“Ya got trouble, folks!
Right here in River City
Trouble with a capital “T”
And that rhymes with “B” and that stands for beach, booze and bullets!”
Apologies to Meredith Wilson and the Music Man’s Professor Harold Hill, who was actually preaching to the citizens of River City about the evil influences of the game of pool on young people in this Broadway musical that had its debut in 1957.
But the somewhat altered lyrics seem appropriate since local social media accounts, area pubs, backyard gossip fences, and grocery store aisles are abuzz with comments about a drunken gathering of mostly teenagers that took place on the beach at Amelia Island’s Peter’s Point last Sunday, February 25. The drunken ruckus even made Monday’s 5 o’clock report on Jacksonville’s Acton News, CBS, Channel 47.
There appear to be three controversial factors involved in this public display of loud, intoxicated young people that left behind a trash strewn beach and angry and dumbstruck area residents: 1- the noisy rowdy crowd of drunks, 2- an attendee allegedly brandishing a gun and firing it into the air, and 3- the response of law enforcement to control it or shut it down.
Local social media postings and a video of the event portray a rowdy group of young people on the beach drinking, yelling, jumping on folding tables and chairs and tossing the smashed furniture into the surf. There were a number of pickup trucks parked on the beach, many with Georgia license plates. Some reports said as many as 500 revelers were involved.
With the exception of one or two, all of the 100 or so Facebook comments I saw were critical of the group and many expressed surprise that the sheriff’s office didn’t arrive until the event had been underway for several hours.
Fran Kane, a resident of South Fletcher, who grew up in New York and moved here from Tampa recently, witnessed the debacle suggesting this type of activity needs to be stopped before it spreads saying: “The behavior at Peter’s Point reminds me of when Rudy Giuliani took over as mayor of New York City,” using Mayor Giuliani’s Zero Tolerance Policy as an example. “Guiliani had a broken window theory. One broken window begets another. Eventually they are all broken and the property is destroyed since there is no expectation of civilized behavior. Needless to say he stopped the miscreants from breaking the first window and protected the city.”
Nassau County Undersheriff George Lueders was candid in explaining his department’s response saying: “Frankly, we were caught off guard.” He said the Sheriff’s Office had one officer assigned to the island and that at 5:07 p.m. that officer closed off the beach and cleared vehicles from it. He said some of them had to be towed.
He added that this coming weekend the department would be out in full force despite the fact that temperatures will only be in the 60s. He explained — without prompting and echoing Mr. Kane’s sentiments — that the department is a enacting a “Zero Tolerance” crack down and will be well prepared for the upcoming season, particularly spring break, April 19-23.
Mr. Kane provided a descriptive, on-the-scene observation and opinion of the situation that is much more illustrative than anything I could cobble together, particularly since I wasn’t there and he was: Here’s what he experienced:
“I happen to live about ten homes north of the Fernandina Beach city limits on South Fletcher. Although I have been visiting the island for more than 20 years it is only now that I have a home here. There is much to appreciate about this little barrier island and there is no place I’d rather be than the low country, the ocean and the beaches.
This Sunday morning like many others I took my usual bike ride to the bridge on the south end and stopped at Peter’s Point to get a view of the ocean. It was a nice day, the parking lot was full early and trucks were piling onto the beach.
Although Peter’s Point can get crowded on weekends this Sunday was unusual…..kind of like a bad version of spring break in Daytona with NO rules. One could hear the goings on from 500+ yards up the beach even with the wind at my back. This park area appears to be completely unregulated or supervised by the county. The folks that invaded apparently know this.
A sign that is displayed prominently at the park entrance outlining the “rules” appears to be a waste of taxpayer money, since nothing is enforced, let alone the regulations like underage drinking, DUI, littering and disturbing the peace.
The beach was three plus levels deep with trucks from end-to-end and the parking lot was full. The general appearance from a few hundred yards away was of a Mad Max movie with better dressed kids that appeared to be mostly under the age of 21. There were dozens of pickups facing the surf with the revelers in the truck beds leading the event. It reminded me of a religious revival without the religion. It could have been a once in a lifetime event of a new cult based on underage drinking and debauchery, which in turn left debris as an offering to the surf gods, albeit without a permit. In other words it was a situation where Peter’s Point was not being monitored for even the most basic rules.
Eventually, late in the day a sheriff’s vehicle showed up. Late in the day being key, as this had gone on all day. The one sheriff’s vehicle started moving folks off the beach north to south. The parade of underage drunks in their vehicles exiting the beach was quite the spectacle as were the debris left behind.
When the deputies were asked ‘where have you been’ and why ‘no enforcement’ the response was ‘we don’t have the funding.’ Interesting, considering the real estate taxes on the beach are probably the highest concentration of the county’s revenue or at least that’s what local real estate folks say.
If funding was the issue then the tens of thousands of dollars that would have gone to county coffers in fines and confiscation would have easily paid for officers 24/7. I would have happily manned a DUI checkpoint for just a small portion of the revenue, let alone the entertainment value.
I can’t count how many times prior to this I have walked down to Peter’s Point to find smoldering fires and broken glass that I end up picking up. Not exactly what I planned on doing when I moved here.”
