When Susan Steger announced eight years ago that she was creating an online newspaper, the Fernandina Observer, I was enthusiastic.
Over the years that enthusiasm waned but I wasn’t surprised as I was forewarned about the Observer’s eventual direction.
Ms. Steger, a retired banker, former city commissioner and sixth generation native of Fernandina Beach, made it clear shortly after launching the Observer that she wanted to avoid conflict and controversy. She doesn’t want to offend anyone, and by taking that stance she offends everyone.
Readers seeking information on how to boil an egg; view a pleasant picture of a sunset or a sea turtle; read restaurant reviews by “critics” who have never eaten a meal they didn’t enjoy; or read verbatim press releases issued by the county, city, or Chamber of Commerce, probably enjoy the Observer. For those seeking hard news and opposing opinions, the contents of the Observer will make their eyes glaze over. It reads like a church bulletin that edits out any mention of “deviled” eggs at the Wednesday evening covered dish supper.
For example, this past week the newly formed citizen watchdog group Common Sense, sent local media, including the Observer, a detailed time-line summary of multi-million-dollar mistakes made by the city in its bungled dealings with FEMA over payment for marina repairs following Hurricane Matthew in late 2016. This is money city residents are now on the hook for due to the city’s incompetence.
Common Sense – a group I enthusiastically support but am not involved with other than as an observer – painstakingly put together a historical timeline of mistakes made by the city and City Manager Dale Martin that will cost taxpayers $12-15 million. It ran in this space last Friday. The information was compiled by Common Sense from interviews with involved officials, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and pouring over hundreds of pages of staggeringly boring memos, emails, and other documents. It was time consuming and tedious work by a group of volunteer city residents with backgrounds in finance, government, education, media, and real estate, among others. This is not a bunch of guys sitting on bar stools mindlessly yammering about how bad things are down at city hall.
Common Sense’s allegations have credibility and deserve dispassionate coverage. Even the biased left-leaning News Leader printed the thoroughly researched material. On the same page it printed a lame excuse for the city’s bungled financial mess authored by Commissioner Chip Ross, who has apparently been appointed as the city’s official spokesperson, since he now publicly comments on all things Fernandina. The clueless Observer printed the same Ross pap headlined “Fernandina Beach City Marina debt – Ross’s “opinion” — which is a weak rebuttal to the Common Sense opinion piece that they DID NOT publish. HUH? Oh well,you get what you pay for. The Observer is free.
In his commentary Ross attempts to blame FEMA for the massive debt he voted to approve, along with Commissioners Johnny Miller, Phil Chapman, and Len Kreger. FEMA did not force Fernandina Beach to build a replacement marina grander and more expensive than the original. FEMA did not promise anything. City advisers did not review the original analysis. City advisers did not offer caution, only Commissioner Roy Smith did, and he failed to win reelection. City Manager Martin and Commissioners Ross, Chapman, Miller and Kreger alone bear full responsibility for the current financial catastrophe. They blame FEMA claiming it promised to provide the money but they can’t produce one single piece of documentation to back up that contention. Nothing. Did Ms. Steger ask?
Common Sense has FEMA documents, emails, official meeting notes, minutes from commission meetings and more. But the Observer holds its hands over its eyes like a guilty toddler thinking no one can see him. By not printing it, the Observer obviously condones the City Manager’s and Commission’s fiscally irresponsible behavior? Why?
I asked Ms. Steger why she didn’t print the Common Sense timeline. She responded by email saying: “We decided not to run the opinion and to wait for the appeal process to take place.” Yet she ran the Ross “opinion” prior to the appeal. OK, it’s her outlet and she can do with it as she pleases. FEMA and the city say the appeal process could take eight or more months. This being government work we should plan on longer than that. The chances of the city winning the appeal are as good as the Observer becoming a balanced news outlet – zero!
At this point Ms. Steger should be embarrassed…..very embarrassed.
The Observer ignored Commons Sense’s finding in the traditional Leslie Nielsen “There’s nothing to see here” fashion. Ms. Steger is like one of the girls sitting at the “cool table” in the cafeteria oohing and aahing over the high school football team, e.g. the local politicos. She lives in a fantasy Pollyannaish bubble world.
