When I began commenting here a few weeks ago about complaints directed at Fernandina Beach’s Building Department, examples confirming the coercion, overcharges, incompetence and outright deception started flowing into my email inbox.
Results of a Nassau County Chamber of Commerce City Building Department survey are even more disturbing than the examples of the department’s abuse, bungling and bullying I’ve been receiving.
The print News Leader newspaper, under new Editor Scott Bryan, is also paying rapt attention, running a front-page article Wednesday, March 3, detailing the city’s excessive charges compared to the county’s and addressing builder complaints and disproportionate fees. It also highlighted local builder Ron Flick’s demand for a $466,879 refund, which Building Department head Stephan Beckman declined to comment on to News Leader reporter Julia Roberts.
Mary Maguire, the pugnacious editor of the online Independent, extensively covered the Chamber’s survey Wednesday, March 10, printing a number of the survey’s scathing comments and the highly critical survey results.
The online Fernandina Observer (aka Apologist) as usual ignored the turmoil and has yet to even mention the blistering results of the Chamber’s survey. Instead, it ran an email letter Thursday, March 11, that it and other media outlets received from City Manager Dale “The Big Spender” Martin, defending the Building Department. The Apologist, staying true to its name, prefaced Martin’s defense with this slobbering introduction: “We publish it below to let our readers know some of the challenges the City confronts in trying to ensure that construction projects not only adhere to the Florida Building Code but that they do not endanger the health and safety of our residents and visitors.” The Apologist, whose credibility has now dipped below zero, didn’t question why Mr. Martin thought it necessary to submit a letter defending the department. It unquestioningly acts as the city’s PR arm, running grip-and-grin handshake photos issued by the department and puff pieces bylined by Mr. Beckman. Its two “Thelma & Louise” editors will run anything the city sends them then drool adoringly over it while driving the reputation of their publication off a cliff. The only thing the Observer editors haven’t done yet is hold a bake sale or covered dish supper for the wayward building function.
Nick Gillette, a respected principal/engineer at Gillette & Associates, Inc., who has lived here since he was nine-years-old, calls out Martin’s lame defense in an email to City Commissioner Len Kreger saying: “The perception that government knows better and everyone else just doesn’t understand is a tired argument. Buildings aren’t collapsing in the County. Buildings aren’t catching on fire in the County. People aren’t dying or getting hurt in Nassau County from a building construction standpoint. Somehow they manage to do it with better customer service, lower fees, and faster turnaround.”
Others involved in the island’s construction industry also targeted Mr. Martin’s letter for its self-aggrandizing blather in their comments to Commissioner Kreger. Local architect John Dodd echoed Mr. Gillette’s comments saying: “To assert that the current building department is providing any higher level of protection of life safety, health, or welfare, is absolutely not true.”
A common and alarming thread in the Building Department’s duplicity is the fact that although every single one of the complainants disclosed their identity to me, they asked that I not reveal them publicly. Why? Each and every one cited the city’s notorious and disgraceful reputation for retaliation that can cost home owners, builders, contractors, businesses, among others enormous sums of money and possibly their homes and negatively impact their livelihoods.
The Chamber is wisely keeping its respondents names confidential as well. And its survey results are damning.
Of the Chamber’s 107 architectural, contractor, builder, home owner, etc. respondents, almost 60 percent rated their experience as “very challenging”, the worst possible response available. Some 74 percent of those responding rated their experience with the Building Department “Very Difficult” (52%) to “Difficult” (22%). An astounding 75 percent said they were “not satisfied” with the communication related to their project, fees and requirements. If there had been a “They suck” box to check it would have been the respondents number one choice.
The vast number of complaints, their seriousness, and impact on the city’s citizens, businesses, and contractors is so alarming that rumors are circulating that the city should immediately transfer control of its Building Department to Nassau County now, even before or if an investigation is initiated.
It appears that retired Public Utility Director John “Pay to Play” Mandrick’s illegal impact fee (aka capacity fee) legacy has spread like wildfire through Steve Beckman’s Building Department, and it has been taken to a whole new level of extortion. Based on the building public’s reaction this crowd couldn’t buy an accolade.
Meanwhile City Manager “The Big Spender” Martin smugly sits back greedily counting the “take” and defending the indefensible while the City Commissioners stare blankly into space, either ignorantly unaware of the corrupt chaos or unwilling to confront it.
