There’s a brouhaha still brewing over the cancellation of the Fernandina Beach BBQ and Bluegrass Festival competition that was scheduled at Main Beach June 10-11.After discovering that participants were asked to write checks to Parks & Recreation City Manager Jay Robertson instead of the city, outraged City Manager Dale Martin exercised his management authority and pulled the plug on the event citing “a lack of financial controls.”
I like Jay, and have personally participated in two chili cook off events he’s organized, but this is not the first time he’s been in hot water over accounting issues. According to Mr. Martin, Robertson was aware of special event funding issues related to previous events and “exhibited exceptionally poor judgment by soliciting checks made to him personally rather than to the City.”
In a letter announcing the cancellation to the more than 80 teams that had signed up to compete in the event Jay admitted the matter was a serious one saying: “This is an issue that may end up costing me my position within the City and I accept that.”
On the other hand contestants are steaming mad that the City Manager’s decision not only dashed their opportunity to compete in a sanctioned BBQ event, but also screwed up plans they had to meet with friends and family while here. Many tell me that airline, hotel and car reservations had been made, baby sitters arranged, work schedules juggled, and so on. They say that Martin acted impulsively and could have put Robertson on the sidelines while someone else took over the BBQ event reins. Martin took a no nonsense approach. He suspended Robertson without pay for three days, told him he will no longer be involved in conducting events, and placed an official letter of reprimand in Parks & Recreation Director Nan Voit’s personnel file.
Personally I’d be unhappy if I had planned to enter a team and had family and friends traveling here to join me. But I think the city manager made the right decision, particularly based on Jay’s track record. As a resident and tax payer I want the city manager looking out for my best interests.
A couple of years ago Robertson was involved in an ill-advised scheme to conduct a rock concert at Fort Clinch State Park, featuring the group Umphrey’s McGee, an American progressive rock band influenced by heavy metal. Robertson was actively involved in organizing the event but there was a lot of confusion over whether he was acting on his or the city’s behalf; the park’s role; camping issues, traffic, etc.
A letter from Fernandina Police Chief Jim Hurley to then City Manager Joe Gerrity summed it up neatly: “As the City Police Chief and Chairman of the Special Events Committee my duty includes managing risk at special events and to be aware of factors that can impact liability to the City. I should not have to conduct an investigation simply to find out what is happening in the City, especially if City employees are involved. … I believe several other questions should be addressed and answered before moving forward with events of this kind, such as how City pay rules are impacted, outside employment approvals, compensatory time accruals, whether decision-makers are benefitting financially from the event, branding issues, alcohol tax compliance, ASCAP requirements, clear rules with non-profits, special event application process, etc. In this instance, it appears that some information may have been deliberately concealed or manufactured, which tends to create an atmosphere of distrust. City events should be transparent in every way. For example, the city tagline should not be used if the event is not being produced by the City, nor should the website of the same name, which identifies the City as the marketer.”
Wiser heads eventually prevailed and the event was scuttled and moved to St. Augustine. Online Fernandina Observer newspaper reporter Suanne Thamm provided a thoroughly detailed investigative piece on that fiasco and it can be found at the following link: http://fernandinaobserver.com/2015/05/28/the-story-behind-the-cancelled-umphreys-mcgee-concert/
According to City Manager Martin there were also “financial issues” with the city’s ‘Slide into Spring’ music and craft beer festival held in March and he asked Jay’s boss, Ms. Voit, to provide “a complete financial report” about this event by June 28 during a City Commission workshop.
City Manager Martin may take some temporary heat from BBQ aficionados for ordering the cancellation of the barbeque event, but he’s right that there needs to be strict financial controls in place on how these events are run and that’s what he’s rightfully asking those in charge to do. If Joe Gerrity had done his job when the Ft. Clinch event was reported to him none of this would have taken place. But he didn’t and it becomes increasingly more apparent that the motion by City Commissioners Tim Poynter and Robin Lentz to oust him and hire a professional like Dale Martin was the right one and one that should have been unanimous.
A Kneed To Know: I’m home recuperating following knee replacement surgery that was conducted Monday, May 23, and have a few observations.
First, even though I’m not a big fan of Jacksonville, the city is chock-a-block full of some of the finest medical facilities and health care professionals anywhere in the world. I know as this is the second time I’ve been a patient there and I’ve received the best care I could imagine.
In August 2013, when I suffered a stroke, the combination of Fernandina Beach’s EMS professionals, Baptist General Hospital’s stroke ICU experts and Brooks Rehabilitation therapists had me out of a hospital bed, into a wheel chair, a walker, a cane and on my own in what I considered record time.
This time, I elected to have what I was told would be life-changing surgery to have my right knee replaced at St. Vincent’s Southside by Dr. Gavin Duffy, one of the most knowledgeable, nicest and skilled gentlemen I’ve had the privilege of meeting in any profession. Even if you didn’t need surgery, if you met this charming guy at a cocktail function, you’d soon be begging him to replace at least one minor joint before the party ended using just the cheese knife and ice tongs.
The physical therapists at St. Vincent’s and Amelia Island’s Brooks are exceptional at what they do. In fact, they are so good that during the last session I signed a confession admitting to being a running capitalistic war dog of imperialism when they administered the dreaded “Heel Slide” therapy torment.
In many cases I’ve been cynical about folks in Jacksonville because of that city’s high crime rate, corrupt and inept politicians, lousy school system and pedestrian casualties. But head over to St. Vincent’s and visit the 4th Floor West orthopedic ward if you want to meet some of the finest people west of the Vatican. I also found it comforting that a prayer was broadcast over that hospital’s public address system at least twice daily.
