Monday, September 30, 2019

There's a keiretsu near you, apparently.

St. Augustine City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. runs a keiretsu, apparently, with repeated indicia of private, ex parte meetings on the future of Our Nation's Oldest City, with the owners of alcohol related venues, who include his friends.  REGAN thinks he's a developer, with the future of our Historic City in his hands.  

You're not invited to these meetings.

St. Augustine JOHN REGAN, who thinks he's a developer and negotiates badly in secret, has tight ties to commercial real estate and alcohol vendors in town:


As they say in East Tennessee,  "they bear watchin'."  

We shall continue to investigate and to speak out against bad projects, like The Collector Hotel (DOW PUD), ARBIZZANI's CUNA STREET restaurant ripoff, and St. Augustine EMBASSY SUITES' rejected multicolored monstrosity and dead-on-arrival proposal to steal our county volleyball courts.

We shall continue to question proposed public-private partnerships that would enrich the rich and impoverish our people. 

You're not invited to REGAN's secret meetings with developers.

But when the Minister of Propaganda (his beloved nickname from circa 2002) has a "town hall," he retains firm control of the microphone, with questions softballs from the audience, with lousy production values and awful sound qualify.  Still, like DONALD TRUMP on Twitter, REGAN shows his behind at "town halls," exhibiting ego before principles.

Case in point: At a Nightlife town hall meeting on September 25, 2019, the other-directed City Manager of the City of St. Augustine referred to an "industry comment period" for proposed regulations in St. Augustine, and to areas to be set aside for oligopolists UBER and LYFT. 

Sounds like a violation of the non-delegation doctrine, on the one hand, and of the antitrust laws on the other.

That's an indication of how other-directed our Nation's Oldest City is, with a City Hall responsive to the powerful, not the people.

No response to request for City Hall memos on possible equal protection and antitrust issues with UBER favoritism.

And I just wrote City Hall:

1. Please explain and provide the documents concerning the legal basis and etiology of City Manager John Regan's remark about an "industry comment period" in his remarks at the September 25, 2019 meeting on nightlife law in the City of St. Augustine.  

2. Due Process administrative law gives everyone the right to a comment period, not just "industry."

3. The City of St. Augustine's presumption that only "industries" should be heard is of longstanding.  When taxicab regulations and franchise were being revised, Mayor Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. refused to recognize taxicab customers, including me, hearing only from the industry.   This violates Equal Protection and Due Process and First Amendment rights.

4. As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. wrote, "
Photo of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. by Hardy, 1897
“It is revolting to have no better reason for a rule of law than that so it was laid down in the time of Henry IV.  It is still more revolting if the grounds upon which it was laid down have vanished long since, and the rule simply persists from blind imitation of the past.”
5. The nondelegation doctrine applies to one-sided efforts to obtain "comment" only from corporations.
6.  Please send any legal advice given to the City stating that corporations are the only "persons" with rights in the City of St. Augustine.
7. Mr. Regan's revolving assumption is wrong and regressive. Who among us could disagree?
Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin


There was an insipid but interesting PR-generated First Coast success interview broadcast on our inept local NPR affiliate, on WJCT "First Coast Connect," this morning

St. Augustine Distillery
The St. Augustine Distillery is not only a local producer of spirits, but it’s also become a major tourist attraction in the nation’s oldest city.
Jacksonville Daily Record Editor Karen Brune Mathis spoke with cofounder Michael Diaz during our First Coast Success segment.
MICHAEL DIAZ, the college roommate of St. Augustine City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN  P.E., got involved in the Distillery project when REGAN introduced DIAZ to PHILLIP McDANIEL.   Hw fawned over Ms. Mathis like a fanboy, and she reciprocated.

How revolting.  These yokel business newspapers seem to get unlimited time for drivel on WJCT.

I listen to them for the same reasons why CIA Soviet analysts read Pravda and Isvestia.

Who knew the City Manager recruited his college roommate to found and the Distillery?

St. Augustine JOHN REGAN, who thinks he's a developer and negotiates badly in secret,  also has tight ties to other commercial real estate and alcohol vendors in town:


As they say in East Tennessee, "He bears watchin'."

