Monday, May 02, 2016

Lovely article on West Augustine Leader Greg White

but Record neglects to mention that West Augustine was a thriving community until rabid racists ran Florida Memorial University out of town in retaliation for its heroic role in 1963-1964 civil rights protests. Then St. Augustine Record Publisher A.H. Tebeault, later Flagler College Vice President, was part of the racist Establishment responsible for that hostile working environment.

West Augustine advocate narrows focus and looks to the future
Posted: May 1, 2016 - 11:21pm | Updated: May 1, 2016 - 11:33pm

Greg White poses for a photograph on West King Street in the West Augustine neighborhood on Friday, April 29, 2016. White is resigning his position as chair of the steering committee of the West Augustine Community Redevelopment Agency to focus more of his time on economic redevelopment of the area. PETER_WILLOTT

After 14 years with the West Augustine Community Redevelopment Agency, Greg White announced recently he was stepping down as the chair of its steering committee. It was a decision, he says, that will free him up to pursue his work on economic development and to continue giving back to the community he loves.

White, who also chairs the community’s Weed and Seed Program, said Wednesday it is the “seed” portion of that program he wants to focus on.

When the Weed and Seed program was started as a federally funded initiative years ago, its goal was to work with local law enforcement and other community agencies to “weed out the criminal environment and then seed (the community) with economic development,” White said.

While a couple of pockets of “undesirable activity” still remain in West Augustine, White said there has been a tremendous improvement in the community with regards to crime. The federal funding is no more, but the program still exists. Now, White wants to bring businesses to the West King Street corridor that will not only provide jobs, but improve the quality of life for residents.

“The next two to five years, I just want to see real stores on that corridor,” he said. “I mean real stores that sell fresh fruit and bread. Something besides what we are getting now on King Street. I want to see a small restaurant … a small bank.”

Those things, he said, will be a welcome addition to the convenience stores that currently dot the predominantly black neighborhood.

“Too many of our young people ... that work at the different restaurants, or at the malls, the trash trucks, they don’t have a banking account,” he added. “So what they do, they go to these stores and they cash their check; they don’t do the math and they don’t know whether they are charging them 10 percent or 30 percent to cash their check. So the need for a small bank is a tremendous need here.”

The recent addition of a Family Dollar store — not yet open — is a proud moment for the community, according to White, and marks movement in the right direction.

“This will be the first national franchise in West Augustine history,” he said.

While he acknowledges that retail jobs are not among the highest paying, he does think the Family Dollar jobs will be a positive addition that can provide 401(k) plans and health and dental benefits.

A small national retail chain might not be welcome in every neighborhood in the county, “but here it’s going to make a difference because it’s going to give us a better job than maybe some of the ones [the kids have now],” he said.

It will also benefit residents with limited transportation options who live miles away from a supermarket. White said he considers West Augustine a “food desert.”

“If you want to go get a loaf of bread, it’s going to cost you three times more at that corner store than at Winn-Dixie,” he said. “So instead of walking or bicycling to the corner store, they can bicycle or walk to the [Family Dollar].”

It is progress White said he is hopeful he can perpetuate.

“We want to put a spotlight and say businesses are welcome here,” he said.

Why he does it

White moved to the St. Augustine area from Putnam County in the sixth grade. After high school he went to Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. When he came back from overseas there were no jobs in the area, so he spent a year in the Bronx, New York.

“I got homesick, so I came back,” he said.

He started working in construction and eventually launched his own concrete-finishing business. But with a wife and kids, he soon went looking for something with benefits and more stability. He landed a job as a meter reader for the city of St. Augustine and then with Florida Power and Light. He retired from FPL as a state-certified residential energy consultant after 27 years.

During that journey, he hit some obstacles. He was turned down for a job he wanted after one interview and sought the assistance of the Rev. Thomas DeSue and Henry Twine, who helped get him placed in another job. It was a hand up that inspires White to keep helping others.

“Without them, I don’t what I would be doing now,” White said. “You ask why I do it — it’s because of what they did for me. Not only me, there’s got to be hundreds of people that they helped.”

And it is why White knows he has more work to do than just attracting businesses to West Augustine. His goals, now that he is not putting so much energy into the CRA, are to work with the neighborhood’s young workers and local employers to change perceptions about the types of jobs available.

“These kids are working,” White said. “If you go to these sites, you will see these young West Augustine residents, but you see these kids in McDonald’s, Burger King and Steak ’n Shake … but you go to VyStar and they are not there. You go to Ameris and they are not there.”

Part of that has to do with the workers themselves.

“They don’t want to go to VyStar unless they see someone that looks like them in there … and they go to Burger King and they see all their friends,” he said. “So where are they going to go?”

But it also has to do with making both workers and potential employers understand that a food service job is a suitable starting point for a career.

“So my question to the banking institution is: ‘These kids can count money at Burger King or McDonald’s, why can’t they count money at Ameris? Why can’t they count money at VyStar?,’” White said. “These are the questions that with our Weed and Seed — with the seed portion — we are going to go and we are going to talk with them and we are going to find these qualified kids; if we can find them to be qualified at McDonald’s and deal with that customer service base … they can certainly deal with the customer service base in a bank.”

The future

It all takes time and there will be barriers to success; White understands that. But that is why, in March he made the decision to step down from the CRA.

He asked the Rev. Ron Rawls of St. Paul AME Church to take his place. White said Rawls has set an example of getting things done in the community, like the Street Light Program that he initiated as a safe, fun activity for kids who weren’t otherwise busy with extracurricular activities.

“So basically all I want to do is copy Rev. Rawls and say, ‘OK, Greg there’s no jobs here but what are you doing?’” White said. “‘Yeah, you’ve got obstacles, you’ve got barriers, but what are you doing to ensure that we get jobs here?’”

It’s a respect matched by Rawls.

Busy with his church and having to commute from Gainesville, Rawls said Friday the CRA was not something he was looking to take on. But White approached him, saying he didn’t want it to lose the momentum it had built over the years.

“The last thing I needed was more responsibility, but Greg is pretty convincing and he has a real passion for West Augustine,” Rawls said. “So I made that commitment for at least a couple of years to go in and provide leadership.”

He acknowledged that following White will be tough.

“He is outstanding; that is probably one of the reasons I was so hesitant about doing it,” Rawls said. “One of the last things I want to do is grab something that goes downhill. It’s going to be hard to duplicate what Greg White does.”

