If the county’s 14,371 registered Democrats wanted to vote for one of the two leading contenders for Nassau County School Superintendent they’d have to have switched party affiliation and joined the county’s 32,696 registered Republican voters. There are also 12,059 other registered voters ranging from Independents to Green, Ecology, and even a group claiming allegiance to something called the Socialism and Liberation party that would have to had done the same thing.
In Nassau County virtually all elected officials are members of the Republican Party, and since the Democrats seldom run for office here, a Democratic primary is rare. The others are almost never heard from.
When school teacher and school board member Kathy Burns and State Representative Janet Adkins filed to run in the Republican primary for the supervisor position, Bryceville realtor Cheryl James filed as a Libertarian thus slamming the door on the more than 14,000 Democrats and the others who may have wanted to vote in the GOP primary for one of the obvious winners.
If both Ms. Burns and Ms. Adkins were not facing any other candidate in the general election, then Democrats and others could vote in the GOP primary, but because Florida is a closed primary state, they can’t, due to Ms. James decision to run. It sounds odd but that’s the way it’s been in Florida since 1913.
A lot of folks have voiced strong opinions about Ms. James decision accusing her of being a “straw man” put up by Adkins supporters to drain votes away from Ms. Burns. I’ve also heard rumors that Ms. James is a loyal Adkins supporter and even a former employee of an Atkins family business.
She told me recently that none of that is true and that she is “very confident” of her chances to win, taking a Donald Trump approach saying: “I’d like to hope that people are as tired of professional politicians as I am” despite the fact that I told her that Ms. Burns was not a professional politician, but a professional educator.
She did admit that she once placed a Janet Adkins sign in her yard and voted for her as well. In fact, she said, as a result of changing church membership recently Ms. Adkins’ father is now her Sunday school teacher. But that is pure coincidence she claims.
As far as her candidacy shutting Democrats out of the GOP primary she responded saying: “They should have stepped up and fielded their own candidate.
She says her incentive for running is fueled in part by the fact she put five children — two of her own and three foster children — through local schools.
As determined and feisty as she sounds, Ms. James chances of winning this election are as slim as Bernie Sanders becoming Donald Trump’s running mate, maybe even slimmer. So far she’s raised less than $1,000 and that’s already been spent to cover her filing and petition fees.
As far as I am concerned the worrying scenario is not so much Ms. James’ lost-cause candidacy but the out-of-county and out-of-state money pouring into the Adkins campaign coffers. The bulk of Ms. Burns contributions are from in-county folks, who have a vested interest in the campaign because they have children and/or property and businesses here. Why would anyone who doesn’t live or work here give money to a Nassau County School system candidate unless they were expecting some kind of eventual pay back?
According to the online NCFL Independent newspaper Ms. Adkins, also told the teachers union last week that she will not complete its questionnaire about why she wants to lead the district and explained her decision in a memorandum dated March 14th to Nassau Teachers’ Association (NTA) President Bev Kurak.
The Independent quoted Ms. Adkins as saying: “Unfortunately, it has become apparent that the union leadership has already decided who they will support. The candidate questionnaire is a formality rather than a legitimate, fair and unbiased effort to make a selection regarding who will be the best candidate for Superintendent of Schools.”
Ms. Adkins, who is in the final months of her last term as state representative due to term limits, does not name the candidate the union will support the paper said but I’m betting it ain’t Ms. James.
Ms. James told me she will fill out the questionnaire. Ms. Burns cooperated as well.
Nassau County’s schools are some of the best in the state and voting for Ms. Burns is one way to keep them that way. Whether people have kids in school or not, the value of their property is partially determined on how well the schools perform. Home owners in the metropolitan Atlanta area where failing school systems, lousy and dishonest teachers, and corrupt school administrations caused housing prices to plummet and kids to be cheated out of a decent education, is an example of what happens when inept, unqualified, shady folks are in charge. It’ll take years to fix that mess and the stain will last forever.
I favor Dr. Burns, because she is by far the most qualified, and there is something that doesn’t smell right about all the outside money funding Ms. Adkins’ campaign. Dr. Burns’ impressive academic background in education, classroom experience, time on the school board, and her obvious financial support from Nassau County residents, makes her a solid choice for this very important job. Ms. Adkins should explain the outside money while Ms. James should stop wasting her time, pull out of the race and open the GOP primary to everybody.