St. Augustine businessmen bringing craft distillery rage to First Coast 

By   – Reporter 
The craft distillery under construction in St. Augustine brings to Northeast Florida a foodie fascination that’s booming in other areas of the country.
Co-owners Philip McDaniel and Mike Diaz, both retired businessmen, were looking for another business venture about three years ago when they joined forces with St. Augustine entrepreneur Ryan Dettra, who had the idea for a Prohibition-era distillery and restaurant in the former ice plant building at 112 Riberia St., in the area known as Lincolnville, near the San Sebastian Winery.
Because of the laws governing alcohol manufacturing and distribution, the distillery and restaurant are under separate ownership. The restaurant, The Ice Plant, opened about three weeks ago and has already been recognized by Southern Living magazine as upping St. Augustine’s cool factor.
“It’s something that’s raging in Denver, Portland and other areas, but it hasn’t yet hit Florida,” McDaniel said. “And the deal was, if you could get in here first, use St. Augustine and the tourism market as a venue to educate people and show them what it is, you could be one of the first to market.”
They won’t be the very first in Florida — the St. Augustine Distillery is one of 15 craft distilleries that belongs to the Florida Craft Distillers Guild.
It’s tough to pin down an exact date as to when the ice plant was built, but most of the historical accounts McDaniel and Diaz have uncovered suggest the early 1900s. Built with walls about a foot thick for insulation, the building housed an ice manufacturing plant, where ice was made to keep Florida produce cool as it was shipped northward on the railroads.
McDaniel and Diaz acquired the building for $437,500 in late 2012 and have invested about $1.6 million in the distilling equipment and restoration of the building, with plans to open in early 2014. The project has been funded by their own money and a group of local investors.
“They’re ready for us to get open, but probably the most heartwarming thing, I think, is we have a series of investors who want to do something great for the community,” Diaz said. “And they want it to be open, but more than that, they want it to be a great asset for the community and Lincolnville.”
The building will include a museum, movie theater and tasting room, where guided tours will educate people about the distilling process. They will be using locally grown heritage sugar cane — longstanding strains of sugar cane, handed down over the years, like heirloom tomatoes. They can sell up to two bottles per person on-site, and are finalizing the process of choosing a distributor to sell the product in retail outlets.
“This is about education, entertainment and really giving people a chance to learn about the spirits they drink,” Diaz said, “and learn how alcohol is handcrafted and really bring them back into the era of what you see from the building.”
More on the project will be in the Oct. 11 edition of the Business Journal.

Homophobic St. Augustine Record deficient in covering violence against trans people?

Folio Weekly had a cover story on murders of trans women, and WJCT and the T-U reported the dragging of a trans person behind a vehicle on Friday (arrest Sunday), the traditionally haughty, homophobic, transphobic St. Augustine Record's unknown editors would rather run the same stories, or portions of them, TWICE, and print plagiarized real estate columns, than cover news of human rights violations taking place 40 miles away.

Then owned by Morris Communications, the reprobates running the St. Augustine Record opposed our successful First Amendment lawsuit in 2005 editorializing against the federal court decision requiring Rainbow flags to fly on. the Bridge of Lions.

From OUT:

Trans Victim Tied Up, Dragged Behind Minivan in Attempted Murder


A transgender person was dragged behind a minivan in a horrific attack in Florida last week.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the altercation began on Friday night at the Majestic Plaza Apartments at Moncrief Road and West 36th Street. According to Jacksonville’s WFOX-TV, police say the individual was assaulted, beaten, and then dragged behind a vehicle. 
The individual, who has not been named in reports of the incident, is currently in the hospital receiving treatment for life-threatening injuries.
The victim’s gender identity also has not been publicly disclosed.
"I don't know how this person identifies and, obviously, we want to be respectful of how this person identifies himself," JSO Assistant Chief Brien Kee told the local Fox affiliate. Police identified them as male, but neighbors say the victim is female. 
Due to the victim’s condition, police have not been able to speak with them or identify family.
According to police, the victim was tied by the ankles to the bumper of the car and dragged for two blocks before the rope was cut. Video footage of the incident exists, but police will not release it due to the graphic content. Kee called the footage “horrendous.” 
On Sunday, the Florida Times Union reported that police arrested 34-year-old Eric Shaun Bridges and charged him with attempted murder in the incident. The minivan involved in the attack had been reported stolen, and homicide investigators spoke with neighbors who led them to the vehicle and the suspect.
The Sheriff’s Office also announced an arrest in another murder of a trans woman in Jacksonville. 
Celine Walker was shot and killed by Sean Bernard Phoenix in 2018, police say. Though they recovered DNA evidence from the crime scene, it took a year to track the suspect down. Phoenix has since admitted to the shooting.
Although trans women of color, particularly Black trans women, have faced a wave of killings and attacks around the country, Jacksonville has been particularly hard hit in recent years. In 2018, three women were killed and a fourth was attacked. In addition to Walker, Cathalina James and Antash English lost their lives.
Although trans people are disproportionately targeted for violent crime, Florida does not extend hate crime protections on the basis of gender identity, while Jacksonville is the largest U.S. city without an LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination law on the books.
The Sheriff's Office is asking anyone with information about the attack to call 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS (8477).

