On October 13, 2023, St. Augustine City Manager DAVID DOUGLAS BIRCHIM wrote three (3) horse carriage businesses, denying their applications for the fifteeenth franchise, which was turned in and cancelled when the owner retired. BIRCHIM's reasoning was flawed, supposedly rooted in a mobility plan that makes no mention of horse carriages, but referred to future construction and congestion.
Only one of the companies appealed -- Celebration Carriage Co. owner Teresa A. Henegar appealed immediately on October 13, 2023.
Monday night, on October 23, 2023, only ten (10) days later, Commissioners Cynthia Garris, supported by Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline and Commissioner James Springfield, granted the appeal of Ms. Teresa A. Henegary, owner of Celebration Carriage Co. Her victory shows the say to St. Augustine residents who long feared City Hall, where longtime locals long said, "You can't fight City Hall."
In fact and in truth, we do, and we must "fight City Hall." It's what our Founders did. It's what the Constitution and Bill of Rights empower. It's our town and our time. Her victory is a victory for everyone who has ever dealt with our disdainful City Hall and its bigoted managers. It's cause for celebration.
Privileged DAVID DOUGLAS BIRCHIM, a stiff-necked former Army artillery second lieutenant, graduate of a South Florida prep school, has had only one (1) employer during his entire professional career.
BIRCHIM graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in urban planning. In 1997, former state representative and mayor TRACY WILSON UPCHURCH wrote a handwritten letter to then City Manager William Pomar, explaining that BIRCHIM's uncle was a Flagler College professor.
BIRCHIM was initially hired as a planner under WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS, and told me in a telephone call in March 2005, "There's no corruption in the City of St. Augustine," a claim that was then, at best facetious, in a racist City Hall where the City Manager dumped a landfill in a lake in West Augustine, protesting, "I've done nothing wrong."
In 2010, Commissioners chose JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. as City Manager, rejecting my call for a national search.,
In 2023, City Manager Only Commissioner James Springfield wanted a national search for a new city manager. He was right.
As City Manager, DAVID DOUGLAS BIRCHIM has proved to be maladroit and insensitive.
BIRCHIM was defeated 5-0 on the misbegotten nightlife ordinance, no model of legal draftsmanship.
Our maladroit City Attorney, ISABELLE CHRISTINE LOPEZ, was hired without a statewide search or Florida Bar Journal ad: when she was promoted, two Commissioners (LEANNA SOPHIA AMARU FREEMAN and NANCY SIKES-KLINE, said the same exact words: "She protects us!" My thought was, "From whom" For whom?")
When you don't use searches to find qualified people, you get orotund, Organization Men, like DAVID DOUGLAS BIRCHIM, who was the understudy to MARK ALAN KNIGHT, whom REGAN fired as head of the Building and Planning Department. Never one to question overdevelopment, BIRCHIM was long HARRISS's favorite, and then REGAN's heyboy.
I agree with Commissioner James Springfield -- there needs to be a national search for City Manager.
No more doormats for developers and the Establishment are desired or required.
No more promotion of the next heyboy in line please.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called St. Augustine and St. Johns County the "most lawless" place in America. Thanks to you, dear readers, "this blogger" (as one Republican apparatchik derisively called me on NextDoor) is delighted to report another victory over oppression by snooty satraps in the City of St. Augustine.
Some 2/3 of the fifteen animal-drawn carriage licences in St. Augustine are owned, controlled or represented by ethically-challenged former St. Augustine Mayor JOSEPH LESTER BOLES, JR., whose law license was briefly suspended earlier this year. We were so proud in November 2014 when Nancy Shaver defeated BOLES by 119 votes.
Some retromingent BOLESIANS still cling to power in St. Augustine City Hall, despite the election of several reformers. Citizens, businesses, artists, musicians, buskers and others have encountered a City Hall that lacks a welcoming spirit, a place full of the well-connected and their supplicants, a strange building where there's no friendly face on the first floor to greet visitors, who are disdained and disrespected if they lack political influence.