It’s a common sentiment among those who know White.

Sheriff David Shoar, who has known White for years and continues to support the Weed and Seed Program, said Friday that White “has been one of the most effective leaders and community activists that I’ve ever worked with.”

“He never wants the credit; he’s not a showboat,” Shoar said.

Which is why White expressed a little reluctance to be the center of attention at a Friday night “roast and toast,” held at the American Legion post on Pearl Street. He said he finally agreed because the $25-per-plate event raised money for the Kids Safe Zone, a tutorial program that White also supports.

Fundraising, mentoring, community activism and volunteering his time are not things White really sees as work. It is just who he is. In conversation, he transitions back and forth, seamlessly, between talking about his aspirations for West Augustine and telling stories about lessons he teaches his own grandchildren and helping them plan for their future.

He said Wednesday he worries about a lack of opportunities in the area for young people, particularly the ones with a college education and the associated debt. The lack of jobs, he thinks, forces them out of the county in search of work. Prospects aren’t much better for those who don’t go to college, he said. When he was a young man, White said, getting an entry-level job — like his meter reader job — was an important stepping stone for someone with a high school diploma.

“But you could start and then the doors would open up. … And then, of course, you could move up,” he said. “I don’t know whether that still exists today.”

White said it is what keeps him motivated, looking for ways to help and create opportunity.

“These are the kind of things that I will be doing,” he said. “Until I die, this is what I will be doing.”

gwendolyn 05/02/16 - 07:22 am 50West Augustine advocate narrows focus and looks to the future
Keep up the great works Mr. Greg White that GOD has committed to your hands to perform. Thank you so much for your support over the years in helping ACCORD with our Freedom Trail Luncheons, providing American Legion Post 194 Members to "Post the Colors" during our ceremonies to Remember, Recognize, and Honor the Heroes and Sheroes of the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement of the 60s. We appreciate you so very much.

NEFLNative 05/02/16 - 09:36 am 20There are very few........
There are very few people that walk the streets of St. Augustine that have as much passion for and accomplishments made for our area. Greg White is truly a Blessing to the West Augustine community, St. Augustine and St. Johns County in its entirety! Thank you, Mr. White!

Jim Sutton, We Hardly Knew Ye

St. Augustine Record Opinion Editor Jim Sutton's cognitive impairments require expert help. Pray for him.

Those who know and love and respect Jim Sutton feel sorry for him in his dotage.

Sutton's current sloppy style is to talk to an ex-girlfriend, an ex-City Manager or his boss, the corrupt Sheriff or other hangers-on and suck his thumb, writing uninformed editorials like the one he wrote on City traffic studies.

Sutton never goes to government meetings.

Sutton's got cognitive impairments that impair his editorial judgment.  A once good journalist who exposed corruption, Sutton has a mean streak.

Sutton attacked B.J. Kalaidi and Tom Reynolds last year as "hangers-on," misusing a political synonym for apparatchiks, which they are not.

Sutton even attacked me twice last year, calling me a "conspiracy theorist and gadfly" and implying I file too many Open Records requests, a view shared by the unaccountable officials whose misdeeds we expose.

Sutton balks at printing a column on official oppression that mentions Sheriff DAVID SHOAR is under FBI investigation. Record reporters have known about that since 2014.

Sutton graduated Flagler College in the early 1970s, working under racist ex-Record Publisher A. H. "Hoppy" Tebeault, a Flagler College Vice President who supervised and censored the Gargoyle, sometimes destroying an entire monthly issue and throwing the layout sheets in the trash. Tebeault's Record printed advance notices of KKK meetings, printed the name and address of African-American children desegregating local schools, resulting in violence, firebombings, firings, unemployment and blacklisting. So much for being pro-family.

In 2014, Sutton was arrested and pled guilty to charges involving drinking and taking Ambien, hitting a telephone poll and a mailbox, and driving off with a man who attempted to stop him on the hood of his car.

Has his plea deal ruined his objectivity?

Is that why he refuses to run a column on SHOAR and official oppression, attacks activists and defends crooks like ex-Mayor JOE BOLES?

Sutton badly needs a referral to a good neurology professor at the University of Florida, a sleep study, an ethics refresher course and a sabbatical.


Before he commits more journalistic malpractice.

Sutton should not attack activists -- Margo Pope and Peter Ellis praised activists, while Sutton insults them.

Sutton should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," and not the other way around.

Sutton should know that Lincolnville is not in West Augustine.

Prima facie evidence of his cognitive impairment is the following letter, and Sutton's louche response:

Letter: Sutton needs a compass
Sutton needs a compass
Posted: April 25, 2016 - 8:49pm

By Marty Lewis
Sutton needs a compass

Editor: I am amazed that, as someone who knows the city well Jim Sutton, that he placee the new Preserved restaurant in West Augustine. Jeez, Lincolnville is the locale! The water mains are in West Augustine but not this new eating place.

St. Augustine

Opinion Page Editor’s note: Marty is correct. I thought business was within located within the West Augustine Community Development Area. It is not.

Coverups Customary in The St. Augustine Record?

"Coverups never work." Senator Howard Henry Baker, Jr., during Watergate

Ten years ago, the Record refused for multiple months to cover the City's dumping a landfill in a lake, even after the State of Florida sent a Notice of Violation. I broke the story in print, in The Collective Press (St. Augustine) and my column in Out in the City (Jacksonville).

The Record finally got around to covering it, even though it perpetually referred to the Old City Reservoir as "a water-filled borrow pit" -- in the words of former EPA Regional Administrator John Henry Hankinson, it was "an open sore going straight down to the aquifer and the groundwater. And when the City burghers and FDEP cooked up a deal to move the 2000 truckloads of contaminated solid waste back to Lincolnville, the Record supported them. We, the People stopped them. The contaminated solid waste is now in Nassau County landfill.

The Record refuses to report that Sheriff DAVID SHOAR is under FBI investigation?  Why? that

The Record refuses to report that Sheriff SHOAR has been sued by Rick Sheldon for wrongful death and civil rigths violations in the shooting of his wife. Why?

The Record refuses to report that the Sheriff's false, malicious charges of trespassing against Jeffrey Marcus Gray (carrying a picket sign on a sidewalk) were dismissed on April 25th by the State's Atorney's office? Why?