Undersheriff Lueders said that the deputy investigated reports of a gunshot, but was unable to determine if a gun was actually fired and found no evidence. He said no arrests were made last Sunday, but indicated that may not be the case in the future.To prevent similar incidents the undersheriff said that the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office has teamed up with the Fernandina Beach Police Department, Florida Wildlife Commission, and the Florida State Bureau of Alcohol & Tobacco to monitor the island’s beach activities. “We have also involved the Florida State Highway Patrol to be on the lookout for anyone who has been drinking and heading off the island.” He added that the department is also working with local schools to spread the word that law enforcement has initiated a “Zero Tolerance” program.
The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office has 40 officers patrolling in four shifts, 10 per shift. Four will be assigned to Amelia Island in the future, an increase of three over last weekend according to Undersheriff Lueders.
So as Professor Hill sings in the final stanza: “Mothers of River City! Heed the warning!” And they may want to warn their kids to expect trouble if they cause trouble.
Need A Job? Of all the occupations available there are three that the public thinks stink and folks may want to avoid according to a recent Gallup poll. Not surprisingly one of the most despised of all professions is telemarketing with 56 percent of those polled saying telemarketers are despicable. The only two groups that ranked more loathsome and have lower levels of honesty and ethical standards were lobbyists (60 percent) and members of Congress (64 percent).
You Said What? How many expressions you used as a child or young adult have now become obsolete because of technological advances? A few I recall include: “Don’t touch that dial,” “carbon copy,” “carbon paper,” “You sound like a broken record” and “Hung out to dry.”
You Didn’t Vote For What? Not a single Democrat voted for the tax reform pushed by the Republicans and President Trump. Not one! And they didn’t offer an alternative. They offered nothing.
The results of the tax change all the Democrats opposed have been impressive and those Democrats seeking reelection this year are going to have to explain to their constituents why they voted against it, no easy task, even for the most mealy-mouthed of that misguided crowd.
As a result of the tax reform voters are seeing an increase in their take home pay as the government is withholding less money from working folk’s paychecks. And even better, companies flush with cash because of the new tax regulations, are sharing their windfall with their employees.
More than 300 companies so far have announced financial benefits for their employees including $3 billion in bonuses and have increased their investments in the U.S. by $130 billion…all because of the tax cuts says Strategas, a international brokerage and advisory firm.
The Democrats became unhinged following Trump’s surprise victory and decided their only alternative was to resist. And that’s what they are doing … resisting tax cuts for Americans, resisting laws against illegal immigration, resisting a stronger U.S. military, resisting American forces defeating ISIS, resisting the lowest unemployment rates in decades, resisting fewer regulations on businesses, resisting a record breaking stock market, etc. It may be the worst political strategy a political party has ever pursued. I hope they stick with it.
What will Democrats run on — taking those bonuses, tax cuts, jobs and stock increases away and increasing regulations?
Spelling Bee Material? As far as I’m aware there are only two words in the English language that contain three consecutive consonants and no hyphen — wallless and walllike. I’ve only seen the word “wallless” in print once and it was a comment about a circus tent in a publication that I can’t recall, many years ago. I’ve never seen “walllike” in print. If there’s a word with three consecutive vowels I’ve never seen it. Anyone care to chime in?
Want to Influence An Election? It’s Easy & Cheap: According to Byron York of WashingtonExamininer.com, the Russian trolls who were indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election did it for a paltry $3,102 in key swing states including $1,979 in Wisconsin, $823 in Michigan, and $300 in Pennsylvania. At these rates I can probably get four or five of my pals together at the local watering hole to chip in and swing the next election in our favor.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “A fat girl served me in a restaurant at lunchtime. She said ‘sorry about the wait’. I said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find a way to lose it eventually.’ ” — Rodney Dangerfield
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Mark Thursday, March 8 in your calendar because PJD’s Beer & Wine Garden at 12 South 2nd Street will feature Sean McCarthy, Amelia Island’s Jimmy Buffet, in what will be a regular 7 p.m. to closing Thursday night appearance as tourist season kicks in. The pajama-clad man has already booked the velvet voiced Hupp Huppman for every Tuesday beginning sharp at 6:57 p.m. Oh, PJD’s is now open on Monday’s with quirky former Addison House B&B owner Canadian Bob Tidball tending bar. And tonight Friday, March 2, beginning at 6 p.m. Vero Beach’s Walking Tree Brewery debuts its Straw Hat Blonde Ale and Walking White IPA to Amelia Island residents with free samples. They’ll also be giving away free stuff. Last night, Thursday, March 1, was the first time I’ve seen blues singer and Janis Joplin sound-a-like Regie Blue perform on the island in three years or more but she put on a show at Main Beach’s Sandbar & Kitchen that hopefully will encourage management to bring her back often despite the fact she was an hour late and without her bass player. She is a spectacular performer despite all that. VFW POST 4351, 96086 Wade Road, under the Shave Bridge, is hosting a flag retirement tomorrow, Saturday March 3rd at 2 p.m., and the folks there are inviting boy scouts, girl scouts, JRROTC and all children in the community to see how a flag is properly disposed of and even participate. Pizza and soda will be provided after the ceremony, which is a community event if students need hours for community service in order to graduate. On Sunday March 4, the Green Turtle will host a “celebration of life” in the late Dan Voll’s memory beginning at 3 p.m. At 7 p.m. local musicians will perform until closing. There will be an opportunity to contribute to a fund to create a music scholarship in Dan’s name and the Smoke N Da Cockpit crew will be cooking and serving BBQ.