Despite severe pandemic belt tightening by local businesses and residents, Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin and his Four Horsemen of the Free Spending Commission are acting as if they’re flush with cash and are going through our tax money like drunken sailors on shore leave, with one astonishing exception — Commissioner Mike Lednovich, a California transplant, who has been unsuccessfully trying to pull the fiscal reigns in on the city hall quintet’s lavish spending.
The population of Fernandina Beach hasn’t budged in three years yet the budget has increased by 17 percent and taxes by more than 30 percent. What’s up with that? A friend commented to me a couple of days ago saying, “Every time I look at Google News or Apple News I see where municipalities are slashing costs and services that aren’t essential. NYC is planning to close parks, libraries (I think), and everything that isn’t public safety, sanitation and basic services. It is an existential moment and our local crowd – so far – does. not. get. it. Dale Martin seems to think his piggy bank will get us through.”
Recklessly squandering our money during this current pandemic crisis is wearing City Manager Martin out as he’s using some of our cash to advertise for an assistant bag man. This Assistant City Manager job, which pays more than $110,000 a year plus benefits, will also assume the extortion duties currently carried out by Public Utilities Director John “Pay to Play” Mandrick who’s soon retiring from strong arming local businesses for impact fees or whatever the city currently calls those ill-gotten funds. Recruitment ads for the new position state that to qualify candidates must have the spending habits of Bugsy Siegel, the accounting skills of Meyer Lansky, and the scruples of both.
Former U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, says local elected officials nationwide are not helping during the pandemic, but are making things worse by failing to curb their spending in the face of this crisis. Chaffetz, who talks like he’s been lurking around the Ash Street city hall, says: “I don’t even hear them talking about the possibility of having to make spending cuts. State and local governments are not doing much to make the tough decisions needed to cut expenses to balance their budgets.”
Chaffetz cited city pensions, an issue long ignored by City Manager Martin and the Commission, saying: “State and local government pension funds will fall even further behind in their funding. For far too long, pension managers have snookered the public and retirees with wild projections on their returns from their investments. Some projected seven percent annualized returns that were unrealistic even in good times. Now state and local government retirees who failed to convert to a defined contribution plan rather than a defined benefit plan will find themselves in a truly dire situation.” So what do our Fernandina Beach city officials have to say about this? Nothing!
Amelia Island is dependent on the hospitality industry which is currently shuttered due to the epidemic, leaving thousands of local citizens without jobs and incomes. As a result property tax collections are likely to drop since some jobless workers will be unable to pay their taxes on time. However, for the Fernandina Beach City Commission and Mr. Martin it’s business as usual. Fernandina Beach’s continued spending during the pandemic, its illegal impact fee scheme, refusal to address the pension issue, hiring of even more nonessential employees, and funding of questionable projects is a model the mafia must be observing with awe and admiration.
Because of the city’s stonewalling, reckless spending, and apparent incompetence, a number of concerned citizens have formed a group called “Common Sense Fernandina Beach.” They’d like Fernandina Beach City Manager Dale Martin and the City Commissioners to explain a few budgetary issues, particularly during the pandemic-induced financial crisis we’re now facing. First, the City Manager at the City Commission meeting Tuesday evening (April 7) said there is currently $12 million in Reserve. “OK” they ask, “What’s the basis/calculation of that amount? What’s it comprised of? What’s included and what’s excluded? If the Commission is operating within the parameters of the budget then why are so many budget amendments needed?” Interested in the group? Then join ’em or ask a question at http://www.commonsensefb.org/
One astute observer in the group notes that lots of big banks say we’re in a financial ditch for a while because of the pandemic, so how does the city manager think it will impact tax receipts and other fees? What are the plans to curtail spending based on the lower anticipated revenue “We all want to know his thoughts about the revenue at the marina and golf course, that are already sucking wind.” He says, “people I know in real estate say it’s gone blank and have no idea when and how it will come back. Hotels are essentially shut down. Does he have a handle on the market volatility’s impact on the city pension fund?”
