If the private owners won’t sell it to them then the city will just take it through eminent domain as it’s attempting to do with a chunk of private waterfront property on downtown’s Front Street to build a waterfront park that’ll result in eliminating parking that downtown merchants say is vital to their livelihoods. This is all part of a plan the city paid for with $223,000 of our tax dollars. It’s hard to say which part of this plan is worse: stealing private land, wasting public dollars, or ignoring the needs of local businesses.
According to longtime northeast Florida syndicated newspaper columnist and Fernandina Beach resident, Steve Nicklas, the city owns property worth $80 million that’s excluded from the tax rolls.
The city’s management of the properties it currently owns is dismal, yet it recently raised our taxes so it can buy even more at inflated prices. The City Commission, at the urging of City Manager Dale Martin, passed a 0.50 mill increase that will take $1.2 million from local homeowners for the purchase of more overpriced worthless properties thus taking them off the tax rolls. The land it says is for conservation purposes.
Commissioner Chip Ross has long championed this nonsense proclaiming in an October 11 News-Leader opinion piece that he doesn’t mind his own taxes being raised and spent on property prized only by mosquitos and rodents.
However, once the city gets the land it craves it’s like a dog that caught a car it was chasing. It has no idea what to do with it.
Commissioner Ross once proposed converting it into parkland. But somewhere along the way reason and logic caught up with the free-spending commissioner and he’s had second thoughts.
In a half-page News-Leader opinion piece November 15 Commissioner Ross, a medical doctor, said its time to pull the plug on a proposed Simmons Road Park or at least rethink it for a variety of reasons, mostly that the city’s current parks are a mess and need urgent care. Dr. Ross visited each one and declared many of them “tired and dated” and described the restrooms as “hygienically challenged.” In fact at the Tuesday Commission meeting he said some restrooms were so vile he wouldn’t use them. Another reason to put the park on hold is that the city is building recreational areas for folks that don’t live here and don’t pay taxes here, mainly county residents who don’t live in the city limits.
Commissioner Ross said they should chip in their fair share. For once I agree with the commissioner on all counts. At this week’s acrimonious Commission session Commissioner Ross, and surprisingly, Commissioner Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich, voted against the $400,000 Simmons Road Park proposal but they lost 3-2. Len “Turtle Boy” Kreger and Johnny “Moonbean” Miller voting to waste our tax dollars is not out of character, but I was surprised that Commissioner Phil Chapman joined that loopy duo. I thought he was smarter than that. Commissioner Kreger said the south end of the city was a “park desert.” Really! Since the south end of the island is county territory and the proposed Simmons Road park borders the county, let it fund and build the park. The commission chambers were also populated by the extreme environmental duo of Conserve Amelia Now’s Chuck Olivia, who objected to being labeled a “loud-mouth” despite being one; and Amelia Tree Conservancy’s Margaret Kirkland, who doesn’t live in Fernandina Beach, but never hesitates to dictate where and how its tax dollars should be allocated. Fortunately for everybody in the room and those watching at home a “Left Coast” Lednovich 60-slide PowerPoint presentation was more than the city’s audio visual equipment could handle and collapsed under its own bulk.
In a nutshell the city needs to get out of the land acquisition business altogether and fix and maintain the parks it has, not build more. It also needs to work with the county to get it to pay its fair share.
Beyond that it’s time to rethink the entire city government because nobody appears to be minding the store. It’s clear that the city commission has no idea what it is supposed to do, or what their job descriptions are and nobody, including local media, are addressing serious systemic problems in local government.
A man who knows more than most about such things is local city resident and retired media executive Frank Quigley. Mr. Quigley, a University of Florida alumni, ran a variety of publications including two that cover local governments — “Governing Magazine”, which is all about the business of state & local governments; and “The Bond Buyer” which is the bible of the municipal bond industry. He also served on the Finance Committee of the Town & Village Club of Scarsdale, NY, which essentially supports that local government. As the TV ad says, “He knows a thing or two because he’s seen a thing or two.”
Mr. Quigley summarizes what most citizens expect from their local government:
- Teach our children.
- Pick up our trash.
- Provide public safety including law enforcement and EMT.
- Fill in the potholes. Keep bridges open.
“That’s it,” he says, adding, “most of this could be privatized.”