Pocket Park Packed Up: The downtown park next to the former Christmas Store on Centre Street is no more. The small parcel utilized as a pocket park by the City of Fernandina Beach near the western end of Centre Street has been dismantled by the city when the new owners refused to continue to offer the land to the city for a nominal one dollar a year “sweet heart” fee. New City Manager Dale Martin told me that since the new owner indicated that the cost to the City to maintain the park would be the cost to cover local city taxes, the city responded by showing up and dismantling and removing all park fixtures including the sidewalk, pieces of art work, benches and even uprooting a palm tree. “After consultation with other staff, the decision was made to formally terminate the relationship, ” said Mr. Martin in his weekly comments. “I will work with staff to determine a suitable new location to place the art that occupied the park site.” Seems to me that ripping out the old park and then finding a new one, and putting all the stuff back would cost the city about the same or more as the nominal annual tax fee of about $4,000 the new owner requested. And the negotiations I am told took place between the city attorney and an attorney for the store owner, in my opinion, not the best folks to have handle such a deal, as it takes all the personality out of the talks.
Cup Of Crankiness: Local News-Leader newspaper columnist Joe Palmer, who has proclaimed himself a “southern humorist,” may be the least witty person I’ve ever read or met. And his writings don’t make anyone I know smile, much less laugh. But they do make them cringe. After reading some of his latest screeds I’m suggesting he change his self-anointed label to “town crank.” Last November he called the newspaper’s readers “stupid” if they didn’t interpret a series of public positions by politicians and others toward Syrian refugees the same way he did saying: “Do you see a pattern here? You’re stupid if you don’t.” In recent columns snarling about the Republican primaries and Donald Trump this self-labeled funny guy called people “con men, racists, despicable, nut-jobs, white trash, churlish, liars,” and more. And last Friday he dismissed the almost eight million people who voted for Donald Trump so far in the GOP primaries as “sycophants” and “suckers.” Yeh, this guy’s a barrel of laughs and not someone you want to sit too close to in a local coffee shop.
Speaking Of The News-Leader: Foy Maloy, publisher of the News-Leader, penned an editorial Wednesday, March 16 headlined “Nobody reads the paper anymore?” In it he pooh-poohed the decline of print newspapers and stressed the “affluence” of his paper’s readers to prospective advertisers. He also said his paper now has the largest mail subscriber base in its history. He didn’t mention revenues, which his former Editor Michael Parnell said are declining during a talk to an audience of Democrats not too long ago. I also found it odd that in boasting about the “record number” Mr. Maloy didn’t say what those numbers are, but the Florida Press Association says it’s 10,000. Prospective News-Leader advertisers should be provided audited circulation numbers from the Alliance of Audited Media, and not “readership” numbers provided by the paper, which claim that their paper is read by several people per each physical copy distributed. Advertisers pay rates based on audited circulation figures not readership claims.
Speaking Of Newspapers: The lack of a single mention of the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars NFL football team in the March 25, 26, 28, 30 and 31st editions of the Florida Times-Union was so conspicuous by its absence that it jumped out at me. I’ve been so used to the excessive coverage of this dreadful team that when I found myself gleefully reading articles about baseball’s spring training, the National Hockey League, the college basketball playoffs, NFL and college coaching changes, golf and other topics normally pushed off the sports pages by the awful Jaguar team, it struck me that I wasn’t having to skip story-after-story of nauseating drivel about one of the worst teams in professional sports. Meanwhile, single-minded Jaguar fanatic and friend Al Waldis of the Salty Pelican, was suffering from withdrawal symptoms while I relished reading the Jaguar-free editions. Will it continue? I can only hope.