All expressed concern that City Manager Martin is doing a Leslie Nielsen “there’s nothing to see here” routine that should be very alarming to local taxpayers. Commissioner Mike Lednovich attempted to get a “slow down the spending” conversation going during the last meeting but Commissioner Chip Ross did his usual fogging and subject-changing routine as Martin defended the city staff sending any belt tightening talk into a tunnel with no light at the end. Just like Commissioner Ross, with a history of slap-happily filing law suits in his former residence of Maryland, Martin has a history of refusing to curb his lavish spending habits in his previous locales and jobs. For example, failing to control costs was one of the factors that led to Martin’s firing as City Manager in Davison, Michigan in 2010 while economic issues also played a key role in his dismissal as City Manager in Winsted, Connecticut in 2014. Commissioner Ross, a fierce Martin supporter, left a wake of lawsuits when he departed Maryland and lost little time filing a pair of suits against Fernandina Beach, a city he now represents. They cost the city more than $5,000 to defend.
If all this isn’t enough to send the city manager and Ross running for cover how about the misguided decision to build the Simmons Road Park, a park that sits on the county boundary in a city already full of parks. The Thomas Paine group questioners ask: “Can we reconsider the Simmons Road Park? What’s the public sentiment about the Simmons Road Park? Do we need another playground, particularly a playground that gives the City another facility to maintain? Will trees be removed to put in parking places and/or equipment? Where are the normally vocal tree huggers who usually fist-shake and scream about keeping passive land as is? Is the new park land associated with the City Golf Course? And why is the General Fund allowed to take over golf course land for Parks and Recreation Department use? Couldn’t some of the golf course money woes be lessened if the General Fund paid the golf course for the land?” Oh, and why is the city approving funds to buy brand new lawn mowers for a money losing golf course in the midst of a pandemic that prevents most folks from playing the game?
A member of the citizens group wisely suggests to those that say if we need a park for people of all abilities then eventually convert all of them. For example, when equipment at existing playgrounds needs to be replaced – install equipment friendly to kids of all abilities. Retrofit equipment at Central Park, Egans Creek Park, and the playground at the MLK Center the same way. Do it as needed.
Continuing, the group member says: “Instead of an expensive new park create a walking friendly-bike friendly path through the Simmons Road Park space that requires a minimum of expense and minimal future maintenance costs. This would also mean losing fewer trees. Wouldn’t it be great,” asks the writer, “to connect it to the new Simmons Road path?
I can’t argue against anything these questioners ask. What say the folks at city hall? Do you Ash Street fellas have answers for this group of inquisitive and frustrated residents whose money you’re spending so freely?
Don’t Believe Everything You Read in A Newspaper Or On Anybody: When I was kid I thought you had to be in the U.S. Navy to have a tattoo, but somebody started a rumor that they’re now required to be socially acceptable. And they’re no longer just an anchor on a wrist or shoulder — no siree Bob!
In the “good ‘ole days” before the virus pandemic, when restaurants, bars, and beaches were open, I could stroll along the sand and within an hour I’d spot at least a half dozen gals who’d qualify as “hotter than two dollar pistols” if their arms and backs weren’t covered in ink. I stopped one ink-stained lass and told her if I wanted to read Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” I’d go to the library.
I’m predicting that the next big growth industry will be tattoo removal.
There’s another cultural trend that baffles me. Women who wear raggedy, worn, ripped up jeans with holes, making them look like they’ve participated in one rodeo too many. A gal may be perfectly quaffed, flash a diamond on each hand the size of my fist, and wear a Dolce and Gabbana blouse, but her jeans say, “I sleep in my car behind the Piggly Wiggly.” What’s up with that?
But back to tattoos. I read an article recently about categories of people who should be allowed to own guns and those who shouldn’t. Leading the list of those that shouldn’t be allowed to own firearms are folks with tattoos above the neck. I agree. Think Charles Manson, who had a swastika tattooed on his forehead.