In bed with Sheriff SHOAR?

Too much ca$h from developers and government agencies?

The Record for a week has refused to report that all charges against activist-videographer-journalist Jeffrey Marcus Gray have been dropped?


You tell me.

Public Comment on ALL Agenda Items at St. Augustine City Commission, please.

Excellent column by Stephen Cottrell in today's St. Augustine Record, agreeing with the simple request for equal access to public comment on all agenda items, as at St. Johns County Commission, St. Augustine Beach City Commission, Anastasia Mosquito Control Commission of St. Johns County, etc.:

Steve Cottrell - Public occurrences:
St. Augustine still stifles public input
Posted: May 1, 2016 - 7:31pm | Updated: May 2, 2016 - 12:00am

Every so often a public official says something that pleasantly surprises me, and that was certainly the case when Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline made a particularly refreshing comment during the April 24 St. Augustine City Commission meeting.

Following an informative presentation that outlined a pending citywide mobility study, Sikes-Kline said how pleased she was that Littlejohn Engineering & Associates, the folks hired to conduct the study, were recommending a citizen task force be created to help identify local mobility issues — to include traffic, parking, events, flooding and other items affecting this community’s livability.

“I’m very delighted to hear that you’re making a recommendation to have a task force,” Sikes-Kline told Littlejohn representative Joel Graeff. “I think it will make sense for us, because citizens will be involved instead of politicians.

It will actually be the people involved in the community, and that’s a good way to work.”

Wow! A public official applauding public participation. That’s great.

But if public involvement is so important, why was discussion of the proposed mobility study — an agenda item that lasted for more than an hour — not open to public input?

Yes, residents could have addressed the study at the beginning of the meeting during the public comment period, in advance of the presentation, but I believe they should have been able to share their thoughts with commissioners after consultants and city staff had completed their presentations and commissioners had offered their own comments and asked their own questions.

Why do commissioners keep insisting they want greater involvement of residents, but conduct their meetings with a policy that restricts what they claim they want? It makes no sense.

Later, during the April 24 meeting, commissioners discussed a proposed 10-year extension for development of the long-delayed Sebastian Inland Harbor project bordered by Riberia Street to the east, the distillery to the south and San Sebastian River to the west.

Modifying the existing agreement in order to give the developer a 2027 completion date requires an enabling ordinance.

A first reading of that ordinance was held, but no public input was allowed during the commission discussion. Public input, if there is to be any, will be allowed only at the second reading.

But if that input leads to substantive changes in the proposed ordinance language, it will be necessary to rewrite the ordinance and then conduct another first and second reading.

Staff did an excellent job explaining pros and cons of granting the extension, but maybe neighbors and nearby business owners would have had something to add to the discussion after hearing staff’s report and commission questions.

Maybe they would have had their own questions of staff: maybe even a worthwhile suggestion or two.

After staff’s presentation, Commissioner Leanna Freeman said, “I look forward to discussing it after we’ve heard public comment, and after we’ve had a full discussion of it.”

She went on to say, “I feel a little uncomfortable jumping into to the meat of it until we’ve heard from the public, so I’m inclined to move this on to a second reading.”

As mentioned above, however, if substantive changes result from residents’ input during the second reading’s public hearing, the ordinance will need to be modified — followed by a new first reading and second reading.

So what’s my point, you ask?

My point is that the city commission needs to start embracing public input on all agenda items. It needs to actively (and sincerely) engage the public while items are being discussed and decisions being made.

Waiting until a second reading of an ordinance for public input is, in my opinion, bad government policy.

And not taking any resident input whatsoever during the business portion of a meeting, unless it is legally required for a public hearing, is also bad government policy.

I know, I know — increased public input will mean longer meetings and allow certain people to go to the microphone more often than some commissioners might like, but so what?

If longer meetings pose a burden to any current commissioners, or to anyone planning to run for the office later this year, maybe they should find another way to contribute to the community.

Maybe they could volunteer for the citizen-based mobility task force.

Contact Cottrell at

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Record Omits List of Campaign Contributors: Why?

Who gave orders to stop listing all campaign contributions in The St. Augustine Record? An FBI tape of developers several years ago revealed that they had convinced the Record to stop scrutinizing Commissioners' contributions. This stinks.

Outside money a big factor in St. Johns County Commission race
Posted: May 1, 2016 - 11:21pm | Updated: May 2, 2016 - 2:52am

With the primary election just months away, many St. Johns County races are heating up as campaign coffers continue to expand and candidates drop in and out.

Up for grabs are three seats on the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners. If campaign donor lists are a reliable indicator, the big countywide issue will once again be growth and everything that comes with it.

Contributions to candidates for county offices are capped at $1,000, except for those coming from political parties or affiliated party committees.

Commissioner Jimmy Johns of District 1, representing much of the fast-growing northwest part of the county, is currently running unopposed but has nonetheless raised $69,800 and spent $4,480.

Financial reports on the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections website show Jacksonville- and Ponte Vedra Beach-based developers, attorneys, real estate firms and consultants are among his most generous donor groups.

Of the 101 donors listed in Johns’ financial reports, 71 provided addresses outside St. Johns County, the majority of which were in Jacksonville.

Commissioner Rachael Bennett on Feb. 29 withdrew from the race for her District 5 seat, which represents much of the St. Augustine area up to International Golf Parkway.

Bennett cited personal reasons relating to her family, health and future for her decision, but left behind a considerable war chest of campaign funding.

According to finance reports, Bennett’s campaign received $31,120 in monetary contributions and spent $7,179.14.

Among her most generous donor groups were civil engineers and silviculture and investment firms, many of which provided Jacksonville addresses, as well as five St. Augustine-based real estate businesses providing an address at 77 Almeria St.

Vicky Oakes, supervisor of elections for the county, said Bennett can prorate and return the unspent money to contributors, donate the funds to a charitable organization or nonprofit, give not more than $25,000 to the Republican Party or give the money to the county’s general fund.

Bennett did not return a call for comment Friday.

Running for her seat are Dottie Acosta, a former top official at the St. Johns County Property Appraiser’s Office; Henry Dean, former head of the St. Johns River Water Management District; and Jake Riley, a data analyst.

Most of Acosta’s $5,950.61 raised has come out of her own pocket. The Republican candidate has spent $5,383.21 so far.

