Island Issues

Fernandina City Commission Is Area’s Most Entertaining Venue

Fernandina City Commission Is Area’s Most Entertaining Venue

Folks seeking entertainment to take their minds off the pandemic should consider attending any Tuesday evening session of the Fernandina Beach City Commission meeting featuring the tragicomic duo of Chip “Sue Their Pants Off” Ross and Dale “The Big Spender” Martin.

This past Tuesday Mayor Mike Lednovich joined the duo’s slapstick burlesque act siccing the Commission chamber’s police officer on city hall’s adjacent Boat House Restaurant neighbor ordering the cop to throw a bucket of cold water on that eatery’s musical entertainment.

“Is that music bothering anybody else?

With a spot-on imitation of Blazing Saddles’ Governor William J. Le Petomane, Mayor Lednovich  paused the Commission session and ridiculously asked: “Is that music bothering anybody else?” Commissioner Ross could barely contain himself as he chuckled with delight, rubbed his chubby hands together, and promptly exclaimed “yes”, mimicking behavior similar to Blazing Saddles’ Hedley Lamar as he looked with glee out of Governor Petomane’s window at the weary hangman speedily executing a lengthy line of condemned prisoners.

The other three commissioners indicated they didn’t have an objection to the music, possibly because they didn’t hear the mayor’s question due to the noise of train whistles and freight car couplings echoing throughout town when he asked.

While the pandemic has hit Fernandina’s hospitality industry the hardest of all businesses, the Fernandina City Commission’s Beavis and Butthead duo of Martin and Ross delight in piling on. Just a few weeks ago they clobbered their Boat House neighbor with $1,250 and $250 fines for “loud” music. One of those actions was taken as News Leader columnist Steve Nicklas and I were sipping a beer at that eatery listening to the city hall’s outdoor loud speakers blaring Commission proceedings across the street at us and other restaurant patrons.

Boat House management isn’t dancing to the loopy commissioners’ tune and their attorneys are fighting the silliness, an action the city thinks is excessive. “How dare they defend themselves,” appears to be city Consigliere Tami Bach’s mantra as she obediently heeds the demented demands of Beavis Ross and Butthead Martin.

They won’t do it, but it would be fun to have the Boat House hire an act during the next Commission meeting to do a rendition of  the worst recorded tune in the history of music and dedicate it to Chip & Dale – “The Chipmunks Song.”

This past Tuesday attendees were also told that the city’s Building Department has raked in so much money for fees that it has an excess of $1.2 million in its coffers and is searching for ideas on how to spend it. A state statute calls for reducing fees or returning the money and the city made it clear that it wants no part of that.

The flush building director said he’d like to spend the extra taxpayer’s cash on increasing staff but he’s having trouble finding qualified inspectors even though the city has already purchased two vehicles and equipment for the new hires that it hasn’t hired and can’t find. I’m not making any of this up, honest.

The Building Department has more money than it knows what to do with because it charges five and one-half times the fees that Nassau County does for the exact same inspections and permitting licenses. To keep that cash flowing the dysfunctional city government prevents city residents from crossing the street to take advantage of the county’s cheaper and identical offerings.

The city is also awash in impact fee money that courts have declared illegal. The city keeps generating these fees because it says they’re now called “capacity fees”, the exact same extortion racket with a different name. If audacity were gold these people would be wealthy beyond belief.

While the pandemic has local businesses laying employees off and scrambling to seek ways to save money and survive the COVID storm, the city is awash in cash. It’s taking money from suffering local businesses and adding new hires to its bloated taxpayer-paid staffs. Meanwhile, local businesspeople are prevented by the city from accessing cheaper sources of government services because it would reduce revenues generated by the city’s golden goose slaughterhouse.

But wait, there’s even more. A group of disgruntled Isle de Mai subdivision neighbors described how the streets are literally underwater in their neighborhood due to faulty work conducted by city-hired and paid-for engineers. Residents complained at Tuesday’s session that the city’s $80,000 mediated settlement was inadequate and asked why the city sent an attorney without an engineer to the mediation session resulting in such a dismal outcome. The city explained: “Huh?” and was directed by the Commission to pursue an adequate settlement even if it means a trial.

Fernandina Beach city government puts an entirely new blush on the word “dysfunctional” and it would be hilariously funny if our money weren’t being laughed away.

