If you think your vote doesn’t count, think again.
David Sturges, Group 2 candidate for the Fernandina Beach City Commission won the Fernandina Beach City Commission runoff election, this past Tuesday December 8, against Genece Minshew, with 1,719 votes to Minshew’s 1,681, a winning margin of just 38 votes.
The turnout of 3,400 represented only 29.4% of the city’s 11,566 eligible voters, a low figure for an election that can have such consequential results for residents, particularly those on the hook for paying taxes.
Sturgis joins fiscal conservative Bradley Bean who was elected to a commission seat last month. Hopefully the two of them will work harmoniously with Commissioners Mike Lednovich and Len Kreger to isolate the pompous, arrogant, spendthrift Chip “Daddy Warbucks” Ross, and stymie City Manager Dale “Big Spender” Martin’s building, buying, and hiring schemes.
Three of the four Commissioners could voice their disapproval of Martin’s reign and hand him his walking papers.
Fernandina’s life blood – the hospitality industry – was hammered harder than any other sector by the pandemic. However, “Big Spender” Martin and “Daddy Warbucks” Ross ignore the economic chaos and act as though they won the lottery.
New parks, studies for more parks, new hires, pricey golf course enhancements, and a marina fiasco are draining the city’s coffers and tax payer wallets. This doesn’t even count the extravagant duo pursuing the unnecessary purchase of “conservation” land helter-skelter thus taking it off the tax rolls. The city budget has increased 17% since 2017 but the population hasn’t, going from 12,550 to just 12,558 since 2017.
How many city employees have lost their jobs due to the pandemic? None! Just the opposite. Daddy Warbucks and the Big Spender keep on adding to the burden of economically suffering tax payers with new hires and buying more and more stuff.
“Big Spender” Martin, who moved here from Connecticut for his current job, actually told the residents of Fernandina Beach that they are affluent and can afford his extravagance.
Angry city home owners that disagreed at Commission meetings with decisions to increase their taxes, have been singled out publicly and intimidated by Big Spender Martin. During their three-minute allotted time slot to address the Commission Big Spender clicked through his city computer to look up the aggrieved tax payer’s property records and taxes.
Following the frustrated tax payers’ comments, Big Spender Martin saw exactly how much the speaker’s property was assessed and how much they pay, then announced it. What he is saying to citizens in a nutshell is: “Stop your whining. You can afford it. Stop annoying us, sit down, shut up, and pay up.”
The tax records are public, and we all have access. What’s Martin’s objective other than public humiliation and intimidation?
With Johnny “Moonbeam” Miller out of office due to term limits and the oblivious Phil “The Listener” Chapman, deciding not to seek reelection, two of the city’s most adept tax payer pickpockets and looney idea generators are sidelined.
It’ll be interesting to see if Bean and Sturgis will ride into the Commission chambers on white horses of fiscal sanity and tax payer empathy with their budget trimming and tax cutting swords drawn.
It’s estimated that locally some 3,000 hospitality workers lost their jobs due to the pandemic and even more are facing the loss of paychecks. Several area restaurants are shuttered, some permanently, while others are closing two or three days a week. This doesn’t even take into account those local folks in the transportation, retail, and other hard-hit sectors.
Holiday sales will be an important test for local businesses, but even with the new vaccine there is a lot of uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last and when people will feel comfortable about going out again.
Area business owners are looking to survive with the help of their savings, the end of the pandemic, and any additional relief they can get.
The last thing they need is a cadre of disinterested administrators led by the Grinch duo of Martin and Ross stealing their holiday hope and administering an economic coup de grâce.
We can only hope that the newly elected Bean and Sturgis duo can slay the decadent two-headed money-burning dragon.
What the City Needs Is Common Sense: Earlier this year Jack Knocke one of the founders of citizen watchdog group Common Sense succinctly summed up the city’s financial position saying: “With the recent tax hikes, recognize that the city has increased spending dramatically and built reserves of $7 million (beyond the $4 million recommended). Extra tax money is used to cover costly mistakes like Amelia Bluff litigation, 20% increase in city staff, $250k beach cleaning bill, lack of effective county service coordination, and a challenged relationship with FEMA that could cost the city $15 million in un-reimbursed repairs at the marina.
“We need to focus our 2020/2021 budget on meeting capital improvement needs and efficient operational management. This requires prioritization of the highest needs for in the upcoming year and less kicking the can. It also requires conservative operational budgeting that eliminates waste, trims non-essential activities, leverages coordination of services with the county, and drives key city and resident priorities.”
I suggest that Commissioners Bean, Sturgis, Lednovich and Kreger reach out to Mr. Knocke and his group for counsel.
The Forbidden Topic: Ask the City Manager and the City Commission what the heck is going on with city’s underfunded pension programs and they’ll send Chip Ross out to bully you, change the topic, fog the issue, and provide cover for City Manager Dale Martin.
Several years ago, the nonprofit Leroy Collins Foundation out of Tallahassee ranked Fernandina Beach’s pension programs the second worst in the state of Florida, behind Jacksonville’s mess.
When I asked Commissioner Ross about the current status of the city’s pension programs recently he responded saying, “The auditors say everything is fine.” I never heard another word and still can’t find any current information explaining what’s happening.
The last numbers I saw indicated that the city’s programs were severely underfunded. If the city can’t fill the gap between the assets it has on hand and the cost of benefits that it promised to pay out in future decades guess who’s on the hook? The tax payer.