Others who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a firearm are personal injury and divorce lawyers. They cause enough damage draining feuding married couples’ bank accounts, representing little old ladies dim enough to drive a car with a scalding cup of hot coffee in their laps, and sleazeballs pretending to slip and fall in grocery store aisles where a “Beware, slippery wet floor!” sign clearly says: BEWARE, SLIPPERY WET FLOOR! It also says the same thing in Spanish, for those folks who were determined to perform a Flamenco Dance in the produce aisle. Do these shyster lawyers tell jurors that their clients’ eyesight is so bad they slipped and fell as they were trying to get close enough to read the sign? Do you really want those creepy, pasty looking guys with slick backed hair that appear on TV ads asking you to call them with your stories about weed killers, car accidents or ear plugs to be armed? No, you do not. Also, any person who won a participation trophy in law school or elsewhere, shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. I don’t think I need to explain why.
Folks who should always be allowed to have guns — no questions asked — include nurses, people who comfort you and ease your pain after you’ve shrieked in agony, puked on the sheets, and spilled the bedpan. They nonchalantly clean up the mess then ask what else they can do for you. They risk infection while working long hours to comfort patients infected with the Chinese Commie Virus (Ooops, liberals say I wasn’t supposed to call it that. Too late). Let ‘em have all the weapons they want. Ditto for volunteer firemen who have to stand on sun drenched street corners in 95-degree heat holding out boots and asking for donations. Arm ‘em, to the teeth. The same goes for kindergarten teachers. I’m married to one. Anyone who can convince 20 toddlers to lie down in unison to take a nap or sit quietly and listen to someone teach them the alphabet and numbers can certainly be trusted with firearms. Nuns can also be trusted with sidearms although I doubt many would agree to carry.
A category of folks who should never be allowed to even view a picture of a gun, much less own one, are those that scream that we need more gun control laws and want the Second Amendment abolished. Most of these faculty lounge chin-jutters live in gated communities guarded by burly fellows armed to the teeth with all kinds of guns. Many of these gated community residents are politicians who don’t want you defending yourselves — particularly against them.
Others who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a gun are the terminally crazy, like unhinged local old fool Robert “Bullet Bob” Weintraub. Anyone who regularly reads this blog already knows Weintraub is the demented geezer who threatened publicly on Facebook to shoot my wife and me because we planted a congratulatory Trump sign in our yard following the November 2016 election. Weintraub’s public threat prompted the police to pay the crackpot a visit. A few weeks after threatening us the deranged lunatic wrote an opinion piece calling for stronger gun control that the local News Leader published. My friends and I thought it was a parody, except Weintraub’s not smart enough to comprehend parody much less write it. The News Leader will print any drivel that’s submitted by a paranoid liberal socialist fruitcake.
The News Leader tormented what few readers it has left again last Friday, April 10, with another piece from the sanctimonious, pompous loon, Weintraub, in which he criticized those that spread Covid-19 rumors and then he spread some of his own. He chastised the President, Fox News, other conservative news outlets and cited unsubstantiated data. I don’t blame Weintraub, he’s mentally unbalanced. The News Leader’s at fault acting like a doting granny, taping his incoherent crayon scribblings to the refrigerator door. The paper’s admitted far left Editor Peg Davis penned a piece on the same page telling folks to continue to wear face masks and stay away from each other during the epidemic. Good advice but as yesterday as her paper’s news pages. Even after the epidemic is over News Leader employees should continue wearing face masks otherwise people will recognize them, point, and burst into laughter.
Last week the paper published another of admitted far-left, curmudgeon Ron “Get Off My Lawn You Little Bastards” Sapp’s anti-capitalist grievance mongering columns. He spouted his usual irrational hatred for American traditions and values, the concept of property rights, and western civilization in general. That this guy is a public high school teacher is frightening, particularly if you have school age kids. Doesn’t that school system have a mandatory retirement age? Or mental competency testing?
