Last week I listed a variety of duplicitous public figures who—in my opinion — are screwing up our country. I also asked readers to help me identify those who are working overtime to mess up Nassau County. A number of locals responded, and with few exceptions their nominations mirrored mine.
In fact, a couple of our elected local government officials are messing up so monumentally that they’re attracting negative attention statewide. An in-depth article in the Florida Daily News (https://www.floridadaily.com/bullies-on-the-bully-pulpit-commissioners-blocking-a-healthy-economic-development-project/) earlier this week highlighted the destructive antics of Fernandina Beach City Commissioners Ronald “Chip” Ross and Mike Lednovich saying: “Fernandina Beach is in danger of becoming better known as “Bully Town” — where a bright future is being hijacked and jeopardized by two rogue, out-of-control city commissioners whose self-aggrandizement and dictator-like grandstanding have made them bullies on the bully pulpit.”
The lengthy article by Florida Daily News editor Ed Dean detailed how the pompous duo are “…..betraying the public trust in a negative and destructive pattern that should cause voters and taxpayers to wonder how or why they ever entrusted any power at all to these two guys.” Dean went on to say: “…. these two commissioners seem to believe that raising taxes is better than attracting businesses, tourists and private-sector investment and revenue.” The article was illustrated by the above cartoon, which the publication enthusiastically granted me permission to use here.
One local reader nominated the entire Fernandina Beach city government saying: “This one is easy,” he proclaimed. “Main culprit is ‘city government.’ I break it down two ways – first is the elected officials, every one of whom is a ‘Johnny one-note’ who only have their own personal interests in mind (and the other is our paid staff).”
This local respondent also cited the Lednovich-Ross combination saying: “Chip Ross bought a run-down house in a run-down neighborhood and now wants us to come to him and fix it, on our dime. I’ve talked to him on the phone and find him to be the most double-talking smarter-than-you person I’ve ever encountered. Example two is Mike Lednovich, a perfect example of someone who buys a house next to an airport runway (literally) then starts immediately complaining about the noise of airplanes landing. Then there is the “mayor” (Johnny Miller) who only seems worried about whales and turtles and issues that really aren’t central to what the commission is supposedly for. He can waste HIS time on that stuff, but he should not waste OUR time.”
The letter-writer also nominated City Manager Dale Martin writing: “He for sure is taking advantage of the “weak mayor” system and un-attentive commission. He should be held accountable to cut costs where possible, and if he wants to expand services or do this or that – he needs to find the money already in the budget and move it. But he continues to want to increase taxes and fees and to waste time on the non-starter issue of paid parking. It will be a wash between what it costs and what revenue will come in. Meanwhile there are bigger problems. But because our commissioners are so unengaged, he’s going to get away with this for a long time.”
Following is my “Least Wanted” Nassau County list.
Mike (“Left Coast”) Lednovich, a California transplant, is a pretentious, smirking, ill-informed, 24-month resident, whose tenure on the City Commission has been a train wreck for every city tax payer and business except a small band of loud, demented and obnoxious environmental, anti-business activist screamers and ranters, many who don’t even live here. Other than his own house, Lednovich, has no respect for property rights. I’m surprised he doesn’t hand out pitch forks and torches at the Commission meetings, as he led a preposterous ill-conceived charge to stop the Amelia Bluff housing development and is threatening local icon and businessman George Sheffield with the revocation of his legitimate lease on the Amelia River Golf Course. This dim, insolent, rabble-rouser actually contributed money to a fund to sue the city – a community he vowed to support and defend — to stop the Amelia Bluff housing development on Citrona. Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early blew that law suit apart this week when he denied each and every claim made by the Atlanta Tree Conservatory and the local Sierra Club declaring that the “FLUM Amendment was inconsistent with and not in compliance with the City’s Comprehensive Plan and Florida Statutes,” thereby flushing Left Coast’s money down the drain and the hopes of the environmental whackos along with it. Meanwhile, The mere mention of the proposed Amelia River Resort project on the other side of town, sends the mean-spirited “Left Coast” into apocalyptic spittle-spewing spasms of rage and incoherence, all very entertaining to watch during a commission session, but scary because this fanatic fruitcake represents one-fifth of the Commission’s votes. He refuses to listen to advice or counsel from the City Attorney, a maneuver that I predict will hopefully spell the end for this irrational, mentally defective timebomb. As long as this snarling contrarian sits on the Commission and spews nonsense on social media, prospective business owners will keep their checkbooks closed and think twice before investing hereabouts.
Ronald “Chip” (“Dr. Strangelove”) Ross, also sits on the Fernandina City Commission, egging on the fanatically extreme environmentalist crowd, even convincing the city to buy worthless over-priced, stagnant, mosquito-infested property for “conservation” purposes. Elected in 2017, Commissioner Ross, who left behind a trail of lawsuits against his former Maryland neighbors, continued his helter-skelter “neighborly” lawsuit habit here, twice suing the city he swore to serve and protect, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. One of those suits temporarily forced a couple and their special needs son out of their recently renovated house a block from Ross’s home at great expense to that legally pummeled family. At this past Tuesday’s meeting during the public evaluation of the city’s officers, Ross questioned City Attorney Tammi Bach’s advice concerning the discussion of the Amelia Bluff issue. He accused her of conflicting opinions in an attempt to blame her for his and his sidekick Lednovich’s failed attempts to block the development. And this is a guy who practices medicine at the local hospital’s ER and took the Hippocratic oath to “First do no harm!” He should have studied law instead of medicine. Commissioner Ross and his wife, Faith, bought a house near the port and — like folks such as Lednovich, who buy homes near airports — want it to go away because it annoys them. Many voters feel the same way about Commissioner Ross.