According to the Wall Street Journal the Covid-19 pandemic is adding urgency to the issue for cities like Fernandina Beach. Despite current market performances analysts are projecting weaker growth in long-term stock market performance.
“Covid-19 added to longstanding concerns about low interest rates”, says Ash Williams, executive director and chief investment officer of the State board of Administration of Florida. In October, the Florida Retirement System lowered its expected investment return to 7% from 7.2%, despite having made a similar cut last year.
What’s the status of Fernandina’s pension programs? Who do you ask? Maybe the two new members of the Commission can publicly request an accounting during an upcoming Commission session.
Step Right Up Ladies & Gentlemen! When I was an elementary school kid and went to the annual Florida State Fair in Tampa with my pals, the midway featured an attraction unashamedly labeled a “Freak Show.”
The unfortunates in this “Show” were there solely because of way they looked – their height, weight, skin color, or an unfortunate birth defect. Animals were not excluded, as there was always the prerequisite two-headed calf. And invariably there was an indistinguishable blob floating in a huge jar of formaldehyde that the carnie said was a man-eating creature from a jungle in a country none of us had ever heard of or an alien from outer space. It cost extra to peek behind the curtain to see it.
I was reminded of these long ago and long gone fairground attractions as Joe Biden rattles off the list of mediocrities he’s placing in his administration and NASDAQ’s requirement that companies listed on its exchange must have diverse board members.
Business backgrounds, an understanding of the organization’s mission, prior experience, education, expertise, and intellect don’t matter. Like the unfortunates in the 1950’s midway “Freak Show”, they’re selected solely on the way they look.
As West Coast columnist Burt Prelutsky says: “Biden is naming a requisite number of women, blacks, Latinos and sexual deviants, reminiscent of the bar scene in “Star Wars.”
And the left-wing cheerleaders at CNN, ABC, NBC, the NY Times, Washington Post, etc. are giggling like adolescent schoolgirls while waving their pom poms.
The appointments are not the best and brightest. They are based entirely on diversity. Biden even says so.
If Biden’s appointees are an American ideal, shouldn’t the social trendsetters in the NBA and NFL be setting better examples. These leagues are about as diverse as the Ku Klux Klan.
Wouldn’t it be appropriate for the NFL Washington Football Team – formally known as the Redskins – to revamp their lineup. How about dumping quarterback Alex Smith and signing Colin Kaepernick because he checks off three essential boxes – black, white, and dumb as a barrel of hair. To round out the roster how about two or three women from third world countries; a repentant Islamic terrorist; two short, fat guys from Bethesda; a rabbi who can tackle; a lesbian; Little Egypt, who can crawl on her belly like a reptile; an assortment of LGBTQ’s and any other gender letters of the alphabet; and an Albanian albino dwarf who will double as team mascot.
If they make it to the Super Bowl there’d be no need for half time show with that roster.
Brace Yourselves: Joel Ross, a wise and accurate political and economic prognosticator, columnist, author, pundit, educator, and former CEO, says Iran is just waiting for Joe Biden to assume office before retaliating for the deaths of their killer general Soleimani and their top nuclear scientist. Trump made it clear to them not to try, and they didn’t because they knew he didn’t play nice. But they know ‘ole Joe wants to do a deal and can be played so any day after January 20 things will go kerflooey over there. Ross says he’s concerned that the markets are ignoring this coming black swan. Once Iran starts shooting and blowing things up it could result in a very ugly war, and a major upset to the markets sometime in the first half of 2021 predicts Mr. Ross.
Speaking Of Joe Biden: Does Biden even know what cabinet posts he’s filling or the people he’s filling them with? Whoever’s pulling the strings on this poor old guy needs to write in block capital letters and clearly spell out the names of the agencies. Earlier this week Biden mispronounced Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra’s name and said he planned to appoint him to the role of ‘Secretary of Health and Education Services’.
Is It Just Me Or… Has anyone else noticed that even those folks who are descendants of slaves and demand reparations for their great-great-great grandfathers bondage stay put. Even the black thugs in BLM and the gangsters in Antifa with their childish chants about systemic racism and killer cops, never consider running off to Mexico, Canada, Cuba or anywhere else. They’re unlikely to ever do so unless we reinstate the draft requiring them to serve the country that gives them the right to chant their insipid mantras.
One is tempted to tell these juvenile anarchists to go back where they came from, but unlike their ancestors who often hailed from Italy, Germany, Ireland, Russia, England, Asia, Africa, etc. these idiots would be returning to their parents’ basements.
Why? If Rudy Giuliani and his voter fraud evidence and witnesses are all total nonsense, why aren’t the media covering it so they can rip it to shreds? Why aren’t they broadcasting the state hearings so the American people can make up their own minds? If there’s no substance, then why not air it and make fools out of people like me?
An American Disgrace: The Democrats, led by a shameless Nancy Pelosi and dim buffoon Chuck Schumer, have cost, and continue to cost many American lives by the phony scandals and delays in relief bills. Pelosi is disgusting as she continues her daily shameless attacks upon President Trump and meddling in stimulus packages. Her comments about Democrat Congressman Eric Swalwell and his Chinse Communist mistress Fang Fang are as insane and appalling as any lunacy spouted by the nutty Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. Pelosi’s a disgrace to the nation. Any other civilized country would have put this unhinged old bird out to pasture years ago.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “Nothing is wrong with California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn’t cure.” – Ross MacDonald