Sunday, October 04, 2020

End One-Party Rule and Corruption in St. Johns County


Why can't some 97,653 Democrats and independents vote for St. Johns County Commissioner, Sheriff, and four other constitutional officers?  

Florida's Supreme Court last year upheld nonpartisan elections in seven Florida Charter Counties, where voters supported nonpartisan elections.  

Let's end  "phantom write-in" candidates.  They close what voters decided should be "universal primaries" in a 1998 constitutional amendment, whenever all candidates are of one party, with no opposition.

Commissioners have refused to allow a vote on a remedial County Charter since 2008.  

Republican Commissioners refuse to require lobbyist registration, ethics reforms, an Ombud, an inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, or a truly independent Inspector General to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse.  

Some officials lack a welcoming spirit and violate rights, with repeated federal court rulings against the City of St. Augustine and County School Board.  

There's no 311 desk at City Halls or the County Administration Building.  

But corporations and lobbyists can take care of themselves. Too often, the system appears "rigged."

Citizens still have First Amendment rights to petition for a redress of grievances.  But if you speak to the City Commission of St. Augustine, no one writes down your concerns -- citizen concerns are now banned from the  City's official minutes.  (St. Augustine Beach once tried that, but relented).  St. Augustine Beach slashed agenda public comment from three minutes to two minutes. 

In 2005, a federal court ordered the City of St. Augustine to fly Rainbow flags on our Bridge of Lions in honor of Gay Pride, ending the City's First Amendment violations. 

Watchdogs helped remedy illegal dumping of solid waste and sewage effluent by the City of St. Augustine.  They helped save Fish Island and The Outpost.

When Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County voted to buy a $1.8 million no-bid luxury helicopter incapable of killing a single mosquito, the Record reported the news, complete with Ed Hall political cartoons.  We persisted, and AMCD voted unanimously to cancel the contract and get a full deposit refund.

Citizens were empowered.  But then there's  the coverup of the Michelle O'Connell homicide of September 2, 2010, reported in The New York Times.  No current officials have asked questions, demanded answers, or spoken out in favor of Justice for Michelle O'Connell and Eli Washtock.   Why?

After St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver suffered a stroke and resigned, Commissioners were guided to deprive citizens of the list of applicants, then advised they needed to choose a former Mayor to be Mayor, after being incorrectly advised that none of the current Commissioners could apply -- an odd misinterpretation of the resign-to-run law, which applies to elections, not appointments. 

No women and no minorities were considered for County Administrator.  No ads or vacancy announcements were posted. Commissioners rejected the national search on the agenda.  Instead, without notice, Commissioners hired another elected official, who received developer campaign contributions as a candidate.  

Until 2020, County planning and zoning staff provided an overview before BoCC discussion of each development item. Now, mutatis mutandis, no more public staff presentations! Developers now make their sales pitch, uninterrupted by staff.  Commissioners still take secret one-on-one meetings with developers and staff. 

Six St. Augustine Beach city staff recently held five back-to-back, two-hour meetings with each of fiveCommissioners, avoiding any public Sunshine workshop, escaping  embarrassing questions about the City's lack of reserves under its maladroit 30+ year City Manager.

Ex-Mayors Joe Boles and Andrea Samuels, former Mayors of St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach,  discouraged dialogue, both notoriously admitting  "there's no dialogue here!"  Enough,

Let the Florida Sunshine in! 

Our local governments require greater scrutiny,  

Let's end one-party rule.  Vote early.  Hold elected officials accountable.

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