A life-long resident with deep roots in the community including serving as a city commissioner, Ms. Steger might be suffering from Stockholm syndrome, in which she grows more and more fond of the city officials the longer she spends time around them. That translates into softball coverage which is particularly beneficial to the city’s inept city manager, and the clueless commission, but not its residents and tax payers.
Under her editorial leadership the Observer is nothing more than a patronizing city hall mouthpiece.
Cop Or Robber? When I was a kid many of my pals said they wanted to be policemen. Several of them achieved their goal. One was so good at it he eventually went on to teach criminology at the University of Georgia.
Wanting to be a cop was not an unusual vocational aspiration in my era. Fireman, nurse, soldier, and teacher were some of the other popular and admirable childhood ambitions. I never heard one of my friends say he or she wanted to be a thief, prostitute, anarchist, or a Democrat, which would be redundant.
However, today I can’t imagine any kid aspiring to be a cop. Why would they? They’d be better off intending to be drug dealers, thieves, hookers, looters, lying politicians, etc., far more lucrative, and less dangerous occupations. Rappers praise them with songs glorifying their bad behavior and with cities disbanding and defunding police departments there’s no more risk of being punished for criminal behavior. In New York you get a “Get out of jail free” card no matter what your crime. Today admitting to your parents that you want to be a cop would probably have them shuffling you off to a child psychologist to have you deprogrammed.
Growing up I always felt safe when a police officer lived in our neighborhood, particularly when a police car was parked in a driveway on our street. A police officer and his wife currently live with his parent’s family across the street from us. We like that, it makes us feel safe. He’s an admirable young man and a new father, who patrols Jacksonville’s most dangerous zip code. His dad was a policeman, so was his grandfather, all good people, and wonderful neighbors.
So far 35 police officers in Seattle have quit the force and many others are in the process of resigning in the wake of the protests over the death of George Floyd, a sad incident that has morphed into a rallying cry to defund and dismantle police departments across the country. More than a dozen have resigned in Minneapolis with many more to follow.
Resignations are hard to tally because many aren’t filling out the paperwork, they’re simply turning in their badges and walking way in disgust. Some 50 have walked away from their jobs in Buffalo, NY and 10 in Hallandale, FL. Sadly many more are calling it quits from L.A. to PA. This should make us all exceedingly nervous. I understand why there are lines of people forming in front of gun stores waiting to make purchases.
Those cops calling it quits cite a lack of support from department and city leaders. When the Minneapolis mayor tells the police to let a mob burn down their precinct headquarters and a city council votes to disband the police department I’d call that a lack of support.
The Seattle mayor called the occupation of a six-block area including a police precinct a “street festival” and a “summer of love.” Atlanta is now aflame with anti-cop rhetoric as are many other cities. Soon they’ll look like scenes out of Mad Max or Escape from New York. Seattle already does.
When the police disappear from the streets who will “Black Lives Matter” members call when someone attempts to break into their homes, steal their cars or attempt rapes? A Brownie Troop? A social worker? What will their reaction be when they call 911 and a recording says: “The number you called has been disconnected.”? Lisa Bender, the idiot city council president in Minneapolis said calling the police when your home is broken into “comes from a place of privilege.” Would you want to live there among those lunatics?
Most all of the protests around the country have been hijacked by Antifa gangsters, Black Lives Matters, and well-organized and freelance looters that are using the protestors like bedsprings in a brothel.
While protestors pay lip service to Martin Luther King’s call for people being judged by their character and not by the color of their skin, Black Lives Matter, Democrats, and the media are doing the opposite.
Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch: On June 13, just 18 days after George Floyd’s death by a rogue cop in Minneapolis Monday, May 25, a group in Fernandina Beach conducted a parade and rally.
Parade organizers called for a condemnation of “racial prejudice and discrimination and a need to accelerate racial respect, equality and fairness by individuals and institutions across Nassau County.” Its organizer, Malinah Borrero, said Mr. Floyd’s death inspired the parade and rally. Not a single person I’m aware of has condoned that atrocity, just the opposite.