Even before the pandemic it was apparent advertisers were distancing themselves from the News Leader. The paper is down from two sections to one and at my last count there were just four very small display ads and seven paid classifieds in a recent edition I read. That’ll buy Publisher Foy Maloy a few happy hour beers and a handful of pretzels. The virus pandemic appears to be finishing off a News Leader that is terminally suffering from severe underlying editorial and financial issues. Its days are numbered as ad revenue can’t possibly be paying the bills and subscribers are fleeing the paper’s far-left claptrap. How can management of a newspaper that’s published in an area populated by 70 percent conservative voters expect to survive with an editor to the left of Karl Marx, opinion writers that are morally and intellectually bankrupt, and prints last week’s headlines? Did it ever occur to anyone at the News Leader that their job at a newspaper is to become involved with actual news? This newspaper, as the Monty Python crew once said, is an ex-parrot.
The online Fernandina Observer on the other hand is cleaning the News Leader’s clock in both timely news and advertising revenues despite the Observer’s cowardly timidity in never taking an editorial stance on anything more controversial than lumpy mashed potatoes. Go to the paper’s site https://fernandinaobserver.com/. Despite the pandemic it’s cluttered with local advertisers and timely news stories.
Clip Joints? What’s up with men’s haircuts these days? I don’t mean teenagers, but grown men, many who hold high level jobs. I was watching one of the president’s daily pandemic briefings the other day and a White House reporter who appeared to be in his early 40’s, nattily dressed in a dark suit, striped tie and white shirt, looked like he combed his hair with an egg beater. Directly on top some of his hair stood straight up, some went to the left, some to the back and some forwards, a severe wind storm couldn’t have created a mess that bad. I’ve noticed guys hereabouts with the same doo. It reminds me of the story of a fellow who went to a barber and told him: “Take a lot off the right side, just a little off the left, and chop it up on top.” The startled barber said: “I can’t do that.” The customer responded: “Why not, you did it last time.”
Doing The Math: According to government statistics a combined 117,000 people in the U.S. died in 2018 from drug overdoses (67,000) and suicide (50,000). The most recent government statistics say that 60,000 Americans could possibly die from the virus pandemic. If these statistics are accurate then why hasn’t the government taken the same drastic measures to curb drug use and prevent suicide? In addition, deaths in the U.S. due to automobile accidents totaled 36,560 in 2018. All deaths are sad but something about these numbers just doesn’t add up.
Home (Not So) Sweet Home: Sheltering at home with family members to avoid the coronavirus may not be as safe as it’s cracked up to be particularly for women according to recent news reports and law enforcement agency statistics. Recent local reporting by Mary Maguire, editor of the online Independent, says domestic violence in Nassau County surged in March during the pandemic crisis. She reports: “With jobs toppled, businesses closed, and a state ordered directive to stay home because of the coronavirus, victims of domestic violence, most often women, face a double dose of danger. Outside lurks a potentially deadly virus. Inside there’s an abuser.” Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said domestic violence calls increased 37 percent in March and Heather Jones, executive director of Micah’s Place, a 32-bed shelter and advocacy resource center for victims of domestic violence in Nassau County, said calls to the 24-hour hotline increased 25 percent in the last couple of weeks. “We’re hearing from more people because there’s a lot more stress out there,” she told Ms. Maguire by phone last Saturday. “The health crisis is a serious situation and being at home isn’t a safe place for everyone.” The Micah’s Place hotline number is 904/225-9979. The state hotline for local resources throughout Florida is 800/500-1119.
Dave, looking at the budget message being sent, it is as if those supportive of leaving the foot on the spending accelerator have no consideration for the road ahead. It would be myopic to think that real estate taxes in the next cycle will equal what they are now without a huge increase in the tax rate. IMO there will be a dent in current valuations due to the financial impact of the virus on the economy and hence property values. To blithely avert attention to this is tantamount to budgetary malfeasance. Stating we have reserves that cover our current spending is even further negligent in the face of virtually every forecaster rendering opinions this will be at least an above active Atlantic hurricane season to some calling it potentially the equal of the worse. Then again, that is why reserves are a rainy day fund so to speak sparing the pun.
“According to government statistics a combined 117,000 people in the U.S. died in 2018 from drug overdoses (67,000) and suicide (50,000)” Not certain how you compare these statistics for those that ended their own lives with those that have died by the virus which was not self inflicted. I do believe that there are government expenses for mental health care, drugs, psychiatrists, etc. I also believe there is a better chance to curb the virus that is effecting (or is that affecting) us than trying to stop people from taking their own lives, smoking cigarettes, and over consuming alcohol.