The doctors, nurses, aides, therapists, administrators, and others I dealt with were cheerful, professional, hard working, smart, and not once did I ever hear one of them complain about long hours, working the graveyard shift or whine about any of their patients or supervisors. The Croatian cleaning lady is an example. When asked about her background this energetic, jovial woman told me stories about how the Communists confiscated her family’s property following World War II and then after finally building a new life, how that was all destroyed during the conflict that tore her country of Yugoslavia apart and drove her into exile. Despite all she has been through she is proud to be a member of team that serves others and does it with high spirits and enthusiasm.
I’ve had numerous area friends and acquaintances provide encouragement by relating stories of their successful knee replacement operations, but one stands out, not because it was so heartening, but because it was so bizarre. The friend, who will remain unnamed, explained that when he came to in his hospital room following his surgery he somehow began sliding off the bed despite the fact that the side rails were up. No matter how much he fought to remain in the bed he eventually landed on the floor, unable to reach the call button and summon help to his closed-door room. He went on to describe how he somehow managed to struggle back onto the bed, a feat that now that I’ve had the surgery, I suspect must have taken super human powers and enormous pain tolerance. Also, how the heck does a guy who weighs well over 200 pounds slide off a hospital bed?
Because of the encouragement and the remarkable people, particularly my wife, Linda, that attend to me I should soon be roaming once again around Amelia Island on my new joint while visiting some of my favorite old joints while chatting with friends over a couple of cold beers.
Speaking of Health Care: The 23 co-ops created under the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) started with $2.4 billion in startup and solvency loans from the federal government. Twelve of these nonprofit insurers shut down after losing millions of dollars and learning they were getting far less than expected through ObamaCare’s risk corridor program. The remaining 11 co-ops lost a combined $400 million last year. Now, the federal government is facilitating state bailouts for them. On top of that America’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, sold plans in 34 states this year but plans to participate in only a “handful” of exchanges next year. With 795,000 beneficiaries, the company indicates it will lose $650 million in the exchanges this year – over $800 per enrollee. Wyoming is down to a single insurer and Vermont to two and if insurers can’t quickly figure out a way to make money, it looks like the entire misbegotten fiasco will unravel. Source: Heritage Foundation, NCPA.org via the Georgia Public Policy Foundation & BloombergView.com
Indian Indignation? The loopy left wing forgot to tell the American Indians (aka Native Americans) that they are supposed to be on the war path over the use of the name Redskins for its Washington D.C. National Football League team. However, a recent Washington Post poll discovered that a whopping 90 percent of Native Americans (aka Indians) say they are not offended by the term “redskin” leaving those that oppose it red faced, particularly the Post, which is one of its most vocal critics.
Bernie Babies: Vote for Bernie and let the state name your baby. A number of European socialistic leaning countries, including Germany, Denmark and Iceland have official rules about what a baby can be named. In countries comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register. For example Iceland has a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay. If loopy Bernie defied the billion to one odds and won the presidency a lot of kids out there would be feeling the Bern.
Things I Wish I’d Said: “Most rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.” — Frank Zappa
Speaking Of Bad Journalism: I try to listen to the tax payer funded National Public Radio thinking that eventually I’ll run across an unbiased news program but instead it keeps getting more and more offensive. This past Wednesday I tuned into one of the most disgusting examples of character assassination, outrageous intolerance and name calling that I’ve ever heard on any broadcast medium– right or left — anywhere. While getting ready for a physical therapy session I turned on Jacksonville’s WJCT FM, 89.9 radio that was airing the Diane Rehm show where a panel of liberals with attention deficit disorder were taking turns accusing Donald Trump of everything from complicity in genocide to raping kittens. At first I thought these masters of featherweight insight were conducting a Capital Steps or Monty Python type parody, but the more Ms. Rehm reveled in their outrageous comments because there was no one there to argue back, I realized these folks — that appeared to be teetering on the brink of insanity — were deadly serious as they bounced from one idiotic statement to another with no fear of being contradicted. Other than Ms Rehm, who suffers from spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological condition that affects the quality of her voice, I have no idea who these folks were, but as soon as one finished his bashing of Trump the others would all “Harrumph! Harrumph!” their combined approval before piling on with more attacks of their own. One of these characters compared Trump’s facial expressions to those of Adolph Hitler and his gestures while speaking to those of Benito Mussolini. The terms “racist,” Nazi,” “bigot,” “fascist,” and “neo-Nazi,” to describe Trump were used generously. Ironically each of these intellectual midgets was accusing Donald Trump of the same shameful and contemptible behavior they themselves were participating in. This week conservative radio and TV host Glenn Beck was suspended by SeriusXM satellite radio for agreeing with one of his guest authors when asked hypothetically “what patriot will step up to remove Donald Trump from office if he’s elected president and oversteps his authority?” I think it time for the ailing Ms. Rehm to be given an off-the-air job and for someone to take a serious look at the serial loons that pass for experts on NPR radio. It’s long past time that this entire group of losers to be cut off from tax payer funding.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Drinking, dining and dancing are in short supply for me until my knee heals, but because of Sandy Bottom’s Chef Nick Hartley I was able to enjoy a trio of Muffuletta sliders the day I arrived home from the hospital. Nick sent me a message that they were on the menu and Linda scurried over to pick them up once she deposited me at home. The verdict is in and they are great. Nick brined the ham for 10 days then pecan smoked it while the Olive salad tapenade marinated for three days and he’s discovered the right bread. I think Linda paid $10 for the three that came with a side of cole slaw, a bargain for what you get. Call ’em at 904/310-6904.