For thousands of years fortified city walls were designed to prevent violence and plundering by keeping bad guys out enabling the good guys to go about their business unmolested.
Early residents of Fernandina Beach were surrounded by walls of water. They constructed Fort San Carlos on the northwest side of Amelia Island and Fort Clinch on the northeast side to protect residents from naval invasions.
Fort San Carlos crumbled into the sea while Fort Clinch is now a tourist attraction, both victims of military obsolescence. But a stealthier and more malicious adversary has taken the place of armed invaders. Locals have been ambushed by an internal army of fifth column bureaucrats.
Despite an economically crippling virus pandemic causing massive local unemployment the community has been overrun by an army of inept and greedy administrators, tax and spend representatives, frenzied activist groups, and egotistical and clueless politicians. Armed with multiple weapons of taxes, permitting and impact fees, and confiscatory conservation levies, this growing swarm of bureaucrats pillage and loot hapless locals without firing a shot.
What was supposed to be a defensive barrier of elected officials and administrators intended to serve and protect its citizens has lulled locals into a false sense of security while it steadily morphed into a franchise that would make organized crime envious.
The confiscatory conservation tax foisted on tax payers by the city last year and supported by an army of radical tree-hugging mercenaries, resulted in a tax increase that now has City Manager Dale Martin and his Daddy Warbucks sidekick, Commissioner Chip Ross, buying chunks of land helter-skelter with tax payer funds. Like Monty Python’s Knights that say “Ni”, the tree-huggers demanded shrubberies and a cowed commission delivered.
The latest in the madcap duo’s acreage acquisition antics took place during the last few days when the city decided to cough up $675,000 of our cash to buy a three-month option on a 5.35-acre parcel of land purchased about a year ago by former local car dealership owner Rick Keffer for $475,000.
Keffer is a smart businessman, so his willingness to sell to the city rather than a developer/investor indicates there were no other buyers interested – so unload it to the taxpayer for a quick $200,000 profit and avoid taxes. A 42% premium in one year would make Bernie Madoff giggle.
Chip “Daddy Warbucks” Ross used Common Core whacky math in an attempt to justify the purchase declaring that Keffer didn’t make a profit but actually lost money. “I would suggest that the owner is not making a 42 percent profit, but that he is losing $1.6M”, asserted Ross as he calculated what he says Keffer could have made had the property been developed. Math-challenged outgoing Commissioner Johnny “Moonbeam” Miller readily agreed with Ross’ 2 plus 2 equals 5 formula signaling just how screwy the deal is. Anything Moonbeam enthusiastically supports is not good for our walled-in resident’s wallets. The Commission then tossed a shutout at the tax payers with a 5-0 vote okaying the transaction.
But what’s the real price of this chunk of property? A local developer calculated the potential tax revenues that this property would take off of the tax rolls to show the full value of buying it.
- $675k Initial inflated cost
- $400k Lost tax revenues (city/county)-10 years @ 40k/yr (perpetuity)
- $100k Ongoing maintenance cost-10 years at $10K/yr (perpetuity)
$1,175,000 = Full cost of the property
“They don’t care what they pay,” said the local developer, “because it’s other people’s money. The crazy price is just the first cost. By converting it to public ownership they deny the city and county future tax revenues in perpetuity. The city keeps doing this and then demanding that the county pony up $500,000 in supplemental city funding. What they lack in common sense they compensate for in gall.”
While the city’s running around gobbling up available property to prevent development, the Building and Permitting Department is dumpster diving for leftover clients to gouge for its outlandish permitting and review fees.
No amount of puffery by his flacks at the city’s Fernandina Observer PR firm can hide the fact that Stephen Beckman’s department faces massive, unsustainable financial losses. He’s a desperate man proposing to run a close to $2 million loss for his department this fiscal year.
Within the city’s bureaucratic walls there aren’t enough roofing jobs, remodels, additions, fences, etc. to cover his costs. His only option is to raise his sky-high rates even higher.
Beckman has added staff, purchased new technology, and faces a future where major development projects – the lifeblood of any building department – are disappearing or already gone, chased over the city’s walls by an anti-business crowd, high taxes, and a hostile city commission. Developers make decisions based on economics. If a project within the city walls makes economic sense, they’ll pay Beckman’s exorbitant fees. If not, they’ll move on to projects outside of the city’s walls. These are not stupid people.
The city’s walls also contains a raucous coalition of crazed tree-hugging, fist-shaking, tantrum-throwing conservation mercenaries who have intimidated the current City Commission into curbing development and buying up potential development properties. As my source close to the ground inside the corridors of the city walls says: “The city has reached ‘old age’ and its future is to protect, upgrade, and restore what exists.”