Dean, who filed to run as a Republican on Feb. 25, has raised $31,350 and spent $3,025. Much of his support has come from St. Johns- and Jacksonville-based real estate and investment firms.

Of the 53 donors listed in his financial reports, at least 30 provided addresses outside St. Johns County.

Riley has raised $5,054, all coming out of his own pocket. He has spent $33.84.

Filing on Jan. 20 as a Republican, he has since changed over to a non-party candidate.

Oakes said Acosta and Dean will face each other in the Aug. 30 primary and that the winner move on to the Nov. 8 general election to face Riley.

Republican Rose Bailey, a former bank vice president, withdrew from the District 5 race on April 4, having raised $10 of her own money.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Bill McClure on April 13 filed to run for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican is aiming to replace Rep. Ander Crenshaw, who represents Florida’s 4th Congressional District, recently announced he would not seek re-election. McClure is in the final year of his first term as a county commissioner, the first elective office he’s held.

The 4th district was redrawn last year and includes parts of Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties. McClure and his wife own homes in both Duval and St. Johns counties, and McClure says he has ties to each represented county.

In running for the County Commission spot, McClure did not seek campaign donations and conducted more what he called a grassroots campaign.

Vying for McClure’s District 3 seat, which represents the southeast part of St. Johns County, are former assistant county administrator Jerry Cameron and Paul M. Waldron. Both filed as Republicans.

Cameron possesses the largest campaign cashbox in the commission race, with $79,980 raised and $9,909.82 spent. His support is the among the most varied of local candidates, with civil engineers, real estate and investment firms, attorneys and consultants donating alongside retirees and other residents.

Of the 144 donors making monetary contributions to Cameron’s campaign, 77 provided St. Johns County addresses, with the rest of the 67 contributors providing mainly Jacksonville addresses.

Waldron, in the meantime, has raised $14,010 and spent $11,689.05.

Of his 59 donors making monetary contributions, all but seven provided St. Augustine addresses. A variety of support came from car dealers, insurers, home builders, RV parks and retirees.

Oakes said McClure would have to drop out of the U.S. House race in order to jump into the race for his own seat. She said no one can be counted out of the race until noon June 24, which marks the end of the qualifying period.

As of Saturday, there were 165,354 active registered St. Johns County voters, with 87,807 identifying as Republicans, 39,318 as Democrats and 38,229 as unaffiliated.


Morris1 05/02/16 - 12:11 am 40Why do you suppose....
... there's so much real estate money flowing towards the elected officials who control our real estate regulations?

sponger2 05/02/16 - 07:39 am 10Hasn't it become time...
Hasn't t it become time to begin cleaning up this process by legislating the end of out of county contributors to campaigns within St Johns County? I know it can be done, and I know it won't completely solve the problem because these folks are snakes, but it would be a place to start and build on.

Do we really want out of town or out of state interests to determine our growth future? They don't live here so we know they don't give a rats azz, they just want to cash in and leave us with the mess, and I think even the most simple among us can see that.

It's time we sent a message to get (and stay) out of our affairs. They have done enough damage already, and I would recommend voting for those who ONLY accept donations from in county, non real estate/developer motivated contributors. It's the only way to not replace one developer puppet with another developer puppet, and make no mistake, puppets they are. If we don't, it's only going to be more of the same, except faster and with more dire consequence

Televise and Archive May 18-20, 2016 County Budget Meeting

St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners persists in violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sunshine law expectations, repeatedly holding meetings that are not televised or archived on video in inconvenient times and places.

Why does St. Johns County, Florida insist on holding some County Commission meetings and many board meetings offline, untelevised, without cable tv or life streaming video or archives? Why are nearly all meetings during the daytime? Asking Commissioners to hold televised Budget Hearings May 18-20, 2016 to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sunshine law. Is that too much to ask? It's our money.

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin
To: mwanchick ; pmccormack ; bcc1jjohns ; bcc2jsmith ; bccd3 ; bccd4 ; bccd5
Subject: ADA Reasonable Accommodation and Sunshine Law Request on St. Johns County Budget Hearings May 18-20, 2016; Request No. 2016-175

Dear Chairman Smith, County Commissioners and Messrs. Wanchick and McCormack:
1. Please assure that there is live streaming internet, live cable TV video and archived video of the May 18-20, 2016 Budget Hearing of the St. Johns County Commission.
2. Why is the important annual budget meeting not being held at the County Commission Auditorium?  Please explain and provide documents.
3. This is a request for reasonable accommodation pursuant to ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and for using best available technology to comply with reasonable expectation of probity under Florida's Sunshine laws, enacted pursuant to Article I, Section 24, Fla. Constitution by vote of 3.8 million people (83% of voters) in 1992.
4. Please honor your duties under your constitutional oath, pursuant to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, to "support, protect and defend the Constitution and laws…."
5. Please send all documents concerning this and my prior ADA and Sunshine requests to open all public meetings to public scrutiny via live streaming video and archived video. 
6. St. Johns County has a custom, usage, practice and procedure violating First Amendment rights by holding BCC and Board meetings at the most inconvenient times and places,  so that we won't be able to go and discuss government actions, just as our Founders complained in the Declaration of Independence (1776), listing the offensives against democracy of King George III.  
7. Why do you hold meetings that are not televised?   Please explain and provide documents.
8. Why are virtually all of your meetings during the workday?   Please explain and provide documents.Please call me to discuss.