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Facing dissolution, Visit Florida getting key support from DeSantis. (GateHouse Florida)

Abolishing an unnecessary government agency is tough work. If Florida legislators believe they did the right thing, they should stand their ground. Needless, senseless advertising and wasteful spending do nothing for the hardworking tourism employees who are underpaid, sometimes paid under the table, and exploited in anti-union establishments.

Ax Governor James Folsom of Alabama once said, "there's notnin' louder than the sound of a hog bein' pulled off a tit."

Facing dissolution, Visit Florida getting key support from DeSantis

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, has been facing fierce criticism from GOP lawmakers in the Florida House in recent years. In this picture, Rick Scott - during his time as governor - stopped in Panama City Beach for a roundtable discussion about the local economic impact of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida at Capt. Anderson’s restaurant. [ANDREW WARDLOW/THE NEWS HERALD]

By John Kennedy
GateHouse Capital Bureau

Posted Sep 28, 2019 at 4:00 PM

State’s tourism marketing arm will be abolished on June 30 unless lawmakers act

TALLAHASSEE — Visit Florida, the state’s tourist marketing arm, has been kept on a short — and tightening — leash by state lawmakers the past two years.

But now facing a deadline that would kill the agency outright, tourism officials say they are bolstered by what they see as Gov. Ron DeSantis’s show of support for Visit Florida.

“I think there’s been a real push throughout the state for (tourist industry) people to meet with their local representatives during these summer months,” said Virginia Haley, president of Visit Sarasota and chair of Visit Florida’s board of directors.

“And now, hopefully, the positive comments from the governor will make a real difference,” she said.

DeSantis said last week he expects to ask lawmakers for $50 million for Visit Florida next year, even though state law currently has the agency on track to expire with the end of the current budget year on June 30.

This is the second straight year lawmakers have set a deadline for eliminating the tourism agency, which earlier this year lost one-third of its 135 employees, after its budget was cut from $76 million to the $50 million level.

Lawmakers, though, did cut the agency some slack by extending its scheduled Oct. 1 expiration through June. But the latest cut-off date is keeping tourism industry officials on edge.

Legislation was filed last week that would keep Visit Florida alive into 2028. But there is no guarantee that’s going to advance, with House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami, still seeing Visit Florida as non-essential and not playing much of a role in attracting tourists, even as the state pulled in a record 126 million tourists last year and set a new high mark for the first quarter of this year.

Oliva followed his predecessor, former Speaker Richard Corcoran, in declaring war on Visit Florida. Corcoran in 2017 railed against the agency’s free-spending ways, which included an almost $2.9 million contract with an auto racing team called Visit Florida Racing and a $1 million promotional contract with Miami rapper Pitbull.

With Visit Florida facing fierce criticism in the House, legislation was approved that tightened contract-reporting standards at the agency, while new rules also led to the severing of promotional partnerships with several local tourism organizations.

Corcoran has left the Legislature and is now part of the DeSantis administration, serving as state Education Commissioner. But Oliva has kept the tourism agency in his cross-hairs.

“Visit Florida, like all other agencies and programs, is competing for limited resources,” Oliva said. “Some of those very same agencies and programs are clearly essential government functions. For example, no one can argue that the Department of Children and Families request for an additional $275 million should take a backseat to Visit Florida.”

The state’s success at pulling in tourists, despite last year’s red tide and blue-green algae outbreaks, and the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael in parts of the Panhandle and Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys, doesn’t convince Oliva that the state should be in the business of tourist marketing.

Haley, though, said that in the Sarasota area, alone, Visit Florida grants which financed promotional efforts helped the region recover after Gulf Coast tourism virtually ground to a halt during last year’s red tide outbreak.

But Oliva is unwavering.

“If we set another tourism record with Visit Florida’s budget cut in half, it begs the question: Is it necessary at all?” he said.

While DeSantis plans to at least seek the same level of funding from the Legislature next year for the scaled-back agency – apparently anticipating that the June 30 expiration date will at least be extended – he sounded primarily concerned last week with settling the status of Visit Florida in the coming legislative session, which begins in January.

“At some point, like we just need to make a decision on it, rather than continuing to have it be hanging on a thread every year,” DeSantis said.

He added: “Obviously, Jose is somebody that I think has legitimate philosophical disagreements with it. But I think we should just work through it... so it’s not a constant battle every year.”

DeSantis, though, acknowledged that his view of the agency has evolved.

As a three-term member of Congress from Palm Coast, DeSantis was a founding member of the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus, touting free-market views which left many establishment Republicans wary of policies the new governor would enact.