“If these statistics are accurate then why hasn’t the government taken the same drastic measures to curb drug use and prevent suicide?” again, self inflicted. Would love to know your plan on how to prevent people from committing suicide and abusing drugs.
“In addition, deaths in the U.S. due to automobile accidents totaled 36,560 in 2018.”. Pretty certain that there has been efforts over the years; seat belts, airbags, anti-lock brakes, mirrors with indicators of blind spot activity, pre-collision technology, etc. And I am certain the technology will continue to help with this issue.
Was the alternative to do nothing? In Trumps words “President Trump told a press briefing Sunday the U.S. coronavirus death toll could have reached 2.2 million without social distancing restrictions, and it would signal “we all together have done a very good job” if the number is limited to 100,000–200,000.” And clearly I know he would never lie to us nor provide us fake news.
Your comparisons are not comparisons. And I am certain you know that.
As to Dale Martin…..if all you say is true and correct, I agree 100%. We need to start considering and implementing public/private development.
My kid went to FBHS and had Sapp as a teacher. It was awful.
Frank Quigley, you are “dead on” and speak for many of us who are city residents and tax payers. We appear to have a very poor manager of our city finances and apparently he thinks that it is going unnoticed. It isn’t Mr. Martin.
Can’t help myself.
Based on your remarks on the impact of the current sudden recession on local governments, it is a fair ask to have our city manager reforecast the city’s revenue intake for 2020 and beyond. We’d hoped for a V-shaped recovery yet major financial media outlets (Dow Jones, Reuters, etc.) are quoting economists who are worried about a U-shape or L-shape to the recovery.
Let’s hope our commissioners ask for three scenarios based on probable diminution of city income. Then a “gap analysis” – will the reserve fund carry through the more likely scenario of a slow recovery? If not there are only two remedies – either cut expenses or raise taxes. If you Google “COVID-19 impact on municipal finance” you’ll find cities across the country of all sizes are addressing this head-on and making cuts. It is very unpleasant, but it is reality.
Fernandina’s recovery from the Great Recession lagged the rest of the country due to our reliance on tourism and second-home residents and this time is probably no different.
Dave, from what I just read you probably subconsciously want a tattoo. If you just want to try one for show, I’m pretty handy with an airbrush. I’m especially good with sculls, flame paint and ex-girlfriends. Let me know for an appointment. Please wait until the pandemic is over of course.
I always enjoy your blog. Keep it up.
And, here is a piece of unashamed self-serving, self-promoting advice!
If you’ve been wondering about guns because you know nothing about them but are interested or intrigued but do not know who to talk to or where to start, perfect! I am right here on the island! I have a classroom, a range and all sorts of guns for you to be introduced to!
I am a nice guy with no macho attitude, who loves to introducing new people to guns! As a legal immigrant who came from a country, and lived in other countries, where only the government has guns I embraced this Country and I’ll do all I can to protect our rights, culture and American heritage.
Better yet . . . I’ll do it for free if you’re nice. You’ll just pay for your own ammunition.
If you’re not nice, or if you’re one of these people mentioned above whom shouldn’t be allowed near a gun, don’t bother.
Just last evening I was wondering about your
weekly Blog.With all the
attention on the awful
Pandemic and me being
a poster boy for the China
Virus ie: Age, two health
conditions has taken up
way too much of my time
and energy.Things are beginning to look up and
I am grateful for that. And
what a surprise it was to
open my emails this a.m.
and there you were😀.Glad
you are back.
Dave, the drugstores are still open. You need to get a refill on your Xanax.
I think you have to excuse bad hair these days. Anderson Cooper put a big gash in his mop on the right side—a self-inflicted wound.. My wife is warming up her shears now to tackle my mullet and the rest. It’s probably good we’re not going out much. As my great aunt used to say, “Some people are ugly, but they don’t have to show themselves to the rest of the world.”