April 15 Looms: Attention folks, there’s just 15 days left to send the feds your tax return. Like most, I despise the income tax filing routine and if I was a presidential candidate I’d be making stump speeches from now until April 15 telling my constituents how I would reform this outdated and unfair system. But I’m not. So the only thing I can do is comply and arm myself with the most capable people I can find to assist me in ensuring that I am allowed to keep as much of my own money as I can and I did that this year by taking advantage of the services of Gloria Payne, a local lady who probably knows as much about the tax system as Alan Greenspan. This very polite, classy and intelligent lady, sorted through my record keeping jumble and within two days had the returns prepared and ready to sign, alerting me to legitimate deductable items I was unaware of and would certainly have missed if I had tried to do my own taxes. And she did it all for a very, very reasonable fee. If I tried to do my own returns it would become my life’s work. If you are as befuddled, fed up, confused, frustrated, or uncertain about your taxes as I am, call Ms. Payne ‘s Historical District Tax & Accounting firm at 904/742-9040 and let this pleasant lady calm your anxieties and then rest assured that every action she proposes is to your benefit and totally legitimate.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: We enjoyed one of the best meals I’ve eaten out in a long time Easter Sunday when we ordered the paella for two at La Mancha, accompanied by a jug of sangria. Linda’s visiting cousin, Diane, and her husband, Bill, joined us, decided on the same selection and raved that entire evening on how delicious it was. The hot crusty bread served with meal was a perfect addition, and our waiter, David, couldn’t have been more congenial and attentive. The guitar player’s soothing melodies made for a perfect evening out with friends and family. Call ’em at 904/261-4646. Speaking of calling, I tried to phone the Green Turtle several times Saturday to find out who was playing there that night but the phone rang with no one answering it. When I stopped by later that day I told them that nobody answered their phone and they responded saying “that’s because we don’t have a phone.” They have a number but no phone. Am I the only one who finds that odd? I have heard nothing but good things from folks who have dined at the recently opened Burlingame Restaurant at 20 South 5th Street downtown , not a single complaint or negative comment, nothing but raves, so am anxious to try it. Call ’em at 904/ 432-7671. Local restaurateur Tim Poynter has apparently hit a home run with his new Timoti’s Food Shak that just opened on 1043 Park Street in Jacksonville’s Five Points neighborhood rating a glowing page 1 review in the Times-Union’s Saturday, March 26 Dining Section. Tim’s first Timoti’s opened five years ago on downtown Fernandina Beach’s North 3rd Street just a few steps from his popular Karibo restaurant. The reviewer praised the poke salad, chowder and hush puppies as outstanding. In my opinion the chowder at Timoti’s is one of the best I’ve ever eaten. Call ’em in Fernandina Beach at 904/310-6550. Sounds on Centre, the fun and free downtown street concert series put on by the Historic Fernandina Business Association, kicks off tonight at 6 p.m. with a group I’m anxious to hear — Palmetto Catz — which is described as an upbeat cover/variety band that leans heavily on classic pop/rock hits from the 1960s and 70s. They began performing together in 2001 in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton hotel here and have been together ever since so they’re obviously doing something right. Join ’em this evening at the intersection of Centre and 2nd Street.
Dave, I usually agree with your politics so I’m surprised you are misguided about the Superintendent’s race. Kathy Burns is clearly the candidate of the teachers’ union. The purpose of a union is to destroy the relationship between the employer and the employees. That is dumb and unproductive in the private sector. But it is even worse in the government sector because we the taxpayers are the employer. The teachers union bosses will always look out for their own interests at the expense of the students and taxpayers. Teachers Union Boss Albert Shanker once infamously said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of children.” I’ve never met any of the candidates running and I don’t need to. If Kathy Burns has the support of the union bosses, that’s all I need to know — she won’t have mine.
I agree about Joe Palmer’s somewhat abrupt turn to the left in his articles.I have read them for several years and always enjoyed them especially when his mother was still alive. His writings were down home and southern,like myself. The columns about his great danes were also very well done. Why the change is a mystery,only he can solve and what is he thinking waving the Liberal Left flag in a community of Republicans.Joe are you in a mid life crisis? Maybe counseling is in order.
Gosh, I hate this, But here goes. I agree Dave, There is only one qualified choice for Nassau County Superintendent of Schools. That is Dr. Burns, who has spent her whole adult life, preparing herself to be our School Superintendent. I don’t agree that the Position should be an Elected Position, We should select from a wide range of qualified Individuals, across the Country, as we just did with our City Manager. But the reality is, we have a closed Republican Primary, With a supremely qualified Educator (Dr. Burns) and a Politician (Ms. Adkins) running for this office. The third, candidate in the mix, I’m sure, a nice person, is Unqualified to be a substitute teacher in most School Systems. Not one, I would put in charge of my Grandchildren’s or your Children’s Education, I’ve just become a card carrying member of the Republican Party, Just so I have a Voice, and a Vote for our Nassau County Superintendent of Schools. I would hope every county Voter would make arrangements, so they too can Vote in the Republican Primary. Thanks Dave, great article.
Dave-There are a few of us out here who actually think Joe Palmer is a pretty fair writer, and enjoy his columns (as we do yours) whether or not we always agree with him. Nevertheless, there is some merit to your criticism. I can’t help but wonder, however, if you have noticed that you can substitute your name for his, “right” for “left”, and “conservative ” for “liberal “, and the substance of the criticism remains valid. Name calling doesn’t really qualify as good satire, no matter who writes it.
I know I may sound like a broken record, but, once again Dave Scott you have hit the nail on the head regarding the Superintendent of Schools race. Dr. Kathy Burns is the most qualified candidate. Don’t let political shenanigans disenfranchise your voting rights. Do your homework and join me in supporting Dr. Kathy Burns for Superintendent of Nassau County Schools.
Hooray for Dave Scott.
Bill Shaffer, Carmel, Indiana