That clucking noise coming from the Fernandina Beach City Commission chambers is Commissioner Johnny Miller and Dr. Ronald “Chip” Ross, two Chicken Littles, frantically attempting to peck to death a proposed affordable apartment project with their preposterous “end of the world” scenarios.
Mindlessly following these two clucking birdbrains are the usual raggedy handful of leftover hippies adorned with their 1960s beads and boasting unwashed stringy hair, chanting their “sky is falling” mantra.
Dr. Ross, a Maryland transplant, who wore out his welcome up north and decided to stir his silliness pot here by spouting nonsense, is also running for the City Commission seat being vacated by Mayor Robin Lentz, who announced she isn’t running again. This guy will show a slide, produce a chart, spout a number, and draw a pie chart faster than Commissioner “Look at Me! Look at Me” Miller can jump in front of a TV camera.
Their job as they see it, is to look stern, grunt, finger wag disapprovingly, then say stupid and inaccurate things about the environment and local economy no matter how dim it makes them look.
This bumbling duo have set their do-gooder, tree-hugging blinders-on sights on a putrid swampy area at South 14th Street and Lime that has been used for years as a homeless encampment, a dump for old tires and rusted appliances, and even an occasional dead body. It’s even been set on fire a couple of times. Swamp is actually too nice a word for this site — mosquito-infested garbage ditch is more descriptive.
A development group headed by mild-mannered, straight-shooter Spurgeon (Yes, that’s his real name) Richardson that has been bending over backwards to satisfy even the most outrageous outraged clucking extremist in order to build a 224-unit apartment complex. The developer is not a Trumper who wants to drain a swamp. Nope, Spurgeon and his group say several acres of the 23-acre site will be preserved for storm water retention ponds, not to mention the fact that an affordable housing complex on the site would be one hell of an improvement over the stinking, mosquito-infested, scum-covered steaming mess that currently sits there.
Nope say Dr. Ross and his clucking hen counterpart, Moonbeam Miller, who think shredded tires, rusty appliances and discarded coffee grounds are endangered species that need their own preserve at 14th and Lime.
This nutty pair could care less that teachers, police and firemen, hospitality workers, and many others are fast running out of affordable housing on the island. Real estate prices, including rentals are skyrocketing once again and the fact that Amelia Island is running out of places to build and rent is making it tough for the average citizen to find a home here.
Add to this dilemma the fact that some nine new bars and restaurants and a couple of boutique hotels are planned on the island within the next 12-18 months, and we’re facing a situation where employers are already having trouble recruiting employees to fill vacancies.
The hospitality industry including the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island and Omni Amelia Plantation, the downtown Hampton Inn, B&Bs and more employ some 2,000 people locally and it’s estimated that local property owners could expect tax bills to rise by $2,700 if tourism went away.
According to Tourist Development Council Director Gil Langley, tourism accounts for 39 percent of sales tax revenue and each visitor generates $435 for the local economy. Folks that work in these businesses need affordable places to live.
But that is of no concern to this mindless duo as they peck away furiously at common sense and logic looking up sporadically with blank stares.
All the other City Commissioners except Moonbeam Miller are in full agreement with the apartment development. In fact Moonbeam has even gone on his personal Facebook page arguing against it despite the fact that the Commission voted 4-1 in January to approve it. Some folks hereabouts including those with law degrees and others that serve and have served as commissioners have told me that the loopy bartender commissioner may be in violation of the state’s Sunshine laws by doing so.
Every time Moonbeam speaks it reminds me of a line from the Adam Sandler film “Billy Madison”, where a teacher responds to an answer by a dim student saying: “What you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. May God have mercy on your soul.”
As for gadfly Dr. Ross, this is not his first time annoying community residents and filing irritating legal actions that cost taxpayers money. According to news reports in the BayNet.com an online news publication in Southern Maryland, Ross caused one hell-of-a brouhaha in his former residence of Solomon’s Island, Maryland before hightailing it out of there to pester people on Amelia Island.
