Just when you thought Fernandina Beach’s city governance couldn’t get any nuttier it does.
For example, City Commissioner and self-appointed turtle guardian, Len Kreger, has accused city employees of “harassing” his beloved turtles when they collect litter from the beach. No, really! He actually said that. He went on to add that the city needs to apply for a federal permit to continue picking up beach trash, a process that could take more than two years and comes with a hefty cost to taxpayers, because it needs an expensive study. Not a problem, as studies are a Fernandina Beach City addiction. It has hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of unused ones stored all over city hall.
This nonsense never ends as unelected City Manager Dale Martin continues to champion an increase in property taxes to cover the cost of purchasing worthless mosquito-infested swampland for “conservation” purposes. He and the rest of the commission are so intimidated and cowed by a tiny group of loud, obnoxious extreme environmentalists – many who don’t even live in the city limits – that they’re falling all over themselves to hose the city’s property owners in order to appease these angry, fist-shaking, sign-wavers. I just received my tax notice and if this commission approves the increase my property taxes will significantly multiply enabling the city to buy worthless land that its sellers are thrilled to unload at my and other taxpayer’s expense. To make matters even worse – with or without the tax increase — the city can’t afford to purchase property of real conservation value, just worthless bilge that its owners are astonished that someone actually wants to buy and are ecstatic to be rid of it, also taking them off the tax rolls.
In addition to hosing city property owners with higher taxes, Martin also continues to support paid parking even though his unpopular plan is said to be illegal because it discriminates between city and county residents thereby jeopardizing federal funding for beach re-nourishment. He doesn’t care.
In his weekly comments to locals Martin, says: “The issue of paid beach parking is simple to explain. The costs to maintain the City beaches continue to increase personnel, maintenance, and capital. Everyone wants a beach walkover at every access, Beach Rangers patrolling, Ocean Rescue personnel overwatching, and clean beaches. All of that cost money and for now, the only source (with very small exception) of that money is property tax dollars paid by City residents and businesses. Surveys conducted by the Tourist Development Council indicate that most beach users are not City residents. Those visitors reap the benefit of clean and safe beaches at the expense of local tax dollars. It appears as if the community willingly accepts this burden rather than passing the funding to others who currently contribute nothing. The cost to the City taxpayer will continue to grow to maintain the beaches.”
His outrageous, tax-gouging conservation tax isn’t mentioned. Personally, I don’t want to pay for any of his proposed crap. I don’t want paid beach parking, whether I’m exempt or not. And I haven’t met anyone who does.
At the end of his remarks he says: “I appreciate everyone’s interest in the annual budget.” I doubt he sincerely means that. City Manager Martin doesn’t like folks disagreeing with him.
When it comes to beach issues perhaps Mr. Martin should chat with Commissioner Kreger whose idea of the perfect beach would be one that bans people in order to preserve it as a turtle sanctuary. Maybe Mr. Martin can come up with a plan for charging turtles or their advocates.
In a scene straight out of a Mel Brooks movie, Kreger, a renter, who pays no property taxes, displayed a photo in commission chambers last week of what he said was a baby turtle struggling to get out of a tire track. He said the photo illustrates a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The track was made he says by a city vehicle that was collecting trash from the beach. The folks driving it needed to toss a net over Kreger and take him to a place where he can get some serious mental health care.
On top of all this silliness we have a mayor – Johnny “Moonbeam” Miller – a champion of any and all left-wing loony causes, who three years ago proposed tattooing an image of socialist Bernie Sanders on his butt; recent California transplant Commissioner Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich, who left his brain in San Francisco, saying he wants to illegally yank a lease for the Amelia River Golf Course from local businessman George Sheffield, a move that would lead to Mr. Sheffield successfully suing the city. And then there’s Commissioner Chip Ross, who has sued the city twice, costing the taxpayers he swore to protect and represent tens of thousands of dollars to defend. What are these folks smoking? People actually voted for this cast of fruit cakes.
The only city officials in the commission chambers that make any sense these days are Commissioner Phil Chapman, who is anxiously counting the days till his term ends, and City Attorney Tammi Bach, whose eyes resemble a slot machine payline as often as they roll back in her head after listening to all this mindless madness.
Ms. Bach politely dismissed Kreger’s permit bid saying there’s no proof that the city committed a violation, while probably thinking to herself: “Maybe it isn’t too late to go into private practice.”
The Nassau County Tourist Development Council should list the Fernandina Beach City Commission as an amusement attraction, guaranteed to shock, awe, and generate hilarity. For those attending who aren’t local property owners it’s a laugh-a-minute experience.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” – William F. Buckley, Jr.
A Lott To Absorb: Amelia Island is teeming with fascinating talented people ranging from well-known authors and athletes to businessmen and educators, among others.
One of them is Francis Lott, a “part-time” resident who hails from Douglas, Georgia.
Even though I’d never met him previously, when he walked through the front door of the south end’s Lagnaippe restaurant where we agreed to meet I immediately knew who he was. The signature red-rimmed glasses the tall, trim, nattily dressed octogenarian wears gave him away.
I was encouraged to meet Francis by our mutual friend, Benita Dodd, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, an Atlanta-based think tank. Meeting some of his fascinating family members was an added bonus
When I sat down at the table with him and his family members I was immediately impressed by the amount of talent surrounding me.
The soft-spoken, jovial Mr. Lott was accompanied by his very attractive wife Diane, equally attractive daughter Marry Jane and her husband Michael Brady.
Mr. Lott’s connection with Amelia Island is “Sea Loft”, his 13-year-old landmark home on South Fletcher, an architecturally award-winning structure that took two and a half years to build and catches your eye no matter how many times you drive past it.
Mr. Lott, CEO of Coffee County Georgia’s Lott Properties, is a 1958 graduate of Georgia Tech where he also earned a degree of architecture in 1959, a profession he never actually practiced. After serving in the U.S. military he returned home to Douglas, GA, where he joined the family’s Lott Builders Supplies firm, eventually expanding it into a highly successful real estate enterprise by developing shopping centers, restaurants, apartments, single-family subdivisions, self-storage facilities and more. Along the way he managed to create number of productive projects and activities for the community and its residents.
His community and charitable efforts were recognized last year when he was presented Georgia Tech’s 2018 Dean Griffin Community Service Award that acknowledges alumni who have performed exemplary community service in a variety of ways including “service in a long- term volunteer capacity, impact on the quality of life of others, leadership and creativity in dealing with societal problems and ability to serve as a source of inspiration for others.” He has also been the recipient of many other awards for his philanthropic and volunteer efforts and is one of only two people to ever receive the “Volunteer of the Year” award twice from the Georgia Economic Developers Association, in 1995 and again in 2015. Wife Diane partners with him in their efforts to provide scholarships and endowments to students who overwise would be financially unable to attend college.
While Francis stays busy making money and giving it away he has two sons-in-law that made names for themselves pitching and painting, among other impressive talents.
Daughter Mary Jane, a former Atlanta-based Delta Airlines employee, is married to Michael Brady, who is the Bob Sasser Professor of Marketing and Chair, Department of Marketing, at Florida State University. Ironically their son, Jack, is now the punter for the University of Florida Gators.
Mike, a left-hander, pitched for four years while attending FSU was drafted by the L.A. Dodgers, but an injury that resulted in Tommy John Surgery brought an end to his baseball career while he was in the Dodgers minor league system. His appreciation of baseball and his appetite for education continue and are inherited from his father, Jim, a Jacksonville native, and former left-handed pitcher with the Detroit Tigers in the 1950’s as well as a “major league” educator with degrees from Notre Dame and who also served as president of Jacksonville University. Dad Jim was one of baseball’s first “bonus babies” that earned him the nickname “Diamond Jim” after signing with the Tigers for $37,500 in 1955, a sum that today would be equal to $358,409 in purchasing power.
During this fascinating session I learned that another daughter, Allyson is married to Atlanta pop artist, cartoonist, advertising and movie producer R. Land, who will be headed this direction to join family members in the very near future.
This family is as loaded with as much genuine humility, humanity and affability as it is with talent. It’s an honor and privilege to know them.
Something To Ponder: A Mexican can’t vote in Mexico without a valid ID. He must come to America to do that.
Drinking Dining & Dancing: This coming Wednesday, August 28, the Sandbar & Kitchen at Main Beach will offer a seven-course Florida Seafood Dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. There’s a $75 per person price and a $111 per person price that includes wine pairings. Neither price includes tip and tax. There are seven different Florida seafoods being served including shrimp, whiting, tilefish, rock shrimp, hogfish, pompano, and cobia. They are all creatively prepared with appropriate sauces and sides. There is also an unusual dessert – salted caramel Crème Brule with candied fish cracklings. Call ‘em at 904/310-3648. Not only is the Tuesday happy hour at Captain Jack’s Barbecue at Gateway Plaza the best on the island or anywhere nearby, it may be the best happy hour deal I’ve ever experienced anywhere. From 4-8 p.m. every Tuesday, customers can order one-dollar St. Louis ribs and one-dollar 12-ounce Bud Light draughts. Last Tuesday I joined a pal there and went through a half dozen ribs and a few cubs of Bud and still got change back from a $10 bill. Despite being stuffed we were convinced to try the Captain’s chicken wings (six for $7.95 or 12 for $13.95). We did and pronounced them exceptionally good. They come with a choice of flavors. I preferred the traditional buffalo sauce while my friend went for Big Papa, the sauce I used on my ribs, which is a delicious thick spicy blend I used to find in Texas. I splurged and bought a side of the joint’s Lexington Red Slaw ($2.95), a mayonnaise-free tangy cole slaw that is one of the best I’ve eaten. This restaurant is an exceptionally good addition to the island’s eatery scene and the Tuesday happy hour prices would make even Ebenezer Scrooge and Yossele the Holy Miser smile. Call ‘em at 904/310-3611. In the “What the heck were they thinking?” category the local News Leader newspaper’s “Best of the Best” came out this week proclaiming that the restaurant its readers claim is the best overall in Nassau County is Chili’s Bar & Grill. Yep, you read that correctly — Chili’s, a strip mall chain burger joint! Now I don’t have anything against Chili’s, an international chain of 1,580 eateries that offers mostly burgers, ribs and fajitas. But when our area boasts such fabulous locally owned restaurants such as Espana, Les Clos, Karibo, Burlingame’s, Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro, Lagnaippe, Barzin, Baxter’s, David’s, Sandbar & Kitchen, Salty Pelican, Brett’s, The Tavern, Crab Trap, Gilberts, Peppers, Wicked Bao, Captain Jack’s, Arte, Chao, Shuckers, 29 South, Down Under, Pi, Four Seasons Bistro, The Patio, 4th Street Deli, Thai Spice Café, The Surf, Sliders, Pablo’s, and many more. I can only think the fix is in. Did the Chili’s chain encourage its thousands of worldwide employees and their family members to flood the News Leader with phony ballots? The only other thing that could explain this gastronomic atrocity is the management at the News Leader is plumbing for national ad revenues, or extraordinarily bad taste on the part of its readers. Or maybe the “all-around” category means a formula food joint that has locations located “all-around” the world. Can anyone figure this culinary insult out? In the good restaurant news department, I discovered that Karibo is now listing Theresa Poynter’s delicious muffuletta on its menu. Lagnaippe occasionally adds one but not on a regular basis. Karibo used to sell them, but only during Shrimp Festival and ever since The Surf’s Joey Ledet moved back to New Orleans I haven’t been able to consistently find this delicious sandwich hereabouts on a regular basis. Karibo’s version features Mortadella, ham, salami, Provolone, Swiss, garlic, basil, mayonnaise and olive salad pressed on Ciabetta bread for just $10.99 and it comes with a side. They are wonderful.