Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Do corporations have privacy rights? Only ODD TODD NEVILLE would suppose so.

Commissioner TODD NEVILLE (R-Proctorville) last night showed his oddity when he objected to disclosure of corporate financial strength before the City of St. Augustine approves Planned Unit Developments, a/k/a "a sneaky way to get around zoning," as Planning and Zoning Board member Cathy Brown puts it.

Do corporations have privacy rights? They have proprietary data and intellectual property, which is legally protected. But privacy?

As Kent Greenfield wrote in The Atlantic Monthly in 2015:

  • Do corporations warrant privacy rights? Corporations should be able to expect that government agents will not seize their property or search their premises without good reason. But the privacy interests of humans are likely to be stronger than those of corporations, and the Court has understood that in the past. In 2011, the Court unanimously rejected AT& T’s claim that its finances be excluded from Freedom of Information Act requests under that statute’s exception for “personal privacy.” Roberts wrote that such right “does not extend to corporations. We trust that AT&T will not take it personally.”

Privacy is a fundamental right of living, breathing natural persons.

To speak of corporations as having "privacy rights" presupposes a right-wing weird Weltanschauung, which is why TODD NEVILLE will always be known as ODD TODD NEVILLE.

ODD TODD is an ideological, idiosyncratic corporation-coddler, a cognitive miser who doesn't think that We, the People have the right to criticize him under the First Amendment, but reckons that corporations have privacy rights, a view unanimously rejected in 2011.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Questioning St. Augustine Beach Conflicts of Interest and Loyalties: Bob Tis Column in Record

St. Augustine Beach Commissioners voted 3-2 to designate Richard O'Brien as Mayor. He's served as Mayor before. He's a nice thoughtful guy.

But Commissioner Undine Pawlowski George was the most senior Commissioner who had not previously served as Mayor. The pathways, folkways and tradition in SAB is for rotation of the supposedly honorary mayoral position.

But Mayor Andrea Samuels hates Ms. George because she represented a neighbor in litigation with Bob and Andrea Samuels, and because Ms. George ran against Ms. Pawlowski George. Had Ms. Pawlowski George been elected Mayor, all of the conflicts of interest and loyalties that flow from a motel owner being Mayor would not be present at every meeting.

The root cause is Ms. Samuels, a/k/a "CUPCAKE," up for re-election this year. CUPCAKE's behavior at the December meeting (on the occasion of Ms. Pawlowski George's 38th birthday, led me to write this vignette: http://cleanupcityofstaugustine.blogspot.com/2015/12/birthday-barbarism-at-st-augustine.html

The Samuels' meanness toward First Amendment rights (vis a vis former County Commissioner J. Kenneth Bryan, former St. Augustine Beach Code Enforcement Chair William Rosenstock, the St. Augustine Beach Civic Association, illegal retaliation against just about everyone who disagree with them) is an embarrassment to a cool itty bitty city of St. Augustine Beach.

The Samuels need to rise above their Lashon hara and act like mensches, not leeches.

We need a county wide ethics ordinance, one applicable to all governmental units in the County.

Bob Tis: Shifting sands under the feet of the St. Augustine Beach mayor
Posted: February 7, 2016 - 11:47pm | Updated: February 8, 2016 - 12:02am
Bob Tis is a former Record reporter.

I don’t have a dog in this fight.

But if I did, it would be hard, sometimes, to keep Fido on the leash.

The first squabble of the year at City Hall was over which of the five St. Augustine Beach city commissioners should serve as mayor. Former Mayor Andrea Samuels nominated Rich O’Brien. Commissioner Undine George nominated herself. After a debate, a slim consensus went with O’Brien, a local hotel owner. George, an attorney, may have been more qualified for the simple reason that Mayor O’Brien might feel compelled to step away from most every important vote the Commission makes in the next few years.

La Fiesta Inn and Suites has a fascinating history.

In the early 1960s, local boat builder L.C. Ringhaver famously traded his shrimp boats for the property and operated the Inn for about a year and then sold some of his interest in the hotel.

According to the hotel’s website, O’Brien met his now wife Lauren by the hotel’s prominent pool in 2001. They now own the hotel together.

Certainly the biggest issue facing the St. Augustine Beach City Commission is a voter-mandated 35-foot height limit for new construction. One fancy hotel has already used a loophole provided by the state concerning flood zones to skirt the restrictions. They were approved to build up to 53 feet from the ground. Another hotel currently under construction had little problem getting an exception for architectural add-ons over the height limit. Some people who recently voted for the regulation in a thought-to-be binding referendum feel betrayed. The Commission has acknowledged the need to set some policy.

But at the last meeting they were busy discussing how many seats a new coffee shop should be able to have on its patio.

It may not be my place to wonder out loud if the guy who owns the large older hotel with the loud miniature golf course in front of it is the right man to lead this small city forward.

It is hard to debate that the La Fiesta property is in an interesting spot as the future of St. Augustine Beach plays out. The Ardid family, who have developed the finest skyscraper hotels in Miami and Tampa, purchased the former Beachfront Hotel at the other end of the beach. They have already talked about a partnership with the trendy Salt Life bar and restaurant across A1A Beach Boulevard. A new Marriott currently under construction across the road from La Fiesta will certainly change some of the landscape in this hotel-heavy town. And nearly next door to La Fiesta, the Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort has announced that they will soon become a Guy Harvey Outpost Signature Property.

While it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary for Holiday Isle to tackle a “rebranding” associated with one of the world’s most famous marine artists, it might — combined with the Ardid’s project and the Marriott — signal a real trend.

Some local wags suggest that attracting a more affluent client to the beach hotels will bring prosperity to St. Augustine Beach. Some are skeptical and worry that the influx of fancy clients could signal the loss of the laid-back beach-town feel many have enjoyed over the last few decades.

You can bet if the City Commission is willing to discuss a few chairs outside a coffee shop for a couple of hours that there is a scrum for the tourist dollar.

This puts O’Brien in a tricky spot. He and his wife own a beautiful but older property that could potentially be squeezed for business pretty tightly by the new dogs in town. I guess we will see if he is all bark or has some bite when this new breed requests policy changes like louder music or parking garages.

It is hard to imagine that O’Brien’s votes on issues like the 35-foot height restriction and other more subtle issues like food trucks and police budgets won’t be affected by his business situation. It will be up to O’Brien to recuse himself if he feels there is a conflict of interest.

And we have to remember that this is a small town. Somebody has to be mayor. I hope the voters and the rest of the City Commission got the right guy to navigate the tricky waters toward the future the residents (and the voters) are hoping for.

Raymond Newdell 02/08/16 - 11:30 am 00The 35 foot limit
Changing that just makes me want to cry. Look at the mess that Daytona Beach has made of their beach- the beach is shaded in many spots now from the high rises.

...and the traffic. What is St. Augustine Beach going to do with all the traffic? Think it's bad now? These are the good old days.

No parking on Francis Field -- Sebastian Inland Harbor?

Steve Cottrell: San Sebastian key to solving parking problems
Posted: February 7, 2016 - 3:30pm | Updated: February 8, 2016 - 12:00am

Public Occurrences
Hate to admit it, but I’m old enough to remember Stan Freberg’s 1957 parody, “Wun’erful, Wun’erful,” lampooning Lawrence Welk and his rhythmic Champagne music.

I even recall the final words of the 78 rpm vinyl record as the Aragon Ballroom was engulfed with an endless barrage of bubbles: “Help! Help! Turn off the bubble machine. Help ... help ... ”

That’s how I feel about adding more special events in St. Augustine.

I believe it’s time for City Hall to turn off the promotional bubble machine, and I am not a lone voice in the wilderness. More and more residents are yelling, “Help! Help!”

But will City Hall listen?

On a related topic, I hope city commissioners can agree that Francis Field is a community park, not an overflow parking lot for special events.

Using Francis Field for a parking lot is, in my opinion, a dumb idea and bad public policy.

Special events aside, however, downtown parking remains a problem in search of a solution — even on normal days, especially weekends.

Satellite parking lots on St. Augustine’s periphery, as some suggest, and shuttling people to and from downtown, is not the answer. Most people want their vehicles handy — parked within walking distance.

Most do not want to wait for a shuttle bus to take them from point A to point B, then back to point A — not even a shuttle that’s free.

For what it’s worth, here’s a suggestion to help (but not fully solve) the downtown parking crunch.

I believe the city should revisit an idea that seemed popular in 2004, but died an early death.