Every time this comedic crew convenes they validate why the city needs to be dissolved and its duplicate functions merged with Nassau County and others eliminated.

***

Meanwhile Outside Of The Asylum: A tip of the hat to the folks at Nassau County Emergency Management for their handling of the COVID vaccination program hereabouts.

Despite all the horror stories being bandied about in the press and on social media about delays and confusion confirming COVID vaccination appointments nationwide, regionally, and locally, the Nassau County group performed expertly.

My wife, Linda, and I received our first COVID vaccinations last Saturday afternoon and the entire process was easy and speedy.

We had no problem making an appointment via the Nassau County web site. We arrived at Yulee Middle School at 3 p.m. for our scheduled appointment and were back in the car headed home 45 minutes later. The people running the organization were polite, knowledgeable, efficient, and professional.

Any negative experiences folks are having appear to be self-inflicted.

The county issued a press release recently saying that because so many registrants did not respond to their email or phone calls telling them they had made it off of the Vaccine Waitlist, that its  volunteers have called more than 2,000 people who registered on the 15th and 16th of January in order to fill the remaining appointments.

“You might be surprised by how many have already been vaccinated elsewhere, but neglected to remove themselves from our Waitlist,” said the release. It was a polite way of saying that if you didn’t get an appointment it’s your fault for not paying attention or following instructions.

They also reminded folks that the OneNassau Vaccine Waitlist is for first does only and that the second shot is scheduled during the first vaccination appointment. A written Vaccination Card is provided, and each person vaccinated is told, “return to the same location at the same time on XXXX date.”

We’re headed back for our second vaccination March 6.

Nassau County Emergency Management is to be commended for the way they’re  handling the process.

***

An Objective Observant Observer: Good friend, and retired human resources executive, Don Howard, sent me a letter recently that included a clipping from his hometown newspaper, the Sarasota Observer, reminding me that there are news gathering organizations out there named “Observer” that are objective and balanced.

Unlike Nassau County’s online Observer (aka Apologist) that unofficially serves as the city of Fernandina Beach’s public relations organization, the Sarasota Observer, takes deserving federal, regional and city officials to task as well as their media allies when they warrant it.

The Sarasota publication, which is part of the Observer Media Group’s chain of 12 Florida publications, is edited and published by no-nonsense and eloquent Matt Walsh, who pulls no punches in his well-written and lively editorial pieces.

Two of his publications are located in Jacksonville – the Jacksonville Daily Record and the Jacksonville Record & Observer. Too bad one isn’t here.

***

Rush Limbaugh RIP: Following the death of Rush Limbaugh (70) Wednesday, February 17, it didn’t take long for vile disgusting liberals and progressives to have a virtual social media street party to celebrate, indicating how right Limbaugh has been about them for the more than the 30 years he was on the air. Their words accurately describe who these disgraceful people are.

Rush’s widow Kathryn said: “For over 32 years Rush has cherished you, his loyal audience, and always looked forward to every single show. It is with profound sadness, I must share with you directly our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning, due to complications from lung cancer. As so many of you know, losing a loved one is terribly difficult. Even more so when that loved one is larger than life.”

Compassionate media outlets were gracious and respectful of  the man who changed radio, created talk radio, and saved the AM band. One of the most eloquent testimonials to Rush was in National Review by Jack Fowler who wrote the following:

“The man with talent on loan from God now confronts Him directly, to return the loan. And maybe to hear an Almighty “mega dittos?” We hope that awaiting Rush Hudson Limbaugh III is the promise of divine succor, of a joy unworldly, one transcending the airwaves that for a generation and then some carried his special, enthusiastic voice — which daily spoke and propagated words of common sense that instructed (mostly there was always verbiage reserved for trolling humorless liberals and castigating the enemies of this last best hope of Earth) and inspired — that indeed became the premier voice of conservatism. A consummate patriot, a happy warrior, and a Cassandra too, an entertainer, the man of shtick and humility who day in and out, over decades, informed and formed millions, who connected with them in such numbers never before experienced, has passed away after a prolonged and brutal battle with cancer. His death comes as no surprise, but having come, it brings with it deserved sorrow and reflection. We assume too calumny from the graceless and the grave dancers.

“The particular affliction that occupied his life’s last chapter was so egregious it would likely have felled a normal human swiftly. But Rush Limbaugh was no normal human. Somewhere within the lovable little fuzzball was a wellspring of remarkable determination: The weeks turned into months and then into a year, one of combating his wretched illness, but also of embracing God’s graces, and appreciating, with great humility and sincerity and frequency, the tsunami of prayer and love from his devoted listeners and Dittohead fans — all that while remaining in the saddle. There was to be no retirement. Like John Wayne’s character in The Shootist, there was a consequential battle to be fought, and a rising leftist tide which demanded confrontation, cancer or no cancer.”

***

The $15 An Hour Impact: Neil Patel, who operates the influential 24-hours news publication Daily Caller, explained to Tucker Carlson, who co-founded the Caller with Patel, why a standard minimum wage for the nation makes no sense.

Patel explained that the cost of living is at least twice as much in places like New York City, L.A., and San Francisco, than it is in small midwestern and southern cities. Also, an increase will not affect all businesses equally. “A multi-billion-dollar company can absorb the extra cost, but it could very well put the owner of the corner deli out of business, especially coming on the heels of a lockdown that has already bankrupted so many entrepreneurs,” he explained.

Patel exposed the fact that major retailers like Walmart and Target support the higher minimum wage, knowing it will put many of their smaller competitors out of business. Which is why their major supplier, China, would support increasing the US minimum wage to $30.

Objective economists point out that an increase to $15 will mean that 700,000 workers will see their pay increase, while 1.5 million people will lose their jobs.

***

Crossing The Line:  The phrase “Cross the line” traditionally indicates a daunting challenge that most folks are reluctant to accept. However, next Saturday, February 27, the public is invited to “Cross the Line” at American Legion Post 54 at South 3rd Street and Gum for BBQ by the popular “Smoke N Da Cockpit” crew and music by Michele Anders and Amy Vickery with nothing but positive consequences. The Legion is hosting the “Cross the Line Foundation” from noon to 5 p.m. to raise money for a quartet of locals (“Foar From Home”) who will attempt to row across the Atlantic to raise money for military veterans this coming December. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for kids.

***

Wait! What? A newspaper headline let us know that Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) had tested positive for Covid-19 when he passed away at the age of 67, but it wasn’t until the eighth paragraph of that article that the paper found it worth mentioning that he had been dealing with lung cancer for two years. What’s up with that?

***

Things I Wish I’d Said: “Is it wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly?” – anonymous.

***

Something’s missing!

Where’s The Plantation? Is it just me or has anyone else hereabouts noticed that the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort has quietly excised “Plantation” from its name. It’s now just the Omni Amelia Island Resort?

Other than a group of lawyers a while back that said that they wouldn’t stay there again until the outfit got rid of the name I don’t know of anyone that complained. Keeping those ambulance chasing leeches away would be enough for me to put the word “plantation” up in flashing neon lights.

***

Call If You Care: Although I and some other folks have let retailers who banished Pillow man Mike Lindell’s products from their shelves know how we feel about that by writing letters to their CEOs, maybe more people might be willing to express their contempt by phone so here, if you are so inclined, are the phone numbers for the home office of Kohl’s (855-564-5705) and (800-462-3966) for Bed Bath & Beyond. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to hear from you.

***

An “Acting” Governor: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hid the actual number of people he killed by moving COVID-infected patients into nursing homes and should be charged with manslaughter and tossed into prison. Dismissing the number of deaths caused by his insane policy he said: “Who cares?  Death is death.” The  TV Academy gave Cuomo the Emmy for the masterful way he dealt with the pandemic on TV I guess because he “acted” as if he cared.

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16 Comments

DAVID LOTT - 22. Feb, 2021 - Reply

The math for dealing with the Building Department surplus of $1 million over the balance they are allowed to hold is pretty simple and certainly not “impossible” as indicated by the consultant. First, you lower the existing fees to match the current years operating expense budget plus a 5% overage contingency. Second, you do an analysis of the last 4 budget years and determine the “unauthorized” overage for each of those years. Then you refund the overage for that year on a pro-rata basis for each permit fee that was collected. Yes, it is going to require time but it should be straightforward and the ethical thing to do.
I know developers scream and holler about impact fees but they are legitimate and only fair for new development to pay for increased capacity that new development will require at some point in the future. You can base capital spending projects on incremental costs as at some point there will be a big step up in cost when that new water plant has to be built or more parks provided.

Marlene Chapman - 20. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Dave, As we have seen over the years, what’s good for one, is not so for the other. Sadly, the city has infractions with dumpsters that they have not addressed yet they have made small business get rid of theirs as they don’t follow the guidelines. The same goes for this noise issue! It’s wrong and not getting any better. How do they continue to penalize some but not others when the issues are the same? My opinion.

Katy Arenson - 20. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Chip Ross and friends aren’t just attacking the Boat House, they are now attacking the The Patio Place. Here is their posted statement from the owner “ UPDATED: Since it is already public record….. The complainants are the City Commission — specifically the Mayor and Chip Ross asked for the police assistance in the matter on Tuesday….

Hear ye – Hear ye! HERE WE go again!
Another establishment is being attacked for having music — REASONABLE music.
The Boat House has received numerous citations and fines due to having music (sometimes 1 or 2 only) on their stage.

The wonderful Nicole Jamieson (local attorney) has volunteered to help for the 3rd time (3 different local restaurants) to resolve this situation.

Those of you that remember my 2nd year in business I was attacked and wrongly given citations by the police – because I uncovered that the ordinance was written very poorly and the police did not have a leg to stand on with my citation…… but then – The City Commission and City Attorney changed the ordinance to it’s current state which is even worse. With the help of Nicole I was able to win the fight against my 2nd citation — but unfortunately we were shut down by the council on changing the ordinance. So every establishment is at risk…. every resident in the

City is at risk – of receiving citations – even at 2:00pm on a Saturday afternoon – for having kids in your pool.

If you do not understand the ordinance please drop me an email or stop by….. I WILL take the time to speak with you and educate you.

I’m hoping The Boat House can get the same community support that I received 4 years ago. We MUST rally behind the restaurants, musicians and community to get this ordinance changed for good.

Please help to spread the word………. I will keep you posted on what YOU can do to help!!!”

Patrick J. Keogh - 20. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Dave:

I never understand what “Bend It Like Beckman” struggles to say but I think it comes down to “I’m really doing a good job and you should leave me alone”. Ol’ Bend It sure takes a lot of words to say that. What he should say is “I sell a commodity service and I’m going to get my rates down to the County’s or work a deal with the County to let City residents access the cheaper, better services available across the street”.

Stephen Beckman - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

For months I watched you get it wrong about the building department being in the red and posting losses. After you actually heard the facts that showed months of your blogs were incorrect, that in fact we have a surplus, instead of acknowledging that you had incorrect information, you then jump to a completely different set of wrong statements, or accusations.

Many jurisdictions have surpluses which took years to build up, that were built up after being in the red. Then the law changed to address surpluses, which are not the goal. There are many jurisdictions with excess of 50+ million in the coffers that are way over their average budget, that are the real target of the legislation about fund balances. The goal is to simply fund the required services by charging the fees necessary to do so. It is a constantly moving target. The City of Fernandina Beach actually is not in a bad position, having a little money in reserves, and we are charging a reduced rate at the current time. The City is also in a position of compliance with the law with reduced fees. When we take into account capitol planning for the next five years, we do not have as much extra as one might first think. If we were in an opposite position, we would be a burden to the tax payers who are not using our services.

I inherited a surplus when I started as Building Official, and knowing that I was inheriting a surplus that had to be addressed to be in compliance with state statute, I moved to perform a study to see how to adjust these fees so that we could continue to provide the services necessary without having to become a tax burden to anyone not using the services, and be in compliance with state law. As Building Official, I want nothing more than to be able to provide the services we are required to provide by law, in an efficient and cost effective way, while providing the level of service that customers expect. Our fee study resulted in a working model where we can look at making adjustments to our fees and see what effect it will have. Now that we have this working tool which we did not have before doing this study, we can look at adjusting our fees in a manner that works for our residents and keeps a building department that can operate in a manner where it will perform as desired.

CoCoNUT haiRRy - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Dave – two things I look forward to on Fridays, 1) your blog and 2) happy hour at my favorite bar in Jax Beach … both wrap up my week with a bow on top.

Patrick J. Keogh - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

There you go again, Dave. Harping on the fact that the city charges 5 1/2 times the county’s permit fees. Does Mr. Beckman, the city building official, have to explain it to you again that he does not charge too much? No, says Beckman, the county charges too little. With John “Pay to Play” Mandrick now comfortably retired and inducted into the Shakedown City Hall of Fame maybe Mr. Beckman has similar ambitions for his legacy.

Katie Cimino - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Thanks for spreading the word about the Cross the Line Paddle for Veterans Kick-off, Feb 27th. I will help anyone who needs/wants it, sign up for the paddle which will be held on June 19th. The money raised will go to Foar From Home who, in turn, is raising money for K9 for Warriors and a Cross the Line scholarship.

Richard Troxel - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

So glad we do not reside in the city
limits, but it is a bit if comic relief to
read if their shenanigans. I got my
Vaccine through the COA ( council on
aging) with the county emergency
agency doing the actual process with
excellent volunteers.Nassau County
should be proud if this fine group of
dedicated people.It was a great experience from start to finish.

D. Caroline Adams - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Wondering why some businesses who never refuse anybody’s money, think it is necessary to publicly announce their bowing and caving to minority protesters. This perpetuates a loss, sometimes huge loss, in the coffers of the politicly concerned, and for what reason? What reason? The opinions of the owners, managers, employees only matter to the buyers when it comes to product quality, availability and such matters as price. It is not good business and totally unfair to producers to limit the customers to exclusion of certain producers because of knee-jerk weenie actors. Our public schools have certainly, with the help of liberal media, raised a generation of airheaded fodder who need to be coddled and spoon-fed. They will always be a burden to Americans who pay taxes.

Francesco Borghese - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

The disgusting comments by some liberals about Rush’s death, unfortunately show the division of this Nation. If we do not stop this total nonsense, if we do not start accepting a discussion, if we hate each other because we do not think alike, we will kill Democracy in this Country. And the Country will die with it.
Why?
We cannot explain why we act to kill the most successful Country in the world.

Richard Norman Kurpiers - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

The “disgusting” comments are not the sole domain of liberals. Many conservatives did not support or condone Limbaugh’s views, going so far as to condemn them as members of Congress. That you choose to single out liberals in your comment speaks to the division that you lament. But on principle, I agree with you minus the singular blame.

Peg Dickinson - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

My grandmother was born and brought up on a plantation in Virginia. I always envisioned it looking like Tara from Gone with the Wind though my mother always told me it was just another name for a farm. When I finally got to see Epping Forest I saw a house on a hill, like Tara, with a sweeping drive but a house smaller then what most of us live in today. To those of us who have lived here a while the Omni will always be the Plantation…..

Nigel K Glover - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Some suggestions from someone “OTB”:

For the Commission; move City Hall out of the expensive Historic District and sell/lease that wonderful property to someone who can use it to make money.

For elected officials; if you don’t know the difference between debt and deficit; please resign and never run again.

For Democrats; please learn the difference between equality and equity…

capt Charlie - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

Sir, I am appalled of your use of Chip n Dale characters in your column… I have been using those mimes for years to describe them online so thereby have the rights to them….. 🙂 Or maybe I don’t. Oh heck, just use it…

Richard Norman Kurpiers - 19. Feb, 2021 - Reply

After witnessing the effects of my neighborhood’s HOA BOD misguided and often inconsistent enforcement of rules and by-laws, I decided to join rather than fight them. I was fortunate enough to serve 5 years, three of them as president. In the beginning, I found the hardest task was to coax the other BOD members into forgetting about their own personal feelings when addressing issues concerning violations and enforcements. By legal contract, our powers as BOD members began and ended with the governing documents. We were bound to adhere to these documents regardless of our personal feelings. Any deviation from the aforementioned left us subject to legal liability. In the event we had to engage legal representation to defend the BOD’s actions, and lost, we then suffered double jeopardy because we were not fulfilling our fiduciary responsibility as stewards of the funds collected via HOA dues. Since of course we were funding the HOA’s lawyers with homeowners’ money. Though I resigned a few years ago, I’m happy to say that the BOD largely still operates under this mindset. This is all to say that city counsels are bound to very similar conduct. Hence, it matters none whether elected members find the music too loud or to their liking. Or whether they like or dislike the establishment or its owners. All that matters are the related ordinances and whether there is adherence or a violation. City counsels members are obligated to their constituents to apply the laws fairly and consistently.