If political forums operated like talent shows and applause was the deciding factor, then two city commission candidate challengers — restaurateur Tim Poynter and educator Robin Lentz — would be declared winners. During last Tuesday evening’s gathering at the Amelia Park Holy Trinity Church of all the candidates running for city commission seats Poynter’s and Lentz’s answers to a series of seven questions consistently drew the loudest and most sustained hand clapping from the almost full house. Poynter is challenging incumbent Charlie Corbett while Lentz is challenging incumbent Sarah Pelican. Retired businessman Roy Smith is also challenging Corbett, and all five attended the session. If I was a debate instructor assigned to grade the participants, here’s what my report card would look like:
Tim Poynter: A+; Poynter knew the subject matter and his answers were direct and unequivocal. His speaking style was eloquent, never hesitant and he backed up his responses with facts, never once referring to notes. His demeanor was professional yet friendly and he occasionally injected an appropriate degree of humor. He came across as an authority, exuded confidence and his applause was consistently loud and sustained. If there had been an applause meter it would have read at the highest levels following each answer.
Robin Lentz: A; It is obvious Ms. Lentz’s time spent running a classroom has paid off as she proved she knows how to handle herself in front of a crowd, scanning the audience and looking them directly in the eyes. Her answers were well-researched and her speaking style professional, friendly and polite. She became more confident as the session progressed. She obviously did her homework as she was very well prepared and backed up her answers with facts only occasionally referring to notes. He applause meter reading would have consistently been in the positive sector.
Sarah Pelican: C+; Ms. Pelican has a pleasant and clear speaking style, not hesitant and came across as friendly and helpful. For someone who has been on the commission the past three years, however, she didn’t appear to have a grasp of the issues or possibly wanted to skirt certain questions. For example her answers didn’t clearly address issues such as accountability for city funding and her vision for the future of the city was to repeat Charlie Corbett’s vision of “back in the day.” A mediocre performance and the applause indicated as much.
Charlie Corbett: D; Corbett’s “Awe shucks, good ‘ole boy” approach fell flat. His speaking style is gruff with failed attempts at humor and it appeared that he was uncomfortable in front of the group. His litany of accomplishments never once contained the fact that he was one of the votes that sent back a city loan of more than a million dollars with an historically low interest rate but he ironically took credit for projects that were initiated using some of that money under the last commission which included his opponent Tim Poynter. And while his opponent spoke he sat next to him smirking, not exactly endearing himself to the audience. He had to refer to his notes when asked why people should vote for him. An applause meter would have registered politely.
Roy Smith: F; A first-time candidate for public office Smith appeared woefully unprepared despite telling the audience he was a retired businessman who had been responsible for managing multimillion dollar projects. Possibly he underestimated the audience or his opponents and his answers were generalized and vague. He appeared nervous and uncomfortable. An applause meter would have recorded the audience response as tepid at best.
Adam Kaufman did an excellent job factually reporting the session in detail in the online Fernandina Observer newspaper outlining the candidates responses to a number of the questions.
Round Up The Usual Suspects: Most of us have heard the story about the kid who got in deep trouble with his folks the morning after Halloween when they discovered that all the mail boxes on their street were painted red except the one in front of their house. A similar situation took place last Saturday night when campaign signs for Fernandina Beach City Commission candidates Robin Lentz and Tim Poynter, who are challenging incumbent commissioners Sarah Pelican and Charlie Corbett respectively, were removed from private property along First Avenue and later found in a nearby construction dumpster. However, a sign supporting Charlie Corbett in the same area was not removed. Police Chief James Hurley told Fernandina Observer reporter Suanne Thamm that the removal of anything from private property without the owners’ permission is theft, including campaign signs and the charges range from misdemeanor to felony depending on the cost of the sign. I know all of these candidates and don’t think any of them would encourage or condone such activity. But overzealous supporters of candidates who are caught removing signs may end up with a misdemeanor or felony charge on their records if they are caught plucking campaign signs off private property and they should think long and hard before lending this kind of misguided support to their preferred candidate.
Sad Sack About Jax: Week after week I read the Jacksonville-based Florida Times-Union’s “Matt About Jax” in its Saturday edition expecting the quality of writing to rise above the third grade level of columnist Matt Pittman’s constantly repeated phrases of “It’s really good,” “Wow, that’s good” and “They’re great” comments to a more in-depth analysis of Jacksonville area eateries. I’m repeatedly disappointed. For example a couple of weeks ago he opened his restaurant column about a bakeshop proclaiming: “Word of mouth is a powerful thing in Jacksonville.” Really? How enlightening? I’m not a restaurant critic but I am a critic of restaurant critics and journalists, and this one is awful. He’s never met a plate of food he didn’t like, eaten in an establishment that didn’t have “great” entertainment,” “great service,” or wasn’t “fantastic,” or even seen a menu that didn’t look “great” and “fantastic.” Apparently this guy can read a menu then declare food he’s never tasted “fantastic.” And since the column features a grinning photo of him leaning on a camera and the newspaper encourages readers to watch his videos I gave that a shot, assuming that he’s a better cinematographer than he is a journalist. He isn’t. It gets worse. I’m not sure what the heck this mish-mash is supposed to be about, but it isn’t restaurant reviews. I saw him urging people to adopt pets — a good thing — and talk about downtown food events among other activities, but there is no thread here that I can find and the dialogue is as amateurish and is as poorly done as his written gibberish. Print newspapers are fighting to stay alive these days and when I spend $337.18 for an annual subscription and others fork over $2.00 for a single copy, the Times-Union isn’t giving us value for money with this kind of drivel. However, I’m sure the restaurant owners think he’s “good,” “great,” and “fantastic.”