Apparently Ross has a habit of trying to force property owners to build or not build and sell or not sell anything he doesn’t favor having built or sold. According to news reports he tried to strip a local bar there of its liquor license and had legal charges brought against him said a news publication there in September 2006. The entire, very bizarre report of Dr. Ross’ activities can be found by going to: http://www.thebaynet.com/articles/0906/prominent-tiki-bar-foe-charged-with-intoxicated-endangerment.html
The city’s worst nightmare would come true if Dr. Ross was to be elected to the City Commission and mine would be regaining consciousness in the local Baptist Medical Center ER and seeing Ross staring down at me.
Reasonable people who think the island needs affordable rental units and believe property owners have rights, can support Mr. Richardson in his efforts by sending the US Army Corps of Engineers an email to: mailto:email@example.com with the following subject line: Subject: Re: Project number: SAJ-1995-03715(SP-MRE) 14th and Lime Amelia Island.
Even environmental extremist City Commissioner Len Kreger, who wants to steal money from the TDC for his own misguided projects, rode in astride his giant Sea Turtle, to support Mr. Richardson’s efforts, as have former Commissioners Ed Boner and Eric Childers and many, many more elected and appointed officials and respected area citizens.
If you don’t know what to say use the following:
I am writing in support for project SAJ-1995-03715(SP-MRE). I fully support this work force housing project. We have a significant shortage of moderately priced rental housing. We are a barrier island and the costs for residential rental properties continue to increase. Many of our young people and entry level professionals would like to live on the Island but find moderately priced rental housing scarce, having to settle for a commute to and from the island. This project is within walking distance to our hospital, police HQ and a shopping center. Being centrally located it is also within bicycling distance to several other shopping centers, our downtown business district and two paper mills thus supporting the cities intermodal transportation goals. The developer has gone to great expense and effort to receive approval from the SJWMD and the City of Fernandina Beach. It is my belief this project is absolutely necessary and beneficial to Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island and Nassau County as a whole.
Sex: Actually this has nothing to do with sex but I wanted to get your attention. For reasons known only to her, Ms. Tarah Dunlop, possibly the prettiest Chicago Cubs fan in America, invited me to be interviewed by her and her colleague, Christy LeLait, during a session in the beer bowels of PJD’s 12 South 2nd Street Beer & Wine Garden this past Wednesday for their Under the 8 podcast. I understand that you can hear this delightful duo’s podcast by going to underthe8.com. Since I was very busy drinking beer and ogling the delightful gals, I have no idea if I made a total fool out of myself or not. Ms. Dunlop comes by her podcast skills and love of baseball honestly as her dad broadcasts a podcast with college baseball managers out of his Chicago base at topcoachpodcast.com.
But Enough About Me, What Do You Think About Me? As I mentioned in last week’s blog the Jacksonville-based Folio tabloid newspaper invited me to pen a weekly column for them and the first one appeared this week titled “Are we sure I’m in the right place?” The folks that run that publication have decided to call the column “Newsense” and introduced me by saying “Introducing our newest, ORNERIEST columnist.” Ornery? Newsense? Really? Oh well, if you haven’t picked one up at a local coffee shop or pub, you can go online at Folioweekly.com and read it, if you’re so inclined.
Ya’ll Come Back Now Ya Heah! In a comment to last week’s blog about our city’s determination to build an airport terminal here designed to look like an airplane, neighbor and friend Christine Harmon came up with what I think is the most clever idea I’ve heard yet, proposing this: “Dave, I’m going to offer another solution to the Airport/Welcome Center/tailless plane building. Forget the tail. Forget thinking of it as a plane. Consider a boomerang. Slogan: Everyone comes back to Fernandina!” I think Ms. Harmon is on to something here and the design wouldn’t be that difficult. And in case of a Category 5 hurricane, the whole shebang would end up right back where it belongs. Ingenious! Oh, and Commissioner Roy Smith appears to be the only rational commissioner, voting “NO” on this loopy building design from the get-go. One down, two to go.