Mr. Quigley calls it as he sees it when it comes to our local municipality saying: “We don’t need a large city staff issuing business licenses (doesn’t the state of Florida require certification for most professions?), managing services that the county could easily provide or be done away with – and the backdrop of city government has yet to display competence to do something seemingly straightforward like getting docks that were damaged over three years ago fixed for example. Instead it lets expensive mistakes slide and issues proclamations.”
“If they could step back and think about common needs across Nassau County, I believe they’d have serious conversations with the county about merging these operations to save money and to cut out duplicated senior managers and their support staff,” he says. “But that just isn’t going to happen.”
Pondering fiscal responsibility and efficiencies he used his corporate background for comparison. “When I ran businesses and we needed to invest in new things our customers wanted, guess where I found the money? In parts of the business that were flaccid, unproductive, unnecessary or distracting. OR I made a business case to ask for more money that was airtight, including the plan to shut it down – fast – if it didn’t make money. Not that hard, especially because I always had a good finance man to shine the flashlight to find money to reallocate resources or simply cut costs. Not once did I take over a business when I couldn’t find 10-20% of ‘we’ve always done it that way’ waste. That’s not a natural reflex in any local city government. Too bad.”
“If a candidate comes along, on the platform to abolish city government and merge major service operations with the county, that’s who I will vote for. A city government might have made sense here 100 years ago when the population was about 3,000 people and the rest of the county was farms and timber. That was then, this is now.”
I wish Mr. Quigley would run for the commission with that as his campaign platform. He’d get my vote.
Myopic Parents Department: The Nassau County School District conducted an August student seminar addressing bullying, making good decisions, setting personal goals, drug and alcohol use, and abstinence — important topics you’d think a majority of parents would appreciate being discussed with their kids by experts on such things. You’d be wrong. A tiny cabal of irate parents complained to the American Civil Liberties Union — possibly the most dangerous organization in America – and something called the Freedom From Religion Foundation, to voice their disapproval. Because the secular seminar was sponsored by a religious group called FutureNow, these parents demanded that School Superintendent Kathy Burns, never conduct this type of program again. Despite the fact the presentation was secular, the parents say their kids were — GASP! — invited to voluntarily attend church services after school hours, a temptation that their offspring are apparently unable to resist, unlike alcohol, bullying, drugs and sex. Superintendent Burns said the program “was not intended to promote a particular religious organization, usurp parental authority or proselytize students.” The complaining and spineless parents, who requested to be quoted anonymously in local news reports, want no part of their kids being lectured on morality by experts on the subject. One can only imagine the kind of moral guidance they’re receiving at home.
We Could Get Some Work Done Around Here If It Weren’t For All These Pesky Customers: Are too many potential customers bad for business? A recent News-Leader article reporting on the possibility of The Port of Fernandina occasionally discharging some 300 cruise ship passengers for one-day excursions into downtown Fernandina Beach had me scratching my head when Ocean Highway & Port Authority (OPHA) Commissioner Danny Fullwood, who is also the newly elected chair of its board, was quoted as saying, “cruise ships have requested to dock at the port in the past, but downtown merchants felt it would overwhelm their businesses, so OHPA did not allow it.” Really? How are too many potential customers bad for business? If I had a business in downtown Fernandina Beach or anywhere else why wouldn’t I welcome being overwhelmed by prospective customers? Or am I missing something? I conducted an informal poll of my own the other day asking downtown business owners ranging from retail clothing shops and bar owners to coffee shop and restaurant proprietors their opinions. Only one said he objected to the influx of potential cruise ship customers saying they don’t buy anything they can’t get on their all-inclusive cruise ship packages. The majority said they would welcome them. Maybe Commissioner Fullwood needs to conduct a poll.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “If you view government as a form of entertainment, it’s a lot easier to cope with it mentally.” — Dave Barry.
