The difference between the “smash-and-grab” mobs in major U.S. cities and those committing similar crimes in Fernandina Beach are the thugs performing the mayhem and their tactics.
Merchants in Fernandina ranging from one-person operations selling hot dogs to a guy and his wife peddling coffee have been victims of the city’s mob, their businesses now shuttered, and investments vaporized.
Large builders, investors, and developers aren’t immune to the city’s “pay-to-play” scheme. However, unlike smaller business owners, the big guys have deeper pockets to pay the extortion and hire lawyers to fight back. But fighting city hall is expensive.
Just like the thieves in the big city’s smash-and-grab cases businesses hereabouts know the Fernandina city hall crooks — who wear suits instead of hoodies — will keep coming back for more. Forget law suits as city hall can dip into the large pool of tax dollars collected from local citizens to hire outside lawyers and exhaust the locals’ legal funds.
Many of the big guys hereabouts are too intimidated to speak out, knowing the city hall mob will put pressure on them through accomplices that include code enforcement, building and inspection permitting departments and more.
Fernandina businesses remain quiet because their investments and future profits are dependent on the city’s “bad guys” that are stealing from them. “Do as we say If want to keep doing business hereabouts,” says the city. The Mafia would be proud.
Some local business owners, who do not want to be identified, have told me they are selling both their businesses and their homes and moving out of town to the county because the city has made it impossible for them to successfully operate here.
Despite losing two previous class action law suits over its “pay-to-play” scheme this blatant lawlessness continues unabated. Why?
There’s currently a massive lawsuit pending against the city by a local developer who has had enough of being fleeced by city crooks and its consigliore Tammi Bach. This one is even broader than the others as it includes building fees. Could this be city consigliore Bach’s backbreaker? How much will it cost local tax payers this time when Bach inevitably hires outside legal counsel to defend her and her city accomplices?
Under pressure from fed-up local activists led by former White House communications official, Glen Stettler, and investor, author and entrepreneur, Pat Keogh, the City reluctantly agreed last February to request the state conduct an audit of the city’s building code and impact fee compliance with state law? But so far not a peep. What’s the status? When will the state forensic auditors arrive?
Even those that campaigned for City Commission seats pledging as part of their platform to crack down on the city’s out-of-control and illegal “impact/capacity fee” protection racket do and say nothing. Why?
An example is Commissioner and Chiropractor James Antun, a business owner who ran for office promising to take a “hands-on” approach to administer the city a much needed adjustment. While running for office he said he suffered the same permitting rigmarole and fees that others have and was running to correct it. However, since being elected he’s been mysteriously silent about the city’s “pay-to-play” scram. Why?
Other than Bach’s accomplice Commissioner Chip Ross, who advocates for this scam, where are the voices of the other commissioners?
State law says those fees are supposed to be used to pay for public improvements necessitated by new development. That’s it. Nothing else. The law clearly states the funds can’t be used to pay for maintenance or pay off city debt, or the office Christmas party. But that’s what Fernandina Beach is doing. It ‘s breaking the law. Why isn’t that law enforced?
These fees are collected to provide new services and facilities required because of population growth. But growth in the city is stagnant. The uproar that accompanies any proposed new development in the city, and the overly expensive building fees being assessed, effectively discourages new construction giving the city a well-earned anti-development image.
The city has collected and sits on millions of dollars of impact fees. Since these fees are supposed to support population growth (i.e., new development) and new development is discouraged, how can these funds ever be put to their intended use?
In a Steve Nicklas News Leader column Wednesday, October 25, Jessie Spradley, executive officer of the Northeast Florida Builders Association (NEFBA) concurs saying: “What they (Fernandina Beach) are using the impact fees for is a stretch. By state statue that’s not what impact fees are for.”
Twice courts have declared that Fernandina Beach does not comply with state law resulting in suits that raked back $3 million in refunds to local businesses and cost tax payers $1 million in legal costs.
The law requires that unused fees must be returned to those who paid them.
Bach’s only defense for defending the city’s ongoing impact fee extortion racket is a hired consultant’s advice scribbled on a napkin following the last court’s ruling against the city. He recommended to Bach that the city change the name from “impact” to “capacity” fee. And that’s what she did and the extortion continues unabated.
The knight in shining armor in this scenario is in Tallahassee, the horse still in the stable
The business community and residents hereabouts must convince the knight to saddle-up and ride to the rescue.
It’s been said that what’s happening in Fernandina is possibly taking place in small communities across the state. If so, here’s State Attorney General Ashley Moody’s opportunity to ride to the rescue and maybe even become the next governor.
Folks hereabouts can speed that along by contacting Moody by phone, email or by writing her. Her contact information can be obtained at https://legacy.myfloridalegal.com/contact.
“Nothing To See Here Folks”: Former Commissioner Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich,” a make-believe reporter for the online Observer, the city’s propaganda vehicle, and an unapologetic Black Lives Matter supporter, proved again last week what a dim flickering bulb he is, when he wrote: “Mayor Bradley Bean, Vice Mayor David Sturges and Commissioner Darron Ayscue ignored expert advice and voted Tuesday to reduce new user water/wastewater hookup fees by 9%, thus costing the city almost $1 million per year in potential revenue.”
Revenue for local businesses isn’t important to this clueless empty suit. His priority is generating revenue for the city, not tax relief for the tax payers. That’s one of the reasons voters booted him from office the last election. To paraphrase Louisiana U.S. Senator John Kennedy: “When his IQ gets to 75 he ought to sell.”