When the economy tanked a few years ago and the San Sebastian Harbor project went into foreclosure, any possibility of a public/private parking garage venture at that location got tossed in the dumpster.

Designed to be built in the area west and south of San Sebastian Winery and west from Riberia to the banks of the San Sebastian River, the planned $70 million project called for 85 hotel rooms, 106 condos, 24,000 square feet of shops, a 10,000-square-foot spa, a 65-slip marina and ample parking.

It sounded great at the time. But only the marina was ever built, and city staff believes it is so filled with silt today that it needs to be dredged again before it can be used for its intended purpose.

When the San Sebastian Harbor plans were approved in the fall of 2004, the developer said, “We don’t want this project to drag for months and months.”

He announced that it would be completed in 18 to 24 months.

If my math is correct, that was about 135 months ago. San Sebastian Harbor was so enthusiastically welcomed by city officials that a bordering street called Lorida was renamed Sebastian Harbor Drive. Staff referred to it as an appropriate destination address.

The original developer paid the city $3.6 million for 13 acres.

On the day ground was broken, then-Mayor George Gardner said the city had been waiting 18 years for something to happen on that property.

And that was in 2005.

But it remains an open field with a marina that can’t be used.

As part of the original plan, a 518-car parking garage on 1.25 acres fronting Riberia Street was proposed.

The developer wanted the city to build it and pay for it. The city wanted a public/private partnership in order to share the cost and keep the property on city tax rolls.

In 2007, however, as the national economy was spiraling south, Wells Fargo foreclosed on the property.

So much for San Sebastian Harbor.

And so much for a large parking garage closer to the intersection of King and Cordova than the one the city built next to the Visitor Information Center.

A Sanford-based development company paid Wells Fargo $4.75 million in 2014 and now owns most of the original San Sebastian Harbor land.

If it eventually develops a scaled-down project consistent with today’s economic limitations, that would wonderful.

But in the meantime there’s a serious downtown parking problem that needs to be remedied.

I can’t think of any other open space within walking distance of downtown that can accommodate a meaningful parking garage. Can you?

Steve can be contacted at cottrell.sf@gmail.com

martystaug 02/08/16 - 08:20 am 00How about the downtown plaza?
How about the downtown plaza? We don't need all those monuments, gazebo or huge old live oak trees. That's what they did to Francis Field, why not the plaza too? Obviously tourist dollars are more important than quality of life for the citizens of St. Augustine. I definitely agree that it is time to turn off the promotional bubble machine. Stop this theme park mentality and get back to providing support services for us tax paying, voting citizens, instead of those few tourist related businesses that dominate the city's time, efforts and money.

Commission meets tonight: come speak out on Madeira (former Ponce de Leon Golf Course)

Madeira, zoning on tap for City Commission
Posted: February 7, 2016 - 11:47pm | Updated: February 8, 2016 - 3:24am


The St. Augustine City Commission could reverse its decision to turn down a request for more time for the Madeira community to develop.

A motion to rescind the denial order and set the matter for a third reading and final hearing is on the commission’s agenda tonight. Mayor Nancy Shaver, whose name is attached to the item, declined to discuss why the move was made.

“It’s a matter for the public, the meeting, and that’s why it’s on the agenda,” Shaver told The Record last week.

City Attorney Isabelle Lopez said she is researching the implications of the vote, a 3-2 denial of a request to extend the deadlines for the U.S. 1 North development. Commissioners Todd Neville and Roxanne Horvath voted to allow the extensions.

Commissioners will also consider rescinding an ordinance changing Comprehensive Plan designations of the property. That ordinance was approved at the same meeting.

Madeira, which is more than 1,000 acres, once included the Ponce de Leon Golf Resort and Convention Center. The property was annexed to the city in 2001, and the Madeira Planned Unit Development was approved in 2004 for up to 749 homes. The developer’s attorney said the project was slowed by the recession and litigation, which is why the development is seeking five more years from Jan. 1, 2016, to complete Phases I and III, and five years from Jan. 1, 2018, to complete Phase II.

In other business

n Commissioners will consider whether to name 399 Riberia St. Dr. Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park. Commissioner Leanna Freeman said the plan is for the park to open for a kick-off ceremony on Earth Day in April.

n Two zoning ordinances are up for adoption. One would add definitions including dormitory and hostel to zoning codes and add requirements for the uses. Another zoning ordinance would change Planned Unit Development requirements and would, among other things, require additional documents and hearings for PUD applications.

n Changes to the San Marco Hotel PUD will be up for final consideration. The changes include allowing more hotel rooms, more parking spaces and a 2,400-square-foot-increase in the building footprint.

n Commissioners will hear an ordinance to allow alternates on the Historic Architectural Review Board.

n One of the items scheduled tonight will address style guidelines for Anastasia Boulevard. People are interested in Anastasia Boulevard being treated as its own destination, and the “discussion and update on Anastasia Entry Corridor Guidelines” will cover that, Freeman said.

The city has three entry corridors: King Street, San Marco Avenue and Anastasia Boulevard. Freeman said the city is looking to revamp the codes to recognize Anastasia Boulevard’s place as a unique destination. The city plans to hire a consultant for the task.

sponger2 02/08/16 - 07:44 am 40The Commission cowards will cave again.
They always do. Here is a golden opportunity to undo a terrible wrong they did a decade ago by allowing this development in the first place. People were up in arms about it. The people didn't want, and it has been bailed out with public money already. There is enough land there to build another golf course that won't add to the overcrowding of our schools and only marginally increase traffic. Do what WE want for a change. These folks made a bad investment. They gambled and lost. That's the way it goes. If you don't meet your obligations do you think you are going to get a bailout?

Sunday, February 07, 2016

No Parking on Francis Field, Thank you!

Freddy Francis' donative intent in letting the City have Francis Field was for athletic fields and tennis courts. Not parking.

Our athletic fields, tennis courts and trees have been destroyed for private profit -- parking to benefit historic downtown merchants, many of whom who underpay their employees and made half a billion dollars last year.

They literally "took paradise and put up a parking lot," in the words of Janis Joplin. First the $20 million "Historic Downtown Parking Garage" and now the "special events field,' frequently used for parking now. PZB member Jerry Dixon and Commissioners Leanna Freeman and Nancy Sikes-Kline (both former Vice Mayors) have rightly questioned the destruction of the athletic fields and abuse of Francis Field for parking. I am requesting chemical tests of the soil for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with parking hundreds of cars there during Nights of Lights and Independence Day fireworks.

Record Opinion Editor Jim Sutton and a letter-writer suggest today putting athletic fields on top of additional parking at Francis Field.

I respectfully disagree. Creative idea, yes.

BUT, to LEN WEEKS, his father-in-law (both beneficiaries of no-bid subsidized City leases and opponents of "socialism"): We don't need more parking downtown.

There is too much gridlock now due to the construction of the "Historic Downtown Parking Garage."

There are too many cars downtown.

IF new parking is required, put it on the periphery, and create a real mass transit system.

No, we don't have one yet. I don't think we have even excuse for one in the second-rate Sunshine Bus Company, operated only a few times a day, too often late, with idiosyncratic routes, running only six days a week, subject to a squalid questionable no-bid contract with St. Johns County Commissioners by the Council on Aging, which avoids and evades Open Records requests, hiring a corporate law firm to do so).

The St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore legislations promise to help us get a first-class mass transit system with more federal dollars, and even another parking garage (if needed).

Building athletic fields on top of a parking garage: the wrong idea at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Georgetown University on February 4, 2016 opted to close Kehoe Field, built on top of Yates Field House. It was a great idea, and I happily swam, took saunas and a yoga class there during my last year at Georgetown. But the roof leaks. Always has. The facility facilitated litigation.

Comm'r BENNETT: “Am I for sale? No.” Doth the Developer Puppet Protest Too Much?

Wow! Controversial St. Johns County Commissioner PRISCILLA BENNETT a/k/a "RACHAEL BENNETT" sure sounds hotter than a two dollar pistol, not unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton on her campaign contributions.
They both remind me of the late corrupt President RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON, saying everything but "I'm not a crook!"
Doth the puppet "protest too much?" Fearful of FBI investigation of corruption in St. Johns County by the FBI Corruption Task Force in Daytona Beach?