Thank you.
With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

On Oct 20, 2015, at 3:32 PM, "" <> wrote:

Dear Priscilla, Mike, Pat and all:
1. Thank you for listening and for halting Priscilla's ill-advised plans to force the City of St. Augustine Beach to attend an illegal meeting.
2. When were any of you people planning to let the public know?
3. Does being County Commission Chair Priscilla Bennett or Administrator Michael Wanchick "mean never having to say you're sorry?"
4. Please cease and desist holding meetings that are not televised and otherwise ADA-accessible.
5. Why was our October 13, 2015 St. Johns County legislative delegation meeting never televised or archived on GTV, as it was in the past?  Shut-ins are unable to view that meeting. Why?
It's our money.
Thank you.
Ed Slavin

-----Original Message-----
From: Max Royle <>
To: easlavin <>
Sent: Tue, Oct 20, 2015 1:37 pm
Subject: FW: Joint Meeting between SJC BCC & City of St. Aug Beach Commission

In response to your recent inquiry.
From: Laura Taylor []
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 11:21 AM
To: Max Royle
Cc: Comm Samuels; 'Doug Burnett ('; Joy Andrews; Michael Wanchick; Diane Lehmann; Linda Darty; Darrell Locklear; Betty Dixon; Thomas Filloramo; Yvonne King; Patrick McCormack; Melissa Lundquist; Lauren Ferro
Subject: Joint Meeting between SJC BCC & City of St. Aug Beach Commission
Please be advised that the Joint Meeting between SJCBCC and City of St. Augustine Beach Commission that was scheduled for Monday, October 26th will be rescheduled to later date.  We will be happy to work with the St Aug Beach City Manager’s office to find a date and location that we can mutually agree upon for a future Joint meeting.
Thanks for your cooperation!
Laura S. Taylor
St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners
Assistant to the County Administrator
Office of the County Administrator
Phone:  904.209.0533 | Fax  904.209.0534
-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin <>
To: mwanchick <>; pmccormack <>; bcc1jjohns <>; bcc2jsmith <>; bccd3 <>; bccd4 <>; bccd5 <>; mlundquist <>; bjihaad <>; tfilloramo <>; dlocklear <>
Sent: Tue, Oct 20, 2015 1:23 pm
Subject: Re: County Must Cease and Desist Sunshine and Constitutional Rights Violations: Joint County-City of SAB Meeting Must Be Televised In County Auditorium, Not Away From Cameras in Outbuilding Conference Room

Please respond -- still not on our SJC BCC meeting calendar.  Why?

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin <>
To: mwanchick <>; pmccormack <>; bcc1jjohns <>; bcc2jsmith <>; bccd3 <>; bccd4 <>; bccd5 <>; mlundquist <>; bjihaad <>; tfilloramo <>; dlocklear <>
Cc: dburnett <>; mroyle <>; comasamuels Sent: Fri, Oct 16, 2015 4:10 pm
Subject: Re: County Must Cease and Desist Sunshine and Constitutional Rights Violations: Joint County-City of SAB Meeting Must Be Televised In County Auditorium, Not Away From Cameras in Outbuilding Conference Room

There is no public notice of any kind on the County Commission website for any meeting with the City of St. Augustine Beach on October 26, 2015 at 9 AM.  

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin <>
To: mwanchick <>; pmccormack <>; bcc1jjohns <>; bcc2jsmith <>; bccd3 <>; bccd4 <>; bccd5 <>; mlundquist <>; bjihaad <>; tfilloramo <>; dlocklear <>
Sent: Fri, Oct 16, 2015 11:49 am
Subject: County Must Cease and Desist Sunshine and Constitutional Rights Violations: Joint County-City of SAB Meeting Must Be Televised In County Auditorium, Not Away From Cameras in Outbuilding Conference Room

Dear Chair Bennett, et al.:
1. Please cease and desist your tentative plans to hold the October 26, 2015 County-City of St. Augustine Beach joint meeting outside the Sunshine, in an out-building conference room, instead of televised on GTV, in the County Administration Building Auditorium, the only place where it is legal for St. Augustine Beach City Commission to meet with you under F.S. 166.0213 and SAB's October 5, 2015 resolution authorizing the joint meeting.  
2. Background: the City of St. Augustine Beach City Attorney, Mr. Douglas Nelson Burnett, researched my concerns about F.S. 286.  
3. Thus, Mr. Burnett prepared a responsive resolution, which was unanimously enacted with my support October 5, 2015 pursuant to a 2014 Florida statute governing out-of-town meetings: it states that the meeting will be in the Auditorium of the County Administration Building at 500 Sebastian View.  
4. You may view the proceedings one hour and twenty minutes into the October 5, 2015 SAB Commission meeting on the City of St. Augustine Beach website here:
5. The SAB resolution is mandatory under F.S. 166.0213; any deviation is unauthorized by statutory and constitutional law. Prior City and St. Augustine Beach and City of St. Augustine meetings outside City limits without such a resolution were illegal, ultra vires and unconstitutional. 
6. The County Auditorium was specified by the October 5, 2015 SAB Commission resolution. Any other proposed location is unauthorized by the resolution and violates the resolution and therefore F.S. 166.0213, F.S. 286, and Florida Const. Article VIII, 2c.
7. Commission Chairman PRISCILLA ("RACHAEL") BENNETT' (a/k/a "The Muse" on The St. Augustine Record website) reported alleged remarks about the Commission's meeting room being "too formal" for the joint meeting betray once again her desire to violate Sunshine laws and her attempt to inflict her corporate background upon our governments, to the detriment of transparency.
8.  Enough.  No more shady un-televised County Commission meetings are desired are required.  
9. The public interest in development decisions outweighs Ms. Bennett's desire for a "less formal" setting -- this is our government, not a St. Johns County Republican club social meeting or a tea for government contractors, developers  foreign investors,  secretive Limited Liability Companies, and their ilk.
10. In the words of my late Irish-Bavarian grandmother, kindly "drop the oyster and leave the wharf."  
Please govern yourselves accordingly and herein faileth not.
Thank you.
Ed Slavin

-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Reynolds <>
To: Ed Slavin <>
Sent: Fri, Oct 16, 2015 10:33 am
Subject: Fw: Joint County City Meeting

Update with notice sent to Beach City Commissioners.
On Friday, October 16, 2015 10:27 AM, Tom Reynolds <> wrote:

On Tuesday, October 13, 2015 4:39 PM, Patrick McCormack <> wrote:

Hi Tom,
The proposed date/location are:
Monday, October 26, 2015 9:00 AM-12:00 PM.
HHS Bldg (Health & Human Services) - Muscovy Conf Room (1st Floor)
Patrick F. McCormack
County Attorney
St. Johns County
500 San Sebastian View
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
(904)209-0805 office
(904)209-0806 fax

County evasive on $140 pair of scissors

County must be canid about $140 pair of scissors. Symbol of lavish spending by all-Republican St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners' fraud, waste, abuse, misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, flummery, dupery, nincompoopery and no-bid contracts.  Like Boss Tweed and Boss J. Michael Curley, their sins have found them out.  Help expose these wastrels.

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin
To: mwanchick ; pmccormack ; bcc1jjohns ; bcc2jsmith ; bccd3 ; bccd4 ; bccd5 ; coc ; arimel
Sent: Sun, May 1, 2016 4:00 pm
Subject: Request No. 2016-94: Large pair of $140 ceremonial scissors in photograph: invoice, bid invitation, purchase order, manager request and justification for

Please respond.
Please make the $140 pair of ceremonial scissors available for inspection and public comment during the 5/3/2016 BCC meeting.
Has an investigation been opened yet on waste, fraud and abuse?

-----Original Message-----
From: easlavin <>
To: arimel <>
Cc: dlehmann <>; rross <>; pmccormack <>; Sent: Mon, Mar 14, 2016 3:42 pm
Subject: Re: Request No. 2016-94: Large pair of $140 ceremonial scissors in photograph: invoice, bid invitation, purchase order, manager request and justification for

No bids, research, request, requisition? Does county not have scissors in inventory?  Did someone swipe them?

-----Original Message-----
From: Asha Rimel <>
To: easlavin <>
Cc: Diane Lehmann <>; Regina Ross <>; Patrick McCormack <>; Michael Wanchick <>; Judy Hamilton <>; Betty Dixon <>
Sent: Mon, Mar 14, 2016 2:38 pm
Subject: RE: Request No. 2016-94: Large pair of $140 ceremonial scissors in photograph: invoice, bid invitation, purchase order, manager request and justification for

Dear Mr. Slavin:
After a reasonable search the County has found no records responsive to your request.
Thank you,
Asha Rimel
Office of County Attorney
St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners
500 San Sebastian View
St. Augustine, FL  32084
Phone: 904.209.0812 | Fax:  904.209.0806

Email: | Web:   P please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to.
PLEASE NOTEFlorida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners and employees regarding public business are public records available to the public and media through a request. Your e-mail communications may be subject to public disclosure.
From: []
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2016 11:44 AM
To: Asha Rimel <>; Michael Wanchick <>
Cc: Diane Lehmann <>; Regina Ross <>; Patrick McCormack <>
Subject: Re: Request No. 2016-94: Large pair of $140 ceremonial scissors in photograph: invoice, bid invitation, purchase order, manager request and justification for
Why were they ordered?  Who requested?  Where are they kept?  In what department? Please provide inventory and requisition records and cost justification.  Thanks.
-----Original Message-----
From: Asha Rimel <
To: '' <>
Cc: Diane Lehmann <>; Regina Ross <>; Patrick McCormack <>
Sent: Mon, Mar 14, 2016 9:40 am
Subject: RE: Request No. 2016-94: Large pair of ceremonial scissors in photograph: invoice, bid invitation, purchase order, manager request and justification for
Dear Mr. Slavin:
Attached are responsive records to your public records request.  If any other responsive documents are identified, they will be provided to you under separate cover.  If you have any further requests, please let me know.
Thank you,
Asha Rimel
Office of County Attorney
St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners
500 San Sebastian View
St. Augustine, FL  32084
Phone: 904.209.0812 | Fax:  904.209.0806

Email: | Web:   P please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to.
PLEASE NOTEFlorida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners and employees regarding public business are public records available to the public and media through a request. Your e-mail communications may be subject to public disclosure.
From: Asha Rimel
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 11:55 AM
To: '
' <>
Cc: Diane Lehmann <>; Regina Ross <>; Patrick McCormack <>
Subject: RE: Request No. 2016-94: Large pair of ceremonial scissors in photograph: invoice, bid invitation, purchase order, manager request and justification 
Dear Mr. Slavin:
I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your public records request. St. Johns County will determine if it has any records that are responsive to your request. If any such records are located, we will compile them and redact any exempt material prior to providing them to you. Should it be determined that the nature or volume of the public records requested requires the extensive use of information technology resources, or extensive clerical or supervisory assistance, or both, then we will first respond with an estimate of the additional charges for the actual costs incurred, and whether a deposit will be required. In such instance, the records will be compiled only after you approve the charges and the County receives any required deposit. Payment for the total or remaining costs can be made when the records are available. If the actual cost is less than your deposit, you will be refunded the balance.
Thank you,
Asha Rimel
Office of County Attorney
St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners
500 San Sebastian View
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Phone: 904.209.0812 | Fax: 904.209.0806

Email: | Web: P please don't print this e-mail unless you really need to.
PLEASE NOTEFlorida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners and employees regarding public business are public records available to the public and media through a request. Your e-mail communications may be subject to public disclosure.
From: []
Sent: Friday, March 11, 2016 10:30 AM
To: Michael Wanchick; Patrick McCormack
Subject: Request No. 2016-94: Large pair of ceremonial scissors in photograph: invoice, bid invitation, purchase order, manager request and justification.  

Please send. Thank you.


Chamber of Commerce: pro-fraud, anti-whistleblower

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying to gut the False Claims Act qui tam whistleblower provisions, seeking to prevent whistleblowefrs from exposing corporate theft from our governments and to halt expansion of state False Claims Act. Every member of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce should object, cancel their membership, or hold their head in shame. What crooked schnooks comprise the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hiding behind the skirts of millions of deluded small business people. Sick.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Corrupt NY Politicians Imprisoned Reflect: NYT

As the FBI investigation into St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's political machine continues (ignored for months by The St. Augustine Record), big shot crooks contemplating their future will want to read the article in the print edition of the May 1, 2016 New York Times, here:

Shirley L. Huntley, a former New York state senator from Queens, spent 10 months in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. CreditUli Seit for The New York Times 

Down the hall came Inmate No. 78764-053, a fist of a man diminished by the loss of the $2,500 suit and the $800 shoes he had just been forced to exchange for a jumpsuit, following a guard to his cell.
First night in federal prison, and he was already headed to solitary confinement, his case too notorious for him to mingle safely with the others. He remembers the cell being clammy and dark. It made him think of Rikers Island, where his father had been held after being arrested when Pedro was 11. But this was a few grades higher: the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a windowless cage looming over the East River.
From the next cell came a voice, pricking him out of his numbness:
“Hey, Espada! Hang in there. You’re the senator, right?” the voice said. “My mother voted for you.”
Senator, he was: Pedro Espada Jr., once the third-most powerful man in New York State. And “senator” he remains — even today, three years into a five-year sentence for stealing money from a nonprofit.
There are a lot of “senators” in America’s federal prisons these days. In May, three more corrupt New York State lawmakers are expected to join the jumpsuited ranks, three more cautionary tales from a State Legislature with no apparent shortage of them.
There is Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and former Assembly speaker, who was convicted of abusing his office in return for nearly $4 million in kickbacks. There is Dean G. Skelos, a Republican and former Senate majority leader, who was found guilty of selling official favors for payments and jobs for his son. Convicted last fall in overlapping trials that sent Albany into upheaval, the two men are to be sentenced within 10 days of each other in May, with Mr. Silver’s sentencing scheduled first, on Tuesday.
And then there is John L. Sampson, all but eclipsed by the convictions of Mr. Silver and Mr. Skelos, who led the Senate Democrats for three and a half years. Mr. Sampson was convicted last year of trying to thwart an investigation into allegations that he had embezzled state funds. He is to be sentenced on May 19.
Like many of those convicted before them, Mr. Silver, Mr. Skelos and Mr. Sampson have asked for minimal or no prison time. Prosecutors, sentencing guidelines and recent history suggest they should not expect any leniency.
If interviews with four former lawmakers — two currently incarcerated and two who have been released — are a guide, the three men are in for a prolonged humbling. Their former colleagues tell of spiritual awakenings, physical survival and mental toughening. But what figures largest in these personal narratives — what they say has sustained them throughout — is the belief that they were wrongly prosecuted.
Contrition? What for?
Outside, their names are synonymous with scandal. Inside, they command a measure of respect.
“I have a title for life,” said Efraín González Jr., a Democrat and former state senator from the Bronx who was convicted in 2009 and spent almost six years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J., before being released in February. “I introduced myself as Efraín. But they called me senator.”
With the expected arrivals of Mr. Skelos, Mr. Silver and Mr. Sampson, there will be at least nine former members of the New York State Legislature in the federal prison system. Nine more were released over the last few years. One, facing terminal cancer, is under house arrest. Another died in prison.
“I laugh at all those who turned up their nose at me,” said Shirley L. Huntley, a former state senator from Queens who spent 10 months in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. — the institution on which the women’s prison in “Orange Is the New Black” is based — after pleading guilty in 2013 to stealing more than $87,000 in taxpayer money through a nonprofit she ran. “Now look where they’re at. They’re in worse shape.”

John L. Sampson, Sheldon Silver and Dean G. Skelos, all former state lawmakers who have been convicted of crimes, will be sentenced in May.CreditFrom left: Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times; Seth Wenig, via Associated Press; Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times 

Puffing on an e-cigarette in her living room in Queens, the same room where she once secretly recorded seven of her colleagues for the authorities, she went down the list. Friends. Enemies. Allies. Idiots.
Then came the kiss-off, bile tempered with a laugh.
“You can tell all the other crooks I say hey!”

‘Too Consumed’ With Power

Mr. Espada prefers a new honorific: prison abolitionist.
Some facts before going further: Before all this happened, he had run for office about a dozen times, losing more often than he won. He had shaken a swarm of investigations and one indictment before succumbing to a second. He had risen from poverty to become the highest-ranking Latino in New York State government — and, briefly and under bizarre circumstances, the third-most powerful man in the state — but only after single-handedly bringing the Senate to a standstill and making Albany a national laughingstock in the process. He once tried to hide from a television reporter by putting on an orange ski cap and using a baby to shield his face.
On a recent morning at the Metropolitan Detention Center, sitting in a plastic chair in an airless, glassed-in booth in what resembled a large hospital waiting room — minus the televisions, the pastel watercolor paintings, the magazines and the windows — Mr. Espada seemed shorn of the grandiloquence that those in Albany had come to know so well over the two decades of his singularly unruly political career.
No more ego, he promised — or not as much, anyway. No more referring to himself, without irony, as Hurricane Espada. He said he was devoting his life to reforming America’s prisons.
Continue reading the main story
He had seen, he said, how prison devastates lives and families instead of rehabilitating inmates. He had seen prisoners released, only to return within months, unable to cope in a society that no longer wanted much to do with them.
He had been studying the mass-incarceration literature: Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow;” Harvey A. Silverglate’s “Three Felonies a Day;” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Prison,” by Jeff Smith, a former Missouri state legislator. Mr. Espada said that only violent offenders, people like murderers and rapists, should be in prison, and that others should be forced to serve their communities. Of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver, Mr. Espada said, “Anybody that would want to put them in jail for 10 or 15 years should spend a weekend in here and think whether that’s necessary. It wouldn’t pay back the people they harmed.”
He avoided addressing the victims of his own crimes. Mr. Espada, a Democrat, was convicted in 2012 of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit health care clinics he ran in his Bronx district when he was a state senator. He spent the spoils on sushi, parties, spa treatments and a Bentley. Then he got caught.

‘This Is Our New Existence’

In the years since, there have been 16 months of no daylight and no fresh air, and before that nearly a year of not seeing his family. And before that, a 10-week stint in solitary confinement after he stepped over the property line at the Federal Correctional Institution in Schuylkill, Pa., one of three prisons where he has spent the past three years. All in all, a thorough humiliation.
“I know that I was too consumed with the search for personal power,” he said. “I know that I was too consumed with materialistic things.” He gestured at his khaki jumpsuit, his shiny white sneakers. “Now, I don’t miss any of that,” he said. “I’m used to living on $300 a month.”
His time at Schuylkill overlapped briefly with that of Larry B. Seabrook, a former city councilman from the Bronx who is serving five years for corruption. But neither felt much like talking shop.
“This is our new existence,” Mr. Espada said. “We’re thinking about how to fit in.”
At Fort Dix, his third stop, he said he learned how the other inmates made prison hooch out of sugar and candy distilled in the bathroom, each six-ounce bottle going for $40, and where they bought cellphones and drugs. Once back at the detention center in Brooklyn, he learned to get his protein from canned tuna, eggs and peanut butter bought at the commissary, and to relish microwave meals of commissary mackerel, chicken, pork sausage and rice. Once a professional brawler, he learned to avoid confrontation. (There have been a few close calls, even so.)
He learned to sleep through the noise of 100 other men snoring and going to the bathroom and working out and watching television, so he can wake up at 4:30 a.m. to lift weights. To survive solitary confinement by running in place until he was exhausted. To love God, about whom he had not thought all that much for many years. To keep busy with Bible study and a biweekly book club. To cherish every visit with his wife, who has visited him each weekend, even though touching is restricted and they have had to sit side by side, knees facing forward, rationing their two kisses and hugs.
Continue reading the main story