Nancy Pelosi! Please Stay: Nancy Pelosi is a gift from the Democrats to the Republicans and Donald Trump that just keeps on giving. After four consecutive losses in recent special congressional elections even some Democrats are calling for this confused, dim old bird to step down as House Minority Leader, but I suspect if she does we’ll never have this much fun or as many laughs again. Well, unless they elect Maxine Waters, the other half of the female Laurel & Hardy wannabes.
A Spacey Place: When I lived in Houston I went to the Air and Space Museum but there was nothing there.
Impressive Students: I’m impressed with all the folks my age and older as we all got our educations without Google. Today you can’t even make a simple barroom bet without somebody whipping out their iPhone, taking all the fun out of racking your brain, arguing with your pals, researching the answer in a reference book, or by calling the local paper.
Just Say “No” Department: Puerto Rico is $71 billion in debt and bankrupt, yet folks in that mismanaged Caribbean island get to vote on whether they want to be a US state. Why?
Congress will eventually decide, but voters in the U.S. should cast ballots not the Puerto Ricans, otherwise we’ll be in danger of inheriting a population that will be living off the back of the U.S. taxpayer and suffers staggering debt with no end in sight.
The Democrats, only caring about their party and not the country, are all for statehood as that steaming tropical mess would contain four electoral votes, two senators and several House seats with a cultural predisposition that leans heavily toward Democratic Socialism. Puerto Rico’s population is larger than Alaska, Wyoming, South and North Dakota….combined. If incorporated with voting rights, it would fall in around 30th in population. Not good!
Things I Wish I’d Said: “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” — Willie Nelson.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: I went to 801 Kitchen & Bar (corner of Beech Street & South 8th) Tuesday to hear piano man John Springer and drummer Rob Taylor and was impressed to see the place was packed to the rafters with people, many I’ve never seen at the Alley Cat where the two performed prior to its closing about three weeks ago. The tuxedo-clad duo didn’t disappoint, as the crowd was enthusiastic, the service good, drinks reasonable and from the comments I heard, the food was delicious and well priced. In addition to Tuesdays John is there solo on Wednesdays and Saturdays, a pleasant way to enjoy a meal, cocktail, listen to some old standards and meet good friends you may not have seen in a while. I tried the special of the day at Karibo recently and was impressed with the taste, portions and price. Called “pig wings”, the plate consists of three very large pieces of barbeque pork on sticks accompanied with cole slaw and fries for just $13 and it was more than I could eat at one sitting. It may not be on the menu so ask. Karibo’s little brother Timoti’s just down North 3rd Street is now featuring a tomato-based seafood stew chock-a-block full of shrimp, fish and calamari for just $3.99 for a cup and $4.99 a bowl. If you like Timoti’s clam chowder as much as I do then you’ll love the seafood stew. The Crescendo Big Band is back and will be entertaining folks at $15 per head at the Kraft Athletic Club, 961023 Buccaneer Trail, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, July 7. Light snacks and beverages will be available to purchase. PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden is considering doing a beer yoga program that involves hot gals in leotards balancing bottles of beer on various parts of their anatomy while striking poses. I thought this an interesting concept until I heard that Pajamadave Voorhees and Hampton Inn General Manager Bob Ramshaw, both in need of serious belly trimming, were considering taking part, a sight that would be difficult to unsee. I’m told by Folio Editor Claire Goforth that smoked mullet can be had nearby at a joint called Dan’s Seafood in Ponte Vedre. I wonder if Linda would consider going there for our anniversary next week? If you haven’t already seen the video advertising the November Petanque Tournament here then by all means please go to https://www.facebook.com/AmeliaIslandFlorida/videos/10158851116620082 and do so. It’s well worth your time and the overacting by Belgian expatriate Philippe Boets an Academy Award winning performance.