Despite the fact I’ve never witnessed or heard about such despicable behavior hereabouts, Ms. Borrero’s goals are commendable. James Hurley, the city’s Chief of Police, the mayor, and Commissioner Chip Ross, were several folks I recognized that marched along with the sign-waving chanting group of about 200 people.
Chief Hurley spoke to the group saying one thing I emphatically agree with: “Another issue we hear far too often is that it must be easier for Police Chiefs and Sheriffs to fire bad cops! There is some truth to that argument, which could be fixed in part by reforming the arbitration system that frequently returns fired police officers to the department that terminated them.”
The issue Chief Hurley was tip toeing around was limiting the power of police unions, whose contracts make it difficult to fire bad cops, very much like the teacher’s unions, when schools attempt to unload crappy teachers only to have the union shove them back into the classroom.
The Minneapolis police union has signaled it will fight to ensure the officers fired over George Floyd’s death get their jobs back. A union official said that his labor union attorneys are working with the attorneys for the fired officers. That’s a lot of legal power. It’s like having a video of a guy robbing a bank, killing a teller, and attorneys arguing in court that their client should be allowed to go home and keep the money.
What confuses me about the local event, however, is that according to the City of Fernandina Beach, folks wishing to conduct a rally or parade or other event within the city, must apply for a permit “no later than sixty (60) days prior to the event date.” It says so in boldfaced letters in the city’s “Special Events Policies And Procedures” a document sent to me by the city earlier this week. It also says event organizers must have their application reviewed and approved by a special events committee that meets on the third Tuesday of every month. That means the organizers – the Racial Equality Coalition – should have applied for their permit April 14 — 42 days prior to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. And according to the document sent to me by the city, the group should have had their request reviewed either on May 19 – six days before Mr. Floyd’s death — or June 16 – three days after they held their parade.
When I told the very pleasant lady that answered the phone that I was considering a parade event in about three weeks, she indicated the prospects of that happening were nonexistent.
Maybe I should have explained that my event was for an unknown black person about 2,000 miles from here who might possibly be killed sometime in the future by a rogue police officer.
Speaking of the Police: A good friend of mine here recently dipped into his own pocket and ordered a batch of 18” x 24” yard signs proclaiming “SUPPORT THE POLICE” printed on both sides. He generously offered me one, which I planted in my front yard despite what my HOA may have to say about it. If they call the police what will they say? I’m considering ordering a batch as well and offering them to others who feel the same, including my neighbors. Want one? Let me know.
Good Cop! Gooder Cop: My Tampa Plant High School classmate, friend and writer for the American Spectator, Larry Thornberry, penned a letter to the police chief in Tampa I thought worthy of sharing. I have suggested to others that they take Larry’s letter, edit it to fit their local community and show their appreciation for local law enforcement. Here’s Larry’s letter to Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan:
I’m writing to express my support for you and your officers at this time, which is difficult for us all, but especially for police officers, who can’t do anything right according to the smart set.
Be assured there are plenty of intelligent Americanos in Tampa, and across the nation, who see through the dishonest media cacophony and the political sleight of hand. We know that police in America are not just a bunch of ku-kluxers in blue who like nothing better than to abuse innocent black citizens. And we know America today is not systematically racist. (I’m old enough to remember Jim Crow. I know from systematic racism.)
The guy in Minneapolis is an outlier, in no way typical of the entire police vocation. Of course, there are a few bad apples in every barrel. More than a few in some. If there were as many bad cops as there are bad journalists and bad politicians, I’d never leave my house.
I know much of the rules of engagement you must work by come from City Hall. Luckily, Tampa’s mayor is a former cop and police chief. Quite a good one, as you doubtless know. She’s mayor now and in a much more political position, with really insistent constituencies to deal with. Let’s pray she still has enough cop left in her to allow you to do your job, and your officers to do theirs. There can be no peaceful, prosperous, and safe Tampa without this.
All the best to you and your officers, who have my complete support, and the support of many others, of all races, whom the news media ignore.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has told his coronavirus contact-tracing force not to ask those who test positive for COVID-19 whether they attended a Black Lives Matter demonstration, reported the National Review. “No person will be asked proactively if they attended a protest,” said Avery Cohen, a spokesperson for de Blasio. I wonder if those testing positive will be asked if they attended a Trump rally?