A long-time, well-respected, local architect clarified his opinion of the overall situation for me providing the following non-specific but general summary of examples of local grievances he and his city clients have experienced telling me: “Dave, these are incidents that have occurred to me and many others in the community. I have derived a list of the general feeling and contempt for….well, I could say building department, but is really almost entirely problems with the building official (Steve Beckman) and inspector (name withheld):
- Zealous over enforcement of miniscule code issues that are not impactful to life safety, health, or welfare issues.
- Lack of leniency and misuse of authority/power to cheerfully impose hardship on the customer.
- Failure to apply important codes, and strong tendency and inclination to find and apply obscure and often overlooked frivolous codes, resulting in failed inspections, re-inspection costs, and creating completely unnecessary stress and work for designers, contactors, subs, thus adding unnecessary cost to owners.
- Stopping jobs whenever possible.
- Requiring engineering when not needed or required by code or requiring it over miniscule non-relevant construction issues.
- Requiring as-built drawings of work in place that has undergone minor typical modifications during build (which is very typical of all construction).
- Requesting unnecessary structural fortifications.
- Challenging design professionals when ignorant of the subject matter they are challenging.
- Very vindictive attitudes, power wielding bullying.
- Not acting as public servants but as the enemy of the community.
Following is an example of one of the most salacious examples of the Building Department’s abuse submitted to me. Some details have been eliminated to protect the individual’s identity.
“Everyone has a Steve Beckman horror story. My best (worst) encounter with ol’ Steve was a meeting in my garage. We’re all very frustrated b/c I can’t get a CO due to electrical inspection failures. After a 10 minute pow-wow the meeting breaks up with the issues seemingly resolved. Steve says, I haven’t been through the house completely, but I see no issues to getting a CO. What we discovered 5 minutes later is that while we were meeting, Steve was texting his assistants, who were parked three houses north, what issues to fail us on! We know this as fact because they showed us the texts when they arrived at my house 5 minutes after Steve left!
There was the same evening Steve leaned a ladder to my second-floor deck at dusk, snuck up on us, knocked on the facade, which was wet paint, and asked if we were staying in the house without a CO.”
“While I’m not a registered voter here, this has been a place we love as a second home. I have been making a sizable tax contribution annually for many years and will gladly do what I can to make this a better place to work and live.
With the understanding that my input will be confidential, here are the main “so-what’s:”
- Despite, having the Building Dept. review our plans extensively prior to approval, they came back mid-project during the build and caused at least a 2-3 week slow-down several times as they demanded changes in location of code issues, questioned load bearing walls etc.
- Despite having an Engineers attestation that the minor changes in the fencing built on the property was within code, they caused us to submit the changes to the State prior to granting a permanent Certificate of Occupancy.
- From a cost standpoint, the unnecessary slowdowns caused us to reschedule the moving van from the West Coast several times and forced us to move into a local hotel for over a month.”
The Chamber’s survey contains some 10 pages of typed, single-spaced testimonials, most much more critical than those printed here.
If the city doesn’t take immediate action to correct this ugly situation I’m convinced it’ll soon be confronted with an angry pitchfork and torch mob in front of city hall.
Something I Just Learned: Those pricey truffles found in fancy restaurants can’t be cultivated. It takes a forest to raise them. Specially trained dogs, pigs, etc. are needed to sniff out the prized edible hunks of treasured fungus that that resemble small rocks. So, the next time you see a guy with a hog on a leash in Egans Creek, you can probably guess what he’s up to.
The unintentionally hilarious letter writers were the ones who repeatedly and feverishly hammered away at their favored topic, no matter how often and accurately their nutty claims had been proven bogus. Their incessant hypocrisy and snarling idiocy became an anticipated form of news room entertainment as they demanded their tripe be published even though it held them up to public ridicule. They didn’t care. They were immune to the readers’ mockery and their ridiculous missives kept coming.
A local example is Stephan Leimberg who, like a screeching toddler sprawled on the kitchen floor, kicking his legs demanding a predinner cookie, is psychotic in expressing his opinions publicly. This was illustrated in his recent longwinded “Voice of the people” word jumble that appeared in the News Leader, Wednesday, March 3, that would have left my former newsroom coworkers roaring with laughter.
Mr. Leimberg’s radicalized fury, hysteria, and irrationality, along with his venomous attitude that anyone disagreeing with him must be a “fascist” and therefor silenced, vilified, punished, and destroyed, was on public display in the News Leader’s Letters to the Editor headlined: “The boogeyman is coming”.
In his March 3 missive, he initially singled me out for my letter criticizing his pal, News Leader columnist and former high school indoctrinator, Ron Sapp, for his unashamed endorsement of socialism.
