Our 2004 Democratic candidate for St. Johns County Commission, Roger van Ghent, has died. Mr. van Ghent was an effective advocate for conservation and land acquisition. He was a proud Democrat. He was nominated in 2004 to be our Democratic nominee for County Commissioner.
In a surprisingly close race, Mr. van Ghent was defeated by another reformer Ben Rich, Sr., retired federal criminal investigator. Their debates were substantive and civil and full of common sense.
Both Messrs. van Ghent and Rich agreed that dodgy developers were running roughshod over our rights here in St. Johns County, destroying our flora and fauna with comprehensive plan amendments handed out like candy.
Mr. van Ghent will be missed.
Footnote: in 2008, Mr. van Ghent and I clashed about the proposed St. Johns County Charter, which voters wisely defeated twice that year.
I wanted a Charter for limited government, with an Inspector General, Ombuds and single member districts.
Mr. van Ghent and County Commissioners wanted none of my proposed reforms, except for a building height limit and non-partisan elections.
Other than that, their "starter Charter' was doomed to fail.
It included an oppressive 20% threshhold required to get any Charter amendment on the ballot. They also refused to make any changes in the proposed Charter, not even adding LGBTQ people to the non-discrimination section (10.06).
Angry at my ideas, refusing to discuss them substantively Mr. van Ghent chaired the local Democratic Club's committee on the Charter, wasting hours of dull meetings over 36 days on meaningless grammatical line edits, while refusing to take on the structure of our local government, in which County Commissioners are mere cat's paws to the Establishment. Mr. van Ghent was not only wrong, but quite rude about it, behaving as if he were Boss William Marcy Tweed, instead of chairman of a Democratic Club committee.
We, the People had the last word.
Diverse citizens, including former State House Judiciary Committee Chair Hamilton Upchurch, helped defeat the Establishment's defective "starter Charter" in 2008 -- twice.
From St. Augustine Record: