(“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us….” — Charles Dickens.)
Residents of Amelia said they were fed up with a new tax imposed without their consent and town officials wasting money it already had. So, they got rid of the whole shebang by dissolving the entire 119-year-old town and shuttering city hall.
Despite its name, the town of Amelia isn’t on Amelia Island, but in Ohio, about 17 miles southwest of Cincinnati. Well, it’s not in Ohio anymore, it’s nowhere because it no longer exists. Angry taxpayers voted it out of existence last November with a whopping 68 percent of them voting to boot the politicians and bureaucrats who imagined themselves as the original Amelia’s father — King George III.
Ohio’s Amelia didn’t go quietly. Newspaper reports described allegations of suspicious political donations and rumors about fake social media accounts. Protesters wore T-shirts that said “Stop the tyranny!” At one point, a former official was escorted out of a public meeting in handcuffs. For more than a year, the residents were consumed by a debate over a proposal to impose a new local tax of one percent and the town’s wasteful spending.
Ohio’s Amelia has a lot more more in common with Florida’s Amelia Island than its name. There are a variety of parallels, especially with Amelia Island’s Fernandina Beach. The Amelia town government’s one percent tax increase without any public input and uncontrolled spending were the sparks that ignited a good old-fashioned American rebellion.
Like Fernandina Beach, Amelia residents questioned the need for a new city hall. Amelia’s tax payers wanted an explanation for the city spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade village offices to a Victorian-style building, with a lion door-knocker, chandeliers on the ceiling and a gazebo in the backyard. Like Fernandina, Amelia had its own police force, with a chief. Our force has 42 full time officers and eight part time, that’s 33 per 10,000 people while Orlando has only 24 per 10,000. I’ve heard that our police department even has its own gym. Nice.
The debate in Ohio’s Amelia became not a question of who should be running the town, but whether the town should exist at all.
Amelia, Ohio, like Fernandina was financially stable, with a population that had nearly doubled since 2000. In recent years, a Kroger supermarket opened on Main Street. New subdivisions sprouted up, advertising new suburban homes for starting prices around $200,000. Residents zipped up Interstate 275 for easy access to their jobs in Cincinnati, just like commuters here zip down Interstate 95 to jobs in Jacksonville.
The only thing Amelia didn’t have then was a population sidelined from their livelihoods by a virus pandemic, a fact the current Fernandina City Hall occupants appear to be blissfully unaware of as it continues in its quest to buy more conservation land; approving a massive new fire station; seeking a new city hall; continuing to blur the the “Where’s FEMA?” Marina fiasco; the hiring of an assistant city manager and other bureaucrats; constructing an unnecessary Simmons Road Park, and more.
At its May 19, meeting the Fernandina City Commission approved on a 4-1 vote an expenditure of $172,500 to Passero Associates for design and pre-construction work on a new fire station to be located on airport property. The station is replacing one in a high density area off Sadler Road for the new one in a low density airport area near the county line. Passero says it is expected to cost about $4 million, give or take a few hundred thousand here and there. These are the same people that gave us the $5 million “It looks like an airplane” airport terminal, a white elephant the tax payers are now saddled with due to the pandemic economic hit. Will the pricey new station look like a fire truck? Commissioner Mike Lednovich was the only sane vote, saying no. Also, does anyone else wonder why Passero appears in almost every winning bid the city puts out? I wonder how much money it rakes in from Fernandina tax payers annually. I suspect the newly formed Common Sense group might want to look into that.
Could what happened in Amelia, Ohio happen in Fernandina Beach? Why not, the stage is set? Some prominent locals, such as businessman, entrepreneur, and attorney Pat Keogh, have been calling for the dissolution of Fernandina Beach’s city government and its merger with Nassau County for years. Pat’s argument is that we have too many levels of government that are not suited to our needs. Taxes are a major part of it, such as the .5 mill increase last year for conservation invoked without public consent. People are willing to pay for essential services, but they want to get something for their money, not bits and pieces of useless mosquito-infested swampland being taken off the tax rolls because a group of out-of-town screamers with their hair on fire intimidated city officials. Illegal impact fees extorted from local businesses are another major factor.
In the past 19 years more than 130 U.S. municipalities have dissolved according to the Tax Foundation. That organization’s Jared Walczak says these communities easily merged with counties where core services like police, fire, and emergency services, along with road maintenance and other government functions, are provided by the county or even the state. Municipal-oriented services—water and sewer or waste management, for instance—are either privately provided or non-existent. Sound familiar? It’s a scenario echoed by Mr. Keogh and others for many years. In Amelia, Ohio’s case, it didn’t become wholly unincorporated, but partitioned among two townships after its residents voted not to hand over any more of their paychecks to the spendthrift local government and dissolved the inept township.
The recent founding of Common Sense, a local watchdog group of prominent professionals — which is not calling for the city’s dissolvement, at least not yet — is an outgrowth of the exasperation experienced by residents of Fernandina Beach, particularly with autocratic, tone-deaf commissioners such as Chip Ross and City Manager Dale Martin and their pompous bullying and intimidating tactics. Last year, when residents publicly questioned their property tax increases City Manager Martin reached into city tax flies and read aloud the addresses, names and amounts of those questioning the increases. Other than intimidation and bullying, what was his excuse for such despicable behavior? Mr. Martin may want to take a hint from Wall Street Journal editorial writer Peggy Noonan, who wrote this week, “When you are reasonable with people and show them respect, they will want to respond in kind. But when they feel those calling the shots are being disrespectful, they will push back hard and rebel even in ways that hurt them.”
The Tax Foundation’s Walczak says having duplicate layers of government services between a city and county like Fernandina Beach and Nassau County does not make for effective, professional administration, and residents can find it frustrating to comply with local taxes and administrations that are often idiosyncratic and duplicative. “There’s likely a strong case for consolidation—either the sharing of services or the merging of governments — in small communities across the country,” he points out.
Several months ago – pre-virus — I was chatting with a regular at the local YMCA about city government and he summarized for me what he thinks most citizens expect from their local government. This gentleman, a long-time media executive of a national chain of local government publications, succinctly summed up voter expectations thusly:
- Teach our children.
- Pick up our trash.
- Provide public safety including law enforcement and EMT.
- Fill in the potholes. Keep bridges open.
“That’s it,” he said, adding, “most of this could be privatized.” He echoed Pat Keogh saying, “We don’t need a large city staff issuing business licenses (doesn’t the state of Florida require certification for most professions?), managing services that the county could easily provide or be done away with – and the backdrop of city government has yet to display competence to do something seemingly straightforward like getting the marina that was damaged over three years ago fixed for example. Instead it lets expensive mistakes slide and issues proclamations.”
The most popular functions in Fernandina Beach — the Shrimp Festival, Sounds On Centre, Dickens on Centre, — are not even conducted or organized by the city, but by independent organizations. The city charges them fees for permits, clean up, police duties, etc. The city does the same to the annual Concourse d’Elegance when it brings its parade of cars downtown for a day. The city has nothing to do with organizing the functions, only in telling visitors where they can and can’t drink a beer, park their cars, and then stand at the cash register to collect the event organizer’s cash.
It appears that it’s time for Fernandina Beach residents to consider shedding themselves of this extravagant, hopeless administration with its pompous self-righteous elected and appointed gasbags, dissolve the city, and merge with Nassau County. The right of exit is one of the most potent checks on power grabs. The folks in Ohio’s Amelia showed there are more ways to exercise it than voting with their feet. The residents of what once was Amelia, Ohio are doing just fine with lower taxes, less bureaucracy and regulations, and minus a cabal of wasteful, self-righteous politicians.
Shut Up Dave! A tiny handful of folks posting comments here often imply that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to me and that I should shut up, particularly when it comes to holding government officials accountable, especially Democrats. I welcome all comments but have a difficult time understanding how silencing me or anyone else expressing an opinion is constructive. One said I should do as he does: “I just sit back, shut up, and vote my mind each election.” Here’s what I don’t understand. They exercise their right of free speech on a platform I offer them then tell me to shut up. Many of these folks don’t hold back when it comes to expressing their scorn and contempt for President Trump and conservatives. They call for resistance for the misconceptions they have about democracy, government, public policy and the Constitution, a document I suspect few of them have ever read. Their answer is to squelch the free speech of anyone holding viewpoints contrary to their own. Sorry folks, but publicly voicing my opinion is a right I plan to continue exercising. I welcome all opinions and thoughts and never edit or delete any views unless they are profane and that has happened only two or three times in seven years. Please keep commenting, particularly if you disagree. Instead of telling me to “shut up” convince me why I should change my views and accept yours.
Coronavirus Conversations: The best one-liner I’ve heard about the virus lockdown so far is: “I’m as bored as an Amish electrician” while the best explanation as to why schools are closed comes from a six-year-old boy who responded saying: “I guess it was because they had run out of toilet paper.” It’s as logical as any other answer I’ve heard so far.
A Literary Home Run: Edward Kosner, former editor of Newsweek, New York, Esquire and the New York Daily News, is one of many Amelia Island residents who has left a trail of literary works in his wake while continuing to produce riveting prose. His frequent reviews in the Wall Street Journal’s Books section are an example. His WSJ appraisal of two books about baseball legend Yogi Berra last month are excellent reads that you don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate. “Yogi: A Life Behind the Mask” by Jon Pessah and “My Dad, Yogi” by Berra’s son, Dale, provide fascinating insights into the life of Berra and the teams, players, and owners he was associated with over the years. I thought I knew a great deal about baseball and those who played it in the Berra era, but I learned a lot by reading Mr. Kosner’s reviews. I didn’t realize that Berra not only played on 10 world championship teams, but as a manger he took teams (Yankees and Mets) to the World Series in both leagues. Mr. Kosner mentions that Berra grew up in St. Louis and lived across the street from future catcher Joe Garagiola, who once told a reporter: “Not only wasn’t I the best catcher in the majors, I wasn’t even the best catcher on the street I grew up on.” I have often found Mr. Kosner’s reviews more fascinating than the books he’s writing about. If you haven’t already, read Mr. Kosner’s own book, “It’s News To Me” which can be found on Amazon. It’s well worth the money.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “For the life of me, I’ll never understand how the Democrats can question our president’s sanity while continuing to put Maxine Waters in front of a camera.” – Candice Owens.
More Left Wing Nuttiness: Nancy Pelosi’s latest $3 trillion stimulus bill she dares to call “The Heroes Act” is simply the latest example of the sort of crap at which Democrats excel. Among other items, it calls for a $1,200 check going to every illegal alien in the country; pushes for loans going to women and minorities wishing to open a cannabis (marijuana) outlet; and releasing from prison those convicts suffering from asthma, diabetes or who are over the age of 50. As Burt Prelutsky says “God forbid criminals should risk contracting C-19; much better they should be released on the general public. Obviously, the Democrats have come to recognize that there are a lot of votes tucked away behind bars just waiting to get out and show their appreciation at election time.” Prelutsky continues adding: “Speaking of Pelosi, after her most recent Botox treatment, Madame Speaker looks even more like a department store mannequin. If she keeps it up, she’ll soon be even less life-like than the animatronic Abraham Lincoln at Disneyland.”
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Hola, the popular Fernandina Beach Cuban eatery with the best Cuban sandwich north of Havana and Tampa’s Ybor City is moving after seven years at its present location at North 2nd Street next to the Palace Saloon’s Uncle Charlie’s and across from Pablo’s. Its new location will be at the corner of Ash and South 5th Street, at 31 South 5th Street, across from the Patio Restaurant where something called London’s Pub and the original Nana Teresa’s and the old Italian restaurant Luigi’s were once located. This is the last weekend at its current location. This weekend’s hours are Friday, Saturday 9 am-4 pm, Sunday 10:30 am-4 pm. The patio is open for dine-in and take-out is also available. The menu is available at holacubancafe.com. Owners Marasol Triana and Chris Garcia expect to be moved into the new location June 1 and open shortly thereafter, making the best Cuban coffee and sandwiches and Cuban pastries hereabouts. Call ‘em at 904/206-1985. I’ve visited a number of restaurants with bars this past week and discovered that many are spacing folks apart at the bar and have tables scattered about in their dining areas that are full of eager eaters, happy to be out of the house and among friends. Most eateries seem to be cautious, courteous and careful but one I attempted to frequent seemed totally confused, telling me to wait a minute out front then leaving me standing in a torrential downpour outside while other customers streamed in and out of the front door. I departed with a clearer understanding of the term “madder than a wet hen.” Also, why are standalone bars like PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden, Locals, The Green Turtle and The Palace Saloon being singled out for financial punishment? They don’t serve food but what kind of reason is that to fiscally flog them by not allowing them to open? Speaking of alcohol I read in an article about the virus that Listerine has a higher alcohol content than vodka, but I’ve never seen anyone order a Listerine and tonic.
SOCIAL DISTANCING WITH BEER BUMPER TABLES
Off topic: Monday May 25th, at 11AM there is a ceremony for Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial Monument at the Marina in Fernandina Beach. It is hosted by the Marine Corps League. Memorial Day is a national holiday honoring those who died while in service in the US armed services. If you can, please attend albeit social distancing requests are still in effect.
We still own property in the City as well as the County. Seems we pay about 30% more in the City. Pretty much all City functions have their counterpart in the County. So I ask folks in the City what value they get for the added cost. I’m just finishing an office development in the County. Everything has gone well with the County. I gave up working in the City because of the high public friction.
We have lived in places like Reston and McLean, Virginia. Big towns and lots of community identify and happy citizens. Maybe not so happy about that weather thing. But folks there like to think of themselves as living in those towns. The only thing missing is municipal governments and I never knew anyone who saw any value in another layer of government. Management guru Peter Drucker may have asked the right question; “If you didn’t do it yesterday would you do it today?”
This Eric Corbett guy just pulled ahead of Ole Lott in the now-it-all department. Mr. Corbett you probably been cooped up too long in quarantine or probably need more fiber in your diet. Being regular gives everybody a better disposition. And i guess since your so smart what do you want done in fernandina beach you seem angry all the time
Coronavirus epidemic has provided a historical opportunity for a “socialist platform pandemic” in America. https://www.wsj.com/articles/whos-looking-out-for-main-street-11589741411
While the battle in Washington marches on we can at least become masters of our own destiny locally. Smart, survival fiscal policies that are grounded in the “new” reality for the next 4-5 years (it will take this long to find a vaccine) need to put in place NOW. All non-essential spending needs to stop, the coffers need to be protected to shield against the ultimate tax strain our CARES act will have on everyone – the money will need to be paid back!!!
I’m so proud to be so talked about this week. The suggestion I made for Dave to shut up was preceded with an open invitation for he and his oh so wise cohorts to step forward and win an election. The whole group should run: Dave, Pat, And Common Sense. These guys are the smartest guys anywhere. They are brilliant. If you don’t believe me, ask em. They should take their time to qualifY, run, get elected, and then they’d be in control. Once Dave and Pat and others are in control there will be no doubt we are safe. They will take the most special care for our city. I can’t wait to experience it.
Love the blog, please keep going!
I refer to the two , De Martin and Chip Ross as the “Chip and Dale Show”…. people our age will understand the humor…. Their bumbling of the marina never stops
Dave, anyone that tells you to shut up is wrong. and obviously has no sense of humor.The problem might be that some folks just don’t understand that you are farther to the right than even FOX and they can’t hold a candle to you in the name calling department . They at least claim to be ” fair and balanced ” and at at times they actually are.
It appears you report on only the flaws of one party and never hold the Republicans, including President Trump, accountable for their miss- steps, quotes or lies.
We all need to remember a one party system is nothing more than a dictatorship.
My God man if you were a democrat you could write a weekly sit-com just on Trump and give Alex royalties for life.
Your views with respect to the City, as always are well received and appreciated.
It is interesting that you quoted Peggy Noonan from the WSJ. ” When you are reasonable with people and show respect they will want to respond in kind. ” Those are great words. I think we all need to show respect in words and actions. I must say that name calling and the constant barage of one sided thoughts go completely against the power of her words. A lesson for all of us. Stay well and safe and please wear a mask.
Either we merge with the county or have the Island become it’s own county. It has to be pretty clear that after the immeasurable harm that Government has done to it’s citizens during this pandemic hoax, that we need less government. We clearly don’t need this extra layer of clueless bureaucracy who further destroys the island. Please look at their approved rezoning at the corner of Fletcher and Atlantic. It’s a hideous monstrosity with no consideration for increased traffic. Was a final design even submitted before it was approved? It’s just another means to add money (hotel taxes) to the mismanaged existing tax base that in no way benefits the taxpayers. It only serves to expand their dysfunctional Fiefdom. Let’s find out the path that Amelia, Ohio took to eliminate their wasteful and non-responsive bureaucracy and follow it quickly before more money is mismanaged and any further damage is done to our Island home. Clearly some common sense needs to be embraced in this matter.
Dave, the Yogi Berra story grabbed my attention. I grew up in St. Louis on the “Hill”. Back then it was called “Dago” Hill. My grandparents came to the U.S. (legally) and ended up in St. Louis. My Grandfather worked in a Brick Factory for 40 year to support his family. My Aunt and Uncle (Calcaterra) lived across the street from the Garagiola and Berra family. Joe G. played for the St Louis Browns. As a kid, I remember Joe giving me a bat and glove. I was thrilled.
I can also, remember my Dad telling me the same story about Yogi, not being best catcher in the neighborhood. I always thought my Dad might be a little jealous of Yogi’s success but maybe it was true.
While i am a frequent reader, i must admit that i am not a regular reader. I should also say that i probably disagree with 80% of your view points and feel that not every issue needs to categorized as left or right. But I strongly believe in your right to voice your opinion, as long as you do so responsibly(which you seem to do). So by all means DON’T SHUT UP.
Good column his week. I’m not overly impressed with the government of the
county but I like Pat’s suggestion of joining the County or at least combining some of our services. I would rather suggest that we move forward to become the 68th County in the State. That would lower our taxes for those in the City and keep the present unincorporated area county tax about the same. Our new County School Board taxes would go down and our bed tax income would go up. The Island already has all of the facilities to operate as a County. This may take a lot of work to accomplish but could be a win-win for for the Island.
As usual Dave “right on “.It’s hard to conceive that a city voter does not understand what the leaders are doing to the community and voters in particular.
When they say “shut up ” it’s because that is their only thought in the debate.
Good morning Dave!
Hopefully Sounds on Centre will return to entertain the residents in July? We cancelled the June one too, as the State has yet to allow large crowds.
Let’s stop talking and start DOING something about consolidating the City and County Governments. Can your friend Pat Keogh provide guidance on how this can be done?
I’m in agreement with Pat Keogh, dissolve FB into the county.
Dave, Shut the hell up!
Just kidding! Ha!
Good read. Keep it coming dave