Evidently, though, some of his shifting view as governor of Visit Florida is based on findings such as those from the state’s Economic & Demographic Research Office, which generally concludes that visitor spending is strongly induced by state advertising dollars.

“I was not necessarily sold on it coming in,” DeSantis said. “But as they rate these things, this is one of the few economic development things that gets rated as positive and so my idea is I think we can support it.”

State economists also recently told lawmakers that more than 13 percent of the state’s sales tax collections – the highest level in at least three years – come from tourist spending. Still, tourist cash is susceptible to downturns in the national economy, when visitors may curtail travel plans, economists warned.

But it may be difficult for DeSantis to cross Oliva, one of his earliest allies in the Florida governor’s race. Similarly, another early DeSantis backer, Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy organization funded by the Koch family, remains an opponent of Visit Florida.

“We still believe this agency is not a key function and role of government,” said Andres Malave, an AFP spokesman. “We should continue to cut back on this organization and ultimately end it.”

Countering critics of the agency are a range of tourist-related associations that want the state to continue putting tax dollars into marketing efforts. Among them: The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida Attractions Association, and even the Florida Brewers Guild.

Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin, has filed the House bill that would delay pulling the plug on Visit Florida. Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, has the Senate legislation and likely faces an easier task, with his chamber having supported the agency in the past.

Mar-a-Lago Army officer lied during child porn investigation. (AP)

This is not the first time a uniformed Flori-DUH LEO or military officer got caught with child pornography. Read stipulation here.

Mar-a-Lago Army officer lied during child porn investigation


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A military officer who had been in charge of the U.S. Army’s White House communications at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club received probation Friday for lying to federal agents during a child pornography investigation.

Staff Sgt. Richard Ciccarella tearfully apologized to a federal judge for posting photos on a Russian website of an underage girl who was wearing only underwear, The Palm Beach Post reported . One of the photos had a title urging users to submit “dirty” responses, according to court records.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Schiller said the photos didn’t constitute child pornography, but Ciccarella lied to investigators about posting the photos.

“Here the lie and the obstruction was to cover up an email address to cover up a much bigger investigation that was going on,” Schiller said.

Ciccarella, a 34-year-old who is now stationed in Virginia, said he lied because he was afraid.

“I will forever regret my actions,” he said.

Ciccarella pleaded guilty in July to making a false statement to a federal agent. He was sentenced to three years of probation and is required to receive treatment as a sex offender and prohibited from having any unsupervised contact with minors. He must also complete 100 hours of community service.

Schiller had asked U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks to send Ciccarella to jail for as long as six months.

Ciccarella led the Army’s communication detail for Trump’s exclusive Palm Beach club from August 2017 to March 2018. He uploaded the photos to the Russian website from November 2017 to February 2018, according to court documents.

Prior to being stationed at Mar-a-Lago, Ciccarella had done two tours in Iraq and had worked for about five years in the White House, where he helped operate the switchboard as he placed calls for the president and vice president.

Ciccarella’s superiors have said he could be court martialed, said his defense attorney Michael Salnick.


Information from: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post,

DONALD JOHN TRUMP calls critics "savages"

When I was in East Tennessee, one of several gnarly nicknames I acquired as Appalachian Observer Editor 1981-83 was "Ed Savage," from the very loyal secretary to controversial Anderson County School Superintendent Paul Eugene Bostic, Sr., as corrupt a political boss as ever encountered in Appalachia. We, the People ran him off -- a May 11, 1982 referendum for direct election of the school superintendent resulted in Bostic's retirement on June 30, 1982, after thirteen years.
Like TRUMP, Bostic accused critics of "harassment," as when we caught School Dept. Business Manager Ronnie Kesterson disposing of eight file drawers of "nothing in particular."

President DONALD JOHN TRUMP just dubbed some of his women of color and Jewish opponents "savages."

We "Savages"nwear authoritarians' scorn as a badge of honor.

From Fox News:

Trump calls AOC, Schiff and Nadler 'Democrat Savages' as impeachment calls intensify

President Trump launched a fresh attack on prominent Democrats on Saturday, accusing leading impeachment proponents of stalling progress and acting like "savages."
"Can you imagine if these Do Nothing Democrat Savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC Plus 3, and many more, had a Republican Party who would have done to Obama what the Do Nothings are doing to me. Oh well, maybe next time!" he tweeted.
The president's comments came as House Democrats continued investigating the Trump administration and pursued an official impeachment inquiry surrounding his July phone call with Ukraine's president. Trump had urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into corruption suspicions surrounding former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic party's frontrunner for challenging Trump in 2020.