Front and center at ribbon-cutting by big spenders at 2015 dedication of $15 million County "Gauze Mahal" (Health Building), (no, he's not pregnant) was rebarbative Republican retired St. Johns County Assistant Administrator JERRY THOMAS CAMERON, with beard, next to then St. Johns Commission Chair PRISCILLA BENNETT a/k/a "RACHAEL" (R-Hutston  Companies), Commissioner JOHN H. "JAY" MORRIS (formerly EVP of RPM International, frequent toxic polluter, which in 2013 settled False Claim qui tam action for more than $60,058,963 involving federal, state and local purchase of defective roofs, roofing materials and overcharges), Sheriff DAVID BERNERD SHOAR f/k/a "HOAR" (R-Palookaville) and the current Chair, Commissioner JEB SMITH (R-Agribusiness).
The biggest money-raiser this year, running for Commissioner, JERRY CAMERON ran interference for Sheriff SHOAR on the Michelle O'Connell case.  CAMERON blocked Open Records requests.  JERRY CAMERON told me November 20, 2013 that he thought it was a "suicide, and said he read all the boxes of documents from Sheriff SHOAR's putative investigation: this was at the joint City-County meeting at St. Augustine City Hall on November 20, 2013, four days before The New York Times story and six days before the PBS Frontline story.
JERRY CAMERON is in bed with Sheriff SHOAR and Administrator WANCHICK.
JERRY CAMERON lied about needing lots of money to win elections. In 2004, reformer Ben Rich, CAMERON's former boss, spent $7,737.64.
Two years later, Tom Manuel spent $15,790 and Ron Sanchez spent $12,920.00, defeating developer-funded candidates who spent many times that. In 2008, J. Kenneth Bryan spent $12,635.04, defeating candidates who spent more.
JERRY CAMeron is as lugubrious a goober as ever made a chair squeak.  (See photo).
To borrow the immortal words of former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry re: Jesse Jackson, "The only thing that [Jerry Cameron] knows how to run is his mouth."

Controversial St. Johns County Commissioner PRISCILLA BENNEFTT (a/k/a "RACHAEL")(R-Hutston Companies) could not contain her anger at criticism of developer-driven Commissioners in today's Record.
A planner for the HUTSON COMPANIES, BENNETT met with county staff for the developers even before she was sworn into office, an appearance of impropriety.
BENETT in 2013 interfered with my Open Records request for St. Johns County Visitor and Convention Bureau Records, even though SJCVCB is a county no-bid contractor.
BENNETT in 2014 wrote CHRISTY WEEKS to express her hostility to criticism after WEEKS destroyed a 211-year old building, working without permits.
Developers have pulled applications when BENNETT was absent, counting on her advocacy.
BENNETT is a schemer, a schlemiel and a hoary hog at the public trough.
BENNETT told the Record about concerns about her being a developer puppet:

“To me, that is outrageous,” she said. “If they wanted to buy me, why would they be OK with being on a donor list?”

She added later, “I also find it offensive that someone who doesn’t know me and doesn’t know these people who are donating to me automatically assumes that there is corruption going on,” she said. “I find that offensive.”

Bennett’s background is in land planning and zoning, including being the former assistant zoning manager for St. Johns County.

She acknowledged that sometimes people attack because of perceptions. She does the best she can and, like others, sometimes makes mistakes, she said.

But, she added, “Am I for sale? No.”

What is truly "offensive" and "outrageous" is how so many times Benedict Arnold elected officials have rubberstamped developer projects, destroying the peaceful quiet enjoyment of St. Augustine. Developers are "worse than any carpetbagger," as former St. Johns County Commission Chairman Ben Rich says.

Money rolling in for St. Johns County Commission candidates
Posted: February 6, 2016 - 11:39pm | Updated: February 7, 2016 - 7:57am

Candidate lists and reports

With several months to go before qualifying begins, a handful of candidates for St. Johns County Commission have already received or brought in more than $161,000 in combined contributions, with more than $146,000 being split among just three candidates.

Some of the top donors include real estate groups and developers, many with Duval County addresses. But candidates said they will not be swayed by money.

Campaign finance information is from the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections, which classifies most donations based on the occupation or main type of business for contributions of $100 or more.

Up for election in November will be three County Commission seats currently held by Commissioners Rachael Bennett, Jimmy Johns and Bill McClure (only McClure has yet to file for re-election). In total, seven candidates have filed to run for County Commission.

The candidate with the most contributions to date is not an incumbent. Jerry Cameron, former assistant St. Johns County administrator for community services, has collected more than $63,000 in monetary contributions as of Friday. At least $11,000 came from donations from people or businesses in the development sector and another $6,000 from people or businesses involved in real estate.

Cameron said he’s not concerned about feeling pressured to vote one way or another on issues based on contributions, saying he’ll vote in the best interest of the county.

He said the contributions from some groups may affect perception but added, “You can’t run without money.”

Cameron also said that if someone attempts to give him a donation in exchange for a favor, he won’t take it. He cited his 25 years of public service, including time as a police chief, public works director and city manager in other jurisdictions and said he has never profited from a position.

“Anybody that offers to donate money based on an expectation of me favoring their position, I’m not going to do that,” Cameron said.

The next biggest war chest in the County Commission races belongs to District 1 Commissioner Jimmy Johns, who has collected more than $51,000 in contributions.

Johns, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to replace now-state Rep. Cyndi Stevenson on the commission, has received some of his biggest combined contributions from people or businesses involved in real estate (at least $11,000) and builders ($3,500), according to Supervisor of Elections records.

Johns said he has not targeted a particular sector for donations, though he said he has requested campaign support “from a wide cross-section in the community.”

“I’m not partial to one group versus another,” he said, adding later that he is focused on representing everyone in the county.

In third place so far for the most contributions is District 5 Commissioner Rachael Bennett, who has received $31,120 for her campaign. Her largest contributors by group are in real estate and have contributed at least $6,000. Developers have contributed at least $2,000 to the campaign, and at least $3,800 came from civil engineers and a civil engineering group. Other occupation or business categories, such as investment and management, contributed thousands as well.

Bennett acknowledged the anti-development sentiment among some people and the negative perception that some may have based on the source of her donations.

She said businesspeople depend on a government that is stable and thoughtful, and people who contribute to her campaign do so because they believe she follows the law and reviews issues thoughtfully — not because they believe they can buy her.

“To me, that is outrageous,” she said. “If they wanted to buy me, why would they be OK with being on a donor list?”

She added later, “I also find it offensive that someone who doesn’t know me and doesn’t know these people who are donating to me automatically assumes that there is corruption going on,” she said. “I find that offensive.”

Bennett’s background is in land planning and zoning, including being the former assistant zoning manager for St. Johns County.

She acknowledged that sometimes people attack because of perceptions. She does the best she can and, like others, sometimes makes mistakes, she said.

But, she added, “Am I for sale? No.”

Other candidates vying for Bennett’s seat, Jake Riley and Rose Bailey, have received no monetary contributions thus far, according to the Supervisor of Elections. Dottie Acosta, who is running for Bennett’s seat, has received more than $5,450 in monetary contributions, which are largely self-funded.

Paul Waldron, who is running for McClure’s seat, has received $10,200 in monetary contributions. The largest share of that is $2,000 and comes from the combined total of donations from local dealership Bozard Ford and a representative for the business.

martystaug 02/07/16 - 08:36 am 30It is obvious to me that
It is obvious to me that these commissioner's top priority is to be re-elected. Look where the big bucks are coming from. Developers and realtors and those expecting approval for their next big project. So unless you are a carpetbagger yourself, why would anyone vote to re-elect these people? Our taxes are paying their salaries, and our taxes are paying to clean up their mess. We are paying extra for schools and infrastructure and police and fire. All so these donors can reap the rewards of turning wetlands and forest into houses, asphalt and the occasional drainage pond. Job creation you say, well we have thousands of already approved homesites ready to be stripped of trees, filled and built upon. We do not need any more massive projects to be approved.
Re-Elect Nobody!

mikewoodruff 02/07/16 - 10:19 am 20The candidates avoid the real point.
Why would anyone expect a candidate to admit that campaign contributions would influence them? This is more subtle than that. A second question is "Why would any company or person donate to a campaign unless they were reasonably comfortable that the candidate already shared or leaned toward their positions?" Whether or not the campaign contributions influence, either consciously or unconsciously, how a commissioner will vote, where the money goes is still the best indicator of the direction a commissioner or future commissioner will lean.

JoeJoe 02/07/16 - 11:06 am 20Jerry Cameron was administrator Wanchick's shill
Just what we don't need is him now becoming a commissioner to act on Wanchick's behalf.

ECHO HOUSE Demolished, St. PAUL School Closing: "Won" Demolition of Historic Echo House

"Well, Richard, it profiteth a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales?
-- Saint Thomas More, in Robert Bolt's play and film, "A Man For All Seasons." (Said to opportunistic onetime More household flatterer, Sir. Richard Rich, who perjured himself at More's treason trial to please Henry VIII, winning appointment as Attorney General for Wales. Later promoted, Richard, "died in his bed."

"The world is too much with us, late and soon.
Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.
Little in Nature we see that is ours.
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon."
-- William Wordsworth

Threatening to move his historic church, Rev. RON RAWLS and St. Paul A.M.E Church "won" a demolition permit, tearing down 2/3 of historic Echo House in 2015 for supposed benefit of "St. Paul School of Excellence" which is closing at the end of the 2016 school year.
(See below).

Remember how Rev. RAWLS used politics and unjust accusations of racism and the clamor of the crowd to "win" demolition of an historic African-American community building in Lincolnville?

Remember how cruelly the supporters of St. Paul School of Excellence behaved toward opponents, claiming that they "had to" to demolish 90 year old Echo House?  (There was heckling without a gavel by the HARB chair, and one of my friends at A.M.E. brandished her cane at me.  I forgave them.)

Rev. RON RAWLS' parishioners testified, claiming Jesus inspired him to tear down an historic building for a parking lot for what he called his "business" (a church).

Rev. RAWLS claimed to be building a new building and thus lacking room for parking, egged on by local ministers, supported by builder-politician JOHN VALDES and threatening angry vituperative parishioners of St. Paul A.M.E., Rev. RON RAWLS of Gainesville "won" a partial demolition of 2/3 of the historic African-American community building called Echo House, based on material misstatements of fact and false assertions it was "for the children"

As Tacitus said of the sack of Carthage, "They created a desert and they called it peace."

Rev. RAWLS got control of Echo House from the City, which did nothing to oversee it, despite its right of reverter if it ceased to be used for charitable purposes. RAWLS' spreadsheet showed no investment in fundraising to preserve and protect the building. Instead, he did internal demolition, put a plastic Global Wrap® cover on the roof (pro bono) and let the building sit, unoccupied. Then he demanded to tear it down, apparently getting pro malo advice from the likes of the late developer lawyer GEORGE MORRIS McCLURE, whose pastor supported the teardown.

Never again will we allow dodgy clergy, demagogues or developers to destroy our history thattaway.

Before 2014-2015, no one had ever labelled people racists if we don't consent to tear down a historic building.

I appealed from the maladroit HARB decision on St. Paul's demolition permit, was found to have standing, and my appeal was denied by City Commission. That was in 2014-2015.

Well, in 2016, today, February 7, 2016, a date that will live in infamy, St. Paul A.M.E. announced it is closing at the end of the school year. Finis.

to City Hall, stop letting our historic buildings be destroyed by people with a "whim of iron," whether it be by well-meaning misguided ministers or by dodgy developers like DAVID BARTON CORNEAL (Carpenter's House) to build a swimming pool for CORDOVA INN (DOW PUD).

So what happens to Echo House now? The CIty should take it back under its right of reverter. To Rev. RAWLS:

1. "May we have it back please??"

2. Don't ever divide our community again with dollar signs in your eyes: your damnable demolition permit was wrong, wrong, wrong. Nobody's God is mocked by those who wrap themselves in religiosity to destroy St. Augustine's history. Like ISIS in Palmyra, you destroyed history without understanding. Rev. Rawls owes us all an apology.

Excerpt from The Record article on closing of St. Paul School of Excellence:

2 St. Johns County charter schools poised for renewal; St. Paul School of Excellence opts to close
Closing time

Posted: February 6, 2016 - 9:14pm | Updated: February 7, 2016 - 7:16am

In a year in which three charter school contracts with the St. Johns County School District come up for renewal, each is poised to meet a unique fate.

Up for renewal this year were contracts for The Academy of Business and Leadership, St. Augustine Public Montessori School and St. Paul School of Excellence. Each brought its challenges and accomplishments to the School District’s table, but with mixed results.

Closing time

The St. Paul School of Excellence, in the meantime, withdrew its Letter of Intent to Renew on Jan. 29. The school’s contract was approved for four years in 2012 and this is the final year of that contract. St. Paul will complete the current school year but will not open its doors for the 2016-17 school year.

The Rev. Ron Rawls, the school’s president, said because of low enrollment and all the challenges that stem from that, he and other school leaders determined students would be better served in traditional public schools.

“We got to a point where we had to acknowledge this is not what we envisioned or what we wanted,” he said. “Our resources are so limited, and we can’t keep our children in a situation that is not what we envisioned.”

Rawls said low enrollment led to low budgets, which put a damper on the school’s goals for closing the achievement gap because of the lack of resources to make it happen.

He said one of the biggest challenges was having to switch principals each year because the school couldn’t pay what the position demands.

Veteran teachers were also hard to come by.

“We had a lot of new teachers who were very good at their job, but we were missing that mentorship aspect,” Rawls said. “They needed the right type of leader.”

In terms of the students, the school attracted the communities it was intended to serve.

“We didn’t go looking for the cream of the crop,” Rawls said. “Our design was to take the struggling students — and we’ve learned that’s not a great business move.”

Despite the perceived animosity between charter schools and traditional schools, Rawls said he had no hard feelings of any kind toward the School District.

“Without their support, we could not have made it even this far,” Rawls said. “Even though we struggled, they were encouraged that we stuck to our goal. We said we were going to go after struggling students, and we’ve done that, so, even though the final scores might not be what we want, there are gains that are showing.”

Whatever is salvageable of the school’s property, including computers, furniture and supplies, will go back to the School District.

Egnor said that process has already begun and that Rawls has been responsive and cooperative throughout the transition, which will be completed over the summer.

“Things that can come back to the school system will come back,” Egnor said. “There have been purchases with Title I dollars, there have been purchases with general operating dollars, and we have inventories of all those items. There’s already been discussion.”

He said there is also a team ensuring St. Paul students have a smooth transition back into their zoned schools.

Rawls said 75 percent of St. Paul’s students came to the school struggling academically and that the majority of students came from African-American families in West Augustine.

“We owe them the resources needed to close the achievement gap,” Rawls said. “I am asking that the community assist us with the resources to make these final four months everything we envisioned when we opened our doors almost four years ago.”

He said he’s been able to enlist the help of some veteran teachers in the classrooms for minimal fees considering their certifications and experience.

“We have a very good community here, and they’ve responded pretty well with the addition of those teachers,” he said. “It’s part of our DNA.”

Egnor said he agreed with Rawls’ assessment of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.

“He’s been a fantastic partner, and we very much wanted it to be a great success, and he put in his best effort,” Egnor said. “I believe his decision now, to close the school, is because he cares about the kids.”

For information on how to help St. Paul School of Excellence, go to spschoolofexcellence.com.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

County Buys CBRNE Vessel for $309,713.74 Using GSA Schedule

Using U.S. General Services Administration "Schedule 84" cooperative purchasing for a change, St. Johns County Commission has purchased a 29 foot center console SAFE Boats International fire rescue vessel with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive detection capabilities as well as fire suppression, rescue and recovery capabilities.
The St. Johns County purchase occurred late last year, on the Commission's consent agenda for November 3, 2015, nine months to the day after my February 3, 2015 request (No. 2015-87: COSA, SAB, TOH, SJC and other local government use of GSA Cooperative Purchasing Program, Schedule 70 and 84 and Blanket Purchase Orders) asked local governments if they had ever used GSA's discounted schedule pricing for state and local governments.
Imagine, St. Johns County Commission following a money-saving purchasing suggestion.
Could other local governments be far behind?
What do y'all reckon?

St. Johns County Fire Rescue approved for grant, to get new rescue boat and dock

Posted: January 6, 2016 - 9:09pm  |  Updated: January 7, 2016 - 1:40am

SAFE Boats International workers conduct a sea trial of a center console model rescue boat similar to the one ordered by St. Johns County Fire Rescue. The county boat is expected to be in operation before the end of the summer. Contributed

In a move that is expected to add to the safety of boaters and swimmers in local waterways, St. Johns County Fire Rescue will soon add a new multipurpose boat to its small fleet.

The agency announced this week that is has been approved for a Department of Homeland Security-Federal Port Security Grant of $560,000 for the purchase of a fire rescue boat and construction of a multiagency public safety docking facility.

The grant provides $330,000 toward the purchase of the vessel and $230,000 toward the construction of the docking facility.

Actually, the grant provides just 75 percent of the cost of the boat and dock. Fire Rescue is responsible for providing a fourth of the cost ($82,500) for the boat. The cost share has been approved and budgeted as part of the current fiscal year 2016 budget cycle. The docking facility construction cost share of $60,000 has been funded by the St. Augustine Port, Waterway and Beach District.

Fire Rescue has ordered a 29-foot SAFE Boat, which is being manufactured at the SAFE Boat International facility in Bremerton, Washington. Upon completion, the vessel will be shipped to the county and placed into service late in the summer.

“Basically, we have never had a boat like this in the county that’s capable of performing both firefighting and rescue on our waters,” County fire chief Carl Shank said. “We don’t have anything that’s fully capable of meeting the demands that our (personnel face). This is really going to give them a great tool.”

Shank said his agency has been looking to add a rescue boat for years. Securing the federal grant was the ideal situation, though, because it presented the least amount of burden on the local government and allowed Fire Rescue to get exactly the boat it needed.

The new boat will be equipped to manage a “multitude of emergency operations” within the Intracoastal Waterway, the St. Augustine Inlet and offshore waters. Also, the fire rescue boat will be specifically designed to operate in rough sea conditions. Included on the vessel will be an on-board 500-gallon-per-minute pump for firefighting operations and a full complement of advanced life support medical response gear.

It will also have search-and-rescue electronics, including FLIR technology (thermal night vision), and hazardous materials detection/monitoring equipment.

“We put together a pretty significant bit of research,” Fire Rescue spokesman Jeremy Robshaw said. “We live in a very boating friendly community. People are on water a lot. We need to ensure there is appropriate protection in place.

“This vessel is a completely different asset compared to what the county had before.”

Robshaw said adding the new dock at Vilano Beach is also very significant. It will increase response time compared to having to transport a trailered boat to an area of need.

The site will house boats for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in addition to the Fire Rescue boat.

The facility is adjacent to the St. Johns County boat ramp, which Robshaw said will allow quick access to the Intracoastal Waterway, mooring fields, major marinas and the St. Augustine Inlet. It will be covered, secure and provide three lifts for the respective vessels. This dock will be operated as joint facility by the three agencies.

Shank said there were 331 marine rescue missions inclusive of distressed vessels, missing swimmers or other emergencies on local waterways and beaches in 2015. In 2014, the county had 342 similar responses.

Robshaw and Shank both said the equipment and dock should make the local waterways safer.

“It’s something that was very much needed, something we hopefully have a lot of impact with,” Robshaw said.


Recent high-profile marine rescue missions

■ April 14, 2009: Fire Rescue responded to an Easter Sunday boating accident on the Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Valley. The collision occurred when a high-speed boat slammed into a 25-foot moored tugboat, which was constructing a dock at a private residence. After impact, five people were killed and nine were critically injured. Fire Rescue workers and bystanders spent critical time shuttling wood onto the unfinished dock in order to reach the boat and then extricate the injured and dead off the boat, over the tug, up to the unstable dock, and then to shore.

■ Nov. 30, 2010: A TowBoat US operator was swept into the ocean after his boat flipped while towing the sailing vessel “Finesse” near St. Augustine Inlet. Weather conditions consisted of northeast winds of more than 20 knots, air temperature in the 50s and water temperature in the 60s. Seas were higher than 6 feet with a swift outgoing tide. The U.S. Coast Guard received the initial call, with Fire Rescue units notified much later by a TV reporter. With help from a St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office air unit, the towboat operator was found. County rescue swimmers transported him to shore. The operator was suffering from hypothermia. According to Fire Rescue, physicians at the receiving emergency department said that if the man had been rescued 15 minutes later, he most likely would have been in cardiac arrest from exposure.

■ Dec. 15, 2012: The 64-foot motor yacht “Rays the Bar” called in a distress signal after running aground on the St. Augustine Inlet north shoal. In heavy fog, moderate surf conditions and 50-degree temperatures, Fire rescue responded. During the rescue operations, the vessel broke free from the shoal and began to drift through the fog toward Vilano Beach. Crews were able to find the vessel and successfully remove both occupants and a dog. The vessel eventually grounded on Vilano Beach and was removed by commercial towing companies over the next several days.

■ Nov. 7, 2013: Two people were rescued from the St. Augustine Inlet after a 30-foot sailboat failed to function properly. Fire Rescue personnel, responding on personal watercraft and with assistance from Tow Boat US, removed the victims from the distressed vessel and transported them safely to shore.

■ Nov. 25, 2014: Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a 38-foot sailboat grounded on the north shoals of the St. Augustine Inlet. In addition to the darkness of the night, weather conditions included a heavy blowing rain, winds of 20 knots or more, 6- to 8-foot seas and poor visibility. Using PWC and an inflatable rescue boat, Fire Rescue workers removed the passengers. Because of the rescuers’ actions, they were awarded a Unit Commendation by Fire Rescue.

Source: SJCFR White Paper: Response to Marine Emergencies in St. Johns County

Did JEB BUSH Just Admit Florida Democrats Are Wimpy, "Unique"?

In Florida, there is a "unique relationship between the Republican and Democratic parties there." Thanks to JEB BUSH for pointing that out.

Our deeply disastrously dysfunctional Democratic Party leaders here are literally in bed with Republicans. Do you know to whom our State Democratic Party Chair is married? (FDP Chair ALISON TANT, a former Tallahassee lobbyist, is married to BARRY RICHARD, lawyer for George W. Bush during Florida recounts, a Tallahassee corporate lawyer and putative "lifelong Democrat").

Statewide, there are 500,000 more Democrats than Republicans, but Democrats are irrelevant in Tallahassee due to gerrymandering under the maladministration of Governor JOHN EDWARD BUSH a/k/a "JEB BUSH," who helped President GEORGE W. BUSH, his brutal brother, steal Florida in the the year 2000 Presidential election. Florida Democrats' litigation strategy failed to demand a statewide recount and failed to focus on 20,000 uncounted African-American votes in Jacksonville, Florida. (They ignored our concerns at the peril of our Nation).

Fanatical Florida Republicans control all but one statewide elected office (U.S. Senator William Nelson is the only statewide elected Democrat.) Democrats have not elected a Governor since 1994.

Foolish FLORI-DUH Democrats' futile last three (3) Governor candidates were:
1. a corporate lawyer (the late WILLIAM McBRIDE, formerly Holland & Knight managing partner),
2. a banker (McBRIDE's wife, ALEX SANK, former President of Bank of America in Florida) and
3. a political chameleon CHARLES CRIST (who was a Republican before he was an Independent before he was a Democrat).
Those are three (3) good reasons Democrats lost -- dodgy "Democrats" who nominate corporate-coddling coots who act like Republicans deserve to be defeated. Again and again and again.

As my late lobbyist friend and mentor, Larry Tucker, often said, "the only difference between" Florida Democrats and Republicans in Tallahassee is that "the Democrats want the money in a paper sack and the Republicans want the money in a briefcase."

'Florida is paradise': Bush nostalgic in New Hampshire campaign appearance
"By Amelia Beamer, University of North Florida"
(B.A., Creative Non-Fiction, University of North Carolina, graduate student at Syracuse University)
(contributed propaganda published without adequate vetting by The St. Augustine Record and Florida Times-Union)
Feb 5, 2016 @ 6:15 pm | updated Fri, Feb 5, 2016 @ 10:21 pm

PITTSFIELD, N.H. | From the day that former Gov. Jeb Bush announced his run for the presidency, he has been citing his eight years as Florida governor as an example of the leadership skills he could bring to Washington.
Touring the Globe Manufacturing plant in southeastern New Hampshire on Thursday morning, Bush met with workers and then gave a speech followed by a Q-and-A session.
Globe Manufacturing creates protective gear for firefighters and is one of the largest employers in the area. Stopping to tour and speak there is a Bush family tradition, as Bush’s father and brother — both former presidents — stopped there on their own campaigns.
After a private tour of the facility, Bush spoke to company employees and fielded questions. While speaking passionately about the many issues facing the nation, Bush turned several times to stories of “his state” of Florida, noting not only his accomplishments, but highlighting the resiliency of the state’s citizens, the Sunshine State’s natural beauty and culture and the unique relationship between the Republican and Democratic parties there.
“Bringing reality to Washington is what I know how to do, because I did it in Tallahassee,” Bush said. “It’s the largest swing state — a purple state, if you will, with half a million more Democrats than Republicans, but we worked together to fix the mess (sic) that existed.”
Addressing a number of national “messes” — the state of Social Security, high tax levels, stagnant job growth, and threats of terror to name a few — Bush wrapped them into a metaphor that all Floridians would understand and appreciate all too well.

“When I was governor, we had eight hurricanes and four tropical storms in 16 months,” he said. “Now, it’s not like a big massive snowstorm, because we don’t do that in Florida. But think about it — eight hurricanes and four tropical storms. Over a million homes were damaged to the point where they couldn’t be inhabited. That’s more homes than exist in New Hampshire. We had people laid off because there was no power for the businesses. We had turmoil. But you didn’t hear about anybody complain about the leadership in Florida.”

Bush’s point was that through preparation and by truly supporting Floridians during times of crisis, he was able to bring the state’s citizens together. He hopes to have the chance to do it on a much larger scale, to take on the multitude of “messes” in the lives of Americans from the Oval Office.

Whether he’ll get that opportunity or not, Bush’s pride in Florida and the work that he accomplished as governor was clear and unmistakable through his speech and the answers he delivered to workers in a factory hundreds of miles from Tallahassee.

When closing, the former governor was asked what the draw was to Florida for so many retirees and transplants. His answer was simple.

“Florida is paradise,” he said. “People are kind to one another. It’s a kind of live-free-or-die kind of state,” linking his comment to the Granite State’s license plate motto.

RENNER and STEVENSON Voted for Fracking Bill Supported by KOCH INDUSTRIES

OATH BREAKERS?: With hands on Bibles, Reps. CYNDI STEVENSON and PAUL RENNER, swear oath as new legislators in 2015, swearing they will represent us.  They voted in favor of 'Fracking,' or hydrofracture petroleum and natural gas extraction methods using injection of toxic liquids into our aquifer. They should have voted to ban it, opting for the petroleum industry's loony law for the Governor RICHARD LYNN SCOTT administration of pro-industry hacks to "study" fracking/adcidification in porous limestone geology of  the Floridan Aquifer. 
Are they nuts?

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and government [last two words not in Article VI of U.S. Constitution) of the United States and of the State of Florida; that I am duly qualified to hold office under the Constitution of the State, and that I will well and faithfully perform the duties of State Representative on which I am now about to enter, so help me God."
[NOTE: If you affirm, you may omit the words “so help me God.” See § 92.52, Fla. Stat.]  The Constitution includes the takings clause, which would militate against allowing private corporations to pollute the subsurface waters of the State of Florida end the United States of America.
In Florida, fracking must be banned, not studied -- as Jim Sutton points out in his St. Augustine Record editorial, tracking makes no sense in Florida's limestone geology (Floridan Aquifer).

Hence, the vote of both misguided freshman state representatives (PAUL RENNER and CYNDI STEVENSON) supporting fracking is an embarrassment.

Our St. Johns County Commission, of which STEVENSON was a member until 2015, asked for a NO vote.

The oleaginous excuses emitted by these two other-directed legislative newbies, these shallow babes in the woods, sounds like it came straight from the FLORIDA PETROLEUM COUNCIL, whose Executive Director is DAVID MICA, brother of Florida U.S. Representative JOHN LUIGI MICA (R-Winter Park).(DAVID MICA, JR. is legislative affairs director for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, so when legislators promise fracking will be regulated, you can count on coverups).

U.S. Representative JOHN L. MICA is as lugubrious a goober as ever made a chair squeak, an egotistical pipsqueak.

At the MICA family, they believe that the "family that preys together, stays together" as members of the 1%. Rep. MICA is an open, notorious public Republican supporter of offshore oil drilling, MICA's son is a lobbyist for fertilizer interests and his daughter is a lobbyist for petroleum interests.

MICA has a nickname, "TARBALL," and we hope it sticks.

Mendacious misanthropic JOHN LUIGI MICA mis-represented St Johns County, 2002-2012, until redistricting stuck us with another sttuck-up alien implant, rude Republican RONALD DION DeSANTIS (R-Ponte Vedra).  At least KOCH INDUSTRIES' Senate candidate, RON DeSANTIS doesn't blow quite as much money as MICA on "meals with constituents," a ruse for spending campaign funds living high off the hog.

Read more on our two state representatives, PAUL RENNER and CYNDI STEVENSON, who now badly need replacing by people who will vote to preserve Florida's aquifer from tracking:

State representatives, local officials eyeing fracking bill
Posted: February 2, 2016 - 11:35pm | Updated: February 3, 2016 - 9:44am

State Rep. Cyndi Stevenson said her vote for a House bill on fracking was not a vote for the controversial practice, but a show of support for its study and regulation.

Others say the bill would just open up possibilities for the industry, which some say would put the state’s water supply in danger, according to the Associated Press and officials.

Passed last week by the House, HB 191 prohibits local government bans on fracking but also regulates and requires a study of the impacts of the activity, according to the Associated Press. Others questioned the bill, while local officials have supported a ban on fracking. The bill passed the House with a 73-45 vote. Rep. Paul Renner also voted for the bill.

Hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — blasts through rock using water and chemicals as a way to get to oil and gas deposits.

“Fracking has occurred in Florida without fracking-specific regulations,” according to an email from Stevenson. “Recognizing the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing, the Florida House passed HB 191.”

Hydraulic fracturing is allowed statewide under existing Florida law, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Hydraulic fracturing is a type of well stimulation, according to the FDEP.

In September, the St. Johns County Commission sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Travis Hutson, Stevenson and Renner seeking a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and well-stimulation.

“There is a concern hydraulic fracturing will have negative impacts to the citizens of St. Johns County. The potential exposure to the chemicals used in acid fracturing or well stimulation treatments may pose a widespread and significant risk to public health and safety and the environment,” reads part of the letter.

The letter added that fracking uses “substantial amounts of freshwater at a time when many Florida counties and municipalities are struggling with the impacts that water scarcity may have in the state in the near future,” and “hydraulic fracturing in any area of the state has the potential to negatively affect the drinking water supply.”

Commissioner Bill McClure brought up the fracking bill at Tuesday’s commission meeting. County Attorney Patrick McCormack and County Administrator Michael Wanchick said they had been contacted by Tallahassee officials about the issue and referred people to the county’s position supporting a ban.

St. Augustine City Manager John Regan said he planned to talk with Stevenson about the issue.

HB 191 is now in the Senate’s hands. A similar Senate bill could be heard on the Senate floor in the next several weeks, said Katie Betta, spokeswoman for Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Among other steps, the legislation would have the FDEP do a $1 million study on the impact of fracking and how chemicals and water would be disposed of, according to the Associated Press.

The bill also requires that the Department of Environmental Protection not approve permits for high-pressure well stimulation until the department adopts rules based on the study. Local governments would still have some control over zoning the practice.

According to the DEP, “oil and gas production has historically occurred in two primary areas of the state, the Smackover Trend in Northwest Florida and the Sunniland Trend of Southwest Florida. There are currently operating wells in Collier, Hendry, Lee, Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.”

Renner and Stevenson indicated the recently passed House bill would provide state officials with more knowledge and regulation, and a temporary ban.

“The bill imposes a moratorium on fracking and directs DEP to conduct a scientific, peer-reviewed study on the potential effects of fracking, including each chemical ingredient used in the process,” according to Stevenson. “This will help us better understand the potential impacts fracking may have on Florida’s unique geography. Based on the findings of this study, DEP must adopt rules that are required to be ratified by the legislature before they can issue any permits.”

She added that the bill gives regulators tools such as inspections, civil fines and disclosure of chemicals.

Renner’s support for the bill echoed Stevenson's comments.

“The house’s bill on fracking provides a common-sense regulatory framework where none exists today,” according to a statement sent from Renner’s office. “It gives the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to protect the environment and promote safety through permitting, inspections, disclosure and an increase in civil fines for bad actors who break the law. Furthermore, before any fracking can occur in the limited regions of the state where oil can be found, the bill requires that the DEP conduct a scientific, peer-reviewed study on fracking in our state so we can better understand any effects it may have on Florida’s unique geography.”

Dr.MacMantazas a/k/a DR.WILLIAM McCORMICK, Pharm. D.
Dr.MacMantazas 02/03/16 - 08:29 am 71A Very Weak Response from Local Legislators on Fracking Bill!
The State of Florida could pass legislation addressing the impact of fracking without removing the ability of local governments to impose bans on fracking on property within their jurisdictions. The state's legislators complain about federally imposed regulations, while at the same time they remove controls from local governments within the state.
mikewoodruff 02/03/16 - 09:50 am 61Ms Stevenson
never saw an opportunity to exploit the environment for the economic benefit of the already wealthy she couldn't embrace.

martystaug 02/03/16 - 10:47 am 50Backyard Fracking
I have not read this legislation, but it sounds like this "study and regulation" and "common-sense regulatory framework" is just a smoke screen to prevent local entities from preventing fracking in their vicinity. So, if I decide to frack in my backyard, the city and my neighbors can't prevent it? I hope this legislation also includes the cost of plumbers installing filters in everyone's home, just like Flint Michigan.

melvinudall 02/03/16 - 10:50 am 51Frackin compliant
The Florida legislator had an opportunity to ban fracking in Florida, a house bill and senate bill, in 2013 and 2015, Both bills were killed or allow to die in committee.
I asked Ms Stevenson if she supported fracking in her district and in the Florida. She would not responded to that question.

E-mail her at cyndi.stevenson@myfloridahouse.gov or

Travis Hudson hutson.travis.web@flsenate.gov our state. senator

Linda Young, Executive Director Florida Clean Water Network, just posted an urgent ACTION ALERT on her website http://floridacleanwaternetwork.org/are-the-koch-brothers-behind-florida...
that makes a case for how and why the Koch brothers could be the driving force behind the Florida Legislature's rush to frack Florida. I urge you to read the short piece and take action immediately to stop the Florida Senate from passing SB318, a pro-fracking bill.

Firstcoaster 02/03/16 - 11:57 am 42Koch Brothers
Who cares if the Koch brothers are pushing this legislation? If George Soros was pushing this legislation would it be ok then? Are the politics what is most important?

Just oppose it!

DavidWiles 02/03/16 - 11:58 am 60look closely at common sense
Oh yes, just a common sense approach to public policy, whereby the regulatory processes to allow fracking are established and oversight is delimited to the private sector corporate 'honor' or state-level agencies controlled by the Executive. The article above puts the best face forward: confident and open smiles from the representatives of Districts 24 and 17 plus a laundry list of arguments that read like an oil & gas industry promotion.

Obviously, the local rubes would trust the 'study' aspects of the Department of Environmental Protection because, dog gone it, these folks have done so much for Florida state parks and Florida clean water regulations and would be just the agency that Governor Scott and 73 House members voting for Bill 191 would *trust.* And listing the chemicals and fluids that will be pumped into the ground with the threat of corporate fines for any water problems....like migrating fluids or eroding of limestone and karst strata. It is just smart public policy that any legislator representing NE Florida would want fracking as a corollary to salt water intrusion from water drawdown, sinkholes and diminished freshwater springs from an already threatened aquifer.

And please, Mr. Renner and Ms. Stevenson, do not blame 'partisan politics' or corporate investor threats for your formal vote on Bill 191. You two and Senator Hutson carried the memorandum about banning fracking from your local constituents to your legislative colleagues and esteemed Governor. You knew that your local taxpayers and voters (the vast majority GOP) had debated and formally voted against fracking in Florida. You also knew that 'home rule' governance is most important in both St. Johns and Flagler counties and your 191 legislation carries on the tradition of state-level governing at the disadvantage of local municipalities (counties, cities, townships).

As elected officials still in your early/novice years there is a good chance that your overall good personalities and campaign subsidies may well see you survive and flourish despite your pro-fracking votes. No one knows how local elections will be intermingled with state and national politics. But my guess is that being a loyal Republican (or Democrat or Independent) will not be enough for determning the fate of a large number of the 73 'fracker' voters in the House. As incumbents, there will be a special burden to show some sentiment for environment, especially water politics, and commitment to local governing and home rule. Oil and gas exploration is only one aspect of the entire spectrum of legislator expectations but, whether it is 'fracking' beneath the limestone or seismic air gun explosions underwater, it will be a major attention getter in 2016. That is just common sense.

melvinudall 02/03/16 - 01:57 pm 44Everyone should care about clean water
Everyone should care, and the issue of clean water should transcend politics but it doesn't.

The Koch bros contributed to and help elect many of the politicians who introduced this bill and the politicians who passed this bill in the state house. Are our state representatives and senators obligated to pursue the interest of the polluters or the interest of the people? The polluters are being represented... not the people. Just pass a bill banning fracking.

The Koch bros are one of the biggest polluters in our nation.

The Koch bros flew under the political radar with ALEX for many years and the damage was done. We can't let this happen with the environment.

lastcoast -As for your political hyperbole, Mr. Soros has nothing to do with polluting Fla. and your comment is an argument with yourself. If you could replace the Koch name with Soros name would it matter? Sure it would matter.

Jason Hamilton 02/03/16 - 02:49 pm 31Time to look past gas
The American constant grab for gas/oil has been to our detriment both politically and physically. It is a finite resource that we must break our addiction to. Not looking past gas/oil is egregiously short sited and ignorant. We need elected officials to be visionary so that we as a nation can be the innovators that blaze the trail out of fossil fuels. I wonder how ecological depression on a mass global scale will change humanity when people finally wake up to our reality? If we get to a point where most people feel like we have totally sealed our evolutionary fait then all hope will be lost. My fear is savagery will be the new black. Stay young and health in the coming decades for our species is electing a very bumpy ride.

sponger2 02/03/16 - 05:42 pm 50I can tell you this...
Anything with Stevenson's name on it is something you want to pick off the bottom of your shoe, rinse well, and disinfect before bringing into the house. I have dealt with her personally and can tell you she is about the lowest form of life that walks on two legs. If you have to deal with her like I did at a large local business, you may want to ask her: "Did my back hurt your knife?"

Friday, February 05, 2016

Carl Hiaasen: Fantasy sports betting big on the legislature

Posted: February 5, 2016 - 11:51pm | Updated: February 6, 2016 - 12:02am

By Carl Hiaasen
Syndicated Columnist
The red-light district that masquerades as the Capitol building in Tallahassee is bustling as always with the Legislature in session.

It’s the annual festival of whores, when many Florida lawmakers sell out and roll over for high-rolling special interests, if the price is right. And the price is seldom wrong.

Buying one legislator doesn’t cost that much, but getting an entire bill passed to benefit your industry requires buying (or at least leasing) a bunch of them, which adds up to big bucks.

As an example, fantasy sports companies have spent more than $220,000 to recruit top Florida legislators on behalf of FanDuel, DraftKings and other daily fantasy leagues. These are online gambling operations that desperately don’t want to be regulated like gambling operations.

The companies insist their pay-to-play games reward skill over chance, but that’s a joke. Putting down cash on a quarterback’s Sunday performance is no different than betting on a race horse or a greyhound.

New York is seeking to ban fantasy sports companies from that state because the attorney general says they violate the gaming laws. The attorney general of Texas calls it “prohibited gambling.”

Florida, of course, remains wide open for business. No matter how you feel about online betting, the strategy of the competing companies offers a prime lesson on how to game a polluted political process.

Sen. Joe Negron, who’s next in line to be Senate president, is pushing a law that the daily fantasy sports sites have been fantasizing about. It legalizes play, and essentially grants exemption from gaming laws.

Online companies would pay $500,000 up front to operate in Florida, and $100,000 annually to renew their licenses. Minors would be barred from playing, though the companies wouldn’t be regulated like casinos or pari-mutuels. There would be no criminal penalties for violations.

By now you’ve already guessed that Negron is taking money from the industry. A political action committee connected to the Stuart Republican received $10,000 from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association in September.

Another productive $10,000 donation went to Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach. He is dutifully cheerleading a similar bill through the state House, piously declaring, “Government should have little to no involvement in the recreational daily lives of Floridians.”

Does that mean Gaetz also supports legalizing marijuana, which millions of Floridians use recreationally? Nope. Evidently the pot growers haven’t written him a big enough check.

Fantasy sports operators have laid down big bets on key lawmakers besides Gaetz and Negron. Their lobby group donated $30,000 to a political committee run by Rep. Richard Corcoran, the House Appropriations chairman and future speaker of the House.

The current Speaker, Steve Crisafulli, has a PAC that took at least $10,000 from the industry. So did a committee associated with Senate Appropriations chairman Tom Lee. GOP leaders aren’t the only ones with their palms out. Fantasy sports lobbyists also gave $25,000 to the Florida Democratic Party. (It was just a gesture of politeness, since the Democrats are powerless in the Legislature.)