Robert “Bullet Bob” Weintraub, my former next-door neighbor, is high on the list. Following the 2016 election, this pompous, unhinged, gasbag directed a public Facebook posting at me and my wife saying: “…don’t think you can intimidate me with your signs. My rifle and shotgun are loaded, and I will be getting a handgun at tomorrow’s sales. I’ll be waiting for you and your brown shirts.” In addition, he called us anti-Semites. Don’t believe it? I have copies of his Facebook postings and the police report. Our crime? Putting a celebratory postelection Trump sign in our yard amidst the small American flags we display every Veterans Day. The police paid this unhinged old fool a visit and suggested he refrain from future terroristic threats, something his liberal “friends” on Facebook didn’t advise him to do as they either remained silent or supported his insanity. Despite this crazed lunatic’s threatening rants to shoot me and my wife, the local News Leader newspaper prints this buffoon’s opinion editorials and even allows him to write about city activities in their sad publication. I can only assume Weintraub’s mental vacuum and emotional chaos reflect the views of Publisher Foy Maloy, Editor Peg Davis, and the News-Leader owners as they continue to provide a forum for this deranged blowhard. For reasons I can’t explain the folks at the Men’s Newcomers Club allow him to promote their activities. (“Welcome to Amelia Island fellas, don’t make a sudden move or…”). I suppose as long as he doesn’t shoot any advertisers or new residents the News Leader and Men’s Newcomers Club think he’s either harmless or a lousy shot. Even after threatening to shoot me and my wife the oblivious News Leader ironically printed an opinion editorial this crazed octogenarian wrote advocating government gun control. Whoa! What? He is also active in the recently formed anti-development group, Conserve Amelia Now (CAN). Watch your backs builders and businessmen, this guy is dangerously delusional and claims he’s armed to the teeth.
News Leader Editor Peg Davis is an ardent far left liberal, whose mind is closed tighter than the cap on a pint of Jim Beam at a Southern Baptist tent revival. This is a woman who thinks that sociopath Bob Weintraub’s crackpot ideas have merit and gives him free reign on the pages of her pathetic newspaper. Is she so mired in her far-left ideology that she’s unwilling to listen to opposing arguments? Unfortunately, yes. While enjoying a meal with friends at downtown’s Salty Pelican a while back a dining companion pointed out that Ms. Davis, was seated at a nearby table. Since I’d never met Ms. Davis, I approached her, introduced myself, and extended my hand. She declined to shake it saying: “No thanks, you’ve written bad things about me.” I backed off saying: “Well, It’s nice to meet you anyway.” She responded remarking: “I wish I could say the same.” I find it sad that she feels that anyone disagreeing with her must be vilified and shunned. Her attitude says a lot about the shrinking readership of the News Leader, a print newspaper that is being clobbered by the online Fernandina Observer. She’s obviously galled that locals distrust News Leader far left editorial viewpoints and that her paper is mocked by a majority of residents for its childish left-wing editorializing and sloganeering passed off as analysis. Its advertisers obviously feel the same way as the Observer is picking them up right and left. Instead of ignoring her critics, she would be better off discussing and arguing differences with her dissenters, but I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon. Ms. Davis led the anti-Amelia Bluff housing development charge with the paper’s editorials once again taking the losing side of a lost cause. Stand by for Ms. Davis to claim moral superiority because she was denied the righteousness she feels she deserves by Judge E. Gary Early’s decision in favor of the builder. By the way, has anybody seen News Leader Publisher Foy Maloy recently? He appears to be missing in action while his newspaper is suffering a serious lack of leadership and hemorrhaging readers.
Pat Edwards, a Nassau County Commissioner, fatally shot himself in his political foot a few weeks ago when it was revealed that he defamed popular and effective Nassau County Economic Development Commission head and Fernandina Port Director, Laura DiBella, for an email she wrote suggesting the county should move to patch up the disagreement between it and Rayoiner because it reflected poorly on the county’s reputation as a good place to do business. Edwards’ disrespectful text said: “Good morning, in reading Laura’s email I have to ask the question, is her job to support Rayonier/Raydient instead of Nassau County? Why would anyone except a newspaper or paid blogger provide this letter except to strengthen our partners position against us. She has the management skills of a Pig!” Edwards’ text message continued saying: “I think she sees the writing on the wall and is hoping that Rayonier will either fund the board (when ya’ll pull the county funding) or hire her. I hope she goes early.” An outpouring of support for Ms. DiBella resulted while Edwards hid under his desk saying to me when I asked if he wanted to apologize or explain his remarks: “Thank you for contacting me, I have no comment.” Edwards had previously been a strong supporter of Rayonier’s 24,000-acre development district in Yulee, but because the windfall he may have been anticipating from it for his lumber business didn’t materialize, resentment surfaced. The local New Leader newspaper naturally ignored Edwards’ attack on Ms. DiBella.
