that twice failed constitutional scrutiny in federal district court; costing the City hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in legal defenses and settlements with injured artists.
But this time, Kahn promised “a record of hundreds of pages, maybe a thousand,” to provide competent substantial evidence supporting the tougher panhandling ordinance he’s writing for the city. A key part of crafting the new ordinance will be building the record of panhandling issues — whether positive, negative, or neither.
To that end, a local Facebook group, created and maintained by individual citizens and not controlled by the city, has already begun photo-documenting public areas that are afflicted with vagrant and aggressive panhandling.
“People can document and report any kind of information related to the panhandling issues to help the city understand what’s happening,” Kahn told commissioners.
The new ordinance “will be distance based rather than zone based. It must be fair to everyone – panhandlers, citizens, tourists and businesses,” the attorney explained. Even so, Kahn said the city should expect to be sued simply because the use of distance-based enforcement strategies is still new for panhandling ordinances.

Estimating that challenges to the new ordinance would cost the city $150,000 “through appeal, over a two-year period,” Kahn seemed either naïve or disingenuous when he proclaimed, “My goal is to provide you with ordinances that are so effective that they’re not sued on.”

  • Kahn estimated that he can have an ordinance completed by the end of January, with first reading in February and enactment in March.
  • With questions of liability looming large for city police officers who could be found personally responsible for violations of arrestees’ civil rights if the Kahn ordinances flop, the commission discussed, without resolution, whether to increase insurance coverage, authorize city reserves to be used, or, handle those lawsuits against officers on a case-by-case basis.
  • The Visitors and Convention Bureau will be working with city police to develop an education program for visitors on how to treat panhandlers downtown, using $10,000 approved by the Tourist Development Council at their meeting earlier Monday.


Anonymous said...

Aww did the group blocking you and disagreeing with you hurt your feelings?

Ed Slavin said...

1. False premise? Driving under the inference? Assuming facts not in evidence?

2. Trying to be helpful, I followed and posted in that group and attempted to engage in moral reasoning.

3. Called their attention to the real issues, and attempted to stop them from lawbreaking.

4. No one disagreed with me on the FB page.

5. General agreement the real solution is restoring artists and musicians.

6. Some people continued posting incitements to commit crimes.

7. Yes, someone apparently blocked me. Error?

8. No one ever disagreed with me.

9. Are some posters inciting felonies?

10. Continuing violations given "significant encouragement" by City and Michael Kahn?

Ed Slavin said...

It was misguided and ill-advised of Michael Kahn and City to delegate fact-finding function to amateurs on Facebook. Vigilantism is unAmerican.

Ed Slavin said...

A cleaned-up version of the St. AUGUSTINE VAGRANTS WATCH GROUP Facebook page now appears, in haec verba, on Michael Gold's blog. It appears all of the posts inciting violence and stalking are gone. Mission accomplished.

Ed Slavin said...

Reminds me of a story. Once, in high school, one of my friends told an anti-Semitic joke at lunch. I said, "I'm Jewish." He never did it again. Of course, he and I were both Roman Catholics, parishioners at the same small church. He got the point.

Sometimes you only have say something once.

Hopefully, those concerned about panhandling will "keep it between the ditches," without:
a. armed "patrols"
b. defamation
c. invasion of privacy
d. incitements to violence and to destruction of people's personal property
e. hatred
f. divisive, political hackery
g. unfair, politically motivated attacks on our Mayor and City Manager
h. robotic invocations of inaccurate assumptions about panhandlers
i. unsympathetic, unkind, uncouth, unChristian, unAmerican rhetoric
j. secrecy and attempts to chill, coerce and intimidate dissent
k. flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.

What do you reckon?