Taxation Soviet Style: Democrat Party candidates for president keep coming up with more and more extreme schemes to take money from the most productive members of society and divert it to the least productive. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren lead the soak-the-rich crowd with Warren currently proposing an asset tax of 2% on households worth more than $50 million and 3% on more than $1 billion. Not to be out done Sanders says he’ll tax 1% on households worth $32 million and going to 8% on those worth $10 billion or more. None of this would come close to covering the costs of their outrageous everything for free nonsense, but that doesn’t stop the other candidates in this socialist wolf pack from racing to propose even more Soviet style means of confiscating wealth, thus destroying the robust economy we’re now enjoying and tanking the stock markets. For example, the targeted rich folk’s businesses would be taxed as wealth meaning loss of investment income, capital, and dividends, which would force liquidation, downsizing, moving offshore and loss of jobs. What happens if one of these Trotskyites gets elected and runs out of millionaires and billionaires to tax in their punitive class-warfare? They won’t stop pillaging. They’ll come after you and me. Imagine an ordinary tax-paying family living in a $500,000, $400,000, $300,000 or $200,000 house on Amelia Island. A 2% wealth tax would require a cash payment to the government of $10,000, $8,000, $6,000 and $4,000 a year respectively. If you vote for one of these Karl Marx wannabes would you happily write that check? The French passed a similar wealth tax in 2000 that led to an exodus of some 42,000 millionaires from that country. French President Emmanuel Macron rescinded it in 2018. The same would happen here, throwing the economy into a tailspin and crashing the stock markets.
The Answer Is Obvious: While visiting our son and his wife in Asheville, NC recently we asked eight-year-old grandson, Luke, to tell us about his reaction to the second grade and his classmates. He shrugged unenthusiastically about his classroom activities saying they were “OK” but excitedly pointed out that that one of his classmates “doesn’t know if he’s a boy or a girl.” Luke explained: “Some days this kid comes to school dressed like a girl and some days dressed like a boy. He doesn’t know what he is,” exclaimed Luke, obviously confused and amused by his classmate’s peculiar behavior. After getting adult menacing glances directed at me silently signaling: “Don’t go there” I moved the conversation to less controversial topics and bit my tongue while thinking: “Hey Luke, just tell the kid to look in his or her shorts.”
The Democrats Worst Nightmare: It’s been reported that Ruth Bader Ginsberg (86), the oldest member of the Supreme Court, who has been battling cancer, missed court due to a stomach problem. There is a growing chance she will not be on the court by March say reports I’ve read.
WOW! Deb Boelkes, Amelia Island resident, national motivational speaker, entrepreneur, author and founder of the local Amelia Island conservative group “We The People”, will host a series of seminars to compliment her new book, “The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture” scheduled to come out December 10. Her series of three one hour-long sessions entitled “Leadership Uncorked” will be held starting January 9 at downtown Fernandina Beach’s Bookloft, 214 Centre Street, from 5-6 p.m. She has presented to thousands of people in corporations, associations and universities with audiences ranging from intimate groups of 10 to crowds of 3,000. Her clients have ranged from large organizations like Experian, Merrill Lynch, and Toshiba, to small and mid-range healthcare providers, professional service firms, nonprofits, and more. During the Bookloft sessions Ms. Boelkes will discuss how small changes in how folks manage their nine-to-five activities can improve, not only their business environment, but their lives overall. Cost of the three-session “Leadership Uncorked” series is $45 with the price of admission including her new book. To reserve a seat call The Book Loft at 904/261-8991. The three sessions are: January 9 (5 – 6 PM): “How To Turn a So-So Job Into One You Really Love”; January 16 (5 – 6 PM): “How to Create a Workplace that Keeps the Best and Brightest People Loyal”; January 23 (5 – 6 PM): “How to Make the Most of a Workplace Crisis and Succeed Against All Odds”. For more about Ms. Boelkes visit BusinessWorldRising.com.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: If playing golf, helping veterans, drinking beer, and eating dinner with your pals sounds appealing then VFW Post 4351 under the Shave Bridge has a deal for you. The post will sponsor a Pearl Harbor Memorial Day Golf Tournament Saturday, December 7 at the North Hampton Golf Club for just $80 a person that includes golf fees, range balls and a 4:30 p.m. awards dinner. To sign up stop by the VFW Post or call Al Lorentson at 904/583-2424 or Don Monckton, 352/281-9977. Bantam & Biddy, a new eatery that says it serves a mixture of regional, free-range pastured chickens, is scheduled to open here in the near future in the Harris Teeter complex on First Coast Highway. The restaurant has three other locations, two in Atlanta and one in Chattanooga. It appears that Gilbert’s Underground Restaurant on South 8th Street has been completely shuttered and I hear that a replacement eatery for that location is a couple of weeks away. I never understood what the “Underground” in that name meant, anybody know?