Tuesday, March 15, 2022

25 suggestions for St. Johns County Commission to consider before asking voters to approve a 15%+ tax increase.

County Commission voted 4-1 today to put a 15%+ sales tax increase on the November 8, 2022 ballot. I wrote them earlier this morning: 

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed Slavin <easlavin@aol.com>
To: bcc5hdean@sjcfl.us <bcc5hdean@sjcfl.us>; bcc1cwhitehurst@sjcfl.us <bcc1cwhitehurst@sjcfl.us>; bcc2sarnold@sjcfl.us <bcc2sarnold@sjcfl.us>; bcc3pwaldron@sjcfl.us <bcc3pwaldron@sjcfl.us>; bcc4jblocker@sjcfl.us <bcc4jblocker@sjcfl.us>
Cc: dmigut@sjcfl.us <dmigut@sjcfl.us>; hconrad@sjcfl.us <hconrad@sjcfl.us>; sheriff@sjso.org <sheriff@sjso.org>; taxcollector@sjctax.us <taxcollector@sjctax.us>; voakes@votesjc.org <voakes@votesjc.org>; wfusco@votesjc.com <wfusco@votesjc.com>; bpatty@stjohnsclerk.com <bpatty@stjohnsclerk.com>; mminer@stjohnsclerk.com <mminer@stjohnsclerk.com>; eddie@sjcpa.us <eddie@sjcpa.us>; waltbog@nytimes.com <waltbog@nytimes.com>
Sent: Tue, Mar 15, 2022 5:13 am
Subject: 25 suggestions for St. Johns County Commission to consider before asking voters to approve a 15%+ tax increase.

Dear Commissioners:
I have 25 suggestions for St. Johns County Commission to consider before asking voters to approve a 15%+ tax increase.

Please call me to discuss:

I will oppose the 15%+ sales tax increase, unless we have significant government reform, covering every government office, from City Halls to County Commission to School Board:
  1. Require body-worn cameras for all law enforcement, with dashboard cameras in all vehicles.  Reject former Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's 2016 ukase that there is "a false narrative" that law enforcement needs to be watched."  Accountability for everyone.  No excuses. No more delays.
  2. Create a County Charter Review Commission composed of everyday citizens to propose a new form of government, with checks and balances, human rights protections and a charter for limited government. Put their proposals on the ballot for us to vote on at the same time as any sales tax increase. 
  3. Welcome, cherish, heed, publish and act on non-agenda public comment.  (The City of St. Augustine now omits non-agenda public comment from its minutes, while St. Johns County now puts it dead last at meetings, showing contempt for our democracy.) Stop insulting, interrupting, ignoring or heckling public questions and concerns.  
  4. Answer public questions during "question time" like the British Parliament, by adopting the "Mayor Gary Snodgrass rule" from the City of St. Augustine Beach, requiring public commenters' questions to be answered, instead of ignored.  The City of Flagler Beach has a similar procedure. It also has non-agenda public comment at both the beginning and end of meetings, "so nothing gets missed," says their new Chairman, J. Kenneth Bryan, a Justice Department retiree and former St. Johns County Commission Chairman.  Unconstitutional County Commission rules prohibit citizens "demanding an immediate answer," but usually we get no answer at all. Ever.
  5. Televise all government meetings and allow remote public participation, like School Board.
  6. Put government documents online, including all contacts. Stop blocking and discouraging records requests with fee-grabbing.  Prohibit any government from using an auto-responder to answer records requests and requiring a named, living breathing person to sign correspondence (City of St. Augustine, Sheriff, FDLE, State Legislature and other government agencies have the annoying habit of having no named person sign records request correspondence, an Orwellian fetish.
  7. Reform government purchasing as we know it. Report all instances of possible bid-rigging. Guard against government employees self-dealing (as with former Utilities supervisor RICHARD NELSON, fired for selling SCADA products to the County for years without criminal prosecution).
  8. Stop giving tax holidays to dodgy corporations as "incentives," selling our soul to secretive unknown investors for unknown reasons.
  9. Require lobbying registration and disclosures. 
  10. Require transparency in development, starting with disclosing the names of every single beneficial owner and investor in every single development project.  Russian investors must be subject to sanctions and full disclosure. 
  11. Developer money-laundering must be exposed and reported. 
  12. Require disclosure of all sources of foreign and domestic money in politics. 
  13. Create a County Ethics Commission with tough local laws, public hearings and enforcement to extirpate corruption, discrimination and secrecy.
  14. Encourage and protect whistleblowers, to end corruption as we know it.  Always hold accountable anyone who would presume to retaliate against a whistleblower.  Inform employees and contractors of their rights.  Adopt a County whistleblower protection policy, ordinance and resolution.
  15. Treat employees fairly, paying living wages and an end to favoritism, sexual harassment, secrecy and retaliation against whistleblowers.
  16. Create a County Environmental Board with  regulatory powers to halt or limit devious developers' wetland-filling, wildlife-killing, deforestation, clear-cutting.
  17. Provide for five single-member County Commission districts, like the School Board has, in order to reduce the influence of developers' Big Money and empower of citizen legislators.  Add two at-large Commission seats, running county-wide. 
  18. Adopt a working committee system, with committees to vet budgets and development proposals before half-baked proposals go to the full County Commission or City Commissions.  
  19. Provide each Commissioner with a legislative assistant, as they had before 2010
  20. Support statewide legislation to revise impact fees as we know them.  
  21. Stop subsidizing metastatic growth -- unchecked growth for growth's sake is the ideology of a cancer cell.
  22. Create an Ombudsman to advocate for citizens and taxpayers, ending the disgusting legislative dance of County and City staff acting as de facto or de jure developer puppets.
  23. Focus on protecting public health from known environmental health hazards.  There is no legal protection for employee safety in Florida since Jeb Bush helped abolish Florida OSHA in 2000. Local governments are inconsistent in protecting public health, as proven by our County School Superintendent's insolent and insouciant refusal to replace moldy wrestling mats, stored in showers, causing illnesses among the members of the St. Augustine High School Wrestling Team 
  24. Enhance the powers of our Clerk of Courts Inspector General, with job protections and enhanced budget, with authority to investigate any local government agency, subject to a County Charter approved by the voters.
  25. Consider Zero Based Budgeting, as President Jimmy Carter supported. Don't assume every department or office gets an increase. Some need to be cut. My late mentor, United States Department of Labor Chief Administrative Law Judge Nahum Litt, said any government budget could be cut by 10%.  Every government needs to examine every expenditure with a gimlet eye, and stop extravagant spending on what President Abraham Lincoln would have called "flubdubs." For every spending request and every piece of legislation ask, "Is it based on need, or greed?" (As Senator Gary Hart asked his staff to evaluate every single legislative proposal as a freshman Senator). 
If Commissioners want a 15%+ sales tax increase, they must answer, "what have you done to deserve this?" 

Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,

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