He goes on to predict that the current state of affairs does not require a large building department – or any at all. “The days of new subdivisions, new office buildings, new shopping plazas, and such has passed – within city walls we have arrived.” In addition, the pandemic has “locked in” the lack of need for new facilities with many storefronts standing empty.
This insider says: “I know that a large number of permits Beckman issues are for projects like roofing replacement, fencing, room additions, new doors, new windows, bathroom remodels, that sort of thing. Large million dollar plus projects are quite rare within the city walls. Just like medieval times, people will build outside the city walls because it’s cheaper, and the danger of an outside invasion – other than by viruses – is nonexistent.”
The 2019-20 fiscal year losses for the Building Department amount to $1,506,310.
Mr. Beckman desperately needs a PR push. Maybe his online Fernandina Observer flacks can help solicit work to support his operation. Perhaps they could organize open houses or Meet Your Building Inspector forums, encouraging people to see how easy the process is and how helpful these folks are. How about a bake sale where they set up on tables in front of Ace, Home Depot and Lowe’s? The Observer’s next puff piece could showcase the department’s ability to help get home projects done quickly, safely, and fully code compliant. Maybe it could even offer expedited permits for an upcharge and conduct permit workshops. Anything to change the image of the department as a bureaucratic, overpriced, tax payer burden.
The only real solution is to dissolve it entirely and merge its nonredundant operations with Nassau County.
Following is the department’s 2021 accounting presented in the city-approved budget:
Fees are projected down $85,845 from 2020. As it currently stands the Building Department risks becoming the new marina!
Local Riot Deterred: I witnessed an incident at Main Beach’s Sandbar & Restaurant last Saturday that vividly illustrates the unhinged mindset of hardcore Democrats. They can’t even handle winning.
Obviously not satisfied with her desired outcome of the presidential election an angry, middle-aged customer presumed she was entitled to more. She demanded that Sandbar employees turn the establishment’s TVs to those channels preparing to broadcast a Joe Biden speech.
Channel changing by Sandbar management at that point would have accomplished something no other group has been able to achieve in 116 years – uniting University of Florida Gator and University of Georgia Bulldog football fans in a common cause. These two highly partisan Sandbar groups of fiercely fanatical Bulldog and Gator fans were there watching their respective teams play their annual Jacksonville-based game. The enthusiastic jersey-wearing fans that had also gathered to watch the Clemson-Notre Dame game would no doubt have voiced their raucous disapproval about any channel switching efforts.
Totally disregarding the boisterous crowd of devoted fans, this oblivious and incensed diner was so enraged by management’s refusal to meet her demand that she insisted management comp her meals and drinks. When they refused she told them that she would retaliate with lousy online restaurant reviews. Based on her boorish behavior I can easily understand why this woman dined alone.
Corona Virus Questions: Last year 1.5 million people worldwide died of tuberculosis, a highly contagious airborne disease. Why weren’t we ordered to wear masks and isolate during that worldwide pandemic? If the Corona virus is so deadly and requires distancing, and intense sanitary measures why hasn’t it wiped out the entire homeless population that doesn’t practice any kind of hygiene or distancing? Why is it called social distancing when there is nothing social about it, just the opposite? If the objective is to save human lives why are abortion clinics that murder more than 3,000 babies a day in the U.S. allowed to stay open and many eye care and dental offices forced to close? Why do Democrats lecture us about the sanctity of life then harangue and vote against U.S. Supreme Court nominees they think will reverse the baby-killing Roe vs. Wade abortion decision? Why are we being told to stay at home to avoid getting the Corona virus, but criminals are released so they won’t get it? Why can I buy a lottery ticket in some states but not seeds for a home garden? Why are businesses laying off thousands of workers but federal, state, and local governments not laying off any? Why is the city of Fernandina Beach hiring more bureaucrats when our local hospitality-based economy has been forced to lay off thousands due to the pandemic? Are you as confused as I am or is it just me?
One More Thing: The media were gleefully supportive of Stacy Abrams for claiming she really won the governorship in Georgia, but they excoriate Trump for the exact same thing.
Unhinged Democrats Continued: During a recent kerfuffle in Chicago 19 people were injured – two rioters and 17 police officers. This spurred Massachusetts Democrat Congressional Representative and Samuel Jackson look-a-like, Ayanna Presley, to say: “There needs to be unrest in the streets as long as there is unrest in our lives.” Apparently the House no longer censures its members for spouting such spurious crap. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, have been spewing antisemitic bilge ever since they arrived in Congress and not one of the three dozen Jews there has uttered a word taking them to task for their verbal garbage.