Efraín González Jr., a Democrat and former state senator from the Bronx who was convicted in 2009, spent almost six years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J. He was released in February and is now back home in the Bronx. CreditEdwin J. Torres for The New York Times 
He learned about small satisfactions, like when eight of the students in the G.E.D. class he teaches every afternoon recently passed their test. They call him “Professor.”
Professor Espada takes pride in teaching nearly illiterate men to read, in counseling younger inmates, and in helping others work through their cases in the library.
Senator Espada sits here unchastened, boasting of the “political revolution” he once led — same as Bernie Sanders, he said. Senator Espada is the one planning to tear down a bad system from the inside out. The one insisting he was framed.

‘I Didn’t Steal the Money’

If they have one thing in common, these Albany alumni, it is this: They refuse to be expunged from the rolls of the innocent.
“It doesn’t weigh on me that there’s this opinion of me, because it’s not true,” said William F. Boyland Jr., a Democrat who represented Brownsville in the Assembly. He is serving a 14-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pa., a five-hour drive out to the western part of the state, after being convicted of bribery in 2014.
It is a recurring theme.
“I don’t have that thing where I’m a criminal, so I’m smiling,” said Mr. González, who spent much of a four-hour interview at his Bronx apartment outlining, in baroque detail, all the ways he said he had been railroaded by prosecutors, the judge and even his own lawyer. (Before he left prison, he said, his fellow inmates told him, “You’re safer here with the homies. The billionaires will put out a contract on you. They don’t like you, ’cause you tell it like it is.”)
“I did not steal money from Soundview or from anybody,” said Mr. Espada, referring to the health care network he ran. He had not received a fair trial, he said; he would have continued to contest the charges had he not run out of resources and the will to subject his family to what he described as further pain.
“Maybe I didn’t spend the money right, but I didn’t steal the money,” said Ms. Huntley, who suggested that she had been the victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by old enemies in Albany. Besides, she added, as if this would mitigate things, the actions in question had occurred before she entered the Senate.
In a more reflective moment, Ms. Huntley said she could not bring herself to move on.
“Some people say, let it go,” she said. “I don’t know how to let stuff go. I don’t want to die being known as, what’s the word all the newspapers used? ‘Disgraced senator.’”
She said she wanted to be treated “just as a person. Just use my name. I’m not saying you’ve got to make me sound like I’m great. You all call me disgraced, but in my mind, I’m not disgraced.”
In this season of high-profile corruption cases, few phrases have dominated discourse in the State Capitol like ethics reform. Yet Mr. Boyland, Mr. Espada, Mr. González and Ms. Huntley had little to say on the subject. If anything, they suggested, they and their colleagues had been punished simply for doing things the Albany way.
“I wouldn’t say they were crooks. Everybody does all that,” Mr. González said of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver. “It’s, ‘I help you, you help me.’ So what is that? Politics.”
Mr. Boyland was asked if he would endorse any of the reforms his former colleagues have discussed this session, including closing a campaign-finance loophole and banning outside income for legislators.

Former New York lawmakers Pedro Espada Jr., William Boyland Jr. and Larry Seabrook have spent time in federal prisons.CreditFrom left: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times; Ozier Muhammad, via The New York Times; Hiroko Masuike, via The New York Times 

He smiled.
“I can’t endorse anything now,” he said.

On ‘This Side of the Table’

A day begins at Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto. A former monastery on a hilltop, it would resemble a high school campus were it not for the rings of concertina wire that surround it.
Mr. Boyland is awake at 6:30 to meditate before going to work on the facilities team. (Mr. González, too, was initially assigned a job assisting a plumber, but, by his own account, was deemed more of a burden than a help.) Mr. Boyland runs around the track. He lifts weights. Without the constant nag of his cellphone, without the late, indulgent Albany dinners, he is, he said, the healthiest and most focused he has ever been.
To other inmates, he introduces himself as Will. But he lives with men from New York, even some familiar with his old district. There is a Boyland Street in Brownsville, named for his uncle, who once held the same Assembly seat.
“You the same guy?” the inmates ask.
Amid the chaos of this year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Boyland said, he is in demand as a political analyst. “All. The. Time,” he said, flashing a smile.
Some of the queries have a more local bent: “What’s going on with Cuomo and de Blasio?” he has been asked, referring to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, combatants in a never-ending intrastate quarrel. “They’re both Democrats, so what’s the beef about?”
He passes the rest of the day with religious services, Bible study, work on his legal appeal and reading. He is taking classes in Spanish (because of the Spanish-speaking constituents in his old district), small-business skills (just in case) and crocheting (hats, mostly).
He has almost finished James Redfield’s “The Celestine Prophecy,” which he described as a science-fiction novel about the spiritual journey of a wrongly imprisoned man. He said he could relate.
From afar, he tries to raise his 13-year-old son, who is back in Brooklyn. He was the hardest thing to leave behind.
Albany, he does not miss. It was serving his constituents, he said, that he loved.
“I wasn’t used to being on this side of the table,” he said, indicating the round visitors’ room table where he sat across from a reporter. “I was the one visiting to bring help. I’m usually on that side of the table.”
They watch the evening news and read the New York City papers, eavesdropping on a world that has tried to delete them from its memory.
Even so, what lies beyond the prison walls has begun to seem abstract — fuzzy around the edges.
When Mr. Espada was in solitary confinement at Schuylkill, he was allowed one hour a day to go outside, shackled and cuffed. He always went, no matter the weather.
“An opportunity to experience daylight, sunlight, rain hitting your head — it’s as basic as that,” he said, his voice softening. “I said to myself, I would never complain about the elements again, because I loved it when the rain hit my head, when it was cold.”
Then the man who was once the third-most powerful in New York State gathered himself, pivoting back to the pitch. He was the better for surviving this, he said. Not that it was about him; it was about those far less fortunate than him, who would carry this scarlet letter the rest of their lives. He had promised them he would fight for them, for reform, and he would.
He would never give up. There was a reason they still called him the Senator.