I expect nothing less from Lednovich, a city embarrassment, who in his spare time unabashedly endorses the Black lives Matter (BLM) crowd of violent liars, extortionists, and haters.
As usual, Commissioner Chip Ross, the other half of this slapstick dark comedy duo, also wants to stick it to the tax payer. Ross has twice sued the city he’s supposed to be representing costing taxpayers thousands of dollars in insurance deductibles.
Ross recently argued that the tax payer’s $1 million could be used to retire $25 million of Utility Department debt. City tax payers are a bank and a nuisance to this odd couple.
Media In Denial: According to the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections office there are almost twice as many registered Republicans in Fernandina Beach than registered Democrats, but you’d never know it by reading the local media.
The letters to the editor and editorial page opinions in the bi-weekly print News Leader newspaper would have readers thinking that its local readers are all feverish Bernie Sanders and Greta Thunberg disciples.
Forget the online Fernandina Observer, it’s beyond salvaging while the fledgling Citizens Journal Florida (https://www.citizensjournal.net/) is still attempting to gain momentum as it seeks reporters, and its Publisher George Miller recovers from a severe back injury.
Reading the letters and opinions in the local News Leader people would get the impression that the city is teeming with mindless left-wing banshees. The paper’s lefty editor, Tracy Dishman; a biased reporter with the fortunate name of Julia Roberts; and the screeching left-wing opinion columnists Chuck Oliva and Mark Tomes would have readers thinking that Fernandina Beach is as severely infested as the newspaper’s editorial offices.
The lone voice of reason at the News Leader is veteran 30-year journalist Steve Nicklas, and Dishman makes sure at least one letter a week is printed attacking him and his sentiments. Letters defending him or disputing Oliva or Tomes are rejected or ignored. When I questioned Dishman on why an opinion piece I submitted wasn’t published she sent it back with the word “Marxist” highlighted. She said I was “name-calling” by labeling Oliva a “Marxist,” a term he’d likely embrace. Really Ms. Dishman? Maybe it’s time you stared reading your own paper or pursued another line of work.
When she’s not trying to convince Publisher Foy Maloy to dump Nicklas’s wildly popular column Dishman scratches around like a barnyard hen seeking voices that express her own leftist orthodoxy. In the meantime she surrounds Nicklas’s opinion pieces with insomnia-curing drivel from Council on Aging staffers and a couple of local woman writing about topics ranging from recipes for gravel pizza and tinfoil bread sticks to trick sleeping techniques and the correct use of left-handed knitting needles.
Dishman moos her mindless drivel and the lefty columnists and letter writers follow her into the cow chute feeding her own prejudices back to her.
Voter registration hereabouts indicates that the majority of readers have had it with Dishman’s censorship and partisanship. They prefer media that reflect traditional Western values. It must be a hard sell for the paper’s advertising department attempting to peddle space to local businesses in a newspaper that promotes the city hall extortionists that are shaking them down and endorses values alien to theirs.
A new Gallup poll was released this week showing that distrust in media among Americans has soared to a record high. The News Leader is an example of why.
According to the numbers from the Nassau County Voter office it’s only going to get tougher for the paper’s advertising sales force.
The Voter Registration office’s latest figures record 2,947 Fernandina Beach Democrat voters as of October 19 this year down from 3,485 in November 2020. The office counts 5,070 Republicans down from 5,397 in November 2020. Nassau County is even redder with this October’s count showing more than three times as many Republican voters registered (43,160) as Democrats (12,931).
The numbers reflect Nassau County Supervisor of Elections Janet Adkins successful efforts to clean up the voter registration list purging it of folks who have moved out of the area, died or who changed party affiliation, etc. Democrats will find it more difficult to harvest votes from local cemeteries than they have in the past.
Speaking Of Inept, Biased, Lopsided Coverage: It’ no secret that the dreadful online Fernandina Observer is a biased, angry, confused word jumble run by newcomer Mike Phillips, who labels himself “editor” of that online mess.
Phillips recently publicly exposed himself as the joke he is when he censored a commentator on his site last week knocking the guy offline saying: ‘”You have been edited or discarded twice for abusive name-calling. You are welcome to continue posting your opinions — but only if you can manage to be civil.’– Mike Phillips, editor.”
Phillips’ response to anything he disagrees with is stupefied indignation.
I’ve read the comments this person wrote, and didn’t see a profane statement or any name calling. Phillips edits out what he doesn’t want his readers to read and doesn’t fit the Observer’s narrative.
Calling Phillips an editor is as extreme as calling his lackey Mike “Left Coast” Lednovich a reporter. They are both laughing stocks with zero credibility. Observer founder Susan Steger should be appalled at what has happened to her creation.
The creative and censored commentator fittingly responded to Phillips’s scolding writing: “They happily let Mark Tomes spew his garbage … no one is allowed to respond to it. And I’m taking careful note of who advertises on here … businesses to be avoided.”
Another regular Observer columnist is unofficial city spokesman City Commissioner Chip Ross, a belligerent blowhard, who bellowed his latest anti-business Luddite harangue October 26 headlined: “Our City Progress: Bigger or Better?”
I notice the handful of advertisers Steger left behind has not grown since Phillips arrival and by now they must be reconsidering where to spend their ad budgets in the future. I’d be delighted to print any comments here from any Observer advertiser that can truthfully testify that the money they spent on an Observer ad was a good investment and generated even one cent of new business.
People like Tracy Dishman, Julia Roberts, Phillips, and Lednovich, are the folks Jimmy Breslin was referring to when he said: “Media, the plural of mediocrity.”