After rebuking me, Mr. Leimberg rambled on for seven lengthy and snarling paragraphs, fanatically condemning former President Donald Trump, his followers, and all conservatives in terms that would have the vicious Black Lives Matter and Antifa thugs grinning and giggling. His tirade labeled us all fascists, hell-bent on destroying American democracy.
This wasn’t Mr. Leimberg’s first attempt to peddle an agenda that calls for socialism, speech codes, gun confiscation, media censorship, and other actions that expose his mindless disdain for American traditions and values. This is a guy who believes the New York Times editorial pages have more credibility than the US Constitution, a document I doubt he’d understand even if he ever decided to read it.
And, like Sisyphus, he doesn’t give up.
This is the same guy who spent tens of thousands of dollars late last year buying full page ads in the News Leader and other area newspapers bashing President Trump and his supporters with unproven accusations. He also authored a News Leader’s “Voice of the People” Wednesday, January 13 letter (“A day that will live in infamy”) shrieking that the content of two previous letters to the editor were “….baseless allegations, outright lies, and bizarre fairy tales to deny reality and truth and turn its back on science.” He condemned the News Leader for publishing them and in his squealing, spittle-flecked tantrum took the paper to task for printing letters he finds disagreeable, implying that anyone dissenting from his viewpoint is a divisive racist boob and a conspiracy-minded fanatic. He demanded the newspaper censor any future contrarian views, suggesting that criticism of his beliefs is a form of violence.
This is not a person to be taken seriously, but a guy whose sloganeering, childish rants, slurs on patriotism and overwrought allegations of treason, and collusion with Russia, etc. are indications that he’s got the attention span of a hummingbird and is ignorant of any American history pre-dating the early episodes of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
Kudos to the News Leader for running Mr. Leimberg’s senseless blather and publicly exposing his hypocrisy and irrational beliefs to public ridicule. I hope the paper continues publishing his inane screeds. His nonsense is not only amusing to clear-thinking readers but exposes the far left’s insane agenda and how badly this sad guy’s muddled train of thought has jumped the tracks of reason.
Speaking Of Hypocritical Nonsense: An out of state reader alerted me to a Wednesday, March 10 irate News Leader letter writer who chastised the paper for enabling folks to write about national, not just local issues. The distraught letter writer was angry about a previous missive defending Trump supporters. The local letter writer, Diane Frank, said: “This should be a community paper, not a pulpit for the angry ramblings, unfounded accusations and obstructionist views of Trump supporters.” She then irately rambled on for another couple of paragraphs bashing Republicans, and ending by demanding that the paper never publish anymore “bellicose political viewpoints that hash over the past election.” Ms. Frank says such letters are ”irritating and offensive.” I assume she thinks her public display of hypocrisy is soothing and comforting? Like Mr. Leimberg (above) Ms. Frank possesses an ideological rigidity that anyone holding an opinion differing from hers should be cancelled and ostracized.
Danger! White Supremacy: A recent meme displayed a picture of a young white American male. The caption read: “Know the Warning Signs of White Supremacy: Full-time employment; Literacy; Professional or Technical Degree; Regular Church/Temple Attendance; Auto Insurance; Good Credit Rating; No Criminal Record.” Obviously, these people are a danger to society and need to be kept away from our highly impressionable children.
Speaking Of White Supremacy: President Obama’s former head of the CIA, John Brennan, claims to be embarrassed, not because he politicized the intelligence agency or because he lied to a congressional committee or because he colluded in a plot to bring down a president, but because he’s a white man. I agree with west coast columnist Burt Prelutsky when he writes that Brennan’s not alone. Says Burt: “Speaking on behalf of America’s white men, we’re also embarrassed that you’re one of us, John.”
Who Are You Going To Believe Me Or Your Lying Ears? Department: Fernandina Beach City Commissioner and Mayor Mike Lednovich has apparently fallen off the wagon — the one hauling reason, logic, and comprehension.
In April 2020, when the pandemic was taking its initial toll, I applauded Commissioner Lednovich for his financial epiphany calling for the City Commission to stop tossing our tax money around like a bunch of drunken rednecks in a topless honky-tonk.
California transplant Lednovich was making economic sense in the midst of a major crisis while spendthrift City Manager Dale Martin and the other members of the Commission were acting as though they’ve just won the lottery and headed to a strip club flush with cash.