Fun In Seattle: A friend in Seattle sent me an email saying he spent all morning slapping “Trump 2020” stickers on rioters bumpers and then watching as they destroyed each other’s cars.
We would certainly purchase a sign for our yar. I am sure I can get several of my neighbors to do the same thing. So happy to purchase a few signs from you.
The current marina situation is just the latest example of what a terrible asset manager the COFB is. They should divest all their investment assets including the marina, waterfront properties, the airport, the water-sewer utility, all the real estate they land bank, the golf course and the cemetery. Maybe not the cemetery; have not heard too many complaints from folks there. Citizens need to ask themselves if their family owned any one of these assets would they hire the COFB to manage it? It’s their property and that’s the deal they have.
Would be honored to place a “Support the Police” sign in my yard.
One of your best Dave – keep up the good work!
Dave, I think you are being too critical of Susan Steger and her team of VOLUNTEER writers at the Fernandina Observer. The name of the online publication says it all with “Observer”. Their chief writer, Suanne Thamm, covers City Hall and other events very objectively with Dragnet’s Joe Friday mantra “Just the facts, ma’am.” The Observer has never been political in the sense of candidate endorsement. Should they have published Common Sense’s article at the same time? To be fair and balanced, I think they should have and I certainly don’t understand the rationale for waiting until a final FEMA decision is made. The CS article provides factual information in some of the timeline elements mixed with opinion; although I suspect that Dale Martin might argue that some of the “facts” are not accurate. Although I believe Commissioner’s Ross financial argument for the marina has a major and fatal flaw in not including future dredging expenses in his “profit” expectation, at least he stepped forward and presented a potential solution. That is far more than anyone else has done.
I can just see the HOA at the plantation going bonkers if we posted a sign in our yard (as much as support the police). Hard enough to get approval for flying the flag, changing paint color, managing trash behind walls, etc.
well said…….”What confuses me about the local event, however, is that according to the City of Fernandina Beach, folks wishing to conduct a rally or parade or other event within the city, must apply for a permit “no later than sixty (60) days prior to the event date.” It says so in boldfaced letters in the city’s “Special Events Policies And Procedures” a document sent to me by the city earlier this week.”
The Special events Committee has been a political shield for the City Manager. It approves what he wants, and challenges what he doesn’t. Think Stalin.
Dave, love the blog today, i purloined the “fun in Seattle” paragraph, and sent to my siblings.Thank you,,,,,i did ascribe it to the Dave Scott Blog…
Those who think our police departments should be de-funded or disbanded should think “Mexico”. Unchecked rioters would then become the law.
Unions come; unions go. Pay your dues; union gets you a lawyer. No union, get your own lawyer. Blah. Unions ain’t the problem. Nazis in the police force are the problem: BECOME A POLICEMAN; GET TO KILL PEOPLE. Join the Army; get to break things and kill people is not the same thing. The long established science of phrenology says to me the two idiots in Atlanta were idiots. Conclusion: idiots and Nazis must not be hired as policemen. Do I get a Medal of Freedom for solving this problem?
I agree with your contention about police. My dad was a copper. When I decided to go into federal law enforcement my dad told me, after trying to dissuade me from that career, one piece of advice. He said treat everyone you come into contact with equally and even tempered. Be guided how to proceed based on how they treat you. He was a great cop; I can now see why.
His partner was the president of the State Police Benevolence Association, there was no formal union in those days. One of the cops on the force got caught transmitting illegal betting slips while on the job. He was fired; the PBA did not intervene because he broke the law. Like with the teachers unions supporting sub par teachers, public employee unions in general today seem to put their organizational goals above justice and equity. Perhaps public employees should not have unions? Just a thought.
Count me in for a “SUPPORT THE POLICE” lawn sign.
I would be honored to post a sign in my front and back yard. Please let me know how to get a sign. Thank you.
I want/need a “SUPPORT THR POLICE” sign. How do I get one?