Speaking Of The Times-Union: Writer Tom Szaboleta pens a relatively new column for Tuesday’s Times-Union called “8 tracks,” whatever that means, and it is fun, refreshing, well-written and when you get to the end you wish there was more. In a recent issue Tom wrote about visiting a family-run grocery store with his mom when he was a kid and recalls the cramped aisles, the check out ladies ringing up orders on old fashioned cash registers and customers paying by writing checks or with cash. It reminded me of my high school days when I worked as a bag boy at the Kwik Chek on Tampa’s Bay-to-Bay Boulevard for 30 cents an hour and tips. I predict Mr. Szaboleta will have a long run with his entertaining and informative musings and breezy style.
Medical Alert Scam: If you get a phone call saying “I am calling about a prescription received from the doctor’s office” ask them “What doctor?” and they’ll be stumped for an answer as it’s a scam designed to get you buy a medical alter system or some other hokum. Or if they leave the same message on your answering machine saying “Please call us back at 855-870-7920” don’t, because it’s the same phony baloney designed not to promote your health, but to lighten your wallet. Unfortunately there may be some folks out there that think this is a legitimate medical call and buy into this obscene clap trap.
Maybe Charles Manson Or The ISIS Butchers Weren’t Available: If you are thinking about sending your kid to Vermont’s Goddard College or hiring someone with a Goddard degree, you might want to rethink those decisions as it appears that the lunatics at that educational asylum have selected an imprisoned, convicted cop-killer as its commencement speaker. The crazies responsible for that school’s graduation ceremony have invited Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1981 of killing Philadelphia policeman Daniel Faulkner by shooting him several times in the head as he lay on the ground. Abu-Jamal, who was originally sentenced to the death penalty only to have it changed to life without parole on a technicality, will deliver recorded comments to graduates at his alma mater. Is the school so desperate that it can’t find a Goddard graduate that has actually done something worthwhile or are they all victims of downing maple syrup gone bad as indicated by Vermont voters electing the US Senate’s only socialist, Bernie Sanders? I would feel very uncomfortable attending this graduation ceremony and sitting anywhere near any of its 600 liberal arts students. Based on my research this cold-blooded killer has been a speaker at other US college graduations including ones at Evergreen State College in Washington and Antioch College in Ohio, two more institutions to scratch off your kid’s list and add to your “do not hire from” group as critical thinking and humanities are obviously not taught at any of these institutions.
More Dangerous People To Avoid: The Federal Trade Commission this past week forced two companies that sold “caffeinated women’s underwear” to refund some $1.5 million to those gullible women who purchased its products. It appears that overweight women were convinced that wearing what the companies called “shapewear” infused with caffeine, retinol, vitamin E and aloe vera, among other stuff, could reshape their bodies and eliminate cellulite. Guys, if you’re dating or married to a gal whose undies smell like yesterday’s coffee grounds, you might want to rethink that relationship.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Now that the tourists have thinned out, island eateries are once again offering specials to appeal to locals and one of my favorites is Main Beach’s Sandy Bottoms’ two-for-one Thursday pizzas. Chef Nick Hartley creates what I consider one of the best thin crust pies on the island, cutting it into squares instead of slices and from 4-7 pm on Thursday you can buy one and get a second, of equal or lesser price, with one topping free. Monday from 4-7 is Mexican night featuring three tacos with sides of rice and refried beans for just $6.00 while Tuesday is teacher appreciation day from 4-8 with teachers who show their passes receiving a whopping 50 percent off their entire bill, with others in their party NOT included. Wednesdays feature homemade pastas, with dishes varying week-to-week while Friday is prime rib with potatoes and vegetables for just $15. A variety of specials from the islands of the Caribbean will be featured all day Saturday and Sunday is “Taste of the South Sunday” which to me means they’ll probably fry everything in sight. And don’t forget tonight is The Crescendo Big Band Night beginning at 7 pm but get there early for a good seat. Call ’em at 904/310-6904. The end of September Gourmet Gourmet offered a new menu that features two to three different kinds of locally caught fish that owner Bill Mertens says diners can have prepared three different ways. He also features a prime rib dinner every night of the week and promises that nothing on the menu will take longer than 10 minutes to prepare and he’ll offer all the items for takeout. I looked over their extensive new menu and reading it made me hungry with the most expensive item priced at a very reasonable $28 and many more mouth watering dishes priced much lower. Call ’em at 904/261-8973. All you can eat wings are back at the Surf for $13.25 from 5-9 on Thursday evenings along with live music by The Macys 6-10. Call ’em at 904/261-6711. Speaking of wings, one of the best deals in town is still downtown’s Crab Trap on Wednesdays all day when you get 50 cent flappers and $1 beer 5-7 pm. Call ’em at 904/261-4749.