However, last week the “Left Coast” in Lednovich burst out like the creature in “Alien” when he dismissed a comment by local resident Jay “Skip” Stuart, who said Commissioner Chip Ross told him “I run this town.” Lednovich criticized me for initially not revealing the identity of the person that quoted Ross. Then, when Mr. Stuart voluntarily identified himself, Mayor Lednovich interpreted Ross’s boastful comment to Mr. Stuart as being helpful and explanatory. Nuance and tone are key to any comment mayor. And since you weren’t there and didn’t ask Mr. Stuart how Ross presented his comment, you are making false assumptions. Mr. Stuart says your interpretation is wrong, and that Commissioner Ross came across as “I RUN THIS TOWN” not as a member of a Commission that governs it. Good grief, you’ve been sitting on that Commission next to that pompous gasbag long enough to recognize his haughty attitude.
Oh, and David Lott, a guy who served for about six months as acting City Manager here some eight years ago, and now lives in Atlanta, also chimed in echoing Mayor Lednovich’s lame excuse for Ross’s boorish behavior. Why does this serial city sycophant continuously defend the city from his perch some 500 miles north of here? Is it because he’s angling for a cushy city job when he retires from his Federal Reserve Bank position that provides him ample opportunities to read and comment online while he’s killing time before he clocks out for the day?
How To Succeed While Stupid: Many years ago, when I was recruited from a newspaper news room into IBM’s public relations department, one of my new colleagues – also a former reporter – jokingly told me that from what he’d witnessed, the key to success in corporate America was to “talk loud, walk fast and don’t bump into the furniture.”
Over the years while working for various corporations I observed that there was a lot of truth to my friend’s light-hearted advice as I watched incompetent people being promoted whose only talents involved moving fast enough to stay a few steps ahead of their co-workers, while speaking in booming authoritative voices, saying nothing of value, and hiding or shifting blame for their blunders and inadequacies.
Since the presidential inauguration I’ve observed that Joe Biden would have been a total failure in the corporate world since he possesses none of these survival skills. He would have been shown the door long before his probationary period expired as he’s totally incapable of covering up his gaffes and lack of talent.
I don’t know about you, but this shuffling, squinty-eyed codger, ambling aimlessly around the White House, incoherently mumbling, and slurring his words doesn’t fill me with confidence, much less inspire me. During a recent public appearance while scuffling cue cards he muttered “What am I doing here?” while at another his handlers cut him off before he could publicly embarrass himself by attempting to answer questions.
A recent example of Biden’s buffoonery the other day was during a virtual meeting with the president of Mexico, when he announced that the United States and Mexico are equals.
He could have said that Mexico is a good neighbor, but instead went whole hog and insisted that, other than language, there’s no difference. At the rate Biden’s going allowing illegals from Mexico and Central America to pour across our now wide-open southern border, there will be no telling the two countries apart in a year or less.
People can get into this country easier from the southern border than American citizens can get a tour of the fenced off and guarded US Capital in Washington DC. Those with COVID, criminal records, prior deportation orders, human traffickers, drug dealers, etc. can waltz across the southern border freely but those at all other US ports of entry are prohibited. How does this make any sense? Speaking of those Guardsmen in our nation’s capital, their main function seems to be protecting the razor wire surrounding Congress from razor wire thieves instead of protecting our borders.
We’ll soon have Mexico’s level of literacy and it’s economy. We’ll have cops as “honest” as theirs and its lack of conviction in fighting Fascism, Communism, and Islamic terrorism?
Currently we are a beacon of freedom for the world while Mexico is a way station for people trying to get here. But under Biden we’ll soon be like Mexico, a way station for people trying to reach Canada, a county that prevents masses of illegals from flowing across its borders because it respects and defends its sovereignty.
Speaking of this country under Joe Biden, has anybody thought about unplugging America, waiting a couple of minutes, and then plugging it back in?
NEWS ALERT! BULLETIN: I realize that this week’s blog is far too lengthy, but I just finished watching the most depressing, dismal, dreadful and confusing presidential speech I’ve ever witnessed and can’t help myself for prattling on. I’m sure Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison, and Millard Fillmore gave more inspiring talks than the one I just heard by Joe Biden on national TV. Oh wait, does anybody else remember Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise” speech? Biden spent 15 minutes taking credit for the COVID vaccines resulting from President Donald Trump’s “Warp Speed” efforts. He told us to wear masks and wash our hands. If we do that he said then he might even allow us to have a backyard July 4 cookout with more than two people attending. Anybody watching this confused, bumbling cretin stumbling through his first national address and was inspired by it, needs serious mental health care. This is clearly not a well man. Our “emperor” is not only naked, he’s senile too. That this sad mental midget is running the country should be frightening to everyone who watched this rambling mess no matter what their ideology. After his talk I assume his handlers escorted him back to the White House residence, gave him a glass of warm milk, tucked him into bed, and at his request turned on reruns of “Gilligan’s Island.”