Bad News Ahead: Investor, author, CEO, pundit, and columnist Joel Ross says it is going to be very messy in DC as the far-left screams at the leaders of the House and Biden to pass their policies. The bartender AOC has already attacked her fellow Dems pretty viciously, and she’s just getting started. It will get really ugly. Ross says “anyone who thinks there is going to be a coming together of any kind is in lala land. I assume they are having victory celebrations in Iran and China right now. The world just became a much more dangerous place.”
Ross predicts that Biden is not mentally capable to deal with all that stress and will not know what to do as the competing factions battle for control of him. “That is when Harris becomes really dangerous, and, along with Pelosi and Schumer, he gets pushed to concede to far left policies.”
Think About This: Do you think the almost 72 million folks that voted for Donald Trump might be a bit skeptical of the demands for evidence from the same people who spent the last four years accusing President Trump of being a Russian agent and an illegitimate president with no evidence whatsoever? Americans cast more votes for President Trump than any other president in American history except Joe Biden.
Electoral Ballgame: The Electoral College system so ingeniously created by the Founding Fathers for our national elections is like baseball’s World Series. It’s not the team that scores the most runs that wins, but the team that wins four of seven games.
Biden No Indian Giver: Under a Biden presidency Senator Elizabeth Warren probably will not be granted a cabinet position. If she left the Senate to join a Biden Cabinet Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker would appoint a Republican to take her vacant seat ensuring and/or increasing a GOP Senate majority.
The Week’s Best Headline: “Journalists Switch From Offense To Defense.” – Babylon Bee.
How Deep Is The Swamp? The final vote count for residents of Washington D.C. left no doubt about the depth of “The Swamp”. Voters there went for Joe Biden by 93.7 percent while only 5.2 percent marked their ballots for Donald Trump. And where do all these Democrat voters work?
Wait! What? While pouring milk into my cereal the other day did I see Hunter Biden’s picture on the carton? Speaking of Hunter Biden, will dad issue him a pardon when and if he makes it to the White House?
The System Is Busted: West coast columnist Burt Prelutsky thinks the Founders out-did themselves when they came up with the Constitution. But I agree with him that the one thing I wish they had done differently was to allow the states to run presidential elections anyway they wished.
It makes no sense. It’s one thing for Florida to run its statewide elections differently from the way that Georgia runs theirs, but why are there 50 different sets of rules in a national election?
Where the heck does Pennsylvania get off saying that the signatures on a ballot needn’t even resemble the signatures on the registration? And why does Pennsylvania and a handful of other states get to say that ballots can arrive three, four or even 10 days late and still be counted?
It’s bad enough that photo IDs aren’t required because, under the guise of concern over black voters being disenfranchised (although they always seem to have those pesky IDs when they enter courtrooms, board planes, cash checks and buy booze), the Democrats are against anything that prevents fraud at election time.
And why don’t dead Republicans ever vote?
Oops! I’m embarrassed when I make a mistake in this blog from getting a date or name wrong, misspelling a word or screwing up a quote. Sometimes my fingers get ahead of my brain and my fingers are dim. However, I take some consolation from Winston Churchill’s comment to his wife: “I would have made nothing if I had not made mistakes.” When an alert reader spots an error, I’ll correct it and move on recalling the words of the great late sports writer Red Smith to a fellow writer: “My boy, crow is an acquired taste.”
Meme Of The Week: It showed two dogs looking up at their owner and one of them, who has obviously been watching too much CNN, is saying: “We’re glad you’re home because the Russians pooped in the kitchen.”
Babylon Bee Headline Of Last Week: “Democrats Buying Weapons In Record Numbers To Protect Themselves From Democrats.”
Ice Follies: Tampa Plant High School classmate, friend, and American Spectator writer Larry Thornberry set me the following Thursday: “Hillsborough County (Florida) Sheriff’s deputies responding to reports of a domestic violence situation on Sept. 23 arrived at the apartment of Devon Garnett, 26, to find Garnett and two friends, fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning, watching Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. Neighbors had become alarmed after hearing shouts of “Shoot! Shoot!” and “I dare you to shoot!” just before 8:30 that evening, reported the Associated Press. The deputies “thought there were guns in the house,” said Garnett, who told them, “Nope, we’re just screaming for Steven Stamkos.” [Associated Press, 9/25/2020].