Not all lawmakers are up for grabs. After Nevada ruled that sites such as DraftKings promote gambling, Florida’s Senate majority leader, Bill Galvano, actually gave back $15,000 he’d received from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

This defies all odds, but it really happened. Spreading tons of money around usually works wonders. Just ask the Seminoles.

In 2013, the tribe forked out $500,000 to Let’s Get to Work, Gov. Rick Scott’s political action committee.

Scott recently signed a new gambling compact that would give the tribe’s seven casinos exclusive rights to roulette, craps and blackjack. In return, the state would be guaranteed at least $3 billion from profit-sharing over seven years, beginning in 2017.

The Scott deal, a potential windfall for the Seminoles, has yet to be approved by the Legislature. Checks are flying.

The tribe opposes legalizing fantasy sports sites, which means lawmakers can shake big donations from both sides.

Already the Seminoles have distributed more than $2 million to at least 90 state politicians (mostly Republicans), several political action committees and both major parties.

This is how it gets done in American politics — you pay to play. It’s as true in Tallahassee as it is in any brothel.


On December 1, 2015, Rep. PAUL RENNER (R-Palm Coast) may be toast with the Religious Right. Rep. RENNER -- a Jacksonville corporate lawyer-carpetbagger defeated for a Jacksonville seat in 2014 and who moved to Palm Coast in 2015, winning a special election -- took $1000 in contributions from illegal fantasy sports gambling enterprises -- $500 from FanDuel and $500 from SportsKings. On the same day. How do you like that. Read full list of RENNER contributions here. Read The New York Times' reporter Walt Bogdanich's latest article here, documenting how Citibank is shutting off the money supply of credit card payments for illegal gambling:.

NYTimes: "Who killed the Sheridans?"

Read it here. Another botched homicide investigation concluding suicide, but one with far more interviews than in Michelle O'Connell's case. Police ineptitude in N.J.

Madeira, Dorms, Dr. Hayling Park, HARB, PUDs on Agenda

Come speak. Ask questions. Demand answers. Expect democracy. Decisions are made by people who show up.

Check out the agenda for the Monday, February 8, 2016 City Commission meeting here.

It includes naming the 11-acre park at the south end of Lincolnville the Robert B. Hayling Freedom Park. Three cheers to Mayor Nancy Shaver for advancing the idea of preserving the park in the first place, and to Commissioners in advance for honoring Dr. Hayling, the dentist who led the St. Augustine Movement.

Also on the agenda, as item 14A: "Motion to rescind Ordinance 2015-33, Large Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rescind the order on the denial of the Madeira PUD, Ordinance 2015-34, and set both for third reading and final hearing. N. Shaver, Mayor." Mayor Shaver and Commissioners Sikes-Kline and Freeman voted sgainst extending the PUD to the year 2013. No backup material is yet available, but it appears the developer may have decided to make concessions to our community in exchange for an extension -- perhaps a renewed golf course in place of the one destroyed to carve up homes that still have not been built, or perhaps affordable workforce housing to make up for the possible violation of the Fifteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act in constantly annexing lily-white fancy-bears developments, reducing African-American voting strength from 25% to 12% since 1964.

Also on the agenda, modifications to the PUD ordinance, a ban on dormitories in residential areas, and changes in HARB membership and selection.

"You keep chipping away!": City Planning and Building Director DAVID BIRCHIM

After another victory over oppression at the St. Augustine Planning and Zoning Board on February 2, 2016 (Atlantic Storage warehouses at SR312 and A1A), I spoke with PZB member Cathy Brown, former Council on Aging Director, who joined me in asking DAVID BIRCHIM (a/k/a "I Don't Want to Overthink This") about putting all PZB agenda backup items on the City's website.

Estimable St. Augustine City Planning and Building Director DAVID BIRCHIM complained that it would be costly, without ever providing data, and complained that I had asked before.  I pointed out that prior Commissioners refused to provide their agenda backup materials, ALL of which are now on the City's website.

Bumptious BIRCHIM ululated, caterwauled and whined, "You keep chipping away!"

Yes, dear, for 40 years I have been "chipping away!"

It was 38 years ago this summer that we helped halt eminent domain for coal slurry pipelines.

It was 33 years ago this May that our Appalachian Observer newspaper won declassification of the largest mercury pollution event in world history.

It was 24 years ago today that The New York Times carried the story about my heroic Government Accountability Project client, Oak Ridge National Laboratory whistleblower C.D. Varnadore, which helped transform the oppressive nuclear weapons plants forever.

It was nearly eleven years ago that I attended my first St. Augustine City Commission meeting.

It was nearly eleven years ago, that a federal judge ordered Rainbow flags to fly in honor of Gay Pride, defeating bigots in the St. Augustine government who hated the First Amendment.

It was ten years ago this month that I reported the City's illegal dumping of a landfill in a lake. We won. The contaminated solid waste is now in a Class I Landfill.

It was some 1985 days ago, on September 2, 2010, that Michelle O'Connell was shot to death and state and local officials botched the investigation of her boyfriend, JEREMY BANKS.  The FBI is following in the footsteps of The New York Times and other news media.  The truth will set us free.

It was two years ago that Mayor JOE BOLES, once considered Mayor for Life, was defeated by voters after Folio Weekly ran a cover story about my challenge to BOLES' unethical lease of City property at below-makret rates, inter alia quoting my partner as stating in a recommendation letter to the University of Florida graduate environmental and land use planning law program, I'm "the pest who never rests."

Yes, DAVID, thank you, I do "keep chipping away!"

That's how God made me, my parents raised me and my mentors taught me.

That 's what We, The People have been doing in St. Augustine Florida since April 9, 2005.  That's when I attended my first City meeting and was threatened with arrest by tawdry tatterdemalion termagant City Manger WILLIAM BRUCE HARRISS in retaliation for my raising concerns about the City's violation of African-American voting rights and civil rights -- refusing to annex West Augustine, while annexing some fifty times since 1964, reducing minority voting strength inside the City limits from 25% to 12%.

DAVID BIRCHIM, don't be smug, dear.  You work for us.  We wear your scorn as a badge of honor.

Bernie Sanders supporters' sign, First Friday Arts Walk

St. Augustine, Florida, February 5, 2016
Photo credit: Bruce Kevin Bates, © 2016 All Rights Reserved

TX officials arrested for bribery by FBI: Padlocked City Hall in "Spinach Capital"

World | Thu Feb 4, 2016 3:30pm EST Related: U.S., ELECTION 2016, POLITICS

Mayor, city manager of Texas 'spinach capital' arrested for corruption
The mayor and city manager of a south Texas town that bills itself as the "spinach capital of the world," were arrested on Thursday on charges including strong-arming contractors into paying bribes in exchange for doing business, authorities said.

A federal indictment claims five current and former city officials of Crystal City demanded payments from contractors so they could pay off personal gambling bills, bar tabs, car loans, and other expenses. A businessman was also charged for running an illegal gambling operation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Texas Rangers padlocked the City Hall for Crystal City, with a population of about 7,500 people as part of a probe into corruption where city officials are also accused of dipping into city coffers for their own personal gain, law enforcement officials said.

None of those arrested, who include Mayor Ricardo Lopez, made statements after being taken into custody. If convicted, each faces up to 10 years in a federal prison, prosecutors said.

City Manager William Jonas, according to the indictment, was elevated to that position from city attorney to reward him for procuring bribes, the indictment said.

Businessman Ngoc Tri Nguyen, known as "Mister T," is charged with paying bribes in exchange for opening an illegal gambling room, and getting city officials to use their muscle to shut down a competing business, it said.

Crystal City is known for a quirky tourist attraction of a large statue of the spinach-eating cartoon character Popeye in front of City Hall which celebrates the area's history as a spinach producer. It holds an annual spinach festival.

"Public corruption is one of the most insidious crimes confronting our communities today," FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs said in a statement. "It contributes to the cynicism we are seeing from members of the public who often feel as though all politicians are corrupt."

The arrests took place without incident and the FBI also seized documents at a San Antonio office in San Antonio, which is leased to Jonas, said FBI Special Agent Michelle Lee.

Jonas, a San Antonio attorney, is a former prominent Texas Republican lobbyist who is also facing state charges of assault after police said he is suspected of pushing a woman who attempted to enter the City Hall using the wrong entrance.

(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Chris Reese and Alistair Bell)