City Manager Dale Martin makes the list because I can’t make sense out of much that he does and even less of what he says. The job-hopping city manager produces a weekly column attempting to explain what’s happening at city hall, whether anything is happening or not and many times makes a dog’s breakfast out of his explanations. One of my favorite Martin columns – which are printed in the News Leader and the online Observer — was one babbling on about why we should all be nice to the city commissioners because they “work hard and are poorly paid.” He didn’t suggest that they shouldn’t have run for office if they don’t like the compensation and can’t handle the work or criticism. In a recent one he tried to explain the mysterious citizen survey he sponsored to justify raising taxes. It was an incomprehensible word jumble written by the folks he paid to conduct the survey and read like it was translated from Sanskrit by someone who doesn’t read Sanskrit. Last Friday he futilely tried to explain the city’s increased taxes but obvious by its omission was his absurd conservation assessment, which is the reason. He continues to tout paid beach parking even though the populace has made it abundantly clear they don’t want it and are suggesting he stuff that idea in the same place with his conservation crap. He was a strong proponent of the $4.9 million white elephant “it-looks-like-an-airplane” airport terminal that he claims revenue from an annual car auction and race car event at the airport will help fund. Really? At the urging of “Conservationist” Commissioner Ross, Martin agreed that the city pay a property owner $25,000 for a site the county appraiser’s website says is worth just 39 dollars, adding that it would cost more to clear the land than it’s worth. Since he’ s been here the city has continually added employees, when it should be shedding them. City manager tenures are notoriously short-lived, and Martin is no exception. Fernandina Beach is his fifth city manager’s job in 21 years, having been fired from the last three before landing here. Raising taxes and growing city government – hiring an assistant city manager and even proposing a beach management department – have been his priorities since arriving in December 2015. It’s time he started looking for job number six and for the city started living within its means.
Ron (“Get Off My Lawn You Little Bastards”) Sapp, is a native-born island resident who is very knowledgably about city government and how it works. Unfortunately, he’s also a Fernandina Beach High School educator (i.e. indoctrinator) and avowed liberal dead set on reverting Amelia Island into a mid-19th century socialistic society of anti-American grievance mongers. This frumpy Bambi-against-Hitler-save-our-island crusader works himself into a dervish-like trance about, in his words: “New developments with thousands and thousands and thousands of new homes and people (that) are going to change the way we live.” Many people who move here want the island to remain the same as it was the day they plucked the “For Sale” signs from the front of their new homes. Sapp, who was born here, wants it to revert back to the day of his birth and he won’t be happy until the county hangs “Do Not Enter” signs on all bridges leading to Amelia Island. He has served as a city commissioner and mayor and actually attempted to pass legislation limiting the number of people who could live on Amelia Island, a concept that could only be accomplished if he owned the entire island, which in his delusional mind he thinks he does. In addition, if you’re a conservative proponent of the Second Amendment this fanatic leftie will attempt to portray you as if you were caught red-handed on the beach machine-gunning newly hatched sea turtles. The nonsense this guy frenziedly pens for the local paper would end up on the editing floor of the satirical Amelia Island New-Wrecker for being too far-fetched and is another reason the online Fernandina Observer and NCFL Independent newspapers are so successful. It’s easy to understand why he was campaign manager for City Commissioner Chip Ross. I’m thankful none of my kids or grandkids were ever subjected to this guy’s classroom propaganda. I’ve said it before and repeat that if Sapp was in charge we’d all be wearing loincloths, sitting around bonfires in front of our yurts, stalking dinner with clubs, and downtown Fernandina Beach would resemble Mogadishu.
Margaret Kirkland makes the list, not because she’s a terrible person, but because she’s an out-of-towner who incites gullible locals like a circuit riding evangelical tree-hugging preacher passing a collection plate. I might listen to her “not-in-my-backyard” BS if Fernandina Beach was her backyard but it isn’t, she doesn’t live here. This soft-spoken lady, who resembles a stern librarian, heads up something called Amelia Tree Conservatory and hooked up with locals involved in Conserve Amelia Now (CAN) and the Sierra Club and instigated the lawsuit against the city to stop Fernandina Beach’s Amelia Bluff housing development. I understand the suit cost city tax payers between $30-40 thousand dollars to defend and the extremists close to $30 thousand. How many trees could they have planted for that kind of money? She needs to take her extreme environmental sermonizing elsewhere, instead she says she’s “reviewing Judge Early’s order.” Hit the bricks lady, you’re nothing but expensive bad news hereabouts.
This has been depressing. I’m thinking of creating a list of those who make an effort to make this a good place to live. Any thoughts? The Amelia Bluff builder may be among them as I’ve heard rumors that despite the financial and publicity pounding he’s taken from the crazed crowd listed above he may still contribute funds for conservation for each house built. He’s a class act either way.